WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

  • US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Montenegro and N. Macedonia on Friday as a part of his European trip. He warned leaders in both countries to be aware of malign influence including “Russian bots” and “Chinese bribes.” Read his full remarks at a press conference with Prime Minister of N. Macedonia Zoran Zaev here and with Prime Minister of Montenegro Dusko Markovic here.
  • Breaking Defense reports that the US and Montenegro are in the process of finalizing a $36 million sale of Joint Light Tactical Vehicles 
  • US President Donald Trump selects US Ambassador to Germany Mike Grenell as a special envoy for the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue only a month after Matthew Palmer was appointed as the US Special Envoy for the Western Balkans. Grenell will continue his role as ambassador. The State Department said that Grenell and Palmer are going to work closely together.
  • Kosovo President Hashim Thaci reportedly spoke to Grenell on Friday, a day after the appointment.
  • In response, Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik urged Serbia to ask Russia and China to send special envoys to the region.
  • KOSOVO ELECTIONS: Opposition party Vetvendosje, led by Albin Kurtiis edging out out the center-right Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) in Sunday’s snap parliamentary elections by garnering 26% of the votes to LDK’s 25%. LDK’s leader, Vjosa Osmani, refused to bow out of the race on Sunday. The Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), led by Kadri Veseli, came in third with 22% of the vote. It is the first time in twelve years that PDK was not a part of the ruling government. Meanwhile, Serbian-backed party, Srpska Lista, swept the ten seats reserved in parliament for Kosovo Serbs. Track the results here.
  • Politico Influence reached out to the organization where former Acting Attorney Genera Matt Whitaker works at for comment on his trip to Kosovo to speak at a rally ahead of the elections which told Politico that he travelled in his personal capacity and wasn’t paid for the event.
  • The same can’t be said for former aide on US President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign Sam Nunberg. He was paid $110,000 to work on communications for third-place Kadri Veseli’s PDK. He registered under the Foreign Agent Registration Act. 
  • “Leaders of the EU’s main institutions on Thursday put pressure on member states to start accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania ‘no later’ than this month.
  • In a letter, the current and future presidents of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker and Ursula von der Leyen, as well as European Council President Donald Tusk and European Parliament President David Sassoli said the two Balkan nations have done ‘what we asked them to do.’ They wrote that the EU faces a ‘strategic choice. Whether the EU decides now to open accession talks … is a test of the Union’s ability to deliver on its promises and look to the future.'” (Politico)
  • “EUFOR maintains a military footprint in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which can be rapidly expanded in both size and strength to address any challenge towards the safe and secure environment, Major General Reinhard Trischak, the European Union Force (EUFOR) commander in Bosnia said marking the beginning of a military exercise in the Camp Butmir near Sarajevo on Sunday.” (N1)
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit Serbia this week. He will attend the groundbreaking of the Belgrade – Sarajevo highway. Six factories that were a part of a Turkish investment project will be opened during Erdogan’s visit.
  • Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic asked French President Emmanuel Macron to resume the search for Croatian ship captain Dino Miskic ten days after the ship disappeared.
  • Croatian Chairman of the Foreign Policy Committee Miro Kovac said that a Belgian model of government could break a deadlock in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and ensure rights for Croats.
  • US Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina Eric Nelson reiterated US disappointment in the deadlock that has left BiH without a government since October 2018. He also mentioned that the US pays close attention to Russian and Chinese influence in the region.
  • Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic met with visiting Swedish Minister for European Union Affairs Hans Dahlgren in Zagreb on Friday, discussing bilateral relations and the priorities of the forthcoming Croatian presidency of the European Union, a government press release said.” (N1)
  • Montenegrin Prime Minister Dusko Markovic welcomed a group of Slovenian MPs led by Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Policy Matjaz Nemec who told Markovic that Slovenia supports Montenegro’s EU accession bid.
  • Austrian Federal Minister for Europe, Integration, and Foreign Affairs Alexander Schallenberg is on an official visit to Skopje today where he will meet Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov, President Stevo Pendarovski, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, and Deputy Prime Minister Bujar Osmani.
  • Croatian teachers have pledged to go on strike this week unless they receive a 6% wage increase. Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic responded with “We offered (union leaders) a 2% hike which we can afford now.. I cannot make any further promises before we have a budget plan for 2020 in place. My government sticks to the policy of spending no more than what the revenues allow.”
  • Montenegro’s much anticipated Citizenship by Investment program has officially launched. Only 2,000 investors will be granted citizenship. Fees start at over $250,000.
  • Meanwhile, cannabis producers in N. Macedonia will have to pay 10% of profits to the state. 
  • MIGRANTS: Police discovered 43 migrants in a van in N. Macedonia

BEYOND THE POLITICS

  • TRAVEL: Jet2 will launch a seasonal Manchester – Tivat route.