WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

  • Senators Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) were in Kosovo on Wednesday where they met with President Hashim Thaci and visited the new US Embassy in Pristina. Their next stop is to meet President Aleksandar Vucic in Serbia.
  • Senator Johnson noted: “To come to an agreement is the key that unlocks future potential. And we are here primarily to support the region, to support the people of Kosovo and Serbia. We want to see them succeed.”
  • Senator Murphy continued: “There are two things necessary for that economic rebirth to occur here. First is significant domestic reform. Commitments to the rule of law (and) the education system, but also, a commitment to a dialogue with Serbia that will involve hard choices both here and in Belgrade. We will say the same thing there that we said here. We expect this dialogue to be meaningful and fruitful, and we hope that both sides will understand that sacrifice is required in order to be able to normalize relations between these two nations. 
  • President Thaci wrote on Facebook: “Today I held a substantive meeting with Kosovo’s friends, US Senators Ron Johnson and Chris Murphy. The support of the United States of America is unique, both from Republicans and Democrats. Our partnership with the US has been and remains crucial in any process for Kosovo. This support will continue in the process of dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, which will end with the recognition of Kosovo by Serbia and our membership in NATO, the EU and the UN.”
  • A US delegation consisting of Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), John Barrasso (R-WY)Congressmen William Timmons (R-SC,4) and Jeff Duncan (R-SC,3); and Cindy McCain, wife of late Senator John McCain (R-AZ), were on a visit to Montenegro where they met President Milo Djukanovic, Prime Minister Dusko Markovic, and Speaker of the Parliament Ivan Brajovic.
  • Senator Graham encouraged more European and US investment in the region: “Doing business with China was a business decision, but Montenegro sees its future with us, with the West, with democracy…We hope that we can get American and European companies to be more competitive so that we can integrate our economies. This is a situation where you can’t blame China, you have to blame us for not being competitive.”
  • Senator Graham On Montenegro’s EU accession: “Rule of law reforms are necessary, not only for EU membership, but to get more business from America and the West, and to have a free and vibrant media.”
  • Senator Graham On the 2020 elections: “With a good election in 2020 would be a great signal to the European Union, to the United States, and to the rest of the world that Montenegro is now a well established democracy. The forces that are trying to undermine Montenegro becoming a democracy (and) becoming a member of NATO, also tried to undermine us. It’s important that we defeat them here. Not only for the future of Montenegro, but for the region as a whole. Consider the United States your partner and friend.”
  • US Ambassador to BiH Eric Nelson sent a video message out ahead of the first Pride Parade. He said in local language, “The US Embassy expresses support to the first Pride March in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The goal of the pride parade is equal human rights for all. Me and my partner appreciate the welcome and respect we received here. I will take part in the Pride March to give support to all LGBTI community members and their families.”
  • Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic hosted Slovenian and Austrian counterparts, Borut Pahor and Alexander Van der Bellen, in Sibenik at the sixth annual meeting of the heads of state. They discussed the “EU’s future, Croatia’s EU presidency in the first half of next year, the future of Southeast Europe, the Three Seas Initiative and climate change.”
  • A key takeaway from the trilateral meeting is that Pahor said Slovenia supports Croatia joining the Schengen Zone, but “that all of this would likely be easier if Croatia honor its obligations from the ruling of the arbitration tribunal regarding the border.”
  • Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic held a bilateral meeting in Budapest with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, whom Vucic considers a “true friend” for helping against Kosovo’s Interpol bid. Orban organized a dinner for Vucic, Prime Minister of Czechia Andrej Babis, and Prime Minister of Slovakia Peter Pellegrini. The three will speak at the Third Demographic Summit in Budapest today in addition to Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister Mariana Nikolova,  former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, and other dignitaries.
  • Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic implies that Serbia’s derecognition campaign against Kosovo will continue and says he expects recognitions to drop below 50% of UN members by the end of the year: “The number will drop below 50 percent of the UN member states very soon, by the end of this year, and rest assured that Kosovo won’t become a member of Interpol, so they should not embarrass themselves.”
  • President of N. Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski convened his National Security Council for the first time. They met for over three hours and concluded that the situation in the country is stable, but could face some turbulence with NATO accession and any potential deal between Kosovo and Serbia.
  • Foreign Minister of N. Macedonia Nikola Dimitrov expects for the country to open EU accession talks in October. He also noted “The big issues are resolved. If there is no proper realization of this opportunity this essentially means that there is no perspective for the region…It would send a message to other leaders in the Balkans that it is not really worth investing political capital in making difficult decisions, reforming.”
  • Foreign Minister Miro Cerar met his Spanish and Finnish counterparts, Josep Borrell and Pekka Haavisto, on the margins of the Bled Strategic Forum (BSF) in Bled on Tuesday. The ministers discussed current EU issues, with Cerar expressing satisfaction over Slovenia’s excellent bilateral relations with both Spain and Finland.” (Slovenia Times)
  • Russian Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina Alexandr Botsan-Kharchennko on the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue and Russia’s role in the UN: “Everything depends on the countries, people, efforts, wishes and goodwill. If all of that exists then the key states, and Serbia of course can and must solve that issue within the intentional law framework and based on the Resolution 1244 which still has the crucial role in resolving Kosovo problem.”
  • Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova spoke on the topic of terrorism in Kosovo: “The whole territory of Kosovo is turning into a stronghold of terrorism…There have already been 250 such cases recorded…It creates another security risk in the Balkans and across Europe,” according to Politika.rs
  • Member of Parliment of North Macedonia MP Frosina Remenski denied any involvement in the Racket case after being questioned at the Prosecutor’s Office for over two hours.
  • Klix.ba reports that there have been no official state visits by regional presidents since elections in despite the BiH Presidency Members stating that they would invite them.
  • The International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals rejects Radovan Karadzic’s appeal to a life sentence for crimes that include genocide and crimes against humanity. 
  • “UK-headquartered industrial and metals group Liberty House is said to be interested in Bosnia’s ailing aluminium producer Aluminij, local media reported.
  • Liberty House representatives will visit Bosnia this week and meet the prime minister of the country’s Federation entity, Fadil Novalic, to discuss the future of Aluminij, news portal Indikator.ba reported on Tuesday, quoting the Federation’s energy minister, Nermin Dzindic.” (See News)
  • “Slovenian central bank expects low economic growth to continue throughout this year due to slowdown in the rest of the eurozone, adding prospect for the export sector ‘have worsened significantly’ in the summer.
  • The bank also pointed out in a report on Wednesday that Slovenia’s August inflation was “well above expectations”. Last week the statistics office reported that inflation reached 2.4% year-on-year in August versus 2% a month before.” (Reuters)

BEYOND THE POLITICS

  • Human Interest: “Duke Welcomes Four Fulbright Visiting Scholars” by Duke University: “Albulena Kastrati, Assistant Professor at AAB University, Kosovo and Senior Banking Supervisor at Central Bank of the Republic of Kosovo. Kastrati will define and measure the concept and behavior of excessive liquidity in European emerging and transition economies in her project, ‘The Determinants of Excess Liquidity in the Banking System of European Emerging and Transition Economies.’ Kastrati will be hosted by Connel Fullenkamp in the Economics Department.”