All Sides to Avoid Tensions in Kosovo

After days of tensions on borders between Kosovo and Serbia following Pristina’s decision to demand the reciprocal change of license plates with the state letters, the UN Secretary-General Special representative and the head of (UN Mission in Kosovo) UNMIK Zahir Tanin called on Thursday (23.09) on all sides to implement measures agreed in the dialogue on the normalisation of relations.  

In a statement, Tanin said he noted the continuing stalemate in the implementation of license plate measures. He added he was joining international partners in calling on all parties to resolve issues in support of the free movement of people and goods and the population’s interest through established dialogue mechanisms. 

He reminded all parties that unilateral actions carried the danger of escalation and should be avoided in the interest of the population, peace, security, and safety. 

„I call on all parties to show responsible leadership and take immediate steps to avoid tensions through the political dialogue process”, Tanin said. 

Kosovo Won’t Be Asked to Negotiate Its Territorial Integrity

Miroslav Lajčák, the European Union envoy for the Belgrade – Pristina dialogue on the normalisation of relations, said Friday (17.09) that no one would ask Kosovo to negotiate its constitutionality, territorial integrity and internal functionality.  

After meeting Kosovo’s President Vjosa Osmani in Pristina, at the end of his three-day stay in Kosovo, Lajčák commented the two had a good exchange of opinions. 

Osmani said Pristina was willing to continue the dialogue but reiterated it should end in “mutual recognition without any say regarding Kosovo’s constitutional order or its territory.” 

She said Kosovo had offered concrete suggestions and had implemented everything agreed so far while accusing Belgrade of the disrespect of the agreement. 

However, she did not mention the Community of Serb Municipalities (CSM) agreed upon in 2013 as a part of the Brussels Agreement, but still hanging in the air. 

Kosovo maintains Serbia has not fulfilled a deal on energy and some other agreements. 

Pristina earlier said the CSM would be on the table after Serbia recognised Kosovo independence, while Prime Minister Albin Kurti rejected any institution created by an ethnic community. 

Belgrade says it will never recognise the independence of its former southern province declared in 2008. 

Some hundred countries, including the US, UK and all but five EU member states, have recognised Kosovo as an independent country. 

Croatian President Expresses Support to Montenegro

Croatian President Zoran Milanovic on Thursday (16.09) received his Montenegrin counterpart Milo Djukanovic, and after the meeting, Milanovic told the press that he supported “the modern, civic and open Montenegro.” 

Commenting on the rising political and ethnic tensions triggered off by the recent inauguration of a Serbian Orthodox Church bishop in the Montenegrin city of Cetinje, Milanovic said that the Montenegrin head of state was expected to pay a reciprocal visit to Zagreb anyway, however “the latest developments in Montenegro have accelerated it to happen.” 

Djukanovic’s visit ensued the day after the opposition parties, led by Djukanovic’s Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) demanded that a transitional government should be set up which would be tasked with calling early parliamentary elections. 

Those Opposition parties brand the cabinet led by Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapic marionettes who promote anti-Montenegro interests.  They also describe the recent enthronement of Serb orthodox bishop Joanikije as “a Great Serbian offensive”. 

Milanovic told the press conference in Zagreb that Djukanovic’s visit was an opportunity to extend support to “the modern, civic and open Montenegro”. 

He went on to say that Croatia’s relations with Montenegro are good and commented that the relations had oscillations, however all that has been settled. 

Milanovic went on to say that Montenegro, Albania and North Macedonia deserved a preferential treatment on their journey towards the European Union. 

My duty is to attract the attention of those in EU who cannot see that to this fact, he added. 

The Montenegrin president arrived in Zagreb on his first official visit abroad since the situation in his country has worsened with the 5 September enthronement of Joanikije in Cetinje. 

Montenegrins perceive the ceremony held in the Montenegrin historical capital city as yet another attempt of Great Serbia advocates to exert their influence in Montenegro and negate the Montenegrin identity. 

The current PM Krivokapic is believed to have risen to prominence during a series of protests in reaction to a law on religion in late 2019. Those protests were led by senior members of the Serbian Orthodox Church. 

The original law proposed by Djukanovic’s DPS passed in late December 2019 — dubbed the ‘Law on Religious Freedoms’ — pledged to return all property granted to the Serb Orthodox Church after 1918, unless they had proof of ownership prior to that year. However, in the last elections, Krivokapić, supported by the Serbian Orthodox Church, managed to defeat Djukanovic’s party that was in power for 30 years. 

Our Country is Serbia, Dodik Said

Addressing the crowd gathered at the ‘Serb Unity, Freedom and Flag’ holiday ceremony in Belgrade, President Aleksandar Vucic promised to “to make the country stronger, more powerful, able to help (Serb-dominated semi-autonomous entity in BiH) Republika Srpska without interfering with Bosnia and Herzegovina’s rights, to help our people in Montenegro and everywhere on the globe and protect every Serb from persecution.”  

He then listed all places where the Serbs were victims during WWII and 1991-1995 conflicts in former Yugoslavia and after that in Kosovo, pledging nothing like that would happen again. 

„That’s our oath”, the President said. 

Referring to comments from the region about his call to the Serbs everywhere to display Serbia’s flags in the countries they live, Vucic said: „I don’t think about apologising to you, for your fabrications, or anything.” 

And then reiterated that „with all my strength and soul – I will lead Serbia to be even stronger.” 

The Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) Patriarh Porfirije and the Serb member of the Bosnian tripartite Presidency Milorad Dodik joined Vucic at the ceremony. 

Dodik spoke before Vucic, saying the Bosnian Serbs’ country „is not BiH, our country is Serbia.” 

 „We are not Bosnians, we are Serbs, I am a Serb, Orthodox, I speak Serbian, I write in Cyrillic, my family saint is St. George, and nothing identifies me with the word Bosnian. Neither in the native nor the character sense, so I just ask you to say that we are Serbs because we are”, Dodik told the crowd. 

He praised the SPC for its role in preserving the Serb identity. 

Dodik said the Serbs „behave simply normally”, adding he could not understand why they provoked the others’ anger. 

„We only want what is ours. We don’t want to change or assimilate the others, though we experienced much of that”, he said. 

Dodik added the Serbs in Republika Srpska felt Serbia was their fatherland. „We have our republic, but our fatherland is Serbia, our country is not BiH, it’s Serbia.” 

Kosovo President Rejects Community of Serb Municipalities

Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani rejected the forming of the Community of Serb Municipalities, saying that the authorities in Pristina do not want a second Republika Srpska. 

“We will not amend the constitution or allow any kind of union of towns and communities which could create a mono-ethnic power structure in our country. That is not in our interest nor in the interest of the region or our allies”, she told German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung prior to a visit to Berlin later this week. 

She is quoted as categorically rejecting the possibility of changes to the constitution to implement the agreement reached by Belgrade and Pristina in Brussels to form the Community of Serb Municipalities. 

“Allowing a Serb association of towns and municipalities in Kosovo would be just a prelude for Serbia to a second Republika Srpska. We do not want a non-functional state like Bosnia-Herzegovina”, Osmani said. 

Telekom Serbia takes over Posta Net cable and Internet provider

Telekom Serbia took over the Serbian Post Office’s communications equipment under a contract signed between the two state-controlled companies on Friday (10.09).

Under the contract, Telekom Serbia “took possession of electronic communications equipment used to deliver Posta Net Internet and cable TV services”. The Post Office press release did not specify the conditions for the acquisition.

It said that the Post Office decided to stop providing cable telecommunications services under plans to improve the quality of its basic activities. It added that Posta Net clients will have access to Telekom Internet and cable TV services.

Telekom Serbia spent almost 200 million Euro over the past few years to acquire cable TV and Internet service providers across Serbia in an effort to destroy its competition. Leaked Telekom Serbia documents showed that the state-controlled company’s CEO told the company’s top managers that the goal is to destroy its main rival the SBB company. Telekom Serbia also signed a contract with the Telenor mobile services provider giving the two companies a huge share of the mobile phone services market.

Serbian Church Patriarch Due Back in Montenegro

The head of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) Patriarch Porfirije will return to Montenegro on September 25-26 for the enthronement of another bishop in a monastery in the north of the country, Podgorica media reported on Tuesday (07.09).

The Patriarch performed the enthronement ceremony to appoint the new head of the Montenegro-Littoral Bishopric at the Cetinje monastery amid protests by Montenegrin nationalists.

Patriarch Porfirije will attend the enthronement of the Budimlje-Niksic Bishop Metodije at the Djurdjevi Stupovi monastery outside the town of Berane.

Earlier on Tuesday (07.09), Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic posted a picture of himself and the Patriarch on his Instagram profile with a caption saying that he wants “to learn a lot about caring for our Serb people, the efforts to restore the belief that we can change things for the better through hard work and decency”.

Serbian Kosovo Office Chief Says More Than 1,600 Still Missing

The head of the Serbian government Office for Kosovo said on Monday (30.08) that 1,639 people are still missing in Kosovo.

Office Director Petar Petkovic said in a press release on International Missing Persons Day that the number included people of all nationalities. He said that the Serbian authorities investigated 22 sites alleged to be mass graves containing the remains of Kosovo Albanians while the authorities in Pristina investigated only one of 10 sites that official Belgrade reported as potential Kosovo Serb mass graves. The remains of seven Kosovo Serbs were found at the one investigated site, he added.

Petkovic accused the authorities in Pristina of refusing to allow mixed commissions to search the remaining possible mass grave sites and identify the remains stored in a morgue in Pristina.

INSTAT Report on Unemployment Increase, DP Reacts

The elected MP of the Democratic Party, Jorida Tabaku, reacts after the INSTAT report that Albanians are working less in 2021, where it was said that “Only 59% of the population aged 15-64 are engaged in work.”

In a post on social media, Tabaku states that Albania continues to be emptied while the government convinces the Albanians that it has become their salvation.

According to the elected MP, the figures are an alarm bell for a country that is aging and for this the government has no real alternative to save it.

“Facts are always better than dreams, Churchill once said. Albania continues to be emptied while the government convinces the Albanians that it has become their salvation.

INSTAT employment data report not only a decrease in employment for Albanians aged 15-64 but also unmask the government through Albania’s depopulation policy.

If we make a comparison between the number of able-bodied population from 2013 until now we will see that it has decreased by 2.5% in 8 years. While the number of employees from the age of 15-64 already continues to fall.

The figures are an alarm bell for an aging country and for that the government has no real alternative to save it.

Economic figures are an indicator that should concern everyone. Reducing the number of employees means less money in the pockets of Albanians, more poverty.

For an economy that 40% of it is informal, the highest in the region, where unemployment is among the highest in the region and where emigration is the highest in the region and beyond. The signs are extremely disturbing.

The number of Albanians living below $ 5 / capita is expected to increase. The number of Albanians who may leave to seek a better life outside Albania is expected to increase.

While the government has no vision and no policy to restore opportunity and hope here. Albania has turned into a big prison where no one is asking to stay anymore”, Tabaku states.

BiH Officials See Croatia’s Peljesac Bridge as an “Injustice” Towards Bosnia

The final segment of the Peljesac Bridge is being installed, and while Croatia is celebrating this as a success, Bosnian officials and experts say that it represents a defeat for Bosnia since the country did not manage to protect its waters from the project. 

The Peljesac Bridge will link the Croatian mainland and the Peljesac Peninsula, bypassing a 15 kilometre-long strip around the city of Neum that represents Bosnia and Herzegovina’s only coast on the Adriatic Sea. 

The bridge would cut travel time between the Dubrovnik area and the rest of the country by circumventing customs and border controls around Neum. 

In a statement for the Hina news agency, Croatia’s Minister for Sea, Transport and Infrastructure, Oleg Butkovic, called the bridge “the most important and largest infrastructure project currently underway in Croatia”.

“It will finally connect our territory and we can say that the government has accomplished a dream that many wanted to abandon”, he said. 

But Bosnian officials, predominantly those from Bosniak political parties, have argued for years that the construction of the bridge could prevent large vessels from entering Bosnia’s Bay of Neum, threatening the country’s access to the open sea. 

According to BiH House of Representatives member Adil Osmanovic, a “great injustice” was committed against Bosnia with the construction of the bridge. 

“BiH is a maritime state and has the right to free access to the open sea, which means that nothing can be built in that area. This is the case according to the UN Convention, however, when it was adopted, no one could have guessed that political leaders would work against their own country in the institutions”, he said, referring to Bosnian Croat political officials, who have supported the project. 

“Now Croatia is not being fair because they stated that they had communication with BiH institutions, and no one was consulted regarding the height, there is no official document anywhere”, he said. 

Osmanovic stressed that the European Union bears the responsibility for this injustice since “Croatia used its membership and the European Commission” to complete the project. 

“We just need to make sure that BiH has free access to the open sea, which means that a ship from our country can enter without any checks”, said Osmanovic. 

According to Nesad Alikadic, an expert on maritime traffic, Bosnia must have free access to the open sea according to international law.
However, he blamed BiH for the situation since the country signed an agreement on borders with the Republic of Croatia in 1999. 

“Specifically, (former presidents) Alija Izetbegovic and Franjo Tudjman signed a contract that is harmful to BiH”, he said.
This agreement was, however, never ratified. 

According to Hilmo Sehovic, a former advisor in the Ministry of Energy, Mining and Industry of Bosnia’s Federation (FBiH) entity, this is all a result of the “inferior politics” of Bosnia and Herzegovina, arguing that the country does not have the adequate political officials “educated enough to protect BiH’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” 

Croatia’s former Interior Minister, Mirko Kovac, said that Croatia maintained contact with BiH throughout the construction of the bridge, saying “now I don’t understand the effort to question this project.” 

Former Croatian Prime Minister, Jadranka Kosor, told that the Peljesac Bridge is a “European bridge” and that it will not cause any damage to BiH and that Croatia has a right to connect its own territory. 

If this was not the case, the EU would not have allocated €357 million for the project, she stressed and noted that it is unfortunate the 1999 border agreement between the two countries was not ratified. 

“As always, I am certain that all problems with neighbours should be discussed. The problem is that there has been no real dialogue between our two countries for a long time”, she said.