WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

  • Special Presidential Envoy Richard Grenell met Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Thursday. According to the US Embassy in Belgrade, his message was: “The people of Serbia and Kosovo want peace, economic development, jobs, and a better life for their children.”
  • Chief of the NATO Liaison Office in Skopje Zoran Jankovic indicated that N. Macedonia should be a full-fledged member sooner rather than later. Twenty-two of twenty-seven current members have ratified accession protocol. Jankovic noted that since it’s the responsibility of governments, and not NATO or the Secretary General, to ratify protocol, some delays could occur like in Spain where general elections will take place on November 10. 
  • As for EU accession talks, Bulgaria gave Skopje a list of demands in order to have its support including claims to a Macedonian minority in Bulgaria, settle the dispute over national heroes, and remove “Bulgarian Fascist Occupator” on memorials. It also urges the EU to not allow the term “Macedonian language” and encourages “Official language of Republic of North Macedonia” to be used. The demands have drawn criticism from intellectuals and historians alike. 
  • Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Prime Minister of N. Macedonia Zoran Zaev, and Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama met in Novi Sad on Thursday and agreed to create a “mini-Schengen” area. It would include free movement of people, goods, capital, and services between the three states. 
  • But Vetvendosje leader Albin Kurti does not seem happy with Albania’s Rama. He said, “I want Albania to see Serbia through the eyes of Kosovo…I mention this because they said they would for a mini Balkan Schengen when in fact these three countries already have visa liberalization. The point is for Kosovo to achieve this, not the ones that have already created the mini Balkan Schengen. I do not in principle oppose regional initiatives, but Kosovo must be respected there. To get there, I will raise this issue at the first meeting I have with Prime Minister of Albania, Mr. Edi Rama.”
  • Back in Kosovo, Kurti’s party and the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) agreed enter into a coalition to form the next government of Kosovo. Some key aspects include a 30% gender quota and to abolish a few ministries and deputy ministers from government. 
  • And Kurti says life for Serbs in Kosovo will get better:“You can speak Serbian freely in Pristina today. Where the war-time massacres happened is different.” He also noted “We live in a time when granting political and civil rights is useless if you don’t have a job and have to emigrate and that is true of both Serbs and Albanians.”
  • Kosovo officials are investigating the cause of more than twenty Central Election Commission workers who were hospitalized after opening ballot boxes from Serbia.
  • Chairman of the Presidency of BiH Zeljko Komsic met Austrian President Alexander van der Bellen on Friday. They discussed mutual history and the economic situation between the two. BiH currently has a trade surplus with Austria and hopes Austria invests more in BiH. There are 200,000 Bosnians who live in Austria.
  • Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic participated in the 15th meeting of the Arraiolos Group. She noted: “Migrations can be resolved and solved long term only by removing root causes and not be removing people and settling them elsewhere.”
  • Others in attendance included German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Italian President Sergio Mattarrela, the President of Portugal Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, the President of Poland Andrzej Duda, Hungarian President Janos Ader, the President of Malta George Vela, Latvian President Egils Levits, the President of Slovenia Borut Pahor, Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid, the President of Bulgaria Rumen Radev, and the President of Ireland Michael Higgins.
  • But Grabar-Kitarovic and Komsic got into an exchange of words over the weekend. It started with Grabar-Kitarovic’s statement after a Croatian soccer match: “I am overjoyed, naturally, with the result, but also for Dalić and his players and most of all for all the people that gathered here in Split. From Vis to Kupres (located in BiH), all of Croatia…”
  • Komsic responded claiming that she had territorial aspirations in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  • But Grabar-Kitarovic’s office released a statement claiming “In Bosnia and Herzegovina the problem is not nonexistent territorial aspirations, but outvoting and violation of elementary democratic and constitutional rights of Croats as a constituent people…Grabar-Kitarović says that Croats have two homelands, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
  • Serbian President Aleksdandar Vucicon dealings with Russia and China: “When they tell us – don’t do business with the Russians, we say we will because it is in our interest to have good relations (with them). When they say – don’t do business with the Chinese, we say we will because we want to have good relations with the Chinese, it is our interest to do so, to expand our network of friends. but not to allow anyone to humiliate Serbia our people.”
  • “Relations between Slovenia and North Macedonia were in focus as Prime Minister Marjan Šarec visited Skopje on Thursday, meeting his counterpart Zoran Zaev. He reiterated Slovenia’s support that North Macedonia be allowed to launch EU accession talks, expressing hope that the EU summit next week would make a positive political decision.” (Slovenia Times)
  • Montenegrin Prime Minister Dusko Markovic met with the chairman of Chinese company UTour which looks to open a 100 room hotel in the north of the country. 
  • Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic met Bavarian Food, Agriculture and Forestry Minister Michaela Kaniber on Friday and discussed their extensive trade portfolio. Croatia is a top ten investor in Bavaria from Central and Southeastern Europe while Bavaria is the third largest foreign investor in Croatia.
  • Husein Kavazovic has been re-elected as the Grand Mufti (reisu-l-ulema) of the Islamic Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina. 
  • “Bosnia’s two rival autonomous regions adopted a joint four-year program of socio-economic reforms in a rare display of unity on Thursday to boost growth and competitiveness in line with EU recommendations…But united in a desire to progress toward EU accession, the regions have adopted a joint reform agenda for 2019-2020 that should create a more unified and competitive economy, their respective prime ministers said after the two governments adopted the program at separate sessions.” (Reuters)
  • “The 2019 Nobel prize for literature awarded to Austrian author Peter Handke has, predictably, caused a storm of protest, both in countries that used to be part of Yugoslavia and also the global literary community. Handke is widely considered to be an apologist for the former Yugoslav strongman Slobodan Milosevic. But here’s why I think the Swedish Academy’s decision deserves a more nuanced reaction than indignation: Handke wandered into that ugly territory while on a legitimate quest that writers need, and often lack, the courage to embark on. ” (Bloomberg)
  • Vukovar Mayor Ivan Penava is thinking about running for the president of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and if elected would focus on bringing war criminals to justice. 
  • Kosovo Albanians and Serbs protested the hydroelectric plant being built near Shtrpce/Strpce in southern Kosovo on Friday. Local residents say it would destroy their water supply and raspberry crop. Meanwhile, while protesting on Tuesday, police used pepper spray against protesters including women and children.
  • The Chinese Embassy in Beijing hosted a summit on the Belt and Road Initiative. Amel Kovacevic, finance minister of Sarajevo canton, headlined praising cooperation in economic, academic and cultural fields.
  • ENERGY: “The go-live of the second wave of the Single Intraday Coupling (SIDC, formerly known as the XBID) project is planned for November 19. The second wave will enable continuous cross-border trading of electricity in the intraday timeframe across Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Slovenia. With an additional seven countries due to go-live by the end of 2019, this would bring the geographic coverage of Single Intraday Coupling project to 21 countries.” (Balkan Green Energy News)
  • MIGRANTS: Forty-five migrants were found in a van near Veles, N. Macedonia. The driver was arrested.
  • After the sudden collapse of Slovenia national airline Adria, all eyes are on the financial health of Croatia AirlinesCroatia PM Andrej Plenkovic has released details of an initial $14.8M traunch of support funding.
  • Speaking of the Adria fallout, Ukrainian budget carrier Windrose is in the final stages of launching service linking Kiev and Ljubljana in December.
  • Serbia’s economy ministry will not be selling the aircraft maintenance company JAT Tehnik after offering over 99% of the company a month ago.

BEYOND THE POLITICS

  • REPORT: “It’s all in the name for North Macedonia’s NATO, EU bids” by Christopher Livesay in PBS Newshour: “For years, the nation known until recently as the Republic of Macedonia has worked to gain NATO and European Union membership, with efforts blocked by Greece because of a dispute over its name. But in February, the country adopted a new name, North Macedonia, and is hopeful the name change will open the door for membership. Special correspondent Christopher Livesay reports.”
  • EURO 2020 RESULTS: (Thursday) Croatia tops Hungary 3-0. N. Macedonia beats Slovenia 2-1 in Skopje. 
  • INTL SOCCER FRIENDLIES: (Thursday) Kosovo beats Gibralter 1-0 and Serbia beats Paraguay in the 90th minute 1-0. 
  • EURO 2020 RESULTS: (Friday) Montenegro draws Bulgaria 0-0. Turkey tops Albania 1-0
  • EURO 2020 RESULTS: (Saturday) Bosnia and Herzegovina bests Finland 4-1. 
  • EURO 2020 RESULTS: (Sunday) Croatia and Wales fight out a 1-1 draw. Slovenia loses to Austria 1-0 after a 21st minute goal.
  • EURO 2020 MATCHES TODAY: At 2:45PM (EST) – Kosovo vs. Montenegro. Lithuania vs. Serbia. Moldova vs. Albania