WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

CORONAVIRUS – BiH: The first plane of US aid for Bosnia and Herzegovina arrived in Sarajevo on Monday. The EU “is considering two ways to assist BiH” to combat coronavirus including up to EUR 7 million in medical supplies and up to EUR 50 million to combat the economic ramifications. Bosniak Member of the Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic and leader of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) Bakir Izetbegovic will donate 2/3 of their net salaries to charity to combat the coronavirus. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic met with Bosnian Serb Presidency Member Milorad Dodik on Monday and pledged to help Republika Srpska and the whole of Bosnia and Herzegovina combat the coronavirus. The number of confirmed cases rises to 126 in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

CORONAVIRUS – CROATIA: The head of Zagreb’s Fran Mihaljevic Infectious Diseases Hospital praised the citizens of Croatia for obeying the restrictions of set forth by the government to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.The number of confirmed cases in Croatia rises to 315 including 15 hospital workers.

CORONAVIRUS – KOSOVO: Kosovo PM Albin Kurti restricted movement of citizens and vehicles from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM and from 8:00 PM to 6:00 AM much to the dismay of Kosovo President Hashim Thaci (see below). Kosovo adds 26 new confirmed coronavirus cases reaching a total of 61 cases.

CORONAVIRUS – N. MACEDONIA: Nearly 2,300 citizens of N. Macedonia will be brought back via humanitarian flights. N. Macedonia has instituted an aged-based curfew: over 67-years-old can move from between 5:00 AM and 11:00 AM while those up to 18-years-old can move between 12:00 PM and 9:00 PM. The number of confirmed cases rises to 136 including the second death in N. Macedonia.

CORONAVIRUS – MONTENEGRO: A Russian citizen has been apprehended in Tivat, Montenegro for spreading “coronavirus panic.” Sixty people have been prosecuted for violating measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus. There are 27 confirmed cases of coronavirus and one death in Montenegro.

CORONAVIRUS – SERBIA: U.S. company Cooper Tires has shut down its factory in Kragujevac, Serbia for at least three weeks amidst the coronavirus outbreak. A laboratory in Valjevo, Serbia has shut down after five members of its staff were confirmed to have coronavirus. The number of confirmed cases rises to 249, up 27 from yesterday, and recorded its third death as Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic calls for mass testing.

CORONAVIRUS – SLOVENIA: The Slovenian Chamber of Commerce estimates that it will need a EUR 4 billion stimulus package to quell the economic ramifications of the coronavirus. It also estimates that around 93% of Slovenian businesses are affected by the coronavirus. Slovenian President Borut Pahor is in favor of granting special powers to the military to protect Slovenia’s borders. The number of confirmed cases rises to 442 and recorded its third death.

OPENING ACCESSION TALKS: “The European Union can start membership negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia, according to a draft decision by the bloc’s 27 member states seen by Reuters on Monday and due to be finalized this week.  If approved as expected, the agreement would end two years of delays and signal new momentum for all six Western Balkan countries – Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia and North Macedonia – seeking to join the EU. North Macedonia and Albania had seen their hopes dashed last year as France and the Netherlands sounded skepticism over their track records on democracy and fighting corruption, fearful of allowing new members in at a time when the EU’s cohesion was already damaged by Britain’s departure from the bloc.” (Reuters)

CROATIAN EARTHQUAKE AFTERMATH: There have been upwards of 50 aftershocks from the 5.5 magnitude earthquake that rocked Zagreb on Sunday morning. The largest tremor was 3.7 on the Richter Scale. A fifteen-year-old girl was killed in the quake and 27 others sustained injuries. Additionally, most of Croatia’s museums in Zagreb have been damaged, but a full assessment isn’t available yet. The Russian Ambassador to Croatia Anvar Azimov says the cities of Moscow and Saint Petersburg are ready to offer support to Zagreb.

KOSOVO POWER STRUGGLE: After PM Albin Kurti instituted an essential lockdown between 10:00AM to 4:00PM and 8:00PM to 6:00AM, Kosovo President Hashim Thaci has instructed citizens to disobey the orders and will challenge them for being “unconstitutional.” He said, ““Citizens’ rights and freedoms can be restricted only by declaring a state of emergency. And only the Assembly of Kosovo can declare it.To date, the government has said that the situation is under control, and on the basis of this they have opposed declaring a state of emergency.” He was rebuked by the ruling majority. Deputy PM Haki Abazi said, “Article 55, par. 1 (of the Kosovo Constitution) allows for the restriction of human rights in accordance with the law.The restriction of movement in our decision is based on the Law for Prevention and Fighting Against Infectious Diseases, Article 41.2, which allows for the prohibition of movement in infected or directly endangered areas.”

KOSOVO NO CONFIDENCE MOTION: The no confidence motion put forward by junior partner in the ruling coalition, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), has received support from the Democratic League of Kosovo (PDK), the Social Democratic Initiative (NISMA), the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK), and the New Kosovo Alliance (AKR). If all members of the opposition and all 28 MPs from the LDK support the motion, it would add up to 67 votes in favor when a simple majority of 120 parliamentarians is needed for the motion to pass.

CHINA + ISRAEL + FBiH: The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) entity has accepted a bid from a Chinese-Israeli consortium (Israel’s M.T Abraham Group, China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC) and China Non-Ferrous Metal Industry’s Foreign Engineering & Construction) to lease the foundry of Aluminij Mostar. The aluminum smelter is $208 million in debt.

ROMA SINGLED OUT: After Defense Minister of N. Macedonia Radmila Sekerinska and FM Nikola Dimitrov said that all 200 people being repatriated from Romania and Bulgaria would be quarantined for two weeks, only a nine person Roma band was quarantined. A member of the band said, “Of those two hundred people, only we are here. t’s all a lie.” Another said, “They picked us and they brought us here.It’s only us and the army here. Why can’t we go home in quarantine like everybody else?”

CRIME: “A federal judge has approved the extradition of a St. Louis County man to Bosnia, where he faces a war crime charge for allegedly raping a female prisoner. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that U.S. Magistrate Judge Patricia Cohen’s order on Friday won’t result in Adem Kostjerevac’s immediate extradition, but finds that federal prosecutors provided “sufficient competent evidence” to allow extradition. The final decision on extradition is up to the Secretary of State. The government of Bosnia-Herzegovina has accused Kostjerevac of raping a pregnant Serbian prisoner in 1992. Kostjerevac was a military policeman at the time. He was indicted there in 2015 and a prosecutor sought an order to arrest him in April 2017.” (AP News)

CONIFA WORLD CUP CALLED OFF: The Confederation of Independent Football Associations (CONIFA) World Cup set to take place from May 30 to June 7 in N. Macedonia has been called off. CONIFA organizes a tournament for unrecognized soccer associations including: Cascadia, Quebec, Hawaii, Chameria, Jersey (UK), Transnistia, Astrakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), Northern Cyprus, Rohingya, Darfur, Somalialand, and Zanzibar.


IN OTHER NEWS

ANALYSIS: “Autonomy Abolished: How Milosevic Launched Kosovo’s Descent into War” by Serbeze Haxhaj and Milica Stojanovic in BIRN

ANALYSIS: “In Kosovo, coronavirus breeds political maladies” in AFP

HUMAN INTEREST: “March Hero of the Month: Colorado Blackhawk helicopter pilot on a mission overseas” by Jeremy Hubbard in KDVR: “Every month, we honor a military member or veteran as our Serving Those Who Serve ‘Hero of the Month.’ This month, we’re traveling farther than we ever have before to hand out the award. Some 6,000 miles from home, to the eastern European country of Kosovo. That’s where Colorado National Guard Blackhawk helicopter pilot Rob Bingham is currently on assignment.”

SPORT: “VIDEO: Croatia National Team Asks Croatian Citizens to Stay Home” by Daniela Rogulj in Total Croatia News

SPORT: “Sofija Milosevic is the Serbian model who Real Madrid star Luka Jovic risked jail for when he broke quarantine” by Jon Boon in The Sun (UK)