WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

25 YEARS SINCE DAYTON: Saturday marked the 25 year anniversary of the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords in Dayton, Ohio, ending the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

  • U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun, Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Reeker, Principal DAS for European and Eurasian Affairs and former Ambassador to BiH Maureen Cormack, DAS for European and Eurasian Affairs and Special Representative to the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer, and U.S. Ambassador to BiH Eric Nelson met virtually with the tripartite presidency – Sefik Dzaferovic, Zeljko Komsic, and Milorad Dodik – to discuss the longstanding partnership between the U.S. and BiH.
  • The EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell visited Sarajevo on the 25th anniversary and met with the tripartite presidency members, visited the War Childhood Museum, encouraged EUFOR troops, and met with youth from civil society. Borrell’s key message? Make necessary reforms to push towards a future in the European Union. Watch his full speech HERE or read it HERE.
  • UK Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs Dominic Raab tweeted, “25 years since the Dayton Peace Accords ended conflict in Bosnia & Herzegovina, the UK remains a committed partner. I know from working in The Hague how important it is to continue working with #BiH to prosecute war crimes, promote independent media & safeguard peace. #Dayton25”
  • NATO Secretary General noted, “25 years ago, the Dayton Peace Agreement brought an end to nearly four years of brutal war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The presence of NATO troops played a central role in bringing the warring parties to the negotiating table; once the agreement was signed, NATO forces oversaw its implementation; and we have remained on the ground ever since to help maintain peace and security in the Western Balkans.”

PATRIARCH IRINEJ MOURNED: The controversial head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Irinej, was laid to rest in Belgrade yesterday with thousands of mourners attending his funeral. Irinej contracted Covid-19 at the funeral of Bishop Amfilohije in Montenegro last month who also passed away due to Covid-19. Serbia and the Bosnia’s Republika Srpska entity have declared three days of mourning.

ZAEV CLEAR ON MACEDONIAN IDENTITY: In an interview with AFP, PM of N. Macedonia Zoran Zaev expressed his astonishment at Bulgaria’s veto of formally opening EU accession talks with his country. Zaev noted there was “a lot of bitterness” and “there is the absurdity of the whole problem.” Zaev added that N. Macedonia’s red line is any issue on the Macedonian identity.

DODIK ASSUMES PRESIDENCY CHAIRMANSHIP: Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik on Friday took over the chairmanship of tripartite presidency from Bosniak Member of the Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic.

KOSOVO DENIES SERBIAN OFFICIALS ENTRY: The Kosovo Foreign Ministry on Saturday denied entry to the country to Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin, and Director for the Office of Kosovo and Metohija Petar Petkovic after a mass grave of suspected Kosovo Albanians was found in Serbia. Meanwhile, Kosovo’s FM Meliza Haradinaj-Stublla on Thursday made an official request to Serbian authorities visit the site of the mass grave to observe the excavation process.

KOSOVO SPECIALIST CHAMBERS: The special court for war crimes that has thus far only indicted former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) members is facing scrutiny within Kosovo. Currently, former Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) Kadri Veseli, Jakup Krasniqi of NISMA, and Vetvendosje’s Rexhep Selimi are awaiting trial in The Hague.

  • Leader of Vetvendosje Albin Kurti was caught by surprise by some aspects of the court. He said, “To tell you the truth I did not expect such an attack on the KLA. This phrase ‘joint criminal enterprise’ is an historical and political subversion of the KLA. I believe that this will be harmful for state-building in Kosovo, for justice in Kosovo, and for the Kosovo Liberation Army and its values.”
  • One of Kurti’s main gripes is the court deals only with Kosovo while the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague dealt with war crimes across the whole region.
  • Meanwhile, the Kosovo Specialist Chambers has accused the aforementioned KLA members at The Hague of using their power and influence within the police and security apparatus to intimidate witnesses. The ICTY, United Nations Interim Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), and the EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) have faced the same problem since the early 2000s with some witnesses even being murdered.

MOSTAR ELECTIONS: The campaigns for local elections in Mostar have officially kicked off for the first time in over a decade. After a twelve-year hiatus, citizens of Mostar will head to the elections on December 20.

CROATIA + BiH: Croatian FM Gordan Grlic Radman has blasted Bosnian Croat Member of the Presidency Zeljko Komsic by claiming he is not a true representative of Bosnian Croats.

  • Grlic Radman said, “He definitely does not represent Croats in the three-member Presidency…It is not moral of him to call himself a representative of the Croat people.”
  • He added, “Croats should be able to elect their own representatives. That is not so in the BiH Presidency. Croats do not have their representative.”
  • Grlic Radman maintains Croatia is not interferring in the internal affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina. He said, “Croatia is interested in a stable and functional Bosnia and Herzegovina in which all three peoples will be able to exercise their rights. If the Croats are the most endangered, Croatia will insist on correcting the injustice. That can be done by implementing Constitutional Court rulings and amending the election law.”

SLOVENIAN DEFENSE BUDGET: Slovenian Parliament passed a bill to earmark 780 million euro in additional spending for defense investments for the period between 2021and 2026.

NAZI GRAFITTI POPS UP IN CROATIA, SERBIA: Nazi symbols, including a swastika and Celt Cross, on Friday appeared on a primary school in Leskovac, Serbia. Meanwhile, two days later a swastika was found on a memorial to Holocaust victims in Varazdin, Croatia.

AMERICAN WHITE SUPREMACIST IN SERBIA: Robert Rundo, a co-founder of the white supremacist organization called the Rise Above Movement from Queens, New York, has been living in Serbia since March. Bellingcat’s Michael Colborne takes a deep dive into his activities in the United States and Serbia.

SLOVENIA RECEIVES FUNDS TO BATTLE UNEMPLOYMENT: “The European Commission disbursed EUR 200 million to Slovenia in the form of loans under favourable terms as part of the SURE instrument on Tuesday out of the total of EUR 1.1 billion in support approved to the country to mitigate unemployment risks in an emergency.

“The Commission today disbursed EUR 14 billion to nine EU countries in what is the second instalment of financial support to member states under the SURE instrument.” (Total Slovenia News)

IN OTHER NEWS

DAYTON CORNER:

OP-ED: “Language Is Politics, and Not Just In the Balkans” by Alexander Kluth in Bloomberg

HUMAN INTEREST: “Melania Trump’s hometown in Slovenia hopes its fame will last” by Guy Delaney in BBC News

CULTURE: “Ada Bojana is Disappearing, Scientists Trying to Save it” by Antonela Stjepcevic in Total Montenegro News

CULTURE: “23 Best Gifts From Slovenia: Presents, Experiences and Made-In-Slovenia Products” by Sam Baldwin in Total Slovenia News

SPORT: “Miami Heat taking out billboards in Slovenia to lure Goran Dragic back to team” in Heat Nation

ENTERTAINMENT: “Renowned Bosnian actor Mustafa Nadarevic passed away from lung cancer” in N1

TRAVEL: “The Rise of the Quality Hotel Scene in Stari Grad on Hvar” by Paul Bradbury in Total Croatia News