WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

  • Kosovo and Serbia agreed in principle restore rail links less than a week after agreeing to open the Belgrade-Pristina air route. The two sides are set to meet today with U.S.  Presidential Special Envoy to the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue Richard Grenell for talks. The air route is set to open this summer.
  • After visiting both capitals, Grenell spread a message we’ve heard before – Kosovo: abolish the 100% tariffs. Serbia: stop the derecognition campaign.
  • Serbian FM Ivicia Dacic thought Grenell was brining the same message as the QUINT states and have been instructing for the since the tariffs and derecognition campaign began. He said, “If everyone is for it, we are ready to achieve a moratorium, but then the lobbying of major countries for Kosovo must stop as well as the lobbying for Kosovo’s admission to international organizations. The image and attitude of major forces has changed and that pains them. Of the 193 UN member states. 93 recognized Kosovo’s independence, 95 do not and five countries are in a fluid state.”

 

  • The Speaker of European Parliament David Sassoli is hosting in Brussels his counterparts from across the Western Balkans.
  • Ambassador Lars-Gunnar Wigemark took office on Thursday as the new Head of the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) in Kosovo, with mandate running until 14 June 2020, EULEX announced in a statement.’I look forward to this new and challenging appointment. I will strive for EULEX to remain a reliable partner for its Kosovo partners and friends, offering our long-time rule of law counterparts tangible, timely and useful assistance to keep growing stronger and more capable to continue their journey on the European path,’ Wigemark said.” (European Western Balkans)
  • Meanwhile in Kosovo, Deputy Head fo the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) Vjosa Osmani called called a meeting with election winners Vetvendosje “efficient.” The two sides have yet to come to a power-sharing agreement.
  • Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik today begins a two-day visit to N. Macedonia. He will meet counterpart Stevo Pendarovski, be honored by Saint Sava Academy, and visit Kuceviste.
  • Meanwhile, Bosniak Member of the Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic confirmed that Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen accepted the invitation to visit the country. No date is set.
  • Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic met with European Parliament Rapporteur for Montenegro Tonino Picula and discussed bringing the region back into the European fold. Picula expressed support for Montenegro’s goal of joining the EU.
  • German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer met with Croatian counterpart Davor Bozinovic in Zagreb on Thursday at an informal meeting of EU interior ministers. Seehofer praised Croatia’s efforts for “protecting the EU border properly.”
  • Zoran Milanovic, who was recently elected Croatian president, is supposed to testify on Monday before Zagreb County Court in the trial dubbed travel expense scam in which Tomislav Saucha, who was Milanovic’s chief of staff during his premiership, and his secretary, Sandra Zeljko, are implicated.” (N1)
  • Outgoing Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic is seeking for the government to fund an office space for her after leaving the presidency. She said, “I didn’t think I was going to take an office, but now I’m thinking that one should have a base if one is to do one’s work seriously, and I can’t just sit somewhere and do nothing,”
  • Croatian PM Andrej Plenkovic announced that Osijek will be the first 5G city in the country. The U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Robert Strayer visited Zagreb on Friday cautioning the Croatian government to be judicious when choosing providers and manufacturers. Chinese Huawei is courting Croatia.
  • DAS Strayer also visited Slovenia with a similar message – be careful who you get into the 5G business with. He noted, “In our view China doesn’t have independent judiciary, rule of law and in fact it has a law called the national intelligence law of 2017 that requires all of entities in China to comply with the mandate of intelligence and security services.”
  • NATO HQ Sarajevo on cooperation with the Bosnian military: “NATO HQ Sarajevo is at disposal to the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina in providing further support to the reform of defence and security sector of Bosnia and Herzegovina. NATO highly appreciates the political dialogue with Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Allies will be glad to welcome the officials of Bosnia and Herzegovina at the NATO HQ for the talks on cooperation between the NATO and Bosnia and on regional cooperation,”
  • “The US Embassy and Sarajevo Canton Government have improved their cooperation in fighting corruption by appointing a US expert as a special advisor in the cantonal anti-corruption office, according to the Government’s press release. Benjamin A. Rockwell, the US Embassy’s representative, met Head of Sarajevo Canton Government Edin Forto, Justice Minister Lejla Brcic and Assembly Speaker Danijela Kristic, to discuss joint fight against corruption, previously defined by the Memorandum of Understanding signed last year by Ambassador Eric Nelson, State Department’s senior official Jorgan Andrews and prime minister Forto.” (N1)
  • Anti-government protesters marched for the 60th weekend in a row in Belgrade, Serbia. This weekend’s protest focused on boycotting the upcoming general elections. But U.S. Ambassador to Serbia Anthony Godfrey is “disappointed” the opposition refuses to participate in the elections.
  • The CEO of FlyBosnia Tarik Bilalbegović gave a preview of the rapid growth the airline has planned in the months ahead. The airline startup intends to fly to Paris, Barcelona, Moscow, Zurich and Milan.
  • Tourists from the coronavirus struck city of Wuhan, China will be visited by epidemiologists in Bosnia and Herzergovina upon arrival. They were expected to arrive in Neum on Sunday from Croatia.
  • Belgrade was the world’s second most polluted city on Sunday morning between Beijing and Shanghai. Sarajevo was the fourth most polluted city while Skopje was eighth.
  • Sarajevo Times takes a deep dive into what authorities can do to improve air quality in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  • And US Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina Eric Nelson spoke in a video about reducing air pollution in the country.
  • ENERGY: A new 10MW wind farm that cost over $16.5M will power approximately 6,000 homes in and around Zadar, Croatia.

 

  • KOSOVO SPECIALIST CHAMBERS: A delegation from the Belgian Foreign Ministry visited the Kosovo Specialist Chambers on Thursday and vowed for fair trials for those indicted.

 

  • CRIME: Former Bosnian Serb general Mile Ujic was indicted for alleged war crimes in Rogatica.

 

IN OTHER NEWS…
  • SPORT: Spain defeated Croatia in the European Handball Championship on Sunday to book their ticket to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, but Croatian player Domagoj Duvnjak took home the Most Valuable Player of the tournament award.