Serbia and Montenegro criticised in new Freedom House reportAdriatic Journal 5 February 2019
Washington-based Freedom House today released its Freedom in the World 2019 report that saw Serbia downgraded from “free” to “partially free” country. After more than a decade of being categorized as a free country, Serbia’s democracy score was one of the biggest, putting it alongside Venezuela, Nicaragua and Tanzania. The decline was due tothe “election irregularities, legal harassment and smear campaigns against independent journalists, and president Aleksandar Vučić’s de facto accumulation of extraconstitutional powers”, the reports finds. Neighbouring Montenegro was also criticized as its president Milo Djukanović “continued to consolidate state power around himself and his clique, subverting basic standards of good governance and exceeding his assigned constitutional role.” Of the Western Balkan countries, only Croatia and Slovenia are still firmly amongst the “free” countries, with Slovenia scoring the same as Germany and higher than the USA (94 out of 100).
Macedonian PM hopes EU negotiations will begin in June
After the resolution of Macedonia’s name dispute with Greece 10 days ago, Macedonian PM Zoran Zaev expressed his expectations for EU membership negotiations to begin soon, Aljazeera Balkans reports. Following the ratification of the Prespa Agreement by both parliaments on 25 January, North Macedonia is prepared for the process of Euro-Atlantic integration, Zaev said after meeting in Sofia with Bulgarian PM Boyko Borisov. Zaev discussed with his Bulgarian counterpart the abolition of trade tariffs between the two countries. Borisov reiterated the improvements of relations between the countries during the Bulgarian presidency of the council of the EU, when the focus was on the Western Balkans. Zaev explained how good neighbourly relations and cooperation with Bulgaria helped Macedonia resolve its name dispute with Greece. Macedonia will sign the NATO accession protocol under the name of North Macedonia tomorrow, AP reports.
Slovenian company wins public tender to build container terminal in Port of Rijeka
Rijeka port and the state-owned company Hrvatske željeznice-Infrastruktura issued a public tender for a construction of a new terminal at Port of Rijeka, also known as the Zagreb harbour, worth EUR 35m. Slovenian company Želežniško gradbeno podjetje Ljubljana, was picked to complete the project after offering EUR 28.5m, RTV Slovenija reports. However, Croatia’s DIV group has announced it will file a complaint against the decision, sighting their offer had the lowest price at EUR 24.6m. On the other side, the contracting authorities estimated that the group’s offer was “unrealistically low” and that DIV did not justify their pricing in a satisfactory way. The new terminal will strengthen Rijeka port’s facilities, removing current obstacles and adjusting its railway infrastructure to the railway station in Rijeka. The project will mostly be financed by the EU.