WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

CORONAVIRUS – BiH: The EU will provide EUR 68 million in aid (28m for healthcare, 40m in economic aid) to Bosnia, according to BiH Presidency Chairman Sefik Dzaferovic. Bosnia and Herzegovina has closed the airports in Sarajevo, Mostar, Banja Luka, and Tuzla due to the coronavirus outbreak. The number of confirmed cases rises to 166 including the third confirmed death in Bosnia and Herzegovina.CORONAVIRUS – CROATIA: Croatia bans travel to the country from non-EU countries and limited access to the country for some EU citizens. The famous Lazerratos, located just outside of Dubrovnik’s walls, have become quarantine facilities for the coronavirus. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases rises by 21% from Monday for a total of 382 in Croatia.

CORONAVIRUS – KOSOVO: The number of confirmed coronavirus cases jumps by 2 for a total of 63 in Kosovo.

CORONAVIRUS – N. MACEDONIA: The EU will provide EUR 69 million in coronavirus aid. FM Nikola Dimitrov said, “Of this, 4m euros are for emergency support of the health system, around 50m euros for economic assistance, 12m euros for the private sector, and 3m euros as direct budget support.” Sixty-three Macedonian citizens returned from Montenegro on Tuesday and will be quarantined. There are 12 new confirmed cases of coronavirus for a total of 148 in N. Macedonia.

CORONAVIRUS – MONTENEGRO: Montenegro takes steps to limit the spread of coronavirus including: no international arrivals with a few exceptions, no long distance intercity travel, no gatherings of more than two people, and limited working hours of kiosks with regulations of employees.. The number of confirmed cases rises to 47, up 18 from yesterday.

CORONAVIRUS – SERBIA: More than 400 Serbians are set to return from Slovenia today. FM Ivica Dacic says a plane brought Serbians back from Russia and two more are expected – one from Paris and Doha. The number of confirmed cases rises to 303 after 54 new cases on Tuesday.

CORONAVIRUS – SLOVENIA: Slovenia is set to provide $2.17 billion to stem the economic impact of coronavirus. Slovenia will set up health checks on its Austrian border starting today. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases jumps to 480 in Slovenia with 38 new cases.

OPENING ACCESSION TALKS: “European Union ministers say they have approved beginning membership talks with North Macedonia and Albania, with a top German official calling it ‘good news in these gloomy times.’ ‘Congrats to Tirana+Skopje, it’s well deserved,’ Michael Roth, Germany’s state secretary for European affairs, wrote on Twitter on March 24, after the agreement was reached during a videoconference. The agreement must still be confirmed and approved in written form. That is expected to happen on March 25, although conditions posed by the coronavirus could delay that move.” (RFE/RL)

KOSOVO NO CONFIDENCE MOTION: Kosovo will vote today at 11:00 AM (Central European Time) on no confidence in the Albin Kurti (Vetvendosje) government after a motion was filed by junior coalition partner the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) last week. Take a look at who backs the no confidence motion and how the numbers add up here.

US, EUROPEAN ALLIES NOT ON THE SAME PAGE: After the QUINT embassies (U.S., UK, Germany, France, and Italy) released a statement encouraging all the  “all institutional and political leaders to focus on COVID-19 respecting the provisions of the Constitution and the powers that are granted to them,” the U.S. and its allies, France and Germany, have differing opinions on today’s parliamentary session where MPs will vote on a no confidence motion. The U.S. is “Pleased to see the Assembly will hold a session on the no-confidence” while Germany and France wrote “Kosovo needs a stable and fully functioning government to deal with this crisis. Therefore, we urge that the vote of no-confidence in the Government be reconsidered or postponed.”

OSCE CONDEMNS ATTACK ON JOURNALISTS: The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has condemned an attack on Gazeta Blic journalists in North Mitrovica, Kosovo.

SERBIAN IT SECTOR HIT BY TAXES: ” The Serbian IT sector is in uproar over new tax regulations came into effect on March 1, hitting those in the IT community who perform their work as self-employed independent contractors hard. This form of work, known in Serbian law as “flat tax entrepreneur” was a very popular way for companies and workers to structure their relationships as there were benefits, primarily lower taxes, for both sides. Proponents of the changes are saying the new measures were necessary to weed out so-called hidden employment. This refers to a practice in which people who are essentially employees (because they work for one company and the company sets all the terms of how they perform their work) are reported by the companies as outside contractors or vendors.” (Emerging Europe)


IN OTHER NEWS

OP-ED: “The Coronavirus Pandemic Lets China Score a Win in Serbia” by Milan Seghier in German Marshall Fund: “With seven million citizens and a public healthcare system that is ill prepared to face the Coronavirus public-health crisis, Serbia—as other countries—has taken drastic measures to limit the damage. But, in a press conference last week, President Aleksandar Vučić caught the attention of the rest of Europe with his vocal disavowal of the EU’s policies and appeal to China. He said: “I believe in Chinese help. The only country that can help us is China. To the others, thanks a lot for nothing.” Many observers were startled by this, coming from the government of a membership candidate. Reacting to the EU’s limits on exports of medical equipment to non-EU countries, Vučić called European solidarity a “fairytale” and appealed to President Xi Jinping—whom he called his Chinese “friend” and “brother”—for any help China could provide, including medical personnel. China flew in six doctors and donated medical masks as well as ventilators, with Vučić personally welcoming the planes flying them, alongside the Chinese ambassador to Serbia.”

OP-ED: “The European Union’s Foreign Policy Towards Balkan Countries ” by Zakir Ullah in Eurasia Review

OP-ED: “The ‘father figures’ of Kosovo politics” by Shqipe Gjocaj in Prishtina Insight

HUMAN INTEREST: “Telling women’s stories through animation: the 1999 NATO bombing” by Rina Krasniqi in Prishtina Insight

HUMAN INTEREST: “Interesting Story about Uncle Miso, the last Shoeshiner in the City of Sarajevo” in Sarajevo Times

SPORT: “NBA player Bojan Bogdanovic donates $50,000 to Mostar hospital” in N1