WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

ZAEV PRESENTED FES HUMAN RIGHTS AWARD: PM of N. Macedonia Zoran Zaev was presented the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Award for Human Rights based on the Prespa Agreement with Greece and the 2017 Friendship Treaty with Bulgaria. After the Prespa Agreement went into effect in February 2019, Greece agreed to “unblock” N. Macedonia’s path to NATO and the EU after it changed its name. Bulgaria, meanwhile, is set to block the formal opening of N. Macedonia’s EU accession talks over historical figures, language, and identity.

BiH LOCAL ELECTIONS: As the dust settles from Sunday’s local and municipal elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina, let’s take a look at some key results.

  • Both SNSD’s Milorad Dodik and SDA’s Bakir Izetbegovic had the same message after losing have lost the capitals of their entities (Sarajevo, Federation of BiH and Banja Luka,Republika Srpska) –  don’t let these loses discourage the great result throughout the country.
  • Freed war criminal Fikret Abdic who spent around 10 years in prison in Croatia for war crimes against Bosniaks claims victory in Velika Kladusa.
  • The Bosniak coalition Moja Adresa: Srebrenica claims there was voter fraud as it looks like incumbent mayor Mladen Grujicic is set to win over the Bosniak coalition’s Alija Tabakovic. Ex mayor Camil Durakovic urged voters from abroad to keep their ballots as they may still be able to have their votes counted.
  • Check out N1’s interactive map of the elections.

KURZ + ALBANIA: Chancellor of Austria Sebastian Kurz writes on Twitter, “I just had a good videoconference with #Albania’s Prime Minister and #OSCE Chairperson-in-Office @ediramaal on the joint fight against #terrorism & extremism, the #COVID19 pandemic and our support for Albania’s #EU accession process. The #EU will only be complete when all countries of the #WesternBalkans have joined it.”

  • The attacker in the Vienna terrorist attacks on November 2 that saw 5 people (including the terrorist) killed was an Albanian who held dual citizenship with Austria and N. Macedonia.

SERBIA + NATO: Although Serbia has halted military exercises with all foreign nations and allies, Director at the NATO Defense Institution and Capacity Building Directorate Marc DiPaolo highlighted the Serbia’s necessity for regional stability and underscored the long-term cooperation between NATO and Serbia.

  • DiPaolo said, “Serbia is important to NATO and NATO is, we hope, important to Serbia. Not least because the stability in the Western Balkans and stability in broader Euro-Atlantic region are linked.”
  • And added, “We demonstrated over time that we are willing to work together in order to achieve those goals and I think to good effect. Some of you may be surprised to know that the NATO-Serbia formal partnership is now 14 years old. We have regular high-level contacts and you may be surprised to hear that Secretary General Stoltenberg has a special link to Serbia having spent part of his childhood there.”

US MILITARY + BiH: “Members of the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina (AF BiH) and the United States of America will participate in a joint military exercise called “Bilateral Exercise,” which will be realized on November 18 and 19, 2020 at the AF BiH – Glamoc and Manjaca training grounds, Bosnia’s Defence Ministry said Monday.” (N1)

VUKOVAR COMMEMORATION: “Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Monday Deputy PM Boris Milosevic would be in the remembrance procession in Vukovar on Wednesday and that this was an important message of respect for Homeland War victims and in line with the government’s policy of reconciliation and looking to the future.

“Speaking to the press, Plenkovic said he would be joined in the procession by Milosevic of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS), Deputy PM Tomo Medved, and ministers Natasa Tramisak, Mario Banozic and Josip Aladrovic.

“Ministers Gordan Grlic Radman, Marija Vuckovic and Ivan Malenica will go to the commemoration in Skabrnja.” (N1)

SRBIJAGAS TO GET STATE BACKING: Serbian state-owned Srbijagas is set to receive government guarantees for  55 million euros in loans from three foreign banks – Komercijalna (owned by Slovenia’s NLB), Hungary’s OTP, and Russia’s Sberbank. A draft law was sent to parliament yesterday. Last week, a draft law was presented in front of parliament for Srbijagas to guarantee 70 million in loans to the same three banks.

CROATIAN SUPPORT POST- EARTHQUAKE: “On Monday, Budgets Committee Members approved €823 million in EU aid for the Croatia earthquake, floods in Poland, and the coronavirus crisis.

The €823 million in aid from the European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF) will be distributed as follows:

  • More than €132.7 million to be made in advance payments to Germany, Ireland, Greece, Spain, Croatia, Hungary, and Portugal in response to the major public health emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020.
  • Croatia will receive €683.7 million to help the country deal with the devastating effects of the earthquake in Zagreb and the surrounding area in March 2020. A first disbursement of €88.9 million was already released in August 2020.
  • More than €7 million will go to Poland to assist with reconstruction efforts following floods in the Podkarpackie Voivodeship province in June this year.” (European Parliament News)

NUNS CATCH COVID: Ten out of eighteen nuns at the Serbian Orthodox Church’s Patriarch of Pec Monastery in Kosovo have contracted Covid-19. This is the latest in a string of cases in the church – Metropolitan Amfilohije passed away from Covid-19 complications last month and Patriarch Irinej contracted Covid-19 after attending ceremonies for Amfilohije in early November.

IN OTHER NEWS

OP-ED: “How Slovenia tried (and failed) to capitalize on the Trump presidency” by Jure Kosec in Politico EU

OP-ED: “Thaçi’s gone. The thin line of Erdoğan’s brotherhood” by Gentiola Madhi in European Western Balkans

ANALYSIS: “White House Deal, a Farce” by Genc Mlloja in Albanian Daily News

ANALYSIS: “Fate of ‘Disappeared’ Yugoslav Soldiers from Kosovo Still Unknown” by Serbeze Haxhiaj in Balkan Insight

HUMAN INTEREST: “Sarajevo University commemorates former Dean and statesman Hasan Muratovic” in N1

CULTURE: “Café Bubamara is delighting the senses of New Jersey with the taste of Balkan cuisine” by Miguel Amaya in ABC 7 News…. If you haven’t been there, I highly recommend it as a top Balkan restaurant in my great home state of New Jersey! – Ryan