DACIC IN SKOPJE: REGULAR MEETINGS FOR SOLVING OPEN QUESTIONS IN WESTERN BALKANS AGREED
SKOPJE, 9 February 2017 (Beta) - The foreign ministers of the Western Balkans Six agreed in Skopje on Feb. 9 to hold regular meetings every six months to examine open issues, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said after the meeting. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Serbia also said that the officials had agreed to search for joint interests, and for all to insist together on closer economic links in the entire region and to look for common interests as a region in discussions with third countries and organizations like the EU. "In that sense we are interested in the fate of the Berlin Process and what will happen after the summit in Italy," because it was important that the big countries of the EU took part, "as they can help us with the faster integration of the Western Balkans with the EU," Dacic said. Dacic said that Serbia was interested in this being a long-term process which would enable an open road to European integration not only for Serbia, but for the region, too, with a deadline that would be attractive to the entire region. Meetings of foreign ministers and energy ministers of the Western Balkans Six are being held in Skopje on Feb. 9-10 as part of preparations for the next Western Balkan Summit, which will be held in Trieste on July 12.
DACIC: CRITERIA FOR EU MEMBERSHIP BECOMING STRICTER
SKOPJE, 9 February 2017 (Beta) - Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said in Skopje on Feb. 9 that there were many unknowns in the European integration process, as the criteria for the EU were becoming more and more stringent and membership was becoming a moving target. At a meeting of foreign ministers of the Western Balkans Six in Skopje, he said that regional cooperation in the Balkans was mostly incited by the European integration process and that the big question was what kind of repercussions the lack of clear European prospects would have, while because of the EU's crisis, expansion was being mentioned less and less frequently. "Serbia is open to the process of reconciliation, which requires mutual respect and agreement, and not one-sided moves. We are devoted to membership in the EU, but the reality is that it is a question of political decision-making and consent on the part of all members of the EU when we will become a part of the EU. Obviously the criteria are becoming stricter, membership is becoming a moving target, and it is unknown at what rate the process will unfold during the period of EU reforms which is in progress," Dacic said. He said that Serbia "remains deeply committed to stability in the region and its accession process," and that he genuinely hoped that all of these efforts would be acknowledged adequately by the EU. "The first confirmation of that will be the EU's readiness to enable the opening of a larger number of negotiating chapters this year than we managed to open over the past three years, when we began the negotiations - six," Dacic said. Dacic said that the format of the Western Balkans Six, which gathers Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia and Serbia within the Berlin Process, had proved to "be a very good informal forum for strengthening regional cooperation in the Western Balkans."
DACIC STRONGLY CRITICIZES MEMORIAL TO STEPINAC IN OSIJEK
BELGRADE, 9 February 2017 (Beta) - Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic strongly criticized on Feb. 9 the erecting of a memorial to Archbishop Aloysius Stepinac in Croatia, and said that it had become customary in that country to have "an anti-Serb policy, justifying crimes against Serbs and the rehabilitation of the fascist Ustasha state" during World War II. "What is happening in Croatia is sad, as confirmed by the fact that during the raising of the memorial to Stepinac, a war criminal from the time of the fascist Ustasha Independent State of Croatia, the harshest criticism is over its location next to a parking lot," Dacic said in a statement released by the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The memorial was unveiled in Osijek on Feb. 9, a day before the anniversary of his death. Dacic said that "this is an indication that in Croatia an atmosphere of anti-Serb policy, justifying crimes against Serbs and rehabilitating the fascist Ustasha state is a common thing." "This is also a message to Serbs that crimes against them are allowed and will go unpunished. Why is the EU staying quiet about the rehabilitation of fascism and war crimes? Does this mean tacit condoning? Or will someone from the EU finally deny me," Dacic said.
NIKOLIC: IMPORTANT TO KEEP KOSOVO AND METOHIJA AMONG TOP U.N. PRIORITIES
BELGRADE, 9 February 2017 (Beta) - Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic stated on Feb. 9 that it was very important that Kosovo and Metohija remained among the U.N.'s top priorities, if stability was to be preserved. According to a statement from the president's office, during a meeting with UNMIK chief Zahir Tanin in Belgrade Nikolic indicated the importance of that mission's role in Kosovo and Metohija, and said he expected UNMIK not to change its scope and the number of members. "It is very important that Kosovo and Metohija remains among the U.N.'s top priorities, because we are still investing immense efforts into preserving stability and not allowing certain situations to grow into a crisis," Nikolic stated while thanking Tanin for the fact that UNMIK was "fulfilling its mandate in an objective and unbiased manner." Commending the fact that reports to the U.N. Security Council were being submitted regularly, the Serbian president said that such practice contributed to the international community's insight into the events in Kosovo and Metohija. "We are negotiating with Pristina, although the EU is entirely on their side. However, it should be clear to everyone that we will never recognize the independence of Kosovo and Metohija. On the other hand, we expect Pristina to demonstrate readiness to uphold the laws and implement the agreements, primarily regarding the Community of Serb Municipalities," Nikolic stated. UNMIK chief Zahir Tanin thanked Nikolic for the strong support to that mission, stating that UNMIK was trying for all reports to the U.N. Security Council to be balanced and objective.
TRUMP CONGRATULATES NIKOLIC ON INDEPENDENCE DAY. U.S.
BELGRADE, 9 February 2017 (Beta) - President Donald Trump wished Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic a happy Serbian Independence Day in a letter, and voiced a desire to deepen relations between the two countries. Trump said in the note that he was joyful about deepening an important partnership and joint efforts by the two countries, to ensure that both the Serbian and American peoples had a bright and prosperous future marked by peace, prosperity and good relations with neighbors. Serbian Independence Day on Feb. 15 commemorates 1804, when the struggle against the Turkish occupiers began in Orasac, and 1835 when the Assembly in Kragujevac enacted Serbia's first Constitution.
VUCIC THANKS WORLD BANK FOR ASSISTANCE
BELGRADE, 9 February 2017 (Beta) - Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic thanked the representatives of the World Bank for the assistance in the realization of the government's goals, read a statement released after the Feb. 9 session of the government, which was attended by the representatives of that financial institution. "Although we have accomplished a lot and have positive financial indicators, the Serbian government still has a lot of work to do. The citizens of Serbia expect to see an improvement, and it is up to the government to fulfill those expectations," Vucic said. On Feb. 9, the government held the fourth dedicated session with the representatives of the World Bank and EU Delegation to Serbia. The World Bank's country director for the Western Balkans, Ellen Goldstein, thanked the Serbian government officials for their dedication in planning and working on reaching the set goals, reads the statement of the Serbian government's media service. According to the statement, the head of the EU Delegation to Serbia, Michael Davenport, commended the Serbian government for its work so far and reiterated that the EU was ready to help Serbia on its European path. The guests at the Feb. 9 government session were World Bank consultants William Isaacs and Ray Shostak.
ANTIC: ENERGY MINISTERS OF WESTERN BALKANS ON REFORMS, LINKS
SKOPJE, 9 February 2017 (Beta) - Serbian Minister of Mining and Energy Aleksandar Antic said in Skopje on Feb. 9 that at a meeting of energy ministers of the Western Balkan Six, the participants voiced their opinion that Serbia had made significant progress in applying the previously agreed energy "soft measures." He told reporters that "progress needs to above all pertain to developing markets and overall cooperation, but more measures have yet to be implemented." "We reviewed a set of measures which pertains to sustainable development and it was concluded that Serbia had achieved progress in energy efficiency and renewable sources of energy," Antic said. He informed the ministers at the meeting on Serbia's gas interconnection in Bulgaria, which was important for the entire region, as well as the development of a project called the Trans-Balkan Corridor. A joint statement on composing a study on the region's hydro potential was adopted at the meeting. The ministries of energy of the Western Balkan Six talked in Skopje on Feb. 3 about the progress that had been achieved in conducting energy reforms in the Western Balkans, and about expectations from the next summit which will be held within the Berlin Process in Trieste on July 12. According to the Macedonian media, the summit was opened for Macedonia as the host by acting deputy prime minister in charge of economic issues Vladimir Pesevski, while European Commissioner for Enlargement Johannes Hahn participated. In a joint statement after the meeting, the ministers once again confirmed their commitment to the Berlin Process and an agenda for closer relations in the region, which is seen as key to its development. The ministers pledged to be continuously committed to decisions reached at previous summits and that they would present their results in Trieste this summer.
AGREEMENTS SIGNED ON JUDICIAL COOPERATION BETWEEN SERBIA, ITALY
BELGRADE, 9 February 2017 (Beta) - Serbia and Italy signed two judicial agreements on Feb. 9, in the fields which were regulated by contracts almost a century old. The Serbian and Italian justice ministers, Nela Kuburovic and Andrea Orlando, signed agreements in Belgrade on the easier implementation of the European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters of April 20, 1959, and the European Convention on Extradition of Dec. 13, 1957. "The novelty is the possibility for the extradition of own citizens of both states, but only for the gravest crimes," Kuburovic stated. She added that the other agreement pertained to everyday cooperation and envisaged exchange of data between the judicial bodies, to "skip" the ministries and accelerate procedures and court proceedings. "The reason for signing the agreements is international legal cooperation in criminal matters, and the issue of extradition, which was regulated by contracts made more than 90 years ago, and the expiration of cases under the statute of limitations made us modernize cooperation in legal assistance," stated the Serbian minister. Minister Orlando said that, by signing these agreements, Serbia was helping itself on the path to EU membership.
DJURIC: COMMUNITY MUST BE FORMED UNCONDITIONALLY AND IN KEEPING WITH BRUSSELS AGREEMENTS
BELGRADE, 9 February 2017 (Beta) - The director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija, Marko Djuric, said on Feb. 9 that the Community of Serb Municipalities had to be formed unconditionally and in keeping with the agreements reached in Brussels, with the active participation of the Serbs from Kosovo and Metohija and Belgrade's support. According to a statement from the Office for Kosovo and Metohija, Djuric said during a meeting with the special representative of the U.N. secretary general and chief of UNMIK, Zahir Tanin, that Serbia was "genuinely interested" in the stabilization of the situation in Kosovo and Metohija, and warned Tanin about the attempts to remove Belgrade from the dialogue, and leave the Kosovo Serbs to the will of Pristina. "In the interest of stability in the region, Pristina is obligated to support the process of forming the Community of Serb Municipalities, but it cannot be its bearer, because that would make the concept of the Community as the institution for the protection of the Serbs pointless at the very start," Djuric said. During the meeting, which was also attended by the chief of the U.N.'s office in Belgrade, Simona-Mirela Miculescu, he said that Serbia would never give up on its legitimate right to care about the safety and interests of its citizens in Kosovo and Metohija. Stating that, for Serbia, the U.N. was "an important collocutor and guarantor of the implementation of the Security Council Resolution 1244," Djuric thanked Tanin for UNMIK's "consistent status neutrality."