WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

LAJCAK ON LANDSWAP: EU Special Representative to the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue Miroslav Lajčák yesterday told French newspaper Le Monde that a land swap would be “extremely dangerous.” He added that “both Serbia and Kosovo know that normalisation is a precondition, but the EU has promised integration if the criteria are met and the necessary reforms implemented.” In addition, he commented on the upcoming Kosovo elections and China’s influence in the region.

SCHWARZ-SCHILLING ON SCHMIDT, BONN POWERS: Former High Representative to Bosnia and Herzegovina Christian Schwarz-Schilling yesterday said that Christian Schmidt would utilize the Bonn Powers if he were to replace Valentin Inzko as High Representative.

  • Schwarz-Schilling said, “He was in BiH on several occasions, by the order of the Chancellor. He was also involved in some negotiations immediately after my term as High Representative in BiH. I can say that just like me, he has feelings for BiH and the people there. We don’t want to impose anything to anyone, but to help BiH, which needs help.”
  • According to N1, he noted, “He will certainly use the Bonn powers, but in amending the laws if they are bad. [He will use them] in terms of lifting the blockade. If one tries to legally regulate the situation with the Srebrenica genocide, so that it is not glorified, so that war criminals are not glorified, so that verdicts are not debated, such situations require the use of the Bonn powers.”

VUCIC ATTENDS NEMANJA STATUE UNVEILING: Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić attended the unveiling of a monument to Stefan Nemanja. He addressed the crowd about Serbia’s resurgence. He said, “In the previous eight years, we tried to raise Serbia from the ashes.” He added, “Prior to him, we were a tribe. This is not just an act of revealing to the father and creator of the state, this is a kind of act of taking care of ourselves and our identity. To stand here in front of the great Stefan Nemanja means a kind of repentance for all the years of oblivion.” The event took place on Saint Sava Day, the first Archbishop of the autocephalous Serbian Church.

SLOVENIA’S LARGE EUROBOND: “Slovenia successfully placed a new 60-year Eurobond issue worth €500mn with a coupon rate of 0.6875% on January 27, the finance ministry said.”The new Eurobond will have the longest tenor of any listed in the Central, Southeast and Eastern Europe region, though Poland and Slovenia have issued 50-year Eurobonds in the past.

“A day earlier BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs Bank Europe SE and HSBC were engaged to organise the issuance of the new Eurobond” (bne IntelliNews)

KOSOVO-N. MACEDONIA JOINT SESSION POSTPONED: The joint meeting of the governments of Kosovo and N. Macedonia has been postponed until after Kosovo’s parliamentary elections on February 14 according to Spokesman of the Government of N. Macedonia Muhamet Hoxha.

CALLS IN CROATIA TO BAN USTAŠA SYMBOL: The Croatian Antifascist League and 20 civil society organizations urged the government to pass a law banning the Ustaša symbol and prosecuting those who use it. They also called for the Ministry of Veterans Affairs to halt financing to organizations that attempt to whitewash war crimes. The letter was sent to coincide with Holocaust Remembrance Day.

CROATIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER ON USTAŠA: Speaker of Croatian Parliament Gordan Jandroković condemned the Ustaša regime during World War II, but maintained there should be recognition of its use during the wars in the 1990s. He said, “Those who associate those insignia used in the Homeland War with the Independent State of Croatia are wrong and we should penalize that. One should distinguish between the glorification of the Independent State of Croatia and the insignia of a unit that participated in the Homeland War. Commemorations for young people who died defending this country and who wore those insignia during the war are not about the glorification of the Second World War, but about paying respect to their sacrifice.” He acknowledged it was is a sensitive issue and hoped for consensus.

DODIK – WEST AGAINST SERBIA, RS: Chairman and Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik believes Serbia and Republika Srpska (RS) in Bosnia says it “will take a lot of unity” to fight against the perception from the West that are backed by political elites. He also believes people are trying to create a rift between RS and Serbia.

NEW ELECTIONS IN SREBRENICA, DOBOJ: Bosnia’s Central Election Commission rejected all eleven appeals on the decision to annul elections in the Srebrenica and Doboj municipalities.

NEW SLOVENIAN PARTY?: “A new political movement called Povežimo Slovenijo (Unite Slovenia) has emerged. The initiative is wants to bring together a number of smaller, non-parliamentary parties, groups, local initiatives and individuals of various values and political stances to form a joint slate for the next general elections.

“The movement’s programme and its cooperation strategy is based on Slovenia’s constitution and has been modelled on such projects abroad, most notably in Austria and Switzerland where big-tent pre-election coalitions are frequent.

“The initiator and coordinator of the movement is vice president of the Greens Nada Pavšer, who believes that the emerging list could get at least 20% in the next election.” (Slovenia Times)

IN OTHER NEWS

REPORT: “No longer voting for the devil you know? Why the Balkans’ collective action problem might be easier to break than we think” by Tena Prelec and Jovana Marović for the Balkan in Europe Policy Advisory GroupOP-ED: “Why is Germany rushing a new Bosnia high representative?” by Kurt Bassuener and Toby Vogel in EU Observer

ANALYSIS: “Eastern Europe wakes up with Trump hangover” by Christian Gherasim in EU Observer

ANALYSIS: “Just how much influence does Russia have in Bosnia and Herzegovina?” by Nikola Djordjević in Emerging Europe

VIDEO: “Across The Balkans: Has Bosnia’s Dayton Agreement failed? | Belgrade’s Communist Architecture” in TRT World: “On our first episode Semir Sejfovic goes to Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina to investigate whether the Dayton Agreement, which ended the Bosnian war 25 years ago, has really brought peace. Plus we interview former Prime Minister and Bosniak president Haris Silajdzic, who argues for an end to the country’s ethnic-based political system. And Andrew Hopkins explores Tito’s legacy in Serbia through Belgrade’s communist-era architecture. Across The Balkans is TRT World’s new programme, hosted by Nafisa Latic, that explores the issues and fault lines shaping Southeast Europe today. ”

WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT: “‘You are not alone’: Balkan women seize #MeToo moment” in AFP

CLIMATE: “Lake of garbage: Every winter pollution is swept from overflowing landfills into Balkan waterways” in CBS News: “Trucks and building machines are parked on a river dam in southwest Serbia, but not for construction work. Instead, huge cranes are being used to clear tons of garbage crammed at the foot of the power plant. Serbia and other Balkan nations are overwhelmed by communal waste after decades of neglect and a lack of efficient waste-management policies in the countries aspiring to join the European Union. Burning rubbish dumps can be seen from the roads, plastic bags are hanging from trees and islands of waste are floating down the region’s rivers. The problem usually comes into focus in winter, when swollen waters sweep over landfills, pushing the garbage toward hydropower dams.”

HUMAN INTEREST: “Croatian Journalist Revives Grandfather’s Memoirs of Nazi Captivity” by Anja Vladisavljević in Balkan Insight