WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

OSMANI ON COOPERATION W/ THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION: Acting Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani outlined the expectations on cooperation with the Biden-Harris Administration and Pristina’s commitments under the Trump-Pence Administration.

  • She highlighted, “We need to sit and talk with US President Biden’s team, to see what they think about those issues which were reached as pledges, not as an agreement. There are questions over issues such as the Ujmani (Gazivoda) Lake and other political issues about which we need to see what the Biden administration’s position is.”
  • She added, “I am not prejudging because I am not one of those who think that new administration will just throw this agreement in the bin.”
  • On the Association of Serb Municipalities, Osmani sees the U.S. as a key ally. She said, “Kosovo as an independent and functional state is not only a project of the Kosovo people, but also an American project, and I am convinced that it is in this administration’s interest to keep Kosovo functional.
  • She concluded, “With the agreement signed in 2015, Kosovo does not remain functional. So, what we will do is to try and convince them that [the agreement] is harmful for our joint project, and that anything that happens has to be in full accordance with the Kosovo constitution.”

VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE IN SLOVENIA: Potential PM-designate Karl Erjavec (DeSUS) announced he is going ahead with a motion of no confidence on January 15. In the secret ballot, Erjavec expects at least 46 votes.

BORRELL WEIGHS IN ON BiH MIGRANT CRISIS: EU High Representative Josep Borrell penned a blog post, Bosnia and Herzegovina: the migrant crisis is far from over, highlighting the EU’s continued efforts to support BiH with the migrant crisis and a way forward to work through Bosnia’s complex the political system. He concluded with the EU currently discussing a new Pact on Migration and Asylum that would ease pressure from countries like Bosnia to house migrants and asylum seekers for years.

DODIK RELEASED FROM HOSPITAL: Bosnian Chairman of the Presidency Milorad Dodik was released from the hospital after contracting Covid-19. In his first appearance with the media yesterday, Dodik spoke about the now returned golden gilded icon he gifted Russian FM Sergey Lavrov and High Representative to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

  •  On the icon, Dodik said, “You invented it from FBiH and created a false story. Ukraine has never raised the issue of the disappearance of that icon. It is a family icon. Even today, the government bodies have not asked for that icon.”
  • And added, “The icon is here, Mr. Lavrov thought it should be returned. I will now call the people who gave me that icon and return it publicly. There is nothing incriminating here, but you are making up lies to cover up the moves of Komsic and Dzaferovic.”
  • Meanwhile, he claims Republika Srpska (RS) doesn’t support the High Rep. He said, “Th RS is against the High Representative, regardless of who he is and what his name is. We don’t need that, we will be against it.”
  • He added, “I listened to Izetbegovic talk about how Biden would come and settle something, make the cantons disappear. I think that before that happens, Bosnia and Herzegovina will disappear and RS will remain and will be a state which has the right to exist.”
  • “That is the will of the people who live here, and you cannot deny the existence of the republic with ignorance from Sarajevo. BiH will fall apart sooner than the RS will be abolished,” concluded the Bosnian Serb.
  1. MACEDONIA + BULGARIA: N. Macedonia’s FM Bujar Osmani yesterday announced he will initiate a meeting with Bulgarian counterpart Ekaterina Zaharieva signaling Skopje is ready to sit down to continue discussions on unblocking its path to EU accession.

    N. MACEDONIA AMBASSADORS: Osmani also told journalists that parliament is working on legislation to appoint only citizens of N. Macedonia without dual citizenship as ambassadors. This includes 75% of ambassadors required to be career diplomats. Additionally, Osmani hoped the Foreign Affairs Committee would review the second batch of proposed ambassadors including to the United States.

    VUCIC WIRETAPPING SCANDAL: Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin claim that the president was wiretapped for over a year. Yesterday, Vucic said, “I will keep those recordings and I not give it to you (the media), because I will not destroy my country.” He added that it would be up to the relevant authorities to investigate the scandal.

    SARAJEVO – THREE GOV’TS IN TWO YEARS: “Sarajevo Canton got its third government in the last two years today, and its prime minister will again be Edin Forto from Nasa stranka (NS). That is what the new majority in the Canton Sarajevo Assembly decided. 23 people voted for the appointment of the government, 6 abstained and 6 voted against.

Apart from Naša stranka, the new majority consists of Narod i pravda (NiP), the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and independent representatives (Četvorka).” (Sarajevo Times)

BOSNIA + ISIS: Bosnian citizen Emir Alisic pled guilty yesterday to joining the terrorist organization ISIS. The prosecution recommended a two-and-a-half year sentence which Alisic accepted.

SPEAKING OF BOSNIAN COURTS: The BiH State Court upheld its its indictment against members of the Ravna Gora Chetnik Movement for “inciting national, racial and religious hatred, discord and intolerance” in Visegrad in March 2019, N1 reports.

FERIZAJ GAS TANK EXPLOSION: A gas tank exploded in a cafe in Ferizaj, a city about 25 miles south of Kosovo’s capital. Forty-four people were injured and eight are in grave condition and two suffered life threatening injuries.

IN OTHER NEWS

OP-ED: “Flawed Cybersecurity Is a Ticking Time Bomb for the Balkans” by Bojan Stojovski in Foreign Policy

ANALYSIS: “North Macedonian Fugitive PM’s Pious Project Ends in Bankruptcy” by Sinsia Jakov Marusic in Balkan Insight

ANALYSIS: “Caritas: Humanitarian disaster for migrants along Balkan route” in Info Migrants

HUMAN INTEREST: “Serbian army unites Muslims, Orthodox soldiers” by Talha Ozturk and Aleksandar Nicifirovic in Anadolu Agency

TECHNOLOGY: “Grow Croatia Initiative: Google Wants to Pull Croatia Out of Crisis” by Lauren Simmonds in Total Croatia News

ENVIRONMENT: “Islands of floating waste clog rivers in Balkans” by Eldar Emric in AP News

CULTURE: “Is your home too small?” in Emerging Europe: “Is your home too small? If you live in Montenegro or Serbia, there’s a strong chance that the answer is yes. Almost two thirds of Montenegrins live in overcrowded homes, according to new figures from Eurostat, the European Commission’s statistical department.”

TRAVEL: “Not Discouraged by Earthquake, Osijek Luxury Construction Continues” by Lauren Simmonds in Total Croatia News