WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

  • To mark International Women’s Day, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic keynoted an event at the European Parliament. Speaking before MPs and President Antonio Tajani, “The starting point is a change in mind-set: we need to build a political culture which leads to women’s equal participation…Have faith and believe in yourselves, in your values, your strength and your capabilities. Your determination will make all remaining obstacles fall.’’ 
  • US Ambassador to Croatia Robert Kohorst emphasized the importance of press freedom:”We shouldn’t try and keep journalists from telling the truth, but they need to be responsible for what they do.”
  • While we’re on the subject of the press, Dariusz Kalan writes in Foreign Policy, “Journalists Are Living in Fear in Republika Srpska“: “Sitting in a coffee shop pecking at a piece of chocolate cake, Vladimir Kovacevic swiveled in his chair to make sure nobody was watching. Then he furtively pulled a can of pepper spray from his pocket. ‘It’s not usual here to carry this around,’ Kovacevic, an investigative journalist who works at the private BN TV in Banja Luka and runs his own blog, told Foreign Policy. “I’m not afraid, but now it’s not the same.”
  • Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik had strong words against joining NATO and claimed malign influence in Bosnia does not occur from Russia, but rather the UK and US: “The British have approved six million pounds to fight ‘the malign influence’ of Russia, and the Americans, too, also do the same through some of their funds. In Sarajevo, Podgorica and Tirana there are intelligence centers that the West has installed. They put together a list of 300 people from Serbia and the RS who allegedly spread that Russian malign influence and thus put target marks on all these people,”
  • Prime Minister of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev, and SDSM party member, met with opposition leader Hristijan Mickokski of VMRO-DPMNE to discuss the April 21 presidential election.
  • While in Brussels last week, Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic won the European King David Award from European Jewish Association. In his remarks, he emphatically stated that in Montenegro, “there is no anti-Semitism”.

  • RFE/RL: “Bosnia Gives Green Light to Controversial Chinese Energy Loan“: Lawmakers in Bosnia-Herzegovina have approved a guarantee for a Chinese loan to help a project to expand a coal power plant in the northeastern town of Tuzla. The parliament of Bosnia’s autonomous Bosniak-Croat Federation approved the guarantee on March 7 after receiving assurances from the regional government that it had passed measures to prevent any damage to the budget should state power utility EPBiH fail to service the loan…In 2017, EPBiH chose Chinese companies to build a 450-megawatt unit in Tuzla at a cost of $1 billion to replace three aging units.The project is due to be financed by a $687 million loan from the state-funded Export-Import Bank of China, with the remaining funds to be provided by EPBiH.”

  • Slovenia Times: “Slovenia has received from the European Commission official notices for failing to fully transpose anti-money laundering and terrorist financing rules and for not complying with harmonised product rules. Moreover, the country was also issued a reasoned opinion for failing to implement in full rules on the recognition of professional qualifications.” 
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Security Minister Dragan Mektic: “We expect an escalation of migrant problems, not just in BiH, but along that route…This is not just BiH’s problem, we want to be part of the European solution, but the EU cannot agree on solutions. This illegal migration is simply allowed to continue.”

BEYOND THE POLITICS

  • Americans will need a visa to travel to the European Union starting in 2021. The reciprocity measure will come into effect since citizens from Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland, and Romania still need a visa to enter the United States.
  • The last two remaining Jews in Bitola, North Macedonia attended the commemoration of the day 3,200 Jews were deported from the city to Treblinka death camp. 
  • Kosovo registers Trepca as a Joint Stock Company, meaning the government owns 80% of it and workers 20%. It is a huge mining complex in northern Kosovo.
  • Slovenian banks made 17% profit last year.