WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

HEAD OF TOP BiH JUDICIAL BODY RESIGNS: “Milan Tegeltija, head of the Bosnian High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council, HJPC, the Bosnian state’s top judicial institution, resigned on Thursday after coming under pressure from the public and the international community over alleged influence-peddling.

“At a press conference at the Basic Court in Banja Luka, Tegeltija said he would resign as president and member of the HJCP next week at a council session because there were no basic guarantees for his security in the Bosnian capital.” (Balkan Insight)

KOSOVO-SERBIA DIALOGUE: The Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue continued at the expert level yesterday under the auspicious of the European Union. EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue met with Kosovo State Coordinator on Dialogue Skender Hyseni and Serbia’s Chief Negotiatior for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue Petar Petkovic.

  • According to Lajcak, they “continued (their) discussions on financial and property claims and will resume again in 2021.”
  • Meanwhile, the Government of Kosovo said they discussed “pensions and cadastre” as a continuation from the last round of talks, but there has been “no significant narrowing of differences.”
  • Serbia’s Petkovic focused on the Community of Serb Municipalities. He said, “For us, the CSM is a key issue. If we are talking about the successful continuation of the dialogue, the CSM must be formed.”

WELCOME HOME!: Just in the nick of time for the holidays, 200 Oregon National Guard members returned from deployment in Kosovo.

INZO ON NEXT PHASE OF POLICY TOWARDS BiH: High Representative to BiH Valentin Inzko urged the international community to once again lead Bosnia on the right path. He said, “I hope the foreigners will take charge again. The gates are opening with the arrival of Joe Biden to the White House. He knows he region and we still remember his speech in the Senate when Bosnia wasn’t allowed to defend itself. I feel a new mood and readiness is coming from countries like the Netherlands, France, and especially Germany to open a new chapter with the US. I call it the third phase, the first was the international force, the second was the domestic responsibility and this is the third phase.”

GERMAN AMB SLAMS SERBIA’S RoL: German Ambassador to Serbia Thomas Schieb noted Serbia’s progress in rule of law did not constitute opening a new chapter. He told N1, “The speed of the accession with the EU mostly depends on the reforms in the rule of law. This year, Serbia did not make any significant progress in that area and in curbing corruption.” And added, “it was noted the progress had been modest and not enough for the opening of a new negotiating chapter.”

CoE ON STA: Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic wrote a letter to Slovenian PM urging him to reintroduce funding for the Slovenian Press Agency (STA). She highlighted the “high standards of journalism” at STA and defunding it “worsening of the working environment for journalists and media outlets in Slovenia.”

CORRUPTION IN N. MACEDONIA: “The non-governmental advocacy group Transparency International has called on the Macedonian government to take measures against corruption and enable institutions and bodies of the state to operate free of party influence.

“The group’s Macedonian representative Slagjana Taseva shared insights from the specific recommendations about the country, in which the government is asked to respect the independence of the national assembly’s and that of state oversight bodies.” (Macedonia Times)

KRIVOKAPIC’S BRUSSELS TRIP: Montenegrin PM Zdravko Krivokapic will be on a trip to Brussels on December 15-16. He will meet with European Council President Charles Michel, European Commission President Ursala von der Leyen, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, European Parliament President David Sassoli, EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue Miroslav Lajcak, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Krivokapic underscored the significance of his first trip abroad to Brussels as a statement on Montenegro’s commitment to Euro Atlantic integration.

GOING BROKE?: Montenegro took out a loan of 750 million euro to afford the 2021 budget. The seven-year loan from BofA Securities, Citigroup, Erste and the Societe General group will be repaid at 2.75%. Montenegro’s debt stands at 65% of its GDP with China owning 25% of that figure.

BRDO-BRIJUNI POSTPONED: “President Borut Pahor has informed leaders of the Brdo-Brijuni Process that the summit marking the 10th anniversary of this initiative for the Western Balkans, which was to be held next Monday in Slovenia, has been cancelled due to the current epidemiological situation.

“This is the second postponing of the summit that was originally to be held on 29 June but had to be postponed because of the coronavirus situation in Balkan countries.” (Slovenia Times)

KARADZIC PLAQUE REMOVED: After an ugly back-and-forth of words between Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik and High Representative Valentin Inzko, the plaque on a dorm in Pale bearing Radovan Karadzic’s name was removed after an appeal by Karadzic’s daughter. Sonja Karadzic-Jovicevic hopes it “will put an end to the misuse of his name” and “will put an end to future everyday political clashes that abuse the name of Radovan Karadzic and exert pressure on him personally and on members of his family.” The plaque was removed hours after Ms. Karadzic-Jovicevic intervened.

HOW MANY PEOPLE IN CROATIA?: Croatia announced it is conducting a census between April 1 and May 7 2021 with a focus on e-citizens. This will be Croatia’s first census since 2011. The World Bank estimates there were just over 4 million Croatian citizens in 2019.

What about the rest of the region?

  • Albania’s last census was in 2011, but Albania’s Institute of Statistics (INSAT) planned a census to be conducted in 2020. The World Bank estimates the population of Albania was 2.8 million in 2019.
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina conducted its first census in 22 years in 2013. The final results were released in 2016 and revealed 2.2 million people in the Federation of BiH, 1.2 million people in Republika Srpska, and 83,516 in the Brcko District. The World Bank estimates the population of BiH was 3.3 million in 2019.
  • Kosovo conducted its first census in 2011 after declaring independence in 2008. The population numbered 1.7 million residents according to the Kosovo Statistics Agency, though many ethnic Serbs boycotted the census. There is a planned census to take place in 2021. The World Bank estimates the population of Kosovo was just under 1.8 million in 2019.
  • Similarly, Montenegro conducted its last census in 2011 with a total population of 620,029. Montenegro plans to conduct its next census in 2021. The World Bank estimates the population of Montenegro was just over 622,000 in 2019.
  • N. Macedonia’s last census was in 2002, almost 19 years ago. The Macedonian Statistical Agency noted the population was just over 2 million in that census. The topic of demographics has been politicized for fear of the Macedonian population in N. Macedonia dwindling with estimates the ethnic Albanian population could be over 25% of the population. Calls for a census over the past few years have faced opposition in parliament, but the SDSM insists it aims to hold a census in April 2021. The World Bank estimates the population of N. Macedonia was just over 2 million in 2019.
  • Serbia conducted a census in 2011 with a population of 7.1 million, according to its Statistical Office of Serbia. The April 2021 census was postponed until October of the same year. The World Bank estimates the population of Serbia was just under 7 million in 2019.
  • Slovenia’s 2011 census revealed a population of just over 2 million. Slovenia released statistics in July 2020 showing a population of 2.1 million.

IN OTHER NEWS

OP-ED: “Southeast Europe is Pioneering a Global ‘Whistleblower Revolution’” by Mark Worth and Arjan Dyrmishi in Balkan Insight

ANALYSIS: “Vlado Buckovski, North Macedonia’s Ice-Breaker With Sofia” by Katerina Blazevska in Balkan Insight

HUMAN INTEREST: “‘I’m not nice anymore’: meet the author behind North Macedonia’s #MeToo movement” by Daniel Petrick in The Calvert Journal

HUMAN INTEREST: “Croatia’s oldest person Josip Kršul turns 109” in Croatia Week

HUMAN INTEREST: “Displaced in Z. Potok and Leposavić: We are second-class citizens, we only want our own roof over our heads” in KosSev

HUMAN INTEREST: “One Man and His Dog: Outdoors Croatia Discovers the Island of Gubavac (VIDEO)” by Paul Bradbury in Total Croatia News

CULTURE: “Tito’s restored former flagship to become hotel and museum in Croatia” in Reuters

CULTURE: “Montenegrin Town Honours Soviet WWII General Zhukov” by Samir Kajosevic in Balkan Insight

CULTURE: “Thousands raised to transport birds of prey to Bulgaria” in BBC News

SPORT: “Nenad Krstic to succeed Igor Rakocevic as Vice President of Serbian Federation” in Euro Hoops