WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

KOSOVO ELECTS NEW GOVERNMENT – WELCOME TO KURI 2: Kosovo yesterday elected the Albin Kurti 2.0 government after new Speaker of Parliament and Acting President Glauk Konjufca called for a government session after starting his new roles.
  • Konjufca will have five deputies: Saranda Bogujevci (Vetëvendosje), Bedri Hamza (PDK), Kujtim Shala (LDK), Slavko Simić (Serb List), and Bekim Arif (Ashkali Party for Integration).
  • The government will be led by PM Albin Kurti who will have three deputies and fifteen cabinets. Key posts include:
  • First Deputy PM for European Integration, Development and Dialogue – Besnik Bislimi
  • Second Deputy PM and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Diaspora – Donika Gërvalla
  • Third Deputy PM for Minority Issues and Human Rights – Emilija Rexhep
  • Minister of Justice – Albulena Haxhiu
  • Minister of Health – Arben Vitia
  • Minister of Defense –  Armend Mehaj
  • Minister of Interior and Public Administration – Xhelal Sveçla

Not without controversy: VP of Serb List Igor Simić says Kurti has violated the Kosovo Constitution since the Serb List garnered 11 deputies and therefore has the right to lead two ministries. Goran Rakić is set to run the Ministry of Communities and Returns, but remains the sole Serb List Member appointed in Kurti’s Cabinet.

And….PDK’s Enver Hoxhaj said the country is “entering a new phase of instability” after not voting on who will be President of Kosovo in the government’s firs session.

MEANWHILE IN BRUSSELS: Foreign Ministers of NATO countries including Albania’s Olta Xhaçka, Croatia’s Gordan Grlić-Radman, Montenegro’s Djordje Radulović, N. Macedonia’s Bujar Osmani, and Slovenia’s Anže Logar are in Brussels for the NATO ministerial meeting today.

  • According to Secretary General Jens Stolentenberg, the summit will be centered around NATO 2030, Russia, China, cybersecurity, and climate change.
  • EU Special Envoy to the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue and other Western Balkan Regional Issues Miroslav Lajčák met with Montenegrin FM Djordje Radulović in Brussels yesterday to discuss Montenegro’s Euro Atlantic integration.
  • Last week U.S. Chargé d’Affaires to NATO Douglas D. Jones met with Montenegrin Deputy PM Dritan Abazović. Jones expressed appreciation to Abazović for Montenegro’s commitment to NATO and participation in the FM meeting today.
CROATIAN NON PAPER ON BiH: Croatian FM Gordan Grlić-Radman presented a non-paper on Bosnia and Herzegovina to FMs in Brussels. He received support from Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, and Slovenia and FM Grlić-Radman said there was also support from France and Germany.
  • FM Grlić-Radman hopes for BiH to receive candidate status after fulfilling the 14 priorities laid out by the European Commission which includes implementing the rulings of the European Court on Human Rights.
  • He said, “The fragmented political landscape and atmosphere of mistrust between political representatives in Bosnia and Herzegovina often cause blockades of institutions and their functioning and takes them backwards in key reforms. Only by firmly anchoring in European values and standards of civil and political rights for all three constituent peoples and its citizens the country can strengthen its stability and progress. For that to happen, the key reforms, including the reform of the electoral law, need to be adopted without any further delay prior to the 2022 election.”
  • The non-paper also called for new election law in Bosnia and Herzegovina that would transform the country.
  • It says, “We want Bosnia and Herzegovina to take a decisive and sustainable step towards political stability, a functioning market economy and prosperity for all its citizens. The stability, security, prosperity and functioning of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a single, united and sovereign state is of the utmost importance not only for its immediate neighborrs but also for the region, the EU and the whole of Europe.”
SERBIA TO LOBBY AGAINST KOSOVO JOINING INTERPOL, NATO EXERCISES: Serbia’s Interior Minister, Aleksandar Vulin, told Swiss Ambassador Urs Schmid that Belgrade will “actively” work to prevent Kosovo from joining Interpol, according to a press statement from the Ministry of Interior.
  • The press release says “the so-called Kosovo cannot be a member of an international organization, especially the one dealing with data on drug cartels.”
  • Minister Vulin also met with Japanese Ambassador to Serbia Takahiko Katsumata and thanked him for Japan’s abstaining to vote in Kosovo’s last attempt to join the Interpol.
Meanwhile… Serbian Defense Minister Nebojša Stefanović met with U.S. Ambassador to Serbia Anthony Godfrey and expressed concern over the Kosovo Security Forces (KSF) joining the NATO Defender Europe 21 military exercises in Albania over concerns of international norms. Ambassador Godfrey said he understood the concern, but was focused on the partnership between the U.S. and Serbia. He hopes for bilateral military exercises later this year between Washington and Belgrade.
NEW HEAD OF THE OSCE MISSION IN KOSOVO: British diplomat Ambassador Michael Davenport has taken on the role of Head of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo. His experience in the region includes serving as the EU Ambassador and Head of Delegation to Serbia from 2013 to 2017 and British Ambassador to Serbia from 2010 to 2013. Other roles in the FCDO include Director for Russia, South Caucasus, and Central Asia from 2007 to 2010 and as Ambassador to Kuwait from 2017 to present.
  • Ambassador Davenport welcomed the opportunity to lead the mission. “The OSCE is providing excellent support in Kosovo on human rights, democratization and public safety.  It is a privilege to be leading a strong team who bring exceptional expertise and experience in all these areas. I look forward to working in partnership with all stakeholders on the implementation of the Mission’s mandate,” said Ambassador Davenport.

TURKOVIĆ IN SAUDI: Bosnia’s FM Bisera Turković met with Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud in Riyad yesterday. They discussed bilateral relations and, in particular, increasing economic ties. FM Turković also informed Al-Saud about the tough time Bosnia has had trying to procure vaccines. Al-Saud expressed willingness to help in that regard. Read the full press statement by Bosnia’s Foreign Ministry HERE. She also met with leader of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen to discuss topics of mutual concern.

CROATIAN EARTHQUAKE RECONSTRUCTION: “The government has taken steps to make sure that  €3.8 billion (HRK 28.5 billion) can be provided for reconstruction and revitalization in the quake-affected areas, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković underscored on Monday at the first Croatian conference on earthquake engineering – 1CroCEE.”The conference was organized by the  Faculty of Civil Engineering in Zagreb on the first anniversary of the 5.5-strong tremor that struck Zagreb and its environs on 22 March 2020.”Plenković recalled today the extent of the damage to Zagreb and its environs and then later to the Banovina region which was struck by the 6.2-strong quake on 29 December was truly enormous.

“The damage is estimated at HRK 86 billion in Zagreb and its environs and HRK 41.6 billion in the Banovina area in Sisak-Moslavina County. The sum total of the quake damage is put thus at HRK 128 billion.” (Total Croatia News)

SLOVENIA’S NLB + SERBIA’S KOMERCIJALNA BANK: The Management and Executive boards of Komercijalna Bank accepted Slovenia’s NLB Bank takeover of Komercijalna Bank. NLB purchased an 83% stake in Komercijalna Banka in December 2020 for 395 million euros.

FOOD PRODUCTION IN CROATIA: “The Atlantic Grupa is investing €50 million in the construction of a new, state-of-the-art factory for the production of its Argeta savoury spreads near Varazdin and the investment will create 150 new jobs, the company reported on Monday

“The investment involves the purchase of about 41,000 square metres of land in the Kneginec business zone and the new plant is expected to be operational within 15 months of the necessary building permits being issued.” (N1)

IN OTHER NEWS

BLOG: “Partners” by UK Ambassador to BiH Matt Field in FCDO: “No country in the modern world can alone face the many security challenges of today – from climate change to pandemics, transnational crime to cyber-attacks. We all need partners and friends. We all need the chance to improve ourselves through cooperation. That’s what a relationship with NATO offers. And the nature of that relationship is for individual sovereign countries, not outside actors, to decide. Threatening language has no place.”OP-ED: “Investors Lay Siege to North Macedonia’s Neglected Fortress” by Goce Trpkovski in Balkan Insight

SPORT: “The Road to the Final Four Runs Through Zagreb” by Jeré Longman in The New York Times

ENTERTAINMENT: “Serbian Media Name Famous Actor as Alleged Rapist” by Milica Stojanović in Balkan Insight

TRAVEL: “The Hidden Gems of Zagreb Lower Town” in Love Zagreb