WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

  • The fallout from the decision not to start EU accession talks with Albania and N. Macedonia were at the forefront of discussions in Brussels today. 
  • France’s Emmanuel Macron, who has been pushing for halting opening EU accession talks with the pair of hopefuls because of Brexit and reforming the accession process, noted, “I share the same geopolitical and strategic vision with the German chancellor, I want to send a positive signal to these leaders, but looking at this seriously leads me to tell them: this time it’s us who need a bit more time to do things in order.” Though he admits that much progress has been made, wants to send a positive signal to them, and the Western Balkans need to be in the EU. 
  • Prime Minister of N. Macedonia Zoran Zaev on the accession talks said, “Everybody says that the Prespa Agreement is, for now, one of the best agreements in the Western Balkans. If the EU ‘punishes’ this agreement and North Macedonia by postponing the accession negotiations, how can it be expected that Aleksandar Vucic and Hahsim Thaci will find the solution for the issue of Kosovo, or how it will motivate the leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina to find the solution for the formation of government?”
  • EU Commissioner for Enlargement Johannes Hahn echoed Zaev’s sentiment saying it would be “a strong message to the whole region, and if all the efforts North Macedonia made aren’t awarded, there won’t be an incentive for Serbia and Kosovo to start an essential dialogue about common life in the future.”
  • Meanwhile, President of the Party of European Socialists Sergei Stanishev urged European Council President Donald Tusk to put the accession on the agenda for today.
  • Police in Kosovo have arrested two police officers and are seeking another individual in connection to the assassination of Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic.
  • Kosovo Serb media outlet Gazeta Express reports that there were Kosovo Security Force trucks that entered the north.
  • The Kosovo Special Prosecutor Syl Hoxha says that the men were acting on the orders of underworld boss Milan Radiocic.
  • Meanwhile, Srpska Lista, a Kosovo Serb political party, condemned the arrests in a statement: “The mistreatment of innocent citizens without any evidence is becoming the standard mantra used by Albanian leaders to hide their defeats and failures…Today’s incursion and groundless arrest of out fellow citizen is a simple wild demonstration of force by Pristina over innocent citizens with the entire international community keeping quiet about it. We are demanding the immediate release of the groundlessly arrested and that the international community makes its baby see reason before the situation gets out of control. Responsibility for the security of all citizens in this area lies with UNMIK, KFOR, EULEX and other organizations,”
  • Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic addressed parliament for the third time in his mandate. He noted, “It is the responsibility of the government to care for all workers in the public and private sector and to ensure a further increase of their salaries in the coming years, for this to be sustainable for tax payers, those that pay for all of this. Therefore, and I will say this now for the first time, we will offer a salary increase in the coming year amounting to a little more than six percent, 6.12 percent, for all state and public servants, in three waves of increases, two percent at a time, for all.”
  • Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev will be in Belgrade on October 19-20 and meet President Aleksandar Vucic and Prime Minister Ana Brnabic
  • Brnabic noted on Wednesday that having free trade with the Eurasian Economic Union doesn’t mean it is giving up on the EU:  “It does not run counter to the interests of the European Union, it is complementary because Serbia is a country determined to become an EU member which means that an economically stronger Serbia is also in the interest of the EU. We can have freed trade agreement with other countries and groups as long as we are not an EU member.”
  • Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik says he “can’t wait” for Kosovo and Serbia to be resolved because he thinks there are many parallels between Republika Srpska and Serbia. He noted, “As I see it, Kosovo and Albania are integrating and sharing the same political values. I would even say that this is normal. But why would it then not be normal for us Serbs from Republika Srpska and Serbia to follow suit?”
  • Meanwhile, SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic warned Dodik that “The issue will remain in the status quo until the SNSD decides to accept that the entity level cannot command the state level.”
  • Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and the UK Embassy in Kosovo had an exchange over Twitter after the UK Ambassador to Kosovo Nicholas Abbott was photoed in Vetvendosje leader and probable prime minister Albin Kurti’s office. The issue: there was only an Albanian flag and Vucic questioned “Whose elections Kurti and his party won and whose flag it was under which you, Your Excellency, were so proudly photographed with Kurti? I’ll be asking you that until I get an answer.”
  • The UK in Kosovo Twitter account responded, “A recent photo of the Ambassador meeting one of the political leaders in Kosovo has attracted attention regionally. It is the Embassy’s job to engage with leading political actors in Kosovo. We did not choose how our interlocutor, acting in a party capacity, arranged his rooms.”
  • Earlier this week Serbian officials questioned Sweden why its ambassador was photoed with Kurti and only the Albanian flag.
  • Latvian Foreign Ministry Parliamentary Secretary Zanda Kalnina-Lukasevica thanked Montenegro for its military contribution in the country: “We highly appreciate Montenegro’s participation in the Canada-led NATO battle group in Latvia, for it is an essential contribution to the security of Latvia, the region and the whole alliance,”
  • The Bishop of the Eparchy of Zahumlje, Herzegovina and the Littoral (includes parts of BiH, Croatia, and Montenegro) Dimitri and Mufti of Mostar Salem Dedovic continued their excellent cooperation over coffee in Mostar, BiH.
  • “The Bank of Slovenia said on Wednesday it would mount a legal challenge if parliament passed a law requiring it to cover all possible repayments to those who lost their investments when the government propped up tottering banks in 2013. Jurij Zitko, the head of the legal department of the bank, urged the government and parliament to change the proposed law, saying the appeal would most likely significantly delay enforcing the law and hence repaying the bondholders and share holders.” (Reuters)
  • “Volkswagen Group’s decision to put its Turkish investment on hold has started a contest among Balkan nations vying to host the 1.3 billion-euro ($1.4 billion) plant. Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia are hoping that VW returns to its earlier shortlist of sites, which featured the Balkan nations and North Africa.” (Automotive News Europe)
  • KOSOVO SPECIALIST CHAMBERS: The Hague summoned Kosovo Justice Minister Abelard Tahiri as a witness two weeks ago. The head of the KLA Veterans Association noted that over 100 former KLA members have been summonsed to date.
  • MIGRANTS: Slovenia throws out a law limiting the access of foreigners in the country. Also, 28 migrants were arrested after crossing from Croatia into Slovenia over the weekend. Around 1,000 migrants were moved from Bihac to the Vucjak camp in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

BEYOND THE POLITICS

  • MUST READ: “Chinese snooping tech spreads to nations vulnerable to abuse” by Dusan Stojanovic in AP News: “When hundreds of video cameras with the power to identify and track individuals started appearing in the streets of Belgrade as part of a major surveillance project, some protesters began having second thoughts about joining anti-government demonstrations in the Serbian capital. Local authorities assert the system, created by Chinese telecommunications company Huawei, helps reduce crime in the city of 2 million. Critics contend it erodes personal freedoms, makes political opponents vulnerable to retribution and even exposes the country’s citizens to snooping by the Chinese government.”