WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

KOSOVO DISCUSSED AT THE UNSC: The United Nations Security Council held its six-month briefing on the situation in Kosovo. Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) Zahir Tanin presented his latest report.
  • To kick off the meeting, the Russian representative had a request denied for Kosovo’s FM Donika Gërvalla to remove Kosovo’s flag from the background.
  • UK’s legal counsel Chanaka Wickremasinghe rebutted that the meeting was informal and Kosovo’s symbols were present during the last meeting.
  • Special Representative Tanin highlighted underscored the success of elections in Kosovo and how the UNMIK has been preparing to urge citizens to get the Covid-19 vaccine. Watch his full statement HERE.
  • Serbia’s FM Nikola Selaković and Kosovo’s Gërvalla traded barbs on who was the victims during the war, Kosovo’s statehood, the pandemic, and the recent elections.
  • UN Secretary General António Guterres highlighted “the importance of a true commitment to the resumption of the talks at the high level under the European Union auspices soon.” He believes it is critical for lasting peace in the region.
  • U.S. Deputy Representative to the UN Ambassador Richard Mills commended Kosovo’s elections, advances in promoting women’s rights, and underscored support for the EU-facilitated Dialogue. Amb. Mills also called for UNMIK to “move toward closure”  since it has “long since fulfilled its original purpose.” Read his full statement HERE.
  • Watch the full briefing HERE.
SPEAKING OF KOSOVO AND SERBIA…: EU Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi wrote a congratulatory note to Kosovo PM Albin Kurti on the formation of a new government. He highlighted the importance of resuming the Dialogue as early as possible and the European Commission’s support for Kosovo.
  • Várhelyi said, “Turning Kosovo’s European perspective into a reality for its citizens also requires a swift continuation of the EU-facilitated Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue and the comprehensive normalisation of relations with Serbia. This is crucial for the respective European path of Kosovo and Serbia and for improving regional cooperation,”
  • He continued “The European Union stands ready to support you in this regard (socio-economic development), building on the progress that has been achieved over the past years and on key existing reform commitments and achievements, such as the European Reform Agenda.”
  • “Moreover, as part of the European Commission’s Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans, we look forward to working together on completing strategic projects in Kosovo and on supporting further regional economic integration in particular through the creation of a Common Regional Market.,” concluded Varhelyi.
CROATIAN PRESIDENT ON SERBIA’S EU PATH: Croatian President Zoran Milanović said that neighboring Serbia must resolve the issue pertaining to missing soldiers and civilians during the war in the 1990s or potentially have its EU path blocked after a meeting with representatives of Croatian war veterans’ associations.
  • “The issue of the missing must be resolved before Serbia joins the EU. We know that our neighbors know, and must know, much more about the missing than they are doing and showing,” said Milanović.
  • Croatian officials in 2014 said that if the issue is resolved, Croatia could block its EU path.
DJUKANOVIĆ SLAMS GREATER SERBIA, MONTENEGRIN INSTABILITY: Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovć yesterday told national broadcaster RTCG that he is willing to defend Montenegro against a new “Serbian World” and that instability in Montenegro can only be blamed on the policies of the new coalition. He also kept the door open to work with pro-European and civil minded political parties.
  • Djukanovic noted, “Serbia’s nationalism is trying to influence Montenegro in a malignant way, without giving up the Greater Serbia idea as a project which only changed its name into the ‘Serbian World.'”
  • He added, “There is no question that the change of government produced that instability. This was produced by the policy of the new coalition and the new government. This policy struck at the fundamental values ​​of modern Montenegro. This policy endangered the very character of Montenegro as a civil state.”
BOSNIA FAILS TO INSCRIBE GENOCIDE DENIAL IN CRIMINAL CODE: The House of Peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina failed to pass amendments to Bosnia’s Criminal Code that would ban genocide denial.
  • High Representative Valentin Inzko highlighted, “the denial of this fact and the fabrication of a distorted view of history and its frequent use in public discourse emphasize that there is an obvious need to pass a law that will solve this problem.”
  • “By adopting this law, parliamentarians in BiH would show readiness and determination to leave evil in the past and to focus on creating an atmosphere conducive to reconciliation and building a better, unencumbered future for all BiH citizens. It is unfortunate that they missed this opportunity, which came from domestic representatives,” added Inzko.

EC’S RULE OF LAW REPORT ON SLOVENIA: The European Commission yesterday went on a “virtual visit” to Slovenia to clear up any issues and add information to its second Rule of Law Report.

OSCE + ALBANIA: The Head of the OSCE Presence in Albania Vincenzo Del Monaco and Albania’s Prosecutor General Olsian Çela yesterday signed a Memorandum of Understanding “with the aim of formalizing and further strengthening co-operation between the two institutions. The Memorandum will facilitate understanding and interaction on implementing future project activities.”
  • Çela said, “This step, which clearly structures our relations, will serve to further intensify our relations and will allow us to explore co-operation in other fields.”
  • And Del Monaco added, “We are proud and honored to be the first international organization present in Albania to sign such a Memorandum of Understanding with the General Prosecution Office.”

PARLIAMENT OF N. MACEDONIA INCHES TOWARDS ECONOMIC PACKAGE: The Parliament of N. Macedonia is heading towards a fifth economic package for its citizens after a deal was reached. VMRO-DPMNE announced it will withdraw all proposed amendments on the Law of Citizenship in the. This opened the door for the Alliance of Albanians and Albanian Alternative to remove their amendments.

ALBANIA’S DP – 100 DAYS FOR EU ACCESSION NEGOTIATIONS TO OPEN: Chairman of the Democratic Party (DP) Lulzim Basha said that his government would focus on opening EU accession negotiations should his party win the April 25 elections. He said, “We will open them and I am glad that you expect this with optimism and confidence.”

CROATIAN FM IN BiH: Croatia’s Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Gordan Grlić-Radman will start a two-day working visit to BiH today. He is scheduled to meet with counterpart Bisera Turković, members of the House of Peoples, and the House of Representatives.

CHINESE-OWNED MINE SHUTS DOWN IN SERBIA: Mining and Energy Minister Zorana Mihaljović yesterday said that the Jama mine, owned by Chinese company Zijin, was closed by inspectors over ecological concerns. She said, “Speaking about protecting the Pek river, Zijin has to complete a new water purification facility by April 30.” There were protests last weekend in front of Serbia’s Parliament by environmental activists.

BOSNIAK + SERB PARTIES IN SREBRENICA: “The Mayor of Srebrenica, Mladen Grujicic, the representative of the local centre-right Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), Radomir Pavlovic, and the councillors of the ‘My Address is Srebrenica’ initiative signed a coalition agreement on the formation of a local government in Srebrenica Tuesday, Fena news agency reported.”The head of the ‘My address is Srebrenica’ caucus Zulfo Salihovic said that the coalition agreement obliges the two political blocs to work together and cooperate in the Municipal Assembly of Srebrenica.” (N1)

SERBIAN OPPOSITION AGAINST CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGE: “The current National Assembly in Serbia has no legitimacy to discuss changes to the highest legal act because it is almost deprived of the opposition, opposition party officials said for Danas, commenting on the announcement of National Assembly Speaker Ivica Dačić that dialogue and discussion on constitutional changes will begin on April 16.”Constitutional reforms in the field of the judiciary have been one of the most important rule of law reforms Serbia needs to undertake in its EU integration process, but the original 2017 deadline has long passed. The new Assembly, elected in June 2020, has no viable opposition due to the boycott of the majority of opposition parties.” (European Western Balkans)

N. MACEDONIA JAILS FORMER INTEL CHIEF: A court in N. Macedonia convicted Sasha Mijalkov, the former Director of the Administration for Security and Counterintelligence. He was jailed for eight years yesterday for abuse of power. Meanwhile former Interior Ministry official Goran Grujevski was sentenced to fifteen years and two others received five-year sentences. Grujevski was sentenced in absentia. The defendants also have to pay $969,000 in damages.

FIVE AFGHAN CITIZENS ARRESTED IN BOSNIAN-CROATIAN OPERATION: “Five people suspected of smuggling illegal migrants were arrested on Tuesday in a combined operation by Bosnia and Herzegovina police and Croatia’s law enforcement bodies, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s prosecutorial authorities have confirmed.”The BiH prosecutorial authorities coordinated the operation, dubbed ‘Fast’, with Croatia’s USKOK anti-corruption office and Ministry of the Interior.

“The five suspects who were arrested are all Afghan nationals.” (N1)

IN OTHER NEWS

OP-EDChina Will Loom Large in Balkans Once Pandemic is Over by Anastas Vangelli in Balkan InsightOP-EDShould Kosovo’s Ruling Party Play Opposition Politics in Albania? by Agron Demi in Balkan Insight

OP-EDLessons for Brexit Britain from the Balkans by George Kyris and Luke Bacigalupo in New Eastern European

ANALYSISIn Montenegro, Unchecked Waste Muddies Once Clear Waters by Nemanja Živaljević in Balkan Insight

ANALYSISNorth Macedonia’s Journey to the EU by Fabio A. Telarico in Modern Diplomacy

ANALYSISAre Bosnia and Herzegovina’s borders back on the international agenda? by Nikola Djordjević in Emerging Europe

HUMAN INTERESTFrom Bosnia to Santa Barbara and the Forklift Wine Life — This Woman Winemaker Never Shies Away From a Challenge by James Brock in Paper City Magazine (Dallas)

CULTURE“Little Croatia” created in Krakow, Poland in Croatia Week