Radical Nationalism in Western Balkans Rises

A professor at the Graz University, Florian Bieber, said one should be careful when talking about violent extremism in the Western Balkans and how it was moving away from focusing on Islam to radical nationalism. At the11th Belgrade Security Forum (BFPE) panel, Bieber warned that when violent extremism was involved, the focus was always on Islamic communities, foreign fighters and the radicalization of Islam, but in the Western Balkans, that was not so much of a problem. Addressing the Forum via a video link, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Gabriel Escobar said that „many look at the Western Balkans through the prism of the 1990s, while Washington does so through the prism of the 21st century.”

„These are European countries, some of which have made huge progress, and their accession to the EU would not pose a danger to existing members of the Union, but a great opportunity”, Escobar added. Bieber, however,  warned about „different concepts that can be associated with violent extremism”, citing extreme nationalism as an example. He mentioned the example from Belgrade when the abusive messages and threats were written at the non-governmental organization Women in Black premises entrance. According to him, strong state institutions should play a key role in resisting such phenomena.

In the region, Bieber added, there were cases of institutions flirting with such phenomena of extreme nationalism, gaining the support of political players and groups, and with religious elements. „They flirt with such groups, they absorb them, instead of pacifying them”, Bieber warned.

The three-day Forum is jointly organized by the Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence (BFPE) Foundation for Responsible Society, the Belgrade Center for Security Policy and the European Movement in Serbia.

Russian Diplomats Declared Persona Non Grata From Kosovo

Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani said on Friday (22.10) that two staff members of the Russian liaison office in Pristina had been declared persona non grata due to activities that were deemed to violate “national security and constitutional order”.

“The Foreign Ministry decided today to declare those two Russian officials undesirable and has informed law enforcement institutions”, she said in a Facebook post. The post said that “Kosovo institutions are fighting against the malignant influence of Russia and its satellites in the region whose goal is to undermine our achievements and the achievements of the US, NATO and European Union”.

“We will continue cooperating closely with our American and European allies to prevent Kosovo and our regime from falling prey to Russia’s destructive ambitions”, Osmani said.

Serbian Government Amends 2021 Budget

The Serbian government adopted amendments to the 2021 budget increasing budget revenues, a press release said on Thursday (21.10). It said that total budget revenues will total 1,488.5 billion Dinars including 1,279.3 billion or 85.9 percent of the total in tax revenues (an increase of 111 billion Dinars), and non-tax revenue totaling 191.5 billion (an increase of 21.1 billion) or 12.9 percent with donations accounting for 1.2 percent of the budget.

“In the revenue projection, almost all revenue categories recorded an increase compared to the previous projection, while the largest positive changes were recorded in corporate income tax and VAT. Other categories were revised upwards due to a stronger-than-expected recovery in activity”, the press release said.

It added that expenses are planned to total 1,792.95 billion Dinars with a fiscal deficit of 304.5 billion (lower than the budget amendment in April) to stand at 4.9 percent of the GDP instead of the planned 6.9 percent of GDP. “The general government’s public debt at the end of the year will be up to 58.2 percent, instead of 60 percent of GDP, as previously estimated”, it said. The government earmarked 388.9 billion Dinars, or 6.3 percent of the GDP, for capital investments.

EU Observers Reported to Have Said Kosovo Elections Democratic

A press release from the Kosovo President’s cabinet said that the European Union observer mission headed by Lukas Mandl MEP feels that Sunday’s (17.10) local elections in Kosovo were democratic. 

The observers, including European Parliament rapporteur for Kosovo Viola von Cramon, are quoted as telling President Vjosa Osmani that election process showed “a high professionalism and integrity among both institutions and the public”. 

Osmani is quoted as saying that “Serbia’s illegal structures” violated the expression of the free will of the voters. 

The press release said that they discussed rule of law in Kosovo, the visa liberalization process and other issues. 

All 27 EU Member States Support BiH’s Integrity

Putting the integrity and sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina into question is not acceptable for the European Union, EU Spokesperson, Peter Stano, said at a press conference on Thursday (14.10), responding to questions regarding recent statements of BiH Presidency member, Milorad Dodik. 

Dodik, the Serb member of the tripartite Presidency member and leader of the ruling party in Bosnia’s semi-autonomous Republika Srpska (RS) entity, said that “at least seven” EU member states support a peaceful dissolution of BiH. 

But according to Stano, this is not true and all EU member states oppose it. 

“This is the clear position of all 27 EU members – we are committed to the sovereignty and integrity of BiH”, he said. 

Dodik has recently also said that the RS will withdraw its previous agreements which led to the creation of the BiH Armed Forces, leave state institutions and ban the activities of the BiH Indirect Taxation Authority and BiH’s state police in the RS as a response to the law banning genocide denial in BiH which the former High Representative in the country imposed in July. 

“Steps, efforts, actions and statements that call into question the integrity of BiH are not acceptable. We call for an end to the use of inflammatory rhetoric and divisive rhetoric, including questioning state institutions. That is not acceptable”, Stano said. 

Appeal the Non-Aligned to Condemn Russia

The Ukrainian Ambassador to Serbia, Oleksander Aleksandrovich, called on the Non-Aligned Movement members to take decisive action against Russia, which he accused of violating the basic principles of that organisation and the United Nations.  

At the plenary session of the high-level meeting during the second day of the Belgrade conference marking the 60th anniversary of the first meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement, Aleksandrovich said that Russia, an observer in that organisation, undermined the fundamental principles of the UN and must be punished. 

Ukraine also has observer status in the Non-Aligned Movement. 

„Russia is violating the convention on chemical weapons, spreading misinformation about COVID-19, creating an ecological catastrophe, using energy for blackmail. Moscow is doing all these terrible things that you, your excellencies, are just condemning in your speeches”, Aleksandrovich said. 

He also criticised Monday’s (11.10) address by the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who advocated the need to respect the basic principles of the UN. 

„Many speakers have emphasised the non-interference in the affairs of other countries. I ask you to take decisive action in support of Ukraine and other victims of Russian aggression so that this Movement has a meaningful future”, Alexandrovich said. 

UK Joins US in Sanctioning Corrupt Individuals from Bosnia

The UK joined the US efforts to sanction corrupt Bosnian actors and, on that behalf, the British Ambassador Matt Field tweeted on Friday (08.10) the Embassy’s plan to do just that and much more. 

“The UK is committed to the fight against corruption in Bosnia Herzegovina, partnering with those sharing our determination, including through information sharing and capacity building. We agree strongly with the US and our other partners on the need to do more to promote transparency, to prevent corrupt individuals from benefiting from their crimes and to support those working to end corruption. We have a range of ways in which we support stability and good governance in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We use sanctions as and when we judge they will be most effective, on the basis of evidence, to target those responsible for serious corruption”, reads the statement from the British Embassy. 

Earlier on Friday (08.10) the US Embassy already announced their first step in sanctioning individuals from BiH, saying they will cancel or deny them visas for entering the US. 

The US embassy also noted that the US Ambassador to BiH, Eric Nelson, held a meeting with his western partners during which they agreed on concrete steps to promote transparency and combat corruption. 

Lavrov in Belgrade for Non-Aligned Conference

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will take part in the 60th anniversary meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement in Belgrade on October 11, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zaharova said on Thursday (07.10). 

“Russia will take part in the Non-Aligned Movement as an observer for the first time”, she said adding that the observer status was granted at the initiative of Russian President Vladimir Putin. “That is confirmation of the similar approach to global problems by Russia and the movement and provides an opportunity to expand the partnership”, Zaharova said. She said that Lavrov will read a letter from President Putin at the meeting. 

The Non-Aligned Movement was formed in Belgrade in 1961 at the initiative of Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito, India’s Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, Ghana’s President Kwame Nkrumah and Indonesian President Sukarno. The first Conference of Heads of State or Governments of Non-Aligned Countries was held in what was then the Yugoslav federal parliament and is now the Serbian parliament. 

EU-Western Balkans Summit Will Not Discuss Enlargement

European Union and Western Balkan officials will discuss issues of mutual interest and regional cooperation but not enlargement according to the preparatory documents for the summit. 

A background brief said that the agenda of the EU-Western Balkans summit does not include the enlargement process. 

It said that leaders from EU member states and Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Kosovo will have an opportunity to “reaffirm the European perspective of the Western Balkans, which is of mutual strategic interest and remains a shared strategic choice”. 

The background brief said that the summit will focus on developing cooperation to foster the region’s socio-economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Leaders will discuss the implementation of the Economic and Investment Plan and the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans, demonstrating the EU’s unparalleled support to the region to generate more sustainable, green, digital and people-focused growth. The summit will also aim to further deepen cooperation on political and security matters of mutual concerns and to discuss how to strengthen regional cooperation”, it said. 

State Department’s Escobar Says Easing Tensions in Kosovo is Main Priority

US Western Balkans envoy Gabriel Escobar said in Brussels on Wednesday (29.09) that easing tensions in the north of Kosovo is the main priority at present. 

Speaking after separate meetings with European Union envoy Miroslav Lajcak and the chief negotiators from Belgrade and Pristina, Petar Petkovic and Besnik Bislimi, Escobar said that a solution has to be found for the license plate issue. 

According to Escobar, the important thing is for both Belgrade and Pristina to continue the dialogue and resolve all open issues. 

He said that he was in Brussels to support EU efforts to find an urgent solution and ease tensions in Kosovo.