WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

BANDIĆ COMMEMORATION: A commemoration was held yesterday at the Croatian National Theater in Zagreb for longtime Mayor of Zagreb Milan Bandić who unexpectedly passed away on Sunday. Friends and associates spoke of how Bandić’s energy transformed Zagreb into a modern city for generations to come. There will be a farewell ceremony at the Mirogoj Cemetery tomorrow which is also a Day of Mourning in Zagreb.

LAJČÁK IN KOSOVO, DAY 2: On the second day of his visit to Kosovo, EUSR to the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue Miroslav Lajčák met with Acting President Vjosa Osmani, Acting PM Avdullah Hoti, leaders of political parties, and women in politics to discuss the current political situation in Kosovo and support for the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue.

  • Acting President Vjosa Osmani underscored the dialogue should be focused on mutual recognition without changes to the borders. She said, “We have to be sure that we keep to the mandate from parliament, the red lines it sets. No negotiations on the borders of Kosovo are allowed. There is no negotiation on the status of Kosovo, we expect it to end in recognition.”
  • EUSR Lajčák noted that after discussions with likely next PM Albin Kurti and Osmani that the dialogue would continue.
  • Germany’s Director for the Western Balkans at the German Foreign Office Susanne Schütz praised Lajčák’s commitment to the Dialogue. She wrote on Twitter, “Highly appreciate EUSR Lajcak’s 🇪🇺efforts regarding Kosovo-Serbia dialogue. Important that both sides engage fully and in good faith.”

PALMER AND LAJČÁK ON THE DIALOGUE: EUSR Lajčák and U.S. DAS and Special Representative to the Western Balkans spoke with Koha TV for an extensive interview on the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue. The duo reaffirmed the strong cooperation between the U.S. and EU in the EU-led Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue. DAS Palmer and EUSR underscored the importance of conducting a transparent, open process with the public. They also highlighted that a final normalization agreement must be acceptable to governments and citizens of both countries and would create a clear path to joining the European Union. Watch the full interview HERE.

KOSOVO’S KURTI TRAVELS TO ALBANIA: Vetëvendosje’s Albin Kurti travelled to Lezha, Albania yesterday for a commemoration of the League of Lezha which was a group of prominent Albanians organized by Skanderbeg to fight against the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century.
  • While in Lezha, Kurti commented on the potential unification of Kosovo and Albania. He said, “Unfortunately, the Constitution of Kosovo contains a contradiction: while Article 1.1 says that Kosovo is an independent state, Article 1.3 prohibits us from joining another state. So, the independence of Kosovo does not constitutionally allow the unification with another independent state, but at the same time it is an obstacle to integration, such as the European one.”
  • But he noted, “Undoubtedly, Albania and Kosovo as states as institutions must be coordinated towards approximation, integration and union, above all in the key areas such as security, energy and natural resources, and foreign policy.”
SPEAKING OF KURTI…: Former U.S. Special Representative to the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue under the Trump Administration Richard Grenell slammed the likely next PM of Kosovo Albin Kurti over the potential for Kosovo to open the Embassy in Israel in a city other than Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Embassy was a point in the Washington Agreement negotiated by Grenell.
  • Grenell tweeted, “The Left wing anti-American new leader of Kosovo Albin Kurti has been against US policies suggested by Bill Clinton, George Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump. He’s always the anti-American.” Grenell called on President Joe Biden’s National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, to stop this.
  • He continued his tirade against Kurti by writing “he restored to terrorism” by stopping a parliament session with tear gas in protest to the border demarcation with Montenegro.
VUČIĆ IN SARAJEVO: Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić yesterday delivered 5,000 AstraZeneca vaccines to the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina entity on a trip to Sarajevo.
  • Addressing reporters, Vučić slammed the EU’s Covax system. He said, “Thanks, whenever they arrive in Serbia. I can only say I don’t care, we worked without that.”
  • He added, “We are doing the normal thing as neighbors and friends… We are not asking for anything anymore, not even gratitude and imagine the dose of arrogance in that claim that when the EU donates something it’s solidarity and a good thing and when we do it is domination. How sick is that.”
  • “I am sick and tired of empty claims that when someone does something it’s wonderful and when you do something it’s no good… We hoped for vaccine from the EU, we didn’t get any,” concluded Vučić.
Meeting the tripartite presidency: While in Sarajevo, the Serbian President met with Bosnia’s tripartite presidency members who expressed gratitude for Serbia’s donation of vaccines and discussed creating greater trust between the two countries.
  • “If only one of these 5,000 vaccines, or potentially 10,000, saves a life to someone in BiH, then it is worth it,” said Bosnian Croat Member of the Presidency Željko Komšić.
  • Chairman and Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik welcomed Vučić’s idea of a BiH-Serbia Summit. He said, “We accepted it and will formalize that idea. This is how we will reach a solution to improve the relations between BiH and Serbia, and all those having an interest in coming to the Serbian market.”
  • Bosniak Member of the Presidency Šefik Džaferović concluded, “We must start relaxing the relations, people are leaving both BiH and Serbia, they are leaving for well-organised systems, to the West. It is about time to open our dialogue based on these principles. No more tensions, no more empty talks, BiH is an integral country and we will build it in the interest of all its peoples and citizens.”
  • Vučić also spoke of trust and solidarity between the two countries. He said, “We need each other the most because we live next to each other and we have no one else to rely on. Because today, when we expected the help of much more powerful countries, we are relying on each other, because we in Serbia cannot be happy if people in Sarajevo, Banja Luka, Tuzla, Bijeljina are not happy too.”

GERMANY + ALBANIA: FM Olta Xhaçka spoke on the phone with German counterpart Heiko Maas yesterday. The two interlocutors discussed “German support for the first IGC (Intergovernmental Conference). Elections of April 25th, a new momentum for integration reforms,” according to FM Xhaçka. She also noted, “Justice reform unstoppable!”

BULGARIANS IN N. MACEDONIA: The President and PM of N. Macedonia, Stevo Pendarovski and Zoran Zaev, rebuked Bulgarian President assertion that Bulgarians are being unfairly targeted as a minority group in N. Macedonia. President Pendarovski highlighted, “It is highly unusual for a NATO member country to call on its security service to react to an alleged violation of rights of another NATO member state’s citizens.”

CROATIA’S NEXT SUPREME COURT PRESIDENT?: “Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Tuesday that he had not yet spoken with the President of the Republic about the selection of the Supreme Court President, underscoring that his solution was based on respecting the Constitution, law and the institute of a public selection procedure.”Responding to questions from the press, Plenković said that he had not yet spoken  with President Zoran Milanović after Milanović said that he would not support any of the three candidates that applied for the position of Supreme Court President but that he would nominate his candidate and let parliament decide.

“Plenković said on Monday that he had a scenario that would be good for everyone and that he would consult with the ruling majority. ‘We can also consult with the President of the Republic to reach a solution,’ he added.” (Total Croatia News)

HUNGARIAN ECONOMIC SUPPORT: The Hungarian Government announced it has allocated 25 million euros for companies investing more than 80 million euros in Serbia.

CORRUPTION IN ALBANIA: The Special Prosecution Against Corruption (SPAK) in Albania announced it will charge three officials from the Ministry of Defense and the head of the State Reserves for rigging food purchases during the Covid-19 pandemic to to the tune of 1.19 million euros.

WILSON CENTER’S DEBATE SERIES ON DAYTON: The Wilson Center published a debate series that features the authors of the Fixing Dayton: A New Deal for Bosnia and Herzegovina report and Dr. Robert Hayden from the University of Pittsburgh debate how Bosnia and Herzegovina’s three constituent peoples currently vote and potential issues that could arise from having a more civic system. Read the debate series titled Whither Bosnia?.

IN OTHER NEWS

REPORT: “The Serbia-Kosovo Dialogue: Ripe for Resolution?” by Dr. Leon Hartwell for the Center for European Policy AnalysisOP-ED: “Bosnia’s Incompetent Leaders are Literally Causing Deaths” by Jasmin Mujanović in Balkan Insight

OP-ED: “Protected on Paper, Montenegro’s Heritage Sites are Threatened by Neglect” by Samir Kajosević in Balkan Insight

ANALYSIS: “Great power politics in Bosnia: How Berlin can stabilise a dysfunctional state” by Majda Ruge in ECFR

ANALYSIS: “BIRN Fact-Check: Will North Macedonia’s Census Result Affect Albanian Rights?” by Siniša Jakov Marušić in Balkan Insight

ANALYSIS: “Twenty years on, the disappeared still cast shadows in northern Kosovo ” by Orlando Crowcroft, Andjelka Chup, and Dragana Savić in Euronews

HUMAN INTEREST: “Twin Falls Police Officer receives Letter of Commendation” by Alex Grant in Idaho News 6 :”Police Officer Medina Alajbegovic moved to Twin Falls at the age of seven from Bosnia and is now serving the community that welcomed her and her family with open arms. Just this past week she received her Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Intermediate Certificate as well as a Letter of Commendation from Chief Craig Kingsbury in regards to an incident that happened in 2019 involving a disabled, elderly man.”

CULTURE: “Montenegro to protect wines with smart tags in pilot study” in bne IntelliNews

TRAVEL: “Five Cool Spots Spotted by Sarajevo Locals” in The Sarajevo Times