WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

 

CZECH PM BABIŠ VISITS SERBIA: Czech PM Andrej Babiš yesterday visited Serbia on an official visit. He met with President Aleksandar Vučić and PM Ana Brnabić.

  • A key leg of the trip included a visit to the largest vaccination center in Belgrade with a team of Czech epidemiologists to research the Russian Sputnik V vaccine.
  • Meanwhile, the PM Babiš commented on the ongoing battle between Serbian state-owned telecommunications company Telekom Serbia and Czech owned Telenor. He said, “If I understood correctly, it’s a dispute between private companies, and as far as I know, the Commission For Protection Of Competitions should resolve it. I’m not supposed to deal with the topic.”

SPEAKING OF COVID VACCINES:

  • Serbia received an additional 500,000 doses of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine. By the end of February, Serbia will receive 88,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine and 125,000-150,000 doses of the AstraZeneca version. President Aleksandar Vučić aims to have 2 million doses from various suppliers by the end of February.
  • Serbian President Vučić will hand over 8,000 Pfizer vaccinations PM of N. Macedonia Zoran Zaev at the border of the two countries. The Health Ministry of N. Macedonia has set up a website where citizens can apply to receive the vaccination.
  • Hungarian FM Péter Szijjártó discussed the Covid-19 situation with Montenegrin FM Djordje Radulović. The Hungarian offered to deliver an unspecified number of vaccines.
  • Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity, Republika Srpska (RS), will begin vaccinating citizens on Friday. The entity currently has 2,000 Sputnik V vaccines, but expects the number to jump to 100,000 by mid-February.

VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE AGAINST JANŠA: “The five left-leaning opposition parties have filed again a motion for a constructive vote of no confidence in the government of Janez Janša, with Karl Erjavec, the president of the Pensioners’ Party (DeSUS), as candidate for prime-minister designate.

“The proposal from the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), Social Democrats (SD), Left, Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) and DeSUS is supported by ten MP signatures, with each of the initiating parties contributing two signatures.

“Erjavec told the press as he presented the motion that the main reproaches to the government related to undermining constitutional principles.” (Total Slovenia News)


EP DRAFT
 REPORT ON MONTENEGRO: The European Parliament’s Draft Report on Montenegro was released yesterday. It welcomed Montenegro’s continued support for EU accession, but warned there should be reforms in rule of law and democracy, particularly the judiciary. Read the full draft report HERE.

CASE IN SERBIA – DEROGATORY TERM FOR ALBANIANS UNFOUNDED: A Belgrade court decided a case against Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin for using a derogatory term in Serbian used for Albanians is “unfounded” according to ethnic Albanian MP in Serbia’s Parliament, Shaip Kamberi. Vulin used the derogatory term in an official document while serving as defense minister last October.

  • Kosovo media outlet Gazeta Express reached out to U.S. Embassy in Belgrade Spokesperson James Hagengruber for comment. Hagengruber said, “Freedom of speech is a foundational value of the United States. Our Congress does not legislate what types of speech are considered offensive and our courts do not say what terms are legal or offensive.  But we know from our own national experience about the dangers, pain, and lingering division caused by offensive speech, in particular, the use of demeaning names to describe minority groups.”

ZAEV ON CENSUS IN N. MACEDONIA: PM of N. Macedonia Zoran Zaev yesterday underscored the importance of holding a census in April because of summer and local elections in October.

  • PM Zaev said, “We do not know how many we are, where they are located, what are our industrial parameters, what are our basic resources and where it gives serious indications for increasing the economic growth of the country” highlighting the lack of census hurts the local government,  federal government, and private companies.
  • He added, “It is planned to be implemented from April 1 to 21 and it should be completed. I will repeat once again. There are no censuses anywhere in the summer, there is a campaign in September, and there are local elections in October. If we procrastinate, when to procrastinate. For May? That will not change anything. We should all focus on completing the census responsibly, and that is a civic obligation clearly defined by law. If we are a state, we should behave like statesmen and act like statesmen. The census is an urgent need in the interest of all citizens.”

CROATIA TO PROCURE JETS ON TIME: Croatian Defense Minister Mario Banožić confirmed that there will be no delay in procuring fighter jets. “We still have our MiGs whose lifespan expires in 2024. I deeply hope that by that time we will resolve our situation regarding the multipurpose fighter aircraft,” said Banožić. He added, “We are waiting for a better moment to publicly present what the evaluation study has revealed, and our plan is to make that decision this year,” after the earthquake that rocked Croatia in January. Croatia is evaluating proposals for American F-16 Block 70s, Swedish Gripen C/Ds, and used French Dessault Rafale. An offer for from Israel for used F-16 Block 30 appears to be out of the running.

DOSHI TO RUN FOR MP IN ALBANIA: Despite warnings from U.S. Ambassador Yuri Kim, MP Tom Doshi requested to run in the April 25 parliamentary elections in Albania.

NEW HJCP BiH PRESIDENT: Halil Lagumdžija, a newly elected member of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC), was elected as the body’s new president. Lagumdžija edged out Banja Luka’s District Court judge Srdjan Forca by one vote in the second round of voting. EU Ambassador to Bosnia Johann Sattler and the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo welcomed the decision on Twitter but called for the body to strengthen the rule of law and restore the trust of the citizens.

TIRANA MAYOR FINED BY CEC: The Mayor of Tirana Erion Veliaj, was fined by Albania’s Central Election Committee for violating election law by not reporting election activities and promotion of banned activities.

MOSTAR CITY COUNCIL TO VOTE SECRETLY: The City Council of Mostar decided to vote for the next Mayor of Mostar in a secret ballot after significant pressure from High Representative Valentin Inzko, the OSCE Mission to BiH, the EU Delegation/EU Special Representative, the Embassy of the UK, the Embassy of the US, and the OHR.

THIRD STATUS CONFERENCE AT KSC RESCHEDULED: The Kosovo Specialist Chambers (KSC) has rescheduled the Third Status Conference in the trials for Hashim Thaçi, Kadri Veseli, Rexhep Selimi, and Jakup Krasniqi from this morning to February 16 at 11:00AM.

HDZ CANDIDATE FOR ZAGREB’S MAYOR: The Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) announced Davor Filipović as its candidate for Zagreb’s mayoral elections in May. The lecturer at the Zagreb Faculty of Economics and is an HDZ councillor in the Zagreb City Assembly and chairman of its finance and budget committee received.

IN OTHER NEWS

OP-ED: “US Sledgehammer Diplomacy on Kosovo Won’t Budge Serbia” by Miloš Damnjanović in Balkan Insight

OP-ED: “Many in EU Fear Council Presidency of Slovenia Led by Orbán Ally PM Janša” in Hungary Today

ANALYSISWestern Balkans goes east for coronavirus vaccines by Nektaria Stamouli in Politico EU

ANALYSISLeft out by EU, Balkan nations turn to Russia, China for vaccine by Mersiha Gadzo in Al Jazeera

ANALYSIS: “Covid: How Serbia soared ahead in vaccination campaign” by Guy Delaney in BBC News

PODCAST: “The DFC: Countering China and Russia in Greece and the Balkans with US investments” in Ekatherimerini: “Daniel Vajdich is a former senior staff member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a non-resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, and is now president of the DC-based strategic advisory firm Yorktown Solutions.”

HUMAN INTEREST: “Migrant Children Live Without Parents Among Ruins In Bosnia-Herzegovina” (VIDEO) by Ray Furlong in RFE/RL

CULTURE: “History Class: Anthem of Bosnia replaced by Intermezzo in February 1998” in The Sarajevo Times

SPORT: “HNS Sacks Entire Croatian Football Referees’ Committee?” by Daniela Rogulj Total Croatia News

ENTERTAINMENT: “‘Quo Vadis, Aida?’ shortlisted for the Academy Award” in N1