NIKOLIC ON KOSOVO, ASSOCIATION OF SERB MUNICIPALITIES, HARADINAJ
NEW YORK, 27 February 2017 (Beta) - President Tomislav Nikolic said in New York on Feb. 27 that Serbia would not recognize Kosovo's independence regardless of what may be offered in return or the pressure it could be exposed to. "Serbia is ready to make agreements, but not to be blackmailed, it is ready for a dialogue, but not for ultimative unilateral solutions, it is ready for the essential autonomy of Kosovo and Metohija, but never for an independent Kosovo," Nikolic said at a U.N. Security Council session, which reviewed a report on UNMIK by Secretary General Antonio Guterres. Recalling that four years into the reaching of the Brussels agreement, the formation of an association of Serb communities had not started, Nikolic said that "Pristina representatives are more openly saying that they are not interested in this association and that they will not honor the agreement." Nikolic called on the international community to jointly and strongly respond to such behavior As regards Serbia's request for the extradition of Alliance for the Future of Kosovo leader Ramush Haradinaj, Nikolic asked why no one had condemned his open threats of a new war, when he had said that Serbia would experience another 1999. "Failing to punish crimes must not be allowed or tolerated. This is a civilizational issue and a serious test for the entire U.N. membership and an opportunity to show that law and justice are beyond politics and that all victims are equal," Nikolic noted.
NIKOLIC: SERBIA FOR PEACE, DIALOGUE, BUT WON'T PROVIDE EXCUSE TO ANYONE FOR VIOLENCE
NEW YORK, 27 February 2017 (Beta) - President Tomislav Nikolic on Feb. 27 said that Serbia would continue to conduct a peaceful policy and the dialogue with Pristina, and was ready to reach agreements and compromise, but it would not accept blackmail or provide an excuse to anyone to use violence. "Serbia will continue to conduct a responsible and peaceful policy, but will not give an excuse to anyone to provoke an escalation of violence. In the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, Serbia is trying to pave a road to gradual normalization, but a sincere and feasible agreement requires good faith from the other party," Nikolic said a U.N. Security Council session in New York, which debated a report on UNMIK by Secretary General Antonio Guterres. Nikolic said that Serbia's effort to maintain the dialogue resulted in agreements being broken and aggressive action by Pristina, aimed at provoking clashes, and he cited as examples the ban on delivering Serbian-language textbooks, the attempt to seize the Trepca mining complex and denying a train from Belgrade entry into Kosovo. Nikolic described the deployment of special police units to Kosovo's north because of the train from Belgrade going to Kosovska Mitrovica as a call to an armed clash and a direct threat to the lives of civilians. "I am sure that you share my concern over the deployment of ethnically pure units, armed with offensive weapons, without the obligatory consent of the local Serbian community, to the predominantly Serb-populated north of Kosovo," Nikolic said. He also said that transportation interconnections in the 21st century could not be regarded as a provocation of anyone, noting that the initiative for introducing that rail link had come from students of the Serbian-language university in Kosovo and Metohija. He recalled that Pristina responded with "threats, planting mines along the rail tracks and the use of rifles and armoured vehicles."
UNMIK CHIEF CONCERNED OVER GROWING TENSION IN KOSOVO
NEW YORK, 27 February 2017 (Beta) - UNMIK Chief Zahir Tanin said in New York on Feb. 27 that the resumption of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue at the highest level was "a crucial step" in restoring trust. Speaking at a U.N. Security Council session, Tanin hailed the resumption of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue on the formation of an association of Serb communities. Tanin expressed concern over the growing tension, series of escalation, and reactions and counter reactions that had affected the political process and the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue. He further said that Belgrade and Pristina had two different approaches to resolving the situation in Kosovo and were exchanging mutual recriminations, saying that Pristina leaders were blocking Belgrade and vice versa. He called for an improved situation in Kosovo and the creation of better living conditions for citizens so that they would not seek a solution in some sort of extremism, which was a great risk in Kosovo's territory. "Good neighborly ties, commitment to a common future within a single European territory, respect for human rights and the rule of law, and resolution of disputes only through peaceful dialogue and compromise are essential for Kosovo and the entire region," Tanin said.
U.N. SECURITY COUNCIL ON SITUATION IN KOSOVO
NEW YORK, 27 February 2017 (Beta) - During a debate on the situation in Kosovo at the U.N. Security Council on Feb. 27, Russia's representative Vladimir Safronkov said that Moscow severely opposed changes to UNMIK's mandate in Kosovo. He said that the formation of armed forces of Kosovo was contrary to Security Council Resolution 1244. Safronkov further said that numerous incidents and attacks on the non-Albanian population were still taking place in Kosovo, and he warned of the risk of radical Islam spreading as the result of the Kosovo Albanians' involvement in the clashes in the Middle East.
The U.S. representative said that Kosovo "is a success story." He underlined the importance of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue and called on both sides to implement the agreements reached under the Brussels-brokered dialogue. He also stressed the importance of the EU's mediation in the dialogue. The U.S. diplomat also said that tensions had grown in Kosovo in the past few months, but that the problems had been resolved peacefully and without clashes. He also said that Washington supported Kosovo as a multi-ethnic democracy, its international recognition and membership in international organizations, including the U.N.
British representative with the U.N. said that his country was committed to maintaining stability in the Western Balkan, adding that the normalization of Belgrade-Pristina relations played the crucial role in that process.
PM: IMF HAS NO COMPLAINT ABOUT SERBIA'S PUBLIC FINANCES
BELGRADE, 27 February 2017 (Beta) - Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said on Feb. 27 that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had no complaints about Serbia's public finances, but it did have remarks about the situation with several public companies and banks. In a statement to public broadcaster RTS, Vucic said that topics discussed with the IMF and the World Bank were the most important matters for Serbia's future, adding that Serbia's budget "is under absolute control and will report a surplus in February." The IMF, according to Vucic, had remarks about the public companies MSK, RTB Bor and some banks, which had to find advisers, but that the IMF had no remarks about the functioning of the banking system. "There are no big problems, but there are many things that we have to improve. I accepted some suggestions which were not easy," Vucic said, speaking about his Feb. 27 meeting with the chief of the IMF's mission to Serbia, James Roaf. He further said that one of the major tasks in the upcoming period would be to strengthen the private sector, which employed 1.4 million people. The private sector, Vucic said, was still relatively small, it supported 1.75 million pensioners and 850,000 public sector employees.
SERBIA OPENS CHAPTERS 20 AND 26
BELGRADE, 27 February 2017 (Beta) - At a Feb. 27 inter-government session in Brussels, Serbia opened Chapter 20 on entrepreneurship and industrial policy and Chapter 26 on culture and education, increasing the number of opened chapters from eight to 35. Chapter 26 has been temporarily closed as well, as reporters were told after the inter-government conference. Louis Grech, a deputy prime minister of Malta, chairing the EU, said that enlargement would be high on Malta's agenda during its EU presidency, because this contributed to stability and prosperity in Europe. Grech said that the main goal was to establish sustainability and restore trust in the European project, enlargement being part of the process, because it could deliver stability. When asked about Serbia's tangible progress in the negotiations under his country's presidency until mid-2017, Grech didn't want to be very specific, but said that progress had been made in the preparations for Chapter 29 on customs union, Chapter 6 on corporate laws and Chapter 7 on intellectual property.
MIHAJLOVIC: OPENING OF CHAPTERS SENDS POSITIVE SIGNALS TO FOREIGN INVESTORS
BELGRADE, 27 February 2017 (Beta) - Serbia's deputy prime minister, Zorana Mihajlovic, said on Feb. 27 that the opening of two new chapters in the country's accession talks with the European Union (EU) has sent a clear signal to investors that Serbia is an excellent investment destination. "Serbia shares the EU goals and values, we'll introduce all the standards the Union has, not because of someone else, but for the sake of our own citizens," Mihajlovic said. Minister Mihajlovic was quoted as saying in her ministry's press release that the opening of the chapters validated again the Serbian government policy, adding that the cabinet planned to open all, or at least as many negotiating chapters as possible until the end of the term, in 2020.
HAHN: SITUATION IN WESTERN BALKANS FRAGILE, BUT EU PATH TO BE CONFIRMED
BELGRADE, 27 February 2017 (Beta) - We have to be aware that the situation in the Western Balkans is still fragile, but the European Union (EU) leaders will support the region's path to the Union in March, Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Johannes Hahn said in Brussels, on Feb. 27, after another two chapters in Serbia's EU accession talks had been opened. Hahn was asked by Beta's reporter to make a comment on a decision by heads of state and government to include the Western Balkans in their agenda for a session scheduled for March 9 and March 10, over concerns regarding the deteriorating situation in the region. The EU enlargement commissioner said he believed this was actually a very good thing, recalling that EU High Representative Federica Mogherini was scheduled to visit Serbia and a few other Western Balkan states next week. "This is a very good sign of increased interest in the Western Balkans by the European family, which is a good thing," Hahn said. Hahn said that "everyone's invited to contribute to the region's prospects, instead of constantly looking back." He underlined that "what people, young people want to see is a better standard of living, reconciliation, opportunities to stay in the region, instead of moving out." "Accordingly, all these efforts, including the opening of membership chapters, will contribute to moving forward in the EU integrations," Hahn said.
HAHN: SERBIA MAKES PROGRESS IN RULE OF LAW, RELATIONS WITH KOSOVO
BELGRADE, 27 February 2017 (Beta) - Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Johannes Hahn said on Feb. 27 that Serbia had demonstrated commitment to making progress in the rule of law, and in normalizing relations with Kosovo, adding that the opening of Chapters 20 and 26 in Serbia's accession talks with the European Union (EU) showed that Serbia's EU prospects were durable and realistic. Hahn said to reporters in Brussels that the opening of new chapters could be expected as soon as Serbia carried out the necessary reforms, underlining that the EU would then fulfil its part of the obligation to open them. The EU enlargement commissioner expects that "the launch of an election campaign in Serbia would not halt the efforts and work, but quite the contrary, provide an additional boost" to reforms on Serbia's path to the EU.
The minister in charge of Serbia's accession process, Jadranka Joksimovic, said she was pleased with the "solid progress" in the opening of chapters, and in Serbia's EU integration process in general, underlining that the ultimate goal was to improve Serbian society with EU standards, since "the EU is still the best place to live." Minister Joksimovic underscored that Serbia was preparing a new industrial policy, and said that elections were taking place not only in Serbia, but also in major EU states, including Germany, France and Holland, which "might also affect the enlargement process to a degree." "The focus might shift from enlargment, but we need to explain together to EU citizens why EU enlargement is the best policy, while we, the candidate countries, have to convince people at home that the path to the Union was a path of stability, certainty and overall economic progress after all," Minister Joksimovic said.
EP COMITTEE ON KOSOVO: ARRANGEMENTS WITH BELGRADE TO BE IMPLEMENTED, SERBIAN MUNICIPAL UNION TO BE ESTABLISHED
BRUSSELS, 27 February 2017 (Beta) - The European Parliament (EP) insisted that the authorities in Pristina should carry out agreements, and "immediately establish the Association of Serbian Municipalities," according to the EU-brokered agreement they (Belgrade and Pristina) had signed, says a draft resolution on Kosovo, discussed by the EP Committee on Foreign Affairs on Feb. 27. A Member of the European Parliament (MEP) from Austria, Ulrike Lunacek, who had prepared a report on the draft, said the same, underlining that Belgrade and Pristina should carry out all the arrangements arising from the dialogue, and that the authorities in Pristina had to start setting up the body that would unify the Serbian municipalities institutionally. The draft resolution, which the EP should pass later on at a plenary session, goes on to say that even the statute for the Community of Serbian Municipalities, which the document refers to under the Pristina-coined term "association," has yet to be prepared. During a debate, several MEPs underlined the importance of establishing the Community, and Lunacek believed that the law granting regional authority to Serbia's war crimes court should be revoked. The Austrian MEP explained that "Serbia has been using it to prosecute persons who fought against Milosevic's regime, as in the Ramush Haradinay case." Lunacek also criticized Belgrade for having refused to transfer the ownership of the Gazivode power plant to Pristina, adding that a large part of Kosovo was thus forced to use coal-fired power stations, to the detriment of the environment and health. Lunacek, who is also the parliament's Kosovo-Rapporteur, reinvited the five EU member states that had refused to recognize Kosovo's unilaterally proclaimed independence to do so. The draft resolution says that "it would contribute to the normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina."
EU, COUNCIL OF EUROPE FINANCE PROFESSIONALIZATION OF LOCAL SELF-GOVERNMENTS
BELGRADE, 27 February 2017 (Beta) - The European Union (EU) and the Council of Europe (CoE) have allocated two million euros to finance the professionalization of local self-governments in Serbia's 20 municipalities and cities, under a memorandum of cooperation and understanding signed with the Ministry of State Administration and Local Self-Government on Feb. 27. European support to the development of local self-government has been provided for under the project "Human Resources Management in Local Self-Government," and will continue as 93 municipalities have applied for the program. "The project is very important, as it coincides with the establishment of the National Academy for Public Administration, an independent institution, which will allow local self-governments to make progress in education, efficiency, accountability and the implementation of EU standards," Minister of State Administration and Local Self-Government Ana Brnabic said. The Minister underlined that by the end of March, her ministry would be receiving suggestions as to the optimal size of municipal staff, following consultations with local self-governments, but this time no linear reduction would apply - instead, the municipalities will be divided in seven groups. Head of the CoE Office in Belgrade Tim Cartwright underlined that the project "Human Resources Management in Local Self-Government" has been designed to help local self-governments to educate their staff, and "place the best in the best positions, and improve those who cannot produce the best results." Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia Michael Davenport said that public administration, the rule of law and economic reforms constituted were the three pillars relying on efficient government. "In any state, civil servants have to be aware of their responsibility to the citizens. The EU offers not only political, but also financial support as it has signed a document providing EUR 80 million to modernize the public administration," Davenport said.