WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

  • Prespa: Macedonia awaits the Greek Parliament‘s vote on the Prespa Agreement set to take place on Thursday. On Monday, Greek parliament’s Committee on Defense and Foreign Policy debated the topic. It is set to be debated in a plenary session on Wedensday in the house. There were violent protests against the name change over the weekend.
  • US Relations With Kosovo: Kosovo Assembly Speaker Kadri Veseli called for a meeting with Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj and US Ambassador to Kosovo Philip Kosnett to discuss the 100% taxes imposed on Serbia and Bosnia.
  • Serbian Sharks: Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic met with the President of Palau Thomas Remengensau Jr. on Monday, during which Palau suspended its recognition of Kosovo, according to Serbian news outlets. During the press conference Remengensau light-heartedly said, “Come to our part of the world. Come and swim with the sharks because the sharks are vegetarians. They do not attack people in our part of the world. Only in California they attack people.
  • Vucic also met with the a Reports Without Borders delegation and reiterated that Serbia is ready to improve conditions for journalists. It was also announced today that he would be on a panel regarding titled “Media Freedom in Crisis” which includes Martin Baron, Executive Editor of Washington Post; Matthew Caruana Galizia, Director of the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation; and Tinatin Kandelaki, General Producer of Russia’s Match TV. Protests have continued across Serbia calling for increased media freedom the past seven weeks.
  • Komsic Discusses Bosnian Political System: Bosnian Croat Member of the Presidency Zeljko Komsic: “When it comes to Bosnia’s EU integration process, it is quite clear it cannot join the EU with its current, ‘Dayton,’ political system, because it is a complete opposite from what the EU represents…We should also mention that the EU is based on the protection of civic rights of individuals, not on the rights of collectives…” and added on Croatia, “My impression is that Croatia’s policy towards Bosnia is created in the western Mostar and by a group of people gathered around the HDZ BiH leader Dragan Covic. I get the impression that part of the government in Zagreb is a hostage of Covic’s policies. The only normal path for our two countries is to sit down and talk and cooperate. Everything else is immature.”
  • Successful Sarec: A new poll done by Ninamedia shows that Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Sarec enjoys a 56% approval rating, up from a 49.5% approval rating on December 23, 2018.
  • Kosovo President Hashim Thaci told reports that if he is summoned to the Specialist Court in the Hague: “I will answer to such a request with the fullest transparency… the highest moral, national, political, constitutional and legal responsibility.” 
  • BiH & Lebanon: Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Foreign Minister Igor Crnadak met Lebanese President Michel Auon and Minister of Foreign Affairs Gebran Bassil in Lebanon last week. Topics of discussion included the security situation in the Middle East and North Africa, the abolition of the visa regime, and an increase in economic cooperation, especially tourism.  

BEYOND THE POLITICS

  • AFP is reporting that five deminig experts, including a Bosnian, Croatian, and Kosovar, were killed in Yemen over the weekend. The Saudi state-run King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre released the nationalities on Monday. 
  • Sarajevo and East Sarajevo are preparing to host the European Youth Olympic Festival (EYOF) from February 9-16, 2019. The city is prepared to host thousands of athletes and visitors from across the continent. The official anthem was released on Monday at Sarajevo’s Zetra Hall, which began with 1984 Sarajevo Olympics mascot, Vucko, presenting the “key of success” to the 2019 EYOF mascot, Groovdy. 
  • New York Times Karen Course writes from Australia, “Far From Serbia, Novak Djokovic Delivers Some National Pride“: “Novak Djokovic, the men’s world No. 1 from Serbia, has been lifting up people from his homeland for years, but not usually like this. At the end of a practice session during last year’s Australian Open, Djokovic walked over to a waist-high fence where fans were packed 10-deep to watch him and hoisted a boy from the front of the crowd over the barricade and onto the court.”
  • A smart energy company named Strawberry Energy from Serbia is expanding business to the Middle East and London. The crowd-funded company utilizes solar powered smart benches to charge devices and access wi-fi.