Contains selective news articles I select

Posts tagged ‘Rascia Land of Serbia’

Albania soccer federation fights fan’s extradition to Serbia

July 29, 2017

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albania’s soccer federation is calling on Albanian authorities to stop the extradition to Serbia of a man who has claimed to have flown a drone carrying a nationalist banner over a stadium in Serbia, a display that prompted fan violence.

Ismail Morinaj was arrested in Croatia in June based on an arrest warrant from Serbia. A court in Dubrovnik agreed this week to extradite the 35-year-old Albanian to Belgrade. An Albanian Football Federation statement issued Saturday called on Albania’s government “to intervene within the legal context to stop extradition of Ismail Morinaj to Serbia.”

The federation assured Morinaj’s family it would keep fighting to prevent his extradition, saying it “is fully committed to exploiting all its institutional and diplomatic roads,” the statement said. Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama has negotiated with Croatian authorities in the last two days “for the final solution of the process,” according to another statement from the federation.

Justice Minister Gazmend Bardhi also has formally asked Croatian authorities not to approve the Serbian request, arguing that “Albanian citizen Ismail Morina is endangered to suffer from politically motivated persecution or discrimination.”

A group of Albanian fans, Tifozet kuq e zi, (or Red and black fans, in English) has called for an evening rally in Albania’s capital, Tirana, to pressure the government to get involved. Morinaj, who is from the northeastern Kukes area but lives in Italy, has been a regular at the Albanian national team’s away matches.

His brother Xhevair complained to television station Report TV about the government’s lack of attention, saying Ismail’s life would be in danger in Serbia. “We call on the Albanian state to intervene and stop extradition to Serbia. We, as a family, would do something very radical which would surprise everyone,” he said without elaborating.

Violence interrupted an October 2014 European qualifying match between the Serbian and Albanian teams when a drone with an Albanian banner appeared over the pitch. The 0-0 game was suspended after Serbian fans injured some of the Albanian players who had tried rushing a Serbian player who pulled down the banner.

European soccer’s governing body ultimately awarded Albania the match victory, helping win the tiny western Balkan country a spot in the Euro 2016 finals, its first major tournament.

Serbia’s first gay PM- designate honored by nomination

June 16, 2017

VRNJACKA BANJA, Serbia (AP) — Serbia’s Prime Minister-designate Ana Brnabic says it is an honor to serve the country and thanked the president for trusting her. Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic nominated Brnabic as the conservative country’s first openly gay prime minister, a move which infuriated nationalists.

Brnabic said Friday: “I’m proud and still too emotional from all of this.” Her government needs formal approval by Serbia’s parliament next week for her to become the first female head of government in Serbia.

Brnabic’s nomination is considered part of Vucic’s tactics to please the West amid strong pressure from Moscow to maintain influence in the region and keep Serbia away from Western integration. Pro-Russian opposition official Bosko Obradovic says U.S.-educated Brnabic is “a foreign agent” who was nominated to the position by the West.

Conservative Serbia to get first openly gay prime minister

June 15, 2017

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serbia’s president on Thursday nominated the highly conservative country’s first openly gay prime minister, a move likely to infuriate both the Christian Orthodox church and ultranationalists.

President Aleksandar Vucic announced that Ana Brnabic, 41, was nominated as the prime minister-designate, which could also make her the first female head of government in the country’s history. Her cabinet needs formal approval by parliament next week.

It was “a difficult decision reached in the interest of Serbia and its citizens,” said Vucic, a former extremist-turned-reformist who has promised to boost gay rights as part of efforts to move closer to European Union membership.

“If elected in parliament, I will run the government with dedication and responsibility and I will do my job honestly and with love,” Brnabic told state Tanjug news agency. Brnabic’s nomination is considered part of Vucic’s apparent turn toward the West despite strong pressure from Russia to maintain its influence in the region. The British-educated Brnabic, a marketing expert, had worked for U.S. companies before she assumed her Serbian government job.

“I believe she has professional skills and personal qualities,” Vucic said. “I’m convinced she will work hard.” Brnabic is currently Serbia’s minister of public administration and local government. She is not a member of Vucic’s ruling populist Serbian Progressive Party but is considered loyal to him.

Her appointment to the government last year — she was hand-picked by Vucic who was then prime minister — was hailed by rights groups as historic for the Balkan country whose gay community regularly faces discrimination, harassment and violence.

“Hopefully this will blow over in three or four days, and then I won’t be known as the gay minister,” she told the Associated Press at the time. Pro-Russian nationalists blasted the choice Thursday. The conservative opposition Dveri group, close to the Serbian Orthodox Church, said Brnabic was obviously appointed under Western pressure.

“Is it possible that the ruling majority has no other candidate for the prime minister-designate but the one imposed by the West, which dictates all the moves by this government?” the party asked. Vucic’s coalition partners were also infuriated.

“Ana Brnabic is not my prime minister,” nationalist official Dragan Markovic-Palma told the private Beta news agency. Earlier he said he would not approve anyone for the post who does not have at least two children.

Vucic, who was prime minister before his election as president in April, was expected to appoint a loyalist to maintain control of the government as he moved into the largely ceremonial presidential position.

Associated Press writer Jovana Gec contributed.

Kosovo votes amid thorny issues of border, talks with Serbia

June 11, 2017

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Voters in Kosovo were casting their ballots Sunday in an early general election for the new 120-seat parliament. At stake are thorny issues of the border demarcation deal with Montenegro that brought down the previous government, and the approval of another deal with Serbia giving more rights to the ethnic Serb minority.

The continuation of fraught talks with Belgrade — which denies Kosovo’s existence as a state — is also a key concern. Nineteen political parties, five coalitions and two citizens’ initiatives, all promising to secure economic growth and ease Kosovars’ travel restrictions to the European Union, have nominated candidates.

Among the contenders are a coalition of three major parties run by former rebel commanders. They have proposed Ramush Haradinaj, still regarded by Serbia as a war criminal, as prime minister. Others include Prime Minister Isa Mustafa’s party, which nominates former finance Minister Avdullah Hoti for leadership, and the Self-Determination Movement, the biggest opposition party to shun pre-election coalitions, which put forward their founder Albin Kurti as a candidate for prime minister.

Valdete Daka, head of the Central Election Commission that manages the electoral process, called on Kosovars to vote “to show to the world we are part of democracy and know how to hold elections properly” after casting her ballot at a polling station in the capital, Pristina.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. The new state has been recognized by 114 countries, including the United States and most of the EU members, but not by Belgrade. Kosovo is the only western Balkan country whose citizens need visas to enter the European Union’s Schengen zone. To join, Brussels insists Kosovo’s parliament must first approve a border demarcation deal signed with Montenegro in 2015.

Opposition parties say that deal meant a loss of territory, over 8,000 hectares (20,000 acres), or less than 1 percent of Kosovo’s land. The former Cabinet, international experts and the country’s Western backers dispute that claim.

The Self-Determination Movement and others also oppose another deal signed in 2015 that gave more rights to the ethnic Serb minority. A further issue is the prospect of former ethnic Albanian senior rebel commanders facing prosecution in the newly established international war crimes court. The court in The Hague is expected to shortly issue indictments for crimes committed against civilians during and after the 1998-1999 war with Serbia.

Semini reported from Tirana, Albania.

Unaccompanied minors among stranded migrants in Serbia

May 18, 2017

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Asad Ullah, a 10-year-old migrant from Afghanistan, spent weeks travelling in the cold and rain after his father sent him off to look for a brighter future in Europe. Ullah told The Associated Press on Thursday that he set off in a group of migrants with smugglers through Iran, Turkey and Bulgaria before reaching Serbia nearly two months ago. During his journey, Ullah slept out in the open and lived in makeshift migrant shelters with little food and no facilities. He kept close to other migrants, afraid not to get lost.

“It is very hard, but I am going to Europe,” said Ullah, who was among more than 100 minors brought last week to a center for asylum-seekers on the outskirts of the Serbian capital, Belgrade. Previously, he had spent weeks in a now-demolished migrant shelter in the city center. He said his father sent him away to Europe rather than stay in Afghanistan where “there is no life.”

“He (his father) said to go to Europe for American life,” Ullah said in broken English. “I said: ‘OK, I go to Europe.'” A report by the U.N. children’s agency published on Wednesday warned that more than 300,000 children like Ullah have been migrating alone worldwide over a two-year period, in a dramatic escalation of a trend that has forced many young refugees into slavery and prostitution.

The numbers of refugee children have grown in Serbia too, where about 7,000 refugees and migrants have been stranded, unable to cross the heavily guarded borders of neighboring EU countries Hungary and Croatia. Michel Saint-Lot, the UNICEF representative in Serbia, said that around 3,200, or 46 percent, of all refugees and migrants in Serbia are children, while every third child is unaccompanied.

“That is one too many,” he said. Saint-Lot added that while on the road on their own, unaccompanied children are exposed to abuse and violence and face “potential issue of being trafficked, for sexual exploitation, for slavery and lack of access to basic care.”

“Those are major challenges for the children,” Saint-Lot insisted. While some minors set off with their families, they end up separated either by chance, or by smugglers who often split up families as a way to control them. Some, like Ullah, are sent away from home by parents who want them to reach Western Europe so they eventually can bring the rest of the family over, or earn money to support relatives who stayed behind.

Saint-Lot said that the fact that they are stranded in Serbia, unable to move on to their desired destinations in Europe, has put additional strain on the children — leading to psychological pressure and breakdowns in some cases.

“The most important aspect is ensuring that all children have access to learning, that they are protected from abuse, neglect, sexual exploitation, that there is proper psychological care,” Saint-Lot said.

Insah Ullah from Afghanistan, who is 17 and isn’t related to Asad Ullah, was also brought from Belgrade city center to the camp in the suburb of Krnjaca last week. On Thursday, he and other migrants could be seen playing in the camp yard on a sunny day. Insah Ullah said he would never have left his home if he had hope for a future in Afghanistan.

“I miss my family and I love my family too much and I miss my country,” he said. “No one wants to leave his country, no one wants to leave their parents, because if parents are with you, everything is with you.”

“If they are not, nothing is with you” Ullah said.

Jovana Gec contributed to this report.

Official results confirm Serbia PM Vucic elected president

April 03, 2017

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — A near-complete official vote count of Serbia’s presidential election confirmed on Monday that prime minister Aleksandar Vucic has won by a landslide in the first round of voting, further strengthening his authoritarian rule in the Balkan country amid support from Russia.

The State Election Commission said after counting 91 percent of ballots that Vucic won 55 percent of votes, followed by liberal candidate Sasa Jankovic with 16 percent, and Luka Maksimovic, a parody politician, with 9 percent.

The triumph in Sunday’s balloting is a major boost for Vucic, who is now expected to further tighten his already firm grip on power in Serbia. Vucic’s Serbian Progressive Party also dominates the parliament.

A former extreme nationalist who has rebranded himself as a pro-EU reformer, Vucic has said he wants to lead the Balkan country into the European Union, while also pushing for deeper ties to longtime ally Russia.

Vucic’s candidacy was endorsed by Russian President Vladimir Putin amid fears from some of Moscow’s expanding influence in the tense Balkan region. Putin on Monday congratulated Vucic on his “convincing election,” including popular support for his “meaningful and balanced foreign policy,” the TASS news agency said.

Putin has reportedly promised his signature on the delivery of fighter planes, battle tanks and armored vehicles to Serbia. The move triggered fears of an arms race in the war-weary Balkans. In Brussels, the EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn warned Monday that Vucic has a “certain responsibility” in light of Sunday’s polls “to use this strong support by the citizens in a careful way.”

Hahn told reporters that he was comforted by Vucic’s early assurances that “he will fully respect the constitutional framework, and I trust him.” Opposition candidates have accused Vucic of control over the media, mudslinging and intimidation of voters. Critics say Vucic’s full control deals a blow to Serbia’s fragile democracy.

“No runoff means our society is politically immature,” analyst Jovo Bakic said. “Where else is there no runoff? Only in North Korea!” Vucic has been prime minister since 2014. He is expected to appoint a figurehead successor as prime minister and transform the presidency from a ceremonial office into a more powerful post.

Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade and Lorne Cook in Brussels contributed to this report.

Serbia’s powerful PM claims landslide presidential win

April 02, 2017

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serbia’s powerful Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic claimed victory Sunday in the presidential election that was a test of his authoritarian rule, an outcome that could expand Russia’s influence in the Balkans.

Speaking to supporters at his right-wing party’s headquarters, Vucic said, “My victory is crystal clear. This is a very important day for us, showing which way Serbia should be heading.” “A huge majority of people in Serbia support continuation of the European path for Serbia, along with preserving our traditionally good ties with Russia and China,” Vucic said, while his backers chanted “Victory, victory!”

While Vucic has said he wants to lead Serbia into the European Union, he has been pushing for deeper ties to longtime ally Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin endorsed him. Right before the election, Vucic visited Putin, who reportedly promised his signature on the delivery of fighter planes, battle tanks and armored vehicles to Serbia. The move triggered fears of an arms race in the western Balkans, which Russia considers its sphere of influence.

Vucic claimed victory after projections by different independent polling agencies had him receiving more than 55 percent of the votes cast during Sunday’s election. Liberal challenger Sasa Jankovic placed second with 15 percent and Luka Maksimovic, a media student who ran as a parody politician, came in third with 9 percent, according to the pollsters.

Official results are expected Monday. Vucic, a former ultranationalist who now declares support for Serbia joining the European Union, had been forecast to win the presidency by a high margin. He needed to secure more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff election on April 16 that would have put him in a trickier position facing off against a single opposition candidate.

Vucic has been prime minister since 2014. He is expected to use a win in the presidential race to appoint a figurehead successor as prime minister and to transform the presidency from a ceremonial office into a more powerful post from which he could rule unchallenged.

The opposition has accused Vucic of muzzling the media and intimidating voters ahead of the election. Vucic denied the allegations, saying only he can bring stability to a region scarred by the wars of the 1990s, which Vucic supported at the time.

Jankovic, an independent candidate with no party affiliation, said Sunday he was happy with his campaign, which galvanized the pro-democratic movement opposed to Serbia’s persistent corruption and growing autocracy.

Jankovic said he would await the official results to concede defeat, and called the election “just the beginning.” “Even participation in such an election was worth respect,” he said, referring to the unfair pre-election conditions. “But this election race goes on, and will go on.”

The biggest surprise of the election was Maksimovic, a media student who ran as a parody politician. As a satirical candidate decked out in a white suit, oversized jewelry and a man-bun, Maksimovic mocked corruption in Serbian politics by promising to steal if he were elected. His supporters were mostly young voters alienated by Serbia’s decades-long crisis and economic decline.

Maksimovic’s widely viewed videos on social media networks portrayed him doing pushups, sucking a raw egg and riding a white horse surrounded by mock bodyguards.

Associated Press writers Amer Cohadzic, Ivana Bzganovic and Jovana Gec contributed.

Tag Cloud