BiH Unemployment Rises in 2020

Bosnia’s Labour and Employment Agency announced on January 7th that the country had 413,254 unemployed individuals (around 20%) on November 30, 2020. 

Compared to October last year, the unemployment rate of the country’s was 0.28 per cent (or 1,148 persons) lower, the Agency said, adding that 57.02 percent of the total number, or 235,633 individuals, are women. 

Compared to the same period of 2019, BIH’s unemployment rate rose by 11,895 individuals or 2.96 persons. 

The Agency said the rise in unemployment was caused by decreased economic activity due to the coronavirus pandemic and that 10,366 people have lost their jobs during the pandemic. 

When it comes to entity data, the Agency said the country’s Federation entity decreased its unemployment by 0.18 percent, or 588 persons compared to the previous month, the Republika Srpska entity decreased its unemployment by 535 persons, or 0.64, and the Brcko District by 25 persons, or 0,35 percent. 

Early Elections in Kosovo

Kosovo’s acting President Vjosa Osmani announced on Wednesday (06.01) that early general elections would be held on February 14th

Pristina’s Constitutional Court earlier ruled the election of the current Prime Minister Avdulah Hoti’s cabinet illegal. 

The December’s ruling said the court followed the Constitution of Kosovo and the Law on General Elections, stipulating that a person convicted by a final court verdict in the last three years could not be a candidate for a deputy or hold a valid mandate in Kosovo’s Parliament. 

It said that Kosovo’s Parliament decision from June 3, 2020, when the current cabinet was elected, was not under the Constitution, because the Government did not get the majority of votes of all deputies, and ordered the President to call early elections for not later than 40 days. 

Migrants in Very Difficult Conditions near Velika Kladusa, BiH

Several dozens of migrants, mostly from Bangladesh, including Pakistanis and Afghans, have formed their own camp in woods near Bosnia’s north-western town of Velika Kladusa.  

They formed the camp last summer when it counted many more residents than it does now due to weather conditions. Migrants live in extremely difficult conditions, trying to burn twigs, paper, plastic bottles in an attempt to keep warm during the winter. They say they made the camp because there was not enough place in other camps and that they raised tents during the winter which were destroyed by weather conditions. They are trying to survive with half a meal a day by making their own food in modest conditions, and are grateful to the locals who help them. 

These migrants are full of praise for the Bosnian people who help them, and they hope that their cries will be heard by the European Union hoping they would open their borders so they can go to Europe, where they want to live. They claim to be extremely hardworking and willing to do physical labor just to feed their families. 

Is the Montenegrin Government Pro-Serbian?

Montenegrin Deputy Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic denied the claims that the country’s new government is pro-Serbian and anti-Montenegrin, adding that those claims prove that any cabinet official is on the side of the former authorities. 

Abazovic thinks that there has been no standoff between the new government and President Milo Djukanovic but added that the reforms are slow because “the previous authorities drafted laws to suit themselves as if they would be in power for 100 years”. He said that the reform of the security services is a priority as a lesson learned from the October 5 changes in Serbia (when the Milosevic regime was toppled in 2000) to prevent what he called “a black scenario” as in Serbia. “We can’t let the security services stay at the same level… They were a central point for Milo Djukanovic’s system”, he said. “We don’t want a witch hunt but no one will be protected”, he stressed. 

According to the Deputy PM, there is no country closer to Montenegro than Serbia. He expressed regret over the fact that relations between the two countries are at the current low level. He said the government in Podgorica would have to start building those relations from scratch. “As peoples, we will never start from zero. We want the best possible relations with Serbia”, declared Abazovic. 

He announced that Podgorica and Belgrade will have to organize bilateral visits very soon and added that the rebuilding of relations should start with Serbia extraditing former senior Montenegrin state official Svetozar Marovic to Montenegro. Marovic has been charged with a number of crimes committed while he was in power and fled to Belgrade to avoid prosecution. Podgorica requested his extradition a few years ago. 

He pointed out that the goal of the government is to fight corruption and organized crime. “We will publish every disputable document. We might not be able to prosecute every former official but we can tell the population the truth about everything”, Abazovic said. 

Croatia’s Omisalj LNG Terminal Starts Commercial Operations

The first LNG tanker, the Tristar Ruby, carrying 143,000 cubic meters of liquefied natural gas (LNG) arrived at the floating LNG terminal in Omisalj on January 1st marking the launch of the terminal’s commercial operations. 

LNG Hrvatska director Hrvoje Krhen said that the Tristar Ruby arrived from the USA and that after the liquefied gas was converted back to natural gas, it would be transported to buyers by pipelines. 

Commercial operations were launched after the month-long trial period of all units at the floating LNG terminal. 

The floating LNG terminal accepts LNG from ships and after its regasification gas is transported via the pipeline system to end-buyers. The terminal consists of the LNG Croatia ship, a Floating Storage & Regasification Unit (FSRU), a jetty with auxiliary facilities, and a connection pipeline leading to the new Omisalj – Zlobin gas pipeline which connects the terminal with Croatia’s gas network. 

The LNG Croatia ship has a capacity of 140,000 cubic meters and a regasification capacity of 300,000 cubic meters per hour, which means an annual capacity of 2.6 billion cubic meters of gas. 

All of the terminal’s capacity has been leased for the next three years, 80% of its capacity has been leased until 2027 and around 50% until 2035. 

Balkan Stream Gas Pipeline Opens Through Serbia

The 403-kilometer-long main gas pipeline ‘Balkan Stream’, with the Russian gas running from Zajecar in the east to Horgos in the north of Serbia, was opened on Friday (01.01). 

„This is of crucial importance for Serbia’s further development; of great importance for the industry, Serbia’s economic progress and all our people”, Aleksandar Vucic, Serbia’s President of Serbia, told the opening ceremony in the northern village of Gospodjinci. 

He added Serbia would receive gas through the pipeline at a price of up to 155 USD per 1,000 cubic meters, with much lower transport costs than before. Also, Serbia will charge a transit tax, which will help pay for the pipeline’s construction.  

The ‘Turkish Stream’ gas pipeline is a project of the Russian ‘Gazprom” and the Turkish “BOTAS” which would provide a stable gas supply to Turkey, southern and southeastern Europe, with a total length of 930 kilometers and 31.5 billion cubic meters of gas per year.  

The first arm runs through Turkey, while the second branch goes to Bulgaria, Serbia, and Hungary. Serbia and Bulgaria call that part of the gas pipeline ‘Balkan Stream’. The capacity of each arm is 15.75 billion cubic meters. 

The director of „Srbijagas” Dusana Bajatovic said that up to six million cubic meters of gas would be released into Serbia immediately. Adding that would supply the country from three points.  

„Horgos will open for us, which means that we worked following all European principles. We will have access to Baumgarten (gas hub in Austria) and probably Nord Stream 1 and 2″, Bajatovic said. 

He added that everything was done following European norms and Energy Community requests, both technical and commercial.  

Russian Ambassador to Serbia Alexander Bocan-Harchenko agreed the construction of the gas pipeline ensured Serbia’s energy security.  

„This gas pipeline will also provide energy security for the wider region, Central Europe”, Harchenko said. 

Bosnia Not Ready to Close the OHR

The former international community’s administrator in Bosnia, Christian Schwarz-Schilling said he would not speculate on the appointment of a new High Representative, overseeing the civilian implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement that ended the 1992-1995 war in the country, but that he would welcome German politician Christian Schmidt’s appointment in Office. 

“I can only say I’d be very happy to see Christian Schmidt as the new High Representative. He’s a good politician and I’ve known him for a long time – he’s an expert. He also knows BiH so why not”, Schwarz-Schilling said. 

He noted this would be a positive sign that Germany is maintaining an active engagement in Bosnia especially now when it is getting a strong partner who is also a great friend of BiH – Joe Biden as US President. 

Commenting on the previous work of the Office of the High Representative (OHR), he said when he came to office, the goal was to close the OHR and to hand over the entire management over the country to local politicians but their objections to necessary reforms proved BiH was not ready to function without the OHR. 

“I can’t say I blame the OHR. I know that Valentin Inzko wanted to do more. The OHR is the hostage of international politics. The EUFOR is much smaller, the OHR is getting smaller but Bosnia’s achievements on its EU accession path are also getting smaller. This can’t go on”, Christian Schwarz-Schilling warned adding that the OHR must stay in Bosnia because it is the one institution that can regulate many of the existing issues legally. 

According to the opinion of the former High Representative, Bosnia needs to amend its Constitution properly and it needs to make all the citizens equal before the law and make the state functional so it can enter the EU. The current Constitution can only push the country backward, he concluded.