WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

VUCIC AND THACI MEET AT THE WHITE HOUSE: Kosovo’s president, Hashim Thaci, and Serbia’s president, Aleksandar Vucic, yesterday met at the White House with Presidential Special Envoy to the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue Richard Grenell and National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien to discuss ways to reach a final agreement. Thaci told RFE/RL in a phone interview that it was “a goodwill meeting, a message of peace sent to Kosovo, Serbia, and the Western Balkans.”

VUCIC AROUND WASHINGTON: Serbia’s Vucic on Monday met with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist, and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX). U.S. Ambassador to Serbia Anthony Godfrey accompanied Vucic to meetings at the State Department and Pentagon.

KURTI WRITES TO TRUMP AND POMPEO: Kosovo PM Albin Kurti wrote letters to U.S. President Donal Trump and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo outlining his goals as Kosovo PM which include to “fight corruption and organized crime” and “economic growth, expanding investment, and creating new jobs.” Additionally, Kurti pledged to “take full and exclusive charge in leading this process (the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue and representing Kosovo at the highest diplomatic level.”

MEANWHILE IN PRISTINA: The Kosovo Parliament debated the lifting of the 100% tariffs. Former PM Ramush Haradinaj’s party (AAK) remained steadfast in wanting to keep the tariffs while President Hashim Thaci’s former party (PDK) argued that the relationship with the US and EU is more important than the tariffs, though they are justified. PM Albin Kurti’s Vetvendosje faces a challenge by coalition partner LDK called for the tariffs to be revoked “without any reservation, with full confidence and conviction.”

EUROPEAN AMBITIONS: The European Commission released a report on on “progress made by Albania and North Macedonia” on judiciary, fight against corruption and public administration reform. The Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi wrote on Twitter, “The (European Commission) stands firmly by its recommendations to open accession negotiations with Albania & North Macedonia and I hope that the Member States will take a positive decision in the coming weeks.”

CROATIA + AUSTRIA: Croatian President Zoran Milanovic travelled to Vienna to meet counterpart Alexander Van der Bellen. The two discussed the migrant issue and expressed optimism the EU is ready for the incoming flux of migrants after Turkey began allowing migrants to enter Greece.

SPEAKING OF THE MIGRANT CRISIS: Turkey opened its doors and the flow of migrants trying to get to Western Europe through the Balkans is a possibility again. Croatian Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic says Croatia will not send the army to its borders. Reminder – Croatia is an EU member, but is not a member of the Schengen Area. Bosnia’s Security Minister Fahrudin Radoncic is pessimistic that his country can handle the influx of migrants. He said 5,000 would be a lot and BiH couldn’t manage 10,000 migrants.

MIGRANTS CON’T: European Union (EU) and the Western Balkans must act together to find a solution to the migrant issue, which the region is likely to face now after Turkey opened its borders allowing the refugees a passage to Europe, the chief of the International Organisation for Migrations (IOM) in Bosnia Peter Van der Auweraert told N1 on Monday.” (N1)

MONTENEGRO AIMS TO IMPROVE MEDIA SCENE: Montenegrin PM Dusko Markovic and Deputy PM Zoran Pazin met with representatives of Montenegro’s media community including Vijesti and  Dnevni Novine. Markovic said, “The media is an important social actor and their place is indispensable in the European integration process led by our country. Therefore, the Government wants to pay even more attention to all aspects of cooperation.”

CROATIAN FM VISITS EU HOPEFULS: Croatian FM Gordan Grlic Radman on Monday visited EU hopefuls Albania and N. Macedonia. In N. Macedonia, he met with President of N. Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski and Deputy PM for European Affairs and chief negotiator to the EU Bujar Osmani. Grlic Radman told them Croatia supports their EU ambitions and he is looking forward to the Zagreb Summit in May. He sent a similar message to Albanian FM Gent Cakaj.

CORONAVIRUS IN SLOVENIA: Politics linger in Slovenia over testing of coronavirus after the outbreak in neighboring Italy and Slovenia. Outgoing PM Marjan Sarec noted, “It’s experts who are responsible for testing, with coordination running through the Health Ministry. If people want to get tested this should be available to them.” Two hundred tests have been conducted. The National Institute of Public Health director wants to focus on those who are already ill.

KOMERCIJALNA BANK SOLD: Serbia’s Komercijalna Bank was sold to Slovenia’s NLB for EUR 387.02 million for an 83.23% stake in the bank.

IN OTHER NEWS

ANALYSIS: “Kosovo’s new government includes most women since independence” by Valerie Plesch in Al Jazeera

HUMAN INTEREST: “Pearls in the Diaspora: Amela Ami Kazazovic, world-class graphic designer, writer and painter” by Ferhat Korajac in Oslobdjenje (in Bosnian)

TRAVEL: “Travel: How to spend 48 hours in the Slovenian city of Ljubljana” by Alice Hinds in The Sunday Post