WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

  • Serbian and Kosovo Serb media outlets report that the United States was angered by Kosovo’s lobbying tactics. In an unconfirmed and undated e-mail, Director of European Affairs on the National Security Council William Berkeley wrote to Kosovo Prime Minister Advisor Erold Belegu:
  • “We at the White House are in disbelief that the Prime Minister hired Matthew Oresman and his Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP to lobby for your government, circumventing official channels of communication. Using these firms is likely to have a negative effect and leave less opportunity for us to achieve our common goals. Furthermore, if the Prime Minister uses public funds to pay lobbyists, then this could have legal consequences for both parties, which could lead to investigations.
  • We strongly encourage Prime Minister to use his unquestionable authority and political influence to immediately abolish tariffs and to re-focus on internal consultations before reaching a final agreement with Serbia, which will be to the benefit of both parties. We will not hold further talks with Prime Minister here in Washington until these goals are achieved.”
  • Meanwhile, Serbia ended its lobbying agreement with Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP earlier this month “in connection with a dispute with the Kosovo and Metohija region.” 
  • Bloomberg writes that it has seen a draft of the document that EU will likely give the green light to being EU accession talks with Albania and N. Macedonia. It will be voted on in the EU minister’s meeting on October 15th.
  • Bulgarian Prime Minsiter Boyko Borissov said he supports Skopje’s ambitions to join the EU after consultative meeting with President Rumen Radev, Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva, and Defense Minister Krasimir Karakachanov: “To block North Macedonia on the road to the EU, it will be recorded in the history that all 27 EU member states supported them, and only Bulgaria blocked them. We also want Albania along with North Macedonia to open EU accession talks. However, we have never said that we unconditionally support country’s EU accession. There are 71 negotiable instruments available in the chapters. They should not play with history and the past and to focus on the future.” 
  • But Karakchanov said Bulgaria couldn’t unconditionally support N. Macedonia’s accession: “We are absolutely unanimous that despite certain progress achieved by the Joint Multidisciplinary Commission of Experts on Historical Issues between the two countries, things are not satisfactory, and the reason for this is Skopje’s policy of delaying and buying time. We agreed that support cannot be unconditional.”
  • Meanwhile, Prime Minister of N. Macedonia Zoran Zaev believes there can be a quick solution to nay lingering issues that Bulgaria sees.
  • Meanwhile, SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras was in Skopje on Monday to attend a panel hosted by The Economist and meet with Prime Minister Zaev. The two urged the opening of EU accession talks for N. Macedonia. 
  • Outgoing Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj welcomed Finnish counterpart Pekka Haavisto to Pristina. Haradinaj welcomed the deep cooperation between the two nations. Haavisto urged Kosovo to return to dialogue with Serbia while noting “When it comes to visa liberalisation, we should have all the opinions of the EU member states. Finland also supports the EU enlargement process.”
  • Haavisto was also in Sarajevo where he met Bosnian Foreign Minister Igor Crnadak who wants to increase economic cooperation between the two states. Haavisto  said that Finland was ready to increase cooperation on “the environment, education, the rule of law.”
  • Speaking of rule of law in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the residence permits of four citizens were revoked at the request of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Ergodan, according to Klix.
  • Montenegrin Presidential Information Services relayed the following message after Patriarch Irinej’s expenctations that President Milo Djukanovic would withdraw recognition of Kosovo:“When it comes to expectations of the Patriarch related to Kosovo’s recognition, we do not comment on that. Montenegro is applying a sustainable foreign policy, based on national and state interests, based on the assessment of the great powers of Europe and the World, and contributes to stability in the region.”
  • Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Sarec will be in N. Macedonia on October 10th to meet counterpart Zoran Zaev and Speaker of Parliament Talat Xhaferi. 
  • KOSOVO ELECTIONS: Outgoing Speaker of Parliament Kadri Veseli and his party, the PDK, welcomes Sadik Halitjaha into the fold. Halitjaha is currently indicted for the fake war veterans list that handed out pensions. A Kosovo Serb opposition politician, Nenad Rasic, published a campaign video in Albanian slamming leading Kosovo Serb party, Srpska Lista.
  • Bosnian Prime Minister Denis Zvizdic blames the upcoming Croatian elections for the negativity between the two nations and noted, “I can clearly say from the position I held over the past four years that Croatia was a strong supporter of Bosnia’s European integration process and it facilitated many meetings for us. Together with us, they improved the EU integration process’ dynamics and this shows the true neighborly relation between our countries.”
  • Slovenia’s Adria Airways declared bankruptcy on Monday amid financial woes. All flights have been cancelled. 
  • After the Slovenian-Croatian commission failed to come to an agreement on builiding a joint radioactive waste storage facility in Vrbina near Krsko, Slovenia, Croatia will go ahead with plans to build one on the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosnia has continually protested the decision.
  • “The Slovenian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) and the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry signed a memorandum of understanding to facilitate cooperation, as a business forum was held at the GZS in Ljubljana on Monday.” (Slovenia Times)
  • “Dozens of journalists on Monday marched in Bosnia’s capital of Sarajevo after thugs forced a radio station to remove a story from its website. Protesters gathered outside the offices of soccer club Sarajevo and then walked through the city center, demanding better protection and tougher penalties for attacks on the press. Police detained two people over Friday’s incident when assailants who said they were soccer fans of the club threatened the staff of the radiosarajevo.ba news portal until they removed the news that a Sarajevo fan was convicted in Belarus of cocaine possession.” (AP News)
  • Meanwhile, in Serbia taxi drivers began daily protests phone apps like Uber and CarGo stating the government isn’t enforcing the law “against companies which are illegally offering taxi services through applications.”
  • “Croatia’s revenues from foreign tourists reached €2.72 billion in the first half of 2019, which was an increase of €127 million or 5 percent compared to the same period in 2018, the country’s Tourism Ministry said on Monday, citing sata compiled by the central bank.” (N1)

BEYOND THE POLITICS

  • HUMAN INTEREST: “Connected: Iowans in Kosovo” by Allison Wong in KCRG: “Our journey to Kosovo began late Sunday morning. We left Dubuque and drove to Des Moines for our roughly 10-hour flight. I think both Charlie and I were a little nervous about the travel because we were flying on a KC-135. Neither one of us had flown on a military plane, and in doing our research, we learned this ride was going to be cold. People warned us the floor would be freezing while the top of the plane would be warm. Packing plenty of layers was key!”