SNS and SPS to Run Separately in the General Election in Serbia

Ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) and its leading coalition partner Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) would run on separate tickets, while SPS would support SNS leader and the head of state Aleksandar Vucic as a presidential candidate, the Nova daily reported on Wednesday (26.01).

The daily said Vucic decided it based on opinion polls showing the parties would have better results if running separately in general and Belgrade elections. The move followed other opinion polls suggesting Serbia’s opposition stood the most realistic chance of winning in Belgrade. Last October, the SPS leader, and the Parliament Speaker Ivica Dacic said the coalition partners should run together in the 2022 elections at both levels. Aleksandar Sapic, the head of the New Belgrade municipality, who with his ‘Spas’ movement recently joined SNS and became one of its deputy leaders, will head the city’s candidates list on which, according to Nova, there won’t be current Belgrade officials.

Sapic later confirmed he would lead the Belgarde candidate list, adding Vucic suggested that. Serbia’s parliamentary, presidential, Belgrade, and some local votes are due on April 3.

In the 2020 elections, boycotted by main opposition parties, SNS won 60,65 and SPS 10.38 percent of the votes, running on one electoral list.

Russia Sees Discrimination Against Bosnian Croats

Russia sees the “evident discrimination against ethnic Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina” and insists on honoring the Dayton peace agreement and implementing an electoral reform, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in Moscow on Monday (17.01).

“We, too, see the evident discrimination against Bosnia and Herzegovina Croats, about which the Croatian minister talked about”, he said at a press conference after a bilateral meeting with his Croatian counterpart Gordan Grlic-Radman.

Lavrov underlined the need to implement an electoral reform to end the discrimination in line with the Dayton agreement.

“I can confirm that we, too, like our Croatian colleagues, stand for strict compliance with the Dayton agreement”, he said, adding that there are plans to turn BiH, a state of two entities and three constituent peoples, into a unitary state, which “also demonizes Republika Srpska”, BiH’s Serb entity. Lavrov called the US approach to the Western Balkan colorful because it appointed a special envoy for the electoral reform, while at the same time calling for not interfering in other countries’ internal affairs.

Lavrov said all issues, including the electoral reform, should be dealt with within BiH. Grlić Radman said Russia was “traditionally well-versed in the Western Balkans”, thanking Lavrov for exchanging views on the need to honor the Dayton agreement. He said that during their meeting, Lavrov agreed to the need for Croats to have legitimate representation in BiH’s “collective bodies, the Presidency and the House of Peoples.”

North Macedonia Gets New Government

North Macedonia got a new government during the night of Sunday-Monday when parliament voted in Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski’s cabinet. Kovacevski, leader of the Social Democrat Alliance of Macedonia (SDSM), formed a coalition government with the ethnic Albanian Democratic Party for Integration (DUI). The new government follows the cabinet of Prime Minister Zoran Zaev who stepped down in December.

The new prime minister said that his cabinet would focus on the economy, salaries and pensions, support to companies, development of the energy industry, and raising employment levels. He added that it would also open pre-accession negotiations with the European Union.

Kovacevski said that parliamentary elections would be held in 2024, rejecting opposition calls for early elections. The new North Macedonia government includes 11 SDSM ministers, six DUI ministers, and three for Afrim Gashi’s Alternativa. The ruling majority in the North Macedonia parliament (SDSM-DUI) holds 64 of the 120 seats.

YouTube Blocks Alternativna TV Account Following US Sanctions

Google-owned video-sharing platform YouTube has blocked the account of Alternativna TV, Banja Luka-based media outlet Alternativna TV, days after the US administration imposed sanctions on this business entity over the ties with Milorad Dodik, Bosnian Serb leader who has been on the US sanctions list since 2017. The sanctions on Dodik have been expanded this year. The information has been confirmed by the staff of this media outlet, who have noticed the changes on their YouTube channel a couple of days ago.

Namely, any attempt to open Alternativna TV content would result in a message saying that the account has been suspended due to a violation of YouTube guidelines. Milijana Kos, the reporter, and editor, earlier assessed the sanctions as “pressure on media” and demanded an explanation for the measures that the US has imposed on the media outlet. “They have no evidence. In my opinion, this is a typical pressure on media and an attempt at censorship. I don’t know where they found the grounds for their allegations. When it comes to Mr. Dodik, we are blamed for something that he did”, said Kos.

She also said that Alternativna TV was equally reporting on Dodik, the Serb member of Bosnia’s tripartite Presidency, as on the other two Presidency members. Head of Banja Luka Association of Journalists Sinisa Vukelic also said commenting on the sanctions that they were not clearly explained and that no sufficient evidence has been provided for the measures. “If any media outlet is breaching laws, there are ways to sanction them within the system”, he said.

Russian Opposition Wiretapped in Belgrade, Min Denies Giving Moscow Transcript

Russian opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza said that members of the Russian opposition were wiretapped during the meeting in Belgrade and that Serbia’s Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin handed over the transcripts of the talks to Moscow, ‘Nova’ daily reported on Wednesday (12.01), what he denied and said would sue Kara-Murza.

„In May last year, Vulin was in Moscow to hand over transcripts of our talks from the meeting in Belgrade. Then (in 2021) he met with (Secretary of the Russian Security Council since 2008 Nikolai) Patrushev, and they formed the so-called Working Group for Countering Coloured Revolutions”, Kara-Murza said in an exclusive interview for the Belgrade ‘Nova’ daily.

Later on Wednesday (12.01), Vulin denied the claim, saying that „every fool can have his own opinion, just as every spy can present himself as a humanitarian worker or activist of any kind”, according to his Ministry statement.

„I don’t know which category Russian opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza falls into, but I know that he is a liar who will have to prove his lies before both Serbia’s and Russia’s courts, wherever I  can bring him to justice. Lies that the Interior Minister gives any information to anyone is the dangerous and calculated manner to present Serbia as a non-sovereign country ruled by others”, the statement added. Kara-Murza is a Russian politician, writer, and historian. He is one of the most deserving for adopting the Magnitsky Act in the USA, Canada, the EU, and Great Britain, which implies sanctions for Russian citizens who violate human rights.

According to Western media, he was poisoned twice by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB).

Inflation in Serbia at highest level since 2013

A monthly economy newsletter said on Monday (10.01) that industrial production in Serbia picked up in November compared to October but added that year on year inflation was at its highest level since 2013.

The Macroeconomic Analyses and Trends (MAT) newsletter said that overall industrial production in November 2021 rose by 7 percent y.o.y. and the seasonally adjusted growth was 0.8 percent. “The reason for the rise in November was the high growth of production in the mining sector”, it said.
According to MAT, the prices of food, power, non-food products and services all rose in November bringing inflation to 7.5 percent, the highest since July 2013 when it stood at 8.6 percent.

MAT spokesman Stojan Stamenkovic said that mining sector production was significantly higher because the Zijin company expanded its production at the RTB Bor mining and smelting basin. He added the processing industry was stagnating and that the seasonally adjusted growth of industrial production in November was not high enough to reach the values of mid-2021.