WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

  • Joint Message: US Ambassadors to Serbia and Kosovo, Kyle Scott and Philip Kosnett, penned an op-ed saying that 2019 is the year for an agreement: “This is why we today launch an appeal: it’s time for Kosovo to suspend the tariffs, for Serbia to respond constructively, for provocations by both sides to end, for Belgrade and Pristina to return to the European Union-led Dialogue, and for both sides to embrace peace boldly.  If you do so, we are optimistic you can reach a historic normalization agreement in 2019.”
  • A day earlier, the UN Security Council met to discuss Kosovo for the third time in four months. Key moments including Germany stating Serbia wouldn’t be able to join the EU if it does not recognize Kosovo and Kosovo’s Ambassador to the US Vlora Citaku saying that the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) has no role in Kosovo anymore. Serbia’s allies, Russia and China, remained steadfast of UN Resolution 1244 and the need for meetings quarterly meetings on Kosovo.
  • It’s Official!: Greek PM Alexis Tsipras welcomed the future North Macedonia and looked after ratifying its NATO accession protocol on Friday in parliament by a vote of 153-140. Greece was the first country to do so.
  • The US Embassy in Sarajevo pushes back against Milorad Dodik backed commissions led by Israeli academics to review the Srebrenica genocide. “Everyone should respect court decisions and bravely face and accept the truth, regardless of how painful it was.”
  • The US Holocaust Museum offered its assistance to build a memorial complex at the Staro Sajmiste concentration camp site in Belgrade, Serbia.
  • Thirty five long years later, the Olympic spirit returns to Sarajevo.  “The Olympics have a special place in hearts of many Sarajevans who still remember the glory of the 1984 Winter Games that were organized for the first time in a Communist country – then former Yugoslavia.”
  • Anti-government protests continued for a tenth weekend across Serbia and northern Kosovo over the weekend.
  • Macedonian presidential elections are set for April 21. The opposition VMRO has called for a greater number of OSCE election observers.
  • Kosovars have protested and Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj has called a meeting with senior law enforcement officials after a student who reported a rape by a teacher was also allegedly raped by the officer to whom she reported the offense. Read more here.
  • Bosnian Serb and Croat leaders led by Milorad Dodik and Dragan Covic met in Mostar to deepen relations between the two parties (HDZ BiH & SNSD). Dodik said that Serbs and Croats are “always waiting for Bosniak representatives who are searching for something and trapping the entire country in the process.”
  • Borders: Montenegro signed a deal with the EU for border management in the region. Frontex teams will be deployed to Montenegro.
  • Goodbye Kuna, Hello Euro. On Greek Presidential visit to Croatia, the focus is on entering the Eurozone. “Greece will always be on Croatia’s side and it will show its support for Croatia’s entry to the Schengen area and the euro zone,” stated President Prokopis Pavlopoulos.
  • SDP Parliamentarians demand answers  post F-16 debacle. Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic pledged to modernize Croatian Air Force. “We did everything we could and all that this government did in that respect was more determined and courageous in the modernization of the Croatian Air Force than any government did so far…The transaction has not happened and we will draw a lesson from it.” 
  • Montenegro and the Republic of Korea agreed to strengthen economic relations during a meeting between Prime Minister Dusko Markovic and the newly appointed Ambassador of Korea to Montenegro Hyoung-chan Choe.
  • Koliko Kosta?: Croatian gas prices are set to rise monthly by 6.9% in starting in April. Energy and Environment Minister Tomislav Coric: “These changes mean a hike in monthly gas price for an average household by 20 kuna ($3.06). This (winter heating) season we haven’t had higher prices although the prices on the (wholesale) gas markets last year rose on average by 20 percent,”

BEYOND THE POLITICS

  • NATO Perspectives for Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina? European Western Balkans takes a look at the possibilities.
  • German Marshall Fund’s Zhikica Pogovski, Jonathon Katz, and Evelyn Farkas write, “The Agreement Over Macedonia’s Name Is a Glimmer of Hope in Europe“: “Greece and Macedonia have just scored a victory for democracy, stability, and their future economic prosperity in Europe. Today, the latter took a leap forward by signing its accession protocol with NATO, strengthening its security and place in the Euro-Atlantic community. Following Montenegro’s hard-won accession to NATO in 2017, the two neighbors have shown that Democrats can beat bullying and interference by Russia in what it now considers its Balkans backyard.”
  • Deputy Editor of Carnegie’s Moscow Center Maxim Surakov writes, “Macedonia Joining NATO Is a Self-Inflicted Defeat for Russia“: “The world’s media is talking of a fresh defeat for Russia: that NATO, having overcome Russian resistance, is once again expanding in the Balkans, welcoming Macedonia into its ranks. In a fairytale ending, of all the 29 NATO members, Greece — with which there were the most problems in this story — will symbolically sign the entry protocol first. Amid this idyllic scene, Russia has been left to play the role of the evil fairy godmother who tried to ruin the celebration for everyone out of pure spite, but failed miserably. And just like in a fairytale, the happy ending for Macedonia and NATO was obvious right from the start. Yet Russia still elected to take an invariably doomed position.”
  • Bloomberg Opinion by Leonid Bershidsky: “Donald Trump Doesn’t Need North Macedonia in NATO“: “Letting a small country with a puny defense budget join the military alliance serves no purpose…North Macedonia signed up this week to become the 30th member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. This latest addition to the defense pact, more than any previous one, raises the question of what membership of the alliance really means.”
  • Never too early to think of summer. Ryanair is planning flights to Podgorica. The airline estimates it might bring upward of 175,000 passengers to Montenegro.
  • In LA? Check this out – The Croatian Cultural Extravaganza is happening next weekend from February 15-17. Check out the schedule here.
  • News of the weird! In Croatia, two South Koreans found with over 250,000 live eels!
  • Caught our eye. Bank of AMERICA has used a stock image of the iconic Sveti Stefan, MONTENEGRO in its latest marketing material.

  • In Split, Croatian hooligans assaulted Serbian water polo athletes. Both capitals are fuming. Three have been arrested thus far.

  • The Dubrovnik Times came up with a list of seven reasons why you should invest in Croatia. Check it out here.