WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

ALBANIAN ISSUES IN CONGRESS: Albanian-American leader Harry Bajraktari announced that Congressman Ritchie Torres (D, NY-15) will “follow the path of Eliot Engel” who spent 16 years representing New York and was the most recent Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Rep. Torres received a plaque from Kosovo’s FM Meliza Haradinaj-Stublla in August 2019. Torres’ district includes “Little Albania” on Arthur Ave in the Bronx near Fordham University.

WELCOME TO SERBIA!: The OSCE announced Norwegian Jan Braathu as Ambassador to Serbia. He previously served as the Head of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo (2016-2020) and Norway’s Ambassador to Kosovo and Albania (2011-2016) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (2006-2011). He has further experience in the Balkans dating back to 1998.

N. MACEDONIA- BULGARIA DISPUTE: N. Macedonia’s FM Bujar Osmani spoke yesterday with Bulgarian counterpart Ekaterina Zaharieva before meeting with the state leadership of N. Macedonia. Meanwhile, PM Zoran Zaev highlighted the time isn’t conducive to resolving a bilateral dispute since Bulgaria is heading to parliamentary elections at the end of March.

CROATIA TO REQUEST EU SOLIDARITY FUNDS: The Croatian PM Andrej Plenkovic announced it would request 100 million euro from the EU Solidarity Fund to help the affected region of the 6.4 magnitude earthquake that rocked Croatia. He said, “We will seek the reallocation of part of the funds from the existing Multiannual Financial Framework (2014 – 2020) which can be realized up until 2023. We will try for the reallocation of 100 million euros for the reconstruction of homes through the EU Solidarity Fund. We have a new natural disaster with new damage that requires new assessments. Therefore, we need to make a new request.”

CEC CONFIRMS MOSTAR ELECTIONS: Bosnia’s Central Election Commission confirmed the December 12 elections in Mostar, the first in over a decade. The 35 representatives will include: 13 from HDZ-BiH, 12 from the Coalition for Mostar led by the SDA, 6 from the BH Bloc, 3 from the Croat Republican Party, and 1 from a coalition of Serb parties.

BOSNIAN COURTS CONFIRM INDICTMENTS FOR COVID RELIEF: “BiH State Court confirmed the indictment against the Prime Minister of the country’s Federation (FBiH) entity, his deputy, the former head of the Civil Protection and a businessman, Monday, in connection with the procurement of 100 ventilators unfit for COVID-19 treatment from China last summer.” (N1)

DACIC ON INTER-PARTY DIALOGUE: Serbia’s Speaker of Parliament Ivica Dacic made it clear that an inter-party dialogue between the opposition and ruling parties would not replace elections. “I won’t allow any conditions or a mockery of democracy and parliament. This is a secondary job for us. Parliament has a lot of its regular duties,” said Dacic. Serbia’s opposition parties boycotted the June 2020 elections that led to President Vucic’s SNS to control 60% of seats in parliament. He formed a coalition with smaller parties, including Dacic’s Socialist Party of Serbia.

MIGRANT CRISIS IN BiH: For the third day in a row migrants in Bosnia and Herzegovina have not accepted food from the Red Cross of the Una-Sana Canton. The head of the Red Cross of the Una-Sana Canton said, “We are trying to help them and have been preparing food packages for them for days, but they have been rejecting them for three days because they are dissatisfied with the conditions, want better accommodation and a roof over their heads. I want to emphasize that the USC Red Cross does not provide a camp we only systematically prepare food.”

THE CRISIS TURNS VIOLENT: A 34-year old Bosnian national was stabbed in Bihac, Una-Sana Canton allegedly by migrants. The canton’s Interior Minister Ale Siljdedic said,Migrants who were found at the scene, three nationals of Morocco, two men and one woman, were summoned to the premises of the Police Station in Bihac. They are currently being questioned. We had to wait for an Arabic translator, and that part of the investigation is underway, that is, determining all the circumstances as to how the new incident occurred.”

KAZAKHSTAN + EAEU + SERBIA: Minister of Trade and Integration of Kazakhstan Bakhyt Sultanov discussed his country’s Chair of the Eurasian Economic Union, a free trade economic zone between countries of the former Soviet Union. After Kazakhstan’s Parliament ratified the Free Trade Agreement of the Eurasian Economic Union with Serbia, Sultanov said, “Now we will be able to supply cheese, alcoholic beverages and cigarettes to Serbia duty-free.” He added, “The potential for increasing Kazakhstan’s exports to this country is estimated at $250 million. These are products of the petrochemical, chemical, metallurgical, machine-building, food industries and building materials.”

SERB COMPANY TO CONTROL ELECTRICITY IN NORTH KOSOVO?: Drustvo Elektroserver, owned by Serbia’s state-run Elektroprivreda Srbije, has applied to supply power to four predominantly Serb municipalities in the north of Kosovo.

IN OTHER NEWS

OP-ED: “Germany’s Push for New High Representative to Bosnia is Worrying” by Jasmin Mujanovic in Balkan Insight

OP-ED: “Schmidt’s Arrival to Bosnia will turn German Politics towards Balkans” in The Sarajevo Times

ANALYSIS: “Divide and Rule: The Rise and Rise of a Bosniak Strongman in Serbia” by Hamdi Firat Buyuk in Balkan Insight

HUMAN INTEREST: “‘Diary of a Decani monk 1903-1906’ published – original records and documents from the monastery archives” in KosSev