Hello from Florida! Today’s newsletter is a special Friday edition going into the holiday season. As many of you may have already done, are currently doing, or will do in the coming days,  I traveled yesterday to visit family. Let’s get you caught up on the past two days in the region!
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY
  • US Ambassador to Serbia Anthony Godfrey looks forward increasing US-Serbia relations by supporting its EU ambitions. Godfrey noted, “I aim to give my best to improve the relationship between the US and Serbia, and I want to thank the Group for supporting my goal. My and my country’s view is that the best way to help Serbia is to support its intention to join the European Union.”
  • Outgoing Kosovo FM Behgjet Pacolli gave his perspective on the impeachment of US President Donald Trump. He said on Twitter, “In my view the impeachment against President Trump is not good and impedes processes internationally. We need a strong US in the world.
    (Donald Trump) has provided strong support to an independent & sovereign #Kosovo and will play a crucial role in peace talks w/Serbia.”
  • Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and PM of N. Macedonia Zoran Zaev confirmed they would participate in a Western Balkans Summit tomorrow and Saturday in Tirana, Albania. Vucic, Zaev, and Albanian PM Edi Rama will discuss the “mini-Schengen” for the third time. Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina have not confirmed attendance.
  • Kosovo President Hashim Thaci swiftly rejected an invitation from PM Edi Rama because Serbia and Bosnia do not recognize Kosovo’s independence.
  • PM Zaev fully supports “mini-Schengen” initiative. He said, “I support every way in which the Balkans cooperate, instead of waiting for someone from the EU to assembly us. We can show our capacities ourselves.”
  • The Albanian wing of Kosovo’s Vetvendosje (VV) party protested Serbian President Vucic’s visit to Albania. They hung a banner in front of the hotel Vucic is staying at that read, “A war criminal is coming here to pose as a humanitarian.” VV referred to Vucic as a humanitarian for sending help to Albania after the earthquake, but said the party does not forget Vucic’s role as Minister of Information in Yugoslavia from 1998-2000.
  • NATO and N. Macedonia signed a Memorandum of Understanding for a consequence management exercise in N. Macedonia in September 2020. This is NATO’s 19th Consequence Management Command Post and Field Exercise.
  • Montenegrin PM Dusko Markovic held a bilateral meeting with Italian counterpart Giuseppe Conte at the Central European Initiative (CEI) Summit in Rome. They discussed “accelerate the integration of Montenegro in the EU and give strategic importance to the enlargement of the EU to the Western Balkans.”
  • Croatian PM Andrej Plenkovic also attended the summit and discussed greater cooperation with Italy’s Conte.
  • The Head of EU Office/EU Special Representative, EULEX and Heads of EU Missions in Kosovo released a statement urging Kosovo to form a government. The two parties who took the most votes in the October 6 elections, Vetvendosje (VV) and the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), have not been able to form a government. The first scheduled parliament session is December 26.
  • The US Embassy in Pristina echoed the EU’s statement on Twitter.
  • Former chief negotiator from Kosovo for the Kosovo-Serbia talksEdita Tahiri, said “there will be war” if Kosovo’s current borders aren’t recognized by Serbia. She added, “The dialogue was not halted because of the tax, but because the state of Kosovo was in danger.”

 

  • President of N. Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski also warned about changing borders in the region. He noted that changes would “certainly takes us back to the early 1990s, cause tensions and most probably new conflicts.” Pendarovski added that any deal on Kosovo should improve security in the region.

 

  • President Pendarovski emphasized the dangers of air pollution and emigration that N. Macedonia faces. He estimated around 3,000 people die annually from air pollution.

 

  • Croatian Defense Minister Damir Krsticevic is visiting Croatian troops in Afghanistan ahead of the Christmas holiday. There are currently 110 Croatian soldiers in Afghanistan.
  • “An editor of a Serbian website that investigates organized crime was denied entry to Abu Dhabi, where he was due to address a U.N. conference on corruption, after being told he had been blacklisted by an unidentified country, the journalist said.” (Reuters)
  • The N. Macedonia Cultural Center opened on Wednesday in Istanbul, Turkey. The Culture Minister of N. Macedonia Husni Ismaili spoke at the opening ceremony which was attended by Ambassador to Turkey Zvonko Mucunski, Consul General Aktan Ago, and Beyoğlu Mayor Haydar Ali Yıldız, among others.
  • Slovenian, Hungarian, and Italian police will patrol the streets of Zagreb, Croatia with Croatian colleagues during the advent season (December 18-January 8).
  • Croatia continues to financially support Croats looking to return to their homes in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The government provided around $567,000 in 2019 and over $9 million in total to “create sustainable conditions” for those who return to Bosnia.
  • ENERGY: “Serbian oil group NIS , majority owned by Russia’s Gazprom Neft, is planning to cut development spending by 6.4% next year to 37.5 billion Serbian dinars ($355.2 million). One of the biggest contributors to Serbia’s budget, NIS operates two refineries, plus fields in Serbia, Angola and Bosnia.” (AP News)
  • CRIME: Bosnia accepted 25 people who were living in ISIS territory including 7 former fighters, 6 women, and 12 children.
IN OTHER NEWS…