WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

  • NATO leaders, including Albanian PM Edi Rama, Croatian PM Andrej Plenkovic, PM of N. Macedonia Zoran Zaev, Montenegrin PM Dusko Markovic, and Slovenian PM Marjan Sarec are meeting in London at the 2019 NATO Summit.
  • N. Macedonia was at the meetings even though it is waiting on Spain to ratify its accession protocol before becoming a full member. PM Zoran Zaev noted on joining the alliance, “This very unfair as we have been candidates for the past 15 years when all 28 member countries confirmed in the Council of Europe that we have met the reforms, have found solutions for the issues with Greece and Bulgaria, we changed the country’s constitutional name and the EU’s decision that it needs more time was destabilizing for us. We were very disappointed, but we continued with the reforms and I’m hoping that this mistake will be corrected very soon.”
  • Meanwhile, Bulgarian President Rumen Radev, who is in London for the Summit, said his country would like to patrol the skies of N. Macedonia like their Greek neighbors. He noted, “Bulgaria must not miss this historical opportunity to protect the North Macedonia’s air space. While we were postponing the talks with North Macedonia about this subject of ‘having a bright future’ and as soon as we acquire the new planes, Greece has made an agreement for this mission. This is a situation where we can achieve this mission with our current capacities without any additional expenditures, since it can be done from the air base ‘Graf Ignatievo.'”
  • NATO released the number of soldiers each country currently contributes to the KFOR mission. The US tops the list at 660 troops, while Italy contributes 542. From the region, Albania commits 29 troops, Bulgaria 22 troops, Croatia 36 troops, Moldova 41 troops, Montenegro 2 troops, Romania 57, Slovenia 242, and Turkey 273. Somewhat surprisingly, the UK currently has only 23 troops in KFOR.
  • Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic had a busy Tuesday. He met with Slovenian Foreign Minister Miro Cerar to discuss bilateral relations and Western Balkan stability. They also discussed the plan for the joint government session in Belgrade in mid-December.
  • Vucic welcomed Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko to Belgrade. There are warm relations between the two as Lukashenko noted, “We are your people, and you are ours. Many tried to alienate us, but we fulfilled our plans. After 20 years we meet again at the complicated time.”
  • Meanwhile, there are unconfirmed reports that the Serbia will open chapter 4, free movement of capital, at the intergovernmental conference on December 10. Serbia currently has 17 of 35 chapters open, but only two temporarily closed.
  • But before then, Vucic travelled on Tuesday to Sochi, Russia. He is on a working visit to discuss current aspects of bilateral cooperation, as well as international and regional affairs” with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
  • Russia delivered four Mi-35Ma multi-role combat helicopters to Serbia earlier than scheduled. On Serbia’s military, Vucic noted, “Serbia is increasingly stronger. We had three or four Mi-8 and Mi-17 helicopters and a few Gazelles and today we have a helicopter fleet four or five times bigger than a few years ago. Besides the helicopters from Russia, two Airbus helicopters came from Europe recently. We are doing this to deter any attempt to endanger Serbia.”
  • The trial of Former Special Prosecutor in N. Macedonia, Katica Janeva, began  on Monday. Janeva is facing eight years in jail for bribery charges.
  • Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatovic said that migrants will start dying in the Vujcak camp in northern Bosnia if conditions don’t improve.
  • Meanwhile, Bihac Mayor Suhrez Fazlic told Mijatovic, “We’re aware of the difficult conditions in ‘Vucjak’ and we’re really sorry that those people don’t have more humane living conditions but, as a local community, we cannot offer an adequate solution. I repeat, those people were relocated to ‘Vucjak’ from the streets and abandoned buildings.”
  • Serbia and N. Macedonia are going to start negotiations for a new border crossing. The location was not disclosed.
  • “The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) called for equality rights in practice as well as joint efforts to combat violence against women in Montenegro. ‘The OSCE recognises violence against women as both a threat to individuals and a broader security concern,’ said the Head of the OSCE Mission to Montenegro, Maryse Daviet, in an address to the 11th session of the Women’s Parliament, held within Montenegro’s Parliament, as part of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence international campaign.” (Emerging Europe)
  • “A hearing at a EU court in Luxembourg involving Slovenia’s lawsuit against the European Commission over its decision to allow Croatian wine producers to use the label ‘teran’ grape variety started on Tuesday. Although Slovenia had protected the label as its own label of geographic origin prior to Croatia’s EU accession in 2013, the EC later allowed Croatia’s winemakers from the northern Adriatic Istria region to use the label as well.” (N1)
  • According to Turkish government backed Anadolu Agency, a Turkish national was detained in Bosnia and Herzegovina and will likely be deported after living there for over 20 years. The issue? The man was in charge of a Gulenist school in Bosnia.
  • Meanwhile, the Sarajevo Times reports that the man was the director of the Una-Sana College in Bihac and notes that he was a permanent resident of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The man’s lawyer suspects this was an abduction and noted, “It is inconceivable for me to associate it with anything other than Turkey’s politically motivated request for extradition of the so-called people belonging to a Gulen’s movement. This could be the first case of the abduction of a Turkish citizen in BiH at the request of the authorities in Turkey. We are witnessing that Kosovo, Azerbaijan, Moldova answered onTurkey’s requests were similarly taken away by Turkish nationals and informally handed over to Turkish authorities.”
  • Speaking of Turkey, construction company Cengiz is likely going to win the contract for building the Karavanke motorway tunnel in Slovenia. The bid for the 8km tunnel is estimated around 100 million EUR.
  • Serbian Post Office workers in Belgrade, Zrenjanin, Kikinda, and Lazarevac went on strike on Tuesday for higher wages.
  • The results of the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) were presented today. A total of 79 countries participated in the tests. Slovenia topped the region for scores, and was 21st overall. Croatia’s results were stagnant and had higher hopes, yet still finisehd 29th. Serbia finished 46th Montenegro finished 53rd, Albania finished 62nd, Bosnia and Herzegovina finished 63rd, N. Macedonia finished 68th, and Kosovo finished 76th. The full results are available here.
  • According to Prishtina Insight, “Students from Kosovo’s neighboring countries, Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia all recorded higher average scores in all three subjects, while the average of the three scores was the third lowest amongst all of the countries tested. In Kosovo’s only previous participation in PISA in 2015, the average score from the assessment was also among the lowest three of the countries tested. “
  • MIGRANTS: Croatian police allegedly deported two Nigerian students to Bosnia despite having valid visas to study in the country.
IN OTHER NEWS…