WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

REST IN PEACE to the two Serbian pilots who died away after their MiG-21 plane crashed near the border of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

TRUMP ON KOSOVO-SERBIA RELATIONS: In a rally in Pennsylvania, U.S. President Trump likened relations between Kosovo and Serbia to Israel and Palestine. He said, “I told the story the other day. And then I’ve got one for Kosovo and Serbia. They have been killing each other for many years. Just killing each other. They don’t get along. They are sort of like the Palestinians and Israel. I said to them, why are you fighting and killing each other? They have a lot of differences, including a religious difference. I said, what are you doing? We trade with both, so we have a certain power. So I said, listen, let’s get a deal, let’s make economic peace, and ultimately peace. They came to my office, to the Oval Office, to sign. They were hugging, it was a beautiful thing to see. We saved a lot of lives.”

CANCELLED: The EU’s Special Envoy for the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue Miroslav Lajcak on Friday announced the scheduled meeting between chief negotiations, Serbia’s Marko Djuric and Kosovo’s Skender Hyseni, has been postponed “out of abundance of caution related to COVID19.”

PAHOR IN N. MACEDONIA: Slovenia’s President Borut Pahor on Friday and Saturday was on an official visit to N. Macedonia where he met with President Stevo Pendarovski and PM Zoran Zaev. In a press conference, President Pahor underscored Slovenia’s support for N. Macedonia’s EU accession talks.

  • He said, “My visit today is not accidental. As the president of one of the EU countries, I would like to emphasize that now is the right opportunity not to delay the convening of the Intergovernmental Conference.”
  • And added, “Slovenia is committed to the inclusion of all countries in the Western Balkans region in the Union. But, I am here today to remind the European Union of the future of a country. It would not be credible if, now that the Republic of North Macedonia has fulfilled the requirements of the EU, reasons are sought for not keeping its promises. As a great supporter of EU enlargement to the Western Balkans and a self-confident European, I say: ‘This is an opportunity that the EU must not miss.'”
KOSOVO SPECIALIST CHAMBERS:
  • Former Head of the Intelligence Department of the Kosovo Protection Corps Salih Mustafa will have his initial court hearing in The Hague today. You can watch a stream of the hearing HERE.
  • On Friday, the head of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA)}War Veterans’ Association Hysni Gucati was arrested and transferred to The Hague for “suspect for offences against the administration of justice, namely intimidation of witnesses, retaliation and violation of secrecy of proceedings.” Armed EULEX guards raided the office of the KLA War Veterans’ Association.
  • Meanwhile, Gucati’s deputy, Nasim Haradinaj, was arrested and transferred to The Hague on Saturday for “suspect for offences against the administration of justice, namely intimidation of witnesses, retaliation and violation of secrecy of proceedings.”
  • Kosovo PM Avdullah Hoti weighed in on the KSC and the arrests. He wrote on Facebook that “justice is above all and should be fully respected” before defending the actions of the KLA.
  • Former Kosovo PM Ramush Haradinaj wrote on Facebook that “there is no reason for operations or storming because everyone will respond voluntarily to justice.” He also wrote that the KLA acted within the law during the 1999 Kosovo War.
DJUKANOVIC ON SOC: Montenegro’s President Milo Djukanovic accused the Serbian Orthodox Church from meddling in political affairs in the recent Montenegrin parliamentary elections on August 30.
  • Djukanovic said, “It is more than obvious that the Serbian Orthodox Church was not only inappropriately involved in the elections, but was also the most active political actor. The Serbian Orthodox Church is constantly an instrument of Greater Serbian nationalism and Russian imperial interests in the Balkans. Only this time it did it openly.”
  • And added, “However, his superiors obviously did not agree with that, so they showed who is the boss. They decided who will be the bearer of that policy, which was also admitted by the Prime Minister designate, Zdravko Krivokapic.”

MILANOVIC APOLOGIES: “President Zoran Milanovic has replied to the government’s call for him to apologise to everyone he has insulted, saying ironically that he wants to apologise to those, notably government ministers, whom the prime minister and some of his associates exposed to undeserved loss of face.

‘The President of the Republic apologises in good faith to all those, primarily ministers, whom the Prime Minister and some of his associates have exposed, through their indolence and inaction, to undeserved humiliation,’ Milanovic said in a Facebook post on Sunday.

The post appeared after on Saturday the government, in response to Milanovic’s criticism of the work of investigative and judicial bodies in the JANAF scandal, and his statement that he would invite PM Andrej Plenkovic to a meeting on that topic said that ‘Milanovic should first apologise to all those he has been insulting, and then stabilise.’

Milanovic says in his post that he also apologises to citizens for ministers’ luxury cars and undeclared assets.” (N1)

76 YEARS SINCE THE HALYARD MISSION: The U.S. Embassy in Serbia, U.S. European Command, Halyard Mission Foundation, and Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic participated in a commemoration in at the new Pranjani Airfield where around 500 Allied airmen were saved by Chetnik forces led by Draza Mihailovic during World War II.

SERBIA + TURKEY: President Aleksandar Vucic on Friday had a working lunch with Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul. The interlocutors discussed the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue and bilateral cooperation. Vucic noted, “We want to keep our best level relations and further develop friendly ties in the future. his is very important from our perspective. Turkey is one of the most important regional powers and also a one moving to a more prominent position in the world with each passing day.”

ALBANIA + TURKEY: Albania announced on Friday that it is closing three Turkish schools that have affiliations with the Gulenist movement.

VISKOVIC TO SUE: After allegedly taking part in war crimes during the Bosnian War including the Srebrenica Genocide, PM of the Serb-dominated entity, Republika Srpska, Radovan Viskovic announced he will be filing lawsuits against news outlets and individuals. In addition, he noted, “What keeps a man alive is whether he has a clear conscience. My family and I have a clear conscience. It is even disgusting for me to comment on all those accusations and lies. That is why I have not advertised in the past few days, because I do not want to wallow in the mud in which those who attack me are wallowing.”

MONTENEGRO + EU: Incoming President of Parliament Aleksa Becic met with the new Head of the Delegation of the EU Oana-Cristina Popa. The two discussed EU assistance during Covid-119, NATO cooperation, and the country’s path to the EU.
  • Becic said, “Having in mind the complex socio-economic and epidemiological situation, it is imperative that the new government is constituted as quickly and efficiently as possible. Significantly, minority parties supported my election, and I hope that they will be part of the new Government. Our common goal is to strengthen the civil state.”
  • Meanwhile Popa added, “The EU recognizes Montenegro as a leader in the integration process. A significant part of the work has already been done. That is why you have a great responsibility as a model for other countries in the region. The issue of integration of the Western Balkans countries is still on the table, and the European perspective is something we take very seriously.”

FM TURKOVIC IN VIENNA
: Bosnia and Herzegovina’s FM Bisera Turkovic met with Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg in Vienna on Friday. In addition, FM Turkovic met with Minister of Justice Alma Zedic  and Permanent Representative of the Republic of Albania to International Organizations in Vienna and the Chairman of the OSCE Permanent Council Ambassador Igli Hasani.

VULIN CALLS VUCIC PRESIDENT OF ALL SERBS: Serbia’s Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin called President Aleksandar Vucic the president of all Serbs and noted that all Serbs should not be sorry for the Greater Serbia idea in an interview with Prva TV. He said, “If we had the courage to draw up and declare where we live in the two former Yugoslavias, we would not be talking about this today. But we didn’t have that courage, and the great powers never allowed the Serbs to unite.”

OSMANI VISITS BRUSSELS: FM of N. Macedonia Bujar Osmamni today is starting a two-day working visit to Brussels where he will meet with High Representative Josep Borrell, EU Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi, VP of the European Commission for Democracy and Demography Dubravka Suica, EU Special Representative to the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue Miroslav Lajcak, and a handful of MEPs.

SDP SET FOR PARTY ELECTIONS: The largest opposition party in Croatia, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) held intra-party elections to replace its president, Davor Bernardic, after a poor showing during parliamentary elections in June. There will be a runoff between VP of SDP Pedja Grbin and Zeljko Kolar next Saturday.

BALKANS TO OPEN UP BORDERS SIMULTANEOUSLY?: Health Minister of N. Macedonia Venko Filipce on Sunday said the countries of region were discussing having uniform policy for opening its borders regarding Covid-19. He said, “I sincerely hope that we will definitely exchange all the information and that we will take a stand based on the exact epidemiological situation in each of the countries of the Western Balkans, plus Bulgaria and Greece.” And added, “It is true that I announced on several occasions in the previous weeks that we would have a decision, but unfortunately we were waiting for the answers of the neighboring countries. They finally answered last week.”

UKRAINE MOVES CLOER TO RECOGNIZING KOSOVO: Ukraine’s Deputy Foreign Minister Vasyl Bodnar has stated that Ukrainian Ambassadors have been instructed to accept Kosovo passports but cautioned against comparing Kosovo to Crimea which Russia annexed in 2014.

  • Bodnar said, “We have not officially recognized Kosovo, but there are certain steps (towards). Last year we decided to work with Kosovo passports. Now our ambassador here (in Albania) and ambassadors in other parts of the world have received instructions to accept these passports and not restrict travel. Perhaps starting with such small steps, we can move towards certain results”
  • And added, “For us, there is no parallel between these two cases… In the case of Kosovo, we have a country that has been recognized by a number of countries, and in the case of Crimea, we are talking about the territory that was seized by Russia, using force.”
GOING SOLAR: Croatia’s largest solar power plant was put into operation on the island of Vis. It is expected to provide 1,600 families with electricity each year.

IN OTHER NEWS

OP-ED: “Russia’s Weaponization of Tradition: The Case of the Orthodox Church in Montenegro” by Mira Milosevich in CSIS

REPORT: “China and the EU in the Western Balkans” in Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’

ANALYSIS: “Re-writing and whitewashing recent history in Bosnia” by Emir Suljagic in Anadolu Agency

ANALYSIS: “What is the Blue Heart of Europe and why does it need saving?” in Euronews

HUMAN INTEREST: “Legend Of The Balkans: The Work Of Serbian Photographer Srdjan Suki” in Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

CULTURE: “Wines from Montenegro Won Several Prizes at Decanter World Wine Awards” in Total Montenegro News

CULTURE: “Meet Bosnia’s mine detecting heroes: World’s best mine-detecting dogs” in WIO News

CULTURE: “Bible being recorded in Croatian sign language” in Croatia Week

SPORT: “FIFA changes Regulations regarding diaspora players, what it means for Macedonia?” by Jovan Trpchevski in MacedonianFootball.com

TRAVEL: “Climbing Slovenia’s highest road in the Julian Alps” by John Whitney in Bike Radar

TRAVEL: “Still Dreaming Of A European Adventure? Croatia Welcomes Americans. Explore The Beauty Of The Adriatic Coast At Hotel Excelsior Dubrovnik” by Adam Morganstern in Forbes

TRAVEL: “Agritourism in Croatia: Kezele Farm in Moslavina” in Croatia Week