WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

  • SAY IT AIN’T NAY – Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rand Paul (R-KY) were the lone two who opposed ratifying N. Macedonia’s accession protocol.
  • WHERE WERE YOU?  – No shows included Democratic Presidential Candidates: Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). In addition to the presidential hopefuls, Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) were not present. 
  • The presidential candidates were absent the whole day including for vote on nominating Andrew P. Bremberg for the position of Representative of the United States of America to the Office of the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva.
  • Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives, a voice vote passed for H. Con. Res. 32 — “Expressing the sense of Congress regarding the execution-style murders of United States citizens Ylli, Agron, and Mehmet Bytyqi in the Republic of Serbia in July 1999.
  • What is a voice vote? Well, essentially the Speaker of the House can can judge whether there are more ayes than noes. The House Voting Procedures manual writes, “Representatives will call out ‘aye’ or ‘no’ when a question is first put by the Speaker or Speaker pro tempore. As Rule I, clause 6, states, the Speaker will say, ‘Those in favor [of the question], say ‘Aye.’”Then the Speaker will ask: ‘Those opposed, say ‘No.’” Following the response, the Speaker states that, in his or her opinion, ‘the ayes [or the noes] appear to have it.’ There is no record of how an individual Member votes on a voice vote.”
  • THE POINT –  H. Con. Res. 32 passed with an overwhelming majority.
  • Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina  Denis Zvizdic met with DAS and Special Representative to the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer and former US Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina Maureen Cormack at the State Department.
  • Meanwhile, the US Embassy in Albania threatened to sanction former and current corrupt officials by blacklisting them and potentially their family members from entering the United States under section 7031(c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Act.
  • But Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Sarec protested the decision. He said, “We regret that the European Commission decided on such an important matter, the assessment of Croatia’s preparedness to join Schengen, just before the end of its term and that it adopted a political decision…We expect Croatia to meet all the conditions for joining Schengen, technical and legal ones, including respect for the rule of law.”
  • He is mot certainly referring to the border arbitration decision for the Piran Bay which saw the Permanent Court of Arbitration side with Slovenia over Croatia. 
  • Sarec also gave an interview to the AP. He praised the EU’s unity over Brexit but was dismayed by not opening EU accession talks with N. Macedonia and Albania. 
  • Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic is using the fallout of the EU not opening accession talks with N. Macedonia and Albania to his advantage on the Kosovo issue. He noted that Serbia preferred the two Germany model without recognition of Kosovo and said “What would we get (in exchange for the recognition)? Possible EU membership in ten years? And who would guarantee that? Would that be the same guarantee as North Macedonia got for the opening of the accession negotiations.“
  • Vucic also said he hadn’t heard of preconditions set by the EU as a whole – “Until now, the EU hasn’t put any precondition to Serbia. However, the Americans told us that it might have changed. But we want to hear that from our European partners. I don’t exclude that option, but the EU hasn’t asked that so far.”
  • Kosovo’s likely prime minister, Albin Kurti, takes aim at President Hashim Thaci and his ability to lead the dialogue with Serbia: “If that happens, that will be the breach of the Constitution. The Constitutional Court has decided that the dialogue with Serbia should be led by a prime minister. Hashim Thaci is the President, but he is not in charge of foreign policy,”
  • The second coordination meeting between the Vetvendosje-LDK coalition in Kosovo will take place today. The parties are hammering out the details on who will be appointed to which ministries.
  • There could be a common approach to dealing with violent extremists – the number has been increasing in prisons across the region.
  • Slovenian Interior Minister Bostjan Poklukar met with Serbian counterpart Nebojsa Stefanovic in Belgrade on Tuesday. A key topic discussed was  the growing migrant problem – Poklukar noted there were 12,800 recorded illegal border crossings from Croatia, up 70% from last year- 
  • (Saudi) Minister of Finance Mohammed bin Abdullah Al-Jadaan and Minister of Finance of the Republic of Kosovo Bedri Hamza in Washington, USA, yesterday signed an agreement between the governments of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Republic of Kosovo to avoid double taxation and to prevent tax avoidance on income taxes.” (MENAFN)
  • Meanwhile, Russian railways will modernize the Belgrade-Vrbinca railway line which leads to the Montenegrin border. 
  • (Slovenian) PM Marjan Šarec told MPs on Monday that China was Slovenia’s most important Asian trade partner and that Slovenia wanted to further boost this economic cooperation. For exports to China to increase, new market niches need to be identified for high value added products to compensate for costs of transport and competition.” (Slovenia Times)
  • The royal family, no not the one going through Brexit, rather the Swedish Royal Family crown princess couple will be on an official visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina from November 5-7 on the backdrop of the controversial awarding of the Nobel Prize for Literature to Peter Handke. The court’s information department noted, “The purpose of the visit is to strengthen the relationship between Sweden and Bosnia and Herzegovina, Topics that will be addressed during the visit include climate, environment, sustainable development, innovation and entrepreneurship as well as young people.”
  • Lufthansa refuses to launch a new Slovene national airline. 
  • CRIME: After twenty four years in Switzerland, fugitive Zoran Pantic was sent back to BiH for the killing of a family during the war in 1993. He escaped from prison in Bijeljina in 1995. 
  • KOSOVO SPECIALIST CHAMBERSFormer Rector of the University of Pristina, KLA Officer, MP and Deputy Foreign Minister Ibrahim Gashi has been summonsed as a witness by the Special Prosecutors Office. He is expected to speak to them this week in Pristina.

BEYOND THE POLITICS

  • ON A SIDE NOTE: I have a soft spot for the former New Jersey Nets star Petrovic – I worked as a ball boy for the New Jersey Nets from 2006-2008. You may recognize some familiar faces on the team: Serbian centers Nenad Krstic and Mile Ilic, and Slovenian forward Bostjan Nachbar. These players during my time with the Nets and the legacy of Petrovic initially got me interested in the Balkans when I was in high school.
  • IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT: I highly recommend watching the ESPN 30 for 30 called Once Brothers. It follows Serbian Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Vlade Divac and Drazen Petrovic’s relationship as foreigners in the NBA during the breakup of Yugoslavia.
  • SPORT: In Champions League – Red Star Belgrade falls 5-0 to England’s Tottenham and Croatia’s Dinamo Zagreb draws Ukraine’s Shakhtar Donetsk 2-2. Coming up on Thursday: Partizan Belgrade vs. Manchester United.