WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY
LAJCAK ON DIALOGUE: The EU’s Special Envoy to the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue Miroslav Lajcak told media in Austria, “The most difficult part was to restart the dialogue at all.”
- The Slovak diplomat asserted that Brussels expects a “far-reaching decision” from Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.
- He added, We already have a text proposal on exiled and missing persons, as well as on economic cooperation. But here, too, the principle applies that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. We are currently discussing very complex topics, including financial claims and property rights.”
- He urged Kosovo to implement the Community of Serb Municipalities. “This is a very sensitive topic that was also addressed by the Kosovo Constitutional Court – that opinion must be taken into account. But I ask those who say that now is not the time for that – when, if not now? Well, you signed the agreement yourself,” said Lajcak.
LAJCAK ADDRESSES EU FMs: Lajcak yesterday addressed foreign ministers of the EU on the status of the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue. He tweeted, “Today’s discussion confirmed that the Dialogue is clearly linked to the European future of Kosovo and Serbia.” Croatian FM Gordan Grlic-Radman insists he will keep the Western Balkans on the agenda of European FMs and would request a comprehensive discussion on the region.
U.S. PULLS KPC EXPERTS: The U.S. Embassy in Kosovo announced it has pulled support and experts in its “monitoring and mentoring role to elect new Kosovo Prosecutorial Council (KPC) members and to select Chief Prosecutors.”
- The U.S. Embassy wrote in a press release, “Unfortunately, we believe these processes are now fundamentally broken. They lack transparency and are subject to increasing conflicts of interest. Since further Embassy involvement could be misinterpreted as an endorsement of this broken system, we will no longer participate. Prosecutors should be selected based on their qualifications, not political affiliation or connections.
- “Changes to the legal framework underpinning the KPC are needed to restore transparency and fairness to this system. Therefore, we call on all parties to support the Minister of Justice’s efforts to complete the Functional Review immediately.”
DJURIC TO WASHINGTON: The Government of Serbia relieved Marko Djuric of his duties as the Director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija and announced he will be the new Ambassador of Serbia to the United States. Watch his farewell message (in Serbian) HERE or read the text (in Serbian Cyrillic) HERE. Petar Petkovic will take over Djuric’s post.
OSMANI IN BULGARIA: FM of N. Macedonia Bujar Osmani yesterday met with Bulgarian PM Boyko Borrissov and counterpart Ekaterina Zaharieva. They discussed bilateral relations and N. Macedonia’s EU integration process ahead of the EU Western Balkans Summit in November in Sofia.
PRIDE IN PRISTINA: Kosovo capital, Pristina, held a Pride Parade in a unique way – to prevent the spread of Covid-19, protesters drove through the capital waiving LGBTQ+ flags.
SERBIA MILITARY EXERCISES: Nearly 2,800 members of the Serbian Air Force and Air Defense, Land Forces, the 72nd Brigade for Special Operations and the 63rd Paratrooper Brigade participated in military exercises at the Pester military ground. President Aleksandar Vucic noted the multi-ethnic nature of Serbia’s military. He said,”This is their army. It helped during the most difficult times of the pandemic and kept their houses safe. The Army of Serbia equally belongs to Bosniaks, Serbs and Hungarian.”
- Bosnia’s tripartite presidency was invited to the exercise but only Bosnian Serb Member Milorad Dodik attended. Bosnian Croat leader Dragan Covic attended the exercise. The Bosnian leaders met with Vucic at a “friend’s meeting” complete with wine.
- The meeting was condemned by Bosniak leader Bakir Izetbegovic.
KOMSIC ON HDZ BiH/EU: Bosnian Croat Member of the Presidency Zeljko Komsic spoke ahead of the tripartite presidency trip to Brussels about what the EU’s expectations are for Bosnia and Herzegovina.
- He said, “EU officials don’t care what the Croat Democratic Union in Bosnia (HDZ BiH) or anyone else wants, but what the European Commission’s opinion says. One of the priorities in this opinion is the implementation of verdicts of the Court of Human Rights. If you don’t implement them, you will see for yourself what the response will be. The implementation of these verdicts will change the whole concept of Bosnia’s organization, they will change its society. If we move in that direction, and we will have to at some point, we will thus become a society of free citizens. Here, the demands of the HDZ BiH and the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) collide with that opinion. That will be a big problem in Bosnia, at the moment when we reach the phase of when we’ll have to implement the EU’s priorities”
KOSOVO PASSES COVID BILL: “Kosovo Parliament has passed Monday an important law aimed at helping the country face COVID-19 pandemic consequences in economy. Kosovo MPs with 64 votes in favour voted in principle the Draft Law on Economic Recovery, and to enter into force the Law should undergo voting procedures for the second timed in the Parliament.
“This was the seventh time the Draft Law was sent to Parliament for voting. Opposition parties (Vetevendosje and PDK) at the beginning of today’s urgent session of Parliament stated that their MPs will vote against passing of the law. The Law enables taxpayers to withdraw ten percent of their pension savings from the Kosovo Pension Saving Trust which manages over two billion euro of around 690 thousand taxpayers.” (Gazeta Express)
SPEAKING OF COVID…: EU Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi is self-isolating after a member of his team contracted Covid-19. He recently returned from a trip to the Western Balkans.
PRINCE ALBERT II IN SARAJEVO: Prince Albert II of Monaco, Sarajevo Mayor Abdullah Skaka, and Chairman of Bosnia’s Olympic Committee Izet Radjo reopened the Sarajevo Olympic Museum 28 years after it was destroyed during the war. Sarajevo hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics.
GREEK FM IN KOSOVO: Greek FM Nikos Denidas and Deputy FM Kostas Fragogiannis will be on a visit visited Pristina on Friday. They will meet with Kosovo PM Avdullah Hoti, Parliament President Vjosa Osmani, and FM Meliza Hardinaj-Stublla. The talks focused on “European perspective of the Western Balkans, the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue and economic cooperation, with emphasis on energy.” The Greek diplomats will meet with Greek KFOR members as a part of the trip.
SERB PARTY BANNED IN BiH ELECTIONS: Ethnic Serb party in Bosnia and Herzegovina United Srpska has been banned by Bosnia’s Central Election Commission from participating in local elections on November 15 for posting a video judged to have included messaging to incite ethnic hatred.
SLOVENIA + CHINA: “The recently established Slovenian-Chinese business council at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) expressed concern in a public letter on Monday over the government’s alleged plans concerning Chinese company Huawei.
“According to unofficial information, the government could label Huawei a high-risk supplier in the coming weeks. A document obtained by the media shows that the initiative for this had come from the Public Administration Ministry and that the matter was still being discussed.” (Slovenia Times)
OP-ED: “The Western Balkans: A story of pretend Europeanisation” by Bojan Gjuzelov in Emerging Europe
OP-ED: “Haven Far From Home: The Bosniaks of Malaysia” by Hamza Karcic in Balkan Insight
ANALYSIS: “Will White House Follow Through On Serbia-Kosovo Deal If Trump Wins Second Term?” by Todd Prince in RFE/RL
ANALYSIS: “‘A Hero Returns’: How Freed War Criminals are Glorified in Kosovo” by Milica Radovanovic in BAlkan Insight
ANALYSIS: “Kosovo’s Fragile Govt Aims to Lure PDK into Broader Coalition” by Xhorxhina Bami in Balkan Insight
ANALYSIS: “How Radovan Karadzic Benefitted from Bosnian Serb Troops’ Mutiny” by Edin Omercic in Balkan Insight
ANALYSIS: “Serbian government first flaunts, then denies having sold weapons to both Armenia and Azerbaijan” in Global Voices
ANALYSIS: “Serbia cultivates both US and China in Balkans tug of war” by Valerie Hopkins in the Financial Times
HUMAN INTEREST: “Croatia Through the Eyes of a Digital Nomad: Your Daily Dose of Vitamin Sea” by Cyndie Burkhardt in Total Croatia News
CULTURE: “100 Leading Croatian Restaurants and Their Recipes Presented in Rijeka” by Slobodan Kadic in Total Croatia News
CULTURE: “Cultural halls like the Croatian Hall played a big part in Timmins history” by Bob McIntyre in My Timmins Now
CULTURE: “Hungry Berlin Learns to Love Taste of the Balkans” by Joshua Callanan in Balkan Insight
CULTURE: “125th anniversary of Croatian National Theatre grand opening commemorated with special stamp” in Croatia Week