WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

ALBANIA’S PM RAMA SLAMS THE EU: Albanian PM Edi Rama blamed “EU nationalisms” of larger countries as a main reason why the Western Balkan integration process has slowed down.

  • “We are hostages of EU nationalisms. The path of Western Balkan integration is dependent more and more on EU nationalisms. When I talk about EU nationalisms, I am talking about the nationalisms of powerful countries holding hostage leaders who are not yet nationalists,” said Rama.
  • Albania’s EU accession process is linked to N. Macedonia’s which has been blocked by Bulgaria over language, culture, and historical figures.

SERBIA’S FOREIGN POLICY CONTRARY TO THE EU’S: European Union spokesperson Peter Stano said Serbia’s decision to appoint an ambassador to Syria runs counter to the EU position on Syria. The EU has refused to appoint ambassadors to Damascus because they would hav to hand over credentials to Bashar al-Assad who “is on the EU sanctions list and has no democratic legitimacy as president,” according to Stano

  • In a statement to RFE/RL, Stano noted, “He (Bashar al-Assad)  is someone who oversaw the mass brutal violence perpetrated by regime troops against the population, including the use of chemical weapons.”
  • “These are the reasons why EU member states do not send ambassadors to Damascus to hand over credentials to Assad. Those member states that run embassies in Damascus they have representatives there as charge d’affaires, who do not have to hand over credentials to the head of state.”
  • Earlier this week, the EU noted that Serbia will have to leave the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union before it joins the European Union.

SLOVENIAN PRESIDENT HOSTS TRILATERAL MEETING WITH CROATIAN AND AUSTRIAN COUNTERPARTS: The presidents of Slovenian President Borut Pahor, Croatian President Zoran Milanović, and Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen gathered for a trilateral meeting in Kostanjevica na Krki for their annual trilateral meeting. The meeting focused on Covid vaccinations and the EU aspirations of the Western Balkans countries.

SLOVENIA’S LOGAR QUESTIONED BY AFET: MEPs on the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) quizzed Slovenian FM Anže Logar over redrawing borders in the Balkans, EU enlargement, media freedom, and PM Janez Janša’s statement regarding Iran. Logar was in front of AFET to present Slovenia’s priorities for its EU presidency.

  • FM Logar highlighted that the EU enlargement of the Western Balkans is a priority of the presidency, but it does not expect Bulgaria to revoke its veto on N. Macedonia which is linked with Albania’s EU accession process.
  • Meanwhile, MEP Nathalie Loiseau (Renew) expressed concern over Slovenian Defense Minister Matej Tonin declining an invitation to attend the EP’s Subcommittee on Security and Defense.

DJUKANOVIĆ AND HEGER TALK BILATERAL RELATIONS: Montenegrin President met with Slovak PM Eduard Heger on Thursday to discuss bilateral relations and Montenegro’s Euro–Atlantic integration. Djukanović and Heger noted the strong relations between the countries that can be improved in infrastructure, energy, and tourism.

BiH’S DŽAFEROVIĆ MEETS WITH U.S. AMB NELSON: Bosniak Member of the Presidency Šefik Džaferović met with U.S. Ambassador Eric Nelson on Wednesday to discuss the domestic situation and Bosnia’s Euro-Alantic integration.

  • According to a Bosnian Presidency press release, they focused on the European Commission’s fourteen priorities for Bosnia.
  • The U.S. Embassy noted, they spoke about taking “meaningful steps towards trust building in BiH and the critical role the BiH Presidency must play in promoting reforms that will lead to progress on the European path.”

CROATIA’S PLENKOVIĆ PRAISES MERKEL AT CSU MEETING: Croatian PM Andrej Plenković praised outgoing German Chancellor as “a great friend of Croatia” at a gathering of the Christian Social Union (CSU) party in Kloster Seeon, Germany on Thursday. The CSU is a sister party to Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

  • Plenković noted that Merkel leaving politics “will certainly be a major change.” He added that it is a big year with elections in France, as well.
  • He added, “She has been one of our greatest advocates, along with our friends from the CSU and CDU, helping us to first join NATO and then the EU. She is also a great supporter of Croatia’s bid to join the Schengen area next year and the euro area in 2023.”
  • Germany’s Merkel is on a visit to the United States this week. She met with President Joe Biden on Thursday.

ABAZOVIĆ ON RELATIONSHIP WITH CENTRAL ASIA: Deputy PM Dritan Abazović visited the International Financial Center in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan as a part of his three day official visit to the Central Asian country. He proposed the idea of an economic forum between businesspeople from Montenegro and Kazakhstan. He added that Montenegro can serve as a bridge between Central Asia and the European Union.

KOSOVO TO ASK SERBIA FOR COMPENSATION OVER CULTURAL HERITAGE: Kosovo’s Minister of Culture, Youth, and Sport Hajrulla Çeku announced there will be a commission tasked to document “the destruction of Kosovo’s cultural heritage during the 1998/99 war” and request compensation from Serbia. The move was criticized by Serbia who says that Serbian cultural heritage has been destroyed and under threat since the 1990s.

TURKEY ON THE HUNT FOR GÜLENISTS IN N. MACEDONIA: Turkish Ambassador to N. Macedonia Hasan Sekizkok said on Thursday that Ankara expects authorities in N. Macedonia to handover 86 people suspected of being linked or a part of the Fethullah Gülen network which Turkey has designated as a terrorist organization (Fethullahist Terror Organization, FETO). He said, “FETO groups remain active in North Macedonia. We raise this before the relevant North Macedonian authorities every chance we get. This is a legitimate request on our part.”

  • Turkey has pressured countries in the Balkans to handover handover suspected members of Gülen’s network.
  • In 2018, Kosovo deported six Turkish nationals over links to schools financed by Gülen in a move then PM Ramush Haradinaj said he did not know about. Former Director of Kosovo’s Intelligence Agency Driton Gashi and two others were indicted in February 2021 on “abuse of official position or authority” and “illegal deprivation of liberty” over the deportations.
  • Meanwhile, in 2019, Bosnia arrested a Turkish school director who had been living in Bosnia for 15 years. Turkey’s extradition request was denied by Bosnia.

BOSNIAKS GATHER TO SUPPORT ARRESTED INTELLIGENCE CHIEF: “The arrest of the Chief of Bosnia’s intelligence agency, Osman Mehmedagic, is nonsense, knowing that all major foreign services are praising the work of Bosnia’s agency ever since Mehmedagic took over as Director, Salko Zildic, a prominent Democratic Action Party (SDA) member form Tuzla, said during Thursday’s protest against Mehmedagic’s arrest.

“The protestors who gathered in front of the BiH Prosecution said they came there in support of the Director of Bosnia’s Intelligence and Security Agency (OSA), adding that all people must be equal before the law.” (N1)

VICTIMS OF COMMUNISM FOUND IN ALBANIA: “A mass grave has been discovered in Përmet in the south of Albania, believed to contain the remains of those executed during the Communist regime.

“The discovery was made by a construction company that was paving the roads in a neighborhood of the town. The site covers around 100sqm and is believed to contain the remains of five people. Police have been notified and have sealed the area, pending forensic investigations.” (Exit.al)

IN OTHER NEWS

OP-EDThe dangers of Slovenia’s presidency by Gosia Piaskowska in European Council on Foreign Relations