USAID’S ALLOCATES $22M TO SERBIA: Serbia’s Minister of European Integration Jadranka Jokšimović and Director of the Office of Democratic and Economic Development at USAID Serbia Shanley Pinchotti signed a five-year partnership agreement worth $22 million. The partnership will focus on the economy, media environment, fighting Covid-19, and improving services for citizens.
MONTENEGRO NEEDS HELP FROM EU OVER CHINESE DEBT: Montenegro’s Finance Minister Milojko Spajić told The Financial Times that Montenegro has reached out to the EU to help pay off a $1 billion Chinese loan for the unfinished Bar-Boljare Highway.
- Spajić said, “Montenegro is small enough that it should be an easy decision.” He continued, “This is a small but easy win for them. It’s low-hanging fruit.”
- He noted that Montenegro will reach out to the European Commission, European Investment Bank, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to help refinance the loan.
- The loan for the highway skyrocketed Montenegros’ debt to 85% of its GDP with China owning around 25% of the debt.
- “We do a lot with Montenegro and other partners in the region to help them on their way to align with EU standards, with reforms and all the other things and we continue to stand by them but we are not repaying the loans that they are taking from third parties,” said Stano.
- He added, “We will not try to explain motivation of Montenegrin authorities. The EU is largest provider of financial assistance to Montenegro, the largest investor and trade partner. We work very closely with them when it comes to development of economic issues, infrastructure, to boost economic development, speed up the process of EU integration and to ensure the post-coronavirus recovery.”
- Stano concluded, “When it comes to actions by partner countries in taking loans or entering into economic relations with other parties, every country is free to establish their own investment objectives. Talking specifically about Montenegro and China the EU has concerns over the socio economic and financial effects of some of China’s investments which can have effects in the country. There is a risk of macro-economic imabalances and debt dependency. The motivation for undertaking such steps, taking such loans needs to be checked with the Montenegrin authorities.”
Meanwhile, it’s not all roses in the ruling coalition… Leaders of the parties of the ruling coalition met with PM Zdravko Kirvokapić yesterday. The main topic discussed the dismissal of Minister of Justice, Human, and Minority Rights Vladimir Leposavić for denying the Srebrenica Genocide. Democratic Front MP Milan Knežević said at one point PM Krivokapić accused him, Dirtan Abazović, and Leposavić of overthrowing the government. Krivokapić denies the accusation.
The prime minister announced he will meet with President Milo Djukanović, Speaker of Parliament Aleksa Bečić, and Minister of Defense Olivera Injac on Friday to discuss relevant issues in the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces of Montenegro. The ruling parties claim Krivokapić would rather meet with Djukanović than with his own ruling coalition.
- Pahor’s office told N1, “President Pahor wants BiH to become a part of the European Union as soon as possible. He always emphasizes the importance of the geopolitical approach to the European Union’s enlargement that would also include Bosnia and Herzegovina, which currently has the weakest formal connection with the EU.”
- He added, “President Pahor is regularly warning against the ideas about the fall of BiH and redrawing of borders in the Western Balkans. In that context, due to his concern over these ideas, he did ask his interlocutors about this, all three members of Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency, during his Sarajevo visit in March.”
- He was rebuked by Bosniak Member of the Presidency Šefik Džaferović and Bosnian Croat Member of the Presidency Željko Komšić.
- Džaferović noted, “I said the process of dissolution of Yugoslavia is over. It is true that President Pahor asked if a peaceful dissolution of BiH is possible, to which Mr. Komsic and I replied that those advocating such ideas are leading this country and the region in a new war.”
- “He agreed with that and added, which he also confirmed in the press conference, that a strategic decision on the accelerated path of the whole Western Balkans to the EU is very important for the peace and security of whole Europe, EU and Western Balkans.”
- Meanwhile, Komšić backed Džaferović’s sentiment that it is not possible.
- Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik has openly advocated for secession of the Republika Srpska entity which would disrupt Bosnia’s Euro Atlantic integration and potentially lead to armed conflict.
LAJČÁK CONFIDENT ON DEAL: EU Special Representative to the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue Miroslav Lajčák told Beta News Agency on Monday that he expects the Dialogue to continue at the earliest possible time. He underscored he thinks that they can “achieve quick progress on a comprehensive agreement” but will rely on political will from both sides. If there is political will, Lajčák imagines a comprehensive deal can be agreed on in a few months.
BORRELL WRITES TO KURTI: EU High Representative Josep Borell sent a letter to PM Kurti highlighting “Determined reform efforts will be needed to strengthen the rule of law in Kosovo and to promote socio-economic development.” He wrote he looked “forward to hosting you for the next high-level meeting of the Dialogue as soon as possible and remain firmly committed to helping the two sides achieve a comprehensive agreement.”
KOSOVO CABINET MEETS: Kosovo PM Albin Kurti convened the 17 members of the cabinet over the weekend to draft the Governing Program and Action Plan for the next four years.
INCHING TOWARDS CITIZENSHIP LAW: PM of N. Macedonia yesterday met with the Albanian opposition leaders Zijadin Sela and Afrim Gashi to discuss unblocking the National Assembly in order to pass laws including on citizenship. The Albanian bloc is pushing for ethnic Albanians born in N. Macedonia but are living abroad to be be able to acquire citizenship more easily.
SLOVENIA CONDEMNS PETROL BOMB ATTACK: “Senior Slovenian officials have condemned Friday’s petrol bomb attack on the house of Vesna Fabjan, Kočevje local councillor for the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ). President Borut Pahor called for tolerance and mutual respect.”Pahor said that even if the motive was not associated with the fact that Fabjan is a councillor, this was “a despicable act that demands resolute condemnation from the entire democratic public”.
“He said mutual respect and tolerance were irreplaceable. “I understand the concerns, anxiety, fears and anger among us, but it is precisely because of that that we may not justify violence, verbal or physical.'” (Slovenia Times)
BiH TO INVESTIGATE DAY OF RUSSIAN VOLUNTEERS: “The State Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina has opened an investigation into plans to celebrate a ‘Day of Russian Volunteers’ in the eastern town of Visegrad, in the Bosnian Serb entity, Republika Srpska, RS, on April 12.
“The Prosecutor’s Office on Friday said the case was being opened after receiving a report from the Women Victims of War association.
“On Monday, April 12, ‘Visegrad will mark the Day of Russian Volunteers, which is included in the calendar of significant historical events of Republika Srpska in memory of Russian fighters killed in the Bosnian war’, the RS news agency and the Bosnian Serb veterans’ organisation in Visegrad said.” (Balkan Insight)
SERBIA PROTESTS FOR THE ENVIRONMENT: Thousands of people protested in Belgrade on Saturday calling for the government to have a better response to ecological damage caused by pollution.
RUSSIA-SERBIA PARTNERSHIP: Russian Ambassador to Serbia Alexandar Botsan Kharchenko wrote on Monday that the Belgrade-Moscow partnership could have “cosmic prospects.” He added, “We hope to establish cooperation soon with our Serbian friends in research and the use of outer space for peaceful purposes and achieve concrete results in this field.” Read the Russian ambassador’s full op-ed in Politika (in Serbian) HERE.
VISA-FREE TRAVEL FOR RUSSIANS TO MNE: Montenegro granted visa-free travel to Russian citizens from April 1, 2021 and October 31, 2021. Russian citizens will be able to travel for up to 90 days without a visa.
RIMAC’S 200M EURO PROJECT: “Croatia’s electric hypercar manufacturer Rimac Automobili on Monday presented a €200 million project for a state-of-the art headquarters which includes an on-site test track, accommodation facilities, a museum and other amenities, just 16 kilometres from Zagreb’s city centre.
“The future complex, which will cover 200,000 square metres in the Zagreb’s satellite town of Sveta Nedelja, should be completed by 2023. With production and R&D facilities across 95,000 square metres, 35 percent of the land will be covered in vegetation.
“In the long term, the new campus should employ about 2,500 people.” (N1)
OP-ED: How Serbia Can Learn from Germany’s Post-War Remorse by Marija Ristić in Balkan InsightOP-ED: Balkans in the EU: a future to be designed together by Paolo Bergamaschi in Osservatario Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa
OP-ED: How EU enlargement apathy could push Kosovo and Albania to join forces by Orlando Crowcroft in Euronews
OP-ED: It is time to have a serious conversation about women’s rights in Albania by Stivi Canka in Exit.al
OP-ED: How To Exit Bosnia by Matthew Parish in Eurasia Review
ANALYSIS: Sarajevo’s COVID nightmare by Una Hajdari in Politico EU
ANALYSIS: Generations of Albanians Lived off Cannabis Production. Can They Stop? by Jerola Ziaj in Balkan Insight
ANALYSIS: Secure Comms: Cracking the Encrypted Messages of Balkan Crime Gangs by Ivana Jeremić in Balkan Insight
ANALYSIS: Croatian Street Names Still Bear Names of WWII Fascists by Anja Vladislavljević in Balkan Insight
HUMAN INTEREST: The Forgotten Heroes: Balkan War Vets Become Pioneer Organizers by Peter S. Giakoumis in The National Herald
CRIME: US embassy steps in as Macedonia police commander arrested following country wide drug action in The Macedonia Times
ENTERTAINMENT: Bear Grylls: I’m coming to Croatia, first a holiday then to film in Croatia Week