WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY
PALMER ON KOS-SRB DIALOGUE: U.S. State Department Special Envoy to the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer told EUObserver, “It’s up to the parties to establish the parameters of the dialogue,” and added, “What we support is the parties finding a way to return to the negotiating table, putting the issues of concern on the negotiating table, and finding a path toward the normalisation of their relationship, ideally with mutual recognition as the centerpiece.”

PRESIDENT MILANOVIC: Zoran Milanovic was inaugurated on Tuesday as Croatia’s 5th president at a ceremony that had 43 guests. In his speech he called for greater social solidarity. He said, “Croatia belongs to unskilled workers as much as it does to respected academics. Croatia belongs equally to the unemployed carpenter, the overworked programmer, the underpaid supermarket checker, and the manager in a private or public company. Strengthening social solidarity, fostering a more equitable distribution of wealth, curbing clientelism are the main and most effective tools in the fight against inequality, and human alienation. Our republic needs every person and every person in our country deserves a chance to find their path and place in life, to live with dignity and in peace from honest work. This is our house, for all of us, for us who are here now, for the coming generations, for those who will come back home. Long live the Republic of Croatia.”

ALB-MKD ACCESSION TALKS: EU Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi is confident that Albania and N. Macedonia will make the reforms necessary to open EU accession talks which are currently blocked by France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, who said he would not block the two EU hopefuls if the European Commission writes a positive report next month.

BRNABIC PRAISES EU ENLARGEMENT: Serbian PM Ana Brnabic praised the new EU enlargement methodology and insisted President Aleksandar Vucic agrees. She said, “The President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić and I are in favour of the new EU enlargement methodology, while the Minister of European Integration of Serbia Jadranka Joksimović has reservations…The new methodology seems much clearer and more practical. It introduces more certainty in terms of negotiating interconnected chapters and it also introduces extensive financial support for implementing the reforms during the negotiation process. This would be a great benefit for Serbia.”

SHOWDOWN IN BiH: A meeting between the Members of the tripartite BiH Presidency is scheduled for today. This is the first meeting between the presidency members since Bosnian Serb Member Milorad Dodik threatened secession of the Bosnian Serb dominated entity, Republika Srpska (RS), unless foreign judges were removed from the Constitutional Court after the court last week ruled against RS.

COVIC SUPPORTS DODIK’S INITIATIVE: Meanwhile, Dragan Covic, the leader of the largest ethnic Croat party(HDZ BiH), said he would support the initiative to remove foreign judges from the Constitutional Court. He said, “The Croat National Council and the HDZ BiH will support the approach that nationals of Bosnia and Herzegovina must be in all institutions of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, including Bosnia’s Constitutional Court.” He believes it would be good for EU integration.

SERBIA’S DACIC ON RS: Serbian FM Ivica Dacic defended Republika Srpska and has vowed that Serbia will defend the entity as well. He added, “The Party of Democratic Action (SDA – the main Bosniak party) was formed on the policies of (the late war-time BiH President) Alija Izetbegovic as defined by him more than 40 years ago that an Islamic state can be formed one the Moslems have a majority. They now have a majority… This can all seem banal to you but let’s not turn out to be right later when they topple a trade center. Bin Laden had a Bosnian passport.”

COMPULSORY KSF SERVICE: Kosovo PM Albin Kurti reiterated his goal for compulsory military service for all citizens of Kosovo by stating, “We will make military service compulsory because experience and lessons in military service are needed to cope even with the battles of peace.” Some government officials deem it as infeasible due to costs, while others want to consult international partners. Recently, Croatia and Serbia scrapped the idea for compulsory military service due to high costs.

RESTARTING THE DIALOGUE: Vetvendosje MP Artan Abrashi insists the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue is “on the verge of restarting.” Members of the international community has demanded Kosovo drop the 100% tariffs on Serbia without reciprocity and for Serbia to stop its derecognition campaign.

VUCIC’S CLAIMS: Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic claims a powerful European country backed Kosovo’s 100% tariffs on Serbia while on the TV show Cirilica. He said, “Of course, the Albanians had the support of a major European force – for Serbia to say it was leaving the dialogue and so that Serbia could not ask for the North of Kosovo or the Kosovo-Pomoravlje Region or anything else, to bring down any plan in which Serbia would get something.” He also commented on meeting Kosovo PM Albin Kurti for the first time and described Kurti’s language as, “Extremely dirty, a disgusting address against Serbia, containing the worst fabrications.”

COALITION BUILDING, SLOVENIA: “The secretary general of the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) Jernej Pavlič rejected on Monday speculation that SAB was considering joining a potential centre-right government. “Talks on entering a Janez Janša government never took place and we’ll never engage in them,” he said, adding SAB’s deputy group stood united in this respect.” (Total Slovenia News)

SERBIA’S DVERI: Serbian right-wing party Dveri has begun an anti-immigration campaign ahead of the April 26 elections which it will boycott as a part of the opposition.

A GERMAN WARNING: German Bundestag member Josip Juratovic warns that an election boycott in Serbia would only strengthen President Aleksandar Vucic’s control over Serbia. He added, “You can’t have close political relations with the Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Communist Party of China and at the same time reiterating that you share the EU’s values.”

PM SPASOVSKI + STOLTENBERG: PM of N. Macedonia Oliver Spasovski met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg yesterday in BRUSSELS (correction from yesterday) and discussed N. Macedonia’s NATO accession and the benefits it will receive.

OPPOSITION IN N. MACEDONIA: Leader of VMRO-DPMNE, Hristijan Mickoski, has vowed to build an express highway between Veles and Bitola and start direct flights between N. Macedonia and the USA ahead of early parliamentary elections scheduled for April 12.

OSIJEK 5G: The town of Osijek, eastern Slavonia, Croatia, is poised to become the first 5G city in Croatia. Although an unlikely candidate, Osijek boasts a thriving IT and tech community in addition to being a hub for Croatian Telecoms with over 500 employees in the city and surrounding area.

€€€ FOR TOURISM: The The European Tourism Commission has awarded Croatia and Slovenia €100,000 for a joint campaign, “Croatia and Slovenia: Full of Ways to Feel and Explore,” targeted at the Australian market. The total campaign is set to cost around €200,000 and last until November 2020.

THE BELVEDERE: Dubrovnik’s famous Belvedere Hotel appears up for sale by Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg with an unnamed American chain extremely interested.

SHOW ME THE €€€ + JAIL: Two police officers in Banja Luka were arrested for accepting bribes of € 10,000. Ironically, they worked in the economic crime unit.

RELEASED FROM THE HAGUE: “Former Bosnian Croat political leader Jadranko Prlic, who has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for war crimes, meets the requirements to be released on parole as of Tuesday having served half of his sentence, a UN court in The Hague said on Monday.” (N1)

SPECIAL PROSECUTOR’S OFFICE: The Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague has summoned journalist turned Kosovo Ambassador to Turkey Avni Spahiu to The Hague for questioning. He was the editor-in-chief for the Albanian newspaper Bujku durking the war.

IN OTHER NEWS
CULTURE: “Maribor Over Time” by Neza Lostrek in Total Slovenia News