WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

TWENTY-TWO YEARS SINCE NATO BOMBING COMMENCED: NATO’s bombing campaign against the remnants of Yugoslavia commenced twenty-two years ago yesterday.

  • Kosovo’s Acting President Glauk Konjufca met with NATO Major General Franco Federici yesterday on the occasion. A press statement from the Office of the Presidency of Kosovo says, “Whereas Mr. Konjufca mentioned March 24, 1999, when the intervention of the NATO forces saved the Kosovo Albanians from extermination by the genocidal regime of Serbia. On the 22nd anniversary of the bombing of Serbian army and police targets in Kosovo, Acting President Konjufca thanked Commander Federici for the contribution of the Italian state, of the NATO forces, but also those of KFOR, which helped for the freedom of Kosovo and are helping further in terms of security.”
  • Kosovo PM Albin Kurti wrote on Twitter, “On 24 March 1999, after months of living in terror, it was the first time we enjoyed the roar of #NATO planes crashing across the sky, marking the dawn of liberation. We celebrate today the victory of the force of human conscience over the violence of Serbian chauvinism.”
  • Kurti and government ministers visited Prekaz, the site where Serb forces killed one of the Kosovo Liberation Army’s founders, Adem Jashari, and fifty members of his extended family.
  • The Atlantic Association, a veterans of the Kosovo War diaspora group based out of New York, called on U.S. President Joe Biden to support moving the Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Special Prosecutors Office from The Hague in Holland to Kosovo.
  • Meanwhile, Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vučić did not mince his words in a speech on the topic. He said, “And that is why today we will not bid on the naming of everything that happened during the spring of 1999. Because a crime happened. And an aggression happened. An attack on a sovereign country without a UN decision, without a sufficient reason that would be an attack by the then Yugoslavia on a neighboring or NATO country. We never attacked them. They attacked us, with a clear goal. To defeat us, to kill us, and to take away a part of our territory.”
  • And Montenegro’s PM Zdravko Krivokapić wrote on Twitter, “Today, we remember our victims with sadness and most sincerely share the pain with the families who were in the NATO bombing of the FRY (Former Yugoslavia) 22 years ago lost their loved ones. As a parent, as a man, as a prime minister and as a citizen who is ‘hurt by all the wounds of my family,’ I bow before the innocent victims.”
  • And Russia’s state-backed news outlet TASS chimed in on the NATO bombings. The outlet quoted a Russian Embassy in Serbia statement that says, “On March 24, 1999, in defiance of fundamental principles of international law, the armed aggression against Yugoslavia began. Around 2,000 civilians died during the 78 days of barbaric bombings which were cynically presented as ‘humanitarian intervention’”
  • It continued, “The architecture of peace and security in Europe and international stability sustained enormous damage. The joint efforts of Moscow and Belgrade in June 1999 stopped the air attacks of NATO, while the situation in Kosovo and Metohija returned to the political and diplomatic track.”

NATO MINISTERIAL DAY 2: The second day of meetings of NATO’s foreign ministers joined by EU High Representative Josep Borrell and representatives from Finland and Sweden to discuss Russia and arms control.

  • NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg underscored, “Despite years of pressure and efforts to engage in a meaningful dialogue, Russia has increased its pattern of repressive behavior at home and aggressive behavior abroad.”
  • He pinpointed countries and regions that Russia interferes in including “Ukraine, Georgia, and the Republic of Moldova. It (Russia) supports the crackdown on Belarus, and tries to interfere in the Western Balkans region.”
  • Montenegrin FM Djordje Radulović reaffirmed Podgorica’s commitment to NATO and supported its dual approach towards Moscow – (1) deterrence and defense and (2) dialogue.
  • FM of N. Macedonia called for greater cooperation between NATO and the Western Balkans.

KURTI’S FOUR PRINCIPLES FOR THE DIALOGUE: Kosovo PM Albin Kurti outlined his four principles in the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue. They include:

  • (1) Independence is irrevocable. Kurti said, “We can not go back on independence. If that were possible, we would ask for more. Independence was a compromise and was not declared last year, but 13 years ago.”
  • (2) Serbia must recognize crimes committed during the war. The new PM said, “We cannot sit at the negotiating table forgetting and flattening history. Serbia must acknowledge the crimes it has committed in Kosovo, and its government must distance itself from them.”
  • (3) The two sides must be equals at the table. “We can not talk as unequal parties. Kosovo has been more of a subject of the dialogue than a party to the dialogue, and that needs to change,” said Kurti.
  • (4) The results must benefit the citizens. He said “it is citizens who benefit from future talks, not political leaders.”

KOSOVO MINISTER CALLED TO RESIGN: A senior official in the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) has called for Minister of Environment and Spatial Planning, Liburn Aliu to be sacked after he was indicted on misuse of official duty charges . Aliu became a minister in Albin Kurti’s government on March 22.

SLOVENIA ADOPTS FIVE-YEAR EU PLAN: “The declaration on Slovenia’s activities in EU institutions in 2021-2024 was confirmed in the National Assembly on Tuesday in a 45:32 vote that came after a debate that saw the opposition parties criticise the document for being too generalised and long-term.”The declaration was presented by Prime Minister Janez Janša, who said that improving the resilience of the EU to crises, green transition and the rule of law were the main topics.” (Slovenia Times)

KRIVOKAPIĆ TO MOSCOW: Montenegrin PM Zdravko Krivokapić will attend the May 9 celebrations in Moscow, according to a member on Montenegro’s team to procure vaccines from Russia, Sergej Boljević. Just las year Krivokapić called for the May 9 to not be celebrated anymore.

CROATIA LEADERSHIP VACCINATED: Croatian PM Andrej Plenković, Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković, and Health Minister Vili Beroš were vaccinated yesterday with AstraZeneca. Just last week the EU was looking at whether AstraZeneca caused blood clots.

SPEAKING OF ASTRAZENECA…: Slovenia plans to inoculate all adults by July and begin inoculating the elderly with the AstraZeneca vaccine.

BOGIĆEVIĆ WITHDRAWS CANDIDACY FOR SARAJEVO MAYOR: Popular politician Bogić Bogićević has rescinded his candidacy to become Sarajevo’s next mayor over concerns with coalitions. He wrote, “It has obviously become a stumbling block in the coalition relations of the Four, which showed evident disunity at today’s session of the Sarajevo City Council, on that occasion. That disunity is a kind of message that I am not a desirable candidate for the mentioned responsible position within the Four.”

U.S. DONATES HUMVEES TO ALBANIA: “The United States has provided 29 new Humvees to bolster Albania’s military capabilities ahead of military exercises in southeastern Europe, the Balkan nation’s Defense Ministry said Wednesday.”U.S. Ambassador Yuri Kim said the vehicles were part of a ‘priority project for the United States – to assist in the transition of Albania’s 2nd infantry battalion from a light infantry battle group to a motorized infantry battle group'” (AP News)

RIMAC OPENS UP IN ENGLAND: “Electric car maker Rimac Automobili opened an R&D office in the UK, company owner Mate Rimac on Tuesday during a visit by the UK Minister of State for Trade Policy, Greg Hands, to the company’s headquarters in the town of Sveta Nedelja outside Zagreb.

“The R&D office, located in the Warwick Enterprise Park some 20 kilometers south of Coventry, is expected to hire some 30 people by the end of the year and is intended to work with the UK automobile industry as well as the company headquarters in Croatia.” (N1)

IN OTHER NEWS
REPORT: “The Institution of Additional Judges as a Potential Threat to Judicial Independence in Bosnia and Herzegovina” by the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and HerzegovinaOP-ED: “U.S. Should Encourage Albania’s Transition to Free Market Economy” by Anthony Kim and Tim Doescher in Heritage Foundation

ANALYSIS: “Montenegro’s Relations With Serbia Remain Uneven Despite Political Changes” by Samir Kajosević and Milica Stojanović in Balkan Insight

ANALYSIS: “Is the EU asking too much of Bosnia and Herzegovina?” by Nikola Djordjević in Emerging Europe

CULTURE: “Skopje mayor eyes destroying ‘Porta Makedonija’” in The Macedonia Times

WORLD CUP QUALIFYING RESULTS: Bosnia draws Finland 2-2. Montenegro beats Latvia 2-1. Serbia beats Ireland 3-2. Slovenia tops neighbors Croatia 1-0.

SPORT: Kosovo beat Lithuania 4-0 in a friendly soccer match. But Kosovo removed Man City goalkeeper Arijanet Murić from the squad after being “massively drunk.” The 22 year old Murić is currently on loan to Dutch side Willem II.

ENTERTAINMENT: “Animation Filmmakers Face COVID Effects from Baltics to Balkans” in Film New Europe