WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

Greetings from Florida where it is 80 degrees F (27 C) and sunny while Washington and New York get hammered with up to a foot plus (30 cm)! But let’s get caught up in the Balkans!

25 YEARS SINCE DAYTON: Events marking the official signing of the Dayton Peace Accords in Paris concluded earlier this week. Highlights include:

  • The EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell emphasized the dangers of nationalism. He said, “Two world wars taught us that mutual respect and compromise take us further than blood and soil. We must reject narrow-minded definitions of national interest, as well as the use of ethnic or religious identities to separate instead of reuniting…Identity can kill. Every one of us has an identity. Maybe several identities at the same time. We have to overcome the battle of identities, we have to continue fighting for human rights and fundamental freedoms as the cornerstones of the European Union.”
  • Croatian PM Andrej Plenkovic views Dayton as the equality of citizens. He said, “The principle of equality of the three constituent peoples, and the principle of equality of all citizens, do not exclude each other,” He added it is “is not backward nationalism” but “sound constitutionalism.”
  • Bosnia’s first President Haris Siljadzic argued it is time to move towards a civic state. He said, “Now we are working towards a new solution. We need civic democracy n BiH, not ethnic democracy. This what we have was imposed on us by aggression and genocide, a totally ethnic concept.”


U.S. PRESSES KOSOVO ON WAR CRIMES
: The U.S. Embassy in Pristina released a statement after a meeting between Ambassador-at-Large for the Office of Global Criminal Justice Morse H. Tan and Ambassador Richard Kosnett met with Chief State Prosecutor Aleksander Lumezi, and prosecutors from the War Crimes Department of the Special Prosecution Office in Kosovo (SPRK), including Chief Blerim Isufaj. The press statement highlights the U.S. “commitment to bringing all war criminals to justice, regardless of their nationality.” while the Kosovars discussed challenges they face from INTERPOL and cases inherited from EULEX.

LAVROV’S TRIP TO THE BALKANS

Tuesday – Bosnia and Herzegovina

  • On Tuesday, Bosniak Member of the Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic and Bosnian Croat Member Zeljko Komsic of the Presidency refused to meet with Russian FM Sergey Lavrov after he met with Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency in Banja Luka without Bosnia’s state systems. Dzaferovic and Komsic accused Lavrov of disrespecting state symbols.
  • Dzaferovic said, “We have our pride and we want to say what we think at a given time. Russia respects the Dayton Peace Agreement, but the statements given yesterday at a press conference by Minister Lavrov tell a different story… The first thing stated in the Agreement is the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina, its continuity, institutions, its flag and coat of arms. That must be respected, it was not respected yesterday.”
  • Komsic added, “What we’ve seen ever since he came to Bosnia are not his personal messages, but those of his country. The lack of the state flag during the meeting with Milorad Dodik is no mistake. We see this as a form of disrespect and denial of our country’s institutions to which came in an official visit.”
  • Coincidence? I think not…On Wednesday, Russia’s Gazprom announced it can’t deliver 50% of gas to the Bosniak-Croat dominated Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Gazprom blames a “technical issue.”

Tuesday – Serbia

  • At a press conference with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Russia’s Lavrov accused external forces of controlling BiH. He said, “The politicians who made that decision probably express the interests not of the majority of their voters but of external forces, which are not only not interested in the development of Russian-Bosnian and Russian-Serbian relations, but also in the countries of the Western Balkans realizing the right to mutually beneficial cooperation with external partners.”
  • Vucic announced Serbia will start its transportation of gas from the Balkan Stream, an extension of TurkStream, “by the end of the year.”
  • He also told reporters, “We won’t be imposing sanctions on the Russian Federation” which is directly against the common foreign policy of the European Union, a goal Vucic has claimed is the number one priority. Meanwhile, head of the political department at the EU Delegation, Dirk Lorenz, highlighted that Serbia has to focus on aligning is foreign and security policy with the EU.
  • Meanwhile, the Serbian Foreign Ministry released a statement after Selakovic met with EU ambassadors that highlighted, “full membership in the EU remains one of the key foreign policy priorities of the Government of Serbia, as well as that the EU integration process.”
  • Lavrov also met with FM Nikola Selakovic. Their discussions centered around the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue and common history. Lavrov urged the EU to take responsibility for implemented already agreed upon deals, alluding to the Community of Serb Municipalities. Lavrov invited Selakovic to visit Moscow.
  • Lavrov told a press conference after meeting with Selakovic, “Both ceremonies (at Saint Sava Cathedral and lighting the Eternal Flame at the Cemetery of Liberators) were held in areas of Belgrade that embody our joint struggle against a common enemy, our joint struggle for defending our values, our spiritual proximity, our culture, our languages and everything else that the term ‘a people’ implies.”

Wednesday – Croatia

  • Lavrov visited Croatia for the first time in s16 years when he became Russia’s FM. He met with President Zoran Milanovic, PM Andrej Plenkovic, and FM Gordan Grlic Radman. A key reason the trip ended in Zagreb was to officially open the new Russian Embassy in Croatia.
  • In Croatia, Lavrov said the Office of the High Representative in Bosnia represented “anarchism.” He said, “BiH is an independent country, despite the fact that it still has an external protectorate in the form of a High Representative, which I consider an anachronism. In accordance with its Constitution and the Dayton Agreement, BiH should decide on its own foreign policy. Everyone should respect the decisions made by BiH, which are in accordance with the Dayton Agreement, but it should be understood that BiH does not exist without respecting all three peoples. That also means respecting the position of the Republika Srpska entity on military neutrality”
  • Lavrov invited Grlic Radman for an official visit to Russia while PM Plenkovic invited his Russian counterpart, Mikhail Mishustin, to visit Croatia

N. MACEDONIA’S LEADERS SLAM BULGARIA: President of N. Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski yesterday made it clear that identity is not up for debate with Bulgaria. He told parliament, “Membership in any international organization has no value if you are asked to give up your identity.” Meanwhile, FM Bujar Osmani insinuated Bulgaria’s actions towards N. Macedonia’s EU path can be classified as “blackmail.”

KRIVOKAPIC IN BRUSSELS: Montenegro’s new PM during the first half of this week met with top officials in Brussels including NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, EUSR to the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue Miroslav Lajcak. He also told the Financial Times, “It is clear that Montenegro has experienced a rebirth, a transformation which citizens will protect.”

  • Get his first hand view on Montenegro-EU relations in his op-ed Montenegro’s membership of the EU can inspire the European dream in Euronews
  • Meanwhile, U.S. DAS and Special Representative .to the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer told an online event that he could not predict the political future of Montenegro, but it would be up to the citizens of Montenegro. He highlighted, “there is room for multi-identity and ethnic and national identities.” Palmer also delved into Russian disinformaiton and the future of BiH during the event – read more HERE (in Montenegrin).

OSMANI IN TIRANA: On the second of her three-day visit to Albania, acting Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani yesterday met with President Ilir Meta. At a joint press conference, Osmani requested that “the Albanian Parliament approve the [resolution] condemning the Serbian genocide in Kosovo.” By the end of the trip she will have met with President Meta, PM Edi Rama, Speaker of Parliament Gramoz Ruci, and opposition leader Lulzim Basha.

CHINA + SERBIA: A Chinese state-owned airline carrier has expressed interest in taking over Etihad’s 49% share of Air Serbia, should the Dubai-based airline decide to sell. It’s telling that Etihad terminated Belgrade-Abu Dhabi flights last week.

EU TO FUND COMBATTING MIGRANT CRISIS: “Today, the European Commission adopted an additional €25 million assistance package to support Bosnia and Herzegovina in managing migration. This new EU funding will mainly address essential needs of refugees and migrants  during winter, providing accommodation, food, access to healthcare and social services. The additional support will also strengthen Bosnia and Herzegovina’s capacity in border management, in particular through equipment and training. It will contribute to the fight against and the prevention of migrant smuggling as well as trafficking in human beings.” (Sarajevo Times)

IN OTHER NEWS

REPORT: “Examining State Capture: Undue Influence on Law-making and the Judiciary in the Western Balkans and Turkey” in Transparency International

OP-ED: “Dayton Agreement 25 years on: How is the peace deal viewed today in Serbia?” by Milivoje Pantovic in EuroNews

OP-ED: “How Diplomacy Forged The Dayton Accords That Brought ‘Uneasy Peace’ To Bosnia 25 Years Ago” by Lisa Mullins in Here and Now

ANALYSIS: “Balkan States Race to Secure COVID-19 Vaccine Supplies” in Balkan Insight

ANALYSIS: “Mini-Schengen, Regional Economic Area and Common Regional Market: What is what?” by Emina Muminovic in European Western Balkans

ANALYSIS: “Venturing into cohesion: EU structural funds help create Croatian start-up ecosystem” by Vlagyislaz Makszimov

ANALYSIS: “FDI in the Western Balkans should focus on quality, not quantity” by Nikola Djordjevic in Emerging Europe

CULTURE: “Pogacha brings a taste of Croatia to the Island” in the Mercer Island Reporter (Washington State, USA)

TRAVEL: “Croatia Full of Magic: Be creative and win a free holiday” in The Dubrovnik Times