Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

Serbia Creates Ministries of European Integration and Relations with Eurasian Union

Adelina Marini, September 8, 2016

Media in Serbia and Croatia this morning are again dealing exclusively with the tension between the two states. The rest of the subjects in today’s press review are the refugee crisis, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Macedonia’s European integration

The most interesting subject today, however, is the information of the Serbian newspaper Danas, which claims there are changes due in Serbian government right before the publishing (at end-October) of this year’s European Commission report on Serbia’s progress towards European membership. It is expected that a ministry of European integration will be created, which is to be led by Jadranka Joksimović, who is currently chief negotiator with the EU on the Serbian side. At the same time, the position of a fifth deputy prime minister will be created in the government. This will be Nenad Popović, whose sole task will be to deal with the economic relations with Russia and, respectively, with the Eurasian Union. The newspaper quotes its own sources and the information is unofficial. 

Serbia will complain about Croatia to Commissioner Hahn

Leading subject for most Serbian media today is the interview of the Serbian deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Internal Affairs Nebojša Stefanović for the Serbian national television RTS, in which he states that he expects, on the eve of the visit of Enlargement Negotiations Commissioner Johannes Hahn (Austria, EPP), a firm position regarding the situation in the region. Stefanović will tell Mr Hahn that Serbia finds it unacceptable that an EU member state is calling Serbia “a handful of weaklings”. Serbia was named so by the former Croatian Prime Minister and current leader of the People’s coalition Zoran Milanović during a closed meeting with an association of Croatian army veterans. Recordings from the meeting were leaked to media and caused a huge scandal in Croatia, as well as in Serbia. 

The Serbian deputy PM also said for RTS that he intends to say it directly in Commissioner Hahn’s face that it is not acceptable for the EU to finance media, which are peddling falsehoods. Word is of the war that the Serbian government started earlier this year with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) because of its publication on the brokering of a dubious contract for the renovation of the Tamnava mine. “We would like to state in the open what we think and openly and rationally discuss facts. You cannot call our people a handful of weaklings, this is not a good message. I would like to also hear answers on the subject that it is not possible that Europe will finance some media houses, institutions, which are peddling falsehoods, like the ones about Western Tamnava, peddled by BIRN, which the World bank denounced”, stated Stefanović. 

Former Serbian president Boris Tadić repeated some of his recently articulated theses in an interview for the Serbian weekly edition Nedeljnik. In it, he states that the atmosphere in Serbian society is so unbearable that even political liquidations can be expected. "When you criticise the authorities, from that very moment you turn into scum, wretch, thief, murderer, or Ustaša. The next step is physical violence and liquidation, following a recipe from the times when these same parties resorted to settling their accounts with political opponents”, believes Mr Tadić. He claims that Prime Minister Vučić is directly responsible for the destruction of all democratic achievements after “the darkness of the nineties”. “Today we are not a state where there are democratic freedoms and in which there are prerequisites for progress”, adds the former head of state. 

Serbian Blic quotes an interview with another former president – Croatian Ivo Josipović for the Serbian agency Patrija - in which he urges that all attempts for the validation  of Četnik or Ustaša movements be clearly condemned. In his opinion, there are many politicians who like to spread hate and conflicts. Today it is very difficult to build peace, he thinks. “Neo-Četnik movements in Serbia have gone farther than neo-Ustašans in Croatia. Both phenomena are completely alien to me and I think they are equally ruinous. I am not happy with the fact that there are criminals and terrorists being rehabilitated and getting monuments erected to them in whichever country”, states Josipović, without mentioning particular names, but he probably means the statements in Serbia, including by Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić that a monument should be erected of Slobodan Milošević. 

Croatian media today chose a different accent. Robert Bajruši reports in Jutarnji list list about the upcoming visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to Croatia on September 10 at the invitation of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Croatia. Patriarch Bartholomew and Patriarch Irinej of Serbia will visit Jasenovac on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the Jasenovac massacre. According to Bajruši, this visit may have beneficial effect to Serbian-Croatian relations because Patriarch Bartholomew is moderate. Up until now, the Serbian Orthodox Church’s policy remains unchanged regarding its traditional “gross overestimation of Serbian casualties during the Second World War” and regarding its attempts at comparing modern day Croatia with the Ustaša regime in the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) of the time. 

The author further writes that the Serbian Orthodox Church shares the same views as the “Četnik-oid radicals or bizarre politicians like Aleksandar Vulin”. Bajruši hopes that Bartholomew’s visit could be interpreted as readiness to accept historic facts and detachment from Jasenovac as a place for throwing blame on Croatia. However, the author is not too optimistic. “Bartholomew’s visit could represent the first step towards a change in this policy, although we doubt such developments. Greater Serbian politics are rooted far too deep”, is his conclusion. 

In tportal, Aleksandra Šućur analyses the “Balkan spy” affair, pointing out that the apprehension of the pensioner Čedo Čolović is linked to the resistance of some reactionary elements in Serbia against the Europeanisation process and regulatory harmonisation with European rules, especially regarding the opening of Chapter 23 of the negotiations for EU membership. The author bundles in the referendum in Republika Srpska in BiH. “In my humble opinion, it is far more likely that this case will only cause ridicule and shame for Serbia and its politicised judiciary (both in front of the international audience and the home one), which is wasting the time and money of taxpayers there with the investigation and trial of Balkan spies”.  

Speaking of Bosnia and Herzegovina ....

In this week’s edition of the Serbian weekly NIN there is a thorough interview with the president of the Serbian entity in BiH, Milorad Dodik, who once more states that “it is not possible” for him to give up the referendum on the Day of Republika Srpska, which is scheduled for September 25. He also states that he does not acknowledge the rulings of the Constitutional Court of BiH. To the question whether the citizens of BiH will have better lives after the referendum, Dodik replies that they will feel dignified: “I know that in a social aspect the situation is not great, but when I meet with the people, they tell me ‘everything is fine, just protect Republika Srpska, thank you for returning our dignity to us’. This is what most people tell me and this is what is most important to me”.

Meanwhile the coalition partners in the Federation continue with the consultations and their agreement that Bosnia and Herzegovina’s way towards Europe must be accelerated. In support of these efforts the International Monetary Fund approved a new 553 million euro loan, report most of the Bosnian media today. 

Macedonia wants a timeframe for its membership

Utrinski vesnik quotes the statement of Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki during the strategic forum in the Slovenian town of Bled, that it would be fair to make a strategic assessment in the European Union of the benefits and damages of the delay of the process of European integration of Macedonia. “Even in the midst of internal challenges, integration on the Balkans should be encouraged in the EU”, believes the minister and proposes that a timeframe be set, where there are clear standards for how long could a country be held as candidate. “This will secure regional peace and security in the long term”, further says the minister. 

The migrant crisis

Croatian Vecernji list quotes Slovenian PM Miro Cerar, who warns that if it comes to a new migrant wave, there will be a conflict in the region. “If it comes to a reopening of the Balkan route, then there will be conflicts in Central Europe and the Western Balkans because due to the large number of illegal migrants, all countries will begin shutting down their borders one after the other”, said Cerar in an interview for the German Die Welt. “The outside borders of Schengen should be closed down, but this is not what countries of this region want. This is why we need to undertake whatever is necessary to prevent conflicts in the Balkans and the disintegration of Schengen” is the message of the Slovenian PM, who, at the same time, criticised the behaviour of Greece for not doing enough to protect the EU's external border.

Translated by Stanimir Stoev

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