WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

  • US State Department’s Special Representative for the Western Balkans and DAS Matthew Palmer met with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Monday and reiterated the US desire for Kosovo and Serbia to return to dialogue. He also called the EU snub of N. Macedonia and Albania a “historic mistake.”
  • Serbia’s new Rapporteur for European Parliament Vladimir Bilick says it must work on reforms in the areas of judiciary, rule of law, and fundamental rights if it still hopes to join the EU.
  • European Parliament President David Sassoli provided an optimistic view of N. Macedonai’s EU accession: “the future is in your hands and ours. We shouldn’t lose hope. The European Union should help North Macedonia become a member state and participate in building a new Europe.” He added, “We have a common destiny and this is just a small obstacle on our road. Roads are often paved with such things and we must take the momentum and go forward together until the moment North Macedonia is member state of the European Union. I understand your disappointment, we’re also disappointed, but at the same time we have to have faith in what we shall achieve together in the future.”
  • The US Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina announced a $1.5M campaign “Sarajevo Free of Mines”. This marks the largest demining project in more than a decade. The area in focus is 8M square meters – twice the size of Central Park in New York City. Since 1996, the United States has contributed $115M to weapons destruction in Bosnia.
  • The two parties that took the most votes in the October 6 parliamentary elections, Vetvendojse and LDK, expect to form a government within the next ten days.
  • Expected prime minister, Albin Kurti, was in N. Macedonia where he met with potential counterpart Zoran Zaev. He wrote on Facebook,  “Today in Skopje I met North Macedonia prime minister, Zoran Zaev, and his associates. Accompanied by members of the chairmanship, Fitore Pacolli-Dalipi and Libunr Aliu, we discussed on political situation in our countries, mutual cooperation, relations between states in Balkans and European integration issues.” 
  • President of N. Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski believes that the Western Balkan countries should outright reject any proposals that don’t include EU membership because “we do not see ourselves as European neighbours.”
  • Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic met with the Chairman of the Communist Party of China Xi Jingping and Huawei executives on a trip to China. She invited Huawei to take part in a data center in the central city of Kragujevac. 
  • Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik revitalized secession talks for Republika Srpska after noting that Kosovo and the Serb-dominated entity want the same thing – independence. He added, “Of course Bosnia has not recognised Kosovo, nor does it have the intention to, as Republika Srpska does not want any double-standards here.”
  • Meanwhile, Bosnian Croat Member of the Presidency Zeljko Komsic called out Dodik for double standards for interfering in domestic politics. He said, “We should not act the way our neighbours act and get involved in internal issues of other states. We are right when we cry foul over Croatia and it dictating the tempo of changing the election law and the setup in Bosnia and when Serbia does the same. Let us not do the same thing and provide arguments to our neighbours so they accuse us of the same thing.”
  • Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic and Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic attended festivities to mark the 350th birthday of the University of Zagreb. In total, 70,000 students study at the university.
  • The prime minister also outlined Croatia’s priorities for its chairmanship of the EU Presidency to the American Chamber of Commerce to the European Union on Monday.
  • Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic met with Dutch counterpart Stefan Blok. He said Serbia deserves to be in the EU but must make all the proper reforms required by it to become a fledged member, pointing out media freedom as a key issue.
  • Dacic and Serbia’s president, Aleksandar Vucic, attended a ceremony to reveal a bust of former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeniy Primakov at the Russia House in Belgrade.
  • Outgoing Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj took to Facebook to warn about Serbia being armed by China and Russia. He wrote, “This permanent arming (armoured vehicles, anti-aircraft defence system, drones…) is a direct threat to Kosovo, a fragile peace in the region and Euro-Atlantic perspective. Serbia must stop this madness before it’s too late.” 
  • At a World War II commemoration in Istria, the first president of Slovenia, Milan Kucan, called for Slovenia and Croatia to engage in more dialogue, noting “Is it truly more important to deny the right to a few miles of sea and to deny the authority of international tribunal than to have the opportunity for both countries to contribute to resolving vital issues in the EU?”
  • A portion of the planned Belgrade-Banja Luka highway will be altered so that houses for Croat returnees in Bosnia and Herzegovina would not have to be destroyed. 
  • Travnik, Bosnia was rattled by a 4.7 earthquake. No lives were lost, but structural damage occurred. 
  • Are you a pensioner in Slovenia and need to get around? Well, the National Assembly just unanimously passed legislation to to make public transport free of charge starting in mid 2020. 
  • MIGRANTS: Ten Syrian refugee families are being relocated to Karlovac, Croatia for a period of ten years. They will be assisted by the Jesuit Refugee Service to help integrate into the community.
  • CRIME: Three British smugglers were arrested in Croatia. They are accused of trafficking migrants.

IN OTHER NEWS…

  • OP-ED: “BOOK REVIEW: ‘Nine Lives‘ by Aimen Dean with Paul Cruickshank and Tim Lister” by Robert Smith in Valliant News: “This is a dramatic account by a young Muslim from Saudi Arabia who had become so radicalized into Islamist extremism that he decided in 1994 (at the age 16) to travel to Bosnia and join a group of al Qaeda-affiliated foreign fighters who were fighting on behalf of Bosnia’s Muslims against their adversary Croatian and Serbian Christian militias. What makes this account so interesting and important (and how it became a CNN documentary) is that Bosnia was the first of many jihadi battlegrounds in Asia and the Middle East that Aimen Dean (a pseudonym) was involved as a fighter and a member of an elite bomb-making team (including attempting to build a chemical weapon) during al Qaeda’s formative pre-9/11 period in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.”
  • HUMAN INTEREST: “The Bosnia Memory Project is helping us remember stories we should never forget” by Mike Bush in NBC5: “There are now more Bosnians per capita in St. Louis than anywhere else outside Bosnia. They are turning back the pages of their memories to the worst chapters of their lives. They are St. Louisans but didn’t grow up here. Their journeys began half a world away. ‘The first Bosnians began arriving in St. Louis in 1993,’ explained Dr. Benjamin Moore. Moore is a professor at Fontbonne University and the founder and director of the Bosnia Memory Project. ‘We have a tremendous amount to learn from people who came to St. Louis to join us in this community,’ he said. ‘But who came because of absolutely horrific circumstances.’ In 1992, after Bosnia-Herzegovina declared its independence from Yugoslavia, people who had lived peacefully for years as neighbors turned against each other. Over the next several years, more than 100,000 men, women and children were killed, mostly Bosnian-Muslims.”