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In The News

End Of Mariupol Siege, Tripoli Clashes, Looking For Mars Life

👋 Bonjour!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where Russia declares victory in Mariupol as the 82-day siege ends, Biden’s administration lifts some Trump-era restrictions on Cuba and NASA’s rover starts digging around for life on Mars. Meanwhile, America Economia explains how blockchain technology could take the cannabis business to an all-time high.


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Novak Djokovic Could Wind Up As A Puppet Of Serbia's Nationalists

The Serbian tennis star is neither a victim nor a heavy, writes Serbian journalist Tatjana Đorđević Simić. But back home in Serbia, he is a hero who risks to turn in to a puppet of Serbia's nationalistic government.

In a video circulating from Serbia's public broadcaster RTS, a young Novak Djokovic is asked by an interviewer what his dream in life is. He doesn't hesitate: to become No. 1 tennis player in the world. Djokovic was only seven years old at the time.

"As a boy I often dreamed of playing at Wimbledon," Djokovic once said. He has played it, and won it six times. In his career so far, he has won all the other major tournaments, 20 Grand Slams in total.

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A New Calais? Migrant 'Jungle' Forms On Serbia-Croatia Border

Migrants have begun to live in an informal camp 70 miles from Belgrade, hoping to start a new life westward in Europe.

ŠID — After the Serbian government shut down an official migrant center in this town on the Croatian border, an informal camp arose next to the train station. Locals were quick to start calling it "the Jungle," a reference to the sprawling makeshift camp in Calais, France that had long been a decrepit home to thousands of migrants seeking to cross the English Channel.

More than 100 people have been stuck here since the border was closed in the autumn of 2016, taking shelter in the railway tracks and an abandoned factory nearby. In the last few weeks, many have left on a new route to the European Union through Bosnia-Herzegovina.

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Inside Belgrade's Migrant Camps

New waves of migrants, including Syrian war refugees, seek to reach the gates of Europe at the Hungarian border.

BELGRADE — It's still dark at 5 a.m near the railway station in the Serbian capital. The streetlights are on but the roads are quiet. A half hour later, everything changes as the camped-out migrants awaken, and dozens of migrants quickly get up, take their sheets and clear the way for the commuters arriving at the train station.

The new day brings with it the race for some free electricity, and behind a small café five young men huddle around an adapter plugged into a wall socket. The smartphones are everything for a migrant in a faraway place: a direct line to loved ones they've left behind at home and the source of all the information they need to proceed, including addresses and maps.

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Migrant Lives
Benoît Vitkine

Macedonia, The New Nightmare For Migrants

Thousands of asylum seekers are passing through the small Balkan nation on their way to the European Union, but the short journey is far more arduous than it seems.

KUMANOVO — On Macedonia's roads, in the parallel world of migrants, a good pair of shoes is as valuable as hard cash. Last month, in Athens, Najib Mahmoudi bought a great pair, top-notch basketball shoes to match his standing as a celebrity, at least among his fellow Afghans.

Najib became a national idol in Afghanistan after winning the 2007 season of Afghan Star, the country's most popular TV singing competition. Compatriots who see him here in this forgotten corner of Europe regard Najib with a mixture of respect and amusement.

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Marie Maurisse, Maryline Baumard, Joëlle Stolz, Alain Salles

Cracks In Schengen As Europe Builds Walls Against Migrants

From Hungary to Switzerland, fortifications are rising in the heart of Europe, where the once-heralded borderless zone is being diminished by the day.

GENEVA — The Hungarian government announced plans earlier this month to build a 175-kilometer-long, four-meter-tall barrier along its border with Serbia. Ostensibly for protection, the project is yet another barricade built at the edges of the European Union, where the foundations of the borderless Schengen Area are weakening by the day.

Faced with the growing difficulty of leaving Greece by sea or air, migrants are choosing the long land route through the Balkan peninsula to reach the Schengen Area. As we near its 30th anniversary, tensions between member states are intensifying. In France, Austria and Switzerland, the specter of closing borders to keep out migrants is rearing its ugly head.

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Eurovision 2015 Contestants: Serbia

When it first participated in the Eurovision Song Contest as an independent country — and not part of Yugoslavia or with Montenegro as it used to — in 2007, Serbia actually won, for the first time. Fairly promising for the future. But since then, the country has unfortunately not managed to repeat the performance, finishing 6th, 13th, 14th, 3rd the following years, and not even bothering to participate in 2014 because, you know, austerity.

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Migrant Lives
Maryline Baumard

A New Clandestine Crossing Into The EU, Via Serbia

At the border between Serbia and Hungary, the number of illegal arrivals has increased dramatically over the past few months. Syrians and Afghans who take the road in the Balkans cross paths with migrating Kosovars.

SUBOTICA — At regular intervals, thick smoke emerges from the fire and interrupts the sleepy atmosphere. Eyelids open and words are exchanged to forget, if only briefly, the weariness that fills the brickyard. This abandoned factory in the Serbian town of Subotica is shared by Afghans, Pakistanis and Syrians traveling through the Balkans, and is used as a resting place before entering the Schengen Area, represented by the 26 European countries that have abolished passport and any other type of border control at their common borders.

On this day, about 30 Syrians and Iraqis are trying to warm up around a fire alongside 20 Afghans. People check their flashlights while awaiting a text from the smuggler. "Taxis are waiting for us on the other side of the border, and we are going to Austria," says Nabil, a 46-year-old Syrian man, adding that the passing and the drive will cost around $1,500 per person.

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Mada Masr

Egyptians Look To Emigrate To Liberland, The World's First Facebook-Driven Micronation

CAIRO — There are two smiling European-looking 30-somethings waiting to welcome you to the new website, Liberland.org, while a hopeful-sounding logo proclaims, “Live and let live.”

Formerly referred to as Gornja Siga, the seven square-kilometer state (slightly larger than the Vatican and Monaco) came into existence following a border dispute between Croatia and Serbia. The forgotten territory was left unclaimed by both Croatia and Serbia, which is why it is considered to have been founded according to international law.

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Serbian Gunman Kills Thirteen In Neighborhood Shooting Spree

AP, REUTERS, B92 (Serbia), RT (Russia)


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Piotr Smolar

Lessons From Kosovo: What Europe Could Not Achieve

PRISTINA - Before General Xavier Bout de Marnhac can walk up to the second floor of the Gagi restaurant in the center of Kosovo's capital, his security escort must inspect the premises.

This is standard procedure. The French general, whom we were meeting only a few hours before he was leaving Kosovo, is the outgoing chief of the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), where 2,000 European prosecutors and judges, police officers and customs officials lend technical assistance to the local authorities. A supposedly neutral presence that has no one fooled.

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Draginja Nadażdin*

The Half-Truths Of History That Still Hang Over The Balkans

A Bosnian Serb who fled the Balkans as a teenager reflects on how hard it is to face the past in the Balkans, as much for history's winners as losers.

Convicted war criminal General Radislav Krstić will do his time in a Polish prison. A Polish court agreed to this after the former Bosnian Serb leader was attacked by Muslim inmates in the British prison where he'd been serving his time. Krstić barely survived.

The jailhouse attack was revenge for his role in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, Europe's worst massacre since World War II that left more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims dead.

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food / travel
Matthias Gretzschel

Beauty From The Ashes - Belgrade, Europe's Most Overlooked Capital

BELGRADE - "Go to Republic Square first, and then walk along Knez Mihailova Street, that’s Belgrade at its most beautiful..."

With the counsel of the young woman at Reception, a rickety Dacia taxi gets me from the residential neighborhood of Senjak – pretty, but with some parts in urgent need of a facelift – past office buildings, showcase constructions from the Socialist era, vintage hotels, and department stores, to the heart of Serbia’s capital.

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Andrei Plakhov

Serbian Film Promotes Tolerance Of Gays. Will It Fly With Fellow Slavs In Russia?

MOSCOW - The first third of Srdzhan Dragoevich’s new film, The Parade, will bring a smile to even the gloomiest of faces. It’s a silly, rude comedy that is meant to be fun for the viewers.

It is also very much a film with a message about tolerance for homosexuals, as well as for those from different ethnic and religious backgrounds. Just released in Russia, it had a successful run in the countries of the former Yugoslavia, surprising many with its largely warm receptions in places not often known for tolerance of the "other."

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