WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

  • The Advisory Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina (ACBH), United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD), and the US-Europe Alliance held a timely event on Capitol Hill on Tuesday which included ACBH President Ajla Delkic, UMD President Metodija Koloski, Heritage Foundation’s Luke Coffey, Ambassador Christopher Hill, and US-Europe Alliance Co-chair Reuf Bajrovic on who would fill the vacuum in the region. The key takeaway: The US needs to be more active in the region amidst Euro-skepticism through leading dialogue, encouraging US investment, and building long-lasting relations that bring the whole region into the Euro-Atlantic family. See more from the event on our Twitter page.
  • Also on Capitol Hill today, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) met with representatives of the American Chamber of Commerce in Kosovo to discuss trade and economic development. Kosovo and Iowa are sister states.
  • State Department’s Special Representative to the Western Balkans and DAS Matthew Palmer met today with Foreign Minister of N. Macedonia Nikola Dimitrov and President Stevo Pendarovski. Palmer was there to show continued support for Skopje’s Euro-Atlantic integration after the US Senate ratified its NATO accession protocol.
  • Palmer met with EU High Representative to Bosnia and Herzegovina Valentin Inzko on Monday in Washington DC to discuss strengthening the rule of law and how to improve the functioning of the state.
  • And on Tuesday Inzko met with the National Security Council’s John Erath to discuss the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. 
  • Speaking of Skopje, Pendarovski noted that he would agree with any deal agreed by Kosovo and Serbia, including border changes, as long as it was considered a “unique case” and would not set a precedent for the region.
  • He also stated, “There’s no membership again here. We can’t be taken in by special partnership. We need Europe for its values, not just for the market. What we need is the principles by which successful societies are organized, so that we can adopt them as our own and prosper. We can’t prosper with such alternative forms of unification.” Watch his full interview  for Al Jazeera Balkans here.
  • Prime Minister of N. Macedonia Zoran Zaev echoed Pendarovski’s comments, telling Euronews in Greek, “We have no alternative. There are no other offers that could serve as an alternative. What other offers there may be, do not give us democracy, rule of law and liberties. If the light of the stars of the European Union flag is extinguished, we will have darkness here. And we may get lost in this darkness. If radicalization and the resurgence of nationalism are given fertile ground, this will do a lot of harm to the entire Balkans. And when the Balkans have a problem, Europe has a problem.”
  • He also focused on how the name change aspect of the Prespa Agreement cannot be implemented for internal use without a date for EU accession talks.
  • Meanwhile, Russia has invited Albania and N. Macedonia to join the Eurasian Economic Union after failing to open EU accession talks.
  • Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic appears more optimistic about his country joining the EU, but maintains that Serbia wants good relations with others. On France’s Emmanuel Macron, he said, “I believe Macron wishes the best for Serbia, that he loves Serbia and I’m convinced he would try to find what’s the best for our country.”
  • SPOILER: Unnamed diplomatic sources told Gazeta Express in Kosovo that France still does not back visa liberalization. 
  • The European Court of Human Rights condemned the lack of elections in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, since 2008. The court ruled that Mostar has six months to change election law and hold elections. 
  • Meanwhile, members of the BiH Presidency met with EU chief Johannes Hahn. The result: Sefik Dzaferovic and Zeljko Komsic want to join the EU and NATO while Milorad Dodik only aspires to join the EU.
  • Slovakia’s Foreign Minister Mioslav Lajcak caused a stir in BiH by only inviting Bosnian politicians Dragan Covic and Milorad Dodik to a meeting over the weekend. A Bosniak was not representative was not invited which drew the ire of the Chairman of the Council of Ministers Denis Zvizdic.
  • Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic was on a working visit to Greece on Tuesday where he met with counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos. He also participated in the fourth EU-Arab World Summit aimed at political and economic dialogue. A key topic discussed was migration. 
  • Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic defended her claim that in the 1980s her hometown soccer team, HNK Rijeka, was a reserve club for Serbia’s Partizan Belgrade and Red Star Belgrade. 
  • She noted, “The purpose of the then political influence on our club’s management was to constantly tie Rijeka with Belgrade. The Rijeka that I followed as a supporter in my school days is not the Rijeka we have today. The most talented Croatian players like Zoran Šestan at the time sat on the bench while some others, less talented but politically more suitable were given an opportunity. It was in that context that I described the then Rijeka football club as a reserve club. I know well what the status of Rijeka in the 1980s was and no one can convince me otherwise.”
  • She also welcomed Albanian counterpart Ilir Meta on Tuesady to Zagreb and gave her full support to Albania’s EU accession. 
  • Foreign Minister Miro Cerar is paying a working visit to the United Arab Emirates, with the first stop being the site of the Expo 2020 in Dubai, where he met Expo Director General Reem Al Hashimi, the Foreign Ministry said in a press release on Monday.” (Slovenia Times)
  • “Sweden is the biggest individual donor to Bosnia and Herzegovina and is behind numerous development projects in our country, Bosnia’s Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations, Mirko Sarovic, and Sweden’s newly appointed Ambassador to the country, Johanna Stromquist, emphasized at a meeting on Tuesday.” (N1)
  • Johns Hopkins SAIS Professor Daniel Serwer gave remarks at the “US policy in the Western Balkan” in Tirana, Albania. He spoke about competing Chinese, Turkish, and Russian policy in the region, the need for Pristina to walk away from a bad deal with Serbia, the qualities of a liberal democracy, give up the idea of Greater Albania, and focus on building democracy and free markets. Read his full remarks here.
  • Google Maps added street view for the capitals and major cities of Albania and Montenegro. 
  • CRIME: The Hague has refused to consider an appeal by convicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic who said the judges were bias.Convicted war criminal Dragan Vailjkovic also lost his appeal in Croatian courts and will serve his full sentence. He is expected to be released in March 2020.  BosnianPolice are investigating threats to journalist Avo Avdic who writes for Zurnal. A Syrian national described as an “illegal immigrant” was arrested for car theft in southern Croatia.
  • KOSOVO SPECIALIST CHAMBERSHead of the Association of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) Veterans Hysni Gucati expects indictments and arrests to happen in the near future.

IN OTHER NEWS…

  • DIASPORA: “Croatians from 18 countries gathering for ‘building business bridges’ conference” in Croatia Week: “The 5th edition of Meeting G2 – Building business bridges – which connects Croatians abroad with people and business opportunities in Croatia – will be held at the congress centre Forum Zagreb from November 4th-6th 2019. More than 200 participants are expected, including around 70 successful business people of Croatian descent from 18 countries, including Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Finland, Canada, Hungary, Macedonia, Monaco, the Netherlands, Germany, USA, Slovenia, Switzerland, UK and Venezuela.”
  • SPORT: Macedonian-American Vlatko Andonovski was officially named the head coach of the US Women’s Soccer team which won the 2019 World Cup in France.