WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

ZAEV ON BULGARIA, THE EU, AND ENERGY: In a webinar hosted by the Atlantic Council, PM of N. Macedonia Zoran Zaev insisted that “friends should not block each other” and Bulgaria’s position is “anachronistic and contrary to international law” while speaking about being blocked by Sofia on its EU path. PM Zaev remained steadfast that there is no alternative for the countries of the Western Balkans on the path to join NATO and the EU.  Finally, he said he wanted to transform the economy of N. Macedonia into a “green economy.”

SLOVAK FM VISIT SKOPJE, BELGRADE: Slovak FM Ivan Korčok yesterday visited N. Macedonia and Serbia where he met with the countries’ leaders and brought messages of encouragement for aspirations to join the European Union.

  • In N. Macedonia:  FM Korčok met with President Stevo Pendarovski, PM Zoran Zaev, Deputy PM for European Affairs Nikola Dimitrov, and FM Bujar Osmani. He also
    delivered ventilators made by Chirana Medical from NATO ‘s Pandemic Response Trust Fund. Their key message was support of N. Macedonia’s EU path. In addition, FM Korčok encouraged Skopje to open an embassy in Bratislava.
  • In Serbia: FM Korčok met with President Aleksandar Vučić, FM Nikola Selaković, and Minister for EU Integration Jadranka Joksimović. The top Slovak diplomat delivered humanitarian relief, discussed bilateral issues, and encouraged Serbia’s EU path and EU-led inter-party dialogue.
  • His trip will continue to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Albania.
  • Ahead of his visit to Skopje and Belgrade, FM Korčok and Czech counterpart Tomáš Petříček published an op-ed in EU Observer, “EU should not be a judge of historical issues.”

VOTING FOR MOSTAR’S CITY COUNCIL: High Representative to BiH Valentin Inzko has called on the City Council of Mostar to vote in a secret ballot for mayor of the city which held its first elections in over a decade last December.

  • The Austrian diplomat said, he was “forced to intervene to remind city councillors that the mayoral election will have to be conducted in accordance with the Statute of the City of Mostar, and in particular in accordance with paragraph 1 of Article 36 of the Statute, which provides that elections to the City Council are secret unless otherwise determined.””
  • Meanwhile, the local leaders of the largest Bosniak and Croat parties, SDA and HDZ-BiH, have rejected Inzko’s calls to hold a secret ballot.
  • The new City Council of Mostar met for the first time last week.

RAMA HOPES TO LEAVE LEGACY: Albanian PM Edi Rama yesterday said he hoped that his work in office “has a strong enough impact to leave behind a good memory.” This is his main motivation for public service.

MONTENEGRO’S AMBITIOUS GOAL: Montenegrin FM Djordje Radulović set the goal of Podgorica joining the European Union “by 2025 or 2026.” He views Germany as an “ally and a friend” in its bid to joining the economic union. This will be difficult with the new EU enlargement mechanism and fatigue – the last three countries to join the EU are Romania (2007), Bulgaria (2007), and Croatia (2013). Read the full interview in German HERE.

SLOVENIA AIMS TO JOIN CLUB MED: Slovenian FM Anže Logar met with Cypriot counterpart Nikosom Hristodulidesom yesterday to discuss bilateral, local, and EU issues. In addition FM Logar presented Slovenia’s plan for its EU Presidency in 2021 and the desire for Slovenia to join the Med7 Group which is currently comprised of Cyprus, Greece, France, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain. The group, also known as “Club Med”, discuss relevant issues and potential initiatives to bring to the table at the EU.

CALLS TO END GENOCIDE DENIAL IN BiH: “The Association of Genocide Victims and Witnesses and the Association of the Mother Movement of the Srebrenica and Zepa enclaves expressed full support for High Representative Valentin Inzko on what has been done so far, and called on him to promulgate a law banning genocide denial.

“Following the work of the High Representative in BiH, from his arrival until today, as stated by these associations, the persistence and continuity of calling out all those who destroyed the constitutional order of BiH must be emphasized.

“All the High Representative’s reports to the UN Security Council have caused real panic among genocide deniers. They did not hesitate to call Valentin Inzko derogatory names, to call him a criminal.” (Sarajevo Times)

WORLD BANK COVID RELIEF: “The World Bank (WB) has approved a €56 million loan for Bosnia and Herzegovina as support to small and medium-sized enterprises affected by the coronavirus pandemic. A loan contract was signed in Sarajevo on Monday by BiH Finance Minister Vjekoslav Bevanda and WB Country manager for BiH Emanuel Salinas with the loan earmarked for a project to support the recovery of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSME) and relieve the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.” (N1)

SLOVENIAN DAY OF CULTURE: Slovenia celebrated its Day of Culture yesterday. and PM Janež Janša called Slovenian cutlrue “one of the key foundations of the Slovenian nation and the independent Slovenian state.”  He highlighted “The fact that the Slovenian Cultural Holiday is a national holiday and a work‑free day shows how aware we are of its importance.”

IN OTHER NEWS
OP-ED: “EU should not be a judge of historical issues” by FM of Czechia Tomáš Petříček and FM of Slovakia Ivan Korčok in EU ObserverOP-ED: “Factors Of Organized Crime Presence In Western Balkans” by Kolë Krasniqi in Eurasia Review

ANALYSIS: “Beyond the Bosporous: Soft power in the Balkans, hard power in the Caucasus” by Clare Nuttall in bne Intellinews

ANALYSIS: “Kosovo Guerrillas’ Stronghold Tense Ahead of Election Showdown” by Perparim Isufi in Balkan Insight

ANALYSIS: “Candidates in Kosovo election call for alliance against corruption” by Patrick Wintour in The Guardian

ANALYSIS: “Combatting human trafficking in Albania and across European borders” by Imelde Poole in Global Sisters Report

SPORT: “Sarajevo celebrates 37th Olympic anniversary” in N1

ENTERTAINMENT: “Is Serbia using a Holocaust film as nationalist propaganda?” by PJ Grisar in Forward

ENTERTAINMENT: “Serbian Director Threatens US Lawsuit over WWII Film Review” by Mirjana Narandžić in Balkan Insight