WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

HAPPY ELECTION DAY! As Americans go to the polls to vote in the 2020 presidential election today, we encourage those going out to vote today to follow all local and state guidelines to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Don’t forget your mask!

N. MACEDONIA-BULGARIA: FM of N. Macedonia Bujar Osmani and Deputy PM for European Affairs Nikola Dimitrov last night met with Bulgarian FM Ekaterina Zakharieva at the invitation of German FM Heiko Maas and German State Minister for Europe Michael Roth.

Meanwhile, a group of Bulgarian and Macedonian academics penned an open letter the governments of both countries. They call for a “cooperative, open-minded approach to dealing with issues of history and identity,” according to one of its signatories, Dimitar Bechev.

KOSOVO-SERBIA DIALOGUE:

  • Kosovo President Hashim Thaci reiterated the red line for Kosovo within the dialogue. He said, “I have already said that the dialogue makes sense only if  the proposal for mutual recognition is put on the table, otherwise it is completely meaningless, completely unnecessary, failed and in favor of Serbia.”
  • Serbian President Aleksander Vucic denied recognition is be on the table. “The story of mutual recognition is fairly meaningless for Serbia but the people in Pristina like to repeat it like parrots. Pristina can’t invent new agreements that do not exist. That shows that they don’t want a compromise,” said Vucic.
  • And Tanjug reports Vucic addressed the Community of Serb Municipalities (CSM) yesterday at a government session. Vucic said, “They (the Kosovo government) committed themselves to the creation of the CSM, not on the condition of any recognition, but on the condition that the things about the regional police, participation in the elections, everything that was written in the Brussels Agreement were fulfilled. They cannot invent new agreements that do not exist.”
  • Meanwhile, Hungarian FM Peter Szijjarto says the EU should be clear on expectations from Serbia. On recognizing Kosovo, FM Szijjarto said, “It is not fair for that (recognition) to be a precondition and we must not be like that.”
  • He added, “Serbia is a serious country and we should not play games with it. The EU should say directly whether we are ready to speed up the negotiations or not.”

BiH + KOSOVO: Kosovo PM Avdullah Hoti last night spoke on the phone with Chairman of the Presidency of BiH Sefik Dzaferovic. They discussed the opening liaison offices in each others capitals. Last month, the BiH Presidency Members could not come to a consensus to recognize Kosovo.

NEXT BERLIN PROCESS MEETING: European Western Balkans reports that the next meeting of the Berlin Process will take place in Sofia on November 10. The Berlin Process gathers leaders of the European Union and the Western Balkans to strengthen regional cooperation and resolve outstanding issues.

KOSOVO FM IN GERMANY: Kosovo FM Meliza Haradinaj-Stublla is on an official visit to Berlin at the invitation of counterpart Heiko Maas. She met with members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Cabinet on Monday and is set to meet FM Maas today.

SERBIA RECEIVES RUSSIAN T-72s: Serbian Defense Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic confirmed Serbia is set to receive 30 T-72 tanks from Russia as a part of a 2016 agreement signed in Sochi between President Aleksandar Vucic and Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu. There are media reports that the first shipment arrived in Belgrade on October 28.

SERBIA GOING DIGITAL: Serbian PM Ana Brnabic announced the government is focusing on increasing digital education during a digitalization conference. She highlighted, “We have invested some 100 million Euro into infrastructure for start-ups, research and development, science and technology parks and we will continue as the new government.”

EXTRADITED: The Higher Court in Belgrade announced the extradition of 11 Serbian nationals accused of defrauding investors to the tune of $70 million. They are facing charges of internet fraud.

CROATIAN TRANSPORT: The Croatian news outlet Vecernji LIst reports that Croatia is set to invest 4.5 billion euros in railway infrastructure through 2030. The 750 km of upgrades on existing railways is expected to be primarily financed by the European Union.

SLOVENIAN POPULATION RISING: The population of Slovenia has surpassed 2.1 million for the first time in history. The rise in population is being credited to a rise in immigration.

IN OTHER NEWS

OP-ED: “Importance of US elections for Western Balkans” by Srdjan Majstorovic in Euraktiv

ANALYSIS: “China in the Western Balkans Energy Sector” by Igor Novakovic in The Berlin Process Resource and Information Centre

ANALYSIS: “Dayton 2.0: Deal that Ended Bosnian War Needs Rewriting, But How?” by Nedim Dervisbegovic in Balkan Insight

ANALYSIS: “Trump and COVID-19 Fuel North Macedonia’s Clickbait Boom” by Saska Cvetkovska in Balkan Insight

ANALYSIS: “Levels of state capture in the Western Balkans remain unacceptably high” by Giulia Guerrini in Emerging Europe

HUMAN INTEREST: “Three Years On: Why I Still Love Living In Albania” in The Balkanista