WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY
Happy Presidents Day!
- Celebrations: Serbia marked Statehood Day on Friday commemorating the beginning of the First Serbian Uprising in 1804 with a ceremony that included Prime Minister Ana Brnabic and President of Republika Srpska (Bosnia and Herzegovina) Zeljka Cvijanovic. Meanwhile, Kosovo marked its independence day on Sunday with ceremonies and a military paradethat its leaders and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama attended.
- Welcome!: New US Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina Eric George Nelson arrived in Sarajevo on Sunday. See his first message in the Bosnian language here.
- A US Congressional Trip led by Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) to Kosovo culminated in a meeting with Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj.
- Congressman Lee Zeldin (R, NY-1), Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, met with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic during the Munich Security Conference to discuss the murder of the Bytyqi Brothers. They resided in Congressman Zeldin’s home district. A press release from Zeldin’s office writes: “Congressman Zeldin, Senator Roger Wicker (R, MS) (Chairman of the Helsinki Commission), and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D, NY-16) were joined at this important meeting at the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, by a bipartisan delegation of Republican and Democrat Members of the United States House of Representatives and United States Senate.”
- Kosovo-Serbia: Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo President Hashim Thaci traded barbs on a panel at the Munich Security Conference over the weekend showcasing how difficult the negotiations really is. Full video of the panel here. US President Donald Trump wrote a letter to the two leaders on Friday.
- Also in Munich, the Prime Ministers of North Macedonia and Greece, Zoran Zaev and Alexis Tsipras, received the Kleist Award. Watch the full video here.
- Balkan Spring?: Protests against the government continued for the eleventh week in Serbia, Montenegrins protested against the government, protesters in Albania tried to break into the government building.
- Super Sandwich: A Slovenian Member of Parliament has resigned after he was caught stealing a sandwich in a Ljubljana shop.
- Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Prime Minister Denis Zvizdic was also in Munich and said that Bosnia must be a part of NATO and the EU.
- Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic will not visit Serbia until progress is made on missing persons: “As long as there is no progress in solving the destiny of missing Croatia’s soldiers and civilians, there will be no return visit to Serbia.”
- She also said that she protected Croatian national interests throughout her presidency.
- But where is she? In Turkey for an investment forum.
- Bosnian Serb Member of Presidency Milorad Dodik on war: “We’re not deprived of the stupidity called terrorism but a war, like civil war amongst the peoples here, is not a possibility.”
- Dodik on changing the name Republika Srpska also said: “If they launch that initiative we will launch an initiative to add a hyphen next to the Republika Srpska and ‘western Serbia’ next to it. Not to change the name but to amend it, if they want it to be amended. If they want it, we will go to the end. A synonym for Republika Srpska can only be western Serbia.”
- Despite all of this, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg indicated that the organization is ready for Bosnia’s Annual National Program.
- Police in North Macedonia say they have thwarted an attack by ISIS supporters. They also stopped a ring of migrant smugglers that included a police officer.
- Elections: Gordana Siljanovska will be the presidential candidate for VMRO-DMPNE. She is the first Macedonian woman to run for president.
- President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko thanked his Montenegrin counterpart Milo Djukanovic for supporting sanctions against Russia and invited him to visit.
BEYOND THE POLITICS
- Tragedy: Famed Serbian folk singer Saban Saulic was struck by a drunk, unlicensed driver in Germany. He was taken to the hospital where he passed away aged 67. Condolences have been pouring in from the region and beyond.
- ICMYI – Daniel Serwer presented his new book, “From War to Peace in the Balkans, the Middle East, and Ukraine” at Johns Hopkins SAIS last Wednesday. Here are his notes from the presentation.
- Goodyear is expanding its operation in Slovenia.
- Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic and wife Jelena opened a kindergarten in Serbia.
- Croatian Mixed Martial Artist Mirko Cro Cop defeated American Roy Nelson on Saturday night.