WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

REST IN PEACE: We would like to offer our condolences to the friends and family of Neven Stanišić, a 23 year old refugee from Bosnia and Herzegovina who who was a victim of the shooting in Boulder, CO on Monday.

NATO MINISTERIAL:

  • Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg highlighted the importance of NATO 2030 and the role in Afghanistan on the first day of the two-day meeting of NATO foreign ministers.
  • He said, “Ministers have had a very positive discussion on our NATO 2030 initiative. This is all about how NATO can continue to adapt to a rapidly changing security environment, with rising threats and systemic competition, major shifts in the global balance of power and increasing challenges to the rules based international order.”
  • And on Afghanistan added, “Ministers emphasized their full support to all efforts to reinvigorate the peace process, because a negotiated solution is the only way to achieve a sustainable peace, which prevents Afghanistan from again becoming a platform for international terrorism. We will continue to consult very closely in the days and weeks to come, and we continue to decide and act together, as Allies.”
  • Read his full statement HERE.
  • Croatian FM Gordan Grlić-Radman caught up with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to talk about the Three Seas Initiative, the LNG terminal on Krk, and the region.
  • Montenegrin FM Djordje Radulović met with U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Italian FM Luigi di Mayo, German FM Heike Massa, Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok and Dutch counterpart Ivan Korčok on the sidelines of the ministerial, according to the Montenegro’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
  • FM of N. Macedonia Bujar Osmani met with Slovenian counterpart Anže Logar ahead of the NATO ministerial to discuss N. Macedonia’s EU path.
  • He also had a quick chat with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
  • While at the ministerial, FM Anźe Logar took the opportunity to slam China’s new sanctions against the EU including a Slovenian member of the EU team.

QUINT ON KOSOVO’S ELECTIONS: The QUINT Embassies (France, Germany, Italy, the UK, and U.S.) released a statement congratulating the new government and urging “all political parties to play a responsible role” in the new government. The statement highlighted the first task at hand for the new government is to elect a new President of Kosovo.

LAJČÁK WITH MEPs, GERMANS: Over the past two days EU Special Representative to the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue Miroslav Lajčák met with MEPs to discuss the Dialogue and issues pertaining to the region, Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel’s senior and foreign security adviser Jan Hecker to inform him about his recent trip to the region, and German MP Peter Beyer to discuss next steps in the Dialogue. In addition, he met with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth.

KOMŠIĆ + NELSON: Bosnian Croat Member of the Presidency Željko Komšić spoke with U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina Eric Nelson via Zoom about the implementation of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) rulings, electoral reform, and Bosnia’s NATO path.

  • The ECHR rulings include the Sejdić-Finci case which says that any person, regardless of ethnicity, should be able to run for the presidency. According to the current model, a person must be registered to one of the three ethnic constituents – Bosniak, Croat, or Serb – which has left “others” outside of the political playing field. The case was initiated by a Jewish and Roma person whose aim was to ensure any person could run for the highest office.

RUSSIA REACHES OUT TO TOP LEADERS IN BiH OVER NATO COMMENTS: The Russian Embassy sent “corresponding explantations” to Bosnian Croat Member of the Presidency Željko Komšić, FM Bisera Turković, and the press service of the Democratic Action Party (SDA) after backlash from its recent press statement that said Russia will “have to react” the BiH enhancing its relations with NATO.

EU FMs TO DISCUSS WESTERN BALKANS: EU High Representative Josep Borrell announced that EU foreign ministers will hold a “comprehensive debate” on the region at their next meeting.

SERBIAN OPPOSITION FILES CHARGES AGAINST PRESIDENT: Serbian opposition leader Dragan Djilas filed criminal charges against Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and Finance minister Siniša Mali. Djilas accused said the duo “are involved in forging documents about my alleged companies and accounts on Mauritius, in Hong Kong and who know which other destinations.”

SLOVENIANS WANT ACCESS TO CROATIA: Slovenians that own property in Croatia are calling for unrestricted cross-border access amidst the Covid pandemic.

  • A Facebook page that has 2,000 members wrote, “Restricting people’s access to their own properties in a neighboring country, which is also a member of the EU, is unacceptable. Under the law, property owners are not in the same category as tourists. The point is that property ownership entails many obligations while, on the other hand, they also come with some  rights. We have to do maintenance on our properties and vehicles, pay local taxes, contributions, and fees – but we are unable to access any of them”

TURKEY + MONTENEGRO: Turkey donated nearly 40,000 euros worth of automatic weapons to the Armed Forces of Montenegro.

KOSOVO JAILS TWO FOR WAR CRIMES: “A Kosovo court on Tuesday jailed a Serb former police officer and an Albanian policeman convicted of murder and other war crimes during the 1998-1999 war in the former Serbian province.”The Pristina court sentenced the Serb defendant, only identified as Z.K., to 14.5 years’ imprisonment and the Albanian identified as D.Sh. to seven years’ imprisonment. Both were arrested in Kosovo in 2019.

“The verdict said that in March 1999 Z.K. was part of Serb police forces who together with paramilitaries and army troops went to the Nerodime e Eperme village, 46 kilometers (30 miles) south of the capital Pristina, and burned down the house of a 19-member family. Four family members were taken away, tortured and killed. The court fund that the Serb forces tried to conceal the crime by ‘throwing the murdered bodies away.”” (AP News)

IN OTHER NEWS

OP-ED: “Western Balkans’ Plight is Wake-up Call for Europe” by Vedran Džihić and Paul Schmidt in Balkan InsightANALYSIS: “Kosovo Slow to Build Monuments to its Female Heroes” by Antigone Isufi in Balkan Insight

ANALYSIS: “Bosnia & Serbia: Why are the neighbours worlds apart on COVID vaccines?” by Nevena Kostadinović Manojlović and Slaven Dimitrić in Euronews

ANALYSIS: “NATO, US to stage large-scale military exercises around Serbia until summer” in Euraktiv

ANALYSIS: “Waste Trafficking: A Dirty Italian Affair Poisons The Balkans” in World Crunch