July Hot Topics: Macron in Belgrade; Kosovo PM resigns; Major media merger in Slovenia approved; BiH closing unprofitable coal minesAdriatic Journal 31 July 2019
Macron visits Belgrade
French President Emanuel Macron’s visit to Belgrade in July is confirmation of better political and economic relations between the two countries, said Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vučić. At the start of his two-day visit to Belgrade, Macron said he had come to turn a new page in relations with Serbia, confirm friendship and build new cooperation with the country. At the joint press conference, Vučić noted that this is the first visit by a French president to Serbia in 18 years. Macron recalled the end of the World War I when Serbs and French fought for freedom and marked 180 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. “This is our shared history, a long history, something that also binds us for the future,” Macron added. He also assured his Serbian counterpart that he would be more committed to renewing the dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo. He told reporters he would organise a special Belgrade – Prishtina meeting with the participation of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Serbia’s Prime Minister Ana Brnabić. According to the Serbian media, the two presidents signed 22 bilateral agreements that include economy, the purchase of weapons and combat equipment, infrastructure and culture.
Kosovo PM resigns
Ramush Haradinaj resigned his post as Kosovo’s prime minister, after receiving summons from the Hague prosecutors to appear in court as a suspect for the crimes committed by KLA members in Kosovo during the war with Serbia in 1999-2000. At a press conference announcing his resignation, Haradinaj said “it is not an easy decision”, adding that he could not be Kosovo’s prime minister and a crime suspect at the same time. The country is now heading for a snap election, which will likely take place in September with most of the country’s major political parties supporting elections rather than forming a new government. Haradinaj also supports the option to “return the mandate to the people”. The former prime minister denies the charges and has been acquitted twice before at the UN tribunal.
US carrier eyes Adria Airways sale
According to several media outlets in Slovenia, US regional carrier Mesa Airlines is interested in buying Slovenia’s troubled airline Adria Airways. After going through Adria’s books, the company is expected to reach a decision by the end of the summer, according to 24ur.com. “Due diligence and negotiations with a potential investor are being carried out. We are confident at Adria that a transaction will be successfully completed,” Adria’s representative said in a comment to 24ur.com. However, Siol.net later reported that the airline has already decided it was not interested in the transaction, adding that Adria was trying to buy time and improve its position as well as possible investors’ confidence by spreading news of an upcoming agreement. Adria rebuked Siol.net’s report, reaffirming that “due diligence and negotiations with a potential strategic partner are still under way in the company”. Mesa Airlines, a subsidiary of the Mesa Air Group, operates regional US flights for American Airlines and United Airlines under the American Eagle and United Express brands.
Slovenia’s major media outlets get a green light for a merger
Večer and Dnevnik, Slovenia’s second and third largest daily newspapers, will merge after the Competition Protection Agency (AVK) gave its approval in July. Although the two publishers will now control 40% of the print media market, AVK said the merger was in line with competition rules. While the management of both publishers welcomed the decision, the Association of Journalists of Slovenia fears the merger could be devastating to the media in the long run and called for “maintaining the quality and professionalism of the content of each publication”. The new company will be called DV Media, in which both owners will have 50% ownership. Dnevnik, owned by DZS, had EUR 16.6m in revenue and EUR 677,000 in net profit last year, employing around 137 people. Its circulation was 21,000 copies. Večer’s revenue stood at EUR 10.3m with only EUR 5,000 in net profit. Its workforce counted around 112 employees, while its circulation included 19,000 copies. The newspapers will continue to be published separately since Večer mainly covers Štajerska region, while Dnevnik covers Ljubljana and the central region.
Croatia again criticised for its treatment of migrants
After the Swiss media and The Guardian reported on the alleged violence against migrants by the Croatian police at the border between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, the BBC also published a video on 29 July entitled “Beaten and Robbed – How Croatia is Policing its Borders”. The video shows migrants who claim that the Croatian police beat them, robbed them and then illegally sent them back to Bosnia. Hidden cameras set by activists last winter support their testimonies, capturing several cases of pushback in just a few days. Suhret Fazlić, mayor of Bihać – a town in BiH close to the border – said in the report that Croatian police were conducting a “pushback” of migrants in the forest towards Bosnia’s territory. He said that he told Croatian police it was illegal for them to do what they did, and they said, as reported by the BBC, that they had “orders” to do so and that it was “not up to them to question it”. Croatia denies wrongdoing, even though there are such recordings, the BBC concludes. Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović recently visited Kordunski Ljeskovac border crossing, where she said migrants’ injuries where not inflicted by the border police, but a result of rough terrain they were crossing. Last year, at least 20,000 migrants have crossed the border this way, with another 5,000 in Bosnia and Herzegovina still waiting to enter the EU.
Serbia to ban incandescent light bulbs
Daily Blic reports that before the end of 2020, light bulbs with glowing filaments will no longer be in use in Serbia, quoting the country’s energy minister Miloš Banjac. “Light bulbs with filaments use five times more energy than neon lights and 10 times more than LED bulbs. This decision will have a significant impact on energy efficiency,” Banjac told a meeting on energy efficiency and use of electricity organized by the daily Blic. He added that the new regulations would also prohibit use of some energy inefficient products, reducing their imports. In addition, the government will set up a national energy efficiency fund by the end of this year as a condition for Serbia to get funding from the European Union.
BiH to close or privatise unprofitable mines
The government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina has announced the long-awaited restructuring of its mining industry, daily Delo reported on 29 July. Bosnia and Herzegovina, one of the poorest and least functional countries in Europe, has decided to make order in at least one area, and will seek to restructure its large-scale and outdated mining industry, writes Novica Mihajlovič. The associated mass redundancies will certainly not contribute to social peace in an already fragile society, the writer points out. But BiH federal government has taken the first step towards the reorganization of the mines. The state-owned company Elektroprivreda BiH, which owns most of the country’s coal mines, has been ordered by the government to analyse the existing situation and operations of the country’s mines. The reorganisation involves the diversion of all profitable mines under the auspices of two pools, Kakanj and Tuzla. Under this framework, only the mines that are operating with profit will remain, and the unprofitable mines are expected to close or be privatised. “This will reduce staffing and oversupply, and make it easier to manage mines,” the BiH government announced. Some of the mines have been operating at a loss for 20 years, and funds to keep the mines running has been provided by Elektroprivreda which diverted the money from the profitable mines for the sole purpose of maintaining jobs. Electricity is one of BiH’s main export products, with more than 80% of BiH’s electricity produced by outdated and environmentally controversial thermal power plants.