WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

LAJČÁK ARRIVES IN PRISTINA: EUSR to the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue Miroslav Lajčák yesterday arrived in Kosovo where he met with U.S. Ambassador to Kosovo Philip Kosnett, NATO KFOR Commander Maj. Gen. Franco Federici, and Kosovo’s likely next PM Albin Kurti.
  • EUSR Lajčák stressed meeting Amb. Kosnett and Maj. Gen. Federici was a “good opportunity to confirm our strong transatlantic unity.”
  • Meanwhile, Amb. Kosnett wrote on Twitter the meeting “reaffirmed U.S. support for a collaborative, EU-led dialogue process. Our goal: a comprehensive settlement and deeper Euro-Atlantic integration that benefits all Kosovo and Serbian citizens.”
  • EUSR Lajčák and Kurti discussed the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue “with a view to the next steps.”
  • Finally, Albin Kurti reiterated the dialogue is not a main priority of the government, but nevertheless highlighted, “I’m not against the dialogue, but I’m for a constructive dialogue.” Kurti’s Vetëvendosje party won parliamentary elections on February 14 and need to form a government.
REMEMBERING MAYOR BANDIĆ: Condolences were sent from across the region and beyond to the family and friends of Mayor of Zagreb Milan Bandić who suddenly passed away on Sunday from a heart attack.
  • Residents of his birth town of Grude, Bosnia & Herzegovina gathered in front of the house he was born in on Sunday and lit candles in his memory.
  • The U.S. Embassy in Zagreb sent condolences to the family and friends.
  • PM Andrej Plenković said he “worked hard to make Zagreb a better city” and “During his 20-year-long mayoral term, Bandic contributed to the development of the city and to the implementation of many projects, he demonstrated huge energy and enthusiasm, and what is crucial – he worked for Zagreb every day.”
  • Speaker of Parliament Gordan Jandroković underscored how Mayor Bandić has left a mark in Zagreb for generations to come.
  • Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic wrote a letter offering condolences. He noted, “Bandić will be remembered in Montenegro for improving good neighborly policies and cooperation between Montenegro and Croatia” and highlighted Bandić was “a friend who made a special contribution to efforts to overcome the traumas of the recent past.”
  • Russian Ambassador Andrey Nesterenko wrote that Bandić “extraordinary person is gone, a great friend of our country, the Russian Federation.” The Zagreb Mayor was instrumental in providing Russian children with holidays in Croatia following the 2004 Beslan terrorist attack. Bandić is an honorary citizen of North Ossetia-Alania and has received the Order of Friendship from President Vladimir Putin.
  • Condolences were also sent by the mayors of Sarajevo and Banja Luka, Abdulah Skaka and Draško Stanivuković, former Mostar mayor Ljubo Bešlić, and the Archbishop of Sarajevo, Cardinal Vinko Puljić.

C5 MEETING IN BRDO PRI KRANJU: The FMs of the Central Five – Austria’s Alexander Schallemberg, Czechia’s Tomáš Petříček, Hungary’s Péter Szijjártó, Slovakia’s Ivan Korčok, and Slovenia’s Anže Logar – met in Brdo pri Kranju to discuss the Covid-19 situation and Slovenia’s EU Presidency during the second half of 2021. Two key takeaways include: (1) the unanimous support for EU enlargement for the Western Balkan countries and (2) mutual support to combat Covid and roll out Covid vaccines throughout the C5 countries.

PM RAMA IN BRUSSELS: Albanian PM Edi Rama yesterday was in Brussels where he met with the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi for the 11th meeting of the Stabilisation and Association Council between Albania and the EU.

  • Borrell tweeted, “🇪🇺🇦🇱Stabilisation&Association Council w/@ediramaal following historic Council decision to open accession negotiations. Looking forward to hold first Intergovernmental Conference ASAP. Crucial to build on achievements & advance reform agenda.”
  • While addressing the press, Commissioner Várhelyi spoke about the opening of Albania’s Intergovernmental Conference, Covid and COVAX, and parliamentary elections in Albania on April 25.
  • Read the full joint press statement on Albania’s progress HERE.

SREBRENICA REPORT: The Srebrenica Memorial Centre released a collection of transcripts and documents related of the National Assembly of the Republika Srpska in the period from 1991 to 1996 which includes Momčilo Krajišnik, Radovan Karadžić and current Chairman and Serb Member of the Presidency  of Bosnia & Herzegovina Milorad Dodik. The full interactive database will be available “in he coming period” according to the Srebrenica Memorial Centre.

GREEN BERETS + SERBIAN POLICE: U.S. Green Berets and the Anti-Terrorism Unit of the Ministry of Interior of Serbia yesterday began a 30 day joint training on combatting terrorism. This is the sixth training between the two sides.

SPEAKING OF THE U.S. IN THE SECURITY SECOTR: U.S. Ambassador to N. Macedonia Kate Byrnes joined Defense Minister Radmila Shekerinska for the donation of M4 rifles from the United States. Amb. Byrnes noted, “The donation will strengthen the interoperability of North Macedonia’s forces with U.S. & NATO forces as we serve alongside each other during training, exercises, & international operations.”

ZAEV REMAINS FIRM ON LANGUAGE, IDENTITY: PM of N. Macedonia Zoran Zaev yesterday remained steadfast that he would not negotiate the Macedonian language or Macedonian identity.

MONTENEGRO + GERMANY: Montenegrin FM Djordje Radulović yesterday spoke with German’s State Minister for Europe Michael Roth. They discussed Montenegro’s European path and bilateral relations. Germany’s Roth highlighted offered support to Montenegro to make reforms in strengthening the rule of law, media freedom, and democracy.

ALBANIAN OPPOSITION TEAMS UP: PM Edi Rama’s main opposition, the Democratic Party (PD), signed a pre-election agreement with the Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI) ahead of the April 25 parliamentary elections in Albania. They will run as separate candidates, but would focus on forming a government if they stop Edi Rama from winning a third term as PM.

RADOIČIĆ WARRANT REVOKED: The Pristina Basic Court has revoked the arrest warrant for Milan Radoičić who was wanted in connection with the assassination of Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanović in June 2018.

SPORTS TEAM TURNED AWAY?: A handball team from Serbia has not been allowed to enter into Kosovo according to Serbia’s Office for Kosovo and Metohija. A press release from the office noted, “The explanation given at the administrative crossing that no athlete from Serbia can cross into Kosovo unless the Ministry of Sport in Pristina is informed in advance is absurd and completely incorrect.”

IN OTHER NEWS

REPORT: “Uncommon Cause: The Future of the OSCE” by The Wilson Center’s he Global Europe Program’s Working Group on the Future of the OSCEOP-ED: “Balkan Countries Must Get Serious on Science Diplomacy” by Filip Ivanović in Balkan Insight

ANALYSIS: “Why Europe needs to up its game in fighting corruption” by Borzou Daragahi in The Independent

ANALYSIS: “Deadly Provocation: How Village Killings Kindled Kosovo’s Resistance” by Halim Kefexholli in Balkan Insight

ANALYSIS: “What assistance did NATO provide to the Western Balkans during the COVID-19 pandemic?” by Sofia Popović in EWB

ANALYSIS: “Growth of Online Shopping in Kosovo Brings Dangers for Consumers” by Xhorxhina Bami in Balkan Insight

HUMAN INTEREST: “Diaspora Fundraiser brings celebration to Honeyland heroine Hatidze’s new home” by Martin Anastasovski in The Macedonia Times

HUMAN INTEREST: “A family that farms together: Filipino-Bosnian-Serb family grows food for sustainability” by Patricia Bianca Taculao in The Manila Bulletin

CULTURE: “Albanian world heritage site struggles without tourists” by Llazar Semini in AP News