WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

CORONAVIRUS – BiH: The BiH Presidency agreed to implement a 14 day quarantine at border crossings. BiH Presidency Chairman Zeljko Komsic is self-isolating after a trip to Canada. To stop rising costs, BiH introduced fines of up to EUR 20,000 to pharmacies for overpricing drugs. Wizz Air stopped all flights to Bosnia. The number of cases is at 25.CORONAVIRUS – CROATIA: Croatia will close all schools and universities. PM Andrej Plenkovic also announced “We will allow postponement in payments of income and profit taxes as well as contributions from salaries. Lower income for municipalities on that basis will be compensated from the state budget.” All McDonalds are closed in Croatia. The number of cases is at 56.

CORONAVIRUS – KOSOVO: One of the last countries to register a case of coronavirus, the number of cases is now at 15. Kosovo has taken measures to close municipalities and international travel. President Hashim Thaci is mulling declaring a national emergency.

CORONAVIRUS – N. MACEDONIA: The train service between Skopje and Pristina, Kosovo has been stopped. All international borders, including the Skopje International Airport, have been closed for foreign nationals except for state, military, cargo, humanitarian, and empty flights.

CORONAVIRUS – MONTENEGRO: Montenegro closed the border to foreign nationals and ordered all bars, restaurants, malls, fitness centers to be closed unless delivering food. The Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro is to stop processions to protest the Religious Freedom Law. However, Montenegro still does not have a registered case. For a comprehensive overview of the situation in Montenegro, click here.

CORONAVIRUS – SERBIA: Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic declared a state of emergency. He is relying on China and his “brother” Xi Jingping for relief. Serbian FM Ivica Dacic asked Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov for assistance after a phone call on Monday. The number of cases is up to 57. Russian FM Sergey Lavrov has cancelled his trip to Serbia planned for March 25-26.

CORONAVIRUS – SLOVENIA: Air traffic will be stopped in Slovenia. Slovenia has announced closure of all schools for the next two weeks and is rejecting cargo from Italy. Croatia has already begun rejecting some trucks from Slovenia. The number of cases has risen to 256.

TARIFFS NOT DROPPED: Kosovo PM Albin Kurti apologized for not partially revoking the 100% tariffs on Serbian and Bosnian goods. He said, “Today, March 15, 2020, the 100% tariff on raw materials imported from Serbia had to be abolished.  This will not happen because my position on February 26, 2020, meanwhile, was not made a decision.  I am sorry for this.  I still have not managed to convince our ruling coalition partner, LDK, of what I am convinced: gradually replacing the tariff with reciprocity is the best, fairest and most useful way.”

U.S. SUSPENDS MCC: “The United States is halting around $50 million (£40.5 million) in economic aid for Kosovo due to Kosovo’s refusal to lift tariffs on goods produced in Serbia, a U.S. government agency said on Friday. Kosovo introduced the tariffs in November 2018 after Serbia blocked the breakaway former province’s membership of international organisations, including Interpol and UNESCO. In response, Belgrade broke off talks with Pristina, saying it would continue only once the tariffs were removed.” (Reuters)

PEACE CORPS SUSPENDED: The U.S. Peace Corps has suspended its programs worldwide including programs in Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro, Moldova, and N. Macedonia.

LAJCAK TIPPED FOR EU’S KOSOVO ROLE: The EU’s Josip Borrell proposed Slovak FM Miroslav Lajcak as a mediator for the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue.

ELECTIONS IN DOUBT: The leaders of N. Macedonia’s two biggest parties, SDSM and VMRO-DPMNE, have called for a postponement of parliamentary elections.

SERBIA + HUNGARY: Hungarian PM Viktor Orban on Sunday met with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. The two discussed the coronavirus, the migrant situation, and Serbia’s Euro-Atlantic integration.

PLENKOVIC LEADS HDZ: Croatian PM Andrej Plenkovic was reelected leader of his party, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ). He obtained 79% of the vote while challenger Miro Kovac took 21% of the vote.

KOSOVO PM SPOKESPERSON ANNOUNCED: The official spokesperson of Kosovo PM Albin Kurti will be Perparim Kryeziu.

BANNED: A Serbian official was denied permission to enter into Kosovo. Gazeta Express reports that measures against Serbian officials will be in place until the release of Nezir Mehmetaj who is accused of war crimes by Serbia. Kosovo’s Foreign Ministry said, “The request was rejected because of the unjust arrest and detention by authorities in Belgrade of our citizen, Nezir Mehmetaj, although all evidence prove that he should be released as soon as possible.”

CROATIA + HUNGARY: Turkish Cengiz Insaat Sanayi ve Ticaret signed a deal valued at over $320M to modernize roughly 26 miles of rail tracks that will run from Krizevci to the Croatia-Hungary border through Koprivnica. Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic presided over the signing ceremony. Once finished, trains will be able to travel over 100 miles per hour.

ISIS: Bosnia charged two people with terrorism after being accused of joining the Islamic State in Syria.

CRIME: “Three rocket launchers, two automatic rifles, two hand grenades, and walkie-talkies were seized today at a house in the village of Borova in Lesak in the Leposavic municipality. No one was injured or arrested because the person sought by the police was not found at the indicated address.” (KosSev)

IN OTHER NEWS

HUMAN INTEREST: “21-year-old from Zadar crowned new Miss Universe Croatia” in Croatia Week

CULTURE: “How Little Italy Became Little Albanian-Mexican Italy” by Helene Stapinski in The NY Times

CULTURE: “Bosnian Kingdom Clothing – Feel like a king!” by Alan Dargadan in Spotted by Locals

SPORT: “Fulham hitman Mitrovic is feeling at home after winning the respect of fans” by Matthew Nash in The Metro (UK)

SPORT: “WATCH: A 14-Year-Old Novak Djokovic Ripping Forehands” by Samir Satam in Essentially Sports

SPORT: “FEANYI ONYILO: My football odyssey from Europe to Asia” in The Nation Online

SPORT: “‘Novak Djokovic Has That Serbian Passion For People’- Matt Ebden” by Aryan Sharma in Essentially Sports

TRAVEL: “1001 DALMATIAN ISLANDS: Enjoy a Dalmatian Cruise and explore Croatia’s magical islands” by Bev Flynn in The Sun (UK)