WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY


JANSA NOMINATED GOV’T
: Incoming Slovenian PM Janez Jansa has nominated a 16 member cabinet. His SDS Party will have seven seats. MP Anze Logar has been picked for Foreign Minister and MP Andrej Sircelj has been picked for Finance Minister.

MACEDONIAN-AMERICAN CAUCUS: Senator Mike Braun (R, IN) becomes the first senator to join the  Congressional Caucus on Macedonia and Macedonian-Americans. He noted, “Macedonian-Americans have played a unique part in building Indiana and our country, and I’m proud to join the Caucus on Macedonia and Macedonian Americans. I look forward to learning more about their history and continuing to support our Hoosier Macedonian community.”

CORONAVIRUS: Prince Charles and his wife, Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla Parker Bowles will continue their visit to BiH as planned despite fears of the Coronavirus outbreak. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic says his country could ban people from entering Serbia from the places hit the hardest. Al Jazeera takes a deep dive into “As cases rise, preparation and panic.” Slovenia has earmarked $1.14 billion to companies, mostly in the form of loans, from the country’s development and export bank and will start health checks on the Slovenian-Italian border and the Ljubljana Airport. Bosnia’s entity Republika Srpska has stopped all projects with Chinese companies.

CORMACK URGES BiH TO MAKE DECISIONS: Principal DAS for European and Eurasian Affairs and former U.S. Ambassador to BiH Maureen Cormack is in Bosnia and Herzegovina for high level meetings with government officials including Bosniak Member of the Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic and representatives  of the Croat and Serb. N1 writes, “Cormack stressed, the time has come to move from words to deeds.”

BORRELL ON VISIT TO THE REGION: “During my recent visits to the Western Balkans, I had the opportunity to meet exceptional and impressive people from all walks of life. Focus usually lies on my meetings with political leaders. But now I want to highlight the exchanges I had with the people of the region: young activists who want cleaner air and a greener region; women with the drive to achieve our joint European future and who fight for a bigger role in resolving conflicts. I hope all these people with great ideas, expertise, talent and determination will play a significant role in advancing the EU accession process of the region. They must have this role, if this process is to succeed,” said the EU’s High Representative for Enlargement Josep Borrell according to the Sarajevo Times.

KOSOVO POWER STRUGGLE: Kosovo President Hashim Thaci invited political leaders to discuss national interests. He met with the Democratic League of Kosovo’s Isa Mustafa, opposition leader Kadri Veseli, former PM and Alliance for the Future of Kosovo Ramush Haradinaj, former Deputy PM and leader of NISMA Fatmir Limaj, former FM and New Kosovo Alliance leader Behgjet Pacolli, Srpska Lista’s Goran Rakic and Dalibor Jevtic, and representatives of other minority communities. Kosovo’s new PM Albin Kurti declined an invitation to meet with the president in the role of representative of his party.

VASFIJE ADDRESSES PARLIAMENT:Wartime rape survivor Vasfije Krasniqi Goodman yesterday addressed the Kosovo Parliament in a speech that tackled the continued stigmatization of rape survivors in Kosovo. She said, “Where are the sons who kicked their mother out of the home after she was raped? They kept their wife, because they didn’t know that their wife was raped as well. Where were you when Jeta, a seven-year-old, was raped? And now what are you doing to make it easier for us? All of Kosovo society should be ashamed, you who victimize us every day.” Krasniqi Goodman added that she hoped people would be brought to justice for their crimes.

OFF TO BRUSSELS: Slovenian President Borut Pahor will be in Brussels on March 18 to meet with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Parliament President David Sassoli and High Representative of the European Union Josep Borrell.

N. MACEDONIA’S POLITICAL MEETINGS
: SDSM’s Zoran Zaev met with the head of the Office of the German Foreign Ministry, for Southeast Europe, Turkey and the EFTA Suzana Jutz in Skopje. Meanwhile, VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristian MIckokski met with Hungarian PM Viktor Orban in Budaspest. Both politicians spoke about the aim of joining the European Union.

MNE CHURCH PROTESTS: Montenegro PM Dusko Markovic has appointed a negotiating team to sit down with Serbian Orthodox Church officials. This follows his sit down with Metropolitan Amfilohije. The team will sit down with church officials for the first time on Wednesday. Bloomberg TV released a short infographic video on the protests. In an interview with Voice of America, Deputy PM Zoran Pazin reiterated Montenegro’s stance and detailed his trip to Washington, DC which focused on meeting officials to discuss the protests.

DODIK’S ALARMISM: Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik accused his Bosniak and Croat counterparts had a deal in place with Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic who was supposed to travel on March 2nd to BiH to speak about how normal the situation with regards to the Serbian Orthodox Church protests. Dodik called the situation in Montenegro “dramatic” and explained, ” I had to use the mechanism of vital national interest and raise the issue in the National Assembly of Republika Srpska where the final decision is made.”

WHERE IS DJUKANOVIC?: He is on an official visit to Vilnius, Lithuania. PM of Lithuania Saulius Skvernelis said his country fully supports Montenegros’ EU accession and looks to build greater relations particularly in cyber security. President Djukanovic also met with Speaker of Parliament Viktoras Pranckietis.

JEREMIC ON ELECTIONS, VUCIC: Serbian opposition leader Vuk Jeremic spoke to Voice of America about his analysis of the political situation in Serbia. He noted that any true opposition to Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic would boycott the elections. He added that he thinks there will be a deal done with by November that would imply Kosovo becoming a UN member.

VULIN TAKES ON THACI: “Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin on Monday accused Kosovo President Hashim Thaci of attempting to annex parts of southern Serbia. Thaci ‘has revealed his mission – an attempt to grab Bujanovic, Presevo and Medvedja’, the Defense Ministry quoted Vulin as saying in its press release. Those three southern Serbia municipalities have large ethnic Albanian populations. Vulin also accused Thaci of trying to cause a disaster in the Balkans because he fears a war crimes trial. Thaci was a senior commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in the 1999 Kosovo war.  ” (N1)

GENTLEMAN OF THE YEAR: Serbian FM Ivica Dacic took home the award for Gentleman of the Year 2020 at the Lady and Gentleman of the Year Awards.

BECHTEL-ENKA CANCELLED: Albin Kurti’s government cancelled a decision made by former PM Ramush Haradinaj’s government with US-Turkish consortium Bechtel-Enka. The nearly EUR 50 million was set to connect some towns to the Pristina-Skopje highway and build an overpass. Kosovo’s Infrastructure Minister says the decision was made because the contract extension was done without any competition.

IN BETTER NEWS: The Pristina-Skopje rail line reopened for business yesterday and will operate on the same schedule.

UAE + MNE: The UAE and Montenegro agreed to increase collaboration around areas of trade, investment, agriculture, food security, renewable energy, transport, entrepreneurship, start-ups, and innovative industries. Government officials met at the 2nd gathering of a combined Economic Committee.

KOSOVO PRESSURES SERBIA: Serbia arrested Nezir Mehmetaj on suspicion of war crimes on January 4th and is currently still in Belgrade’s custody. The Kosovo MFA and Diaspora have called on the EU and U/S. to react to pressure Serbia into releasing him.

MIGRANT CRISIS: Slovenian Interior Minister Bostjan Poklukar approved the deployment of 35 Slovenian Policemen to a multinational FRONTEX mission on the Greek-Turkey border. The 530 member team is in response to a new wave of migrants.

IN OTHER NEWS

OP-ED: “Move fast, build to last: Europe’s new generation” by Ursala von der Leyen in Modern Diplomacy

OP-ED: “A call to tear down the walls of bureaucracy” by Jeta Xharra in Prishtina Insight

OP-ED: “Virus Balkanicus – Fascist Chauvinism: Serbia Uber Alles – Essay” by Sabahudin Hadzialic in Eurasia Review

ANALYSIS: “Depopulation Disaster: The Balkans And Its Creeping Demographic Crisis” by Andy Heil in RFE/RL

HUMAN INTEREST: “The British mother forced to send her children to Croatia by the High Court” by Hayley Dixon in The Telegraph

CULTURE: “Where is Sarajevo on List of Most Wheelchair-Friendly Cities in Europe?” in Sarajevo Times

ENTERTAINMENT: “Rijeka ‘I Miss You’ Film Takes Second Place at Berlin Festival” by Forrest Stilin in Total Croatia News