WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY
HAPPY STATEHOOD DAY BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA!
MUST READ: Fixing Dayton: A New Deal for Bosnia and Herzegovina by Director of the Wilson Center’s Global Europe program Daniel Hamilton and endorsed by top experts on the Western Balkans.
- A quick preview: “Twenty-five years ago this month, the Dayton Peace Agreement stopped Europe’s worst conflict and genocide since World War II. More Europeans died in the Bosnia war than during the entire Cold War. The inability of the United States and its European partners to agree on ways to stop the killing was the biggest transatlantic failure in seventy years. This record of tragedy and disaster is why the peace achieved at Dayton in 1995 was such a striking and surprising success.
- “Today, however, the Dayton arrangements are associated less with peace than with dysfunction. In part that is because Dayton was more a truce than a settlement. The elaborate governing architecture created at Dayton froze in place the warring parties (Republika Srpska and the Federation) and rewarded their commitment to ethnically-based control of territory. Since then, kleptocratic ethno-nationalists have manipulated Dayton’s provisions to entrench their power at the expense of the country’s viability.”
BIDEN TALKS BALKANS W/ EUROPEAN LEADERS: U.S. President-elect Joe Biden on Monday took separate congratulatory calls with Ursala von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel. One of the topics of conversation with von der Leyen and Michel was U.S.-EU cooperation on the Western Balkans.
- The readout for the Biden-von der Leyen conversation notes, “The president-elect expressed his belief that a strong European Union is in the United States’ interest and underscored his commitment to deepen and revitalize the U.S.-EU relationship…The president-elect also highlighted the importance of U.S.-EU cooperation on issues of mutual concern, including Iran, Belarus, Ukraine and the Western Balkans.”
- Meanwhile, the Biden-Michel readout highlights, “The president-elect thanked President Michel for his congratulations and conveyed his desire to deepen and revitalize the U.S.-EU partnership based on shared values and robust economic ties. The president-elect also underscored his commitment to strengthening democracy at home and abroad, engaging multilaterally, and cooperating on common challenges such as Iran, Belarus, Ukraine, and the Western Balkans.”
RUSSIA CONVENES BOSNIAN PARTY LEADERS: Russia convened leader of HDZ-BiH Dragan Covic (Bosnian Croat) and leader of the SNSD Milorad Dodik (Bosnian Serb) at an “Arria Formula” meeting at the UN Security Council on the Dayton Peace Accords.
- Leader of the SDA Bakir Izetbegovic (Bosniak) declined to participate because Bosnian institutions were being ignored in favor of leaders of political parties. He highlighted, “The wrong selection of participants from Bosnia and Herzegovina is on the scale of a worrying trend of bypassing and ignoring Bosnian institutions and elected representatives in those institutions.”
- Russian Ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzya defended the decision to not invite all the presidency members in favor of party leaders. He said, “We did not by any means intend to diminish the importance of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina but the format of this meeting allows us to invite unofficial representatives too…Unfortunately a representative of one political party, Bakir Izetbegovic, decided not to take part in the meeting but we are glad he sent a letter.”
- Read more about the format and guiding questions HERE.
SPEAKING OF BiH… High Representative Valentin Inzko has requested the plaque for a dorm in Pale named after convicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic responsible for the Srebrenica Genocide to be removed.
- Inzko highlighted, “If that is not removed, then I will ask the Security Council next May for the EU to ban entry to all those who deny genocide and glorify war criminals.”
- Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik says it is not within the mandate of the BiH Presidency to rule on such matters. Dodik has been long at odds with Inzko and has been advocating for the abolition of the Office of the High Representative.
BiH + SERBIA: For the first time since the 1990s, the Armed Forces of Bosnia and the Armed Forces of Serbia will hold bilateral military exercises in Bosnia. Defense Minister Sifet Podzic noted, “This is a regular cooperation within the operational capability programme required by NATO.”
ZAEV CONFIDENT ON DEAL: PM of N. Macedonia Zoran Zaev is confident that a deal with Bulgaria “was not far away” and believes it could be reached by the next EU ministerial during the second week of December. He noted, “I believe that before the second EU ministerial council on December 8,9 and 10, Borisov and I will meet and our working groups, which are in intensive communication, will create an atmosphere for that.”
KOSOVO + CROATIA: Kosovos’ Deputy PM Besnik Tahiri and FM Meliza Haradinaj-Stublla were on a visit to Zagreb on Monday.
- Deputy PM Tahiri met with Croatian PM Andrej Plenkovic. They discussed bilateral relations, the regional situation, and the situation in Kosovo. Plenkovic underscored Croatia’s support for Kosovo’s European path.
- FM Haradinaj-Stublla met with counterpart Gordan Grlic Radman. Haradinaj-Stublla asked for Croatia to play a larger role in the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue and said, “The only acceptable solution is mutual recognition, with respect for territorial integrity, a unitary state and the state’s constitutionality.”
- Grlic Radman highlighted Croatia’s support for the dialogue and its European path. He underscored, “I dare say that Croatia is perhaps the biggest ally and friend Kosovo has among the European Union countries.”
FRANCE + CROATIA: French Defense Minister Florence Parly on Monday arrived in Zagreb to meet with counterpart Mario Banozic and PM Andrej Plenkovic. The talks focused around Zagreb’s will to purchase new fighter jets and French Rafale fighter jets are an option. Parly highlighted the strengths of the fighter jets and remains optimistic the Croatian Armed Forces will have a positive review of the jets. France faces competition from Israel, Sweden, and the U.S. for Croatia’s bid.
KOSOVO + SERBIA: Kosovo denied entry to Deputy Mayor of Belgrade Goran Vesic. He claims he was denied entry because Kosovo viewed him as a security threat. Vesic says the real reason was to stop him from attending a ceremony marking Belgrade and North Mitrovica as twin cities. Vesic plans to file a lawsuit in the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
SERBIA RENEGS ON BACKING LOANS: “The Serbian government decided to withdraw its guarantees for a 70 million Euro loan to the Srbijagas natural gas supply company, a day after the Parliament Finances Committee approved the guarantees.
“The guarantees for that and other loans to state-owned companies were on the agenda of parliament on Tuesday.
“Srbijagas is headed by its CEO Dusan Bajatovic, a high-ranking official of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS, a junior party in the ruling coalition). Bajatovic was recently thrown out of a meeting called by the new Energy Minister Zoran Mihajlovic (of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party – SNS) allegedly for failing to comply with her instructions.” (N1)
RS RECEIVES RUSSIAN ANSAT: Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity Republika Srpska (RS) yesterday received the first of three Russian Ansat helicopters. The Russian helicopters will be used within RS’s Ministry of Interior. The subsequent helicopters will be received in 2021 and 2022.
ABAZOVIC THREATENED: Leader of Montenegro’s URA Movement Dritan Abazovic received threats from a regional criminal clan that contacted the National Security Agency for details about Abazovic’s security. PM-designate Zdravko Krivokapic tweeted, “Montenegro must never again be a state in which basic human rights are called into question. Threats to Dritan Abazovic are threats to everything normal and progressive in our country!”
ISRAEL + CROATIA: Israeli Ambassador to Croatia Ilan Mor called on the Croatian government to ban the use of Ustasha symbols and the salute, “Za dom spremni” after a swastika and Ustasha symbol was graffitied on a memorial to Holocaust victims in Varazdin.
SERBIANS VIEW ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS: In a survey conducted by Belgrade Centre for Security Policy, Serbian citizens pinpointed Kosovo as the most important foreign policy issue while attitudes towards China and Russia remain positive. Some key takeaways:
- 52% of respondents think there should be a military intervention in Kosovo and 47% said they would join the intervention.
- But 70% do not believe there will be an armed conflict in the region in the next five years.
- 54% were concerned about a Greater Albania.
- 58% think Bosnia’s Republika Srpska (RS) entity should secede and join Serbia.
- 80% said they would not accept Kosovo’s independence for RS joining Serbia.
- 72% see Russia’s influence in the country as positive
- 90% see China’s influence as positive.
SERBIAN MILITARY + SPC: Serbia’s Defense Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic defended the military’s participation in the funeral of Serbian Orthodox Church Patriarch Iriniej over the weekend. Members of the military help carry the coffin of Irinej.
- Stefanovic noted, “the Armed Forces of Serbia is the army of all people in Serbia, not only the Orthodox believers or personal guard of the SPC highest priest.” He added, “I shouldn’t remind you that the Army has the chief military priest, chief chaplain, and military imam, thus paying equal attention to all faiths and highly respecting the freedom of religion. The Defense Ministry and Armed Forces of Serbia will stand by its people in the future as well.”
IN OTHER NEWS
REPORT: “Key Challenges to Maintaining Peace and Security in the Western Balkans” by French MP Jean-Charles Larsonneur in NATO Parliamentary Assembly
OP-ED: “War and Peace in Bosnia” by Carl Bildt in Project Syndicate
OP-ED: “Belgrade’s Biden conundrum: How US-Serbian relations will shape up post-Trump” by Vuk Vuksanovic in Euro News
OP-ED: “Under Biden, the US will push for a ‘EU-goslavia’” by Timothy Less in Open Democracy
OP-ED: “Serbs Should Mourn Quiet Patriarch Who Avoided Conflict” by Marcus Tanner in Balkan Insight
OP-ED: “Serbia’s EU bid is over: five reasons why” by Alejandro Perez in New Eastern Europe
ANALYSIS: “A special Kosovo war crimes court will try its ex-president. So how do ‘hybrid’ courts work?” by Dennis Schmidt in The Washington Post
ANALYSIS: “Cause for Optimism in Albeit Slow Western Balkans Recovery” by Marko Savkovic in Balkan Insight
ANALYSIS: “Dayton Accords 25 Years Later: Bosnia Got Blueprint for Peace but not for Its Future” by Dino Jahic in Voice of America
HUMAN INTEREST: “Letter from Gornji Vakuf-Uskoplje: the Bosnian former frontline town blighted by lingering ethnic divides” by Katerina Barton in The Calvert Journal
HUMAN INTEREST: “Slovenia remembers WWI general” in The Slovenia Times: “Slovenia observed on Monday Rudolf Maister Day, a public holiday in memory of the general who established the first Slovenian army in modern history and secured what would became Slovenia’s northern border. The holiday marks the day in 1918 when Maister (1874-1934) took control of Maribor, Slovenia’s second largest city, a move that Lučka Lazarev Šerbec, the chair of the union bringing together associations dedicated to nurturing historical memory of the general, said showed he had “a clear vision in a fateful moment”.”
CULTURE: “Why culture makes smoking a hard habit for the Western Balkans to kick” by Nikola Djordjevic in Emerging Europe
CULTURE: “Fishing & Cycling Heaven Near Zagreb: Meet the Lakes of Sveta Nedelja” by Paul Bradbury in Total Croatia News
SPORT: “Ivanovic thrilled as youngsters get their chance with Montenegro” in FIBA