WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

  • US Ambassador to Kosovo discussed US interests in Kosovo, a potential border adjustment, corruption, and more on Jeta ne Kosovo.
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina is to buy four multipurpose US helicopters for $4.4 million. Defense minister, Marina Pendes, and US ambassador to BiH, Eric Nelson, signed on Friday the agreement for four Huey helicopters which are produced by Bell. The US will cover around $34 million of the costs.
  • Brigadier General William J. Edwards took over the duty of NATO HQ Sarajevo Commander on Thursday in a ceremony at the Army Hall in Sarajevo. The newly appointed commander said NATO’s goal in Bosnia was to resume the partnership towards a safe and stable environment.” (N1)
  • Croatian PM Andrej Plenkovic met on Thursday with French President Emmanuel Macron on the sidelines of the EU Summit. They spoke about Croatia’s EU Presidency and enlargement strategy.
  • Kosovo’s Vetvendosje (VV) and League of Democratic Kosovo (LDK) reached an agreement to form a government over the weekend.
  • Likely PM Albin Kurti (VV) said in an interview that Kosovo is suffering from internal capture from corruption and external from Serbia.
  • Slovenian President Borut Pahor hosted Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Ljubljana. The Foreign Minister stayed through the weekend meeting National Assembly Speaker Dejan Zidan and Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Miro Cerar. China will be hosting a Central and Eastern Europe summit next year.
  • In the latest poll of polls, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic is polling first…with only 29% of the vote. Croatians go to the polls on Sunday, December 22. All 11 candidates submitted their campaign finance reports to the State Electoral Commission.
  • Serbian PM Ana Brnabic asked President Aleksandar Vucic to postpone the April elections as much as possible, but faced pushback from Vucic.
  • President of N. Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski aims for 90% of ambassadors to be career diplomats.
  • Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik is against the High Representative from enforcing a law banning genocide denial.
  • Montenegrin PM Dusko Markovic visited the Vatican and met with Pope Francis who indicated he would be in Montenegro next year.
  • Hungarian FM Peter Szijjarto said Croatia and Hungary should buy gas together after meetings on Friday with Croatian counterpart Gordon Grlic Radman.
  • Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin told French counterpart  Florence Parly that Serbia wants to resolve all issues with Kosovo peacefully while maintaining Serbia’s territorial integrity.
  • Serbia and Bosnia signed a pact on the Belgrade-Sarajevo highway, inching the project to realization. The road is being paid for by Turkey.
  • Saturday, December 14, marked the 24th anniversary of the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords.
  • Over 6,000 amendments were filed to change election law in N. Macedonia.
  • “Thousands of Kosovo doctors and teachers held a partial strike on Friday after the constitutional court suspended a long-debated law to increase salaries for most state workers. Doctors treated only emergency cases and teachers did not show up for the first two teaching hours.” (Reuters)
  • Meanwhile, in Serbia, the 1 in 5 million protesters demanded the release of whistleblower Aleksandar Obradovic who revealed information about the dubious dealings of the Krusik arms plant.
  • But PM Ana Brnabic denies that Obradovic is a whisteblower and is, in fact, a law breaker. She said”The fact that someone likes what Aleksandar Obradovic is, gave them the idea to call him a whistleblower, even though the legal conditions for that were not met. This was also confirmed by the people from Pistaljka (Whistle) Association and called on him to register as a whistleblower. The rule of law is the rule of law. We abide by the laws.”
  • “Slovenia’s finance ministry has drafted legislation aimed at helping people take out mortgages, by offering state guarantees on a combined 500 million euros ($551 million) worth of such loans, the ministry told reporters on Thursday. The Bank of Slovenia from November imposed restrictions on consumer loans saying that borrowers’ debt costs can no longer exceed 67% of their income, effectively limiting people’s ability to take out big loans such as mortgages.” (Reuters)
  • The Sarajevo Philharmonic Orchestra played a friendship concert in Qatar. Prime Minister of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina Fadil Novalic and other Bosnian dignitaries joined the musicians.
  • The Islamic Center in Karlovac held a luncheon for ten Syrian families trying to claim asylum in Croatia.
  • CRIME: On the 21st anniversary of the Panda Bar killings in Peja, Kosovo, Serbia has yet to find any suspects.
IN OTHER NEWS…
  • HUMAN INTEREST: “Serbia’s tragedy as told through recipes during a brutal war” by Rikako Takai in the Asahi Shimbun: “Poet and translator Kayoko Yamasaki is no stranger to the vicissitudes of war. As a longtime resident of Serbia, she knows many people whose lives were dramatically upturned by the Balkan Wars that raged throughout the 1990s.What her 37 close friends ate during the turmoil is the theme of her “Pan to Noichigo: Senka no Serubia, Tabemono no Kioku” (Bread and wild strawberries: memories of foods in Serbia under fire), a nonfiction book that won the 29th Murasaki Shikibu literary prize on Sept. 3.”
  • SPORT: Macedonian-Australian Alexander “The Great” Volkanovski defeated Hawaiian Max Holloway at UFC 245 in Las Vegas to win the featherweight belt.
  • TRAVEL: CNN ranks Zagreb as one of the top 17 Christmas markets in the world.
  • TRAVEL: British Airways announced direct flights starting in July from London Heathrow to both Podgorica and Pristina. The flights will be once a week.