WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

  • Rest in Peace to the thirteen people killed in the bus crash on Tuesday between Skopje and Gostivar in Macedonia. We hope the thirty injured make a full recovery.
  • Bosnia on the Agenda: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asked Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak about the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina on Wednesday. Lajcak responded that with the EU, US, and international community presence that, “we cannot pretend to have no part of our responsibility”
  • House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair and Albanian Caucus Member Eliot Engel (D, NY-16) said: “Serbia needs to heed the words of German Ambassador Christoph Heusgen at the UN Security Council on Thursday because it’s not getting into the EU unless it recognizes Kosovo.”
  • Kosovo-Serbia-US: Kosovo President Hashim Thaci met with US Ambassador Philip Kosnett and agreed that Kosovo should suspend the 100% tariff on Serbia and Bosnia & Herzegovina. Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj rejected the notion and declared he would not resign “because I think the decisions I have taken are of Kosovo’s benefit.” In Souther Serbia, the ethnic-Albanian mayor of Bujanovac/Bujanoc said that it is ready to be annexed into Kosovo, and at minimum given the same rights as Serbs in the north of Kosovo.
  • Sea Cooperation: Lt. Jennifer Jewell of the US Naval Sea Systems Command writes: “U.S. Navy Divers from the Navy Experimental Diving Unit (NEDU) in Panama City, Florida recently traveled to Montenegro to provide two weeks of capacity building training to Montenegrin Navy Divers, EOD Technicians, Seals, and Medics.”
  • Serbian Statehood Day: Russian President Vladimir Putin sent his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic a letter of congratulations for Serbian Statehood Day which will be celebrated on Friday, February 15, and praised the state for the “warm reception” during his time in Belgrade earlier this month.
  • ICYMI: Tea Ivanovic writes up for Oslobodjenje on the Western Balkans event on Capitol Hill, “Mediterranean Basin: Opportunities and Obstacles,” featuring Albanian President Ilir Meta, President of the Parliament of Montenegro Ivan Brajović, Member of Parliament of Albania Fatmir Mediu, Advisor to the Prime Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina Goran Miraščić, Deputy Speaker of the Serbian Parliament Vladimir Marinković, Romanian Minister of Defense Gabriel-Benjamin Leș, and more.
  • Apologies: The President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani has apologized to Croatia and Slovenia for remarks alluding to Italian Istria and Dalmaita : “I sincerely regret and apologize for using the words that may have offended your citizens and were understood as a kind of territorial claim. I assure you that this was neither my intention nor this is my position on the matter.”
  • Quoted: Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic: “Many officials would rather go to Brussels than to Burundi, but, trust me, it’s nicer in Burundi, because they like us there. These are our friendly countries where none of us went for twenty years.”
  • Caught!: Albania arrested a Kosovo citizenon an international arrest warrant in the port of Vlore on the accusation of supporting and participating in terror groups.
  • The SDA and HDZ BiH leaders Bakir Izetbegovic and Dragan Covic of Bosnia and Herzegovina met to discuss the formation of the government

BEYOND THE POLITICS

  • Opinoin: “Why Kosovo needs to postpone the ‘final’ round of dialogue with Serbia” by Leke Batalli and Perparim Kryeziu in Euraktiv: “Kosovo finds itself tangled up in an unprecedented political crisis. The possible conclusion of its dialogue with Serbia has further divided the political landscape in Kosovo, while a silent Serbian President Alexander Vucic is reaping the benefits of reintroducing the idea of border corrections.In an attempt to hide the recent diplomatic failures of the government crowned by its failed bid to join Interpol, the Government of Kosovo introduced a 100% tax to all products coming from Serbia or Bosnia and Herzegovina.The rationale of the tax was that for as long as Serbia was leading a campaign to undermine Kosovo’s statehood, the latter had to utilize the only available tool that was at our disposal, halting Serbia’s imports.”
  • Energy Update: “Serbs eye gas future through twin pipelines“: “Serbia’s energy agency says Azerbaijan is seen as a potentially cost-effective source of gas imports. In a document, the agency says, along with Russian gas imported by Gazprom, a ‘potentially cost-effective source of natural gas in the Republic of Serbia, as well as in the region of southeast Europe, is natural gas from Romania‘ and Azerbaijan.”
  • Croatia Week takes a look to see which sport wears the best national team jersey in the famous checkerboard design. 
  • The Arts: “Serbian Drama ‘Stitches’ Unravels Scandalous Secrets” in Variety: “Eighteen years after she was informed of her newborn’s sudden death, a Belgrade seamstress still believes her infant son was stolen from her. Coldly dismissed by neighbors, the police, and hospital officials as paranoid, she summons up the strength to uncover the truth on her own in a riveting drama pulled from real-life events.”

***Note: Balkan Insider will continue to use “Macedonia” until the official US policy has changed and refers to the state as “North Macedonia.”***