WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

HFAC HEARING: The House Committee on Foreign Affairs held a hearing on The Balkans: Policy Recommendations for the Next Administration yesterday with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Dr. Daniel Serwer, and Mr. Janusz Bugajski appearing as witnesses. The discussion focused around Russian and Chinese influence in the region, the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue, improving Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Dayton Peace Accords, and moving the region towards Euro Atlantic integration. Watch the full hearing HERE.
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SLOVENIA + USA

  • Slovenia and the U.S. set up a strategic dialogue on Slovenian FM Anze Logar’s second day of his visit to Washington, DC. The U.S. Embassy in Slovenia noted on Twitter, “We welcome the establishment of a U.S.-Slovenian Strategic Dialogue that will further strengthen our foreign and security policy cooperation, advance economic prosperity for our two nations, and enhance our longstanding people-to-people ties.” (See a photo below!)
  • In addition, FM Logar spoke via video with Rep. Paul Gosar and Sen. Amy Kloubachar. The Slovenian MFA  noted on Twitter, “Friendship groups with #Slovenia in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate are an important support to our country. I sincerely hope that both groups will continue their work also in the 117th Congress.”

EU WEIGHS IN ON WESTERN BALKANS: German EU Affairs Minister Michael Roth told reporters yesterday that EU diplomats are pessimistic of breaking the deadlock on formally starting EU accession with Albania and N. Macedonia.

  • He warned, “Anything else would be a very severe political mistake at the expense of stability and security in the western Balkans, and that ultimately would massively endanger the security of Europe as a whole — and all should be aware of that.”
  • When it comes to Serbia opening EU accession chapters, Roth said, “it is not in our hands, but in the hands of the countries that want to join.” He highlighted, “Freedom of the media, stable democracy, regional reconciliation, an independent judiciary are examples of areas where progress is needed.”

PENDAROVSKI ON AGREEMENT: Meanwhile, President of N. Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski yesterday told Macedonian news outlets, “If you go with sharp or offensive rhetoric, which unfortunately leads the Bulgarian side, then there will be no agreement…we offered everything that can be offered, without touching the Macedonian – not to touch the language or the identity.”

RUSSIA + SERBIA: Serbia sided with Russia in the United Nations against a resolution calling for Moscow to withdraw forces from the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea that deemed Russia an “occupying power.” Russia joins Armenia, Belarus, Cambodia, China, Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Russia, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Zimbabwe in voting against the resolution.

  • Meanwhile, Serbia’s Minister of Innovation and Technological Development Nenad Popovic highlighted the strong relationship between the two countries after a meeting with Russia’s Deputy PM Yuri Borisov. He said, “The relations between Serbia in Russia are the best in history due to the close personal relations of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Russian President Vladimir Putin, and no one can ruin them. Serbia and Russia are two friendly countries that develop the best political and economic ties, that mutually support each other on all important issues for both countries. The level of trade turnover between both countries is growing constantly”

JANSA + BIBI: “Slovenia and Israel are two advanced democracies, technologically capable and forward-looking, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after talks with visiting Slovenian PM Janez Jansa on Tuesday.

“The two prime ministers discussed the strengthening of bilateral relations, situation in the region, and cooperation in technology, Slovenian media reported.

“Netanyahu commended Jansa as a friend of Israel, saying in a post on Twitter that his visit was an opportunity for a new beginning in the two countries’ relations.

“This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship, the Israeli PM said in his post.” (N1)

KOSOVO-SERBIA: The Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue under the auspicious of the European Union are set to resume on the expert level on December 10. Ahead of the meeting, electricity in Kosovo’s northern municipalities was discussed by Serbia’s Director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Petar Petkovic. Meanwhile, Kosovo PM Avdullah Hoti indicated Pristina is fully committed to the Washington Agreement.

  • While on a visit to Kosovo, Serbia’s Director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Petar Petkovic was asked about if Elektroprivreda Srbije (EPS), a Serbian state-run company, would continuing providing energy for residents in the north. Petkovic noted, “Nothing spectacular will happen on December 14th (the date EPS will allegedly transfer energy responsibilites to Kosovo) . Until the two daughter companies of Elektroprivreda Srbije are formed, the regular supply of electricity to the citizens in the north of Kosovo will continue – as per the 2013 agreement and the conclusions of the European Union from 2015.”
  • He added, “Let me translate your question into simpler terms – if you are asking me according to which laws it will be formed, I will tell you – according to a decree of the Government of the Republic of Serbia. EPS is 100% owned by the state of Serbia. We, as the responsible party, i.e. Belgrade, which is in dialogue with Pristina – and not only when it comes to that agreement, but when it comes to all other agreements – we have done everything that is up to us. Therefore, you should pose that question to Pristina – ask why it is obstructing and preventing the registration of those two companies.”
  • Meanwhile, PM Hoti highlighted Kosovo is committed to the Washington Agreement. He said, “We have regular communication and we have had it in the past, both with the Republican and the Democratic party. It has been confirmed that despite the change of administration, the agreement signed in Washington on September 4 will be implemented, and we are working in that direction on a daily basis. Last week, we had a meeting with the US Development Agency (DFC) to identify issues and areas where we need to improve co-operation.”

BOSNIAN JUDICIARY ROCKED: “Bosnia’s Justice Minister Josip Grubesa told N1 Tuesday he expects the top judicial official Milan Tegeltija to resign on Thursday following the latest affair rocking the country’s judiciary.

‘I’m not the one to say whether Tegeltija should or shouldn’t resign, but I expect that he will. What we need to do now is try to find a legal solution to all the issues concerning the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina, because after Milan resigns, some other Milan will take his place. Milan’s not the issue here, the issue is the law,’ Grubesa said.” (N1)

CROATIAN FM ON CROATS IN BiH: Croatian FM Gordan Grlic Radman presented his first report on the Declaration on the Status of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH).

  • He highlighted, “Croatia’s support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina is unquestionable. It is unquestionable that the main precondition for the existence of a functional and stable BiH is satisfaction with the overall quality life for all three constituent peoples and other citizens based on the constitutional principles agreed under the Dayton-Paris peace agreement 25 years ago.”

MONTENEGRO’S KOSOVO BLUNDER: In an official government document, Montenegro’s Health Ministry referred to Kosovo as “Kosovo*” indicating it is status neutral despite Montenegro and Kosovo have full diplomatic representation and mutual recognition between the two countries.

CROATIAN FIGHTER JETS: Croatian Defense Minister Mario Banozic announced the government would decide on the procurement of fighter jets in early 2021 with a deal expected to be signed by late 2021. Croatia has received four offers: U.S. new F-16s, Swedish Gripens, French used Dessault Rafale, and Israeli used F-16s.

 

BOSNIA ARRESTS 7 ON CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY: “The State Investigation and Protection Agency arrested seven people in the Banja Luka area for the unlawful detention, torture and abuse of some 150 Bosniak and Croat civilians around Donji Vakuf in 1992.

“The Bosnian state prosecution said that seven people were arrested on Tuesday on suspicion that they committed crimes against humanity in the spring and summer of 1992 when they were Bosnian Serb Army soldiers.

“State Investigation and Protection Agency officers located, identified and arrested them in the Banja Luka area of Bosnia’s Serb-dominated Republika Srpska entity, the prosecution said.” (Balkan Insight)

IN OTHER NEWS

ANALYSIS: “Tongue-tied: Bulgaria’s language gripe blocks North Macedonia’s EU path” by Una Hajdari in Politico EU

ANALYSIS: “Snow increases hardship for migrants in Bosnia” by Emma Wallis in Info Migrants

HUMAN INTEREST: “Fleeing Kosovo war to Worcester: ‘Father found us a hole underground so it would be a little warmer’” by David Southall in The Worcester News

CULTURE: “Looking to add more European flavor, family opens first Bosnian restaurant in Dubuque” in KCRG