WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY
  • The death toll of the 6.4 magnitude earthquake that rocked Albania rises to 23 as of 1:10 a.m. CET. Kosovo, Montenegro, and Serbia are sending teams to assist Albania’s search and rescue mission while other Balkan states are sending aid. In addition to sending the team, Kosovo also sent 500,000 EUR to its neighbor.
  • Kosovo declared a day of mourning today for victims of the earthquake in Albania which included two brothers from the eastern town of Gjilan. Albania also declared a day of mourning.
  • Meanwhile, the initial reports of tremors in Bosnia and Herzegovina were revealed to be a 5.2 magnitude earthquake that struck just hours after the devastating earthquake in Albania.
  • US President Donald Trump wrote a letter to the President of the Senate to certify ratification of N. Macedonia’s NATO Accession Protocol on Tuesday.
  • “Across the U.S. military last year, there were 18 known crashes involving UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopters. That makes routine maintenance and inspection a vital part of ensuring the safety and security of our military’s Soldiers and equipment. Soldiers from Delta Co., 1-171st Aviation Regiment, the maintenance company for Task Force Aviation on Camp Bondsteel, began a phase maintenance inspection for one of their UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopters Nov. 18, in the aviation motor pool.” (DVIDS)
  • Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias visited Skopje on Tuesday and met with President Stevo Pendarovski, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, and Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov. Dendias told his counterpart that Greece fully backs N. Macedonia’s EU accession and “We have a joint future, if we act in good faith.” He also noted that relations between the neighbors have “dramatically improved” at a press conference following the meetings.
  • Dimitrov told the press conference, “We talked about this new era for our relations and we stated that it is especially important to continue devotedly to a mutual implementation of the Prespa Agreement obligations. Also we talked about other issues such as the first session of the Expert Commission for trade marks and the speeding up the first meeting of the experts for opening new border crossings that were already agreed.”
  • Meanwhile, China’s state run Xinhua reports, “The two-day 4th Ministerial Forum on Cultural Cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European Countries (CEECs) concluded here on Tuesday. The event has opened a new chapter in international cultural cooperation, said Prime Minister of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev when attending the forum, adding that his country supports the initiative. ‘This initiative is a great opportunity for all of us … to join and all together to contribute to the advancement of our relations, both on the bilateral and multilateral level,’ said Zaev.”
  • In an interview with European Western Balkans, likely Kosovo Prime Minister described his first month in office, abolishing the 100% taxes for reciprocity, why he sees the Community of Serb Municipalities as “Republika Srpska light,” and why border changes aren’t in anyone’s favor. He did fall short of what Kosovo would give in concession for a final agreement.
  • A former Prime Minister and SDP leader, Zoran Milanovic, on Tuesday presented the State Electoral Commission (DIP) with 78,000 signatures collected by volunteers of 13 centre-left parties in support of his bid for the presidency.’The trends are obvious. I will fight and I believe that I will win,’ Milanovic told reporters after submitting the signatures to DIP. Commenting on incumbent President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic, supported by the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) for her second term, Milanovic accused the president of belittling ‘the insignia of the institute of state governance, including the presidential flag, which she respects more than I do.'” (N1)
  • Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic is accused of attending a faculty without professors. Finance Minister Sinisa Mali was recently found to have plagiarized his PhD but will likely not face repercussions from the government.
  • Meanwhile, Serbian opposition leader Sasa Radulovic is ready to take President Aleksandar Vucic to the European Court of Human Rights after the Constitutional Court rejected his appeal. Radulovic accuses Vucic of insults and slander.
  • The mayor of Presevo, Serbia, Shqiprim Arifi, a predominantly Albanian town in southern Serbia, provided an outline for the minimum and maximum requirements for a deal between Kosovo and Serbia – minimally: recipricoty, maximally: joining Kosovo. He also said Albania will open a consulate in Presevo, but Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic denies this will happen.
  • Two men have been arrested in connection to the assassination of Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic. Former Kosovo Police Officer and Nedeljko Spasojevic and Marko Ristic were the two involved; they were previously arrested in connection to the assassination but released from custody.
  • Meanwhile, Croatia’s Ministry of Culture signed a declaration of cooperation with the twenty-six EU member states to digitalize historical sites. The ministry wrote in a press release, “Growing threats to cultural heritage (natural disasters, pollution, mass tourism, adverse climatic events, terrorism, vandalism) are creating an urgent need to make maximum use of digital technology to record, document and preserve the European cultural heritage and its accessibility to European citizens.”
  • Apple will pay $467,000 for doing business with a US sanctioned software company from Slovenia.
  • A toy protest led to the arrest of organizer Stefan Blagic in Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzergovina, on Tuesday. Blagic, the leader of the NGO Restart Srpska, put stuffed toys in the square to protest the law in Republika Srpska that bans demonstrations following the massive demonstrations seeking justice for David Dragicevic. Blagic was joined by a small group of protesters.
  • ENERGY: “In the second wave of the European Single Intraday Coupling (SIDC, formerly XBID) project, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovenia have successfully linked intraday markets with fourteen countries active in operational work since June 2018. The second wave will enable continuous cross-border trading of electricity in the intraday timeframe across seven countries while the geographic coverage of SIDC will now span to 21 countries. The countries operational from the first go-live are Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Finland, France, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Sweden and Spain.” (Balkan Green Energy News)

 

  • MIGRANTS: Bosnia’s Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA) stopped the smuggling of fourteen people.
  • CRIME: A top Croatian Air Force pilot and his chain of command were dismissed after transporting a  suspected illegal arms dealer in a helicopter. Serbian Police seized four tons of marijuana, two handguns a falsified police identification card, and a car equipped with police markings, according to Reuters.
IN OTHER NEWS…
  • CULTURE: “The Balkans Comes to Bowdoin” by Tom Porter in Bowdoin College (Maine, USA): “Grachanitsa is a folk troupe consisting of more than thirty dancers that celebrates Serbian culture. In mid-November the Boston-based group performed on campus at the suggestion of a Bowdoin senior in an event organized by the Russian department.”