Lake Trump, Marshal Twitto and a statue of Melania 

A review of some of the former US President's eccentricities 
Former US President Donald Trump 

AFP/BRENDAN SMIIALOWSKI  -   Former US President Donald Trump 

From a lake named after him to pushing a prime minister to steal his spotlight at a NATO meeting: in his four-year term that ended this Wednesday, US President Donald Trump has left curious traces and anecdotes in the Balkans.  

Trump will be remembered in Southeast Europe above all for the so-called "economic normalisation agreements" between Serbia and its expropriation of Kosovo, which has been independent since 2008 against Belgrade's wishes.  

What Serbia and Kosovo have signed are two separate declarations in which they undertake to call a truce in their diplomatic war and to intensify, with US assistance, efforts to make progress in economic cooperation and common infrastructures.  

Vucic's predicament 

The most striking aspect of these agreements was the ceremony at the White House on 4 September, when the documents were signed by Trump himself, the president of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, and the prime minister of Kosovo, Avdullah Hoti.  

At one point during the ceremony, while reviewing the commitments made by Belgrade, the US president mentioned the transfer of the Serbian embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a disputed city which Israel considers its capital even though the Palestinians also claim it as theirs.  

Sitting on Trump's right, the Serbian president reacted with apparent perplexity. Visibly uncomfortable, he looked at the pages of the agreed statement and turned his head to where his collaborators were, gesturing to ask for explanations.  

Vucic then touched his hair with obvious nervousness. It seemed that the head of the White House had slipped him a concession that he had not agreed to during the negotiations. The video went viral and Vucic was mocked for falling into an apparent Trump trap.  

Trump Lake 

The agreements also served to end the controversy between the two countries over the name of the border lake Ujman (for Kosovars) or Gazivoda (for Serbs), which is shared between Kosovo (80% of the lake) and Serbia (20%).  

"The name of a lake that is in Kosovo and Serbia has been a major sticking point despite a commitment by the United States to do a feasibility study and create jobs and more energy for the region," Trump negotiator Richard Grenell tweeted on 24 September.  

"For that reason, the two parties have agreed on a new name: Lake Trump," added the US emissary about an idea that emerged as a joke to defuse the atmosphere in the negotiations.  

NATO's push 

Trump will also be remembered in the region for the abruptness with which he pushed the then prime minister of Montenegro, Dusko Markovic, out of his way, with a nudge that many saw as proof of his arrogance, in order to lead a corridor in which other leaders also participated.  

The events occurred in front of international media cameras during a NATO meeting in Brussels in 2017, and led to one of the most viral films of him.  

Marshal Twitto 

One of Trump's greatest supporters in Europe has been the Prime Minister of Slovenia, the conservative populist Janez Jansa.  

Like Trump, Jansa is an avid tweeter and, because of his relentless policy of blocking critics from the social network, he has been nicknamed "Marshal Twitto", in reference to Marshal Josip Broz "Tito" (1892-1980), the socialist dictator of the former Yugoslavia for 35 years.  

When most of the votes cast in the US elections on 4 November had not yet been counted, Jansa declared Trump the winner of the election.  

She subsequently predicted that her rival, the Democrat Joe Biden, would be "one of the weakest presidents in history".  

The Melania statue 

Marshal Twitto's homeland is the birthplace of the current wife of the outgoing US president, former model Melania Trump.  

Born in 1970 in Novo Mesto in southern Slovenia, Trump's third wife came to the US in 1996 under the name of Melania Knauss.  

The fever of knocking down statues considered racist that shook the USA last year also spread to the Slovenian municipality of Sevnica, where Melania grew up.  

In July 2020, a wooden sculpture erected there by the artists Bred Downey and Ales 'Maxi' Zupevc which, without doing justice to the ex-model, tried to represent the first lady and was set on fire by unknown persons.  

In September last year, Downey replaced the sculpture, this time in bronze to ensure that it would never again go up in flames, along with a plaque honoring "the eternal memory of the Melania monument that once stood" there.  

MAGA's cap 

The Trump presidency will also be remembered as a gift from the US President to his Romanian counterpart, Klaus Iohannis.  

In July 2019, when Iohannis visited Trump at the White House, Romania was hoping for progress in eliminating the visa requirement for Romanians to enter the US.  

Iohannis got nothing from Trump in that regard, but he did not return to Romania empty-handed: the president of the White House gave him a cap with his famous campaign slogan, Make America Great Again (MAGA).