WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY
  • Kosovo’s Vetvendosje (VV) and Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) have struck a deal to create a government headed by future PM Albin Kurti (VV).
  • The EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrellvisited Kosovo and Serbia on Thursday and Friday with the message that the EU and U.S. are working together on restarting the dialogue and resolving outstanding issues. He said, “There is no difference between the United States and the European Union in our approach to Kosovo…I think everybody understands that without an agreement of the UN Security Council, Kosovo will not be a state recognized by the international community. It depends not only on the will of Washington.”
  • Kosovo’s PM designate Albin Kurti tweeted, “Fruitful discussion today with EU High Representative Josep Borrell on his first visit to Kosova. I affirmed that EU-facilitated dialogue must be reviewed and renewed. EU is a force for good and remains indispensable for the future of the region,” after meeting Borrell.
  • Co-chair of the US-Europe Alliance Reuf Bajrovic spoke to N1 about the importance of Bosnians to get out and vote in the primary elections ahead of tomorrow’s primary in Iowa and noters it could be Bosnians that tip the balance of who wins Iowa. He said, There are some twenty thousands of people who came to Iowa from Bosnia and Herzegovina. We can say they make a crucial demographic group in the Democratic Party primaries…This is the first time that Bosnian community is directly involved in the primaries and this is why we have three polling stations in Des Moines and two in Waterloo, which are the places with a significant population originating from Bosnia and Herzegovina,” while giving a push towards former US VP Joseph Biden.
  • “The EU Court of Justice has decided that a lawsuit Slovenia has brought against Croatia over its refusal to implement the 2017 border arbitration award is inadmissible, but it said Friday that both countries had to endeavour to resolve the dispute in accordance with international law. Slovenia sees this as a vindication of its policy.” (Slovenia Times)
  • Slovenian President Borut Pahor notes, “The border issue with Croatia has been settled, but our neighbour and friend is not yet ready to honour its commitments.”
  • Meanwhile, Croatian President-elect Zoran Milanovic says that Slovenia and Croatia are natural allies and should work together closely moving forward. He said, “Now, when these proceedings (initiated by Slovenia) are over, I can see only good relations and even better relations with Slovenia, because it is closest to us politically.”
  • The chief of staff to Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic confirmed parliamentary and local elections will take place on April 26.
  • Iranian media claims that General Qasem Soleiman’s Quds force was saw “it’s first real battlefield” in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the Bosnian War.
  • FM of N. Macedonia Nikola Dimitrov met with Minister of State for Europe at the German Federal Foreign Office Michael Roth to discuss N. Macedonia’s EU accession process.
  • Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia-Herzegovina Bisera Turkovic met with representatives of Bosnian national and religious communities representatives in Berlin, the Bosnian Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated in a press release. The meeting was an opportunity to exchange opinions and experiences related to the life and work of Bosnian citizens in the German capital.” (Sarajevo Times)
  • Minister Turkovic attended meetings in Berlin on small arms control and a working lunch with her German and French counterparts.
  • “Germany supports Montenegro in adopting Schengen standards and strengthening border security, and strengthening border security is the most concrete contribution to strengthening Europe, it was noted at today’s meeting of Minister of the Interior Mevludin Nuhodžić and Federal Minister of the Interior, Building and Community Horst Seehofer in Berlin. ‘The Montenegrin police cooperate intensively with the German police in the fight against all forms of serious and organised crime, and in particular the smuggling of narcotics. We are jointly looking at the security challenges in Europe, and the conclusion of the Security Cooperation Agreement between Montenegro and the Federal Republic of Germany, which is being harmonised, is an indication of our joint efforts to further strengthen our friendly and partnership relations,’ Minister Nuhodžić said.” (Government of Montenegro)
  • Sarajevo Times interviewed Austrian Ambassador Ulrike Hartmann on her six years living in Bosnia and the importance of the Bosnian diaspora in Austria.
  • Montenegrin police arrested the mother and cousin of opposition leader Milan Knezevic (Democratic Front).
  • The Croatian port city of Rijeka was in celebration mode on Saturday to kick off its role as a 2020 European Capital of Culture.
  • NATO on Friday confirmed on its website that N. Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina are participating in the Membership Action Plan (MAP).
  • The U.S. has jailed a former Kosovo consulate driver to nine years in prison for arms trafficking and money laundering. The driver was buying and selling anti-tank rocket launchers in Kosovo. The U.S. has also jailed a Bosnian man to seven years for shipping weapons to Swedish neo-Nazi groups.
  • Croatia’s LGBT community has rallied around  Ivo Segota and Mladen Kozic who are appealing a decision that barred the couple from becoming foster parents.
  • VIDEO: “A range of anti-government protests took place in Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, on February 1. A gathering of the Alliance for Serbia opposition coalition — which supports anti-government marches held in Belgrade every Saturday — announced a boycott of the upcoming general elections. Another weekly march — the 61st in a row — then took off to the headquarters of Serbia’s public broadcaster, RTS, accused by the demonstrators of pro-government bias. Earlier in the day, a separate rally outside the headquarters of the N1 station, a CNN affiliate in the Western Balkans, protested against the channel’s unavailability on cable televisions distributed by a Serbian state-owned company.” (RFE/RL)
  • Meanwhile, B92 of Serbia claims that nearly 200,000 people turned out in Podgorica, Montenegro to protest the new religious law.
  • “European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) rejected the request to ban Montenegro from implementing its Law on Religion Freedoms until the Constitutional Court rules on the law’s constitutionality or until a deal with the Serbian Orthodox Church is concluded, the Government of Montenegro said on Sunday.” (N1)
  • Kosovo and N. Macedonia opened a new border on Friday.
  • The number of Bosnian citizens applying for German work permits is up a whopping 22%.
  • ENERGY: The EU has earmarked 76m EUR to Kosovo for a thermal power plant aimed to reduce air pollution.
  • CRIME: Croatian police stopped a Slovenian man carrying 481kg of marijuana.
IN OTHER NEWS…
  • SPORT: N. Macedonia mourns the sudden death of basketball star Blagoja GeorgievskiBushtur who died in a car crash late Wednesday night. He played the majority of his career in Skopje and with the Yugoslav national team in the 1970s. He was 69 years old.
  • SPORT: The football federations of Albania and Kosovo have submitted a request to FIFA and UEFA to create the Mother Theresa Cup. Club teams from both federations would compete.
  • HUMAN INTEREST: “Denver police to award Bosnia-born officer who escaped Srebrenica Genocide” in N1: “Melis Ibisevic, a 29-year-old Deputy Sheriff who escaped the Srebrenica genocide and arrived in the US as a refugee with his mother and sister, will next month receive a Sheriff Commendation Award for trying to save a man’s life, the Denver-based Westword media publication.”
  • HUMAN INTEREST: “‘Desperate to succeed’: How Iowa’s Luka Garza became one of college basketball’s top stars” by Mark Emmert in the Des Moines Register: “Luka Garza pushed himself so hard last summer that no one can push him around this winter. A trip to Bosnia wasn’t about admiring the Alps and visiting family. It involved renting out a gym, working out three times each day, getting into a defensive stance with a brick in each hand and sliding back and forth through the lane until he sometimes vomited.”