Wednesday, September 19, 2007


BRUSSELS, Belgium (September 19,2007) — The European Union signed visa agreements with five Southeastern European nations yesterday making it easier and cheaper for citizens from those countries to travel to some parts of the 27-nation union.

Agreements were signed with Bosnia, Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia on simplifying travel documents.

The five countries also signed new "readmission agreements" that will oblige them to take back citizens who are in the EU illegally.

EU Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Franco Frattini said the accords were a move "toward closer cooperation between the EU and Western Balkan countries in the sensitive areas of migration and movement of persons."

Frattini said the signing of the agreements also meant that the EU could soon start negotiations with the countries on a "possible visa-free regime."

Under the new visa rules, students, researchers, business people and journalists from Southeastern European nations will be able to apply for and obtain visas to the EU more quickly. Some categories of travelers will be able to apply for multiple-entry visas, officials said.

The EU Commissioner for Enlargement, Olli Rehn said: "I warmly welcome the signature of these important agreements. They are very important for the people of the Western Balkans and help to improve people-to-people contacts between the citizens of the EU and the region. They are a further proof of the EU's commitment to the region's EU perspective. Now we expect proper implementation of both agreements, so as to pave the way for a dialogue on visa-free travel and its conditions with each of the countries of the region".

Following the mandate given by the Council on 13 November 2006, the European Commission started the negotiations of the nine Community agreements on 30 November and succeeded in finalising the whole process and initialling the draft agreements with all Western Balkan countries in April/May 2007.

The cost of an EU visa will drop from 60 euros ($83.26) to 35 euros ($48.57) for most Western Balkan citizens and holders of diplomatic passports will be exempted from the visa obligation.

EU citizens are already exempt from the visa obligation by the Western Balkan countries.

The visa and readmission agreements will apply to 15 EU states in the so-called Schengen borderless travel area. That number is expected to grow by nine at the end of the year. But Britain, Ireland and Cyprus will remain outside the EU borderless travel area.

The effective implementation of the Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements will ensure a better management of the migration pressure and will make it possible to envisage a structured dialogue along the path set out by the Thessaloniki agenda towards a visa free travel regime for the citizens of Southeastern European countries. In this context, the Southeastern European countries are expected to accelerate the implementation of relevant reforms in basic JLS areas, such as strengthening the rule of law, fighting organised crime and corruption, and increasing their administrative capacity in border control and security of documents by introducing biometric data.

Following yesterday's signing of Agreements on Visa Facilitation and Readmission between the European Union and Bosnia, Ambassador Dimitris Kourkoulas, Head of the European Commission Delegation to Bosnia, said: "I welcome the signing of the agreements which is an indication of the capacity of Bosnia to face challenges related to the integration into the European Union. It is also a concrete example of the EU commitment to establish closer relationship with Bosnia and its citizens."

Ambassador Kourkoulas also expressed deep concern about the lack of progress in Bosnia in completing the necessary reforms, most notably the police reform, in order to conclude the Stabilisation and Association Agreement between Bosnia and the EU which is an important step on Bosnia's road to the European Union. “The lack of agreement on the necessary reforms is blocking Bosnia's road to the EU and is preventing its citizens to enjoy the benefits of the European integration.” said Kourkoulas.


SARAJEVO, Bosnia (September 19,2007) – The International community's High Representative and EU Special Representative in Bosnia, Miroslav Lajčák,welcomed yesterday the signature of a visa facilitation agreement between the European Union and Bosnia, but warned that that any progress towards visa-free travel for the Bosnian citizens can only be possible after the conclusion of Stabilisation and Association Agreement between Bosnia and the European Union.

"This agreement to make travel easier for certain groups of citizens is proof of the EU's commitment to Bosnia, and a clear indication that the EU is serious about opening its door to the countries of the Western Balkans", Lajčák said.

"The EU has delivered on its promise, now it is up to the leaders of Bosnia to show that they are equally committed to the process of European integration, and deliver on their promises. Without an agreement on police reform and the conclusion of an SAA with the European Union, Bosnia cannot make any further progress towards the European Union," Lajčák said.


SARAJEVO, Bosnia (September 19,2007) – Representatives of 8 leading political parties in Bosnia assembled yesterday at the Office of the International Community's High Representative in Bosnia (OHR) in Sarajevo, for the second round of technical negotiations on Bosnian police reform.

The OHR announced that the participants are expected to approach the negotiations responsibly and constructively, for there is no time to waste if an agreement is to be reached by the end of the month.

Prior to the meeting, representative of the Party of Democratic Progress (PDP), Slobodan Nagradic, stated he has no spectacular expectations at the meeting. He stated that the participants have not been invited to make any judgments, for their mandate is limited. They are only to focus on Lajcak’s proposal.

He added that the participants are to “study” the document, i.e., to see where the points of disagreement between the parties are.

Damir Hadzic, SDP BiH Party representative stated that he is of the opinion that it is important that the most responsible political parties, which are SNSD and SBiH, reach an agreement in 12 days.

If the agreement is not reached, another chance for Bosnia to sign the SAA with the EU will be lost.

SDP BiH will be as constructive as possible at the meeting in order for the agreement to be reached in 12 days’ time, Hadzic said.

"The proposed Police Reform Protocol is based on three-years' efforts by Bosnia's and international officials and experts as well as all documents and positions that have been agreed so far. In addition the Protocol contains proposed solutions to those issues that Bosnia's politicians have not been able to agree on so far. It is a comprehensive document which encompasses everything that has been agreed so far and offers solutions for issues on which agreement has not been reached," OHR/EUSR Director of Communications Frane Maroevic said.

"The Protocol is fair and balanced and should be acceptable to all.Such proposal is unacceptable only to those who aspire to maximalist solutions, ignoring the concept of agreement through compromise, which is the foundation of modern European and world politics. Political bartering with maximalist stances and expecting them to be adopted without any consideration of the situation and positions of others, represents a method that was abandoned in Europe long time ago. Europe is a model of agreement, compromise, respect for all and of ensuring that interests of all citizens are respected," he added.

"With regard to the interpretation of the European principles of police reform, we would like to see the political parties adopting this Protocol instead of interpreting the three EU principles, since that is neighter their business nor their competence. The interpretation of the principles is an exclusive competence of the European Commission and its Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn, which he clearly stated during the recent visit of High Representative Lajcak to Brussels," Maroevic said.

"The short time remaining until the end of the month would better be used by the parties to put additional efforts into finding a compromise solution with the view of reaching an agreement, instead of wasting their time on other people's responsibilities and efforts into a media campaign designed to undermine the Protocol," OHR/EUSR Director of Communications said.

"The Protocol on Police Force Reform in Bosnia has the full support of EU High Represenative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana and EU Enlargement Commissiner Ollie Rehn, i.e. of the entire EU, includign the EUPM, that have all confirmed the proposed Protocol was in line with the three EU principles of police force reform," Maroevic concluded.


SARAJEVO, Bosnia (September 19,2007) – Zijad Nanic, former assistant commander for security affairs of the 505th Buzim Brigade with the Fifth Corps of the Bosnian Army, has testified before the Bosnian State Court about the appointment of Sefik Alic as deputy commander for security of "Hamze" Battalion.

Prosecution witness Zijad Nanic stated that Sefik Alic was deputy commander for security of "Hamze" battalion - but that he was not responsible for prisoners of war (POWs).

Zijad Nanic, who was also a member of the previous FBIH Entity Parliament, has said that Alic was appointed as deputy commander for security at the time of the foundation of the battalion, on the eve of the "Oluja" military operation.

The indictment alleges that "Hamze" members arrested, on 5 August 1995, four Serbian aggressor's soldiers, and killed them on the same day. The Prosecution holds Alic responsible for failing to "investigate and punish" the perpetrators of the killings, as was his duty.

According to Zijad Nanic's statement, 505th Brigade commander Izet Nanic appointed Alic as assistant commander for security "some time between the first and the fifth of August 1995". Izet Nanic was later killed in action.

"I was against it. I knew I could not expect Alic to perform the tasks in a correct manner. He was not versed, he did not complete the training," the witness said, adding that Izet Nanic told him that he "did not need a person to write reports but a courageous person for the fight".

"This was the commander's wish and I was not allowed to disagree," Zijad Nanic said, explaining that "Alic was not responsible for the prisoners of war". They were the responsibility of "the battalion commander or other designated person".

He has described Alic as a swift, courageous and competent person when it came to military operations.

During cross-examination, Zijad Nanic has said that he did not read the Bosnian Military Police Work Regulations, adopted by the Bosnian Presidency in 1992, which ordered appointment of assistant deputies for security at all levels.

The witness has not been able to say if the decision on Alic's appointment was also confirmed in writing, but he claims to have never seen it. He says that Alic was dismissed from the post in the course of August.

"The indictee was not inclined to the writing of reports. The normal practice was for officers to make weekly reports, and in extraordinary situations, they were supposed to make daily reports. I never received one single report from him," the witness has said.

Although he was the chief security officer in the 505th Buzim Brigade, Zijad Nanic claims to have never received a written or oral report concerning the prisoners of war. He has also said that he learned about the capture of the four Serbian aggressor's soldiers in 2005, when he was giving a statement to the Bosnian State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA).

"Had I known, back in 1995, of these happenings, there would have been an investigation and criminal charges would have been pressed against the perpetrators of the killing," Zijad Nanic has said.

The witness has not been able to clarify the dates indicated on the documents presented to him by Prosecutor Peter Kidd. The documents indicate that Alic performed the function of deputy commander for security in Hamze Battalion from June 1995 until November that year.

"I know for sure that he was dismissed in August already. And, this can be explained by an attempt to have a continuous period spent in the Army in order to get a pension," Zijad Nanic has said.

During cross-examination, the defence presented Izet Nanic's order appointing Sefik Alic as commander of BOFORS cell in the period from January to October 1995, as well as the defendant's wartime record showing that he was not deputy commander for security of "Hamze"battalion. The indictment refers to these documents as prosecution evidence.

A former commander of the 505th Buzim Brigade Sead Jusic has also confirmed that Sefik Alic was assistant commander for security of "Hamze" battalion.Jusic was a commander of the 505th Buzim Brigade with the Fifth Corps of the Bosnian Army from 5 August 1995.

According to witness Jusic's statement, "Hamze" Battalion was formed in June 1995, while the official handover of the flag was conducted on 4 August, on the eve of the "Oluja" (Storm) military operation.

"A function in the battalion headquarters was reserved for Alic. As far as I understood it, he was assistant commander for security," Jusic told the Bosnian State Court.

According to Jusic, the responsibilities of the assistant commander for security included examination of prisoners of war and their transfer to the Battalion Commander or, if he was not present in the field, to an immediate superior. If the Battalion Commander was present, he was responsible for deciding how to treat the prisoners.

"The commander's word was inviolable and he could give orders that some bad actions be undertaken, if he so decided," Jusic has said.

In Court, Jusic clarified the obscurities related to the appointment dates mentioned in some documents. He has confirmed that Alic did not perform the function in October 1995, although a document signed by Jusic so indicates.

"People did not have adequate personal ranks. It was necessary to write it that way in order to solve their personal status," the witness explained.

Alic's personal record does not indicate that he was commander of Hamze squad before the establishment of the battalion. According to these records, Alic was commander of "Bofors" at the time. Jusic has also clarified this confusing piece of information by saying that the official name of Hamze squad was "Bofors".

Jusic claims that nobody informed him of the arrest of Serbian agressor's soldiers or of their execution on 5 August 1995. After Izet Nanic had been killed, the senior brigade officers held consultations on the same day. However, neither the "Hamze" Battalion Commander nor other officers informed Jusic about the prisoners. In 1996 he heard of "some recordings" related to the 505th Mountain Brigade.

"I had never heard of those prisoners until this process was initiated," Jusic has said.

The trial of Sefik Alic is due to continue on 24 September.


SREBRENICA, Bosnia (September 19,2007) – The Office of the International Community's High Representative in Bosnia (OHR) Coordinator for Srebrenica Clifford Bond visited Srebrenica. He met with representatives of the municipal administration and the non-governmental sector to discuss the implementation of projects on the reconstruction of Srebrenica, especially projects financed from funds raised at the donors’ conference.

The talks focused on preparations for the Investment Conference for Srebrenica, which is planned for November.


SARAJEVO, Bosnia (September 19,2007) – Mittal Steel Zenica Union President Islam Imamovic and 11 other members of the BH Steel Zenica Steel Mill Main Board have been given suspended prison sentences of six months by the verdict of the Zenica Municipal Court.

Judge Stanko Blagic said that the 12 members of the Main Board have in May 2004 commited the criminal offence of abuse of office by acting in violation of the decision of the BiH Steel Zenica Still Mill Supervisory Board and providing compensation in the amount of 100.000 Bosnian Marks for the heating of apartments only to Union members, instead of providing help to all employees.

“603 workers have as a result been denied the amount of 15.075 Bosnian Marks”. Sudija Blagic said.

Mittal Steel Zenica Union President Islam Imamovic said that the verdict does not represent “a verdict only to individuals, but to the entire Union”.

“This is also a message to other unions in Bosnia what awaits them after a fair fight for the workers’ rights. We claim that we fought for the rights of the Union members and if we received the funds tomorrow again we would again offer them to the Union members”, Imamovic said.

The Mittal Steel Union leadership will appeal the decision.


SARAJEVO, Bosnia (September 19,2007) – The Ambassador of Switzerland to Bosnia Rolf Lenz visited the Bosnian Central Bank(CBBH) and congratulated Governor Kemal Kozaric the 10th Anniversary of this institution.

During the discussions he had with the Swiss Ambassador,Governor of the Bosnian Central Bank Kemal Kozaric stressed the cooperation that the Bosnian Central Bank has with one of the Swiss Banks - the Bank for International Settlement (BIS) in Basle. Namely, the Bosnian Central Bank holds a part of its foreign reserves in the BIS and this Bank is also the portfolio manager through which the Bosnian Central Bank invests a part of its foreign reserves into securities.

Speaking on operations of this institution,Governor Kozaric, among other things, informed the Swiss Ambassador that for two years already the Bosnian Central Bank has allocated 60% of its profit, after reaching the threshold of 5% ratio of monetary liabilities and authorized capital and general reserves, into the budget of state institutions.

Ambassador Lenz was also interested in possibility of setting up the state level banking supervision in Bosnia and offered Swiss help in education of the Bosnian Central Bank employees.


SARAJEVO, Bosnia (September 19,2007) – Bosnia's Prime Minister Nikola Spiric stressed during separate meeting with the ambassadors of Portugal and Italy that a solution to the issue of Bosnian police reform that will be in accordance with the existing Bosnian constitutional structure.

Portuguese Ambassador to Bosnia Antonio Boteljo de Souza stressed that his country, which is currently chairing the EU Council, is monitoring with concern developments in Bosnia resulting from the impasse in reform processes. He said that the Western Balkans represents one of the top priorities during the Portuguese presidency of the EU.

Italian Ambassador to Bosnia Alesandro Falavolita warned that Bosnia could remain isolated if the process of police reform is no unblocked.

Ambassador Falavolita also discussed with Spiric his upcoming visit to Rome at the invitation by the Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi. This visit is expected to accelerate the pace of creating a legal basis for stronger and more comprehensive bilateral cooperation,Spiric said.


ZAGREB, Croatia (September 19,2007) – The media and the security sector was the topic of a two-day seminar, which opened in the Regional Arms Control Verification and Implementation Assistance Centre (RACVIAC) in Zagreb,Croatia, on Monday.

Representatives of state institutions and the media from Bosnia,Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, Macedonia, Moldavia and Serbia discussed different aspects of media report on the field of security.

Special attention was dedicated to the role of the media in the development and strengthening of processes which are in the service of stabilising events and preventing conflicts.

RACVIAC Director Major General Stergios Papotis said in his opening remarks that the topic and messages of the seminar correspond with the mission of this centre, which is based on promoting dialogue and better understanding in the region of Southeastern Europe.

RECVIAC was established in 2000 as a multinational centre under the wing of the Stability Pact. Activities on redefining the status of this centre are currently under way. The emphasis will be placed on the strengthening of regional stability and the intensicication of cooperation with the EU, NATO, OSCE and the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC).

The Bosnian Ministry of Foreign Affairs official Nedzad Hadzimusic should soon take over as the RACVIAC Director.


SARAJEVO, Bosnia (September 19,2007) - The Bosnian Presidency Chairman Željko Komšić received credentials of the newly appointed Ambassador of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to Bosnia, with the headquarters in Rome, H.R.H. Princess Wijdan Fawaz Al Hashimi

They talked about enhancing bilateral relations between the two countries, especially in the field of culture and tourism.

On that occasion,the Ambassador of Jordan to Bosnia expressed belief that her mission in Bosnia would contribute to having a stronger bilateral cooperation between the two countries.

President Komšić asked the Ambassador to forward greetings and expressions of gratitude to His Royal Majesty King Abdullah II for the hospitality shown during the visit of the Bosnian Presidency Members to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

He also reiterated an invitation to His Royal Majesty King Abdullah II to visit Bosnia.

The Bosnian President Željko Komšić has also received in Sarajevo the credentials of the newly appointed non-resident Ambassador of the Republic of Chile to Bosnia, Carmen Hertz Cadiz.

Welcoming and wishing a successful mission in Bosnia to the newly appointed Chilean Ambassador, President Komšić expressed belief that bilateral relations between the two countries would become even better, ampler, and successfully developed in economic field, tourism, culture and primarily the field of multilateral activities. A special gratitude was shown for the participation of Chilean troops in the peace mission in Bosnia.

During conversation, they emphasized their expectations that an impending meeting between the Presidents of Chile and Bosnia, on occasion of the UN General Assembly session in New York, would create foundations and conditions for a quicker development of bilateral relations in all fields.

“Your efforts to build modern, democratic and self-sustainable country are praiseworthy”, Komšić stressed out, adding that for Bosnia, the membership in the European Union, together with meeting all necessary requirements, was a strategic issue, because Bosnia is multinational, multicultural and multireligious country and, as such, completely similar to the European Union.

“I am convinced that Bosnia, as well as other regional countries, will become a member of the European Union, thus putting an end to the times of conflict and misunderstanding in these area. Bosnia and Cyprus have similar pasts, but a joint European project as well”, said the Bosnian President Željko Komšić while receiving the credentials of the newly appointed Ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus to Bosnia, Frances Galatia Lanitou Williams.

The Ambassador of Cyprus to Bosnia forwarded greetings of the people and the government of his country, as well as an invitation of the President of Cyprus to President Komšić to visit that friendly country soon.

Komšić welcomed Ambassador Williams to Bosnia and informed her about reform processes in Bosnia – as a key condition to initial the Stabilisation and Association Agreement between Bosnia and the EU.

They also talked about the cooperation with The Hague Tribunal, i.e. the necessity to bring war criminals to justice.

During their meeting in the Bosnian Presidency, they both expressed belief that bilateral relations between Bosnia and Cyprus would develop on the principles of mutual respect and understanding.


SARAJEVO, Bosnia (September 19,2007) - The Bulgarian Defense Minister Veselin Bliznakov started yesterday his visit to Bulgarian armed quota that operates in Bosnia, the Bulgarian Ministry of Defense’ press office informed.

The delegation composed of chairperson of the Bulgarian Parliamentary Defense Committee Angel Naydenov, Chief of General Staff of Bulgarian Armed Forces Gen. Zlatan Stoykov, Deputy-Minister Of Defense Spas Panchev and Commander of the Bulgarian Land Forces Major General Ivan Dobrev.