WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

POMPEO IN CROATIA:
  • U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Croatia and called for the country to move closer to the U.S.
  • Secretary Pompeo was pressed on Croatia’s relationship to China and he said, “Just go look at what the European countries are saying today compared to what they were saying two and a half years ago, and then go look at their actions.  It’s not remotely close.  The tide has turned.  Everyone understands this threat.  This isn’t about United States versus China.  It’s about tyranny.”
  • “The Chinese Government unleashed a virus on the world.  We see the impacts of today.  You all are standing here wearing masks because they decided that they were going to let people travel out of Wuhan when they knew – and they disappeared doctors.  You all know the story too well, right?  They deceived the world and they covered up.  And you’re all wearing masks as a direct result of what the Chinese Communist Party did.”
  • “And so they all get it.  This is about freedom.  This is about liberty.  They know the threat.  They know the risk.  You’ve seen the changes in what the United Kingdom is doing with their 5G network.  I’m confident that many more European countries now, frankly because of just sharing information with them, they’re going to make their own sovereign decision that says no, we don’t want our citizens’ data in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.  I think every European country now understands this, is increasingly aware of it.  And you’ll see them start to take actions consistent with that, including in Croatia.”
  • Pompeo said that if the Chinese play according to the rules, there’s no issue. Referring to the Chinese-funded EU project of the Peljesac Bridge, Secretary Pompeo told N1, “that’s a sovereign decision that was made here.  Our view has been pretty consistent with respect to how we should treat the Chinese Communist Party all across the world.  When they show up, when they’re straight up, economic transaction that’s fair, transparent, and they treat the people of a country reciprocally, right; if the Croatian people can invest in China the same way the Chinese can come contract here inside of Croatia”

WHAT’S ON VUCIC’S MIND: Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Saturday said, “Over the last five years, Serbia is not only the absolute leader of the Western Balkans but also one of the best countries in Europe, in terms of economic growth, public debt rate… We succeeded because we believed in our work, despite everyone’s skepticism.”He added he wants a compromise with Kosovo. “These people live from day to day… That is why, for as long as I’m President, I will do my best to get closer to a compromise solution, although it seems to me that we have never been further, least of which was Serbia’s fault,” said Vucic.

DZAFEROVIC IN ALBANIA: “Chairman of Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Sefik Dzaferovic will pay an official visit to the Republic of Albania tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. In honor of the arrival of Chairman Dzaferovic, a ceremonial welcome ceremony with military honors will be held in front of the Presidential Palace on Monday, where he will be welcomed by the President of Albania, Ilir Meta. After that, a tête-à-tête meeting of Chairmen Dzaferovic and Meta will be held, followed by a bilateral meeting of the official delegations of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Albania.” (Sarajevo Times)

ALBANIA FOLLOWS EU POLICY: Albania PM Edi Rama rejected calls to move the country’s embassy to Jerusalem after Serbia agreed to move its embassy to the city and Kosovo established diplomatic relations with Israel.

SERBIAN GOV’T EXPRESSES NATIONALISM: Serbia’s FM Ivica Dacic said on the TV show Cirilica, “What to do with Serbs, who are disclosing (information) to Albanians, Croats, and speak every kind of stupidity, by telling them where Albanians are buried all over Serbia.” Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defense of Serbia put out a press release using the derogatory term “Šiptar” referring to Kosovar Albanians on Saturday and today Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin called for his Kosovo’s FM Meliza Haradinaj-Stublla to remove the Albanian word from its dictionary.  (Note: Shqiptar is the Albanian word for Albanians while the Serbian word Šiptar is a derogatory term used for Kosovar Albanians.)

SLOVENIAN PM INDICTED: Slovenia’s PM Janez Jansa has been indicted on charges of abuse of power over a property sale in 2005. The inquiry has lasted over six years.

CHINESE FINED IN SERBIA: Serbian courts fined China’s Zijin Copper $5,000 over the amount of pollution in Bor. N1 writes, “he Economic Court in Zajecar ruled in July that the company and the manager of its Copper Smelting and Refining plant Boban Todorovic were guilty of violating the law by allowing the plant to release excessive levels of sulphur-dioxide (SO2) into the air in the town of Bor on four occasions in November 2019 and January 2020, CINS said adding that the levels of SO2 were more than eight times higher than permitted by law according to the Environment Ministry which launched the court proceedings.”

MONTENEGRIN 5G: “Montenegro’s telecommunications regulator, EKIP, plans to launch an auction for frequencies in the 5G mobile spectrum in the fourth quarter of 2021, a draft financial plan of the regulator for next year showed on Friday. EKIP plans to launch a single auction for the frequencies in the 694-790 MHz and 3400-3800 MHz bands, as well as 1 GHz of the 24.25-27.5 GHz band, considered suitable for the initial implementation of 5G mobile networks, according to the draft financial plan of the regulator, submitted for voting in Montenegro’s Parliament.” (SEE News)

AND TO CATCH UP…

BiH PRESIDENCY IN BRUSSELS: The members of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s tripartite presidency yesterday had separate meetings with High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission Josep Borrell and European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi in Brussels.

BiH + CROATIA: Bosnia-Croatia relations have been in the spotlight in the past three weeks. Croatian PM Andrej Plenkovic has met with Bosnian Serb Member of Presidency Milorad Dodik, SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic, FM Bisera Turkovic, HDZ-BiH leader Dragan Covic in their capacities as party leaders.

  • Izetbegovic insists Croatia’s President Zoran Milanovic meet with the Members of the BiH Presidency before meeting with the SDA leader. Izetbegovic said, “I won’t accept it before the hierarchy in Bosnia and Herzegovina is obeyed. It should first be the Presidency or the Presidency Chairman, or Mr Milanovic should come here first and then I will gladly meet him.”
  • President Milanovic blasted Bosnia’s record on Bosnian Croats. He said, “What is happening there is not good at all and I think that Croatian authorities have shown laziness regarding it in the past few years. Those are terrible things and if it goes too far, we will have a serious problem in Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
  • He added, “We are a country that advocates for a solution to be reached within Bosnia and Herzegovina and not for the dismemberment of the country, but at the same time we don’t want damage to be done to Croats who are the least numerous of the peoples there but will, I swear to God, not be a minority.”

SLOVENIA EU PRESIDENCY 2021: Slovenian FM Anze Logar met with Portuguese counterpart Augusto Santos Silva in Lisbon ahead of the shared Presidency of the Council of the Europe Union in 2021. They will maintain close cooperation before and during the presidency which Portugal takes over in three months and Slovenia in nine months. The talks focused on “preparations for a conference on the future of Europe, China’s role, and transatlantic relations.” Finally, FM Logar highlighted the close cooperation of the two countries on the heels of Slovenia interest in joining the EuroMed 7 alliance within the EU which includes Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain.EIB IN SERBIA: The European Investment Bank (EIB) is allocating 65 million euro to digitalize schools in Serbia including high-speed internet after the formation of the new government. Head of the Regional Office of the Western Balkans of the EIB Dubravka Negre said, “Teachers will be trained on how to use electronic equipment installed in schools, and the Internet will be installed in all schools in Serbia and most of the classrooms will have Internet access. There is also talk about providing smart whiteboards, tablets, computers and IT software that should be installed in schools so that children can use the latest technologies in education.”

DIGITAL NOMADS IN SERBIA: Labor Minister Zoran Djordjevic announced Serbia will grant residence permits and work visas to digital nomads – a foreign citizen working for companies in a foreign country – as of January 1, 2021 if the person can prove income more than $4,100 a month. Minister Djordjevic said, “Our idea is to be the first country in Europe that will introduce the possibility for those working for foreign companies who are not our citizens, to continue doing their job, living in Serbia.”

SARAJEVO ’84: Sarajevo is making preparations to reopening the Olympic Museum on October 8, nearly thirty years after it was destroyed.

  • Prince Albert II of Monaco will arrive in Sarajevo on Oct. 7 and attend the opening.
  • Museum Director Emin Numankadic provided insights into the museum pieces. He said, “In terms of art, there is a map of graphic art containing the works of Andy Warhol, Henry Moore, Pistoleto and many others. 17 world-renowned artists worked for Sarajevo Olympic Games. The collection of sports documents from 14th Winter Olympic Games contains photos, posters by Ismar Mujezinovic, Jure Franko’s skis, old bobsled, old skis, Olympic torch, medals.”

IAI IN BiH: “Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) will open a cyber academy in Bosnia and Herzegovina, announcing on Wednesday that it has entered a collaboration agreement with the Bosnian Ministry of Education and Science.”Under the agreement, the cyber experts of IAI’s ELTA Group and IAI’s Singapore subsidiary, Custodio Technologies, will provide remote online training on TAME Range, IAI’s cyber simulator and trainer.” (C Tech)

SUNDAY SHOPPING BAN: Slovenian Parliament passed legislation to ban shops from opening on Sundays and national holidays with the exception of gas and service stations, airports, hospitals, and small shops.

BUSTED: “The US Department of Justice has charged a Florida man and his son with multiple charges related to sex trafficking a child from Croatia, the US Attorney’s Office, Middle District of Florida reports.Jordan Jysae Pulido, 26, and Roberto Santana Jimenez, 61, have both been charged with conspiracy to transport a minor into the country to engage in sexual activity, United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez said Friday when she unsealed the indictment. Pulido has also been charged with enticement and coercion of a minor, traveling out of the country to engage in illicit sexual conduct, and transporting a minor into the country to engage in sexual activity.” (Crime Online)

IN OTHER NEWS

OP-ED: “Greater U.S. Investment in the Western Balkans Could Spur Regional Reconciliation” by the International Republican Institute’s Director of Europe Paul McCarthy and Serbia Resident Program Director at the International Republican Institute in The National Interest

ANALYSIS: “NATO and the 5G challenge” by Andrea Gilli and Francesco Bechis in NATO Review

ANALYSIS: “Croatia’s ‘secret club’ scandal exposes cronyism, corruption” by Zeljko Trkanjec in Euraktiv: “A secret club in the Croatian capital where the elite flouted lockdown rules and escorts were brought in from Serbia. Vintage wine and whiskey flowed. Bribes changed hands. A recent ‘club scandal’ rocked Croatia’s political and business scene more than any other in the past decade. It all started on 17 September when police arrested Dragan Kovačević, CEO of JANAF (Adriatic oil pipeline operator), on suspicion of influence peddling and bribery. At first, it looked like just another corruption scandal to which Croatia has become accustomed. But then it swiftly evolved beyond anyone’s expectations. JANAF oil pipeline and storage system was built as an international crude oil transport system from the Omišalj Terminal on the northern Adriatic island of Krk to both local and foreign refineries in South-Eastern and Central Europe.”

ANALYSIS: “Clean Air For All – What are the main sources of air pollutants?” by Vladimir Spasic in Balkan Green Energy News

HUMAN INTEREST: “Reporting Bosnia’s War Changed My Life, Turkish Journalist Says” by Hamdi Firat Buyuk in BIRN

HUMAN INTEREST: “Bosnia: Built by love, destroyed by hate” in Yeni Safak: “Burying his home destroyed by war in the 1990s, a Bosnian man left a note: ‘Built by love, destroyed by hate.’Serif Velic from the northwestern city of Prijedor was a metal worker in Germany, where he saved enough money to build a house in his village of Kevljani.Muslims in Prijedor had suffered massacres and other war crimes in 1992, forced out of their homeland by the thousands because their dwellings were either confiscated or destroyed. Velic’s house is one of those that were razed to the ground.

CULTURE: “The military origins of the necktie” by Miguel Ortiz in We Are The Mighty: “The Thirty Years’ War was fought from 1618-1648 primarily in Central Europe. France entered the war in 1635 and, in order to augment his own forces, King Louis XIII hired Croatian mercenaries from the Croatian Military Frontier to fight for him. These mercenaries wore traditional knotted neckerchiefs which tied the tops of their jackets. Although they were designed to be purely functional, the ties had a decorative effect that piqued the interest of the ever fashion-conscious Parisians. In fact, the Croatian neckties caught the attention of the king who found them rather appealing. He liked the garment so much that he made the ties a mandatory accessory for royal gatherings. In honor of the Croats who introduced the ties, he named the garment “la cravate”—derived from the French word Croates meaning Croats.”

SPORT: “Ivan Rakitic is Open to Returning to the Croatia National Team” by Daniela Rogulj in Total Croatia News

SPORT: “Baraclough says presence of 2,000 home fans will ‘heap pressure’ on Bosnia” in BBC News: “Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough is unperturbed by the news that 2,000 Bosnia-Herzegovina fans will be allowed to attend next Thursday’s Euro 2020 play-off in Sarajevo.’If there’s Bosnia fans within the stadium, that’s fine because all the pressure will be on their players to perform,/ said Baraclough.”

ENTERTAINMENT: “Sonus Named Best Open Air Music Festival in Croatia” by Daniela Rogulj in Total Croatia News