WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

KOSOVO ELECTIONS, WHAT’S NEXT: Donning Albanian flags, Vetëvendosje supporters took to the streets to celebrate the party’s decisive victory in Kosovo’s parliamentary elections on Sunday.

  • With over 99% of the vote counted, Vetëvendosje took 47.85% of the vote, Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) – 17.41%, Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) – 13.08%, and Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) – 7.43%.
  • LDK leader and former PM Isa Mustafa resigned yesterday after the party’s poor performance in elections.
  • Meanwhile, Srpska Lista leader Goran Rakić declared that the party won all 10 seats reserved for Serbs in parliament.

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SERBIAN EMBASSY IN U.S. CELEBRATES NATIONAL DAY: The Embassy of Serbia in the United States celebrated its National Day yesterday with a 21 minute online program that featured a short history of Serbia and addresses by Ambassador Marko Djurić, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and Special Representative to the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer, and Co-chair of the Serbian Congressional Caucus Emmanuel Clever (D, MO).

RUSSIAN DPM CELEBRATES IN SERBIA: Russian Deputy PM Yuri Borisov celebrated Serbia’s National Day in Belgrade by meeting with President Aleksandar Vučić, PM Ana Brnabić, and Minister without a Portfolio Nenad Popović. Borisov and Vučić discussed Serbia’s plan to produce the Sputnik V vaccine, increase trade and infrastructure projects, and bilateral relations. The Serbian president decorated Borisov with Order of the Republic of Serbia on the occasion.
BULGARIA – N. MACEDONIA NEGOTIATIONS: PM of N. Macedonia Zoran Zaev announced Skopje has created an action plan for an intergovernmental conference with neighboring Bulgaria. He expects FM Bujar Osmani to meet next week with Bulgarian counterpart Ekaterina Zaharieva to finalize the conference. German Ambassador to N. Macedonia Anke Holstein announced her government, in close cooperation with EU Council President Portugal, has been involved in talks with the parties to allow for N. Macedonia to formally open EU accession talks.

SPEAKING OF EU TALKS…: MEP and European Parliament Rapporteur for Serbia Vladimir Bilčík said the Foreign Affairs Committee will vote on amendments to his newest report on February 23 and the full report on March 24 or 25.

MARIO KORDIĆ IS THE MAYOR OF MOSTAR: Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) – BiH candidate Mario Kordić edged out Coalition for Mostar candidate Zlatko Guzin by a 17-16 vote in a secret ballot conducted by the City Council. Two votes were declared invalid. Kordić spoke about unity in his first address. He said, “together we can live and raise our children in peace” and added, “I hope that from tomorrow we will move in a positive direction in order to reach other planes that are ahead of us.”

COVID CORNER:

PLENKOVIĆ VISITS PELJEŠAC BRIDGE: Croatian PM Andrej Plenković visited the construction site of the Pelješac Bridge which will connect mainland Croatia to the Dubrovnik-Neretva County exclave. PM Plenković announced the bridge will be completed by June 2022. The 550 million euro project is funded in party by the EU (357 million euro) and is being built by China’s Road and Bridge Corporation.

SLOVAK AND CROATIAN FMs DISCUSS RELATIONS: Croatian FM Gordan Grlić-Radman and Slovak counterpart Ivan Korčok yesterday discussed bilateral relations and the EU’s approach to Russia and Covid-19 vaccine rollout. A key takeaway from the meeting was a discussion about the EU sanctioning Russia for the arrest of Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny.

  • FM Korčok tweeted, “Confirmed friendly relations between 🇸🇰&🇭🇷in a mtg w/ FM @grlicradman. Ready to boost our coop in economy & tourism, but also offer help in need, such as sending humanit. @SlovakAid following earthquake in #Petrinja Dec 2020. Hope to continue political dialogue in 🇸🇰soon.
  • Croatia was the second stop of Korčok’s trip that includes visits to Poland, Croatia, Romania, and Ukraine.

MOTION OF NO CONFIDENCE IN SLOVENIA FAILS: The motion of no confidence against PM Janez Janša failed to garner a majority of MPs to make Karl Erjavec the country’s new PM. Erjavec received 40 votes in the 90 seat parliament.

KSC TO MOVE TO KOSOVO?: “The head of a Netherlands-based court investigating war crimes allegedly committed by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) during its conflict with Serb forces two decades ago has urged EU diplomats to help fight back against a campaign to undermine its work in Kosovo.

In a confidential briefing to European diplomats in the Hague on February 11, Kosovo Specialist Chambers President Judge Ekaterina Trendafilova warned that the court was facing increased efforts from within Kosovo to hinder ongoing legal proceedings, including against former Kosovan president, Hashim Thaci, who was indicted on war crimes charges last year.” (Euronews)

CORRUPTION ACCUSATIONS IN MONTENEGRO: “Montenegro’s State Prosecutor, Zivko Savovic, on Monday accused the Special State Prosecutor, Milivoje Katnic, of illegal acts during investigations into former ruling party officials.

“At a press conference, Savovic said Katnic had stopped an investigation into former transport minister Ivan Brajovic, who had been accused of corruption in connection with the Bar-Boljare highway project.” (Balkan Insight)

CROATIA SUED AT THE ECHR: “Croatian politician Vladimir Seks said on Monday he had sued Croatia at the European Court of Human Rights because he was not given access to documents of Croatia’s first President Franjo Tudjman, adding that it was in the national interest to reveal, not conceal that period in recent history.

“The documents in question are from the archives of the President’s Office. Seks had requested them during former President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic’s term. He was denied access to some with the explanation that they are secret, a decision later upheld by the Administrative and Constitutional courts.” (N1)

IN OTHER NEWS

OP-ED: “Will Biden bring changes to the Western Balkans?” by Sandra Maksimović in European Western Balkans

ANALYSIS: “The Government against the EU: A futile and dangerous spat over solidarity” in The Tirana Times

CULTURE: “Wine Border Regions – Slovenia & Croatia (Bizeljsko Sremič)” by Christopher Walkey in Glass of bubbly