WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY
  • The Embassies of France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States (QUINT) in Kosovo released a joint statement reaffirming that they do not support any political party or politician over another and, “We will not engage in mediation. We encourage all political actors in Kosovo to focus on the aspirations of the people of Kosovo.” The Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) and Vetvendosje (VV) agreed to ask the QUINT Embassies to mediate the talks to form a government after failing to reach an agreement on Monday.
  • Slovenian PM Marjan Sarec has resigned and called for early parliamentary elections. At a press conference, he noted, “There is nothing I can do with this government. Therefore, it is fair to hold an early election.”
  • Speakers of the parliaments of Western Balkan nations gathered in Brussels for a Western Balkans Summit hosted by European Parliament President David Sassoli who noted, “Today’s summit reaffirmed our strong conviction that the Western Balkans and the European Union share a common destiny. We firmly believe that enlargement will benefit the people of the region and EU member states and that it can bring about much-needed reconciliation in the neighbourhood. Now, we need to make sure that this political will translates into action.”
  • Croatian Speaker of Parliament Gordan Jandrokovic addressed the representatives at the summit. An eight point joint declaration released after the meeting reaffirms the common future of the Western Balkans in the European Union and noted the importance of the Zagreb Summit in May 2020 which “could play a pivotal role in restoring the credibility of enlargement policy.”
  • A Croatian military helicopter crashed near Sibenik leaving one dead and the fate of others onboard unknown.
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel sees the Western Balkans in the European Union and expects talks to open with Albania and N. Macedonia in March. She said, “Anyone who looks at the map, who knows the geopolitical context, knows that it is good for everyone if the countries of the Western Balkans also become member states of the European Union one day.”
  • “Kosovo and Serbia have made progress in working out the details of a deal on restoring railway traffic between their capitals, according to the special U.S. envoy to the Balkan nations, a week after the former war foes reached an agreement to resume commercial flights. ‘We made good progress this morning on issuing a Letter of Intent on railway cooperation,’ Richard Grenell said after a meeting between the Serbian and Kosovar delegations on January 27. (RFE/RL)
  • Kosovo President Hashim Thaci and Serbian Director for the Office of Kosovo Marko Djuric traded barbs over remembrance of the Holocaust and wars in the Balkans in the 90s.
  • Thaci wrote on Facebook, “Kosovo today joins the memory of the victims of the Holocaust, a genocidal and monstrous crime… But the idea and efforts to kill people and ethnicities were continued by the Serbian regime in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo. The massacre and ethnic cleansing seemed like those in World War II. And, unfortunately, Serbia still continues to deny the crimes that caused the Balkan Holocaust in this part of Europe”
  • Djuric responded, “Thaci has demonstrated a lack of civilization and taste by introducing the term Balkan Holocaust, comparing Serbs to Nazis and Albanians to Jews and admitting that he and his political allies do not care for the victims and their families.Instead of desecrating the memories of Jewish victims in WW2 you should face your own war-time criminal past and explain how evidence is being systematically destroyed and witnesses of Kosovo Liberation Army crimes killed in the territory where he is president.”
  • Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic called a late night meeting over issues in the region, according to N1.
  • Croatian PM Andrej Plenkovic dismissed Health Minister Milan Kujundzic after refusing to prove where his wealth originated. Kujundzic refused to step down amid the controversy.
  • Bosniak political leader Bakir Izetbegovic says Bosnian Serbs “will mature” with regards to NATO membership.
  • Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik wrapped up his trip to N. Macedonia. In his meeting with President Stevo Pendarovski, the two discussed the need to strengthen cooperation between the two countries.
  • Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina Denis Zvizdic and Speaker of the House of Peoples Dragan Covic spoke on Monday in Brussels with the European Union Enlargement and Neighborhood Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi about the current political situation, positive relations and the steps Bosnia-Herzegovina is taking on its European Union way. Speakers Zvizdic and Covic expressed their complete commitment for Bosnia-Herzegovina to further advance the process of European integration, economic development, strengthen the rule of law and improve relations in the region, with particular focus on the realization of the conditions for obtaining candidate status.” (Sarajevo Times)
  • The Serbian Orthodox Church Montenegro Littoral Bishopric appealed for peace in Montenegro and blamed the recent violence on the state authorities. ‘We can only talk and build a future for ourselves the state of Montenegro in peace. We are concerned by the hatred coming from individuals but recognize in it the irresponsible behavior of the people who should be the most responsible in Montenegro,’ a statement said.” (N1)
  • Meanwhile, Serbian FM Ivica Dacic indicated Serbia will stand up for the rights of Montenegrin Serbs. He said, “Serbia stands by the interests and rights of our people living in Montenegro. We are fighting only for the rights of the Serb people who account for 29 percent of the population. The problems in Montenegro were not provoked from Serbia, on the contrary they are being calmed by the balanced reaction from the authorities in Belgrade.”
  • Local officials from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro gathered to discuss cross-border agriculture projects which would be co-financed by the EU.

 

  • A photo allegedly taken in Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, shows Serbian school children celebrating Saint Sava Day in Chetnik outfits. The principal of the school notes the photo was not taken at the school’s official Saint Sava celebration. Nevertheless, the parents of the Bosniak students who attend the school announced a protest scheduled for today.
  • “North Macedonia’s government on Monday said it was imposing urgent measures in the country’s capital, Skopje, and the western city of Tetovo in order to protect people from severely high levels of air pollution…The government has recommended companies allow pregnant women and persons over the age of 60 to not work, for construction companies to reduce outdoor work and for sport and other outdoor activities to be banned on days of high pollution.The government said it would reduce the use of its official vehicles by half, and ordered the health and welfare ministries to provide shelter for homeless people and to increase emergency services and home visits to people with chronic illnesses.” (AP News)
  • Sarajevo Canton will create an air quality management center in response to the worsening pollution in the Bosnian capital throughout winter.
  • ENERGY: The cities of Bor and Uzice (Serbia) refuse to allow the construction of small hydropower plants.

 

  • CRIME: A woman from Kosovo has been charged for joining ISIS and faces up to 10 years in prison. Bosnian police seized an amazing 400kg (880 lbs) of marijuana only three months after a 300kg (660lbs) of marijuana only a few months ago. Kosovo police arrested a man for allegedly killing a Roma man after the Kosovo War.

 

  • MIGRANTS: Croatian border police have begun using thermal imaging to monitor the border.

 

  • MIGRANTS: “A Hungarian security officer fired three warning shots early on Tuesday after about 60 migrants tried to force their way through a checkpoint on the border with Serbia, and Serbian police said later they had arrested 37 people for trying to cross the frontier illegally.” (Reuters)
IN OTHER NEWS…
  • CULTURE: “Bus ingredients: Craftsmanship, technology and a really big building” by Dave Millhouser in Bus and Motorcoach News: “Recently Van Hool invited me to visit their plants in Belgium and North Macedonia. I’ve long wanted to do an article on bus building, both in general and from the viewpoint of one manufacturer—the unique processes employed to serve their customers and how those processes have evolved.”