WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

  • Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) wrote a blog post on his recent trip to Kosovo, Serbia, Germany and Ukraine with Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI).
  • On meeting with Kosovar President Hashim Thaci & parliamentarians “Right away, Kosovo’s leaders complained to us about how the breach between the U.S. and Europe was affecting their security. The central issue in both Serbia and Kosovo is the negotiations for Serbia to finally recognize the independence of their young neighboring country.”
  • On the meeting with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic: “We both believe that he is willing to strike a deal with Kosovo to recognize their independence, but right now, he is mad as a hornet over the 100% tariff. We both press him to get back to the negotiating table as soon as possible, and he says that as soon as the tariff is lifted, he is ready to talk again.Our meeting with Vucic is important, because the Trump Administration gives little attention to the still simmering conflicts in the Balkans. Our visits to places like Belgrade and Pristina are the highest-level American delegations these countries are likely to receive during Trump’s tenure.”
  • Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) on Kosovo’s independence after Russia’s representative to the OSCE attacked Kosovo’s statehood: “I see Kosovo as a growing, blossoming state. The state is barely ten years old, so for the past ten years Kosovo has had a very straight path forward. They are gaining, of course, recognition in the United States of America. We stand firmly behind Kosovo and we are excited about the opportunities in sharing our educational institutions, business partnerships and our State partnership program with the U.S. military, specifically the Iowa National Guard and the Kosovo Security Forces. So, we will continue developing that relationship, but we are so grateful for the wonderful partners that we have in Kosovo, and look forward to many years of opportunity going forward. But certainly I believe that Russia is wrong in this regard and we will firmly be standing behind Kosovo.”
  • Meanwhile, US Ambassador to Serbia Kyle Scott met with Vucic for his farewell meeting. Vucic said the dialogue between the US and Serbia intensified during his ambassadorship.
  • Scott’s successor, Anthony Godfrey, was nominated in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee late last week during a business meeting. 
  • Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic is on a visit to the Midwest ahead of the UN General Assembly in New York this week.
  • Over the weekend, she was in Cleveland, Ohio, where she sparred with UFC Heavyweight Champion and Croatian-American Stipe Miocic. She urged him to help promote health and fitness among young Croatians using his platform. The Croatian President also visited Pittsburgh for the 125th anniversary of the Croatian Fraternal Union of America yesterday. 
  • Also on a trip in the US before heading to New York for the UN General Assembly is Kosovo President Hashim Thaci. He spent time in Iowa where he met with Governor Kim Reynolds before heading to Washington DC to meet with Damon Wilson of the Atlantic Councils.
  • Outgoing Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj sticks to his hardline stance that Kosovo will revoke the 100% tariff only when Serbia recognizes its independence. He said “We should explain to the EU and US that we are for an agreement on mutual recognition, so their option of suspending tax before launch of the dialogue weakens Kosovo’s position. The tax will be revoked in exchange of recognition.”
  • Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik stokes up secessionist rhetoric again responding to the SDA Declaration. He said, “The RS (Republika Srpska) political representatives don’t have the same views on what to do. The place where we need to form our views is the RS parliament. We will make such a decision that should Bosniaks make any attempt to implement these documents and declarations we will absolutely demand the activation of our right to secession.”
  • He also said that if Kosovo is divided that he would not oppose the north of Kosovo remaining a part of Serbia if the entity of Republika Srpska in BiH joined Serbia.
  • But Bosnian Prime Minister Denis Zvizdic sees the declaration as creating a European Bosnia that isn’t divided along ethnic lines.
  • “(BiH) Presidency members Zeljko Komsic, Sefik Dzaferovic and Milorad Dodik met the ambassadors of the US, the UK, Germany, France and Italy, which was followed by a Presidency session, although the nomination of the new state government, formally known as the Council of Ministers, was not on the agenda.Following the session, Presidency Chairman Komsic told reporters ‘there has been no progress’ and that the ambassadors did not exert any pressure, but only made ‘some proposals.'” (N1)
  • Croatia PM Andrej Plenkovic backed down from proposals to change the retirement age from 65 to 67. Nationwide, trade unions launched a campaign in the streets “67 is too much.”
  • Candidate for Prime Minister of Kosovo Kadri Veseli claims the US has never mentioned an exchange of territory, refused to create a Republika Srpska in Kosovo (Association of Serb Municipalities), and that US asked for a 100 day suspension of tariffs to restart the dialogue with Serbia. 
  • Belgrade Mayor Zoran Radojicic was invited to the 500 year anniversary of Havana, Cuba after meeting the Cuban Ambassador to Serbia on Friday.
  • The Croatian Navy celebrated its 28th anniversary over the weekend.
  • New President of the Council of Europe and former Croatian Minister of European and Foreign Affairs Marija Pejconovic Buric hopes to rewind the clock and have the council focus on its original goals. 
  • General Secretary of the Football Federation of Kosovo Eroll Salihu sent an official letter of protest to FIFA and UEFA over Red Star Belgrade’s match in the Serbian Cup scheduled to be played in Zvecan against FC Trepca. He noted that it is “unlikely that Red Star will play in Kosovo.” Kosovo Serb sides still play in the Serbian league while the Kosovo Football Federation strongly opposes it and wants them to play in the Kosovar league system.
  • The Institute European Affairs cites a recent poll that shows that half of Serbians view the United States as an enemy.
  • Kosovo Specialist Chambers: Kosovo Security Force Captain Petrit Bojaxhiu confirms he was summoned to The Hague for questioning. Former MP Safete Hadergjonaj was questioned in Pristina as a witness. 
  • Migrants: A 19 year old Pakistani migrant was stabbed to death in Bihac, Bosnia. The fight broke out between Pakistani and Syrian migrants. Police in Novo Mesto, Slovenia have detained four suspected traffickers. Thirty five migrants were found in the back of a truck with Italian license plates.
  • Two jets operated by Adria Airways, the flag carrier of Slovenia, have been repossessed. They have been leased by Trident Aviation over outstanding debt.
  • Turkish Red Crescent volunteers helped families in Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina harvest potatoes including the Turkish Ambassador to Sarajevo’s wife.


BEYOND THE POLITICS

  • Human Interest: “‘The camp was amazing’: FDSH students make connections in Kosovo” by Kelby Wingert in the Fort Dodge Messenger: “Four local high school students had the opportunity of a lifetime to visit Fort Dodge’s “sister city” of Gjakova, Kosovo, during the summer. The youth exchange program between Fort Dodge and Gjakova started in 2016, with 2019’s being the third trip to the Balkans. The students organized an array of fundraisers to pay for the trip, and received sponsorship support from the Fort Dodge Community Foundation, the Ann Smeltzer Charitable Trust, Webster County 4-H, Iowa 4-H, Noon Kiwanis, Noon Rotary and USW Utility Group.”
  • Sport: After a seven year hiatus from professional basketball, the  2003 #2 NBA draft pick Darko Milicic will join Serbian second division side “I came to play” that hopes to assist the city of Novi Sad and the American Embassy to get young people more involved in basketball.
  • Culture: The Zagreb City Council approved a six foot tall bronze statue to mark the 150th birthday of Mahatma Gandhi.