WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

ICMYI: Dr. Dženeta Karabegović writes for Balkan Insider, “Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Reset in the Local Elections“: “While the whole world was focused on the U.S. election results earlier this month, campaigning for local elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina was well underway. Despite the ongoing pandemic and epidemiological measures which limited events, campaigns moved ahead in an effort to raise voter turnout for what are usually lower turnout elections. After all, broadening the body of voters means capturing new, younger, and dissatisfied voters, and thus, increasing your change at a win.”

SPEAKING OF BiH ELECTIONS… Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency and leader of SNSD Milorad Dodik announced a stoppage of funds from Bosnian Serb dominated entity Republika Srpska (RS) to Banja Luka after SNSD’s candidate lost in local elections.

  • Dodik announced, “We will stop all investments from the RS Government level until we see how the city will politically develop. I will not forgive them for what they have done to Igor. This is not a threat, this is my personal stance. It’s my right.”
  • He added, “They have tarnished the relations so much that no proposal for any new mayor will be supported.”
  • Read more about how Dodik took SNSD’s loss of Banja Luka personally HERE.
  • Meanwhile, Croatian FM Gordan Grlic-Radman met with Bosnian Croat leader Dragan Covic to discuss election results and look ahead to local elections in Mostar on December 20. This will be the first elections in twelve years.

BULGARIA BLOCKS N. MACEDONIA: Bulgaria yesterday formally blocked N. Macedonia from opening EU accession talks by failing to approve the membership negotiation framework for N. Macedonia.

  • Bulgarian FM Ekaterina Zakharieva notes, “Bulgaria, at this stage, cannot back the draft of the negotiation framework with the Republic of North Macedonia and the holding of the first intergovernmental conference.”
  • Sofia wants N. Macedonia to remove claims of a Macedonian minority in Bulgaria, refer to Macedonian as the “official language of the Republic of North Macedonia,” and remove claims of disputed historical figures.
  • Meanwhile, Bulgaria backed Albania’s negotiation framework.
  • Germany, which currently holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, hoped to formally open EU accession talks with Albania and N. Macedonia at the intergovernmental conference in December.

OSMANI OPTIMISTIC FOR BIDEN PRESIDENCY: Speaker of Parliament and Acting President of Kosovo Vjosa Osmani expects strong relations with U.S. President-elect Joe Biden and his administration.

  • In an interview with Financial Times, Osmani said, “Everyone knows that president-elect Biden is not just any friend of Kosovo. He knows our pain very well.”
  • She added, “Joe Biden knows the truth, and the truth is very plain and simple. Serbia lost Kosovo because it abused the principle of sovereignty and territorial integrity to kill the people that lived in that territory, to commit attempted genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. He knows the truth and he will not try to change the truth.”
  • Osmani has tested positive for Covid-19 – we wish her a quick recovery!

MORE EU SUPPORT FOR CROATIA: “The European Commission has given Croatia 510 million Euros in loans as part of its SURE Program. The program was established to help Member States fight unemployment being brought about by coronavirus measures.

“The temporary Support to mitigate Unemployment Risks in an Emergency (SURE) is available for Member States that need to mobilize significant financial means to fight the negative economic and social consequences of the coronavirus outbreak on their territory. It can provide financial assistance up to €100 billion in the form of loans from the EU to affected Member States to address sudden increases in public expenditure for the preservation of employment. SURE is a crucial element of the EU’s comprehensive strategy to protect citizens and mitigate the severely negative socio-economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.” (The Voice of Croatia)

KRIVOKAPIC ON MEETING OUTGOING GOV’T: PM-designate Zdravko Krivokapic announced his team his ready to meet with the outgoing government and take control of public administration.

MASS GRAVE IN SERBIA: A mass grave of suspected Kosovo Albanians has been found at a mine outside of Raska in southwestern Serbia. There have been 900 Kosovo Albanians found across four mass grave locations in Serbia since 2001. Meanwhile, Bosnian police arrested Dusan Culbrik, a war crimes suspect accused of murdering dozens of civilians.

VULIN ON FIGHTING MAFIA: Serbia’s Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin announced the ministry is ready to tackle the mafia in Serbia.

  • He said, “(President) Aleksandr Vucic never says anything by chance or without evidence. We have information about the link between mafia members and some circles within the authorities, some of whom have already been identified.”
  • And added, “In this country, mafia won’t have its state – it’s either us or the mafia.”

KLA BILLBOARD BURNED IN KOSOVO: A Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) billboard on the outskirts of the Kosovo Serb town of Gracanica was burned overnight. The billboard reads, “Freedom has a name – KLA.”

  • Serbia’s Youth Initiative for Human Rights, which organizes the yearly “Miredita, Dobar Dan” festival aimed at bringing together civil society from Kosovo and Serbia, has denounced the billboard.
  • YIHR writes on its website, “The Youth Initiative for Human Rights sees it as a failure of the ‘Miredita dobar dan’ festival that some of its previous participants have partook recently in a campaign aimed at glorifying those convicted of war crimes and exerting pressure on the work of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office in the Hague.”

IN OTHER NEWS

OP-ED: “Bulgaria’s standoff with North Macedonia is a lose-lose” by Dimitar Bechev and Julian Popov in Politico EU

OP-ED: “Specialist Chambers ‘Inat’ Should Be Recognized – And Faced” by Besa Luci in Kosovo 2.0

ANALYSIS: “Leader of Slovenia, Melania Trump’s Birthplace, Says U.S. Election Isn’t Over Yet” by Brendan Cole in Newsweek

CULTURE: “Croatian heavy metal band Undercode blows away Serious Sam gamers worldwide with new music video” in Croatia Week

SPORT: “Get to know newest Pistons forward Dzanan Musa” by Lauren Williams in M Live

TRAVEL: “Come and visit Ozalj – a small town with rich history and hardworking people proud of their heritage” by Monika Dimitrova in The Mayor

TRAVEL: “Many Travelers noticed something that makes Jablanica different from other parts of Bosnia” in The Sarajevo Times

TRAVEL: “Attraction in Bosnia: Photo Safari in the Nature Park Hutovo Blato” in The Sarajevo Times