Belgrade, February 20, 2012
SERBIA - EU
JEREMIC: WE ARE NOT THE ONES PULLING ALL STRINGS
BELGRADE, Feb. 20 (Tanjug) - Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic has stated that at the moment it is very difficult to predict whether Serbia will get the EU candidate status in March, stressing that the country is doing all in its power, but that it is not the one pulling all the strings.
"We should keep calm and continue to work. In case no positive decision is reached late in February, there will be other opportunities as well," Jeremic said in an interview for Belgrade daily Blic.
When asked whether it is true that the EU is blackmailing Serbia over Kosovo and that Germany has the key role in the process, the head of the Serbian diplomacy said that this is an issue of a complex nature given that the European block is shaken by the largest economic crisis since its formation resulting in a lack of enlargement enthusiasm with a number of member states, Germany included.
"This is reflected in even stronger insistence on fulfillment of proscribed criteria," Jeremic said.
Speaking about the referendum in north Kosovo, Jeremic said it is a pity that no uniform stand was reached, and that the result of voting is that north Kosovo Serbs are determined not to accept the institutions of the socalled independent state of Kosovo which is a reality in the field that cannot be ignored.
Jeremic underlined that principled stand on nonrecognition of Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence is a precondition for preservation of territorial integrity.
"If we allow such a precedent and agree to changes of borders which have been set by the constitution, I am afraid that this would not end with Kosovo," Jeremic said, stressing that in international relations just like in life sometimes you have to show a firm stand you will not give up on, or else pressures and blackmails will never end.
Noting that this should be done very carefully avoiding directs conflicts with great powers, Jeremic said that so far this has been done successfully, taking the example of Serbia's appointment to the OSCE chair for its 40th anniversary.
"Through its very active foreign policy in the last few years, Serbia has proved to be an independent and principled actor in the international arena," he said.
WAMMEN: DECISION BASED ON MERIT, NOT LETTERS
BELGRADE, Feb. 20 (Tanjug) Danish Minister for European Affairs Nicolai Wammen expressed hope Monday that Serbia will be granted EU candidate status on March 1 and stressed the decision will be based on Serbia's achievements and not on any letters.
Asked to comment on the information that Pristina has sent a letter to EU member countries asking that Serbia be denied candidate status, Wammen told a news conference after his meeting with Serbia's Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic that the decision will be based solely on merit and facts, not on letters.
We will review what has been done and make a decision based on that, stressed the minister whose country holds the EU Presidency until July 1.
He said important days are ahead in Brussels, both in terms of the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina and the talks on Serbia's candidate status.
According to Wammen, progress has been made in the dialogue in the last few weeks, but the work is not done. It is time to take the necessary steps to reach an agreement, he pointed out.
Serbian FM Jeremic said Monday that Serbia is closer to a positive decision from the Council of the EU than it was in December. Jeremic said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will keep up intensive contacts with EU member countries in the coming days and do everything to get a positive decision for the Council of the EU. "We should not prejudice the decision in any way at this moment. The moment is positive, but the goal has not been reached," he said.
TADIC MEETS CZECH, SLOVAKIAN, CROATIAN PRESIDENTS
PRAGUE, Feb. 18 (Tanjug) - Serbian President Boris Tadic arrived in the Czech Republic on Saturday, where he will meet with Czech President Vaclav Klaus, Slovak President Ivan Gasparovic and Croatian President Ivo Josipovic in the Lany Chateau, near Prague.
The main topics are expected to be the EU integration of Serbia and Croatia, experiences of the Czech Republic and Slovakia regarding that process and regional cooperation as a faster way to become a member of the EU.
The Czech Republic and Slovakia, two countries that were formed after Czechoslovakia peacefully split in 1993, joined the EU in 2004.
Croatia completed the preaccession negotiations late last year and should become the 28th member of the EU on July 1, 2013.
Serbia expects to become a candidate for membership on March 1.
Klaus, although known as a eurosceptic, and Gasparovic are strong advocates of the Balkan countries' accession into the EU.
The meeting, where the presidents will arrive with their wives, will be held in a castle which is also known as the resting place of the first Czechoslovakian president Thomas Masaryk.
GASPAROVIC: BELGRADE-PRISTINA RELATIONS NO CONDITION
PRAGUE, Feb. 18 (Beta) - Slovakia President Ivan Gasparovic and Czech President Vaclav Klaus agreed at a Feb. 18 encounter with their Croatian and Serbian counterparts, Ivo Josipovic and Boris Tadic, that relations between Belgrade and Pristina must not be crucial to valuing Serbia's progress toward the European Union.
The four leaders had an informal get-together at the Lany castle, near Prague, discussing mainly European topics. Klaus and Gasparovic again voiced their strong support to Serbia obtaining the status of candidate EU member, which Gasparovic mentioned as a certain, though still not formally signed, outcome.
At a joint news conference after the meeting, Gasparovic said Pristina could not be the only, or deciding, condition for Serbia, but that the country's efforts had to be valued according to its overall progress.
Tadic thanked his Czech and Slovak colleagues for their countries' firm support to Serbia's bid to join the EU, and reiterated that Serbia, though open to dialog and solving practical issues, would not recognize an independent Kosovo.
BILDT: SERBIA DESERVES EU CANDIDATE STATUS
BELGRADE, Feb. 17 (Tanjug) - Serbia deserves to get the EU candidate status, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt told the Swedish parliament, the Swedish Embassy in Belgrade has released.
Presenting the goals of the Swedish policy in the world on February 15, Bildt said that the EU's door needs to stay open for all European democracies that want to join it and are able to fulfill obligations that stem from the membership. We welcome the fact that Croatia will soon become the Union's 28th state. That sends a powerful signal to other countries in the region, the Swedish minister noted and added that accession negotiations with Montenegro should begin relatively soon.
He also expressed hope that Bosnia Herzegovina’s new government can take the necessary measures to submit the EU candidacy bid.
Bildt said that accession talks with Macedonia could begin after a decision of the International Court of Justice (ICJ). As far as Albania and Kosovo are concerned, the Swedish foreign minister believes that they need the EU's support to take their European pathway, the Swedish Embassy said.
CLINTON, ASHTON: FUTURE OF SERBIA, KOSOVO IN EU.
WASHINGTON, Feb. 17 (Tanjug) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and European High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Catherine Ashton said in Washington, on Feb. 17, that the future of both Serbia and Kosovo was in the European Union.
We share the position that the futures of both Serbia and Kosovo lie in the EU, and the U.S. strongly supports the dialog supervised by the EU in an attempt to advance the European integration of Serbia and Kosovo, Clinton said after the meeting.
Ashton said the EU was working closely with Belgrade and Pristina, and voiced the hope that a plan could be drawn up to allow Serbia to obtain EU candidate member status and allow Kosovo to move forward toward visa liberalization and advance in trade with the EU. The situation with Serbia and Kosovo is very important to the EU because we believe the future of both is in the EU, Ashton stated.
According to the U.S. State Department website, Clinton and Ashton also discussed Iran's nuclear program and circumstances in Syria.
BURNS: U.S. STRONGLY SUPPORTS SERBIA'S EU CANDIDACY
BELGRADE, Feb. 17 (Beta) - The U.S. strongly supports Serbia's candidacy for membership in the European Union and believes this goal to be achievable over the coming weeks, William Burns, U.S. deputy secretary of state, said on Feb. 17.
Burns told the Serbian Broadcasting Corporation that the U.S. would do what it could to encourage that decision though it had no vote in the EU, adding that his country hoped that Serbia would fulfill all its obligations "to help us help" Serbia to secure candidate status.
Asked whether those efforts and obligations included a fourpoint plan to resolve the Kosovo crisis offered up by Serbian President Boris Tadic and about his opinion on it, Burns said there had been no chance to discuss that plan in detail.
Burns said the U.S. believed the plan to reflect Serbia's dedication to dialog, which paves the way for improving the lives of people in the region.
According to the Serbian Broadcasting Corporation report, while in Belgrade, Burns met with Serbian President Boris Tadic, Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic, Economy Minister Nebojsa Ciric and Defense Minister Dragan Sutanovac. There were no official press releases after those meetings.
SARKOZY TO SUPPORT SERBIA'S CANDIDACY
PARIS, Feb. 17 (Tanjug) - France will do all in its might to help Serbia get the EU candidate status late in February, advisors to French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in the talks with representatives of the Serb diaspora in Paris.
The delegation of around 15 Serb activists from Paris conferred with president's political and diplomatic advisors Damien Loras and Olivier Biancarelli in the Elysee Palace on Wednesday.
France has pledged to do all in its power for Serbia to get the EU candidate status late in February. Official Paris will even go a step further and request from Germany to clearly state its position ahead of the decisive ministerial meeting in Brussels which is to table Serbia's candidacy, Chairman of the Serbian Institute for Public Diplomacy Zoran Milinkovic underlined.
Sarkozy's advisors added that Serbia is expected to do its part of the work in terms of further normalization of relations in the region.
DEGERT: MORE RESULTS NEEDED FOR CANDIDATE STATUS
BELGRADE, Feb. 18 (Tanjug) - Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia Vincent Degert has said that Belgrade and Pristina have to agree regarding Kosovo's representation at regional meetings, and do it in a way that is acceptable to both sides and all members of the EU.
The EU acts as a mediator and its basic requirement is to have all regional representatives present at meetings that focus on issues important for reconciliation and economic development, he stated. It is in the interest of the EU and the region that all agreements on energy, trade and transport networks be functional, he told the Danas daily.
Serbia has made significant progress in meeting the key conditions for its EU integration, he noted. Results have been achieved but the EU needs to see more, and there is very little time left until the European Council summit, Degert added.
As for the talks between Belgrade and Pristina, significant progress has been made in ensuring freedom of movement, but a systematic solution is required for administrative crossings, as well as a solution for Kosovo's representation at regional fora, he explained. EULEX and KFOR have to be able to operate throughout Kosovo, he concluded.
DACIC: KOSOVO LOBBIES WITH EU AGAINST SERBIA'S CANDIDACY
BELGRADE, Feb. 19 (B92, Beta) - Interior Minister Ivica Dacic on Feb. 19 said the Kosovo government had sent a letter to all EU member states, suggesting that Serbia not be granted the status of candidate for EU membership and accusing Belgrade of the failure of the Belgrade Pristina dialog.
"The letter stresses that only limited progress has been achieved in the dialog and underlines the lack of essential dialog in the implementation of the achieved agreements on disputed issues," Dacic told the Belgrade B92 TV.
Kosovo called on the EU and member states to bear that in mind when deciding on Serbia's candidacy in late February, read the letter. Dacic stressed that the Serbian government must condemn this move of Pristina, explaining that this way Serbia had been pushed into an unequal position.
SERBIA - K&M – DIALOG
STEFANOVIC: NO NEW CONCESSIONS
BELGRADE, Feb. 20 (Tanjug) Borislav Stefanovic says a solution mentioning the UDI is not acceptable, when it comes to Kosovo's representation in regional forums.
Appearing state television RTS ahead of the next round of talks scheduled for February 21, the Belgrade negotiator pointed out that Belgrade was not being asked to make any new concessions, because it had given "five or six new proposals for the regional representation of Priština."
According to him, each of the proposals includes UN Security Council Resolution 1244, and the Belgrade team has worked out the proposals in daily consultations and "if there is enough wisdom and courage, above all, from the government in Priština, an agreement is possible."
"It is important to Kosovo that it be represented in regional initiatives and Serbia should allow its voice to be heard, but it must be represented asymmetrically, i.e. not on equal footing with independent states," said Stefanovic, explaining that the essence of the inequality is reflected in Resolution 1244 "which must be mentioned."
He added that Belgrade "could agree to a mention of the advisory opinion given by the International Court of Justice in The Hague," which did not affirm the right of Kosovo Albanians to unilaterally declare independence.
"In this space we can find a solution on Tuesday in Brussels," Stefanovic said, adding that "in addition to regional representation of Priština, the talks will focus on the realization of past agreements, especially relating to the administrative crossings in northern Kosovo.
Stefanovic expressed a lot of reservations regarding the claims of Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci that "an agreement was reached in a meeting with U.S. official William Burns that Kosovo will be represented by citing the (unilateral) declaration of independence, the ICJ opinion and Resolution 1244".
"I doubt anything has been agreed in this manner," he said, adding that Burns, who previously visited Belgrade, "is not a man who discusses the details of the dialogue in Brussels."
BURNS: U.S. STRONGLY BACKS PRISTINA-BELGRADE DIALOG.
PRISTINA, Feb. 19 (Beta) - U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns in Pristina on Feb. 18 said Washington strongly backed Kosovo's independence and also the dialog on technical issues between Pristina and Belgrade.
"I am impressed with the achievements made in Kosovo, which respects to human rights and freedoms. The U.S. cherishes strong friendship with Kosovo and we are proud of that friendship. We remain determined in favor of an independent Kosovo," Burns told Radio and TV of Kosovo.
He also said Washington firmly backed the dialog on technical issues with Belgrade in order to find a formula acceptable for both sides.
"The U.S. is decisive to support Kosovo to continue its engagement in the dialog with Serbia, while the people of Kosovo should make their own assessment as to which is their national interest. The U.S. and European partners request that both sides be flexible and constructive so that Kosovo is able to take part at international and regional forums," Burns said.
In Pristina, Burns extended Washington's full backing to Kosovo in all ongoing process, read a statement from the from the Kosovo presidents office.
IVANOVIC: UNILATERAL INDEPENDENCE DID NOT RESOLVE PROBLEM
KOSOVSKA MITROVICA, Feb. 17 (Tanjug) - State Secretary with the Ministry for Kosovo and Metohija Oliver Ivanovic said Friday that even after four years as of the unilateral declaration of Kosovo independence, there are still a number of problems waiting to be resolved in the province.
Ivanovic is of the opinion that social issues will continue to be the greatest challenge in Kosovo and Metohija, and underlined that Serbs see nothing promising in terms of their political, safety and economic status.
What is certain is that all the euphoria has fizzled out, and that the Albanians are now also focused on everyday issues, he said for Radio Kontakt Plus.
It seems that time has come for us to see whether through dialogue we can create conditions for this territory, whatever its final status may be, to become a place it will be possible to invest in, he said.
JEREMIC: DENIES UGANDA RECOGNIZED KOSOVO
BELGRADE Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic has stated that Uganda has not recognized Kosovo's unilaterally declared independence.
He also added that the African country had no intention to do so.
"The country's Foreign Minister Henry Oryem Okello confirmed this to me today," Jeremic told Tanjug on Sunday.
He explained that this was another deception attempt of the temporary institutions in Priština, just like it had been the case with Nigeria and the Central African Republic.
"It is possible that some people close to the local authorities have been bribed but these African nations have not changed their positions regarding respect of Serbia's sovereignty and territorial integrity," the Serbian FM stressed.
He repeated that the Kosovo officials were being pressured by the international factors to give up on their rigid stances in the dialogue with Belgrade "and they are this way obviously trying to divert attention of the domestic public from the very unpleasant fact".
Kosovo Deputy Prime Minister Behgjet Pacolli said two days ago that he had received a verbal confirmation from Uganda's Foreign Ministry that the country had recognized Kosovo's independence.
EULEX: UNKNOWN FATE OF 1,790 MISSING PERSONS
PRISTINA, Feb. 19 (Tanjug) - The fate of 1,790 missing persons from all communities in Kosovo is still unknown, 13 years after the conflict, EULEX has stated, stressing that the missing persons issue remains a very delicate one.
That is why the Kosovo Justice Ministry and EULEX, through the Department of Forensic Medicine (DFM), think it a priority to continue their efforts in finding and returning the remains of victims to their families, so it would help the reconciliation process, says the statement.
Deputy Head of EULEX Press and Public Information Office Francoise Lambert said that since its formation in 2008, the DFM had helped in an efficient and tangible way to establish the foundation of a professional centre for forensic medical research and solving missing persons cases.
Together with EULEX, the Justice Ministry formed a Kosovo team for exhumation within the DFM, which has received training in forensic archeology.
SERBIA – ECONOMY, FINANCE
IMF RECOMMENDS HIGHER VAT, LATER RETIREMENT AGE IN SERBIA
BELGRADE, Feb. 18 (Beta) - On Feb. 18, the International Monetary Fund proposed that Serbia raise its valueadded tax, reduce the mass of salaries paid from the budget and through subsidies, and increase the age limit for retirement.
According to media reports citing an IMF letter of recommendation to Serbia, the IMF said the new, postelection Serbian government should consider tax reform that should include slashing income tax and raising VAT, customs and excise tax.
The IMF mission did not issue a press release during a recent visit to Belgrade, but formulated and sent its recommendation upon its return to Washington. According to the media, the IMF said the government of Serbia had exceeded the approved budget consumption in 2011 and overreached the allowed deficit in the state till by five billion dinars.
The IMF mission is to return once Serbia has a new government, having recently frozen its precautionary standby arrangement with the country. To unblock it, the IMF wants agreement on a review of Serbia's 2012 budget, a mediumterm program reducing Serbia's debts, and acceleration of structural reforms.
CIRIC: MORE ITALIAN COMPANIES INTERESTED IN SERBIA
ROME, BELGRADE, Feb. 17 (Tanjug) - Serbian Minister of Economy and Regional Development Nebojsa Ciric said that he spoke about prospective investments in Serbia with representatives of four Italian companies in Rome.
Ciric told Tanjug Thursday that these companies work in sectors of woodprocessing and furniture industry, software, railway and automotive industry.
Ciric said at the end of oneday visit to Italy that the experience with Fiat was presented to potential investors, as well as the examples of other Italian companies that do business in Serbia.
Ciric and Italian Minister of Economic Development, Infrastructure and Transport Corrado Passera conferred about areas in which agreements on cooperation should be signed, with the aim of bringing economic and political relations to a higher level.
Italian representatives reiterated their country's absolute readiness to continue supporting European integration of Serbia, Ciric said.
Ciric also attended the session of the Serbia Italy business council at which he presented Serbia as an investment destination.
The business council was established in 2010 in order to improve economic cooperation, propose measures and activities of importance for cooperation between the two states and to promote investments in Serbia.