WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

  • US State Department Special Envoy for the W. Balkans Matthew Palmer met with US ambassadors and chiefs of mission in Skopje. The US Embassy in Sarajevo took to Twitter, “Great to see so many of my colleagues from the region and Washington at the regional Chiefs of Mission conference in Skopje, to discuss how we can best advance shared priorities in security, rule of law, anti-corruption, energy, prosperity and foreign direct investment #USAmbBiH
  • Bosniak Member of Presidency Sefik Dzaferofic criticized Serbia after its Defense Ministry promoted a book that denied Bosnian Serbs committed a war crime during a 1995 massacre in Tuzla. The book, “Tuzla Kapija – A Staged Tragedy.” Its author said it was a “clear message” that Serbia’s institutions stood by his narrative that the massacre was staged.
  • Furthermore, Bosnian House of Peoples MP Denis Becirovic called for Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin to be declared persona non grata in BiH. He noted, “Such a shameful act by Serbia’s top official definitely shows that Serbia and its highest government bodies continue the systematic denial of war crimes and defend convicted war criminals.”
  • Meanwhile Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik attacked the high representative of BiH, “The institution of the High Representative is incompatible with the EU and you have the EU’s opinion that Bosnia can’t move forward with it. It’s not true that we have a rule of law because we have a rule of one man who ruled outside the law by using his Bonn powers. The high representative is a fraud who did so much harm to Bosnia with his Bonn powers which they used unlawfully. He added that Lord Paddy Ashdown should be dug up from his grave to answer for what he did to BiH. 
  • Likely Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti again insisted that a Serb minister in his government would not include a representative of Srpska Lista and noted their MPs would be in the opposition. He continued that his government would replace the 100% tariffs on goods with reciprocity, which would include university diplomas. Kurti does not believe that an exchange of territory would be a good idea because it would only lead to instability, rather there should be a demarcation and that there “would always be Serbs and Albanians on both sides of the border.” Finally, he may not see anymore controversy of symbols as he indicated that there would be a Kosovo flag and symbols in his prime minister’s office. Read his full comments on N1.
  • Vetvendosje MP Albuena Haxhiu said that Kosovo will ask for reparations from Serbia: “Regarding the dialogue, we have to have a consensus, and Kosovo’s Parliament and the state must put with firm conditions to Serbia, including the reparation.”
  • Meanwhile, Vetvendosje activists protested the death of Astrit Dehari who died in police custody after protests in Pristina in 2016. 
  • Sweden’s Crown Princess Victoria and Prince David arrived in Bosnia and Herzegovina overnight. They met with the Members of the Presidency on Wednesday. Environment and Climate Minister Isabella Lovin joined the Swedish delegation for the trip.
  • Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic attended the official ceremony to welcome Rabbi Ari Edelkopf who is the first Chief Rabbi for Montenegro. There were around 500 guests in total.
  • “A summit of the Friends of Cohesion, an informal group of EU members opposing cuts to cohesion funds, urged the EU to adopt a 2021-2027 budget with a sufficient amount of cohesion funds. Slovenian PM Marjan Šarec said that ‘a strong EU needs a sufficient and future-oriented budget’ which will address the bloc’s key challenges.” (Slovenia Times)
  • The head of the Kosovo Intelligence Agency, Shpend Maxhmuni, resigned on Wednesday which was accepted by outgoing Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj. Vetvendosje has called for his resignation after illegal weapons and potential narcotics were found in his son’s car. 
  • Meanwhile, two of the seven Turkish citizens extradited from Kosovo to Turkey were sentenced to seven years and six months in jail for “international espionage” and “being members of a terrorist organization.” The seven that were extradited were teaching at Gulenist schools in Turkey.
  • Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic announced that Chinese company Alipay, created by Alibaba, will come to Serbia in coming months. 
  • President Vucic’s proposal to name a street after Nikolai Kravtsov, a Soviet soldier killed in the liberation of Belgrade, passed the city commission.
  • Vucic, meanwhile said that if the father of Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanvoic committed any wrongdoing, he would be held accountable, and so would Stefanovic if he were complicit.
  • Croatian Infrastructure Minister Oleg Butkovic is optimistic the construction of the access roads for the Peljesac Bridge will begin soon. He also noted, “It seems that I’m always preparing to answer reporter’s questions on whether or not the bridge and access roads will be completed on the same day. It’s hard to say right now, but based on what we can see at the current moment, it won’t be that far off. We have to complete the entire project by the end of 2023 to ensure that we don’t lose any of the funding. And I can assure you that it will be completed well before then.”
  • Croatia marked the World Day of the Romani Language on Tuesday. MP for the Roma community, Veljko Kajtazi, said, “Our work over the last ten years on promoting the Romani language and marking the World Day of Romani Language has been a very successful project through which we have preserved some of the valuable material for future generations and restored a sense of pride to the Roma community.” 
  • Croatian teachers held a country-wide strike under the banner “611” for the 6.11% increase in wages they are seeking. Around 2,000 educators gathered in Zagreb to protest.
  • Emirates’ Senior Vice President for Commercial Operations in Europe, Thierry Aucoc, talks about the potential of the service to Zagreb and further developing Croatia in the future. Emirates launched a daily service to the Croatian capital from Dubai back in June 2017, which worked from May 31 to the end of October this year. The winter timetable on this service is operated by Emirates’ partner flydubai, which reduced the number of flights this winter from seven to four per week on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. However, during the Christmas and New Year holidays, flydubai will increase the number of flights to six a week.” (Total Croatia News)
  • MIGRANTS: Police in Croatia found nine migrants in a crate in the back of a van with Polish license plates on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Open Democracy published a piece, “Croatia’s violent pushbacks of refugees and asylum-seekers.” In more positive migrant news, Croatian police helped a migrant woman give birth in the woods about 70 km south of Zagreb.

IN OTHER NEWS…

  • HUMAN INTEREST: “Concentration camp survivor teaches moral lesson about kindness” by Warren Scholte in the Manitoulin Expositor (Canada): “Peter Bering was only a child when he and his family went from being wealthy landowners in then-Yugoslavia to residents of a concentration camp built upon his family’s land, the story of which is the subject of his new autobiography and a forthcoming documentary to share the story of his experience and an important moral lesson about kindness.”
  • CULTURE: “Divers Discover Fully Intact Medieval Sword in Underwater Stone“: by Ian Harvey in The Vintage News: “In Bosnia’s Republika Srpska, the Vrbas River has held a secret for around seven centuries. A medieval sword was recently discovered stuck in a stone thirty-six feet down at the bottom of the river. Divers from the RK BUK, a boating and dive club in Banja Luka, found the sword in relatively good condition considering the amount of time spent underwater.”
  • DIASPORA: “Where to Eat and Drink in Hamtramck, One of the Most Diverse Places in America” by Dorothy Hernandez in Thrillist:”PACZKI FOR BREAKFAST, BIRYANI FOR LUNCH, sushi for dinner, shots of Jezy at happy hour, and Yemeni snacks late-night: In Hamtramck, Michigan, you can eat and drink around the world in just two square miles. Where else can you experience Bosnia, Yemen, and Bangladesh as you hop between more dive bars than any human being should have access to? Hamtramck may be small, but its boozefood, and culture can contend with American cities twice its size.”
  • SPORT: Champions League – Tottenham Hotspurs defeats Red Star Belgrade 4-0. Dinamo Zagreb and Shakhtar Donetsk draw 3-3. Europa League tomorrow: Partizan Belgrade vs. Manchester United at 3PM EST.