WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

POMPEO TO VISIT CROATIA: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit Greece, Italy, The Holy See, and Croatia between September 27 and October 2. The State Department writes, “On October 2, Secretary Pompeo will travel to Croatia to meet with Prime Minister Plenković, Foreign Minister Grlić Radman, and Defense Minister Banožić.  The leaders will discuss opportunities for closer cooperation between the United States and Croatia in key areas of mutual concern, including defense cooperation, the growing U.S.-Croatia investment relationship, and Croatia’s strong efforts to advance Western Balkan integration.”

KOSOVO-SERBIA DIALOGUE TO RESUME ON MONDAY: EU Special Representative to the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue Miroslav Lajcak announced the chief negotiators, Serbia’s Marko Djuric and Kosovo’s Skender Hyseni,  will be convening on Monday “to continue discussions on financial claims & property.” Lajcak added the Community of Serb Municipalities will not be on the agenda but it “must be addressed as part of the Comprehensive Agreement as agreed in the leaders’ meetings.”

LAKE TRUMP?: President Trump’s Special Envoy for the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue Richard Grenell tweets about renaming Lake Gazivode/Ujman after three signs appeared saying “Lake Trump”, “Bridge Trump” and “Kosovo Serbs President Trump, Kosovo Serbs thank you for bringing peace” near the lake. Grenell notes – “What to call the lake that is in Kosovo and Serbia has been a serious sticking point despite the U.S. forged compromise to launch a feasibility study to create jobs and more energy for the region….so both sides have agreed to a new name: Lake Trump.”

And the potential renaming was warmly welcomed by Kosovo PM Avdullah Hot on Twitter. Meanwhile, on Facebook, PM Hoti wrote, “As a sing of honor for their decisive role for the freedom, independence and recognition of Kosovo’s statehood all over the world, we have named our best boulevards after names of the most distinguished US personalities, such as: President Clinton, George Bush, Senator Bob Dole, Secretary Madeleine Albright and others…It is our tradition and culture to honor friends! This is a noble tradition of our ancestors that we will always honor.”

MONTENEGRIN GOV’T FORMATION: President Milo Djuknaovic announced he will nominate a prime minister by October 23. Zdravko Krivapovic is currently the PM designate. Meanwhile, Djukanovic reminded new President of Parliament Aleksa Becic of the commitment he signed with coalition leaders to ensure Montenegro’s Euro-Atlantic integration and continuation of foreign policy. He noted the agreement “guarantees respect for international obligations, and expresses readiness to continue reforms and faster adoption of European standards, confirms the correctness of a well-chosen and traced strategic course of our country”

MARKOVIC ON EU INTEGRATION: Outgoing PM Dusko Markovic met with Head of the EU Delegation to Montenegro Oana Cristina Popa to discuss Montenegro’s EU integration. Markovic is encouraged about the next phase of EU integration.

KSP MAKES FIRST ARREST: The Kosovo Special Prosecutors Office arrested former Kosovo Liberation Army officer Salih Mustafa and transferred him to the detention center in The Hague. A press release accuses Mustafa of the following:

“The indictment, as confirmed, states that crimes of arbitrary detention, cruel treatment, and torture were committed between approximately 1 April 1999 and 19 April 1999 at a detention compound located in Zllash/Zlaš, Kosovo, against at least six persons. Moreover, it is stated that one detainee was murdered at that location on a date between on or about 19 April 1999 and around the end of April 1999.The indictment, as confirmed, charges Salih Mustafa, under various forms of criminal responsibility, with: arbitrary detention, cruel treatment, torture and murder as war crimes committed in the context of and associated with a non-international armed conflict in Kosovo.”

You can find a redacted version of the indictment HERE.

ZAEV MEETS CHURCH LEADERS: PM of N. Macedonia Zoran Zaev met with a delegation of the Macedonian Orthodox Church  – Ohrid Archbishopic (MOC-OA) to discuss the letter he sent to Patriarch Bartholomew and the Patriarchate of Constantinople to have autocephaly of the MOC-OA.

VISKOVIC INVOLVED IN SREBRENICA GENOCIDE?: PM of Bosnia’s Republika Srpska Entity, Radovan Viskovic, is accused of offering money to move mass graves by a witness. Viskovic denied the allegations to Radio Television Republika Srpska. He said, “I didn’t respond to those accusations because it’s all made up, its a lie. I don’t was to lie in the mud as those attacking me. I was a member of the RS Army, I don’t have a stain on me and my hands are clean and no one can take that away from me.”

PAHOR TO VISIT N. MACEDONIA: President of Slovenia Borut Pahor will be on an official visit to N. Macedonia on Friday and Saturday at the invitation from President Stevo Pendarovski. He will meet with the president, PM Zoran Zaev, and Speaker of Parliament Talat Xhaferi. In addition, he will address MPs.

CEI VIRTUAL MEETING: “Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic-Radman on Thursday took part in a virtual meeting of the Central European Initiative which discussed the transition to the new normal and strengthening cooperation between the member states in times of crisis, the ministry said in a press release.The foreign ministers of the 17 CEI member states discussed new regional cooperation prospects and the need to strengthen the CEI owing to its role in responding to the crisis caused by COVID-19.

Grlic-Radman said the experience in combating the pandemic at the global, regional and national levels provided an opportunity to review what had been done and discuss ways of improving cooperation in dealing with this challenge in future.” (N1)

BOSNIA’S WEAK RECORD ON MIGRANTS: “With harsh weather fast approaching, the number of migrants and refugees who are sleeping rough in Bosnia keeps rising because of the persistent refusal by authorities at different levels of government in the country to coordinate their work and embrace “rational” solutions, a U.N. migration official said Thursday.”Peter Van der Auweraert, the Western Balkans coordinator and Bosnia representative of the International Organization for Migration, told The Associated Press that instead of helping the U.N. agency to expand accommodation for migrants, some local authorities in the country are now even restricting access to housing that is already available.” (AP News)

IN SOME STRANGE NEWS… Wikileaks founder Julian Assange says he binge-watched Bosnian Croat war criminal Slobodan Praljak’s suicide in a U.N courtroom.

IN OTHER NEWS
OP-ED: “Israel in the Balkans: Why did Serbia and Kosovo sign up to Trump’s deal?” by Vuk Vuksanovic in The Middle East EyeOP-ED: “Russia and Serbia: A Partnership Past its Prime” by Vuk Vuksanovic in The Royal United Services Institute

CULTURE: “Pepper season in the Balkans means it’s ‘Ajvar’ sauce production time” by Katy Dartford in Euronews

CULTURE: “Bosnia and Herzegovina is the Meeting Point of different Peoples and Religions” in The Sarajevo Times