WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

RUSSIA, CHINA AIM TO END OHR IN THE UN SECURITY COUNCIL: “Russia and China have circulated a draft U.N. Security Council resolution that would immediately strip the powers of the international high representative overseeing implementation of the 1995 peace agreement that ended the devastating war in Bosnia and eliminate the position entirely in two years.

“The brief draft resolution, obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, states that the powers given to the high representative at a conference on implementing the Dayton peace agreement in 1997 ‘are no longer required given the progress achieved by the Bosnian parties.'” (AP News)

BiH’S FM, DEF MIN. AT NATO HQ: Bosnia’s FM Bisera Turković and Defense Minister Sifet Podžić on Wednesday met with NATO Secretary General at NATO HQ in Brussels ahead of the North Atlantic Council meeting to discuss the Reform Programme and future political dialogue.

KOSOVO TO REINTRODUCE RECIPROCAL TRADE MEASURES WITH SERBIA: Kosovo’s Minister of Industry, Entrepreneurship, and Trade Rozeta Hajdari said the government is preparing to reintroduce reciprocal trade measures against Serbia to keep a campaign promise. She noted the measure are being prepared “in full coordination with the cabinet” and “when we take the measures, it will be without looking back.”

  • The previous government bowed to U.S. and EU pressure in April 2020 to scrap 100 per cent tariff on products against products from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The previous tariffs were one of the main reasons for a two-year delay in restarting the EU-facilitated Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue.
  • The new measures are expected to include not allowing products into Kosovo unless registered as going to the “Republic of Kosovo.”

EGYPT + SERBIA: Serbia’s Defense Minister Nebojša Stefanović and Egyptian counterpart Mohamed Zaki on Tuesday signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) in Cairo “which creates conditions for the improvement and development of relations in the field of defense between the two countries.”

  • The MoC includes joint military trainings aimed at all levels. Stefanović noted, “We want our units to be able to learn from the best Egyptian soldiers and to provide their soldiers with an opportunity to receive education at our Military Academy and other military schools.”
  • Serbia wants to increase its presence in the market in Egypt. He said Serbia wants to “get back on track the former traditional cooperation and what our companies used to do and to ensure a stronger presence of Serbian companies in this large market, but we also want to show, through joint equipment projects and modern weapons development, that this type of cooperation has excellent prospects.”

DODIK, ČOVIĆ DEFEND MILANOVIĆ’S VISIT TO BiH: Chairman and Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik and leader of the biggest Bosnian Croat party (HDZ-BiH), Dragan Čović, defended Croatian President Zoran Milanović’s visit to Bosnia that was criticized by Bosniak Member of the Presidency Šefik Džaferović.

  • Dodik said, “The manner and vocabulary in which they address the President of the neighboring state show that Bosniaks don’t care about peace at home or peace in the region, because if they did, they would respect the fact that Zoran Milanović is the President of the Republic of Croatia and that one of three constituent peoples in BiH is the Croat people.”
  • He added that Milanović “did not insult anyone in BiH who wants to speak the facts and that he expressed views with which someone may or may not agree, but no one has the right to use such qualifications about the head of a neighboring country.”
  • Meanwhile, Bosnian Croat Čović noted, “the Bosniak people as a whole have no greater riend than the representatives of the authorities in the Republic of Croatia… They are European leaders and European politicians who want the best for Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
  • Milanović pushed for greater ethnic separation on his three-day visit to Bosnia. The EU and U.S. have urged Bosnia to amend its constitution in 2021 as a non-election year to implement European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) decisions including for non-Bosniaks, Croats, or Serbs to run for high offices including the presidency.

CHINA WEIGHS IN ON DEBT TRAP DIPLOMACY: Spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Zhao Lijian responded to U.S. DAS Matt Palmer’s comments on Chinese debt trap diplomacy in Montenegro.

  • Lijian said that “China and Montenegro have a long-term friendship…On the basis of mutual respect, we have established productive cooperation, which is very important for the further development of the society and economy of Montenegro and the improvement of the living standard of citizens.”
  • “The real intention of these false accusations about the “debt trap” is to create a rift between China and the mentioned countries. Anyone with a clear view of this will come to an objective conclusion,” added Lijian.

N. MACEDONIA-BULGARIA DISPUTE: PM of N. Macedonia Zoran Zaev said on Wednesday that he expects Bulgaria to swiftly form a new government that will be able to negotiate with N. Macedonia to overcome the language and historical figures debate that has kept N. Macedonia, and de-facto Albania, from formally opening EU accession talks.

  • Bulgarians went to the polls on Sunday in a snap election that saw the anti-elite party, There Is Such a People, win the elections with 24.08 percent of the vote, barely edging out former PM Boyko Borisov’s GERB-led coalition (23.51 percent). Other parties that will enter parliament are the Bulgarian Socialist Party (13.39 percent), Democratic Bulgaria (12.64 percent), Movement for Rights and Freedoms (10.71 percent), Stand Up! Get Out! (5.01 percent). Democratic Bulgaria and Stand Up! Get Out! have said they would not join a coalition led by the There Is Such a People.
  • Meanwhile, PM Zaev said that he supports the VMRO-DPMNE proposal on drawing red lines on the Macedonian identity and language, but it must respect the Prespa Agreement in its proposal and include the country’s new constitutional name, “North Macedonia.”

ABAZOVIĆ IN KAZAKHSTAN: Deputy PM of Montenegro Dritan Abazović continued his official visit to Kazakhstan by meeting with Defense Minister Nurlan Yermekbayev and Minister of Interior Marat Kozhayev to discuss increasing cooperation in their respective fields.

NON-ALIGNED MOVEMENT TO BELGRADE: Serbia’s FM Nikola Selaković invited member states of the Non-Aligned Movement to the 60th anniversary commemoration of its founding. The event will take place on October 11-12 in Belgrade.

BUSTING CORRUPTION IN BiH: The Director of Bosnia’s Intelligence-Security Agency Osman Mehmedagić was detained for suspected abuse of office, document fraud, and money laundering over his a university degree from the American University and the acquisition of a house in Sarajevo. Meanwhile, founder of the American University Denis Prčić has come under scrutiny for not delivering diplomas to students. On Wednesday, the students protested in front of the U.S. Embassy calling for his U.S. citizenship revoked. The students claim that Prčić demanded 1,500 Bosnian Marks ($907.29) to receive their diplomas which are in the possession of the courts, along with all documents from the university, because of allegations of Prčić providing Mehmedagić a fake diploma.

ALBANIA’S EX-DEPUTY INTERIOR MINISTER ARRESTED: Albania’s Special Prosecution against Corruption and Organized Crime (SPAK) said that former Deputy Interior Minister Rovena Voda has been placed under house arrest for suspected bribery for allegedly receiving payment to hire a citizen.

SERBIA FIRS IN EUROPE TO PRODUCE CHINESE VACCINE: “Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic signed a memorandum of understanding and cooperation with China and the United Arab Emirates on Monday for the production of the Chinese Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine in Serbia.

“‘This is an extremely important day for Serbia, but also for the entire region, because we will have the vaccine here closer, it will be more accessible and we will be able to fight the coronavirus pandemic further,’ Brnabic said.” (Balkan Insight)

IN OTHER NEWS

REPORT: Western Balkan coal power plants polluted twice as much as those in the EU in 2019 by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air

OP-EDIn Bosnia, Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied by Janine di Giovanni in Foreign Policy

ANALYSISThe new EU accessions methodology: Is it enough to pull the Western Balkans in? by Zoran Nechev, Dragan Tilev, Jovana Marović and Alba Çela in The Tirana Times

LONG READDrowning in the Balkans: ‘His body went away with the water’ by Lucy Papachristou in Al Jazeera