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Posts tagged ‘Rascia Land of Serbia’

US opposes Kosovo’s ‘new barriers’ to Serbian goods

April 01, 2020

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — The decision of Kosovo’s government to phase out the country’s 100% tariff on imports from Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina starting Wednesday did not ease international pressure on the tiny Western Balkans country and sparked more domestic tensions.

Although the United States and the European Union had pushed for lifting the import taxes, Prime Minister Albin Kurti announced early Wednesday that his caretaker Cabinet would instead require goods from Serbia to be certified for quality, a mandate already in place for Kosovar products shipped to Serbia.

Marko Djuric, head of Serbia’s office for Kosovo, rejected Kurti’s move, saying “the situation did not deescalate or return to the previous state when uncivilized taxes were introduced.” Kosovo imposed the punitive tariffs in November 2018 over Serbian efforts to block Kosovo from joining international organizations. The dispute led to the suspension of European Union-mediated talks to normalize ties between Pristina and Belgrade.

Most Serb goods stopped arriving in Kosovo after the import taxes were introduced, except for products that were mainly smuggled into Kosovo’s Serb-dominated Mitrovica. Annual trade between Serbia and Kosovo was valued at about 400 million euros ($440 million) before the tariffs were adopted, and inflation in Kosovo rose to about 3% in 2019 after the import taxes took effect compared to 1.1% the previous year.

Kosovo was formerly a part of Serbia and won independence after a 1999 NATO bombing campaign that ended a bloody Serb crackdown on an armed uprising by members of Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority. Serbia refuses to accept Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence.

Since the start of the Pristina-Belgrade talks in 2011, 33 deals have been signed to ensure the country’s recognition each other in areas such as education and professional degrees. Kosovo claims Serbia has not fulfilled its side of the agreements. Kosovo recognizes diplomas from Serbian universities, but Serbia does not accept the degrees of Kosovar university graduates. It’s the same with drivers’ licenses.

Kurti said the government would monitor whether Serbia moves toward reciprocity until June 15 and if not, the tariffs will be restored. The junior partner in Kurti’s coalition government, the Democratic League of Kosovo, or LDK, initiated a successful parliamentary vote of no-confidence vote in his Cabinet last week. His government now is acting in a caretaker capacity.

The motion came after an LDK minister was fired for not supporting the restrictions on movement the government imposed to stem the spread of the coronavirus. The LDK also wanted Kurti to fully revoke the 100% tariff and not damage ties with the Kosovo’s most important ally, the United States.

The United States argued that Kurti’s actions would strangle Kosovo’s economy. “We remain opposed to the latest move to implement reciprocal measures on the movement of goods from Serbia.” the U.S.Embassy in Kosovo said in a statement Wednesday.

Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, hailed Kosovo’s move as “an important decision.”

Associated Press witers Dusan Stojanovic and Jovana Gec contributed from Belgrade.

Vladimir Putin gets lavish welcome on visit to ally Serbia

January 17, 2019

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Vladimir Putin received a hero’s welcome in ally Serbia on Thursday as the Russian president attempted to maintain political and economic influence in the Balkans, which is increasingly looking Westward.

Putin’s presidential plane was escorted over Serbian airspace by MiG-29 fighter jets he recently donated to Serbia as he arrived for the one-day visit. Church bells tolled, guns saluted and people waved Russian and Serbian flags on Putin’s route through the Serbian capital, Belgrade.

Serbia has maintained close links with traditional Slavic ally Russia despite formally seeking European Union membership. It has refused to join Western sanctions against Russia over Ukraine and has pledged to stay out of NATO.

Putin has recently stepped up efforts to restore Moscow’s influence in the former communist countries of Eastern Europe. Putin and his host, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, praised the relationship between the two countries. Putin handed a top Russian honor to Vucic, who gave a puppy of a Serb dog breed to the Russian president.

Vucic thanked Russia for its support for Serbia’s claim over Kosovo, a former province that declared independence in 2008, and added that “however small,” Serbia has been a “reliable partner” to Russia.

Several bilateral agreements were signed, including on the supply of Russian gas and weapons to Serbia. On the gas, Putin said Russian companies are ready to invest about $1.4 billion into a stretch of a pipeline that would go from Turkey via EU-member Bulgaria to Serbia and then on to Hungary, “but in the end, everything will depend on other countries, including the European Union.”

Putin’s visit come as thousands have been holding weekly demonstrations against Vucic because of what they see as his autocratic rule. Tens of thousands of Vucic’s right-wing party supporters were bused into the capital on Thursday to gather in front of the St. Sava Orthodox church, which the two presidents visited. They were chanting slogans including “Serbia-Russia, we don’t need the European Union!”

Vucic’s critics say the gathering was staged to suggest that the Serbian leader has many more supporters than opponents, who have been marching the same route since December to demand free elections and media.

Several liberal Serbian rights groups issued a statement on Thursday protesting “glorification of Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian regime.” It said that Putin’s visit “indicates that the Serbian rulers are ready to sacrifice human rights and better living standards of citizens because of their servile attitude toward Putin’s regime.”

Russia’s interest in Serbia relates to its strategic position between East and West. Of Serbia’s eight neighbors, five are NATO members and two more are seeking membership; and four are in the EU and two more are working toward accession. Serbia remains Moscow’s only ally in the region.

Unlike NATO, Putin formally does not oppose Serbia’s EU path and analysts believe that this is because he wants a staunch ally — or perhaps a Trojan horse — within the 28-nation bloc. Putin’s popularity in Serbia is mostly because the Kremlin is supporting Serbia in its rejection of Kosovo’s independence. In contrast, most Western countries have recognized Kosovo’s statehood.

AP writer Jovana Gec contributed.

Serbian lawyers go on strike to protest slaying of colleague

July 29, 2018

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Lawyers in Serbia declared a weeklong strike Sunday to protest the killing of a prominent attorney who was on the legal team that defended former Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal.

Dragoslav Ognjanovic, 56, was gunned down late Saturday outside his home in the new part of Belgrade, the Serbian capital, police said. Ognjanovic’s 26-year-old son was wounded in the arm during the shooting, police said in a statement.

Police said they were searching “intensively” for the killer. Serbian media reported that police sealed off the area near the home Saturday night and blocked exits from the city. The search continued Sunday.

Ognjanovic was part of the legal team that defended Milosevic at the U.N. tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, where Milosevic was tried for war crimes committed during the Balkan wars of the 1990s. Milosevic died of a heart attack in 2006 before the end of the court proceedings.

Ognjanovic has also defended well-known crime figures in Serbia. Serbian media said his killing might have been the latest in a series of Mafia-style executions that took place amid an ongoing war among criminal gangs in Serbia and in neighboring Montenegro.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said Sunday that police have “certain leads” in the investigation. Vucic added that the state would step up pressure to curb crime. “The clan war over the drug market is becoming something that the state must deal with in a more brutal way,” Vucic said, according to news channel N1.

The Bar Association of Serbia said Ognjanovic’s slaying “showed in a most drastic way the circumstances in which lawyers in Serbia conduct their professional work.” “This killing is only the latest in a series of attacks on lawyers, many of which have remained unsolved,” the statement said, urging Serbian authorities to use “all possible resources” to find the killer.

The lawyers’ protest strike starts Monday. The association also said it would offer a reward for information on Ognjanovic’s killing.

Kosovo celebrates 10 years of independence, Serbs boycott

February 18, 2018

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — The Kosovo Assembly, or Parliament, convened in a special session Sunday to celebrate the country’s 10 years of independence — a ceremony boycotted by the country’s ethnic Serb lawmakers.

Speaker Kadri Veseli pledged that “the second decade of independence would be focused on the economic well-being of Kosovo’s citizens.” The second day of celebrations continued with a parade of military and police forces and a state reception.

In Feb. 17, 2008, Kosovo’s Parliament unilaterally declared independence from Serbia nine years after NATO conducted a 78-day airstrike campaign against Serbia to stop a bloody crackdown against ethnic Albanians.

Kosovo, one of poorest countries in Europe, has taken a first step to European Union membership by signing a Stabilization and Association Agreement. But the country faces serious challenges besides its relations with Serbia, including establishing the rule of law and fighting high unemployment, corruption and organized crime.

Kosovo is recognized by 117 countries, including the U.S. and most Western powers but Serbia still sees Kosovo as part of its own territory and has the support of Russia and China. A day earlier in Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said Kosovo’s independence remains fragile and won’t be concluded without an agreement with Serbia.

Llazar Semini in Tirana, Albania contributed.

Serbia museum benefits from renewed interest in Nikola Tesla

January 30, 2018

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Along dimmed corridors in an elegant villa in central Belgrade, visitors are treated to a flashy presentation of Nikola Tesla’s technology — as well as a huge array of the visionary scientist’s clothes, hundreds of instruments, and even his ashes.

The Serbian museum, dedicated to everything to do with the 19th-century inventor and electricity pioneer, remained in relative obscurity for decades under the communist-run former Yugoslavia. But thanks to a global revival of interest in the scientist, the collection is now drawing big crowds from home and abroad.

Museum staff say some 130,000 people visited last year, compared to about 30,000 a year in the past — when its audience included generations of local school children but hardly anyone from abroad. Now the small museum is ranked among the top must-see destination for tourists.

Tesla is best known for developing the alternating current that helped safely distribute electricity at great distances, including from the hydro-electric plant at the Niagara Falls in mid-1890s. He experimented with X-ray and radio technology, working in rivalry with Thomas Edison.

Although he’s known to many science lovers, his following and name-recognition among the general public has rocketed in recent years thanks to Paypal billionaire Elon Musk’s Tesla electric car. In the U.S., Tesla admirers have raised money through crowdfunding to purchase his laboratory In Shoreham, N.Y.

An ethnic Serb born in 1856 in the Austrian Empire in present-day Croatia, Tesla spent most of his life abroad, working in Budapest and Paris before emigrating to the U.S. in 1884. The Tesla Museum in Belgrade holds a vast array of the scientist’s personal items, from his sleepwear, shaving kit, tailor-made suit and cane to tens of thousands of documents and his awards. Even pieces of furniture from the New Yorker Hotel room 3327, where Tesla spent the last ten years of his life — his bed, fridge, metal lockers and a cupboard — are included.

“He was a man who took great care of his belongings and saved a large number of documents, so thanks to that we can now reconstruct his life and his work,” curator Milica Kesler said. “He was fully aware of the importance of what he was doing.”

Packed in some sixty trunks and containers, Tesla’s entire property first arrived in the former Yugoslavia on a ship from New York in 1951, eight years after his death. Authorities set up the museum in 1952, which later struggled with scarce funds and low attendance.

Nowadays, thrilled visitors are given fluorescent light sticks that light up wirelessly with the discharge from the Tesla coil, a four-meter-tall transformer circuit that generates electricity. In a separate room, in a somewhat macabre setting of dimmed lights and dark drapes, are Tesla’s ashes in a golden ball urn.

There are now so many visitors that the museum has extended its working hours and introduced more guided tours. Museum worker Pavle Petrovic says “the holiday season is the busiest, of course, but numbers stay high throughout the year.”

Although Tesla visited Belgrade just once for 31 hours, Serbia celebrates him as the pride of the nation. Belgrade’s airport and a new city boulevard are named after Tesla, his image is on souvenirs, and the Serbian Orthodox Church wants Tesla’s ashes placed in the country’s main religious temple, triggering protests by the liberal scientific community.

Typical of the Balkan divide, neighboring Croatia also claims Tesla as its own, turning his house in the home village of Smiljan into a memorial center. The rival former Yugoslav republics have marked important dates in Tesla’s life separately amid strained relations stemming from the 1990s’ bloody breakup of the joint ex-federation.

Away from the crowds, Tesla’s archive of more than 160,000 documents, scientific plans, manuscripts and letters is stored carefully in the museum’s basement. Curator Kesler said Tesla made the experts’ job easy by keeping a neat chronology of the documents.

“Sometimes I have a feeling he left us some kind of a path, a guideline to follow,” she said with a smile.

Kosovo Serb politician is gunned down; police start manhunt

January 16, 2018

MITROVICA, Kosovo (AP) — A leading Serb politician in northern Kosovo was gunned down Tuesday morning, an attack that raised ethnic tensions in the Balkans and prompted the suspension of EU-mediated talks between Kosovo and Serbia.

Assailants opened fire on Oliver Ivanovic, 64, close to the offices of his political party in the Serb-controlled northern city of Mitrovica. He was taken to a hospital but doctors were unable to save him.

The doctors said Ivanovic had received at least five gunshot wounds to his upper torso. The assailants escaped in a car that was later found burned out. Kosovo police sealed off the area of the shooting and began a manhunt for the attackers.

Ivanovic was one of the key politicians in Serb-dominated northern Kosovo, a former Serbian province where tensions still remain high a decade after it declared independence in 2008. Serbia does not recognize that independence.

Ivanovic was considered a moderate who maintained relations with NATO and EU officials even after Serbia lost the control of its former province following NATO’s 1999 bombing to stop a deadly Serb crackdown against ethnic Albanian separatists.

A Kosovo court convicted Ivanovic of war crimes during the 1998-99 war. That verdict was overturned and a retrial was underway. In Pristina, the Kosovo government strongly denounced the slaying, saying it considers the attack a challenge to “the rule of law and efforts to establish the rule of law in the whole of Kosovo territory.”

In Belgrade, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic held a top security meeting to discuss the shooting. Afterward, he called the killing “a terrorist act” and said Serbia is demanding that international missions in Kosovo include Serbia in their investigation into the slaying.

“Serbia will take all necessary steps so the killer or killers are found,” he said. At the news of Ivanovic’s slaying, the Serb delegation at the EU talks in Brussels immediately left to return to Belgrade.

Delegation leader Marko Djuric said “whoever is behind this attack … whether they are Serb, Albanian or any other criminals, they must be punished.” European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini called the presidents of Serbia and Kosovo to express the EU’s condemnation of the killing. She appealed for both sides “to show calm and restraint.”

The head of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo, Ambassador Jan Braathu, said he was “shocked and deeply saddened” and considered Ivanovic “among the most prominent Kosovo Serb representatives for almost two decades. ”

He also urged “all sides to avoid dangerous rhetoric and remain calm at this sensitive time, and recommit themselves to continue the work toward the normalization of relations and improvement of the lives of the citizens of Kosovo and Serbia.”

Dusan Stojanovic and Jovana Gec in Belgrade; Llazar Semini in Tirana, Albania; and Raf Casert in Brussels contributed to this report.

Erdogan receives warm welcome from Muslim Serbian town

2017-10-11

NOVI PAZAR – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan received a rapturous welcome on Wednesday during a visit to the Serbian town of Novi Pazar, capital of the Muslim majority Sandzak region that has seen mass emigration to Turkey since the violent breakup of Yugoslavia.

Erdogan, on a two-day visit to Serbia, hopes to boost Turkey’s economic and cultural influence in the Balkan region, which was part of the Ottoman empire for centuries, at a time of increased tensions with the European Union and United States.

“We have special relations with this region. Your happiness is our happiness, your pain is our pain,” Erdogan told more than 10,000 people gathered in front of the municipality building.

“Sandzak is the biggest bridge linking us with our brothers in Serbia,” he said, with Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic standing close by.

Turkish influence is already strong among fellow Muslims in Bosnia, Albania and Kosovo, but mainly Orthodox Christian Serbia is traditionally much closer to Russia. However, Belgrade and Ankara, which both want to join the EU but are frustrated by the slow pace of progress, are keen to increase bilateral trade.

Erdogan said Turkey would finance the construction of a road linking Sandzak with the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, reconstruct an Ottoman-era hammam and build a bridge in Novi Pazar.

In Belgrade on Tuesday, Erdogan pledged gas and Turkish investments for the Balkans and he signed deals with Vucic to expand a bilateral free trade agreement.

In Novi Pazar, local people waved Turkish flags and the green and blue flags of Serbia’s Muslim community, and chanted Allahu Akbar (God is greatest). A big banner read “Welcome Sultan” and was signed by “Ottoman grandchildren”.

“Erdogan is our nation’s leader, Vucic is our state leader, this is the greatest day for us Muslims to have them both here,” Ismail Ismailovic, 28, from the nearby town of Tutin, farmer, sporting long beard and white embroidered Muslim skull cap.

It was a far cry from the 1990s when Serbia and Turkey were sharply at odds in the conflicts that tore apart Yugoslavia. Turkey sees itself as the historic defender of Muslims across the Balkan region.

“I know I am not going to be welcomed here like Erdogan is,” said Vucic, who was a firebrand Serbian nationalist during the wars of the 1990s but has turned strongly pro-EU. “But at least I can come out and say that I am working in your best interest.”

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=85351.

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