WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

  • Serbian-American Milo Stevanovich (Republican) is running in the primary election for California’s 36th district Congressional seat on March 3, 2020. The top two candidates, regardless of party, will face off on November 3, 2020. Stevanovich faces competition from incumbent Raul Ruiz (Democrat) and four other candidates.
  • Admiral James Foggo, Commander of Allied Joint Force Command in Naples, gave an interview to EWB describing “current cooperation between NATO and Serbia, about KFOR, the NATO perspective of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the importance of North Macedonia’s accession to the Alliance, and whether NATO’s ‘brain is dead.'”
  • Despite previous reports that Kosovo’s Vetvendosje (VV) and the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) agreed to form a government, it appears this was falsely reported by media in Pristina.
  • Meanwhile, ministers and deputy ministers from nine political parties have been nominated to form the government Bosnia and Herzegovina under PM Zoran Tegeltija.
  • Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic hopes US President Donald Trump will visit Serbia. He said, “We don’t remember the last time the US president was in Serbia, I think it was Carter, it’s time for Trump to come…(US Senator Ron) Johnson (R-WI) comes first, then Trump,” at the official start of construction of the Moravian Corridor. He also expects British PM Boris Johnson to visit Serbia next year.
  • Croatian presidential hopefuls have spent nearly $1,060,000 thus far on campaigning ahead of the December 22 election. Incumbent Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic tops spending at $411,800 ahead of independent Miroslav Skoro who has spent $335,435 and former PM, and Social Democratic Party candidate Zoran Milanovic who has spent nearly $200,000.
  • Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic conveyed Montenegro’s “forever policy” of anti-fascism at an event marking the 75th anniversary of the country’s liberation from fascism. He emphasized NATO’s importance for the fight against anti-fascism. He noted, “NATO is precisely based on the values ​​necessary to nurture and preserve anti-fascism sicne it protects and promotes peace, collective security, equality, democratic development, human freedoms and rights, and the building of civil society. These are common values ​​that the Alliance shares with the European Union, whose membership we strive for.”
  • Serbia’s Speaker of ParliamentMaja Gojkovic, notes that parliamentary elections will not happen in March 2020 as planned until there are improvements in electoral procedures and atmosphere. She said, “We agreed that the elections should not be held in March, but that President Aleksandar Vucic, under constitutional authority, should decide, within the rights granted to him by the Constitution and the law, the final date on which they could be held, in order to allow the implementation of all the recommendations agreed in these three rounds of dialogue.”
  • Meanwhile, Serbian tabloid Vecernje Novosti reports that elections will be held on April 26, 2020.
  • Montenegro and Israel signed a $35M defense agreement. The first of its kind between the two countries will contract Israeli defense corporation Elbit to produce $35M worth of Remote Control Weapon Stations for joint light tactical vehicles. Defense Minister Pedrag Boskovic led the delegation to Israel to sign the agreement.
  • The International Monetary Fund (IMFO) released a report urging greater public sector investment after a visit to Croatia.
  • Bosnian nationals returning from combat in Syria remain in limbo. Chairman of BiH’s Council of Ministers Denis Zvizdic said that it is the duty of BiH, as well as of other countries of the world, to take over their citizens “for which we have proof that they are BiH citizens….We have facilities provided for the accommodation of women and children. As for the men, they will be treated in accordance with the current law, which prohibits or punishes going to foreign battlefields and participating in foreign military formations.”  Security Minister Dragan Mektic is managing negotiations.
  • “A man from Kosovo has been charged in Germany with supporting a terrorist organization on allegations he funneled money to the Islamic State in Syria and spread propaganda for the extremist group, federal prosecutors said Monday
  • “In Kosovo, meanwhile, prosecutors filed charges Monday in separate cases against two ethnic Albanians accused of traveling to Syria to join terror groups. Both suspects were repatriated earlier this year from Syria. They could face between five and 10 years imprisonment.Kosovo authorities say 30 of the country’s citizens are still actively supporting terror groups in Syria.” (Reuters)
  • President of Republika Srpska (RS) Zeljka Cvijanovic says that RS Day will be celebrated on January 9th just like in the past. The Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina declared the holiday illegal for not being inclusive to Bosniaks, Bosnian Croats, and others in RS.
  • Four retired Croatian generals released a statement condemning the flying of the Yugoslav flag at a Lepa Brena concert in Zagreb and insinuated she shouldn’t be allowed to perform in Croatia.
  • The Tuzla Canton has declared Peter Handke persona non-grata (png). In the past week, Kosovo and the Sarajevo Canton declared him png.
  • 25,000 people have signed a petition to release Aleksandar Obradovic, the whistleblower of the Krusik ammunition factory who is currently under house arrest.
  • European Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarčič is confident that in five years the EU will be better prepared to rapidly provide humanitarian aid in the event of crisis. Preparedness must be improved, he told a panel on Monday. ‘I wish there was less need for such aid. But I realize that this might be wishful thinking,’ he told a debate on crisis management organised by the European Commission Representation in Slovenia, the STA and the Euro-Atlantic Council of Slovenia.” (Slovenia Times)
  • Pollution, especially during winter months, continues to remain a problem in the region – Sarajevo ranked the 3rd most polluted city in the world on Monday morning.
  • This week in Sarajevo ten new (liquid propane gas) LPG powered buses will take to the streets. They were manufactured in Germany by Mann.
  • ENERGY: The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) approved a 58 million EUR loan to build a wind farm in Kosovo. Croatian oil and gas company INA approved a 540 million EUR upgrade to its refinery in Rijeka.
  • KOSOVO SPECIALIST CHAMBERS: Serbian FM Ivica Dacic says he is ready to go to The Hague in response to Jetlir Zyberaj, adviser to outgoing Kosovo FM Behgjet Pacolli, claiming he had recordings of Dacic’s SPS party hoping to cover up massacres and expulsions of Kosovar Albanians.
  • CRIME: An explosive device was thrown into a pub in Podgorica and damaged the nearby Bulgarian Embassy. Police raided locations in Sarajevo, Tuzla, and Mostar and, and detained the head of Bosnia’s Association of Former Prison Camp Inmates. Six people are wanted in connection to printing and selling tickets for the Museum of Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide for personal profit.
IN OTHER NEWS…
  • PODCAST: “Macedonia: More Than a Name” in BBC News (23 minutes) : “For almost three decades, one word has stood between two nations: Macedonia. The name has been the subject of a bitter dispute between Greece and its northern neighbour, now renamed the Republic of North Macedonia. The Prespa agreement which ended the dispute, was a rare moment of unity in an increasingly divided Europe. But domestically, it has sparked anger, resentment and fear on both sides. Catherine Karelli, who is from Athens, and Courtney Bembridge, an Australian whose family were originally Slavic speakers from the Greek province of Macedonia, travel from Thessaloniki to Skopje to discover what this dispute says about modern national identity.”
  • HUMAN INTEREST: “Bosnian Elvir Klempic, A U.S. Political Strategist” by Tea Ivanovic in Oslobodjenenje: “At the turn of the millennium, Elvir, his sister and parents fled Bosnia and Herzegovina and moved to the United States to seek a better future. Today, Elvir is a grassroots political strategist who has worked for the Democratic National Convention and several political campaigns, including activities for the Hillary Clinton 2016 presidential campaign.”
  • CULTURE: “Santa Claus on the Streets of Kosovo” (Video) in RFE/RL: “Some 2,000 people in Santa Claus costumes have taken part in a charity run in Kosovo’s capital, Pristina. It was the fourth time the event took place, on December 15. A local charity organizes the run to raise money for families in need.”
  • SPORT: The 17 year run of winning Croatia’s rugby championship ended for Nada Rugby Club when they lost to Mladost (Zagreb) 26-18.
  • SPORT: Montenegrin and Monaco striker Stevan Jovetic admits he would have rather joined Juventus instead of Manchester City in 2013. The 30 year old couldn’t betray the fans of his club team at the time, Fiorentina.
  • ENTERTAINMENT: Mojica Plansak of the Slovenian Film Commission gave an interview on the benefits of filming in Slovenia and recent productions, including The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.