WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

25 YEARS SINCE DAYTON OFFICIALLY SIGNED: The international community and Bosnia and Herzegovina on Monday commemorated the official signing of the Dayton Peace Accords (DPA) in Paris.

  • U.S. President-elect Joe Biden released a statement highlighting the work is not done in Bosnia. He wrote ” it is clear that the work to promote justice, reconciliation, and a functional, multi-ethnic Bosnia and Herzegovina remains incomplete. Too often, we have seen nationalism win out over national interest and the enrichment of a few coming before reforms to benefit the many.”
  • Former U.S. President Bill Clinton said the DPA was the beginning of reconciliation, not the end. He said, “At the time the Dayton Accords were reached, we knew then that they represented a beginning, not an end. Reconciliation is not a finite process, it’s something you must begin again and again – day after day, year after year.”
  • He called on “all parties” to “recommit to the difficult but necessary steps to build a fully-functioning Bosnia and Herzegovina for all its citizens.”
  • U.S. DAS and Special Representative to the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer highlighted Bosnia has the opportunity to “realize the promised peace by fulfilling its Euro-Atlantic potential” through economic improvement and holding leaders accountable. DAS Palmer underscored, “By increasing accountability, improving governance and bringing its laws in line with European Court of Human Rights decisions, Bosnia and Herzegovina can finally achieve the future its citizens seek”
  • NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg praised NATO’s “central role in bringing the warring parties in Bosnia to the negotiating table”  and called Bosnia a “security contributor” for its role in the NATO Mission in Afghanistan. He pinpointed “the future is in your own hands” and urged Bosnia “to recommit to peace, to reform and to a prosperous future for all.”
  • Russian FM Sergei Lavrov was on an official visit to Bosnia on the occasion where he met with Chairman of the Presidency Milorad Dodik and representatives from Republika Srpska. Lavrov said, “Every element is important and without just one component the whole system can be threatened. Dayton does not create any obstacles in relations between Bosnia and Herzegovina and its foreign partners, including the EU. The speed of deciding how fast the country should go to the EU should be based on the Dayton principle.”
  • German FM Heiko Maas said in a speech on the commemoration of the DPA, “It did not solve the conflicts in the Balkans – but it laid a foundation on which bridges could be built.”
  • Maas added, “politicians in Bosnia and Herzegovina need to become bridge builders, too: Twenty-five years after Dayton, it is high time for true reconciliation and cooperation. In a country that wants to join the EU, there is no place for nationalist agitation, the denial of war crimes or the glorification of war criminals. All your leaders need to come together to launch reforms and weed out corruption. The so-called fourteen key priorities laid out by the European Commission last year provide a clear roadmap. The rule of law and good governance are in the interest of your people and your businesses.”
  • Croatia’s President Zoran Milanovic and PM Andrej Plenkovic released a statement on the status of Croats in Bosnia. They said, “it is necessary to take into account the fact that Croats are one of the three constituent peoples in Bosnia and Herzegovina and that it is Croatia’s obligation to insist on the protection of the status and rights of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina.” They will be presenting their views at a conference commemorating the DPA that can be streamed HERE.
  • President Milanovic on Saturday said, “The Dayton Agreement is as it is and I don’t see a way to change it without violence. I’m not talking about war. I am talking about mental and all other kinds of violence in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which never worked. It always produced more violence…A civic state (in Bosnia) is a dream that is far, far away, and it would be a beautiful thing, but first you apply soap, then perfume.”
  • This was sharply criticized by Bosniak Member of the Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic and Croat Member of the Presidency Zeljko Komsic. Dzaferovic said, “Milanovic’s statements stink of chauvinism and xenophobia, and neither soap nor perfume can help with that.” Komsic added, “The alleged scents of culture and Europeanism that Milanovic is proud of and because of which he believes that he has the right to lecture everyone is, in fact, the stench of the rottenness of chauvinism and fascism that is in him and speaking outside of him. “

LAVROV’S TRIP CONTINUES: Lavrov was gifted a 300-year-old icon found in Ukraine by Dodik.  is set to meet Bosniak Member of the Presidency Bakir Izetbegovic, Croat Member of the Presidency Zeljko Komsic, and FM Bisera Turkovic today before heading to Belgrade. In Serbia, the discussions will be centered around the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue and “bilateral economic relations – the completion of the Serbian section of the Turkish Stream gas pipeline, the construction of complex facilities on the Belgrade-Novi Sad railway, modernization of the Djerdap 1 hydropower plant, setting up a center for nuclear science, technology and innovation,” according to Russian Ambassador Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko.

REEKER AT 2BS: At the 2BS (To Be Secure) virtual forum in Montenegro over the weekend Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Reeker commented on the N. Macedonia-Bulgaria dispute.

  • He said, “North  Macedonia has done everything that was asked and it should be allowed to continue moving forward. This is an important moment for the EU. We asked Bulgaria to solve its bilateral issues with Macedonia outside the negotiation process while demanding that the intergovernmental conference takes place this year Skopje deserved the opportunity and needs to focus on what’s ahead.” Reeker is a former U.S. Ambassador to N. Macedonia.
  • Meanwhile, on Friday, Bulgarian PM Boyko Borissov called on Skopje to sign an annex on the 2017 Agreement on Good Neighborliness. Borissov told Rapporteur for N. Macedonia Vlado Buckovski “I have two issues I would like you to pass on to Skopje Government: the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bulgaria and the issue of a minority. Those two topics appeared suddenly and frightened the Bulgarian society.”

DAS PALMER SPEAKS TO MNE LEADERSHIP: U.S. State Department DAS and Special Representative to the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer yesterday spoke with Montenegro’s President Milo Djukanovic, PM Zdravko Krivokapic, and other government officials via video.

  • The U.S. Embassy in Montenegro tweeted “DAS Palmer praised 🇲🇪’s peaceful democratic transition, calling it a positive example for the region.” and hoped Djukanovic’s DPS would “play a constructive role in the opposition.”
  • On the Krivokapic meeting, the embassy tweeted, “He expressed the 🇺🇸’s appreciation for the PM’s commitment to upholding shared Euro-Atlantic values, while underscoring the U.S. desire to work with him to advance reforms.”
  • Krivokapic highlighted Montenegro will be continuing its course in foreign policy as the previous administration.
  • DAS Palmer also met virtually with Parliament Speaker Aleksa Becic, Deputy PM Dritan Abazovic, FM Djordje Radulovic, Defense Minister Oliveria Injac, Finance Minister Milojko Spajic, Economic Minister Jakov Milatovic, & Minister of Public Administration Tamara Srzentic.

ROTATING EU PRESIDENCY: “The defence ministers of Germany, Portugal and Slovenia held an online meeting on Thursday at the initiative of Germany’s Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer to exchange views on the German six-month stint at the helm of the European Council and discuss the priorities for next year, when Portugal and Slovenia will take over successively.

Kramp-Karrenbauer along with Joao Gomes Cravinho from Portugal and Slovenia’s Matej Tonin discussed strategic decisions, cooperation between the EU and NATO, and the importance of transatlantic cooperation, the Defence Ministry said.” (Slovenia Times)

CROATIA + ITALY + SLOVENIA: Slovenian PM Janez Jansa on Saturday confirmed that Croatia and Italy are planning on declaring exclusive economic zones (EEZ). He spoke to his Croatian and Italian counterparts about the topic on Friday. Slovenian and Croatian FMs are meeting on December 19 to discuss EEZs and good neighborly relations.

KOSOVO’S POWER GRID: Kosovo has officially left the Serbia-Montenegro-N. Macedonia block to join the Kosovo-Albania block. Learn more about it HERE.

MOVING AWAY FROM COAL: “The Platform Initiative in Support of Coal Regions in Transition in the Western Balkans and Ukraine has been officially launched, with the aim of helping the countries to stop using coal in energy production.

“Energy transition and coal phaseout must be just in order to be successful, which means that workers and local communities in the coal regions must not be left behind. The way to achieve this is to include them in all decision making, according to an online event held to inaugurate the Platform Initiative.

“The Platform Initiative is led by the World Bank together with several partners who play a major role in the energy sector as well as the region – the European Commission, the Energy Community Secretariat, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the College of Europe (Natolin campus), and the Government of Poland.” (Balkan Green Energy News)

IN OTHER NEWS

REPORT: “The Suspicious Virus: Conspiracies and COVID19 in the Balkans” by BiEPAG

OP-ED: “Moving Toward a More Humane Peace” by the by Heads of the OSCE Mission to BiH, United Nations in BiH, Council of Europe Office in Sarajevo and EU in BiH in OSCE

OP-ED: “What Will a Joe Biden Presidency Mean for the Balkans?” by Amb. Cameron Munter and Valbona Zeneli in The National Interest

OP-ED: “Opinion: Bosnia-Herzegovina still needs help, 25 years after Dayton Accords” by Rudinger Rossig in Deutsche Welle

OP-ED: “Dayton at 25: Time for Effective and Functional Government in Bosnia” by R. Bruce Hitchner in Balkan Insight

OP-ED: “EU integration of the Western Balkans: Between enlargement fatigue and a new geopolitical reality” by former PM of Greece George Papandreou in CeSPI

OP-ED: “A case of the tail wagging the dog? Bulgaria, the EU and North Macedonia” by Tomasz Komusella in New Eastern European

OP-ED: “Why the Dayton Peace Accords still hold” by Hamza Karcic in The Daily Sabah

OP-ED: “Ending Djukanovic’s 30-year rule” by Jovan Kovacic in New Europe

ANALYSIS: “The EU and Kosovo a decade on” by Ian Bancroft in Open Democracy

ANALYSIS: “North Macedonia Parliament Blockade Leaves Vital Bills in Limbo” by Sinisa Jakov Marusic in Balkan Insight

ANALYSIS: “Western Balkans overwhelmingly in favour of EU membership, but EU needs to show more commitment” in European Western Balkans

ANALYSIS: “End of an era? Hague trials rock Kosovo’s rebel-led politics” by Ismet Hajdari in AFP

ANALYSIS: “In The Balkans’ Most Divided Country, COVID Vaccine Cuts Both Ways” in RFE/RL

HUMAN INTEREST: “Many displaced continue to struggle, decades after Bosnian war” in Yahoo News

HUMAN INTEREST: “Marooned in New Mexico, But ‘Living’ in Ljubljana” by Paul Krza in Total Slovenia News

HUMAN INTEREST: “Amidst lockdowns, rural life in Serbia turns sour” by UNDP Eurasia

CULTURE: “Learning Croatian: How to Speak Dalmatian Using Only Vowels” by Paul Bradbury in Total Croatia News

CULTURE: “The Spirit of the Balkans Arrives Stateside” in Food and Beverage Magazine

ENTERTAINMENT: “James Blunt reveals how he prevented World War III” by Sean Hickey in LBC: “Musician James Blunt was speaking to Ruth Davidson on An Inconvenient Ruth when the heart-stopping anecdote came to light. ‘You kind of stopped quite a big diplomatic incident,” Ruth prodded, recounting how Mr Blunt dodged being blamed for “World War Three at Pristina Airport.’ The You’re Beautiful singer branded the memory ‘probably the most amazing day’ of his life. Mr Blunt explained for Ruth that he was instructed during the Kosovo War to push up through Macedonia, into Kosovo with 30,000 allied troops. He, leading the troops was given the task of taking Pristina Airport before Russian forces got there.”