WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

  • Albania called off the search and rescue mission following their 6.4 magnitude earthquake. The death toll is currently at 51.

 

  • After the Pentagon report was released saying Serbia has increased its role with Russia since 2012, the US Embassy in Belgrade told Politika, “Our engagement with Serbia – and American technical support, which is greatly implemented through the USAID (United States Agency for International Development) – is aimed at helping Serbia to achieve the set goal, the European integration.”
  • Meanwhile, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic commented on the report by stating that Serbia “is looking for strategic partnership and friendly hugs” and “Our arms are open for hugging, what is missing are arms that will hug us” at a joint press conference with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushkov.
  • Johns Hopkins SAIS Professor Edward Joseph said the West should reconsider its relationship with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic after the report came out.
  • Vucic also met with Grushakov ahead of his December 4th visit to Moscow. Vucic told Grushakov that Serbia will remain militarily neutral. They also discussed bilateral relations and the situation in the region.
  • Lars-Gunnar Wigemark was appointed the head of Mission of the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX Kosovo) on Friday.
  • Bosniak Member of the Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic met with Pope Francis in Rome over the weekend. Pope Francis said that BiH held a special place in his heart.
  • Meanwhile, all three of the presidency members will be in Slovenia on December 4-5 to visit their Slovenian counterpart, Borut Pahor.
  • The Central Election Commission (CEC) of Kosovo officially informed on Friday President Hashim Thaci of the results. Thaci must now officially call for the inaugural session of parliament followed by the creation of the government. Vetvendosje and Democratic League of Kosovo leaders are hoping to finalize a deal in the coming days that would likely make Albin Kurti prime minister.
  • Kurti was in Durres assessing the damage done by the 6.4 magnitude earthquake when he noted the excellent relations between the Albanian Army and the Kosovo Security Force.
  • Visiting Osijek, Hungarian PM Viktor Orban pledged support for Croatia’s entry into the Schengen Zone. He joined Croatian PM Andrej Plenkovic to open the Hungarian Educational and Cultural Center.
  • President of Switzerland Ueli Maurer told his Croatian counterpart, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, that his country also supports Croatia joining the Schengen Zone. Maurer was on a one day official visit to Croatia on Friday.
  • Grabar-Kitarovic visited Mostar, BiH on Wednesday to campaign for the Croatian presidential elections which irked Bosnian Presidency Chairman Zeljko Komsic. He stated, “I will repeat what I said at the UN – We are witness to their activities on achieving their political interests within Bosnia, with which they only destabilize my country, which is not good, nor does it contribute to the development of good neighbourly relations.”
  • Meanwhile, Dzaferovic told media, “This (Grabar-Kitarovic in Mostar) is a statement made as part of an election campaign, she expects us to react and wants to acquire cheap political points. What hurts me personally is that Mrs. Kitarovic is not only a candidate for the president of Croatia, but also the current president of Croatia who has accused an entire nation of wanting to seize Bosnia and Herzegovina for itself, and serious politicians don’t do that. Serious politicians don’t insult other peoples,”
  • The Croatian president also caused a stir on social media after it appears she posted photo tribute for convicted war criminal Slobodan Praljak who drank poison in The Hague on November 29, 2017.
  • Speaking of The Hague, Serbian fans of Partizan Belgrade were outside of The Hague chanting for convicted war criminal Ratko Mladic. Partizan played against AZ Alkamaar in The Netherlands on Thursday.
  • In Montenegro, Milo Djukanovic was re-elected as party president of Democratic Party of Socialists and Dusko Markovic was elected as vice president.
  • Prime Minister of N. Macedonia Zoran Zaev was duped by a prank caller pretending to be Greta Thunberg. In the past, Zaev was tricked by Russian pranksters who pretended to be Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
  • Zaev’s PR advisor told media, “Immediately after the end of the call, we did all to verify the identity of the caller, and we can say it was a hybrid attack on the Prime Minister. We then contacted Greta’s family and informed them about the call. They said they were upset and thanked us for letting them know. They added they would report the abuse.”
  • He luckily didn’t get duped by a fake Montenegrin PM, Dusko Markovic. The two met in Podgorica where they spoke about bilateral relations and their Euro-Atlantic integration.
  • “Croatia and Germany will co-organise a NATO-EU cooperation conference in Split next June, Defence Ministers Damir Krsticevic of Croatia and Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer of Germany agreed in Trogir on Sunday. The conference of European defence ministers and NATO officials will be held on June 8-9, Krstičević told reporters.’Germany is the most important partner in security and defence in Europe and strengthening our cooperation is my priority,’ he said.” (Total Croatia News)
  • Germany’s defense minister also stopped to visit German soldiers based in Kosovo to kick off December. She wrote on Twitter, “KFOR is important for Kosovo and the region today – as it was 20 years ago. The dedication of our soldiers also brings with it a special burden, especially at a time when the streets are already festively decorated. Thank you for your dedication!”
  • Meanwhile, Deputy PM and Defense Minister of N. Macedonia Radmila Sekerinska urged parliament to be ready to reconvene to vote on NATO membership. She said, “You cannot ask lawmakers to vote on constitutional changes, and on the other hand to tell them you do not even need to confirm our membership in NATO. They voted for those constitutional changes and to make all that possible and therefore our goal is to ratify them by this assembly.” She added that pushing back elections slated for April 12 would not be postponed, and that the defense budget be prepared as if N. Macedonia were a NATO member.
  • Chinese security forces were in Smederevo to conduct anti-terrorism drills with their Serbian counterparts.
  • The Bulgaria-North Macedonia joint commission to review historical and educational issues made no progress after their last meeting, according to Bulgarian National Radio.
  • VMRO-DPMNE General Secretary Igor Janushev has publicly called on former PM Nikola Gruevski to return to serve his two year prison sentence in connection with the Tank affair.
  • “Croatia is to allow young employees to be exempt from personal income taxation on annual income of up to 360,000 Croatian kuna (U.S. $53,333.33), under an act approved Nov. 29 by the country’s legislature.” (Bloomberg Tax)
  • Serbian anti-government protests mark one year of weekly rallies to oust the current government. Protest brought blood soaked t-shirts to symbolize when opposition leader Borko Stefanovic was assaulted.
  • “The tools and mechanism for identification and intervention with regard to radicalised inmates in North Macedonia are further adjusted as a result of the first session of the working group held from 25 to 26 November 2019 in Skopje. A dedicated group of professionals from different penitentiary institutions, as well as from the Directorate for the Execution of Sanctions, started with the process of drafting the Treatment Module for radicalised inmates, based upon the existing methodology, and the screening tools which have been prepared within the previous projects implemented by the Council of Europe.” (Council of Europe)
  • ENERGY: “The Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP), which plays a significant role in regional energy supply security and bolsters Turkey’s strategic position as a key player, will begin carrying gas to the European section of the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC) on the Turkish-Greek border. The ceremony to release gas into the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) will take place tomorrow with the participation of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Azerbaijani President İlham Aliyev, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, Bosnia-Herzegovina Presidential Council Bosniak member Shefik Dzaferovic and Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia. Serbian Parliament Speaker Maja Gojkovic, North Macedonia Deputy Prime Miniter Koco Angjushev, Greek Environment and Energy Minister Kostis Hatzidakis, Qatari Energy Mohammed Saleh Al-Sada, North Macedonia Economy Minister Kreshniki Bekteshi, and Serbian Mining and Energy Minister Alexandar Antic are also expected to attend the ceremony.” (Daily Sabah)
  • ENERGY: International environmental organizations including the World Wildlife Fund released a report urging the EU to stop development of hydropower. In particular, the groups cited planned projects in the Balkans and tying development to EU accession.
  • MIGRANTS: Two Syrians illegally smuggled by a Bosnian driver died in a car crash in Slovenia. Croatian police shot a migrant who was resisting arrest. Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik reiterated his stance that no migrant centers will be built in Republika Srpska.
  • CRIME: A Kosovo man admitted to being an ISIS member after returning from Syria. He has been indicted and his verdict will be released tomorrow. Serbian Secret Service arrested two of its own members for being a part of a Croatian spy ring.
IN OTHER NEWS…
  • HUMAN INTEREST: “A Seattle carpenter goes from building a bookstore to publishing his first book” by Tom Keogh in Crosscut: “Seattle carpenter Peter Lippman enjoys the satisfaction of building things with his own hands: cabinets, decks, an octagonal garden house, the housing for a ceiling art installation at Congregation Beth Shalom in the Bryant neighborhood. He’s currently finishing a chicken dacha place in Lake City, the design of which was inspired by the Slavic legend of Baba Yaga, a supernatural being who lives in a forest hut that stands on chicken feet. (Yes, the hut-shaped eatery will rest on such feet.)…Now his own book is hitting the shelves. In Surviving the Peace: The Struggle for Postwar Recovery in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Lippman, 67, chronicles the many chapters of Bosnia’s dystopian struggles, documenting street-level tragedies, as well as the consequences of bloodlust nationalism that led to Serbian ethnic cleansing of Bosnian Muslims (also known as Bosniaks).”
  • HUMAN INTEREST: “When students can’t go home for Thanksgiving, they experience tradition at Meredith College” by Kate Murphy in The News and Observer: “For many college students Thanksgiving is an opportunity to go home, reconnect with high school friends, watch the Macy’s parade or NFL football on TV and share a meal with family. But international or out-of-state students often can’t go home for the holiday. At Meredith College, those students are invited to President Jo Allen’s house for a traditional and memorable Thanksgiving meal…About 25 to 30 students from all over the world sat around decorated tables in the living room, showing each other where their home country is on the map, sharing how they found Meredith and talking about their plans for the future. Some came to Raleigh from Trinidad and Tobago, West Africa, Bosnia, Kenya, South Korea, Puerto Rico and California.
  • SPORT: “Slovenian Damir Skomina has been declared the world’s best football referee in 2019 by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS). He was selected by football experts from 90 countries in the world.” (Slovenia Times)