WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

  • US President Donald Trump’s Special Envoy to the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue Richard Grenell visited Kosovo leaders on Wednesday including President Hashim Thaci, outgoing Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, election winner Albin Kurti
  • According to Bloomberg, Trump gave Grenell a full mandate to get a deal done as quickly as possible.
  • Kurti tweeted, “Today I met with USA Amb. to Germany Mr. Richard A. Grenell & US Amb to Kosovo Philip S. Kosnett. I thanked Mr. Gernell for continued US support to Kosova in war & peace time. Regarding dialogue between Kosova & Serbia I said that the content is more important than deadlines.”
  • Thaci tweeted, “I met Amb Richard Grenell today. Spoke about the successes of Kosovo’s fledgling democracy & the need to now move fast forward & close chapters of conflict in Balkans, by reaching a peace agreement. Thankful to USA & his personal engagement as envoy of President Donald Trump.”
  • Meanwhile, Kurti could cause some drama with his pro-Albanian stances and calls for a confederation. He said on Wednesday: “I can’t say that the national unification happens in the EU. We join Danes, Austrians and Spaniards there. It is here that our union must happen. I would use a statement by Arbën Xhaferi: ‘The Albanian historical advocacy for unification.’”
  • He posted a photo of a meeting with Norwegian Special Representative to the Western Balkans Arne Sannes Bjornstad and Ambassador Jens Erik Grondahl. What would be the issue? There was an Albanian flag, but no Kosovo flag nor symbols. 
  • Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic condemned the photo of Kurti with Norwegian officials because of the Albanian flag in the room: “Self-Determination (Vetvendosje) leader Albin Kurti is known as an advocate of a so-called Greater Albania. Anyone who meets with the man aspiring to become the prime minister of so-called Kosovo with the flag of Albania is legalizing the idea of a Greater Albania, that is the annexation of Kosovo to Albania.”
  • According to Serbia’s presidential press service, Serbian leader Aleksandar Vucic will meet with Grenell at 2PM CET. 
  • Johns Hopkins SAIS Professor Edward Joseph spoke with RFE/RL on greater US involvement. On greater US involvement, he thinks that it is “positive and disconcerting” because the US the Balkans being on the forefront is positive, but appointing Grenell as an envoy a month after Matthew Palmer was appointed as a special envoy is “unusual” and can be “quite confusing.” He also added that the EU should appoint an envoy since the US cannot do it alone.
  • Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Sarec will be on a working visit to N. Macedonia today. He will meet Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, Speaker of Parliament Talat Xhaferi, and Slovenian police working with colleagues on the border. 
  • European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos signs agreements with N. Macedonia and Albania on counterterrorism cooperation.
  • Montenegrin Speaker of Parliament Ivan Brajovic welcomed a group of Georgian MPs led by Speaker of Parliament Archil Talakvadze who said that Montenegro can be an example for the region. Georgia is also inaugurating a an honorary consulate in Bar.
  • Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic on Kosovo’s Interpol aspirations: “Serbia’s delegation that I will head in Chile will do everything to protect the professionalism and integrity of Interpol, the respect of the resolution saying that only UN member and non-member observer states can join Interpol, but also the respect of the UN Security Council Resolution 1244.” The Interpol General Assembly meets next week in Chile. 
  • Former Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor says that relationships between states have to be proven everyday and that the relationship between Croatian and Bosnian leaders is non-existent. 
  • “The Serbian ruling coalition and some opposition parties began talks mediated by two former MEPs in the Serbian parliament on Wednesday. The talks are being mediated by former European Parliament members Eduard Kukan and Knut Fleckenstein under rules which prevent any of the participants from talking to the media before some concrete solution is reached. The talks opened in the building which once housed the Serbian parliament before the breakup of Yugoslavia. ” (N1)
  • “The Deputy Parliament Speaker and Member of Parliament Frosina Remenski was behind the scams committed by the President of the International Union, Bojan Jovanovski-Boki 13 with the NGO that was presented as a humanitarian organization. Remenski along with Jovanovski attended the meetings organized by Boki 13 with the companies from whom he was extorting money to give the impression that the executive branch was behind the proposed projects for the alleged construction of a Center for the Elderly.” (Nezavisen)
  • EULEX gave a presentation in Pristina to representatives of the Kosovo Ministry of Justice, US Embassy, and EU Office on the results of monitoring judiciary proceedings. They concluded that the judiciary has made progress, but it is still slow in high profile cases. 
  • Croatia signs deals with Austria’s Strabag and Greece’s Avax to construct the access roads to the Peljesac Bridge. The deals are are worth around $70 million and $76.5 million respectively. 
  • Protesters in southern Kosovo clashed with police over the decision to resume construction on a hydroelectric plant that locals fear will contaminate their water supply.
  • The Croatian Army follows a Zagreb fire department in participating in the “Tetris Challenge” that was started in Switzerland. They put the content of their vehicles out and lay on the ground while an aerial photo is taken. Scroll down to the Photo of the Day to see how the Croatian Army did!
  • MIGRANTS: Austrian Interior Minister Wolfgang Peschorn says Vienna will extend border checks with Slovenia and Hungary. They have been in place since September 2015. 
  • “The World Bank has raised its projections for growth of the Croatian economy this year to 2.9%. This is up by 0.4% from the bank’s June forecast. According to the World Bank’s latest report, the biggest driver of economic growth this year should continue to be consumer spending, which reflects continued growth in wages and employment, as well as citizens’ borrowing.” (Voice of Croatia)

BEYOND THE POLITICS

  • SPORT: Serbian soccer team Red Star Belgrade was barred from entering Kosovo to play a Serbian Cup match against FK Trepca. The Kosovo Soccer Federation says it has the sole authority to administer matches in Kosovo.
  • US President Donald Trump’s Special Envoy to the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue Richard Grenell visited Kosovo leaders on Wednesday including President Hashim Thaci, outgoing Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, election winner Albin Kurti
  • According to Bloomberg, Trump gave Grenell a full mandate to get a deal done as quickly as possible.
  • But likely prime minister Albin Kurti said that contents matter and process for sustainability are more important than deadlines.
  • Kurti could cause some drama with his pro-Albanian stances and calls for a confederation. He said on Wednesday: “I can’t say that the national unification happens in the EU. We join Danes, Austrians and Spaniards there. It is here that our union must happen. I would use a statement by Arbën Xhaferi: ‘The Albanian historical advocacy for unification.’”
  • Meanwhile, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic condemned a photo of Kurti with Norwegian officials because of an Albanian flag in the room. Dacic said:  “Self-Determination (Vetvendosje) leader Albin Kurti is known as an advocate of a so-called Greater Albania. Anyone who meets with the man aspiring to become the prime minister of so-called Kosovo with the flag of Albania is legalizing the idea of a Greater Albania, that is the annexation of Kosovo to Albania.”
  • According to Serbia’s presidential press service, Serbian leader Aleksandar Vucic will meet with Grenell at 2PM CET. 
  • Johns Hopkins SAIS Professor Edward Joseph spoke with RFE/RL on greater US involvement. On greater US involvement, he thinks that it is “positive and disconcerting” because the US the Balkans being on the forefront is positive, but appointing Grenell as an envoy a month after Matthew Palmer was appointed as a special envoy is “unusual” and can be “quite confusing.” He also added that the EU should appoint an envoy since the US cannot do it alone.
  • Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Sarec will be on a working visit to N. Macedonia today. He will meet Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, Speaker of Parliament Talat Xhaferi, and Slovenian police working with colleagues on the border. 
  • European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos signs agreements with N. Macedonia and Albania on counterterrorism cooperation.
  • Montenegrin Speaker of Parliament Ivan Brajovic welcomed a group of Georgian MPs led by Speaker of Parliament Archil Talakvadze who said that Montenegro can be an example for the region. Georgia is also inaugurating a an honorary consulate in Bar.
  • Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic on Kosovo’s Interpol aspirations: “Serbia’s delegation that I will head in Chile will do everything to protect the professionalism and integrity of Interpol, the respect of the resolution saying that only UN member and non-member observer states can join Interpol, but also the respect of the UN Security Council Resolution 1244.” The Interpol General Assembly meets next week in Chile. 
  • Former Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor says that relationships between states have to be proven everyday and that the relationship between Croatian and Bosnian leaders is non-existent. 
  • “The Serbian ruling coalition and some opposition parties began talks mediated by two former MEPs in the Serbian parliament on Wednesday. The talks are being mediated by former European Parliament members Eduard Kukan and Knut Fleckenstein under rules which prevent any of the participants from talking to the media before some concrete solution is reached. The talks opened in the building which once housed the Serbian parliament before the breakup of Yugoslavia. ” (N1)


  • “The Deputy Parliament Speaker and Member of Parliament Frosina Remenski was behind the scams committed by the President of the International Union, Bojan Jovanovski-Boki 13 with the NGO that was presented as a humanitarian organization. Remenski along with Jovanovski attended the meetings organized by Boki 13 with the companies from whom he was extorting money to give the impression that the executive branch was behind the proposed projects for the alleged construction of a Center for the Elderly.” (Nezavisen)
  • EULEX gave a presentation in Pristina to representatives of the Kosovo Ministry of Justice, US Embassy, and EU Office on the results of monitoring judiciary proceedings. They concluded that the judiciary has made progress, but it is still slow in high profile cases. 
  • Croatia signs deals with Austria’s Strabag and Greece’s Avax to construct the access roads to the Peljesac Bridge. The deals are are worth around $70 million and $76.5 million respectively. 
  • Protesters in southern Kosovo clashed with police over the decision to resume construction on a hydroelectric plant that locals fear will contaminate their water supply.
  • The Croatian Army follows a Zagreb fire department in participating in the “Tetris Challenge” that was started in Switzerland. They put the content of their vehicles out and lay on the ground while an aerial photo is taken. Scroll down to the Photo of the Day to see how the Croatian Army did!
  • MIGRANTS: Austrian Interior Minister Wolfgang Peschorn says Vienna will extend border checks with Slovenia and Hungary. They have been in place since September 2015. 
  • “The World Bank has raised its projections for growth of the Croatian economy this year to 2.9%. This is up by 0.4% from the bank’s June forecast. According to the World Bank’s latest report, the biggest driver of economic growth this year should continue to be consumer spending, which reflects continued growth in wages and employment, as well as citizens’ borrowing.” (Voice of Croatia)

BEYOND THE POLITICS

  • SPORT: Serbian soccer team Red Star Belgrade was barred from entering Kosovo to play a Serbian Cup match against FK Trepca. The Kosovo Soccer Federation says it has the sole authority to administer matches in Kosovo.