WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

  • Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic spoke in passing to U.S. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien at Davos. Vucic told reporters that “the door has been opened to talk to our American friends in a different way.”
  • US Ambassador to Germany and Presidential Special Envoy to the Pristina-Belgrade Dialogue Robert Grenell will be in Pristina today and Belgrade on Friday.
  • Grenell kicked off his trip on Wednesday night with a working dinner with Kosovo President Hashim Thaci. He is focused on economic development of the region, not local politics or elections, according to Koha.
  • Head of the Kosovo Civil Aviation Authority Eset Berisha revealed details of the process for the letter of intent to restart direct flights between Belgrade and Pristina. Berisha noted it was fully negotiated in Germany and Kosovo IDs will be acceptable documents to travel. BIRN reports that Berisha was “dismissive” when asked about the flight becoming operational only once the 100% tariffs are revoked.
  • High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell will visit Belgrade and Pristina at some point next week, according to multiple media reports.
  • Meanwhile, the Head of the EU Office in Kosovo, Nataliya Apostolova, has called on Kosovo to form a government after meeting with Democratic League of Kosovo’s (LDK) leader Isa Mustafa who met with the U.S. and U.K. ambassadors yesterday.
  • The EU Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina Johann Sattler is striving for Bosnia and Herzegovina to continue to reform. He said, “It is possible for Bosnia and Herzegovina to move forward, we must not give up. Your leaders need to pull up their sleeves, start engaging on reforms and achieve much stronger buy-in from civil society, as with rule of law and environment.”
  • Sattler indicated three reforms for the first six months of 2020 – 1. changing the work of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council. 2. electoral legislation with a focus on Mostar local elections. 3. making Bosnia more attractive to potential investors.
  • The Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) has sent the controversial election threshold bill to parliament which would reduce the threshold from 5% to 3%. MEP and Chair of the EP Delegation to Serbia Tanja Fajon and MEP and EP rapporteur for Serbia Vladimir Bilcik are looking into the proposal that could cause a boycott of the elections by the opposition if they don’t agree with the legislation.
  • Bosniak Member of the Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic questioned whether the name Republika Srpska is in line with the Bosnian Constitution and if it is discriminatory. He said, “The name Republika Srpska is, for all of those who are not Serbs (…), discriminatory in itself. How can you argue that one part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, one entity in which everyone must be equal regardless of their ethnicity or religion, can be that when its name only contains the name of one of the peoples living there?”
  • Speaker of the House of Peoples of the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia-Herzegovina Dragan Covic met with Pope Francis and the Secretary of State of the Holy See Cardinal Peter Parolin. Pope Francis expressed support for Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  • Pope Francis named Bosnia’s current military chaplain Tomo Cuksic as Bosnia Archdiocese’ coadjutor bishop, said the Holy See’s office on Wednesday, making this the most significant change in the hierarchy of the Archdiocese and the Catholic Church in the country, in the past two centuries.” (N1)
  • Slovenian PM Marjan Sarec pushed for EU enlargement while addressing the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. He noted, “At the end of the day, continuing enlargement is the only option we have if we want a stable and strong Europe. Only such an EU will be able to play an important and responsible role in a globalized and changing world. The region’s EU membership must be our final goal, and the steps towards the goal need to be sped up rather than slowed down while membership conditions are being met”
  • Director of Bosnian Border Police Zoran Galic calls for greater support as he cites Frontex, IOM, and Europol data about another possible migrant wave in the spring. He said, “It is necessary to purchase new specialist equipment that can meet the contemporary challenges of illegal migration and provide border protection.”
  • A planned protest of the religious law scheduled for today in Cetinje, Montenegro has been cancelled after locals voiced their grievances against the protest and vowed to block it.
  • Eight members of the People’s Eye in Kosovo were sentenced to a combined 40 years in prison after being found guilty of attempted murder of Azem Vllasi, the former Communist leader of Kosovo. The group made a list that targeted people who were “betraying Albanian national interest.” Notably, Murat Jashari was sentenced to 10 years for shooting Vllasi. HIs lawyers aimed to have their client treated in Switzerland for psychiatric issues, but the court ruled it must be completed in Kosovo.
  • Slovenia’s Chinese-owned company Gorenje plans to slash 176 jobs by the middle of April. There are currently around 4,200 employees in Slovenia.
  • ENERGY: Serbian Energy Minister Aleksandar Antic said energy companies are investing in projects to the sum of 500 million EUR for environmental protection.
IN OTHER NEWS…
  • SPORT: Major League Soccer side Sporting Kansas City signed 20 year old defender Petar Cucic and 19 year old forward Dominik Resetar on loan from Dinamo Zagreb II. Both players have represented the Croatian National Team at the youth level.
  • ENTERTAINMENT: Macedonian violinist Victor Angelov travelled to Michigan from her native N. Macedonia to try out for America’s Got Talent.