WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

  • Putin & Pasha: Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Thursday. Putin decorated Vucic with the Order of Aleksandar Nevsky and Vucic gifted his Russian counterpart a Sarplaninac puppy named Pasha. Montenegrin opposition leaders were excited to meet and take photos with Putin at a luncheon.
  • Vucic caused controversy by beginning the press conference by thanking Putin and Russia for blocking the Srebrenica resolutions in the UN in 2015. Bosniak Member of the Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic responded: “It is a shameful statement, it would be a civilised act to condemn genocide, to pay respect to genocide victims, and it is an anti-civilised act to prevent the adoption of a resolution which condemns genocide,” 
  • Putin Can’t Stop Protests: Protests against Serbia’s Vucic have continued for the seventh straight weekend
  • Speaking of Protests, Greece’s protest against the Prespa Agreement with Macedonia turned violent as upwards of 60,000 people turned out in Athens. See The Guardian photo gallery here. The Prespa Agreement will be voted on next week in the Greek Parliament. If it passes, Macedonia would be renamed to The Republic of North Macedonia.
  • US Supports Macedoina: Michigan Congresswoman Debbie Dingel (D-MI) told Voice of America: “Macedonia will be the 30th country to join NATO. I hope that as we move forward, through joint work and communication we will enable it to join the alliance as soon as possible. This is particularly important for world security…By becoming a member in NATO, Macedonia will work with other 29 countries in the security of the region and on other key issues.”
  • Croatia’s Economy Minister Darko Horvat is courting investors for the ailing Uljanik shipyards in Pula and Rijeka. Four investors have expressed interest. Last January, Zagreb extended a $111M lifeline.
  • Pipeline politics: Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik praises Turkstream with Vladimir Putin. “We expect to remain involved in the Turkish Stream project, just like we did in the South Stream.”
  • Dodik also informed Putin that NATO is being conditioned on the country. During Dodik’s personal trip to Serbia, he said: “We achieved a good result, now we’re in the stage of government formation at the level of Bosnia and Herzegovina. And of course, there is a certain stalemate. As usual in Bosnia, something is always being conditioned. At this point, the Bosniak side is trying to condition that with accepting the road to NATO which we reject,”
  • Meanwhile the President of the Advisory Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina (ACBH) Ajla Delkic told N1 TV that Republika Srpska and the SNSD party have invested nearly $30 million over the past ten years on lobbying in the US. 
  • Land Swap Redo: Kosovo President Hashim Thacire-ignited talks of a land swap. He told Austrian News Outlet APA: “It’s not just a land swap, but it includes all other aspects. It aims to be a comprehensive agreement which would deal with other issues such as missing persons during the war in Yugoslavia. It should regulate the cultural heritage of Serbs in Kosovo and economy. It would include all the open issues between Kosovo and Serbia.” 
  • Thaci & HaradinajGazeta Express takes a look at how Kosovo’s President and Prime Minister can’t see eye to eye on taxes on goods coming from Bosnia and Serbia.
  • On the Agenda: Kosovo was placed on the February 7th UN Security Council session by Equatorial Guinea.
  • Border Trip: Albanian President Ilir Meta is on a two-day trip to Montenegro. He is scheduled to meet Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, Prime Minister Dusko Markovic, and Speaker of the Parliament Ivan Brajovic on today. Tomorrow, he will visit Bar, Ulcinj, andmeet the Albanian National Council for a working lunch.

BEYOND THE POLITICS

  • Facebook’s Balkan Conundrum: The New York Times writer Max Fischer, “Inside Facebook’s Secret Rulebook for Global Political Speech” writes: “Consider the guidelines for the Balkans, where rising nationalism is threatening to reignite old violence. The file on that region, not updated since 2016, includes odd errors. Ratko Mladic, a Bosnian war criminal still celebrated by extremists, is described as a fugitive. In fact, he was arrested in 2011. The slides are apparently written for English speakers relying on Google Translate, suggesting that Facebook remains short on moderators who speak local languages — and who might understand local contexts crucial for identifying inflammatory speech. And Google Translate can be unreliable: Mr. Mladic is referred to in one slide as ‘Rodney Young.’ The guidelines, said Mr. (Jasmin) Mujanovic, the Balkans expert, appear dangerously out of date. They have little to say about ultranationalist groups stoking political violence in the region.
  • Slovenia and Iran boast 23% year on year trade increase. 
  • Expectations of 100,000 Chinese tourists with easing of visa requirements in Bosnia.   
  • A time capsule from 1885 was found in a Croatian theater. Read the story here.
  • UN Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights comments on imprisonment of jailed Montenegrin journalist, Jovo Martinovic. “We reiterate our call to Montenegrin Authorities to comply with their international obligations…”
  • Slovenia to 1600 Pennsylvania: The Telegraph has profiled US First Lady Melania Trump in its article “The secret life of Melania Trump: White House insiders, Slovenian school friends and photographers reveal all“: “The road from Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana, to Melania Trump’s home town of Sevnica winds through pine forests and pumpkin farms, and ends at a roundabout with a giant wooden shoe hovering in the centre, which commemorates the town’s shoemaking past. Like its most famous former resident, the footwear factory has gone. But the disembodied shoe is a memorial to the industry and a sort of skeleton key to the mystery of America’s First Lady.”
  • Orthodox believers across the Balkans have celebrated the Epiphany by jumping into cold bodies of water. Over 50 people swam in Lake Ciganlija in Belgrade
  • From Bosnia and Serbia to Istanbul, Burek Diplomacy: The Daily Sabah profiles the Istanbul district of Sapanbağları  and its strong roots with Novi Pazar and Bosnia. In the district one can find Bosnian burek, people playing chess, and delicious restaurants.