WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

FORMER U.S. AMB. IN SLOVENIA TO RUN FOR SENATE: Former U.S. Ambassador in Slovenia Lynda Blanchard announced she will be running for the Republican primary nomination in 2022 to fill Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby’s seat. Blanchard describes herself as a “Christian Conservative,” a “proud member of the MAGA movement,” and “Trump’s Ambassador.”

EU COMMISSION CONDEMNS JANŠA: The EU Commission condemned right wing Slovenian PM Janez Janša’s continued attack on journalists who are critical of his leadership. EU Commission spokesman Eric Mamer said the EU “does not accept and condemns the insulting remarks towards journalists, including in this case.” Janša is a staunch ally of Hungary’s Viktor Orban and admirer of Donald Trump.

REP. MRVAN + DJURIĆ: Freshman U.S. Congressman Frank J. Mrvan (D, IN – 1) yesterday spoke with Serbia’s Ambassador in the U.S. Marko Djurić on Zoom. Congressman Mrvan wrote on Facebook, “We discussed the vibrant Serbian community of Northwest Indiana and look forward to continuing to foster collaboration and a positive relationship between our two countries.”

HOME AFFAIRS COMMISSIONER IN BiH: European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson yesterday visited the Lipa migrant camp in northwest Bosnia near Bihać. She called for increased burden sharing and management of the migrant crisis in Bosnia. In addition, she said that accelerating the process of approving or rejecting asylum requests would benefit the country. Johansson will meet with the tripartite presidency members and prime minister tomorrow in Sarajevo.

DODIK SAYS RS WILL NOT HAVE A MIGRANT CAMP: Serb Member and Chairman of the BiH Presidency Milorad Dodik stood firm on the stance that Republika Srpska (RS) will not build migrant camps.

  • “We have clear policies, including those on migrants. When we asked that no migrant is allowed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and those that do enter will be deported immediately, they were pretending to be humanitarians. Now, deal with that humanitarian issue. We in RS won’t build camps for migrants,” said Dodik.
  • He also commented on the EU’s stance towards migrants in Bosnia. He said, “You are humane and we are not? How are you going to respond to the EU countries that don’t want to accept the migrants? What about them, are they democratic? Are they humane?”
  • Finally, he noted, “Do not suggest us to park the migrants here as a resource for you who will pick the best among them and leave the scum to us.”

 

KGK ON U.S. ROLE IN THE W. BALKANS: Former Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović yesterday called on the U.S. to play a larger role in the Western Balkans on a Hoover Institute webinar. She said, “If you want to really prevent others from political interference in a certain area, then you have to be involved yourself.” And added, “The feeling that we are all getting…is if you are not a big country, or if you are not a problem country, or if you are not bringing big money to the table, you don’t have an entrance to the White House.” The last White House meeting with Croatia was in 2006.

CROATIA TO RECEIVE EU FUNDS: “Croatia expects to receive an advance payment of between €750 and 800 million from the Next Generation EU (NGEU) instrument by the end of this summer, or 13% of the total amount of grants, Finance Minister Zdravko Maric said on Thursday.

“Maric said that the advance would most likely be disbursed after the approval of the national recovery and resilience plan, which is expected towards the end of summer.

“Croatia has access to slightly over €10 billion from the NGEU instrument, of which about €6 billion will be available in grants and about €3.4 billion in loans.” (N1)

DAY 2 OF KYUCHYUK’S VISIT: MEP and EP Rapporteur for N. Macedonia Ilhan Kyuchyuk yesterday met with Parliament Speaker Talat Xhaferi and parliamentarians. He expressed willingness to help the ruling parties and opposition overcome differences. Kyuchyuk underscored he did not think that Sofia’s attitude towards N. Macedonia formal opening of EU accession negotiations would change after Bulgaria’s April 4 elections.

CORRUPTION IN MONTENEGRO: The EU Delegation in Montenegro has called on authorities to investigate allegations of embezzlement of EU funds for project meant to strengthen border management. Deputy PM Dritan Abazović said the project was worth more than one million euros and the purchased equipment has not been operational in over a year.

SERBIA + N. MACEDONIA: FM of N. Macedonia Bujar Osmani yesterday was on a working visit to Serbia where he met with counterpart Nikola Selaković, President Aleksandar Vučić, PM Ana Brnabić, and Speaker of Parliament Ivica Dačić. The talks focused on neighborly relations, the situation in the region, and the EU perspectives of the Western Balkans.

KOSOVO’S KURTI ON DIALOGUE: Leader of Vetëvendosje and likely PM Albin Kurti reiterated that the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue is the third or fourth priority for the next government. He believes the results of the dialogue should be aimed at making life better for ordinary people. He said, “I want to engage primarily in a social dialogue with the Kosovo Serbs and that should be with ordinary people not politicians who want to sell the outcome to their public.”

DIASPORA VOTES COMING IN: The diaspora vote for Kosovo’s February 14 parliamentary elections is currently being counted by the Central Election Commission (CEC).  Spokesperson for the CEC, Valmir Elezi, said, “So far out of 6,700 ballot envelopes, 4,811 have been approved while 1,891 envelopes with ballots have been rejected. The reasons why they were rejected have to do with the fact that they were sent by rejected voters in the application period, by unidentified voters (group voting), from voters who have attached invalid documents or from voters who have sent ballots twice.” Elezi added they have received upwards of 43,500 packages with votes.

SPEAKING OF ELECTIONS…: Serb Member and Chairman of the BiH Presidency Milorad Dodik threatened to not hold elections in municipalities where his party, the SNSD, is the majority in 2022 after complaints of how the Central Election Commission (CEC) has been conducting business. He said, “If the CEC remains like this, the big question is how the elections will be held in 2022. We are serious in our intention not to allow elections to take place in municipalities where the SNSD is the majority.” He claimed the CEC decision to annul the election results in Doboj and Srebrenica were political decisions.

NEW PATRIARCH OF SOC CHOSEN: The Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC) has selected Metropolitan of Zagreb-Ljubljana Porfirije as the new Patriarch of the SOC. Read more about Porfirije HERE.

HEALTH MINISTER GIVEN NOD IN SLOVENIA: Proposed Health Minister Janez Poklukar was endorsed by the Health Committee of Slovenia’s National Assembly. There will be a full National Assembly vote next week.

RTS BARRED FROM ENTERING KOSOVO: State-run Radio Television Serbia (RTS) was denied entry into Kosovo after waiting on the border for three days. The reasoning was that they did not give official notification that they would be entering citing the 2013 Brussels Agreement. Editor Svetlana Vukmirović highlighted that official notification must only be given by government officials, not the media.

SISTER CITIES: Ambassador of Serbia to Russia Miroslav Lazanski is on a three day official visit to St. Petersburg where it was announced that Russia’s northern city will become sister cities with Belgrade. Speaking of sister cities, check out this article in the Fort Dodge Messenger that takes a look into the sister city relationship between Gjakova, Kosovo and Fort Dodge, Iowa.

CENSUS DELAY: Croatia announced it has postponed its census due to Covid-19. The census was supposed to take place between May 1 and April 7. Meanwhile, Kosovo was expected to hold a census by October 2021, but may be delayed because of Covid-19 and local elections planned for sometime between September and November.

ON STRIKE IN SERBIA: Workers of the Fiat Plastic plant in Kragujevac went on strike yesterday morning at 6:00AM over pay cuts. Strike committee spokesman Bojan Božović said they aimed to increase the pay leave from 60% to 65% of salary and restore vacation.

CROATIA’S RIMAC EXPANDING: “Rimac Automobili on Thursday announced the expansion of its international network of partners to key Asian markets thanks to a new relationship with Kingsway Group, a company specialised in the distribution of luxury vehicles and yachts in China.

Ahead of the first deliveries of the C_Two next generation hypercar, Rimac is building a global network of partners. Thanks to the partnership with Kingsway Group, a luxury showroom has been opened in Shanghai, Rimac said on its website. The company has been making electric cars since 2009.” (N1)

IN OTHER NEWS

OP-ED: “Bosnia’s Exhausted OHR Can be Revived – Here’s How” by Alida Vračić and Marika Djolai in Balkan Insight

OP-ED: “Kosovo elections chart a path for reform and regional stability” by Alec Mally in New Europe

ANALYSIS: “Kosovo snap election: A chance for action” by Engjellushe Morina in European Council on Foreign Relations

ANALYSIS: “Iran Regime’s Network in Albania” by Sedighe Shahroki in National Council of Resistance of Iran

ANALYSIS: “BiH is further from EU Candidate Status than it was five Years ago” in The Sarajevo Times

HUMAN INTEREST: “Bosnian returnee family lives in deserted village using solar panels for energy” in N1

CULTURE: “People Also Ask Google: What is a Typical Croatian Breakfast?” by Daniela Rogulj in Total Croatia News

SPORT: “Slovenia’s Dončić and Garnbret make TIME’s list of rising stars” in The Slovenia Times