WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY
AMERICAN POLITICIANS ON KOSOVO-SERBIA: Senator David Perdue (R-GA) took to Twitter to give his opinions on the Kosovo tariffs: “For over two decades, US forces have helped keep the peace between Kosovo & Serbia. Now, with historic progress in sight, Kosovo must do its part & abolish all duties imposed on Serbia. If Kosovo is not fully committed to peace, then the US should reconsider its presence there.” Donald Trump Jr. retweeted Senator Perdue’s tweet and added, “Agree. There are 650 US troops in Kosovo. Time to bring them home.”

CORONAVIRUS: Schools in Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity, Republika Srpska, have ordered all schools to be shut down until March 30th in fear of the Coronavirus spreading and N. Macedonia closed its schools until March 25th.Slovenia has recorded 34 confirmed cases of the virus and will close its border with Italy. Meanwhile while Croatia confirmed 15 cases, N. Macedonia confirmed 7 cases, and Serbia confirmed 5 cases.BERLIN PROCESS MEETS IN SKOPJE: FMs of the Western Balkans gathered in Skopje for a session of the Berlin Process currently co-chaired by Bulgaria and N. Macedonia. Notably absent were German FM Heiko Maas and Italian FM Luigi Di Maio because of the Coronavirus situation in their home countries. At the meeting, Serbian FM Ivica Dacic called for the removal of Kosovo’s 100% tariffs on Serbia.

CANADA SUPPORTS BiH: Chairman of the Presidency of BiH Zeljko Komsic met with Canadian FM Francois-Philippe Champagne who expressed that Canada supports BiH’s NATO and EU ambitions.

KOSOVO + SERBIA: The power struggle between Kosovo President Hashim Thaci and PM Albin Kurti continues. As the advisors to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron met with President thaci, PM Kurti, and Speaker of Parliament Vjosa Osmani. Kurti was told to abolish the 100% tariffs by the EU delegation.  Speaker Omani reiterated that it should be the government of Kosovo spearheading the dialogue with Serbia and asked for visa liberalization. Meanwhile, President Thaci was left “disappointed” and thinks the U.S. should lead the dialogue. According to him, the EU has lost credibility for having “false promises” with regards to visa liberalization and said there was “nothing new” from the EU side.

100% TARIFFS: Kosovo PM Albin Kurti remains loyal to his policy of a partial lifting of the taxes on Serbia and Bosnia on March 15th despite immense amounts of international pressure calling for them to be dropped.

ARMENIA + SERBIA: The Speaker of Parliament of Armenia Ararat Mirzoyan met with Serbian counterpart Maja Gojkovic as a part of an official visit to Belgrade. The two discussed increasing economic cooperation and increasing parliamentary level relations. They exchanged views on Kosovo and Nagorno-Karabakh and agreed to not harm each other’s interests in the international arena.

SLOVENIA + CROATIA: Slovenian FM candidate Anze Logar suggested strengthening relations with Croatia. He said, “We should closely cooperate with Croatia and support initiatives that will build mutual trust, while at the same time taking account of the need to ensure respect for international law and court rulings…Croatia is just one of our neighbors, we have outstanding issues with it, but we will resolve them sooner or later.”

RS TO IGNORE CONST. COURT: Speaker of of the parliament of Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity, Republika Srpska (RS), Nedeljko Cubrilovic said that the entity would continue with business as usual without taking into consideration rulings by Bosnia’s Constitutional Court. He said, “We can expect increased pressure by foreigners on leading politicians and even on institutions of Republika Srpska. As this pressure is increasing, so is the resistance among citizens of Republika Srpska and they will surely be able to respond to such challenge.”

MNE RELIGIOUS LAW: The government of Montenegro is set to sit down with representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church today to discuss the Freedom of Religion Law today.

KOSOVO BUDGET: “Kosovo’s government approved the 2020 budget on Tuesday after the small Balkan country held a snap election in October and elected the government after months of negotiations. The budget for this year will be 2.35 billion euros ($2.67 billion), 12.7 percent higher than last year.” (Reuters)

COMING BACK HOME?: Croatian PM Andrej Plenkovic offered incentives for Croatian emigrants to return to Croatia. At an event in Split, he said, “The Ministry of Labour is preparing a new measure – a financial incentive measure for the return of our people who have temporarily gone abroad. We will financially support them to return.”

CROATIAN SERBS CONVICTED: The Zagreb County Court found Milan Martic, the former president of the so-called Republic of Serbian Krajina, guilty of attacking Croatian cities with rockets and sentenced him to seven years in prison. His military commander-in-chief, Milan Celeketic, received twenty years in prison. Both were convicted in absentia.

MIGRANTS: Croatia is willing to open its borders to unaccompanied minors who are living in Greek migrant camps.

CRIME: “Police in Bosnia and Herzegovina arrested on Tuesday six people suspected of belonging to an international gang that smuggled drugs from Albania to the European Union over Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. The country’s State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA) told OCCRP that the arrests were part of a months-long operation during which officers seized ‘a few hundred thousand euros, several cell phones, including three crypto phones, and a certain amount of narcotics.'” (OCCRP)

IN OTHER NEWS

GOOD TO KNOW: “6 useful facts about Trade Mark registration in the Balkans” in Lexology

CULTURE: “Is Croatia the capital of weird and wonderful museums?” by Danai Christopoulou in Skyscanner