WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

MONTENEGRIN GOV’T RESPONDS TO GENOCIDE DENIAL: The Government of Montenegro on Monday said it accepted the Montenegrin Parliament decision in 2019 to accept the European Parliament resolution that condemned the Srebrenica Genocide.
  • This happened after Montenegrin Justice Minister Vladimir Leposavić said he would recognize the genocide only if “it gets proven unequivocally.” Leposavić’s statements were condemned by ambassadors and embassies throughout Podgorica, President Milo Djukanović, and the Montenegrin Orthodox Church.
  • The Government of Montenegro’s statement says, “The Government of Montenegro does not want and cannot change the international court decision nor call some nations genocidal and other sacred because that would go against the principle that every crime is individual and has its own perpetrators and, unfortunately, direct victims, and that individuals should always be held responsible for those crimes.”

ITALIAN FM VISITS MONTENEGRO: Italian FM Luigi Di Maio yesterday met with counterpart Djordje Radulović, PM Zdravko KrivokapićSpeaker of Parliament Aleksa Bečić, and Deputy PM Dritan Abazović in Podgorica. The discussions were centered around Covid-19 relief and vaccination in the Western Balkans, the fight against crime and corruption, and Montenegro’s continuation of foreign policy from the previous government including bolstering cooperation with NATO and the path to European integration.

N. MACEDONIA’S LEADERS MEET: PM Zoran Zaev and opposition leader Hristijan Mickokski met yesterday and came to agreements on the census and local elections. They have agreed to postpone the census for five months so the population can get vaccinated. N. Macedonia has not held a census since 2002. In addition, they agreed to move local elections from early to late October.

SERB LIST FILES COMPLAINT TO HIGHEST COURT: The Serb List filed a complaint to Kosovo’s Constitutional Court for receiving only one minister instead of the usual two. The Belgrade-backed party claims the Kurti government “has been violating the constitution since day one.”
  • What does the Constitution say? – According to Article 96 of the Kosovo Constitution, “There shall be at least one minister from the Kosovo Serb community and one minister from another Kosovo non-majority community. If there are more than twelve ministers, the government shall have a third minister representing a Kosovo non-majority community.”
  • Kurti’s new government has fifteen ministers including the Serb List’s Goran Rakić who was appointed as Minister for Returns and Communities.
  • Kurti’s spokesperson Përparim Kryeziu told BIRN that “We are convinced that we fully respected the constitution when the government was elected on March 22 and that non-majority communities are represented in accordance with the constitution.”
U.S. AMBASSADOR MEETS KOSOVO’S PM, ACTING PRESIDENT: U.S. Ambassador to Kosovo Philip Kosnett met with PM Albin Kurti and Speaker of Parliament and Acting President Glauk Konjufca yesterday.
  • Amb. Kosnett congratulated PM Kurti and and said he should focus on consolidating institutions after the February 14 elections.
  • In his conversation with acting President and Speaker Konjufca, Amb. Kosnett “stressed the importance of electing the President of the country, thus concluding the constitution of institutions after the 14 February elections. He also stressed the need for a constructive role of all political parties in the country throughout this process, by placing the state interest before the political party one,” according to Konjufca’s office.
MEANWHILE IN ALBANIA…: U.S. Ambassador Yuri Kim met with EU Ambassador Luigi Soreca and Head of the OSCE/ODIHR in Albania Ambassador Urszula Gacek to discuss preparations for the upcoming April 25 elections.
LOCAL ELECTIONS IN SERBIA: The ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) yesterday won the local elections in Zaječar and Kosjerić but with a significant loss of support since last years parliamentary elections including up to 20 percent in one of them.
  • Meanwhile, local elections in the ethnic Albanian dominated town of Preševo left citizens without a clear winner. Out of thirty-eight possible seats, Alternative for Changes won fourteen seats, the Democratic Party of Albanians won nine seats, the Party of Democratic Action won seven seats, the Movement for Reform won five seats, the Democratic Union of Albanians won one seat, and a coalition of Serb parties For the Future of Preševo won two seats.

SATTLER ON BiH ELECTION LAW: The Head of the Delegation of the EU to BiH, Ambassador Johann Sattler, yesterday urged political leaders to use the non-election year to tackle reforms to electoral law citing it as one of the fourteen priorities for BiH outlined by the European Commission. He joins U.S. Ambassador to BiH Eric Nelson and Head of the OSCE Mission to BiH Ambassador Kathleen Kavalec in calls to electoral reform that allow all citizens to participate in elections and technical changes to make the country’s electoral law more aligned with EU standards.

DIMITROV IN BERLIN: Deputy PM for European Affairs of N. Macedonia Nikola Dimitrov yesterday met with German MP Michael Roth upon arrival in Berlin after recovering from Covid-19. MP Roth called for N. Macedonia to immediately open accession talks with the EU while Deputy PM Dimitrov said any delay in starting accession talks would result in distrust in the EU by N. Macedonia and throughout the Western Balkans.

  • MP Roth tweeted, “Discussing the European future of North Macedonia and the Western Balkans. It’s time to put accession back on the agenda! Also, cooperation on vaccinations is required.”

CROATIAN SUPREME COURT STALEMATE: “Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Monday said that the President had stepped out of his constitutional authority, describing Zoran Milanović’s statements in the context of the selection of the head of the Supreme Court as unacceptable political barbarity.”Plenković underscored that “the salvo of insults towards everyone” was not normal. ‘The media and society are almost getting used to this as if it were something normal and as if it were some sort of trading shots, a fierce reaction, a continuation of something – it isn’t.'” (Total Croatia News)

INTER-PARTY DIALOGUE TO CONTINUE: Slovak MEP and European Parliament Rapporteur for Serbia Vladimír Bilčík yesterday said the inter-party dialogue will start in April to ensure all political parties participate in 2022 elections.

  • MEP Bilčík said, “As soon as it becomes possible after the vaccination speeds up and we can travel, we’ll be in Belgrade. A final phase to reach an agreement will be held as soon as possible, hopefully in summer or early autumn. That is very important to leave enough time before the kick-off of the election campaign.”
  • “I believe that all politicians in Serbia take the dialogue seriously. I hope those who did not participate in the last elections would use the possibility to involve in the country’s politics through democratic institutions actively. Besides, those in power have a responsibility to improve the situation for a political competition in Serbia,” added the Slovak.

BASHKIM FINO PASSES AWAY: “Bashkim Fino, who was appointed to shepherd Albania out of almost total chaos when fraudulent investment schemes collapsed 24 years ago and angry crowds looted military installations nationwide, has died. He was 58.”The former prime minister’s family and his governing Socialist party said Fino died Monday in a hospital, where he had been treated for several days after contracting COVID-19.

“The government declared Monday a day of national mourning, with flags flying at half-staff.

“Fino was a trained economist and former mayor of Gjirokastra, 230 kilometers (140 miles) south of the capital, Tirana. He was appointed in 1997 by Albania’s president to lead a government of national unity.” (AP News)

OWNER OF TELENOR SERBIA DIES: Petr Kellner, the owner of the PPF Group which owns Telenor Serbia, died in a helicopter accident near Anchorage Alaksa. The Czech billionaire is worth an estimated $17 billion and the PPF Group controls $52 billion in assets. He is survived by his wife and four children.

CITY RELATIONS – BELGRADE + BRUSSELS: The cities of Belgrade and Brussels signed a Memorandum of Understanding to increase cooperation in culture, public administration, education and other fields that the two cities deem important, according to Deputy Mayor of Belgrade Goran Vesić who was a signatory. Vesić added that a street would be renamed after the Belgian capital since Brussels has had a Belgrade street for decades.

IN OTHER NEWS
REPORT: “Authoritarian Shades of Gray” (summary) by Miroslawa Sawiris in Transitions OnlineRead the full report, Between Democracy and Authoritarianism in Central & Eastern Europe and the Western Balkans by GlobalSec, HERE.

REPORT: “Wind and Solar Can Improve Energy Security and Independence in Albania” (summary) by the International Renewable Energy Agency

Read the full report, Renewable Readiness Assessment: Albania, HERE.

OP-ED: “A Patriarchal Mentality Is Killing Kosovo’s Women” by Die Morina van Uijtreg in Exit.al

TRAVEL: “Why you should explore the Balkans once travel opens up” by Márcia Neves in Kiwi