WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

ALBANIA AND THE U.S. MARK 30 YEARS: The U.S. and Albania marked 30 years of re-establishing diplomatic ties yesterday.
  • U.S. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price tweeted a video message highlighting the accomplishments of the “strong partnership” between the U.S. and Albania. He underscored Tirana’s commitment to NATO and the future relationship between Tirana and Washington.
  • Senator Gary Peters (MI), Co-Chair of the Senate Albanian Issues Caucus, sent a video message to Albania on the occasion. He reminisced about his trip to Albania where he “saw many homes who flew the American flag side by side with the Albanian flag and I know that Albania is a true and loyal friend of the UnitedStates, and I’m proud to be a friend of Albania.”
  • The U.S. Embassy in Tirana asked former ambassadors to send a message for the occasion and they happily agreed. The embassy’s Twitter and YouTube account will be posting the videos throughout the week. It was only right to start with the first U.S. Ambassador to Albania since re-establishing relations, Ambassador William Edwin Ryerson. He recalled when U.S. Secretary Jim Baker arrived at Skanderbeg Square and proclaimed “We are with you, and you are with us!”

DAS PALMER ON ALBANIAN ELECTIONS: In an interview with Voice of America, U.S. DAS and Special Representative to the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer praised the 30 years of relations between the United States and Albania. He also urged Albania to hold the April 25 elections to the “highest international standards.” U.S. Ambassador to Albania Yuri Kim over the past month has commented that people with criminal backgrounds should not be allowed to run in the elections.

DAS PALMER + PRESIDENT VUČIĆ + AMBS: DAS Palmer and U.S. Ambassador to Serbia Anthony Godfrey yesterday spoke via video link with Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and Serbian Ambassador to the U.S. Marko Djurić about “all important issues and all differences between us.” According to the Serbian president, the interlocutors spoke about Belgrade’s Covid response and regional initiatives like the Mini Schengen Zone.

ICYMI: In DAS Palmer’s long virtual day with diplomats, politicians, citizens, and media of the region, he and Ambassador Godfrey took time to answer questions from Serbians on the U.S.-Serbia relationship. Watch the video HERE.

JANŠA, FOUR OTHER EU LEADERS CALL FOR COVID SUMMIT: Slovenian PM Janez Janša was one of five PMs that signed a letter sent to European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen urging a summit on Covid-19 vaccine distribution. Janša was joined by the PMs of Austria, Bulgaria, Czechia, and Latvia.

DPM ABAZOVIĆ IN BRUSSELS: Montenegro’s Deputy PM Dritan Abazović is on a three-day working visit to Brussels where he will meet with NATO and EU leaders. His schedule is:

  • Today: meeting with NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană and other NATO officials.
  • Wednesday: address Members of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET), and separate meetings with Chair of AFET David McAllister, European Parliament Rapporteur for Montenegro Tonino Picula, and Co-Chair of the European Union and Montenegro Stabilization and Association Parliamentary Committee Vladimír Bilčík. He is also set to meet with Commissioner for Neighrhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi, EU High Representative Josep Borrell, and EU Special Representative to the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue and Western Balkans Miroslav Lajčák.
  • Thursday: separate meetings with Vice President of the European Commission for Values ​​and Transparency Vera Jurova and QUINT Ambassadors.

SLOVENE FM IN UKRAINE: Slovenia’s FM Anže Logar today is on a working visit to Ukraine. He is scheduled to meet with counterpart Dmytro Kuleba, PM Denys Shmyhal, and Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine Ambassador Yaşar Halit Çevik.

PDK LEADER MEETS WITH VETËVENDOSJE: Acting Chairman of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) met with Vetëvendosje leader and likely next PM Albin Kurti and Acting President Vjosa Osmani to discuss the foreign policy approach of the duo. Hoxhaj specifically brought up: Belgrade apologizing for crimes during the Kosovo War, annulling the decision the establish the Association of Serb Municipalities, redrawing the Kosovo-Montenegro border to revert back to the delineation before demarcation, rescinding the moratorium on joining international organization, and reciprocity in the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue.

KOSOVO PARLIAMENT TO VOTE ON NEW PM: Kosovo’s Parliament will met on March 22 in a session that will likely see Albin Kurti nominated as Kosovo’s next PM. Kurti’s party, Vetëvendosje, won 58 out of 120 seats in the February 14 elections.

REACTIONS ON KOSOVO’S EMBASSY: While Israel praised the opening of the Embassy of Kosovo in Jerusalem, it was was criticized by others including the EU and Turkey.

  • The EU said on Monday that it ” regrets Kosovo’s decision to depart from the EU position on the Jerusalem issue.” It highlighted, “The EU’s long-standing position is clear: a way must be found through negotiations to resolve the issue of Jerusalem as the future capital of the two states, and the aspirations of both sides must be met.  In this regard, any diplomatic step that calls into question the EU’s common position is a matter of serious concern and regret.”
  • Meanwhile, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry released a statement that slammed Kosovo’s decision. “This decision taken by the leaders of a nation who have endured great sufferings to gain their independence is extremely unfortunate, as it disregards the plight of the Palestinian people, who have been under occupation for decades and subjected to serious human rights violations,” wrote the Foreign Ministry.
  • It added, “By acting so, Kosovar leaders have violated the established parameters of the peace process, including the relevant United Nations resolutions on the status of Jerusalem, and damaged the vision of a two-state solution as well as the prospects for peace in the region. We call upon the leaders of Kosovo to heed common sense and rescind this irresponsible and illegal step.”

SERBIAN MPs IN KOSOVO: Two MPs Ivana Popović and Janko Langura, both members of President Vučić’s Serbian Progressive Party, arrived in northern Kosovo on Monday. The MPs met with representatives of the Serb List, visited families in a village, and went on a tour of the Sunny Valley housing settlement.

CROATIAN WORKERS PLAN STRIKE: Three railway workers’ unions are planning a strike on March 25 over failure to agree to a new collective agreement. Their previous agreement ended on February 28.

CIVIL SOCIETY IGNORING CORRUPTION: “Only around 1 per cent of Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, in the Western Balkans work in the field of anti-corruption and organised crime, a report by from the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, GI-TOC, launched on Monday, concluded.”‘Less than 1 per cent of the more than 100,000 civil society organizations (CSOs) registered in the Western Balkans Six (WB6) countries deal directly with organised crime or corruption,’ the report from GI-TOC notes.

“GI-TOC is a network of professionals that focus on the fight against the illegal economy and criminal actors by monitoring evolving trends and building the evidence basis for policy action.” (Balkan Insight)

MACEDONIAN BUSINESSMAN DETAINED: “North Macedonian law enforcement has placed the businessman Orce Kamcev in 30 days’ detention in Shutka prison near Skopje, on the request of the Organised Crime Prosecution, which said there was a risk he might flee the country.”The prosecution on Sunday said it requested his detention after receiving “info from the National Security Agency that he might be preparing an escape”.

“Kamcev’s lawyer, Toni Menkinovski, on Sunday insisted there was no evidence or even hints that his client planned to flee. He called the detention order “an act of sadism by the state” against a man who owns a hospital and has invested in healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic.” (Balkan Insight)

IN OTHER NEWS

OP-ED: “The Balkans Need Europeanised Reconciliation” by Spasimir Domaradzki in Višegrad InsightOP-ED: “Stop Giving Putin a Free Pass to Europe’s Backyard” by Anna Borshchevskaya and Ivana Strander in Newsweek

OP-ED: “Football match lays bare Spain’s disastrous policy towards Kosovo” by Alejandro Esteso Pérez in Prishtina Insight

ANALYSIS: “Is the US Doubling Down on Division in Bosnia and Herzegovina?” by Kurt Bassuener and Valery Perry in Just Security

ANALYSIS: “Balkan States Under Pressure to Prosecute Financiers of Terrorism” by Haris Rovcanin, Fatjona Mejdini, et al. in Balkan Insight

HUMAN INTEREST: “Meet the young Croatian chef nominated for Forbes 30 Under 30” in Croatia Week

CULTURE: “Vjetrenica Cave nominated for Inclusion on the UNESCO Protected List” in The Sarajevo Times

ENTERTAINMENT: “Dua Lipa Wins Best Pop Vocal Album for Future Nostalgia at 2021 Grammys” in People Magazine

ENTERTAINMENT: “Bosnian Film ‘Quo Vadis, Aida?’ officially nominated for the Oscar” in N1

ENTERTAINMENT: “Serbia’s famous drummer Dragoljub Djuricic dies from COVID-19” in N1

TRAVEL: “Accor to Open First MGallery Resort in Albania” in Retail and Leisure International