09 November 2018

Western Balkans Special Report. November 2018 (I)

Stelian Teodorescu

Image source: Mediafax
  1. Tensions between Belgrade and Podgorica regarding the celebration of Serbia and Montenegro’s unification centenary
  2. Arrangements in Serbia for “Winner’s century” tactical exercise with fight shootings
  3. Croatians euro-parliamentarians are drawing EU’ attention about Zeljko Komsic’s assignation as member of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s tripartite presidency
  4. Milorad Dodik is trying to influence the decision of assigning Republic of Srpska’s future prime-minister

 

Tensions between Belgrade and Podgorica regarding the celebration of Serbia and Montenegro’s unification centenary

On October 28, 2018, Serbia’s officials and politicians blamed Podgorica’s authorities’ decision to forbid the deployment of ceremonies for the 100 years anniversary since Serbia and Montenegro’s unification.

Serbian president, Aleksandr Vucic, saw the decision as unacceptable for 21 century’s Europe and underlined that he does not understand this decision, qualified as one which prohibits Montenegro’s citizens to “think differently and to have a different vision of the past”.

Podgorica’s authorities decision was, also, blamed by the Serbian Defence Minister, Aleksandar Vulin, who underlined that it is hard to explain the fact that in Montenegro exist politicians who “are speaking badly about Serbs and the Serbian nation, which is a third from Montenegrin state’s population”.

More radical proved to be the position adopted by the Popular Serbian Party, pro-Russian orientation and part of Belgrade’s governing coalition, as this political group asked for the withdrawal of the Serbian ambassador from Montenegro, for consultations, until Serbs will be allowed to “freely express their national feelings” and, not least, the transmission of an official demand for Montenegrin authorities to stop this thing of prohibiting Serbians to celebrate this great event.

The actual disputes between the Serbs and the Montenegrins, regarding the celebration of Serbian and Montenegro’s unification came out, probably, because of the different point of views on event’s signification for each entity.

Meanwhile the Montenegrin authorities insist that Podgorica’s Assembly led to “Montenegro’s disappearance” as state and blamed all the celebration initiatives of the event, whereof it was said that it dishonored the memories “of all of those in Montenegro, who were killed during the dictatorship (Yugoslavian), which started at Podgorica Assembly”, Serbian organizations in Montenegro stated that they are planning to celebrate the union of Serbia with Montenegro in the entire country.

As consequence, local authorities from Pljevlja (Montenegro) withdrew their approval (October 26, 2018) to the Cultural Center “Patrijarh Varnava”, in Pljevlja, for the deployment of a cultural-religious manifestation, on the occasion the celebration of Saint Parascheva (October 27, based on the old Julian calendar), as consequence of the information regarding the celebration on that date, in collaboration with the National Serbian Council in Montenegro (SNS GG), led by Momcilo Vuksanovic, and the 100 years since Montenegro’s unification with Serbia, the reason being that “Montenegro’s state tradition is prohibited”. Despite local authorities’ interdiction, in Pljevlja was celebrated Saint Parascheva (October 26), the liberation of Pljevlja village, in 1912 (The First Balkan War) and 1918 (World War I), but also Montenegro’s accession to the future Yugoslavian state. Yet, the ceremonies were not deployed in Army’s House in Pljevlja (where they had approval for Saint Parascheva’s celebration), but inside the church and in Saint Parascheva’s church yard in Pljevlja.

In the same context could also be reasoned Montenegrin’s authorities decision to prohibit the entry in Montenegro of a group of four Serbian intellectuals formed by Cedomir Antic (historian and political activist), Aleksandar Rakovic (historian), Dejan Mirovic (lawyer and politician, native from Montenegro) and, not least, Matija Beckovic (academician from Belgrade, poet and leader of some Montenegrin organizations from Republic of Serbia). This last one is known for being born in Autonomous Province Vojvodina, in a Serbian-Montenegrins militaries family, close friend of the ex—prime-minister Vojislav Kostunica and supporter of his political group, the Democrat Party from Serbia (DSS). Being known as a prominent Serbian nationalist, Beckovic firmly pleaded against Montenegro’s independency, actively supporting the withdrawal proposal of this option during referendum’s previous deployed campaign, organized by Podgorica’s authorities.

According to mass-media, the main cause of the interdiction imposed to Serbian intellectuals’ group are the previous statements which, according to Montenegro’s security service, are a “danger for state’s security”.

In these circumstances, Serbia’s president, Aleksandar Vucic, reacted, the Serb official underlining the reintroduction of verbal and opinion offense as a justification of the adopted decision by the Montenegrin authorities. Republic of Serbia’s authorities (including Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts/ SANU) are blaming access’s interdiction in Montenegro for people of Serbian culture, just because they have a different vision than Podgorica’s authorities one, for example, about the events from 1918, which led to Montenegrin’s reigning dynasty’s collapse, Petrovic-Njegos, and Montenegro’s unification with Serbia, in Serbians, Croatians and Slovenians Kingdom, under the Serbian dynasty, Karadordevic.

Belgrade may notice, with this occasion, EU and OSCE as responsible structures for respecting political criteria and standards and also human rights. All the same, it is improbable for Belgrade to adopt similar measures (alike Croatia’s case, when the Croatian Minister of Defence was called undesirable person, after the Croatian authorities prohibited the participation of the Serbian Minister of Defence at a commemoration for Croatia’s fascism victims).   

Despite the intensification of differences of opinion and tension’s increase, the Serbian organizations in Montenegro showed their intention to plan, in the entire country, the celebration of Podgorica’s Assembly and Serbia and Montenegro Unification Day with other Slav nations centenary. Thereby, probably, such an event could take place on 1st of December 2018, at the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ, in Podgorica, Matija Beckovic being one of the speakers who should have given a speech at the event.

Furthermore, the National Serbian Council, which represents Serbians in Montenegro and, at the same time, 30% from Montenegrin population, asked the permission to use the main lounge of the National Theatre, between November 25-December 05, 2018, to celebrate Podgorica’s Assembly Centenary, known also as the Great National Assembly of the Serbs in Montenegro.

Considering that the Serbian organizations are planning numerous political and cultural events in the entire country, many organizations in Montenegro and some of the governing parties are planning to counteract it, including through the demand made to state’s institutions, to officially revoke Podgorica’s Assembly decision, regarding Serbia and Montenegro Unification.

In these circumstances, it will be really interesting to see which will be the evolution of Serbia and Montenegro relations, as well as dynamic of stability and regional security, especially when, until now, the Montenegrin authorities did not give an answer at Serbs demand, upkeeping their same intransigent position on Montenegro and Serbia unification centenary’s significance.

Hence, it is possible for the actual escalation of the tensions to become isolated or huge violence, determined by how Podgorica’s authorities will manage situation’s evolution and the possible challenges which could appear, considering its citizens wish, who are saying they are Serbs or Serb-Montenegrins, and who will want to celebrate the 100 years since the “great assembly” of 1918.

Arrangements in Serbia for “Winner’s century” tactical exercise with fight shootings

Between 08-10 November, 2018, in Republic of Serbia (Central Serbia and Vojvodina) it will be deployed the military tactical exercise with fight shootings, “Winner’s Century 1918-2018”[1]. This exercise is deployed to celebrate 100 years since the Victory in World War I, “the climax” to be registered Saturday, November 10, 2018. Serbia’s Army will organize the exercise in 10 areas of the country. According to Serbian Defence Ministry and to Serbian Defence Minister’s statements, we are talking about the largest military exercise from the last years.

Between the points wherein it will be executed exercise’s phases is also Pester plateau and Assembled Polygon “Pasuljanske livade” (close to Cuprija), “Oresac” and Titel” polygons.

The militaries who are training on Pester plateau (personnel from 2nd Kraljevo Army Forces Brigade) were visited by Defence Minister, Aleksandar Vulin, accompanied by the General Chief of Staff of Serbia’s Army, general-lieutenant Milan Mojsilovic, and the ones from “Pasuljanske livade” polygon (militaries from 3rd Nis Army Forces Brigade), by the surrogate of SMG chief, general-mayor Petar Cvetkovic.

At “Winner’s Century 1918-2018” exercise will participate around 8.000 militaries, with over 600 fight vehicles and 24 aircrafts.

Belgrade’s political leadership oscillated between marking the 100th anniversary of Victory’s Day in World War I with a military parade or an exercise, the balance being oriented, in the end, to the exercise.

The “100” number will be full of significances: there are 100 years since “Serbian army’s heroical victory”, 100 tanks present at the exercise, 100 armored vehicles, 100 artillery systems and missiles (land and air defence) etc.

In the initial phase of exercise’s planning, Belgrade hoped for Russia’s president presence, Vladimir Putin, but he accepted to visit Serbia only in January 2019. In these circumstances, it is still uncertain if at the exercise will participate two Mi-35 fight helicopters, from Russia’s Federation Aircosmic Forces endowment (the Serbian president, Aleksandar Vucic, stated that he will ask the Russian leader for such two helicopters to participate at the exercises, considering that Serbia’s Army will receive four such types of aircrafts, which were already acquired).

Probably, it will be also organized an exposition, wherein there will be presented the newest weaponry systems, military technique and developed equipment by the Serbian defence army and military testing and scientific research institutions (self-propelled howitzer from “Nora” family, “Milos” armored fight vehicle, “Milos” self-flying armored platform, “Lazar-3” multirole auto-vehicle, “PASARS” self-propelled air defence system etc.).

Exercise’s executions may also be seen as Belgrade’s force demonstration, considering the information about Republic of Kosovo’s armed forces foundation, on November 28, 2018 (“Albanian Flag Day”) or after Republic of Croatia’s Armed Forces execution of “Velebit 18-Assembled Force” tactical fight shootings exercise[2] (for three days, between 13-15 October 2018, with the locking of around 6.000 active and in reserve militaries).

 Croatians euro-parliamentarians are drawing EU’ attention about Zeljko Komsic’s assignation as member of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s tripartite presidency (BIH)

On October 25, 2018, eleven Croatians euro-parliamentarians sent a common letter to European Parliament’s Presidents, European Commission and Europe’s Council, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini and the Commissar for Neighborhood European Policy and Enlargement, Johannes Hahn. They called on the fact that the Croatian member of BIH’s tripartite presidency, Zeljko Komsic, was elected by getting the majority of votes from Muslim Bosnians, and not from Croatians Bosnians, an ethnic community whose representative will be at the central level of the state.

Consequently, Croatians members of European Parliament draw the attention over how these evolutions, generated by the recent electoral process, could affect BIH’s stability and Western Balkans entire region, the bilateral relations with Croatia, the regional cooperation and BIH and EU’s ambitions.

Furthermore, Croatians deputies expressed their concerns about election’s results, which will not contribute at BIH’s functionality as “state composed of three equal constitutive nations”, accordingly with Dayton’s Peace Treaty provisions, which defines country’s “constitutive nations”.

Thereby, Croatians euro-parliamentarians asked that the recent elections, which took place in BIH, to get on debates agendas, at the next meeting of European Commission’s Foreign Affairs Council.

BIH shows that it is Western Balkan’s state which had, and continues to have, the biggest difficulties in getting the minimum demanded progresses, to promote its candidacy for EU accession. Once again it gets confirmed that the speed and the results of this process are seriously influenced by a complex and dysfunctional constitutional configuration and by the manifestation of a centrifugal tendency, more and more intensified among Serbian and Croatian ethnical communities. All of this comes as consequence of the “efforts” to accentuate country’s division by Serbian Bosnian leader, Milorad Dodik, and by Croatian Bosnian, Dragan Covic, their actions having no efficient response yet from EU, even if the US imposed sanctions against Dodik, in 2017.  In such circumstances, EU officials only turned down using division rhetoric during the electoral campaign for general elections, on 7th of October 2018.

One of the enlightening examples regarding BIH’s intensifying division, at an ethnical level, is also Republic of Srpska’s (RS) government decision to impose the rule, for the 21 people who are participating at the civil exercise “Serbia 2018”, from October 08 to October 11, 2018, to wear uniforms with RS’s civil protection signs and without BIH’s state symbols, during the development of their operational activities. 

The consequence of Croatians euro-deputies action did not last to appear, as Zeljko Komsic, on October 30, 2018, in his turn, sent an opened letter to EU officials underlining that Republic of Croatia got involved in a “diplomatic aggression against his country”.

Furthermore, the new Croatian elected member of BIH’s tripartite presidency called Croatians Euro-Parliamentarians initiative as another attack from Croatia over BIH’s sovereign right and sovereignty, to decide upon its electoral system or, precisely, as a direct interference of Zagreb’s authorities’ in BIH’s internal businesses.

Milorad Dodik is trying to influence the decision of assigning Republic of Srpska’s future prime-minister

On November 01, 2018, Milorad Dodik, president of Republic of Srpska (RS), but recently elected as Serbian member of BIH’s tripartite presidency, revealed his intention to propose to his party colleague, Radovan Viskovic, to form a new government for the Serbian entity.

In the same circumstances, Milorad Dodik expressed his hope in front of the coalition partners to support his proposal, according to which the new government of Republic of Srpska to be led by the old member of Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), vice-president of the party and also leader of SNSD’s parliamentary group in RS’s previous parliament.

Dodik’s announce is considered a surprise, especially for Marko Pavic, the leader of Democratic People’s Alliance, SNSD’s coalition partner, the last one revealing, in the past, his intention to ask for RS’s assignation government leader to be someone from his own party. All of these aside, Pavic did not react yet at Dodik’s announce.

Materializing M. Dodik’s proposal would only complicate more the relations between DNS and SNSD, which are already tensioned, as consequence of the recent bounce of a DNS minister from RS’s government and two state’s enterprises directors bounce (supported by DNS).

We should not pass over that fact that neither Zeljka Cvijanovic, RS’s prime-minister and, also, member of the party led by Milorad Dodik, SNSD, is about to take entity’s president position, after the victory gained against opposition’s candidate, Vukota Govedarica, across the October 07, 2018 elections.

Radovan Viskovic, probably RS’s future prime-minister, states that he believes in the team composed of the new Serbian elected member of BIH’s tripartite presidency, Milorad Dodik, and Republic of Srpska’s new elected president, Zeljka Cvijanovic, underlining that he expects maximum support from them.

Radovan Viskovic’s nominations chances as RS’s future prime-minister are huge, having also the support of Socialist Party (SP), Petar Djovic, who stated that he only has good things to say about him, as human and politician, and that his party will promote this position.

Also across the quantification process of the chances for Milorad Dodik’s suggestion to become reality, is important to underscore that, from RS’s National Assembly’s 83 positions, the power (wherein are included SNSD-28 positions, DNS-12 positions and SP-7 positions) has 50 positions, and the opposition 33.

Next on, RS’s political scene will be significantly influenced by SNSD-DNS’s relation, considering that, according to RS Constitution’s provisions, the new elected president of RS, Zeljka Cvijanovic, will have to officially nominate the future prime-minister. Furthermore, we should not pas over the fact that the DNS obtained the best result from its history, being the political group who registered the biggest increase in RS’s electoral preferences at the general elections on October 07, 2018.



[1] ”Vek pobednika 1918-2018”.

[2] The “similitudes” with the Croatian exercise are the following: the biggest exercise in the last years, active phase’s long duration, simultaneous deployment in many polygons, the locking of all types of weapons, the use of significant quantities of weaponry technique and systems, the execution of different fight munition shootings, the national press exposure, assisting to important phases of state and military leadership. Alike the “Velebit” exercise, from Croatia, at Serbia’s exercise will participate the newest weaponry and military technique systems, as well as subunits from “1.500” and “1.500+” projects.

Actually, Belgrade and Zagreb have a history for a real “arming competition”, occasionally accompanied (in the past) by bellicose statements of state and political leaders. Among the elements of this competition there are: the announce regarding Zagreb’s acquisition, from the US, of some land-to-land missile systems (M270 MLRS) vs. Belgrade’s announce that it will acquire antiair defence missile systems from Russia (including S-300!); the Croatian acquisition of hard self-propelled howitzers from Germany (PzH 2000) vs. Belgrade’s development of “Nora’s” family of howitzers; Zagreb starting the acquisition process of F-16  second hand aircrafts, from Israel vs. the Russian donation of six MiG-29 planes and the announce regarding another donations of four such planes from Belarus; the 16 American helicopters donation, OH-58D “Kiowa Warrior” for the Croatian air forces and the announced american donation of (two) “Black Hawk” helicopters (for Croatian army’s special operation forces) vs. Belgrade’s acquisition of 7 Russian “Mi” (Mi-17, Mi-35) helicopters, whereat we add the contract for 9 “Airbus” helicopters, for the army and the police (H-145m).