WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

  • US State Department Special Envoy for the W. Balkans Matthew Palmer met with Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic and representatives of the opposition on Tuesday.
  • President of opposition party Party of Freedom and Justice, Dragan Djilas, gave Palmer copies of tabloids that included titles, “Palmer Plotting Murders“ and “Palmer Seeks Chaos before the Holidays.”
  • Palmer noted in an interview on the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, “If both sides want our support in implementation (what they agree on), our political support, then we would like to get a deal which is OK.”
  • It was a big day for Serbia’s opposition parties. Around 200 protesters from the 1 in 5 million protests waited for Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic outside the Radio Television Serbia building. 
  • Meanwhile, New Party’s Zoran Zivkovic brought up charges against Vucic, Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, and Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic over illegal arms trade. Zivkovic accused them of being a part of a criminal group involved in arms trade. 
  • The Ministry of Interior confirmed police entered the Stari Grad municipality, which is controlled by the Serbian opposition parties, to “gather documents related an investigation on possible wrong-doings in the municipality.”
  • High Representative to Bosnia and Herzegovina Valentin Inzo addressed the UN Security Council on the situation in BiH. He warned that the reason there was no government was due to disagreements between the three main political parties – SNSD, SDA, and HDZ-BiH. Furthermore, he slammed the country’s politicians:  “Bosnia and Herzegovina has proven to have serious problems related to its functionality, the rule of law and the fight against corruption, the freedom of media and in many other areas, which reflect the pervasiveness of separatism and divisive policies in the country, and the general lack of focus of the country’s political elite on issues of real importance to the citizens,” Watch his full remarks here.
  • Vice President of the French Senate Hélène Conway-Mouret told Macedonian media that France will support N. Macedonia’s NATO path, but held President Macron’s line on opening EU accession talks: “It is not a veto or rejection by France, because Paris does not want to block the process. The negative decision on the issue was because maybe the present EU is not prepared to accept new member-states and it is necessary to see certain criteria that would help this process.”
  • Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic welcomed Luxembourg’s Speaker of Parliament Fernando Etges to Podgorica on Tuesday. In their meeting, Djukanovic stressed that closing the door to the EU sends a negative message to countries close to joining the EU.
  • Meanwhile, Montenegrin Foreign Minister Srdjan Darmanovic denied Kosovo’s claims that there could be a negotiation on the border demarcation settlement approved by Kosovo’s parliament in 2018. He said, “I have not participated in any negotiations that transfer the territory of Montenegro to anyone, because such negotiations have never been, nor can there be.”
  • Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic met with Czech counterpart Andrej Babis in Prague to discuss the annual EU budget, strengthening bilateral relations, Schengen enlargement, and priorities for Croatia’s EU Presidency. 
  • The Swedish Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel of Sweden, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Environment and Climate, Isabella Lovin were scheduled to land in Sarajevo on Tuesday, but faced technical issues and are now expected to land by Wednesday morning.
  • In an interview with Klix, Swedish Ambassador to BiH Johanna Stromquist noted that the royal visit was a huge opportunity for the country. She also mentioned Sweden is the third largest bilateral donor from the EU to BiH at 18 million Euros and earmarked her priorities as rule of law, democracy, human rights, freedom of the media, women’s participation in politics, the environment, sustainable development, and innovation and entrepreneurship. Finally, she praised the 80,000 strong Bosnian diaspora in Sweden as personal ambassadors between the two countries. Read her full interview (in Bosnian) here.
  • Speaking of royal families, Slovenian President Borut Pahor will be on a state visit today and tomorrow to Norway on an invitation from King Harald V.
  • Deutsche Welle’s Samir Huseinovic and Ivica Petrovic take a look into the Balkans’ “choking season” as air pollution has left the region’s capitals in the most polluted places in the world. 
  • “The European Commission announced on 4 November two projects from the Cohesion Fund, together worth €156.6 million, to upgrade water and wastewater infrastructure in Croatia.” (New Europe)
  • “German company EKH Plauen has started the construction of a 3 million euro ($3.3 million) factory for garbage container wheels in Zrenjanin, in northern Serbia, the Zrenjanin city government said. The factory will be located in the Southeast Industrial Zone of Zrenjanin and will start production in August 2020, the Zrenjanin city government said in a statement on Monday. ” (See News)
  • “Slovenia saw its gross domestic expenditure in research and development (R&D) increase last year for the first time since 2013, but the figure is still 4.6% below the all-time high recorded that year.” (STA)
  • “The party of the Slovenia’s centre-left Prime Minister Marjan Sarec asked the Bank of Slovenia on Monday to reverse restrictions on bank loans imposed this month, saying the policy will hurt many citizens. The central bank has ordered banks to halt lending if a borrower would have to pay more than 67% of net income to service debt, and has imposed a maximum seven-year maturity for consumer loans other than mortgages.” (Reuters)

IN OTHER NEWS…

  • ANALYSIS: “The Ugly Truth of France‘s Balkans Policy” by Reuf Bajrovic in Oslobodjenje: “It was on June 28, 1992 that French President Francois Mitterrand made a surprise visit to the besieged city of Sarajevo. He took personal and political risk by coming to Sarajevo in what initially seemed like a humanitarian gesture of help for the four hundred thousand besieged citizens of Sarajevo. We soon found out that his trip was a successful effort to block possible US-led NATO air-strikes against the separatist Serb besiegers of the city.
  • Similarly, French President Emmanuel Macron took political risks to block Albania and North Macedonia from opening accession negotiations with the European Union in October. It was hoped that Macron would infuse the EU with new energy and expand its influence abroad. Macron’s veto came as no surprise to Western Balkans observers. France openly supported the Greek veto on Macedonia and did its best to end Turkey’s EU prospects under President Sarkozy. Macron took this policy a step further and made clear that France was going to return to its traditional posture of open support for Serbia when he visited Belgrade in the fall. Fittingly, he promised to provide Serbia with Mistral MANPADS, thereby joining Putin in inexplicably beefing up Belgrade’s air defense capabilities. Also inexplicably, France still opposes visa liberalization for Kosovo despite there being no apparent downsides for France in allowing Kosovars to travel freely to the EU since they constitute a tiny percentage of asylum seekers in France.”
  • SPORT: Serbian-Australian soccer coach Milan Ivanovic joins USWNT’s Vlatko Andonovski’s coaching team. Ivanovic is a longtime assistant to Andonovski.
  • SPORT: Porto Montenegro tops BOAT International’s list of places to watch polo.