WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

  • US President Donald Trump’s Special Envoy to the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue Richard Grenell will visit Kosovo on Wednesday, followed by Serbia on Thursday
  • Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Eliot Engel (D-NY,16) wrote letters to the President of the E.U. Commission and the President of the E.U. Council, and 28 E.U. heads of state in support of visa liberalization for Kosovo. The letters were signed by Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Michael McCaul (R-TX,10).
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Members of the BiH PresidencyZeljko Komsic, Sefik Dzaferovic, and Milorad Dodik – were in Belgrade with Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic for the groundbreaking ceremony of the Belgrade-Sarajevo highway. Ankara has pledged over $3 billion to constructing the highways. 
  • Dzaferovic noted that Turkey is a stabilizing factor in the region, and that it is necessary to have a dialogue with Serbia and increase cooperation between Bosnian and Serbian institutions.
  • Dodik emphasized that all sides were looking to avoid any conflict and that he hoped to continue the trilateral discussions. He also reiterated the need for more infrastructure projects between the two.
  • Also in Belgrade, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusogl and Serbian counterpart Ivica Dacic inaugurated a plaque for Ahmet Galip Balkar, Ankara’s ambassador to Yugoslavia who was assassinated in Belgrade 36 years ago. 
  • The Netherlands discussed the opening of accession talks with N. Macedonia and Albania on Tuesday. The Dutch Parliament was more apprehensive about starting negotiations with Albania than N. Macedonia, but want to see Skopje adopt the SPO law.
  • President of N. Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski advocates for both countries to start EU accession talks: “Both countries should start negotiating and issues will begin to be solved fast as part of the negotiating process, because it’s an entirely different thing when you negotiate and you have to try to fulfill the obligations required of you to do.”
  • The Kosovo Central Election Commission released preliminary results that show Albin Kurti’s Vetvendosje still ahead of Vjosa Osmani’s Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK).
  • Kurti on tariff removal: “I really do not want the tariffs revoked but I would prefer a policy of full reciprocity. Serbia does not allow our license plates nor products whose declaration says Made in Kosova. That is absurd and as long as products with our labels are not allowed in Serbia we should not allow the sale of products from Serbia.”
  • But EU Spokeswoman Maja Kocijanicic reiterated that the EU’s stance hasn’t changed and the tariffs must be abolished. 
  • Also, Srpska Lista representative Dalibor Jevtic says that it is against the law and the Kosovo constitution to form a government without the Serb-elected majority, citing Article 96. Belgrade-backed Srpska Lista won all 10 seats reserved for Serbs in the Kosovo Parliament. 
  • Outgoing EU Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn met with prime minister of BiH’s Serb-dominated Republika Srpska, Zeljka Cvijanovic, where he noted that there are a lot of EU funds that are being withheld because BiH can’t form a government. He also noted that the judiciary needs to solve the David Dragicevic case and those that are similar. 
  • Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic took questions from the public which visited parliament on the 28th anniversary of the independence of  Croatia. He answered questions on emigration, energy strategy, education reform, and unlawful logging.
  • Meanwhile, Speaker of Parliament Gordon Jandrokovic welcomed visitors, as well, and noted that about 25,000 people visit parliament annually. 
  • “(Slovenian) Prime Minister Marjan Šarec is hosting on Wednesday Belgian caretaker Prime Minister Charles Michel, president-elect of the European Council. The pair will discuss current issues which will be on the EU Council agenda until the end of the year.” (STA)
  • Prime Minister Marjan Šarec and Finance Minister Andrej Bertoncelj presented the 2020 and 2021 draft budgets in parliament on Monday, noting that, despite the expected slowdown of economic growth, the budgets would see a surplus, and that more money would be available than earlier. Healthcare, science, economy and security are priorities.” (Slovenia Times)
  • Montenegrin Foreign Minister Srdjan Darmanovic continued his visit to Egypt on Tuesday where he met with Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Chairman of the Foregin Affairs Committee KarimDarwish, and VP of the Cairo Chamber of Commerce Mohamed el Masry
  • “On the second day of his official visit to Cairo, Foreign Minister Srdjan Darmanovic met with Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of Egyptian Parliament KarimDarwish, as well as a meeting with Vice President of the Cairo Chamber of Commerce, Mohamed El Masri.” (Vijesti)
  • Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic and Serbia’s Minister of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure Zorana Mihajlovic disagree on the legality of taxi drivers protesting ridesharing app CarGo. 
  • Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic was awarded the highest honor by the Serbian Orthodox Church. 
  • Nikola Gruevski, fugitive and former Prime Minister of N. Macedonia, will not be the honorary president of his political party, VMRO-DPMNE. 
  • Montenegro signed an agreement with EU border patrol, Frontex, and will receive trainings and conduct joint patrols in the EU hopeful.
  • “On Tuesday in Skopje, approximately 800 members of the Cultural Union for the Republic of Macedonia and their supporters took their demands for a new collective bargaining agreement directly to the government and the Ministry of Culture. Within 20 minutes of the protest beginning in front of the government building, union president Sanya Arsovska received a message from the office of Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, requesting a meeting on October 24.” (al-Jazeera)
  • Ikea will open its first store in Slovenia in 2020.
  • WORRYING: Only 34% of working age adults have jobs in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is ten percent lower than the Western Balkans. Kosovo has an even higher unemployment rate at 30%, according to the World Bank.

BEYOND THE POLITICS

  • ENTERTAINMENT: Actress Sarah Jessica Parker praised Macedonian film “Honeyland” on Instagram, but faced backlash after the original post included “Republic of Macedonia.”