The Serb Republic (RS) PM's veiled threat to hold an independence referendum is in the spotlight. Promoting his plans for a referendum on the presence of foreign judges, PM Milorad Dodik also tells RS radio he is certain that a time will come when "the people will express their view on the RS status". The main Muslim daily Dnevni avaz interviews RS opposition leader Mladen Ivanic, who says "stories" about a secession referendum are used to "entertain the public" and that a referendum will not happen during Dodik's mandate. The main Serb daily Nezavisne novine blames the referendum drive on the Muslim leadership which shows "no consideration for the constitutional equality of the three peoples" in Bosnia.
The debate whether Bosnia is becoming a fertile ground for terrorism is prompted by Israeli FM Avigdor Lieberman's warning that the "Balkan region is clearly the next target for global jihad" specifying that "areas populated by Bosnians and Albanians" will be most affected. The state TV reports the reaction by FM Sven Alkalaj who insists that "there are no terror cells in Bosnia". Serb and Croat media outlets report on the growing number of Wahhabi strongholds in rural Bosnia and Islamist threats to Defence Minister Selmo Cikotic who promised to donate weapons to the Afghan authorities.
The Croatian presidential run-off is widely covered. The main Croat daily Dnevni list reports on the main Bosnian Croat party urging its supporters to vote for Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic while the Sarajevo-based media focus on the Bosnian SDP urging Croat voters to opt for the Croatian SDP's candidate Ivo Josipovic.
Ex-PM Ivo Sanader's failed attempt to return to politics and the consequent expulsion from the main ruling HDZ party is the top story. "Erased" says the left-leaning daily Novi list. "Ex-PM's political crash," says the centre-left daily Jutarnji list. "Clear and strong messages" is the pro-government daily Vjesnik's comment. The public HTV and Vjesnik report on an opinion poll showing PM Jadranka Kosor as the most popular politician thanks to her handling of Sanader.
The presidential run-off is the main news towards the end of the week. HTV carries live coverage from the Election Commission, which declares SDP (Social Democratic Party) candidate Ivo Josipovic the winner. It also airs live Josipovic's election speech, pledging he will be candidate of unity and justice. Later, the defeated candidate, Milan Bandic, blames "unprecedented hatred" and media for his defeat. Before the election, dailies publish two opinion polls both giving Josipovic around 55 per cent and show declining support for his rival Bandic. "Bandic gets support from war criminals," says a Jutarnji list commentary after Bandic appears at a new conference with wartime camp commander Tomislav Mercep and secures support of fugitive war criminal Branimir Glavas. HTV reports on the Serb Council not inviting Bandic to an Orthodox Christmas reception.
President Boris Tadic spending Orthodox Christmas in a Serbian Church monastery in Kosovo is top news. Broadcasters, notably the pro-western B92 and the commercial Pink TV, stress his "message of peace". Reporting on the authorization of his visit, the public broadcaster RTS says Tadic asked EU representatives, whereas B92 says "the Kosovo government approved Tadic's visit". The pro-government broadsheet Politika focuses on Tadic's "message of peace" in Kosovo and the wide circulation tabloid Vecernje novosti says the "time for reconciliation" has come.
Relations with Croatia are in focus as Serbia files a genocide lawsuit against Croatia and Croatian President Stjepan Mesic visits Kosovo and pardons a war criminal convicted of killing Serb civilians. All TVs report Tadic's criticism of Mesic's visit as "spoiling relations with Serbia" and his pardon as "anti-civilization" move. The liberal daily Danas notes the "worsening of bilateral relations". However, RTS and B92 air Tadic's statement that there is "still room to withdraw lawsuits". "Belgrade and Zagreb have not 'slammed' the door yet," Politika says. The Swiss-owned tabloid Blic says Serbia submitted "a truckload of evidence" and the nationalist tabloid Glas javnosti that "Serbia seeks justice". The tabloid Press speculates about the cost of the lawsuit, noting "up to 10m euros to be paid for lawyers".
The Serb parallel structures in the north dominate the media all week, with reports pointing to Serbia's "direct investment" of 42m euros for their creation. The public RTK TV predicts their dissolution will be a "serious challenge". After Serbia appointed judges and prosecutors for northern Mitrovica, TVs and the press feature President Fatmir Sejdiu condemning Serbia's efforts to "destabilize" Kosovo and urging the EU mission to help to dissolve the "parallel courts". The private Koha TV leads with the opposition and ruling coalition criticizing the institutions for not approving the use of force to deal with the Serb structures. The popular daily Express argues that Serbia is "seriously provoking" Kosovo.
Serbian President Tadic spending Christmas in a Serbian Church monastery is headline news, with TVs saying he "broke the agreement" by allegedly making political statements. Reports say the visit was approved by the Kosovo government on the condition that it was of religious character. The media cite the opposition parties criticizing the decision to allow the visit. The leading daily Koha Ditore argues Tadic's visit "should not be underestimated" for it took place when Serbs "have started, for the first time, to genuinely integrate into Kosovo's institutions against Belgrade's will".
The Kosovo Serb TV Most reports Tadic's visit was "under blockade" by protesting Albanians. The Serb Radio KiM reports this much further down the news agenda.
Outgoing Croatian President Mesic's visit is top story at the week's end. RTK TV and radio air live his address to parliament, while some front-page headlines say "Welcome Mesic".
The Serb Kontakt Plus Radio focuses on the Serb opposition to announced preparations for the creation of a new municipality in northern Mitrovica. The station also reports on an investigation against 13 policemen from northern Kosovo over drinking on duty and other violations of professional conduct.
The strike by Niksic-based bauxite miners dominates all state media early in the week. The media report the end of the strike only after receiving guarantees from PM Milo Djukanovic that all their demands will be met. "PM's guarantees bring miners out," says the state-owned Pobjeda, but the independent daily Vijesti's headline warns "See Milo's guarantees only in your dreams". In an interview for Pobjeda, Djukanovic slams the Russian majority owner of the mine for not returning from holidays to deal with the strike.
The Orthodox Christmas celebration and floods dominate the media in the second half of the week. A Vijesti report points out that both the Serbian Orthodox Church and the canonically unrecognized Montenegrin Orthodox Church held separate Yule log burning ceremonies in Cetinje and that the head of the Serbian church in Montenegro, Metropolitan, Amfilohije "again did not miss the opportunity to criticize the gathering of Montenegrin Church believers".
The top story is Serbian President Boris Tadic's offer to mediate in name talks with Greece. The wide circulation daily Dnevnik's front-page story says Tadic presented this idea in Belgrade talks with Greek Premier Yeoryios Papandreou. It adds that this is Serbia's "egocentric objective to establish itself as a regional leader", but the idea should not be ruled out. The Albanian-language daily Fakti assails the idea as Serbia's "attempt to restore domination in the Balkans". The independent daily Vreme's front-page says "Tadic will not be mediator" adding that Serbia's "ties with Macedonia are burdened with many problems, thus Serbia cannot be an unbiased mediator".
Under the front page headline "New mini-government reshuffle", Dnevnik says the Albanian junior ruling coalition partner DUI is planning to bring about this reshuffle through the resignation of its government officials on 25 and 26 January. The Albanian-language daily Lajm confirms this.
Al-Qa'idah posing threat to the Balkans leads state radio news, as PM Nikola Gruevski is warned during talks with Israeli FM Lieberman in Israel. Vreme carries analysts' warnings that this "should be taken seriously in view of Macedonian troop deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan". The Albanian-language daily 24 Ore says police forces are planning to carry out "a sensational operation" in search of "Islamic terrorists" following Lieberman's warnings.
Floods in northern Albania is the top story. PM Sali Berisha's warning early in the week of the country being "on the brink of a catastrophe" is the front page headline in all the dailies. While the ruling Democratic Party daily Rilindja Demokratike reports "the maximum dedication to overcome the situation", the independent daily Shqip criticizes the "government's capitulation" to the floods.
Dailies report on the exchange of accusations between the government and the opposition over the floods. TVSh carries statements by Berisha condemning the "opposition's shameful speculation with this natural disaster" and Rilindja Demokratike accuses the opposition of "spreading panic" and of "rejoicing in the floods". The major independent daily Korrieri carries statements by opposition officials describing the floods as a "criminal deed of the government" and calling for the resignation of the energy and economy minister. The private TV Top Channel reports on opposition leader Edi Rama saying the situation is a product of "the country's bad governance" and calling on the prosecutor office to investigate the government's responsibility.
Senad Kamenica, Media Advisor to COM EUFOR