Ambassador: US Remains Steadfast Partner to Leaders Willing to Set BiH Forward

The US Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina organized a celebration of the 245th anniversary of the independence of the US via its Facebook page, Sunday (04.07) evening.

In his address, US Ambassador Eric Nelson pointed out that the holiday is an opportunity to celebrate 25 years of partnership between the United States and BiH in the country, adding that this year marks an important moment in relations between the two countries – 25 anniversary since the USAID began providing assistance to BiH.
He emphasized that for the past 25 years the US have been investing in the institutions and training of BIH citizens who strive for a prosperous and democratic future based on the rule of law.
The Ambassador noted that BiH needs leaders to build trust, who in return need a strong base.
Speaking about the elections, Ambassador Nelson said that corrupt actors who exploit the election system and manipulate it for their own benefit rob citizens of the right to elect their own leaders and call those same leaders to account.
The United States will remain a steadfast partner to the leaders and citizens who are willing to tackle these problems and set BiH forward, US Ambassador Eric Nelson concluded.

The USAID has provided assistance to BiH in 2019 amounting to $35 239 670 of which $15 mln were aimed at enhancing governance, $8.1 mln assigned to administrative costs, $7.3 mln to facilitating economic growth and $3 mln to education.

Serbian PM to EBRD: GDP Dropped Less Than 1 Percent in 2020

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnbaic said on Wednesday (30.06) that Serbia’s GDP dropped by 0.9 percent in 2020, the second best result in Europe.

She told a panel meeting at the annual gathering of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) that her government introduced three financial aid packages for companies and invested eight billion Euro (17 percent of the GDP) during the pandemic. According to her, the aid packages help sustain the economy and increase employment rates.

Brnabic said that education is very important for the country’s economy and added that Serbia wants its economy to be based on knowledge and innovation instead of a labor force.

This result of Serbia’s GDP is much better than the initially expected by the European Commission decline of 1.8 percent.

Albania Covers the Minimum Fiscal Transparency Criteria

Albania has been described as a country that meets the minimum requirements in terms of fiscal transparency, as evaluated by the United Stated Department of State 2021 Fiscal Transparency Report, released on 25.06.

According to the report, Albania is ranked among the 74 countries that have met these minimum requirements, while in the estimate were 140 governments.

The report also states that the State Department has reviewed minimum fiscal transparency requirements in consultation with other relevant federal agencies and has updated, as well as strengthened those requirements.

“The Department concluded that, of the 141 governments evaluated, 74 met minimum requirements of fiscal transparency.  Two governments, Nigeria and The Gambia, met minimum requirements in 2021 after not meeting minimum requirements in 2020.  Sixty-seven governments did not meet the minimum requirements of fiscal transparency.  Of these 67, however, 17 governments made significant progress toward meeting the minimum requirements of fiscal transparency.

The Department assessed the following governments as meeting the minimum requirements of fiscal transparency for 2021:  Afghanistan, Albania, Argentina, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Fiji, The Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Israel, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Kosovo, Kyrgyz Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Malaysia, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia (Federated States of), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Nepal, North Macedonia, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Samoa, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, and Uruguay.”

The full 2021 Fiscal Transparency Report is available on: https://www.state.gov/reports/2021-fiscal-transparency-report/.

People in Serbia Prefer Links with China and Russia than with Region

More than half of Serbia’s citizens want their country to strengthen economic ties with China and Russia rather than with countries in the region, while 84 percent of respondents said the gap between rich and poor is growing, according to the latest edition of the Balkan Barometer survey conducted by the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC). 

The Balkan Barometer is an annual public opinion survey conducted by the RCC, collecting and analysing data collected from citizens and companies of the Western Balkans on thematic areas such as employment, trade, investment, corruption. 

This year, 6,000 citizens and 1,200 companies from six Western Balkan countries were involved in the survey. 

The latest study shows the most significant trust in law in the region is in Serbia: 52 percent of citizens believe that the rules are applied effectively. In comparison, 38 percent believe that the law is the same for everyone, the study shows. 

Regional cooperation has more support, 77 percent, and most respondents believe it can improve their countries’ political, economic and security situation. 

Unemployment with 49 per cent and economic development with 46 per cent, remain two critical problems in the region. In addition, citizens in the area are most concerned about corruption and „brain drain”, 26 and 13 percent, respectively. 

More citizens want EU membership, 62 percent compared to 59 percent in 2020, but only a quarter of respondents are optimistic that the region’s integration will happen by 2025. 

Fewer people want to leave the region, 37 percent compared to 43 percent last year, and 53 percent say they have no plans to work abroad soon. 

Compared to 2019, more people use the Internet, 39 percent for two or three hours daily. 

Companies in the Western Balkans use the Internet for communication, 77 percent, marketing, 54 percent, searching for innovative ideas, trends and partners,34 percent. 

Presenting the latest results in Tirana, Majlinda Bregu, RCC Secretary-General, said that 71 percent of Western Balkans citizens trusted institutions, and 62 percent believed that the media were not independent. 

They support employment measures for people with disabilities, 92 percent, and Roma, 81 percent. 

Three-quarters of the respondents are worried about climate change and pollution, and 62 percent are willing to pay more for „eco products”. 

Regarding the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, 43 percent of citizens fear job loss, 46 percent say they have lower salaries, and 39 percent believe their governments do not do enough to protect people from job loss during a pandemic. 

US Does Not Attempt to Take Over Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue Anymore

The European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell said on Monday (21.06) that “now, the cooperation between the US and EU is very good and there is no more competition and the American attempts to take over the main role in the Belgrade – Pristina dialogue on normalisation of relations. 

He added that the cooperation between Washington and Brussels was “now strong” and “will help” the dialogue. 

Summarising the latest meeting of the EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Luxembourg, he added the dialogue remained under the Union’s auspices. 

Borrell briefed the ministers about the latest round of the talks between Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti and informed them that a new round of the dialogue was due in July. 

Borrell said the dialogue was “only one topic on the agenda with several minutes spent on it.” 

On Tuesday (22.06), during the second day of the EU foreign ministers, the meeting will discuss the “Serbia-EU inter-governmental conference, but the bloc will not open any new chapters in accession talks with Belgrade.” 

EU’s diplomatic sources said that the majority of the bloc’s members were against opening any new chapters, or clusters as it called under the new methodology, due, as they said, the lack of reforms in the rule of law, curbing corruption, judiciary’s independence and freedom of expression in Serbia. 

The sources also said that the ministers were not likely to approve the beginning of the accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia on Tuesday (22.06), despite some member states advocated the move. 

US State Department Welcomed Montenegro’s Adoption of Srebrenica Resolution

The US State Department welcomed the adoption of the Resolution on the Genocide in Srebrenica by Montenegro’s Parliament, according to which the country condemns any denial of the genocide that took place in the eastern Bosnian town in 1995. 

“The position of the United States on this issue is long-lasting and unwavering. This painful chapter of European history must never be denied or forgotten”, a US State Department spokesperson told Voice of America on Friday (18.06). 

According to the Resolution, proposed by the Bosniak Party in the country, Montenegro will declare July 11 a day of mourning and remembrance for the victims of the 1995 genocide. 

Montenegro’s Parliament also voted to dismiss Minister of Justice and Human and Minority Rights in the Government of Montenegro, Vladimir Leposavic, over his controversial recent statements in which he questioned whether the Srebrenica Genocide took place. 

Leposavic said in March that he is ready to recognize that genocide was committed in Srebrenica “when it gets proven unequivocally.” 

He argued that the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, which ruled that the 1995 genocide took place, has “lost its legitimacy.” 

The Resolution, which was met with strong opposition by numerous Serb political representatives across the region, notes that more than 8,000 Bosniak civilians were killed in Srebrenica in the genocide. 

It calls for all those accused of involvement in the genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity to be investigated and prosecuted. 

The document also condemns any attempts to blame any specific ethnic group for the genocide, stressing that the responsibility for it can only be put on individuals. 

 The Resolution says it is based on rulings by the international courts. 

It also says that with its adoption, Montenegro, as a full member of NATO, shows commitment to European and Euro-Atlantic values. 

SEECP: Southeast Europe is a Region of Dialogue

According to the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Southeast Europe has become a region in which solutions to problems are being sought through dialogue and that the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) is the most comprehensive regional forum that has managed to bring together the countries of the region even in the most difficult periods. 

In his introductory address at the SEECP foreign ministers’ meeting in Antalya, Cavusoglu expressed satisfaction that the summit was being held in Turkey, in the year that marks the 25th anniversary of its founding. 

Turkey first chaired the SEECP 23 years ago. 

“Since then, we have made great strides in achieving our goals. Today, we have Southeast Europe seeking a solution to the problem through dialogue. As the most comprehensive regional platform, SEECP has managed to bring together the countries of the region even in the most difficult periods. This allows us to have direct conversations about our problems without the need for anyone from outside”, Cavusoglu said. 

“The European Union can become a global player only when all the countries of Southeast Europe are its members. We call for accession negotiations with Tirana and Skopje to begin as soon as possible. We want to speed up the accession negotiations with Podgorica and Belgrade”, Cavusoglu added. 

He expressed satisfaction with the fact that after 12 long years, local elections were held in the south-Bosnian city of Mostar. He added that this is an indication that things in Bosnia and Herzegovina can function when there is the will to do so. 

Cavusoglu wished good luck to the newly elected High Representative in BiH, Christian Schmidt, and thanked the outgoing Valentin Inzko. 

Serbian Government Adopts Negotiation Position for Chapter 15 

The Serbian government adopted its negotiation position for Chapter 15 – Energy in preparation of a an inter-governmental conference as part of the country’s pre-accession talks with the European Union. 

A Mining and Energy Ministry press release quoted Minister Zorana Mihailovic as saying that the two main obstacles that prevented the opening of that chapter had been removed. She said that an action plan on mandatory reserves of crude oil and its derivatives had been adopted along with a plan to reorganize the state-owned Srbijagas natural gas provider, adding that this will allow the authorities to align Serbian law with the EU acquis communautaire. 

She recalled that laws on renewable energy sources and energy efficiency had been adopted along with changes to the energy law to provide a regulatory framework in line with EU directives. 

The Mining and Energy Ministry is coordinating the efforts of the negotiation group for energy. 

Kosovo Upgrades Trade Mission in Athens

Greece says it has decided to upgrade the status of Pristina’s trade office in Athens and adds the recognition of Kosovo has not been an issue, the Greek ‘I Kathimerini’ daily has reported on Friday (04.06), during Nikos Dendias, the chief of the Greek diplomacy, visit to Pristina.  

The daily said the Minister’s visit came “in a particularly critical phase’, when Athens was under pressure regarding the level of its diplomatic relations with Kosovo.” 

“Although the possibility of recognising that country (Kosovo) is not talked about in Athens, the upgrade of Kosovo’s trade mission in Greece has been decided upon”, the daily said. 

That means, the paper adds, the discussion about political issues at the level of foreign ministries’ directorates will be possible in the office. 

However, it added the office “won’t have access to Greek Foreign Minister, his deputy, general-secretary, and will not be allowed to use Kosovo’s symbols and flag.” 

The paper quoted its sources saying, “that will possibly be the last concession Athens can offer to Pristina in this phase.” 

The main reasons for Greece’s refusal to recognise Kosovo’s independence are that it will be a precedent regarding its issue with divided Cyprus and Athens’ dispute with Ankara over it, the paper has said. 

New Non-Paper on Western Balkans Sent to Brussels

Four Visegrad Group countries and Austria have sent a non-paper concerning the region of the Western Balkans to European leaders in Brussels. 

Reportedly, the document is not dealing with the border changes but demands the European Union’s support for the whole region. 

The information was briefly confirmed by Bosnia’s Foreign Minister Bisera Turkovic. 

“Yes, we have been officially informed and I am glad about such approach. Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as other countries of the region, has a clear membership perspective. We have always been an essential part of Europe, now we are only in the process of reaching advanced European standards in the functioning and strengthening of the state”, Turkovic said earlier. 

According to her, the countries that sent the non-paper wish to include the future member states in the talks on the future of the EU, which is an “important signal we will not be left to wait for too long on the progress towards the membership.” 

“At the same time, this is good for the EU too, which is not complete without a stable and European Western Balkans”, said Turkovic. 

The Visegrad Group consists of four EU and NATO member states: Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, and it is aimed to advance the military, cultural, economic and energy cooperation within this alliance.