WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

U.S. (DFC) + SERBIA: “On January 21, Minister of Finance Sinisa Mali and U.S. Ambassador to Serbia Anthony F. Godfrey signed a new Investment Incentive Agreement (IIA) enabling the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), America’s development bank, to deploy its full range of financial products in Serbia.

“‘DFC is pleased to have the IIA between Serbia and the United States in place, solidifying the U.S. commitment to expand the financial tools available for the development of Serbia’s economy, especially its private sector’ said Ambassador Godfrey. ‘We see great potential for DFC to help mobilize investments that create jobs and support development for the people of Serbia,’ added John Jovanovic, DFC’s Deputy Vice President and Managing Director for the Western Balkans and Aegean.” (U.S. Embassy in Serbia)

KOSOVO CEC DOESN’T CERTIFY THREE PARTIES: Kosovo’s Central Election Commission (CEC) did not certify three political parties (Vetëvendosje, Alliance for the Future of Kosovo – AAK, and the Social Democratic Initiative – NISMA) for the February 14 parliamentary elections for including names of candidates who have been found guilty of a criminal charge in the past three years. Vetëvendosje’s leader, Albin Kurti, was found guilty of using tear gas in Kosovo’s Parliament three years ago, but his party argues that since he was handed a suspended sentence, he should be able to run for on the electoral list.

CONTROVERSY IN BOSNIA:

  • Bosnian Chairman and Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik took aim against Central Electoral Commission official Vanja Bjelica-Prutina. He accused her of voting to annul the elections in two municipalities in Republika Srpska (Srebrenica and Dubo) based off her previous marriage to a Bosniak. He doubled down on the accusation simply because she did not change her last name following a divorce.
  • Dodik was condemned in a joint statement by by the OSCE Mission to BiH, the Office of the High Representative, the Embassies of the US and UK, and the Embassy of Sweden. It said, “Hateful and personal attacks against a member of an independent institution are unacceptable and deserve to be further scrutinized by relevant institutions in BiH as soon as possible.”
  • Meanwhile, leader of the country’s largest Bosniak party (SDA) Bakir Izetbegovic slammed Dodik’s supporters. He said, “And when they say ‘there are no bad people, there are only bad leaders’ – I’m not so sure about that. He is appealing to a large number of people who support a raw Balkan policy…voters who are supporting him because they want his rude behavior.”
  • Dodik responded by calling for an apology from Izetbegovic. Dodik said, “I urge him to clearly say that he did not mean it that way and that the Serb people are just as good as all other peoples. If you apologize, maybe the Serbs will forgive you because, in the end, we have shown that we are such a people.”
  • He added, “With this statement, Izetbegovic did not only humiliate Serbs but argued that he despises the Balkan mentality which people live here. As far as I know, Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs are from the Balkans and we all have that mentality. I know that he would like to keep foreigners here forever so that in that way he can avoid us taking over the management of BiH.”

MILANOVIC SNUBS COMMEMORATION: Croatian President Zoran Milanovic decided not to attend a commemoration of the 1993 Maslenica military operation over Serb forces because of the presence of Croatian paramilitary units with Ustasha symbols.

DJUKANOVIC SLAMS SOC: Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic slammed the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC) for inciting Serb nationalism. “Allegedly, Serbs in the region are endangered, so they need the protection of Serbia. That state actually endangers the sovereignty of its neighbors. This time, the Serbian Orthodox Church was brutally introduced to the political field in Montenegro. It is well-known it (the SOC) is the worst instrument of Greater Serbia nationalism, instigator, and advocate of the most monstrous genocide in modern Europe,” said Djukanovic at the beginning of the extraordinary Congress of the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS).

DPS ELECTIONS: Speaking of the DPS Congress, Djukanovic will remain as president of the party. See the list of vice presidents and other party officials here.

SLOVENIA, CROATIA EEZ: “Slovenian Foreign Minister Anze Logar said during a visit to Zagreb on Friday that his country had concerns about the plans by Croatia and Italy to declare their respective exclusive economic zones in the Adriatic and that they should be addressed through trilateral dialogue.

“The Croatian parliament is set to declare an exclusive economic zone on 29 January, which would enter into force on 1 February. Fearing that Slovenia might be left without access to high seas, some Slovenian politicians are criticising the government for not opposing the plan until Zagreb agrees to the arbitration ruling on the border between the two countries.” (N1)

OSMANI, DIMITROV IN BRUSSELS: FM of N. Macedonia Bujar Osmani and Deputy PM for European Affairs Nikola Dimitrov are in Brussels today to meet with Portuguese FM Augusto Santos Silva and other European government officials.

CENSUS 2021: The Parliament of N. Macedonia passed the bill on Population Census and Household with 62 lawmakers of 120 voting in favor of the bill. The law calls for the first census in nearly 20 years to be conducted between April 1-21 this year. There are fears that Macedonians may boycott the census after the opposition VMRO-DPMNE called for it to be. Meanwhile, there is speculation that ethnic Albanians won’t accept the results if the Albanian population is below 20%.

VESELI FLIGHT RISK FROM KSC?: The Kosovo Specialist Chambers rejected the request of Kadri Veseli, a former Kosovo Liberation Army leader and former leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo, to be released from custody. The court says releasing Veseli could be a risk to flee or to “obstruct the proceedings of the Specialized Chambers or commit further crimes against them is perceived as contrary to the KLA, including witnesses.”

BELGRADE METRO ON THE WAY: Two French companies and a Chinese company have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Serbian government to build a metro system in Belgrade. The metro is expected to cost $5.35 billion and will consist of two metro lines.

IN OTHER NEWS

OP-ED: “Under Biden, Balkans to Remain Flashpoint in US-Russia Relations” by David L. Phillips in Balkan Insight

OP-ED: “US Push for Decentralisation May not Solve Bosnia’s Problems” by Petr Cermak in Balkan Insight

OP-ED: “US targets Putin’s pipelines from Baltic Sea to Balkans” by Diane Francis in Atlantic Council

OP-ED: “February 14 elections and Kosovo’s never-ending problems” by Idlir Lika in Anadolu Agency

ANALYSIS: “Montenegro’s President Flexes Muscles with New Government” by Samir Kajosevic in Balkan Insight

ANALYSIS: “Turkey, Serbia, Bosnia and Hungary Put Trust in Russian, Chinese Vaccines” in Balkan Insight

ANALYSIS: “The trial in the murder of Oliver Ivanovic” by Milan Radonjic in KosSev

ANALYSIS: “20 Years On, Armed Conflict’s Legacy Endures in North Macedonia” by Sinisa Jakov Marusic in Balkan Insight

ANALYSIS: “Bosnia and Herzegovina: Migrants Left in the Cold” in Human Rights Watch

ANALYSIS: “OUTLOOK 2021 Slovenia” in BNE Intellinews

ANALYSIS: “Superstition and resentment surround vaccination plans” by Valentina Dimitrievska, Eldar Dizdarevic, and Clare Nuttall in BNE Intellienws

SPORT: “Ski Jumping: Slovenian Women Win Team Event” in Total Slovenia News