WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

ICMYI: Check out our interview with Dr. Michael Carpenter on U.S. policy in the region, Grenell’s appointment as special envoy, NATO expansion, and disinformation. Carpenter served at the Pentagon as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense with responsibility for Russia, Ukraine, Eurasia, the Balkans, and Conventional Arms Control. In addition, he served in the White House as a foreign policy advisor to Vice President Joe Biden and on the National Security Council as Director for Russia.

CORONAVIRUS – BiH: The IMF will double its aid to BiH after the two entities agree on how to divide the assistance. N1 reports the leaders of the three main ethnic parties came to an agreement on Sunday. Croatia is set to provide 5.6 million euro in financial assistance to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Russian aid arrived in Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity, Republika Srpska.Chinese Ambassador to Bosnia Ji Pang presided over the delivery of six ventilators and 58,000 medical masks to Minister of Civil Affairs Ankica Gudeljevic. Chinese President Xi Jingping wrote to Bosnian Presidency Chairman Sefik Dzaferovic saying China is “ready to continue helping Bosnia, within our capacity, and to exchange experiences and practices on prevention, control and diagnosis as well as on the treatment.” By the numbers: 1,004 confirmed cases, 39 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – CROATIA: The Hungarian government donated medical equipment to the hospital in Osijek. In Zagreb, 60 tons on a direct flight from Shanghai were met by Health Minister Vili Beros and Chinese Ambassador Erwen Xu. The shipment included masks, coveralls, goggles, gloves and thermometers. By the numbers: 1,600 confirmed cases, 23 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – KOSOVO: The IMF approved a 51.6 million euro loan to Kosovo to combat COVID-19. Kosovo’s capital, Pristina, and the Ferizaj/Urosevac municipality are under a complete lockdown. A Swiss pilot drew a heart around Pristina to encourage the people of Kosovo during the virus outbreak. By the numbers: 362 confirmed cases, 7 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – N. MACEDONIA: The IMF lends $191.8 million to N. Macedonia to cope with the COVID-19 outbreak. Czechia donated 1 million masks to N. Macedonia that were delivered by the Czech Army on Sunday. Deputy PM Bujar Osmani says the Army will be available to assist municipalities with humanitarian relief. The head of the Islamic Community in N. Macedonia may face criminal charges if he reopens mosques, defying government restrictions on religious ceremonies in place to combat the spread of COVID-19. By the numbers: 828 confirmed cases, 34 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – MONTENEGRO: A opposition politician from the Democratic Front was arrested for spreading fake news about President Milo Djukanovic about his health. Montenegrin PM Dusko Markovic outlined a new set of economic measures for businesses, laid off employees, and vulnerable citizens in a 10 minute address. Police in Montenegro took the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro to the police station to question him on unauthorized religious gatherings. By the numbers: 272 confirmed cases, 3 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – SERBIA: Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic is hopeful the state of emergency will be lifted by the end of April. Serbian Ambassador to China Milan Bacevic spoke to CGTN, the media outlet run by the Publicity Department of  Communist Party of China, and thanked China for its response and said his country is now well-prepared to fight COVID-19. CGTN released the full 9 minute interview here. Serbia’s wine producers have been hit particularly hard by COVID-19. By the numbers: 3,630 confirmed cases, 80 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – SLOVENIA: Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa declared that “the holidays will be calmer” as more than 20 tons of medical equipment were donated from China. The shipment included 1.1 million masks, 30,000 protective uniforms and nearly 2 million gloves. The government on Saturday discussed a 900 million euro stimulus package The Mayors of Sveta Trojica and Lenard have promised free protective masks to citizens. People entering Slovenia will have to quarantine for seven days at home or with the civil defense. By the numbers: 1,205 confirmed cases, 53 deaths.

WELCOME HOME: The 44th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) of the New Jersey National Guard returned home from Camp Bondsteel as a part of the KFOR mission. The more than 120 soldiers spent 14 days in quarantine at Fort Bliss, Texas.

WELCOME TO THE USAF: For the first time since the Kosovo Security Forces (KSF) was established, a member will be attending the U.S. Air Force Academy. Congrats!

NEIGHBORS HELPING NEIGHBORS: The Konjic – Neretvica and Prozor – Rama regions of Bosnia and Herzegovina have been hit by wildfires. Montenegro stepped up and sent three “air tractors” over the weekend. (VIDEO)

TUZI, MNE + ALBANIA: Albanian President Ilir Meta thanked Montenegrin counterpart Milo Djukanovic for “his support and that of the Government of Montenegro for the Albanian community in this difficult situation for all.”

KOSOVO-SERBIA DIALOGUE: The EU Special Envoy to the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak spoke with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on his expectations of the Dialogue. The two also discussed COVID-19 response and the economy moving forward. Meanwhile, Kosovo President Hashim Thaci blasted acting PM Albin Kurti for trying to negotiate on Kosovo’s behalf. He said, Kurti “cannot make commitments on behalf of the institutions of the Republic of Kosovo or on behalf of an outgoing government,” in a press release.

KOSOVO HYDROPOWER: The Ministry of Economy on Sunday ordered work on a hydropower plant in the Strpce Municipality in  Kosovo to be suspended after the construction continued despite government restrictions.

SLOVENIAN ECONOMIC OUTLOOK: The Central Bank of Slovenia predicted the economy will contract by at least 7.5%. In addition to other benchmark data, the Central Bank examined joint net profit of local banks in the first two months of the year which fell by 55.6%

JOURNALISM: Kosovo Police detained the editor of KosSev, a news outlet based in North Mitrovica Kosovo. Tatjana Lazerovic was on her way to report on the situation in Zvecan when police took her to the police station. Meanwhile, a journalist was attacked in Split, Croatia, for investigating a church gathering on Easter Sunday. Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic blasted the attack on someone doing her job.

CORRUPTION: “Kosovo’s prosecution office charged 19 former senior officials on Friday with abuse of power for allegedly causing at least 13.7 million euros ($15 million) in losses to the public budget. A statement said the ex-officials, including four former ministers, exceeded their competencies in ordering the privatization of four hydro power stations.” (AP News)

CRIME: A man in Banja Luka was arrested for possessing an arsenal of weapons including15 rifles, 16 pistols, two holster knives, five bayonets and 432 different caliber ammunition.

IN OTHER NEWS

OP-ED: “Third Entity Would Destroy Bosnia’s Croat Political Elite” by Valentino Grbavac in BIRN

ANALYSIS: “NATO Membership: The Macedonian Experience” in Georgia Today

ANALYSIS: “Trump to solve the decades long Serbia-Kosovo saga” (VIDEO) in Sky News Australia

ANALYSIS: “Prof. Dr. Steve H. Hanke On Albania: ‘A Necessary Condition For Corruption Is Government’ – Interview” by Peter Tase in Eurasia Review

HUMAN INTEREST: “Coronavirus Crisis Unites Doctors In Bosnia’s Divided City Of Mostar” by Mirsad Behram in RFE/RL

CULTURE: “The Story about Life and Business in Bosnian Capital in the 1890s” in Sarajevo Times

CULTURE: AP Photographer Kemal Softic visited houses of worship across Sarajevo. On Easter, Passover and the eve of Ramadan, the photos are haunting and inspiring.

CULTURE: “Traditional Croatian Easter Bread: Pogača, Pinca, Poljuba or Whatever Name You Use” by Joe Orovic in Total Croatia News

CULTURE: “Potica: How They Make It On Slovenia’s Bled Island” by Benjamin Kemper in Saveur

CULTURE: “5 Dark Secrets Few People Know About The Balkans (And 5 Things That Kind Of Make Us Want To Go)” by Elitsa Staneva-Britton in The Travel

SPORT: “A look back on Doncic, Slovenia marching to the 2017 EuroBasket final” in Euro Hoops

SPORT: “Why Kings’ Bogdan Bogdanovic is prepared for NBA games without fans” by James Ham in NBC Sports

SPORT: “Premier League Quartet Among Host of Top Clubs Tracking Serbian Teenager Filip Stevanovic” by Max Cooper in 90 Minute

SPORT: “N-G All-State POY: Dugalic thrives in multiple ways” by Scott Richey in The News Gazette (Illinois)

ENTERTAINMENT: “Bruce Lee’s Daughter thanked Bosnians for portraying Her Father as a Symbol of Combat against Coronavirus” in Sarajevo Times