WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

We would like to wish a 🇦🇱HAPPY FLAG DAY🇦🇱 to Albanians who celebrated across the world on Saturday.

ICYMI: The Center for European Policy Analysis researcher Dr. Leon Hartwell writes for Balkan Insider, –The Biden Administration Will Return to the Long Game in the Balkans: “Shortly before the brokering of the Washington Agreement, I had a discussion with Ambassador Nicholas Burns, a top advisor to president-elect Joe Biden and a former U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs.  I have seven takeaways from the discussion.

Firstly, in stark contrast to the Trump Administration’s quick fix approach, Burns advocated for a return to serving a strategic long-term goal for the U.S. in the Balkans linked to the late president George H.W. Bush’s idea of ‘Europe whole and free’.  It was a bipartisan goal that survived several administrations, and it is something that has increased in importance given that Russia and, more recently, China are sowing divisions in Europe.”

US AMB. NELSON’S DAYTON BLOG: U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina Eric Nelson wrote a blog reflecting on the Dayton Peace Accords (DPA) He identified successes of the DPA while highlighting it was never meant to be indefinite. Amb. Nelson encouraged Bosnia and Herzegovina to make necessary reforms to advance the country on its European path.

REEKER WRITES TO ZAEV: Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Reeker wrote a note to PM of N. Macedonia Zoran Zaev expressing “disappointment that EU member states failed to reach an agreement on approving a negotiating framework for North Macedonia.” Reeker added, “We encourage you, and EU member states, to continue to solve bilateral disputes outside the EU accession process while aspirants simultaneously progress through the opening and closing of chapters.” Read the full note HERE.

  • Meanwhile, Zaev made it clear on Saturday his views on Macedonian. He tweeted, “I am a Macedonian 🇲🇰 who speaks Macedonian, which is recognized around the world. Karakachanov is a Bulgarian who speaks the Bulgarian language, which is recognized all over the world. But the ethnic and identity differences are not the only one between us. The difference in our world-views is more important and more serious.”

LAJCAK + KOSOVO: EU Special Representative to the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue Miroslav Lajcak on Thursday wrote a letter to Kosovo PM Avdullah Hoti and FM Meliza Haradinaj-Stublla after Kosovo banned Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic from visiting. Lajcak warned that banning the Serbian president could have negative consequences.

  • Lajcak reportedly wrote, “As defined in the Agreement on Freedom of Movement, individuals of each party are able to travel freely in the territory of the other.”
  • He added, “Non-compliance with these agreements sends a very negative signal to Kosovo’s credibility as a party to the Dialogue process.”

MONTENEGRO EXPELS SERBIAN AMBASSADOR: Over the weekend, Montenegro declared Serbian Ambassador Vladimir Bozovic as a persona non grata and expelled him from the country for “long and continuous meddling in the internal affairs of Montenegro.”

  • The Serbian Foreign Ministry initially announced reciprocal measures against Montenegro’s Ambassador to Serbia Tarzan Milosevic, but reversed the decision on Sunday. PM Ana Brnabic said, “We do not want a hostile act of this type against Montenegro which is why we took this decision.”
  • Incoming PM of Montenegro Zdravko Krivokapic slammed the move on Sunday. He said, “Such acts are not in the spirit of the European path and good regional cooperation of friendly countries. The outgoing regime, even in its last days, does not shy away from the polarization of society and the deepening of divisions.”
  • The EU Commissioner on Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi wrote on Twitter, “I welcome Serbian Government decision to withdraw expelling of Montenegrin ambassador. I call on Montenegro to do the same. Respect for good neighbourly relations&regional cooperation are cornerstones of #EUenlargement & Association and Stabilisation Process.”
  • Relations between Podgorica and Belgrade have soured over the past few months over the Serbian Orthodox Church and Serbia’s influence in Montenegro’s domestic politics.

KRIVOKAPIC’S GOV’T: Montenegrin PM-designate Zdravko Krivokapic revealed his final proposal for the new proposed government of Montenegro on Friday. Krivokapic has tipped URA leader Dritan Abazovic as Deputy PM. Other key posts include:

  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Djordje Radulovic
  • Ministry of Defense – Olivera Injac
  • Ministry of Internal Affairs – Sergej Sekulovic
  • Ministry of Economic Development – Jakov Milatovic
  • Ministry of Health – Jelena Borovinic Bojovic

RUSSIA DONATES TANKS TO SERBIA: President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic said that donation of 30 Russian battle tanks for Serbia means a ‘significant progress for the Ground Army.’

“Vucic attended on Saturday the presentation of 11 T-72 B1 MS Russia-made battle tanks at the ‘Mija Stanimirovic’ barracks in Nis, Serbia’s third-largest city.

“‘These are incomparably better tanks than our old tanks and they make a difference in the field. They have a better steering system, ballistic protection, our armour officers are happy and I believe these tanks will contribute to the stronger combat readiness,’ stressed Vucic, recalling that the tanks were not purchased but donated.” (N1)

PLENKOVIC IN SELF-ISOLATION: Croatian PM Andrej Plenkovic is currently in self-isolation after his wife, Ana Maslac-Plenkovic, tested positive for Covid-19. We wish Ms. Maslac-Plenkovic a speedy recovery.

CROATIAN FM CALLS FOR CHANGES IN BiH: Croatian FM Gordan Grlic Radman has called for changes to election law in Bosnia and Herzegovina in order for it to move forward on its Euro Atlantic path.

  • He said on Saturday, “If we want BiH in the European Union and NATO, then BiH should achieve those standards of rule of law and European democratic values. One of them is changing the Election Act so that it eliminates discrimination and guarantees for each people equality and adequate political participation in all bodies and institutions.”
  • And added, “I’m very optimistic that in the first six months of next year we will change the Election Act which will provide for legitimate representation of all three constituent peoples and create the ground for making a step towards a European BiH. That will certainly require major changes in relation to the Dayton Agreement.”

SERBIA APPOINTS GOUILLON AS DIASPORA DIRECTOR: Serbia on Thursday appointed Arnaud Gouillon as acting director Government’s Directorate for Cooperation with Diaspora. Gouillon is a naturalized Serbian citizen originally from France.

OSMANI REVOKES THACI’S CONSUL APPOINTMENTS: Acting Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani cancelled four proposed consul generals proposed by former Kosovo President Hashim Thaci.

GERMANY EXTRADITES WAR CRIMINAL: Germany extradited war criminal Dusko Vujnovic to Zagreb after he was charged in absentia for killing a civilian in 1993. He was charged in 1997. Since he was tried in absentia, he can have a retrial.

MIGRANT ARRESTED IN KOSOVO: A migrant suspected of murdering a local Bosnian in Sarajevo has been arrested in Pristina. Meanwhile, police in Belgrade arrested a second suspect on Thursday while a third remains at large.

IN OTHER NEWS

REPORT: “Organised Chaos: Russian influence and the state of disinformation in the Western Balkans” by Megan Duffy and Sam Green in The Fletcher School’s Murrow Center

OP-ED: “Bulgaria – From a strong champion of enlargement to its potential grave-digger” by Zoran Nechev in European Western Balkans

OP-ED: “How Carter, Begin and Sadat Helped End Bosnia’s Bloody Warby” by Hamza Karcic in Haaretz

OP-ED: “No, Kosovo Is Not a Precedent for Nagorno-Karabakh” by Ayaz Rzayev in The National Interest

ANALYSIS: “In Spending on Serbs Abroad, Serbia Looks to Maintain Influence” by Milica Stojanovic in Balkan Insight

HUMAN INTEREST: “How ‘rukarakara’ inspired a movement in Serbia” by Ilija Gubic in The New Times: “After leaving Serbia in 2005 Dragana Kojicic moved to Rwanda where she worked for architecture studios for three years. In addition to architecture projects of commercial buildings, she spent time exploring construction techniques of housing made of adobe bricks, known as “rukarakara” in Rwanda. She researched by reading documents kept at the Ethnographic Museum in Huye, travelled to several urban and rural settlements, talked to citizens and masons and was documenting and learning on the process of creating ‘rukarakara’ and constructing with it.”

HUMAN INTEREST: “American Family in Croatia: They Left Everything Behind to Travel Europe” by Donatella Paukovic in Total Croatia News

HUMAN INTEREST: “Interesting Story of how Sarajevo is perceived by Luca and Anna” in The Sarajevo Times

CULTURE: “Politics of memory and memorialisation: Is there an inclusive way forward for the Western Balkans?” by Nikola Djordjevic in Emerging Europe

CULTURE: “Balkan bites, sauce boxes and bonbons: 22 great NJ food gift ideas for friends and family” by Esther Davidowitz in NorthJersey.com

SPORT: “Bosnia, Croatia, Greece the first to clinch EuroBasket spots” in Euro Hoops

TRAVEL: “Reasons why You should Visit Mostar at least Once in Your Life” in The Sarajevo Times