WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

U.S. AMBASSADORS FROM THE REGION VISIT D.C.: U.S. Ambassadors to the region descended on Washington D.C. U.S. Ambassador to Albania Yuri Kim wrote on Twitter, “In Washington coordinating ways to strengthen Friends & Allies, use US power to achieve solutions in Balkans” in a photo with Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Reeker and Presidential Envoy to the Kosovo-Serbia Talks and Acting Director of the ODNI Richard Grenell. Ambassador to Croatia Robert Kohorst met with representatives of the National Association of Croatian Americans. Ambassador to Kosovo Philip Kosnett presented former Senator Bob Dole with a photo of the statue of Dole in Pristina. Ambassador to Serbia Anthony Godfrey and Serbian Ambassador to the U.S. Djerdj Matkovic presented David Vujic, the last living member of the Serbian 7 of the Apollo 11 mission, with the highest medal of the Republic of Serbia.

THACI IN THE U.S.: Kosovo President Hashim Thaci met with representatives from the Brookings InstituteHeritage FoundationWilson Center, and Atlantic Council. On his visit to the Atlantic Council, Kosovo Ambassador to the U.S. Vlora Citaku and U.S. Special Representative for the Western Balkans Hashim Thaci were present.

PANTSIR ACQUISITION FROM U.S., EU: The U.S. State Department told Voice of America, We urge all our allies and partners to forgo transactions with Russia that could lead to the imposition of sanctions under the United States Opposition through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).” Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policies Joseph Borrell said, “The Serbian government has marked integration into the European Union as a strategic priority of the country. We expect Serbia to act within the commitments it has made.”

VUCIC TO SPEAK AT AIPAC CONFERENCE: The American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) confirms Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic will speak at its 2020 conference scheduled for March 1-3 in Washington, DC.

INZKO ON BOSNIAN OFFICIALS: The High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina Valentin Inzko warns officials from the Bosnian Serb dominated entity, Republika Srpska (RS) , that they are officials of Bosnia and Herzegovina and should act according to the constitution. After RS officials met and agreed to block BiH institutions, Inzko noted, “The attendance at the meeting is unacceptable as it de facto signals preparedness to take part in blocking the decision-making in the state-level institutions. Also, it seriously undermines the professional, ethic and personal integrity of attendees and the perception of independence of the institution they represent.” He added, “Under Annex 4 to the General Framework Agreement for Peace in BiH (the BiH Constitution), state-level institutions and state-level officials carry out their duties in accordance with the Constitution of BiH and decisions of the BiH institutions and not entities.”

KOSOVO TAXES TO BE REVIEWED: The Ministry of Economy has set up a task force of nine institutions to assess whether or not to drop the 100% tariffs on Serbia. If dropped, it could signal a return to the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue.

UKRAINE SUMMONS SERBIAN AMB.: The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry summoned Serbian Ambassador Aca Jovanovic after the name and symbols of “The Republic of Crimea” surfaced at an International Tourism Fair in Belgrade. Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry wrote in a statement, “The Serbian ambassador acknowledged the unfortunate fact and confirmed the continued support of Serbia’s territorial integrity and state sovereignty by Serbia.”

ILIC FAMILY UPDATE: After Kosovo Serb soccer player Ilija Ivic declared to play for the Kosovo National Soccer Team, reports surfaced that both his parents were fired from their positions in Gracanica, Kosovo. In fact, his mother was dismissed from her work, while her father retained his position. Ivic’s coach told Voice of America (VoA) he doesn’t understand how everyone talks about how politics shouldn’t mix with sport, but this is. Ilic also received support from his friends in Gracanica in VoA’s report.

CORONAVIRUS HITS THE REGION: The first case of Coronavirus hits Croatia. The patient, currently at a hospital in Zagreb, visited Italy from February 19-21. Meanwhile, three potential cases in Kosovo tested negative for Coronavirus. Slovenian Health Minister Health Minister Ales Sabeder warns the public not to panic over the spread of the virus in neighboring Italy. Representatives of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina will convene today after cases appeared in neighboring Croatia and across the Adriatic in Italy.

INDICTMENTS FOR THE KLA: The first indictments for the Kosovo Liberation Army brought by the Kosovo Specialist Chambers are awaiting to be filed if there is sufficient evidence. They must be filed within six months.

BOSNIAN MEDIA THREATENED: “The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Désir, expressed his dismay today at recent insults and threats by Duško Perović, Head of the Representative Office of the Republika Srpska in the Russian Federation, against journalists of the web portal Capital. On 21 February, Perović insulted and threatened Capital’s journalists and its Chief Editor Siniša Vukelić, following an investigative article related to the business affairs of a foreign company in the Republika Srpska, an entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Perović phoned the office of the web portal, reportedly saying that it will face serious problems if journalists continue to write about this company and threatened to have the web portal shut down.” (Sarajevo Times)

THE EU PRIORITIZES SERBIAN MEDIA FREEDOM: Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia Sem Fabrizi earmarked media freedom as a key to Serbia’s EU accession. He said, “The freedom of media is one of the key topics in the accession process and me constantly advocate the improvement in that area.”

SAVE OHRID: The Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning (MEPP) of N. Macedonia announced a meeting of officials from N. Macedonia, Albania, and Greece to discuss the condition of Lake Prespa.

DIGITAL SLOVENIA: “A new fund established by the start-up support community Silicon Gardens has raised EUR 4 million from successful Slovenian companies in three months and invested in five digital start-ups. The target of the Silicon Gardens II fund is to raise and invest a total of EUR 5 million and help start-ups enter foreign markets.” (Slovenia Times)

2020 OR 1953?: It is estimated that the population of Bosnia and Herzegovina is lower than 1953. The BiH Agency for Statistics in the Labor Force Survey 2018 estimates there are around 2.7 million inhabitants while the 1954 census reveals there were 2.85 million inhabitants.

AERODROM MARIBOR: Chinese-owned company, Aerodrom Maribor, is seeking 2.1 million EUR in damages after terminating its contract with Slovenia. According to Total Slovenia News, the company “will claim that the state dragged its feet on the adoption of a zoning plan that would have allowed the Edvard Rusjan Maribor airport to extend the runway (and) that after the company terminated the lease, the state engaged in violations of the law by continuing to use real estate at the airport that remains in the ownership of Aerodrom Maribor.”

THE TIRE INDUSTRY: “Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. will ramp up its capital spending in 2020 in large part to upgrade and expand plants in Mexico and Serbia, where work already is under way to prepare them for additional production and product lines. Cooper anticipates making $260 million to $280 million in capital expenditures this year, the company told the investment community today in a conference call covering the firm’s fiscal 2018 performance.” (Tire Business)

IN OTHER NEWS

ANALYSIS: “EU hopefuls up climate game in Western Balkans” by Sam Morgan in EURAKTIV

HUMAN INTEREST: “Love Triumphs Over Bosnia’s Segregated Schools” (VIDEO) in RFE/RL

HUMAN INTEREST: “Melania Trump revelation: FLOTUS’ father Viktor Knavs reportedly has a criminal record” in Econo Times

HUMAN INTEREST: “Ask the Teacher – Kristian Kolman” in The Strad

CULTURE: “How Much Do You Know About Montenegro?” (QUIZ) by Michael Gonchar in NY Times

HISTORY: “120,000-Yr-Old Rhino Found at Second Railway Track” by Neza Lostrek in Total Slovenia News

ENTERTAINMENT: “Croatian-American singer gets star on Hollywood Walk of Fame” in Croatia Week

TRAVEL: “Top six places for students to travel in Europe in 2020″ in Female First – Hint: this place is known as the city of dragons.

TRAVEL: “Kuwait Airways Is Launching Flights To Bosnia” in Simple Flying