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. 

Dacic Says Serbia Will Not Support Sanctions Against Russia

Parliament Speaker Ivica Dacic said in Moscow on Monday (31.05) that Serbia will never support sanctions against Russia. 

“I want to say once again that Serbia will never support the sanctions against the Russian Federation imposed by international organizations or certain states”, he said. Dacic is in Moscow at the invitation of State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin. 

A press release on the State Duma web site said that they discussed high level, dynamic cooperation between the two countries. “We remain committed to further developing brotherly relations”, Dacic is quoted as saying. 

Volodin is quoted as saying that Belgrade and Moscow share views on some issues and added that interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states is impermissible especially in terms of imposing values. 

Biden Administration Fully Accepts Washington Agreement

Serbia’s Ambassador to the United States, Marko Djuric, said that the administration of US President Joseph Biden accepts all obligations from the Washington Agreement, which was reached during the time of former President Donald Trump. 

Djuric told ‘Politika’ that he spoke with representatives of the US State Department, the National Security Council and people from the new administration in recent weeks and that he heard encouraging messages regarding the attitude towards the Washington Agreement. 

As for the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, Djuric said that Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti „in recent weeks has shown a tendency towards spite and not an overly constructive approach, even in relation to the suggestions of top representatives of the American administration.” 

„From the talks we had in previous weeks, it follows that the United States will support the efforts of the European Union as the main responsible facilitator of the dialogue based on the mandate it got from the United Nations Security Council in 2011″, he stressed. 

He said that “bearing in mind that since the beginning of the year, instead of suppressing violence, we have witnessed dozens of attacks on Serbian Orthodox Church property and messages about the abolition of endangered church property and Serbian shrines, it is a confirmation of immaturity and unwillingness to take responsibility for the security and protection of shrines.” 

Parliamentary Party SPAS Joins Ruling SNS in Serbia

The Serbian Patriotic Alliance (SPAS), led by former water polo player Aleksandar Sapic, has officially joined the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) of President Aleksandar Vucic and was elected vice president of the SNS Main Board on Saturday, May 29th. 

SPAS won 3.83 percent of votes and 11 seats in the Assembly of Serbia in the 2020 elections, but one MP withdrew from his parliamentary group, so it still has 10 representatives. 

The move reduces the number of opposition MPs to only a few, as part of the opposition boycotted the elections in 2020, while even many of those few who did enter the race for parliament failed to pass the 3 percent threshold. 

Sapic has been the mayor of Belgrade’s largest municipality, New Belgrade, since 2012 and is currently in his third term. Media speculate he could be a future candidate for mayor of the capital representing the ruling party in the elections in 2022. 

He was also previously a member of the Democratic Party while it was in power and he served as assistant to the mayor of Belgrade between 2009 and 2012. 

Christian Schmidt Appointed as New High Representative in BiH

The Ambassadors of the Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council (PIC SB) formally appointed Christian Schmidt as the next High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, following his candidature put forward by Germany, the Office of the High Representative announced Thursday (27.05) afternoon.  

“The PIC SB looks forward to working with Mr Schmidt when he takes up his duties as the High Representative on August 1, 2021 upon which Mr Valentin Inzko’s resignation will become effective”, the statement said. 

The PIC SB thanked Germany for its initiative and is confident that Mr Schmidt will accelerate the completion of the 5+2 agenda and contribute to the stability in BiH by ensuring consistent implementation of the civilian aspects of the Dayton Peace Agreement, which ended the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia.  The PIC SB also noted that this decision further underlines their commitment to the territorial integrity of BiH. 

The OHR will now inform the United Nations Secretary-General of the PIC SB’s decision. 

“The PIC SB expressed its appreciation to Ambassador Valentin Inzko for his longstanding extraordinary commitment and tremendous contribution to the implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement and security and stability in BiH for the past 12 years. 

The statement added that the Russian Federation did not agree with this decision. 

Developing Relations Greece-Kosovo Not Good for Serbia

President Aleksandar Vucic said on Wednesday, May 26th that Belgrade had received assurances that Greece would not recognize Kosovo but added that the development of relations between Athens and Pristina is not good news for Serbia. 

“I don’t want to say anything before we know something but because there have been some changes in relations I expect to find out if this is just about a trade office or something more between Greece and Kosovo. We will see how things go before we inform the public”, Vucic told the pro-government TV Pink. 

He said that important consultations on Kosovo would be held in Belgrade over the next few days before the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue resumes in Brussels. He added that the important thing is for Serbia to preserve its state and national interests. 

Kurti Worried About Efforts to Depopulate Albanians in Southern Serbia

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti expressed concern over what he said are administrative efforts to “depopulate Albanian majority municipalities” in southern Serbia. 

A press release from the prime minister’s cabinet said that Kurti discussed the situation in southern Serbia with a focus on what he called the “passivization of the addresses” of local Albanians with Albanian National Council in Serbia Chairman Ragmi Mustafa. Kurti is quoted as saying that he is “carefully following the situation with the passivization of the addresses of Albanians”. “Serbia has tried to depopulate the Albanian majority municipalities with violence and tanks in the past and is now doing that administratively”, he said. 

Under Serbian law on the residency of its citizens, and address can be rendered passive if a resident does not live at the address listed in their personal documents. That article of the law is enforced for people who live abroad and are not permanent residents of the address they list in their personal documents. A large percentage of the ethnic Albanian population of the municipalities of Bujanovac, Medvedja, and Presevo live abroad but have addresses in Serbia. 

“This campaign against the Albanian residents of the Presevo valley is unacceptable and should be stopped as soon as possible”, Kurti said, referring to the three municipalities in southern Serbia. 

EU High Commissioner Wants to Hear Western Balkans Leaders’ Views of the Region

Josep Borrell, the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, wants to hear how the Western Balkans’ leaders see the political situation in the region and its development prospects at a dinner in Brussels on Tuesday (18.05), a European Commission (EC) spokesman Peter Stano has said on Monday (17.05).  

He added that was important since such meetings of the EU and Western Balkans’ leaders were not often in the past. 

According to Stano, the EU foreign ministers said they wanted to see a broader picture at their recent meeting. 

“The reason and tomorrow’s meeting aims are to hear how the Western Balkans’ leaders see the political and general situation there”, he said. 

Stano said Borrell wanted to “engage more on wider issues besides the enlargement” with the partners in the region. 

Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic won’t be present at the dinner since he had a meeting at NATO headquarters, and Prime Minister Ana Brnabic will take part instead.