WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY
  • U.S. Presidential Special Envoy to the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue Richard Grenell urged the Kosovo government to revoke the 100% tariffs on Serbian goods. He noted, “We made clear to all the (Kosovo) party leaders that dropping the tariffs was in the best interest of Kosovo and its economy, and the desire to attract new businesses.”

 

  • That could just happen in favor of reciprocityKosovo’s new Speaker of Parliament Vjosa Osmani said, As you know our joint government program has been presented by Prime Minister Albin Kurti at the Assembly on 3 February and he made it clear that the tariffs will be replaced with reciprocity measures.”
  • And Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic notes, “talks with Pristina if its representatives think there is nothing to talk about with us. And that Serbia has to recognize Kosovo independence as soon as possible and to apologize for something”

 

  • Bonnie Glick, deputy administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), warns that the United States would cut its assistance to Bosnia-Herzegovina if the country fails to tackle human trafficking. ‘If the government of Bosnia-Herzegovina is not capable of addressing the issues of human trafficking, the United States — in less than one year — will have to cut all of our foreign assistance’ to the Balkan country, Glick said in a February 5 interview with RFE/RL during a visit to Belgrade.” (RFE/RL)
  • On his visit to Washington DC, Montenegro’s President of Parliament Ivan Brajovic met with U.S. Special Envoy for the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer who praised Montenegro’s leadership in the region and that it is an example for its neighbors. Brajovic also spoke to U.S.  Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Samuel Brownback about the law on religious freedom that has caused protests in Montenegro and Serbia.
  • On the HIll, Brajovic met with Congressman Eliot Engel (D, NY-16)  and Senator Ron Johnson (R,WI).
  • The European Commission adopted a new methodology for aspiring countries. Neighborhood and Expansion Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi said the methodology “aims to make accession negotiations more credible, dynamic, predictable and with a stronger political steer.” It also looks to impose stronger sanctions on countries that backslide on reforms.
  • Varhelyi will be in Montenegro and Serbia tomorrow. He will visit Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic and PM Dusko Markovic. In Serbia, Varhelyi will meet with President Aleksandar Vucic, PM Ana Brnabic, and Parliament Speaker Maja Gojkovic with MEP Vladimir Bilcik.
  • President of N. Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski yesterday said he expects for NATO ratification by March. He noted, “If everything goes according to plan concerning the political process, around March 10 that process should finish. There will remain some technical details that our parliament in Skopje will have to deal with.” Spain is the only country yet to ratify N. Macedonia’s accession protocol.
  • Croatian MEP Tonino Picula released a statement on the new EU enlargement strategy. It notes, “The S&Ds (Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats) have always insisted that the enlargement towards the Western Balkans is a win-win approach and an investment in peace, democracy and prosperity in our continent. If we want our Union to be geopolitical, then it is clear that we have to concentrate foremost in our closest neighborhood.”
  • And added, “We do hope this new methodology will inject new dynamism and that we shall regain the credibility in the region that we have lost with the recent non-decision of the Council on enlargement. A clear set of criteria and benchmarks resistant to change within the process should be defined and decisions should be made as soon as they are fulfilled. In this context, we welcome bigger involvement of the member states experts in the negotiations process.”
  • New Kosovo PM Albin Kurti tells Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, “We are not here to satisfy appetites, but to heal the wounds. I don’t see how we can find a solution with such (Vucic’s) approach. We can, together with the Western countries, create a context in which a solution can be found.”
  • Croatian Ambassador to the EU Irena Andrassy saw the British out of the EU with the message, “Thank you, goodbye, and good riddance.” BBC News reports, “A Croatian spokesman in Brussels said the remark came during ‘a humorous exchange between friends and in a closed session; it was warm and friendly and with the best intentions.’ The two ambassadors were on very good terms and saw each other in a formal setting regularly, he added.”
  • Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency MIlorad Dodik expressed support for calls by ethnic Croat party HDZ to change election law. He said, “You cannot ignore the Croats’ right to authentically chose their political representatives. It is not good that Bosniaks elect anybody of authority for Croats. How can the HDZ BiH trust the (Bosniak) Party of Democratic Action (SDA), which has elected Zeljko Komsic to the post of the Croat member of the BiH Presidency. He is a Croat… but he was not elected by Croats but by Bosniaks.”
  • UN Secretary General Antonion Guterres will attend the 25th anniversary commemoration of the Srebrenica genocide.
  • Meanwhile, Bosnia yesterday commemorated the victims of the Sarajevo Market bombing. Nearly 70 people were killed and over 140 were wounded 26 years ago.
  • At the commemoration, a man named Jasmin Saljic yelled aSarajevo Assembly Speaker Mirza Celik claiming officials are afraid of sayin who was killing Sarajevo’s citizens and how they were killed.
  • “Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Parliament has been discussing in Sarajevo on Tuesday the appointment of a politician whom the US Government has blacklisted for corruption into a commission designed to monitor and supervise the country’s anti-graft agency. Bosnian Serb Nikola Spiric is one of six people nominated to supervise the work of the Agency for the Prevention of Corruption and Coordination of the Fight against Corruption (APIK).” (OCCRP)
  • The killer of Serbian warlord Arkan could be sent back to Serbia to serve a 35 year jail sentence after Cape Town (South Africa) Magistrate’s Court found Dobrosav Gavric to be extraditable to Serbia. South African Justice Minister Ronald Lamola will make the final decision.
  • Canada’s Magna Seating intends to expand business at its production plant in Odzaci.
  • Turkish company Cengiz İnsaat won the 98m EUR tender to build the second line of Karawanken Tunnel between Slovenia and Austria.
  • ENERGY: Mayor of Vrgorac, Croatia, Ante Pranic, has called on citizens to donate items they were planning on throwing away to migrants.
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