WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

  • N1: “US intelligence report warns of armed conflicts in Western Balkans in 2019“: “The Western Balkans countries are at risk of open military conflict in 2019 and Russia is lurking to take advantage of the situation, the US intelligence community warned in its World Wide Threat Assessment report for 2019. ‘The Western Balkans almost certainly will remain at some risk of low-level violence and possibly open military conflict throughout 2019,’ they wrote. ‘Russia will seek to exploit ethnic tensions and high levels of corruption to hinder the ability of countries in this region to move toward the EU and NATO.'”
  • US Ambassador to Macedonia Jess Baily will be leaving his post in Skopje and retiring from the State Department after 34 years. His proposed replacement is Kate Marie Byrnes. Her latest position was the Deputy Chief of Mission in Greece.
  • Date in History: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg tweeted that “On 6 February we will write history: #NATO Allies will sign the accession protocol with the future Republic of North Macedonia”
  • On the Run: Former Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski said he fled because he learned that “someone was planning my liquidation in prison” from within the prison itself. 
  • Brnabic’s Visit to Ohio: Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic was in Ohio where she met with the Ohio National Guard, businesses people, and civil society. 
  • War Criminal Joins Haradinaj Government: Convicted war criminal Sylejman Selimi has been appointed an advisor to Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj. He was released from prison last week after serving two-thirds of his sentence. On Saturday, a Serb man was arrested at the border crossing in northern Kosovo on suspicion of committing war crimes.
  • Sramota!: A Dutch Supreme Court advisor has told the court that it should dismiss the verdict that found the Netherlands partially responsible for the Srebrenica genocide.
  • At Odds: Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj insists that the 100% tariff on goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina should not be linkedto the Kosovo-Serbia talks. Kosovo President Hashim Thaci said,“I am just encouraging our institutions and political leaders to look toward the future, toward strategic steps that are essential for our state and bolster it in the eyes of our partners, especially the U.S. and the EU,” noting he hasn’t asked for a suspension of the tariffs.
  • Borders: US Ambassador to Serbia Kyle Scott: “It is clear that borders must be clear and this is an element of a comprehensive agreement, in addition to the issue of resource management, the rights of the Serb community, issues of payment transactions, missing persons, war crimes. However, one should know what the line is, where Serbia is, and where Kosovo is. The map of Serbia in the United States and the map of Serbia in Serbia are different,”
  • US Ambassador Kyle Scott’s colleague in Pristina, US Ambassador Richard Kosnett gave an interview to Kosovo Television (KTV) on Thursday where he discussed a comprehensive agreement between Kosovo and Serbia including a possible “border adjustment,” the US disagreeing with the 100% tariffs, and reiterated the US commitment to implementing any plan that is a result of the dialogue under the EU auspices.
  • Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic visited the Peljesac Bridge project outside Dubrovnik and pledged completion by January 31, 2022. The project is the first Chinese infrastructure project to receive EU co-financing.
  • The Sarajevo Times sat down with U.K. Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina Matt Field and discussed UK Euroskepticism and how it relates to BiH, NATO and EU integration, and the possibility of sport diplomacy between the UK and Bosnia.
  • Antigovernment protests continued in Serbia over the weekend and are calling for President Aleksandar Vucic to step down. The protest have spread to North Mitrovica in Kosovo.
  • Hold up!: Slovenian Foreign Minister Miro Cerar says that he and Prime Minister Marjan Sarec have been invited to Croatia, but they think there should be more work done on the border dispute before the trip happens.
  • Podgorica Club: Former Montenegrin President Filip Vujanovic launches group to accelerate EU accession. “We understand the EU’s exhaustion. But they should also know that we’re tired of waiting. Our waiting too long will not exalt the EU’s enlargement policy.


  • Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Sarec sets March deadline for budget negotiations and indicates 2019 will be a year of pension reform.

BEYOND THE POLITICS

  • The National Democratic Institute (NDI) in Washington, DC released a report, “Between East and West: Public Opinion & Media Disinformation in the Western Balkans.” Read it here.
  • Serbian Journalists Are Under Attack. Does the International Community Care?” by Una Hajdari in The New Republic: “Aleksandar Vucic is a busy president. The Serbian leader claims to work at least 15 hours a day, from early in the morning until at least 10:30 in the evening—“as long as I can endure.” And from his Russian lessons at 6:30 am—language skills he exhibited during the sumptuous January reception for Russian President Vladimir Putin in Belgrade—to almost daily press conferences, Vucic is in the press all day, every day.The part many outside observers seem to miss, as evidenced by Vucic’s invitation to a panel on media freedoms at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland last week, is that ever since Vucic’s ascent to power in 2012, the freedom of that press has been under attack.”
  • Abu Dhabi to invest in Port of Bar? “The geographical position of Bar port, as well as the insufficiently utilized harbor capacities, can be an incentive for a company from the UAE to improve its performance by investing and transferring knowledge,” Transport Minister Osman Nutkovic noted.
  • Qatari Charity invests big in caring for migrants in Bosnia. It isn’t all peachy – 11 migrants were arrested for a brawl at a a Bosnian reception center.
  • Slovenian NBA star Luka Doncic played in Cleveland which has the largest Slovenian population outside of Slovenia. One Doncic supporter in attendance was former Slovenian Prime Minister Lojze Peterle.
  • The Flame of Peace has arrived in Sarajevo ahead of the European Youth Olympic Festival.