WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

CONGRATS!: Albanian judge Ardian Dvorani has been recognized as one of twelve anticorruption champions throughout the world by the U.S. State Department.FM OSMANI IN FRANCE: FM of N. Macedonia Bujar Osmani visited France yesterday. He met with counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian, advisers to French President Isabelle Dumont and Alexandre Adam, Senator Martha De Sindrak and Deputy Director General of the French Development Agency Philippe Baudouin.

  • Osmani and Le Drian signed three agreements: Agreement on the Establishment of the French Development Agency, Film Co-Production Agreement, and Agreement of a donation of Ballistic identification system.
  • Osmani’s talks centered around strengthening bilateral relations and N. Macedonia’s European perspective.

KURTI TO HALT PRIVATIZATION PROCESS: Kosovo’s next PM Albin Kurti aims to stop the privatization of government-owned entities.

  • He wrote on Facebook, “the demands to the Privatization Agency of Kosovo (PAK) not to launch any new wave of privatization had remained. Meanwhile, the Assembly of Kosovo had established a parliamentary inquiry commission to investigate possible abuses in the privatization process.”
  • And added, “I have been informed that the PAK board is completely illegally aiming to misuse the institutional vacuum by planning to launch new waves of liquidation, contrary to the aforementioned decisions. I find it very important to publicly address the PAK board with a request not to challenge the institutional mechanisms and not to try to announce new waves of privatization or liquidation contrary to the decisions that are in force. I would like to inform you that one of the main pillars of our government program continues to be the fight against corruption and organized crime. Therefore, the eventual challenge of the PAK board to the government and the assembly resulting from the 14 February election will be treated.”
DODIK EXPECTS PRESSURE: Bosnian Serb Chairman of the Presidency Milorad Dodik expects greater pressure from the West with regards to the Republika Srpska entity which he thinks can become independent.
  • Dodik said, “Bosniaks can dream what they want and that is not forbidden. However, I wish Republika Srpska to be independent, which is very realistic. I believe in the reality called Republika Srpska, and I do not believe in the imagination called BiH.”
  • And added, “How can you say that the job is not finished and that the borders are definite? What was finished then? You want to force us into a ghetto in which Sarajevo will decide on everything to the detriment of Serbs. Well, that is not possible.”

JANŠA CALLED TO EU: “Dutch MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld (Renew) has invited PM Janez Janša to Brussels to take part in a discussion on the media in Slovenia that is expected to take place in March, public broadcaster TV Slovenija reported on Monday. The MEP is the chair of the European Parliament’s Democracy, Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights Monitoring Group within the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs.” (Slovenia Times)

MIJALKOV SHOWS UP TO COURT: After going missing Sunday night, former head of National Agency for Counter Intelligence Sasho Mijalkov showed up at the Public Prosecutor. He is accused of a wiretapping scandal. The government feared he fled the country like his cousin, disgraced former PM Nikola Gruevski, and two other co-defendants who fled to Greece. Authorities in Greece are refusing to extradite Mijalkov’s co-defendants. Sentencing is set for February 26.

FBiH LAW ON GENOCIDE DENIAL: Two MPs in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) entity announced they are introducing a draft law on denying the Holocaust and genocide denial.

W. BALKAN SUMMIT DURING SLOVENIA’S EU PRESIDENCY: Slovenia announced it aims to host a Western Balkans Summit during its time as the Presidency of the Council of the EU which runs during the second half of 2021, according to FM Anže Logar. The summit would be centered on resilience.

MONTENEGRIN AMB. REFUSES TO LEAVE: Montenegro’s Ambassador to the Vatican Miodrag Vlahović refuses to accept that he is no longer Montenegro’s head diplomat in the country. The Montengrin Ministry of Foreign Affairs last week announced Gojko Čelbić as the Chargé d’Affaires.

JUSTICE CORNER:
  • In a retrial of a 2012 case, N. Macedonia convicted five ethnic Albanians for terrorism charges stemming from the murder five ethnic Macedonians. Agim Ismailovic, Afrim Ismailovic and Alil Demiri were sentenced to life in prison. Fejzi Aziri and Haki Aziri were sentenced to nine and fifteen years in prison, a reduction from the original sentence of life in prison. Samir Ljuta was acquitted of charges. Agim As
  • Two members of a Serb special police unit in the unrecognized Serbian Autonomous Region of Krajina were charge in Croatia for the murder of Russian journalists Viktor Nogin and Gennadiy Kurinnoy in 1991.
  • Eight people have been arrested for attacking the eighteen-year-old son of the leader Progressive Democratic Party Nenad Rašić at a high school in Kosovo. The attack was condemned by Kosovar politicians and Western diplomats.
  • A judge who spent thirty years in the Court of Tirana was dismissed after failing a vetting process.
  • A Belgrade court approved the extradition of criminal underworld boss Darko Elez to Bosnia.
MOVING TOWARDS THE GREEN ENERGY: “The European Commission has launched the Secretariat of a new initiative to help coal regions in the Western Balkans and Ukraine transition away from coal towards a carbon-neutral economy. According to the Commission, mirroring the successful EU Initiative for coal regions in transition, the newly established secretariat will deliver support to coal regions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Ukraine.” (New Europe)
TRANS-BALKAN CORRIDOR DONATION: “Transmission system operator Elektromreža Srbije (EMS) has received a donation of EUR 12.8 million from the Western Balkans Investment Framework (WBIF) for section 3 of the Trans-Balkan Corridor. It is the planned double transmission line Obrenovac – Bajina Bašta.”The agreement on the allocation of investment funds worth EUR 12.8 million for the Trans-Balkan Electricity Corridor was signed by Zorana Mihajlović, Minister of Mining and Energy of Serbia, Jadranka Joksimović, Minister of European Integration, Jelena Matejić, director of EMS, and Rudiger Hartman, Director of the country office of Germany’s KfW Development Bank, the Government of Serbia said.” (Balkan Green Energy News)
IN OTHER NEWS

OP-ED: “Kosovo Election Dispute is No Excuse for Anti-Roma Racism” by Isak Skenderi in Balkan InsightOP-ED: “Albania’s Struggle to Find Peace from Its Communist Past” by Alice Cooper in Exit.al

ANALYSIS: “Kosovo Serbs Accused of Fixing Bosniak, Roma Election Results” by Xhorxhina Bami in Balkan Insight

ANALYSIS: “Kosovo’s Oldest Party Needs Reality Check After Election Rout” by Përparim Isufi in Balkan Insight

HUMAN INTEREST: “Hvar Digital Nomad Life with Kids: an Emerging Lifestyle” by Ivana Zupan in Total Croatia News

CULTURE: “How did NASA’s Martian rover come to land in a crater named after a tiny Balkan village?” by Robert in The Conversation

TRAVEL: “Hiking in Slovenia: Some Basics to Staying Safe” by Robert Posl in Total Slovenia News