Tag Archives: Serbia

EU on Serbia elections

Serbia held parliamentary, provincial and local elections on 21 June; one of the first elections held in Europe since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

While contestants in Serbia’s parliamentary elections were able to campaign and fundamental freedoms were respected, voter choice was limited by the governing party’s overwhelming advantage and the promotion of government policies by most major media outlets, according to the preliminary findings and conclusions of the international observers from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

The European Union looks forward to the OSCE/ODIHR final report and recommendations for future elections to be issued in the coming months. We expect all political actors and relevant institutions to engage in a transparent, decisive and inclusive dialogue on the implementation of these recommendations to address long-standing electoral shortcomings well ahead of the next elections.

We encourage the new parliament to continue to engage in the inter-party dialogue led by the European Parliament, with a view to forging broad cross-party consensus on EU-related reforms, which is vital for the country’s progress on its EU path. We also encourage the Serbian leadership to engage in a genuine dialogue across the political spectrum to take forward important reforms on the rule of law, fight against organised crime and corruption.

The European Union looks forward to engaging with the next government to take forward swiftly the urgent reforms necessary for Serbia’s EU accession. This concerns in particular the rule of law, which lies at the heart of the accession process and should be at the forefront of the next government’s political priorities, and socio-economic reforms, crucial for post COVID-19 pandemic recovery. We also count on Serbia’s continued full engagement in the EU-facilitated Dialogue as well as regional cooperation more broadly.

As Serbia’s top donor and investor, and its most important trade and economic partner, the European Union is fully committed to continue supporting Serbia’s EU accession process as well as economic recovery following the coronavirus crisis, including through the Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans due in the autumn.

Image: Belgrade, Serbia

Moscow suggests US reparations for Yugoslavia bombings

The United States must ask for forgiveness for its bombardments of the former Yugoslavia(1999) and pay reparations to the relatives of those killed and injured in air raids, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on September 15.

And for a start, the United Stets should ask for forgiveness to those they bombed, pay reparations for those killed and to those who were wounded and lost their health because of shells stuffed with depleted uranium. And only with this done, with a proper groundwork laid, it can call on others to move forward,” the diplomat wrote on her Facebook page, commenting on the statement by the US outgoing ambassador to Serbia, Kyle Scott, who said that the Serbs should look at NATO’s bombings in 1999 from a “broader perspective.”

On March 24, 1999, NATO began a military operation against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The Alliance leadership claimed that prevention of genocide of the Albanian population in Kosovo he as the ultimate reason behind the air operation called Allied Force. NATO said that during the 78-day operation its aircraft flew 38,000 sorties to carry out 10,000 bombing strikes.

Military experts have found that the Alliance launched 3,000 cruise missiles and dropped 80,000 bombs, including cluster bombs and low-enriched uranium bombs. According to Serbian forces, the bombardments killed 3,500-4,000 and injured 10,000 people, two thirds of them civilians.

According to Serbian experts, NATO dropped 15 tonnes of depleted uranium over the three months of bombings to make the country Europe’s number one in terms of cancer cases. About 30,000 new cancer cases were registered in the first ten years after the bombings, with the lethal rate from 10,000 to 18,000 patients.

Material damage totaled $100 billion. The strikes against oil refineries and petrochemical plants poisoned the country’s water supply system with toxic chemicals.

According to Ljubisa Rakic, an acknowledged Serbian scientist, the amount of low-enriched uranium dropped by NATO on the Balkans was enough to make 170 A-bombs like the one that was dropped by the United States on Japan’s Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.

NATO regrets Kosovo “ill-timed” army formation

Today, the Institutions in Kosovo have announced the adoption of the three laws initiating the process of transition of the Kosovo Security Force“-  Jens Stoltenberg, the Secretary General of NATO  said in an issued statement.

“I regret that this decision was made despite the concerns expressed by NATO. While the transition of the Kosovo Security Force is in principle a matter for Kosovo to decide, we have made clear that this move  is ill-timed. 

“NATO supports the development of the Kosovo Security Force under its current mandate. With the change of mandate, the North Atlantic Council will now have to re-examine the level of NATO’s engagement with the Kosovo Security Force.

“NATO remains committed through KFOR to a safe and secure environment in Kosovo and to stability in the wider Western Balkans.

“All sides must ensure that today’s decision will not further increase tensions in the region. All responsible political actors in the region need to focus on progress with reforms, and on dialogue. I reiterate my call on both Pristina and Belgrade to remain calm and refrain from any statements or actions which may lead to escalation. NATO continues to support the EU-sponsored dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina as the only lasting political solution for the region.” – the statement concludes.

Migrants siege at Croatia border

Croatian police clarified the situation blaming circulation of false information that the authorities  would open its borders letting  in hundreds of illegal migrants and refugees gathering at crossings in Serbia and Bosnia, hoping to enter the EU via Croatia.

Some 400+ migrants gathered this week on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s border with Croatia, with a similar number accumulating on Serbian  border with Croatia, local media reported.

Croatian police continues to announce that misinformation had been spread that the EU state would open its borders, however it has no effect on waiting crowds.

Among the migrant populations on the territory of Bosnia and Serbia, false information is spreading that the Republic of Croatia will allow their entry into its territory as well as further passage to the countries of Western Europe,” a police statement said.

Local police and members of Bosnia’s border units were deployed to the Maljevac border crossing in northern Bosnia and Herzegovina, where hundreds illegal migrants attempted to enter Croatia. At present no major incidents or escalation reported, but migrants continue to camp, awaiting for their chance, and small groups have already  attempted to break through this morning.

There is a general public concern about the current developments in view of accumulating crowds of illegal migrants. An opinion prevails that without the EU assistance Croatian border control units will not be able to respond to the scale of the challenge.

AMENDED:

Sofia Summit: EU ‘waiting room ticket’ for Western Balkans

Aleksandar Mitić, OPINION

Eighteen years ago, as AFP correspondent, I attended the first EU-Western Balkans Summit, held in Zagreb in 2000. Enthusiasm and talk of fast entry into the EU dominated after the era of conflict in the 1990s. Almost two decades later, however, we are still talking about “European perspectives”, while EU investment in the region and its infrastructure is rather low, political conditionality has been toughened and enlargement fatigue in Western European countries has grown dramatically.

The official position of the European Commission is that the proposal for the new EU budget 2021-2027 does not include funds for new EU members, but that it includes an increase for the candidate states in the form of the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA). Although the European Commission has mechanisms to make amendments to the budget in case a country becomes an EU member in the meantime, the political message is quite clear: new EU memberships in the following period are quite unlikely. It means that the EU expects candidate states to stay longer in the “waiting room” – which is a perfect status from the point of view of EU and its member countries: the funds they have to give for candidate states are much smaller than if these countries become EU member states, while at the same time, the candidate states are much more vulnerable to EU political conditionality. In other terms, for the EU, having countries for a long period of time in pre-accession rather than becoming members means using a “powerful stick” with a “cheap carrot”. This is particularly important for policy towards countries such as Serbia or Turkey, which path into the EU is made extremely difficult by political conditionality.

The European Commission presented in February its “Enlargement Strategy”, which should be the backbone of the Summit in Sofia. Yet, this document is extremely weak and bland. It is also a document of the European Commission only, since the EU member states have been divided over it and have not given their approval. The EU is extremely divided over enlargement in general. Germany, France, the Netherlands are all against giving promises for the 2025 membership. Those most welcoming are countries of Eastern Europe, which still have openness for new members due to their own recent membership. But, it is clear that with German and French opposition, 2025 looks like a mirage.

French President Emmanuel Macron recently said he was against further enlargement before further strengthening of the EU core and of the current structures. He thus “killed” the EU enlargement strategy, at least its 2025 prospects.

Furthermore, when we look at the European Commission document itself, it is, for example for Serbia, an extremely negative document. Yes, it gives the possibility of the 2025 date, but at what cost? The document is tougher on Serbia than previous EU positions as it asks Serbia for an urgent signing of the legally-binding agreement with Kosovo Albanian separatists which would allow for an “independent Kosovo” to become an UN member. It is also calling for fast harmonization of Serbia’s foreign policy with the EU, which means imposing sanctions on Russia, something that Belgrade has said it would never do.

Dr.Aleksandar Mitić, President of the Center for Strategic Alternatives, Belgrade

#Karadzic appeals to overturn genocide convictions

The former leader of Bosnian Serbs Radovan Karadzic asked UN judges on Monday (23/04/2018) to overturn his genocide conviction, accusing prosecutors of unfairly blackening his name and twisting his words at his trial.

Karadzic was convicted two years ago incriminated the worst atrocities committed during the war, while the former Yugoslavia broke apart in the 1990s, including the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in which around 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed.

Karadzic is asking judges to oversee his appeal to overturn the 40-year jail sentence imposed and order start a new trial.

Fleckenstein: EU Western Balkans new strategy will deliver

German MEP Knut Fleckenstein  firmly believes the EU new strategy towards the Western Balkans will work and deliver for both the EU27 bloc and the countries of the region, without compromising criteria, but completing the reform package with a faisible pace. Although admitting the existing problems with the rule of law and fundamental rights, corruption and organised crime, Fleckenstein refers to successful experiences of the EU enlargement  like Baltic states to underline the EU project of Western Balkans joining the EU is possible, and even needed to achieve the compilation of the original architecture of the European Union forefathers:

 

Fajon: Western Balkans are Europe

Tanja FAJON MEP,  the vice-chair of Socialists and Democrats group of the European Parliament, reflects upon future of Western Balkans and the EU new strategy towards the region, pointing out the necessity to keep a right balance between enhancing reform without losing a perspective of membership in view or compromising criteria. A credible enlargement perspective for Western Balkans is a fair offer to countries to join European family they belong to, FAJON insists, underlining a positive example of her own country, joining the EU, Slovenia:

Russia delivers MiG-29 fighters to Serbia

Russia has kept its promise to deliver six Mikoyan MiG-29 fighters to Serbia, which was timed to coincide with the 73rd anniversary of the liberation of Belgrade from Nazi Germany, Russian Defense Minister Army General Sergei Shoigu said, according to TASS news agency.

The Russian defense minister made this statement at a meeting with his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vulin.

“In August, when you were in Moscow, I promised that by the time of this celebration the planes will arrive in Belgrade. Now planes are in Belgrade. I am sure that they will serve as a reliable shield and a guarantor of Serbia’s independence and security,” Shoigu said.

The six MiG-29 fighter jets have been delivered to Serbia by decision of Russian President Vladimir Putin. It was reported earlier that the six MiG-29 fighters had flown from Russia to Serbia in early October.

 

Serbia-NATO: cautious cooperation

Aleksandar Mitic, OPINION

Serbia’s Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin is meeting in Brussels with the NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller to discuss further cooperation within the Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme but his intention will certainly be to cement Belgrade’s commitment to military neutrality which excludes NATO membership. Serbia is implementing the Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) within the PfP – which includes comprehensive cooperation – and is not willing to consider further integration into NATO.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has expressed his respect for Serbia’s position on military neutrality, which is due to almost non-existent support to the Alliance membership, as 9 out of 10 Serbs reject such an option. However, Brussels and Washington and are at odds with Belgrade over several key issues, such as Kosovo and Russia. NATO and the Pentagon have been pushing for the establishment of a Kosovo Albanian “army”, while Belgrade is firmly opposed to such a move which it deems illegal and a threat to fragile Balkan security. The two sides are also at odds over the fate of the Serbian-Russian Humanitarian Center in the southern Serbian city of Nis. The Center is an important center for rescue and natural disaster operations, but Western diplomats have put doubts into whether it could transform into a center for intelligence services – a speculation which has been vehemently denied by both Belgrade and Moscow.

Finally, Western officials have also been at odds with Belgrade over its military cooperation with Russia – with expected delivery of six MiG-29 fighter jets and the and Serbia’s participation in military exercises with Russia and Belarus, such as the joint anti-terrorist exercise Slavic Brotherhood 2017 held in June in Belarus. Serbia insists that its military cooperation with Russia is only a portion of cooperation it has with NATO countries. Despite differences, the Alliance and Serbia are set on a path of cautious co-operation, as long as Brussels fully respects Serbia’s decision to reject NATO membership.

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