WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

HAPPY INAUGURATION DAY! Today, President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States and VP-elect Kamala Harris will be sworn in as the first woman as vice president. 

BLINKEN ON KOSOVO-SERBIA: Biden’s nomination for Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, was quizzed by Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) on moving Kosovo and Serbia forward as a part of Blinken’s confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Committee Foreign on Foreign Relations.

  • Secretary of State nominee Blinken said, “You mentioned the work on Kosovo and Serbia, I applaud that as well. The President-elect, as you know, spent a lot of time on those countries in the past, and I think he shares your convictions that there are things we can do to help move Kosovo forward, and also move Serbia forward. And certainly getting our NATO allies to invest more is a good thing. I think that’s shared across administrations and across parties.” (timestamp 52:40)

MOSTAR ELECTIONS CONFIRMED: Bosnia’s Central Electoral Commission (CIK) published the results of the December 20 local elections, the first of its kind in over a decade. Yesterday, EU Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi called for the CIK to “conclude their work swiftly so that results can be certified.” See the full results of the election HERE.

WELCOME TO NATO, MR. AMBASSADOR: Ambassador and Permanent Representative of N. Macedonia to NATO Dane Taleski presented his credentials to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Taleski becomes the first Ambassador of N. Macedonia to NATO after the country joined the bloc in March 2020.

MOTION OF NO CONFIDENCE IN SLOVENIA WITHDRAWN: Leader of the Democratic Party of Pensioners (DeSUS) Karl Erjavec has withdrawn the motion of no confidence against PM Janez Jansa in Slovenian Parliament until all MPs can vote in person. MP Matjaz Han has contracted Covid-19 and two others are waiting for test results. Erjavec has collected 42 signatures, but needs 46 for the motion of no confidence to pass in the 90 seat parliament.

RE-VOTE IN MONTENEGRIN PARLIAMENT: Today, Montenegro’s Parliament convenes to vote on amendments to multiple laws including the controversial Law on Religious Freedom. President Milo Djukanovic rejected the amendments which passed in parliament on December 29. Djukanovic cited the voting process in parliament and terminating the mandate of MP Filip Andzic and confirming the mandate of Suada Zoronjic as reasons for the veto.

MEPs WRITE TO VARHELYI OVER CHINESE ENVIR. CONCERNS IN SERBIA: Twenty-six Members of European Parliament (MEP) wrote to EU Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi over environmental concerns with Chinese investments in Serbia. The letter highlighted investments in Smederevo, Bor, Kostolac, and Zrenjanin including a steel mill, copper mine and smeltery, coal power plant, and tire plant. It underscored the tire plant in Zrenjanin has been designated as a “Project of National Interest” like many other Chinese investments in Serbia.

SPEAKING OF WRITING TO MEPs…: Serbian opposition leaders Zoran Lutovac (Democratic Party), Pavle Grbovic (Free Citizens Movement), and Dragan Djilas (Freedom and Justice Party) wrote to MEPs David McAllister, Vladimir Bilcik, Tanja Fajon, Klemen Groselj and Viola von Cramon urging the start of the inter-party dialogue to start as soon as possible and insisting it be consulted on the format and topics of the dialogue. It also expressed concern over the ” lack of political will among the ruling parties for accepting solutions that would successfully resolve the political crisis.”

VUCIC RESPONDS TO HARADINAJ: A day after Kosovo politician Ramush Haradinaj said if there is no progress on Euro-Atlantic integration, it may look to create a union with neighboring Albania, Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic responded, “The response to that should not be a threat. You do what you want and we will have a good and adequate response. The public should not be worried…We will know how to react to that. I am not threatening anyone but the creation of a Greater Albania is a threat to Serbia, the region and Europe and to the world.” He added he expects a response from Brussels or Washington.

BOSNIA SANCTIONED OVER GAS & ELECTRICITY SECTOR: “The European Union’s energy watchdog has extended sanctions against Bosnia for another two years over the Balkan country’s failure to comply with the body’s gas and electricity sector regulations. Bosnia has been sanctioned for much of the period since 2015 due to its persistent failure to amend legislation in accordance with the Second Energy Package in the gas sector, the Sulphur in Fuels Directive, and the Third Energy Package in both electricity and gas.” (Reuters)

CROATIA TO FUND HOUSING FOR EARTHQUAKE VICTIMS: The Government of Croatia announced it will fund the costs of building new housing or provide alternatives to families affected by the 6.4 magnitude earthquake that struck Sisak-Moslavina County on December 29th.

SERBIA TO VACCINATE KOSOVO SERBS, POSSIBLY ALBANIANS: Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic announced a program to vaccinate Kosovo Serbs and potentially Albanians. He said, “Some people from Kosovsko Pomoravlje will be vaccinated in Bujanovac and Vranje. We will see where we will vaccinate people from Sirinicka Zupa, Strpce, Metohija, Gracanica, and the surrounding places…We will take care of our people in Kosovo. Of course, we will do so without endangering anyone and always ready to help the Albanians and none of that will be influenced by ethnicity. Just as Kosovo is an independent state for them, Kosovo is part of the Republic of Serbia for us.”

IN OTHER NEWS

OP-ED: “Talk of ‘Theocracy’ in Montenegro Merely Reveals Elite Ignorance” by Filip Ivanovic in Balkan InsightOP-ED: “The Ethno-Territorial Separation of Bosnia Was the Key to Ending the War and Keeping Peace” by Robert Hayden in The National Interest

ANALYSIS: “EU members in Balkans block their non-EU neighbors” by Hamza Karcic in Anadolu Agency

ANALYSIS: “Connectivity For A Higher Quality Of Life” in Cord Magazine

ANALYSIS: “HGK: Will Biden administration solve double taxation issue?” in N1