WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

  • US Ambassador to Serbia Kyle Scott and Serbia’s Foreign Minister Ivicia Dacic clashed over the weekend on who to support in Venezuela. Ambassador Scott said that Serbia is “on the wrong side of history” for supporting Nicolas Maduro. Dacic responded by stating, Serbia has“respect for international law and non-interference in internal affairs of sovereign countries.” And questioned the US – “As if Americans are on the right side by supporting Kosovo.”
  • UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt called Slovenia a “former Soviet vassal state” at a press conference with counterpart Miro Cerar. The media and Twitter was quick to remind Hunt that Slovenia was a part of Yugoslavia, a non-aligned state during the Cold War.
  • Slovenian-born US First Lady Melania Trump is quoted in Miami: “I am proud to be here with you in the United States of America as your First Lady. Many of you in the room know what it feels like to be blessed with freedom after living under the oppression of socialism and communism.” This statement caused differing reactions from Slovenian media outlets.
  • The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of North Macedonia released a “Q&A on Prespa Agreement” for proper usage of North Macedonia and Macedonian…”When describing anything related to our ethnic or cultural identity the adjective Macedonian alone is correct while North or Northern Macedonian would be wrong. Some correct examples include: Macedonian culture, Macedonian history, Macedonian literature, the Macedonian Cyrillic alphabet, Macedonian churches, Macedonian ethnic identity and so on. Bear in mind however, Macedonia and Macedonians, mean something distinctly different in Greece…As part of the deal with Greece we have agreed not to describe any state body as North Macedonian. Anything connected to the state, the government, the presidency, private entities and actors related to the state or activities financed by the state abroad will use the adjective North but it is not necessary to use it otherwise, for example for food. So, our country is run by the Government of North Macedonia, our head of state is the President of North Macedonia, foreign affairs are run by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of North Macedonia and so on.”
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina adopted further answers to the European Commission questions to review for country’s European Union potential candidate status.
  • A high-level delegation of Members of European Parliament headed by Foreign Affairs Committee Chair and rapporteur for Serbia David McAllister (EPP, DE) will visit Belgrade, Serbia and Pristina, Kosovo from February 27- March 2.
  • Speaking of Europe, the Croatian Peasant Party (HSS) has begun to withdraw from the European People’s Party (EPP). HSS Party Chairman Kreso Baljak said: “We do not belong with those who lay claim to Croatian territory, such as Serbia’s Aleksandar Vučić and Italy’s Antonio Tajani, nor with Hungary’s Viktor Orban, who is trying to gain access to Croatia’s media market in order to disseminate hate and to propagate ideas that we in the HSS find unacceptable. We especially do not belong in the same group with domestic traitors who call themselves the protectors of Croatia’s national interests, but who have handed everything they could into foreign hands, the latest being INA.”
  • ON THE RUN: Slovenian President Borut Pahor met with Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic in Zagreb on Saturday while en route to the Split Half Marathon, which Pahor will participate in. They agreed the need to keep good neighborly relations
  • Anti-government protests have continued in Serbia for the twelfth Saturday in a row. In neighboring Montenegro, protesters called for President Milo Djukanovic and Prime Minister Dusko Markovic to resign. Similar to Serbia, the protests in Montenegro ended at the Montenegrin Public Broadcaster, RTCG. 
  • Kosovo Speaker of Parliament Kadri Veseli called for North Macedonia and Montenegro to join Kosovo in an alliance against Serbia. The motion was dismissed as “senseless” by Montenegrin Prime Minister Dusko Markovic
  • But N1 is reporting that the “Marshal Centre excludes Kosovo from its programmes due to import tariffs.” It doesn’t deter Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj from his steadfast commitment to the tariffs and said they would remain until recognition, noting that Federica Mogherini shouldn’t invite Kosovo to the dialogue if it is a condition for it to continue. 
  • Courts in North Macedonia have ordered that former Transport Minister Mile Janakieski serve his thirty day pretrial detention at home after being assaulted in a prison yard. Janakiewski and two other ministers are being charged in connection with violence in parliament in 2017. 
  • A long list of academics, including Kurt Bassuener, Florian Bieber, and Jasmin Mujanovic, have signed a petition, “Truth and Revisionism in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” denouncing Republika Srpska’s new commission to revisit the Srebrenica genocide findings.
  • The final verdict against convicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic will be on March 20. 
  • Kosovo Member of Parliament and former Mayor of Suhareke Blerim Kuci has been summoned to the Specialist Chambers in the Hague to be questioned about his role during the Kosovo War.
  • Council of Europe visits Serbia: “A delegation of the Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (GREVIO) will carry out an evaluation visit to Serbia from 25 February to 1 March 2019. This visit is one of the steps in the procedure to monitor the implementation by Serbia of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention).”
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Ambassador to Pakistan Sakib Foric calls for stronger business relations between the two states. 

BEYOND THE POLITICS

  • BBC NEWS: “Greece’s invisible minority – the Macedonian Slavs“: “By ratifying an agreement with the newly renamed Republic of North Macedonia, Greece has implicitly recognised the existence of a Macedonian language and ethnicity. And yet it has denied the existence of its own Macedonian minority for decades, says Maria Margaronis. Will something now change? Mr Fokas, 92, stands straight as a spear in his tan leather brogues and cream blazer, barely leaning on the ebony and ivory cane brought from Romania by his grandfather a century ago. His mind and his memory are as sharp as his outfit.A retired lawyer, Mr Fokas speaks impeccable formal Greek with a distinctive lilt: his mother tongue is Macedonian, a Slavic language related to Bulgarian and spoken in this part of the Balkans for centuries. At his son’s modern house in a village in northern Greece, he takes me through the painful history of Greece’s unrecognised Slavic-speaking minority.” 
  • Earlier this month, the Hawaiian National Guard distributed toys for kids in Kosovo
  • Sarajevo Times takes a look into the history of the fortress of Mostar. Do you know its history?
  • Storms have caused extremely strong winds in Bosnia, Croatia, and Italy over the weekend. So far three have died as a result
  • The National and University Library in Zagreb, Croatia celebrated its 412th anniversary on Friday
  • The Daily Mail takes a look into the life of Serbia-born transgender model Andreja Pejic after moving to Australia. 
  • Kosovo-born singer Dua Lipa and her father Dukagjin Lipa stole the show at the Brit Awards in London over the weekend.