WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

HFAC HEARING ON THE BALKANS: The U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs is holding a hearing at 10:00AM EST today called The Balkans: Policy Recommendations for the Next Administration. Witnesses include former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Director of American Foreign Policy and Conflict Management at Johns Hopkins SAIS Dr. Daniel Serwer, and Jamestown Foundation Senior Fellow Janusz Bugajski.

PALMER ON NEW ADMIN, KOSOVO-SERBIA DIALOGUE: U.S. DAS for European and Eurasian Affairs and Special Representative to the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer told Voice of America that he expects policy to remain consistent from the Trump Administration to the Biden Administration. He also commented on the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue.

  • On the Biden Admin, he said, “I don’t want to try to predict what the next administration will do – but I will say that I have been working in the Western Balkans both in the democratic and republican American administrations for the last twenty-seven years. The American approach to the region has been consistent from administration to administration because our interests are consistent from administration to administration. Our vision of the Western Balkans that it’s a set of countries that are at peace with each other, with their neighbors, states that are stable, prosperous and integrated into European and Euro-Atlantic institutions. By this I mean NATO and the European Union”
  • And on the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, Palmer noted, “We are dealing with this on a day-to-day basis at several levels, including here in Washington, at the highest level of the US government. Our commitment to partnership with Serbia and Kosovo and the European perspective of both countries will not change. We will work with Belgrade and Pristina to support the normalization of their relations and their European path.”

MONTENEGRIN GOVERNMENT APPROVED: Montenegro’s Parliament on Friday approved the new governing coalition led by PM Zdravko Krivokapic. The new government yesterday took office for its first day on the job.

POMPEO COMMENDS SLOVENIA ON TWITTER: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday praised Slovenia on Twitter for designating Hezbollah a terrorist organization. He wrote, “Slovenia’s designation of Hizballah as a terrorist organization in its entirety is a critical step in the fight against Iranian-backed terrorists. We commend Slovenia and other European nations for taking action to prevent Hizballah from threatening their peace and security.”

JANSA ON VISIT TO ISRAEL: Meanwhile, Slovenian PM Janez Jansa is wrapping up a two-day official visit to Israel where he is meeting with counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi..

SLOVENIA + U.S. ON NUCLEAR COOPERATION: “Slovenia is to sign a memorandum of understanding on strategic civilian nuclear cooperation with the US. The document expresses the desire of both countries for deeper bilateral strategic ties, which would improve energy security, increase prosperity and strengthen political and economic ties, the Slovenian government has said. Announcing the memorandum in a press release on Saturday, the government said that it would be signed on behalf of Slovenia by Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec, who would accompany Foreign Minister Anže Logar on his visit to the US on Monday.” (The Slovenia Times)

  • FM Logar said, “Secretary @SecPompeo and I advocated for increased political cooperation between our two countries and for continued collaboration on security, bilaterally and within #NATO. #Slovenia 🇸🇮is strengthening its role as an active and dedicated ally.”
  • This is the second level at the ministerial level between the U.S. and Slovenia in the past four months.

LAVROV TO VISIT BOSNIA?: Unofficial news reports from Bosnia and Herzegovina cite sources within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that Russian FM Sergei Lavrov will visit Bosnia on December 14-15 to meet with the tripartite presidency.

CROATIA’S CREDIT RATING: “Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Monday that the Fitch Ratings agency’s decision to affirm Croatia’s long-term foreign-currency issuer default rating (IDR) at BBB-, with a stable outlook, was a good signal and the result of the expected recovery in the post-COVID pandemic period.

“Addressing his cabinet during an online meeting, Plenkovic, who is in self-isolation after testing positive for coronavirus on 28 November, said that the report on Croatia published by Fitch Ratings on Friday ‘is a very good signal and the consequence of the expected gradual recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, strong economic measures implemented by the government, and the country’s admission to the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM II), as well as maintaining economic activity despite demanding circumstances.'” (N1)

ALBANIA TO INVESTIGATE DICK MARTY REPORT: Albania’s Parliament passed a bill to establish a committee to probe allegations in the 2010 report by Dick Marty that members of the Kosovo Liberation Army committed war crimes and ran illegal detention centers on Albania’s territory.

MASS GRAVE EXCAVATION IN SERBIA: The excavation of the mass grave in southern Serbia has revealed over a dozen bodies at a mine in Kizevak. Go in depth with Milica Stojanovic in BIRN.

PETKOVIC VISITS KOSOVO: Serbia’s Director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Petar Petkovic will today finish up a two-day visit to the north of Kosovo. On relations with Kosovo, Petkovic noted, “Our message from here from Kosovska Mitrovica is that we want to build a future, peace and harmony, as it is the only way we can survive and stay in our centuries-old space, and that, living in peace with our Albanian neighbors, we can build peace and prosperity in the entire Western Balkans. We are deeply convinced that the historical reconciliation of Serbs and Albanians is the key to stability in the region.”

SERBS LOOKS TO RUSSIAN COVID VACCINE: In a poll conducted by Serbia’s Telegraf news outlet, over 70% of respondents said they would rather have a Russian vaccine as opposed to an American vaccine. Over 2,600 people were polled.

CONGRATS to Slovenian cyclist Primoz Roglic for being named Cyclist of the Year by Velo Magazine, the a top magazine for cycling. Rogac came in second in the Tour de France to compatriot Tadej Pogacar and had a consistent year.

IN OTHER NEWS

PAPER: “Mapping Fake News and Disinformation in the Western Balkans and Identifying Ways to Effectively Counter Them” by the Policy Department for External Relations Directorate General for External Policies of the Union

OP-ED
: “The Western Balkans: An Opportunity for Biden to Restore US Foreign Policy” by Visar Xhambazi in The Globe Post

OP-ED: “On the Macedonian-Bulgarian dispute and historical revisionism” by Katerina Kolozova in Al Jazeera

ANALYSIS: “Quarter Century-Old Dayton Mantra Shouldn’t Dictate Bosnia’s Future” by David Kanin in Eurasia Review

ANALYSIS: “A Time for Resolve and Solidarity” by Elisabetta Capannelli in Modern Diplomacy

HUMAN INTEREST: “Judge rejects claims Bosnian immigrant to Iowa committed war crimes; government fell ‘well short’ of proving case” in The Des Moines Register

CULTURE: “Croatian Language: Logical, Phonetic, Impossible, Dialectalised & Globalised” by Paul Bradbury in Total Croatia News

CULTURE: “Pekarna, A New Slovenian Restaurant & Cocktail Bar” by Mike Mishkin in I Love the Upper West Side

ENTERTAINMENT: “Scream for me Sarajevo to be screened on BBC” in N1

ENTERTAINMENT: “Dua Lipa and her plan for world domination” in CBS News