WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY
DON’T MISS OUT: Balkan Insider is hosting the webinar 2021 Outlook for the Balkans: A Trans-Atlantic Discussion with Florian Bieber and Edward Joseph on Thursday, January 14, 2021 at 12:00 PM EST/ 6:00 PM CET. See below for announcement and REGISTER HERE.
U.S. AMBS ON WAY OUT: U.S. Ambassador to Slovenia Lynda Blanchard and U.S. Ambassador to Croatia Rober Kohorst are resigning to coincide with the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. When a new administration is voted in, political appointees typically resign from their posts. On a side note, Croatian media reports that Croatian wine will be served at the inauguration of Joe Biden.
BIG DAY IN BRUSSELS: Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Philip Reeker visited Brussels and met with Special Representatives to the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue Miroslav Lajcak who tweeted they “confirmed the renewed strong 🇪🇺-🇺🇸cooperation” and “spoke about the situation in the region in detail and discussed future activities.”
- Meanwhile, Acting Kosovo President and Speaker of Parliament Vjosa Osmani met with President of the European Parliament David Sassoli, EU Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Olivier Varhelyi, and MEPs from the EU-Kosovo Friendship Group before having dinner with Special Representative Lajcak. The talks with the European officials centered around Kosovo’s upcoming elections, the regional situation, and the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue.
- And Lajcak spoke with German Ambassador to the U.S. Emily Haber about EU-U.S. cooperation in the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue. Lajcak underscored the so-called Washington Agreement “pushed Kosovo and Serbia further away from a European future as they did not meet European standards.” You can watch the webinar of their conversation here.
BULGARIA – N. MACEDONIA: Bulgarian media is reporting that Sofia is preparing a 12 point annex for N. Macedonia to sign in order to unblock the opening of EU accession talks according to Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Krasimir Karakachanov. Meanwhile, former U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria James Pardew has called on Bulgaria to stop “shoving” N. Macedonia around in an interview with Deutsche Welle.
REPRESENTATION IN NATO?: Speaking of N. Macedonia and international bodies, N. Macedonia remains without a representative at NATO HQ in Brussels ten months after it joined the alliance. Colonel Zoran Sekulovski, Skopje’s nomination, has not received clearance yet, a process which begins in the home country and is taken over by the alliance.
FORMER HIGH REP CALLS FOR SCHMIDT TO TAKE OVER POST: Former High Representative Christian Schwarz-Schilling endorsed German Christian Schmidt to replace Valentin Inzko as High Representative.
- He said, “It will certainly have the support of Merkel and the German government, but also other countries. He is a new face and it is very important that the current High Representative Valentin Inzko is cooperative. Inzko is aware that he could not do much because he did not have the support of the international community. In the case of the new High Representative, that could change.”
- When asked about the incoming Biden Administration, Schwarz-Schilling said, “I do not see any problem in Biden supporting a new beginning for BiH, but that is just my opinion.”
BiH – MONTENEGRO RELATIONS: Tensions are simmering between the two neighbors after Montenegrin PM Zdravko Krivokapic in his personal capacity congratulated President of the Republika Srpska (RS) entity Zeljka Cvijanovic on RS Day (January 9) despite Bosnia’s Constitutional Court ruling the celebration on this date illegal.
- PM Krivokapic congratulated her in his personal capacity, but it has drawn a strong reaction from Bosniak Member of the Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic and Bosnian Croat Member of the Presidency Zeljko Komsic.
- Bosnian Presidency Chairman and Serb Member Milorad Dodik called independence a “historic goal” of RS at the commemoration.
- Montenegrin Deputy PM Dritan Abazovic noted he did not understand the need to create hostilities and said he thought the government should not officially congratulate RS Day, but highlighted there also exists a Day of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
VUCIC WARNS KOSOVO: Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on the TV show Cirilica covered an array of topics with the TV show including:
- He warned Kosovo against joining international organizations. He said, “They are clueless. They do not read the agreements they sign.“ He added that according to the Washington agreement, Kosovo has no right to apply to international organizations..
- And added, “If they apply to any organization, they are in for a big surprise and they know that when I tell them so – that I am telling the truth. Then let them clutch their heads.”
- He thinks Europe Albanians are against compromise. “All of them desire Serbia’s defeat. All of them want this in one way or another – especially Albanians. I have nothing to hold against Lajcak or the European Union. All of them want the defeat and humiliation of Serbia,” said the Serbian president.
KOSOVO FM SAYS SERBIA BROKE WASHINGTON AGREEMENT: Kosovo FM Meliza Haradinaj-Stublla alleges that Serbia has broken the economic normalization Serbia signed when FM Nikola Selakovic urged the Qatari Ambassador to the Serbia to have his government not lobby for Kosovo. Read the Kosovo Foreign Ministry’s full statement here.
BiH DOMESTIC POLITICS: “The House of Representatives of the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina rejected an initiative of MPs from the opposition parties to dismiss the current convocation of the Council of Ministers, which they discussed at today’s session of the House.
“During the parliamentary debate on this proposal, numerous objections were made to the work of the Council of Ministers, but the MPs also pointed out the things that make them believe that the current convocation should continue to perform its duties.” (Sarajevo Times)
SUPPORT FOR SERBIA’S ALBANIANS: Outgoing Kosovo PM Avdullah Hoti announced Kosovo would provide assistance to ethnic Albanians living in three municipalities in southeastern Serbia. Hoti said, “Work will also start on the preservation of cultural heritage in February and we will send textbooks for Albanian students in the Presevo valley in September.”
NO MIGRANT CAMPS IN RS: Bosnian Serb Milorad Dodik told EU High Representative Josep Borrell that Bosnian Serb dominated entity Republika Srpska would not build a migrant camp in the entity. Bosnia and Herzegovina is facing a migrant crisis this winter has been urged by the international community to come up with a solution.
SEE INCREASES RUSSIAN GAS PIPELINE: According to Russian state-owned news outlet TASS, “Gazprom increased utilization of the TurkStream gas pipeline since its commissioning 2.2-fold, particularly for European consumers – 2.5-fold, Chief Executive Officer of the Russian gas producer Aleksei Miller told reporters on Friday.
‘Today marks one year since the grand ceremony of opening of the TurkStream offshore gas pipeline. It safely transports the Russian gas via the Black Sea for consumers in Turkey and as many as six European states: Bulgaria, Greece, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Gazprom has increased utilization of the gas pipeline since commissioning 2.2-fold, particularly for European consumers – 2.5-fold,’ he said.
In 2020, Turkey, Greece and North Macedonia increased gas purchases from Gazprom, CEO added.”
IN OTHER NEWS
OP-ED: “How Biden can make a big difference in the Western Balkans” by Engjellushe Morina and Vessela Tcherneva in the European Council on Foreign Relations
OP-ED: “New year, same old sexism” by Adea Kondirolli
ANALYSIS: “From Mandela to Maradona: The Rise of the Balkan Celebrity Obit” by Samir Kajosevic in Balkan Insight
HUMAN INTEREST: “Shaped by Kosovo’s war, Vjosa Osmani won’t blink in her battle to cut out the rot” by Louise Callaghan in The Times
CULTURE: “Legal marijuana: Is Skopje set to become a Balkan Amsterdam?” by Milana Nikolova in Emerging Europe
ENTERTAINMENT: “Bosnian director Jasmila Žbanić: ‘A film is more than a film. It is life’” by Rachel Cooke in The Guardian
TRAVEL: “USA Today: Croatia 11th most desirable travel destination in 2021” in Croatia Week