WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

LAJČÁK + REEKER: EUSR for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue Miroslav Lajčák yesterday met with Acting Assisting Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Phil Reeker.
  • The interlocutors discussed coordinating U.S.-EU cooperation on the Dialogue and in the region.
  • EUSR Lajčák tweeted, “Always good to compare notes, coordinate and agree on our 🇪🇺🇺🇸 cooperation and future activities in the Western Balkans.”
  • The U.S. and EU have called for the Dialogue to continue without delay since Kosovo formed a government.
  • Representatives from Kosovo and Serbia last met in December for talks at the expert level.
GRLIĆ RADMAN IN BiH: Croatia’s FM Gordan Grlić Radman yesterday met with Bosnian counterpart Bisera Turković High Representative Valentin Inzko, and Archbishop Cardinal Vinko Puljić in Sarajevo.
  • After the meetings, he said, “Croatia strongly supports Bosnia and Herzegovina’s territorial integrity and the equality of its three constituent peoples, so that all citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina feel at home.”
  • Meanwhile, Bosnia’s Turković said they discussed how to fight the pandemic and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s letter to the tripartite presidency.
  • She noted, “We discussed issues from Blinken’s letter, which speak of small changes to the Constitution. It is definitely, time to incorporate the decisions of the Court in Strasbourg, to reach the phase of resolving the Sejdić-Finci problem, and to ensure the rights of all citizens through the reform of the Election Law, which would reduce the existing problems in BiH.”
DODIK AIMS FOR “PEACEFUL SEPARATION” OF BiH: Chairman and Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik slammed the idea of entities and Central Election Commission at a press conference on Tuesday.
  • He said, “I would agree with the Embassy of the United States that the entities have no prospects beyond BiH because without BiH the entities would no longer be entities but independent states. The conversation with Pahor that Mr. Komsic mentioned was as it was. They show off with the fact that they responded with the possibility of war, but who want to wage war nowadays. The only option that can be discussed is a peaceful separation. While I am sitting here I will not allow the possibility of war, not even for the Republika Srpska (RS), but I will work to achieve the possibility of peaceful separation.”
  • “The situation with BiH is not good, but it has not been good before, so the stories about the European path are only a farce. The European Union (EU) does not have a clear perspective with the countries of the Western Balkans. Serbia has not had an open chapter on the EU for a long time now,” added Dodik.
SLOVENIA’S LOGAR IN THE FPC: FM Anže Logar told the Foreign Policy Committee (FPC) yesterday that Slovenia’s strategy in the Western Balkans remains unchanged. He added that the recent developments in relations with BiH benefitted no one. Logar highlighted that the only non-paper on BiH that Slovenia signed was prepared by Croatia and called for BiH to gain candidate status for EU membership when it meets all conditions.

Meanwhile, an opposition party, the Social Democrats, have requested a session of the FPC to question PM Janez Janša and President Borut Pahor about an alleged non-paper on changing borders in the Western Balkans.On another note – FM Logar announced Croatian FM Gordan Grlić Radman and Italian FM Luigi di Maio will be in Slovenia on April 21 to sign a joint statement on cooperation in the Northern Adriatic.

MEPs ADOPT 2019-2020 REPORT: MEPs on the Foreign Affairs Committee adopted the 2019-2020 Commission reports on Montenegro on Tuesday and revealed the results yesterday. There were 58 votes in favor, 4 votes against, and 9 abstentions.

  • According to a European Parliament press release, the MEPs “commended Montenegro’s progress in the fight against organised crime and called on the authorities to accelerate reforms, particularly on the rule of law and fundamental rights, the judiciary, media freedom and the fight against corruption.”
  • But there is a tense relationship between Montenegro and Serbia and highlighted Podgorica should resist any foreign interference in domestic issues.
  • Key to note: Nearly 77% of Montenegrin support EU membership.
  • Rapporteur Tonino Picula noted, “With this report we reaffirm the European Parliament’s strong support to Montenegro’s EU accession process. We also encourage the country – as a front runner in the accession process, to continue delivering on its EU reform agenda, in particular in the area of the rule of law. High and growing public support for the EU membership should be an incentive for the Montenegrin stakeholders to work together towards fulfilling this common goal.”
MONTENEGRO’S MOVEMENT FOR CHANGES WANTS INVESTIGATION INTO DJUKANOVIĆ: The leader of the Movement for Changes Nebojša Medojević called for a parliamentary investigation into President Milo Djukanović’s Democratic Party of Socialists for supporting Serb forces in BiH during the war in the 1990s that resulted in the Srebrenica Genocide.
  • Medojević said, “There are public indications that the Montenegrin authorities supported Bosnian Serb forces, despite the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia’s embargo on the Bosnian Serb authorities.”
  • “By doing this, they directly supported military operations which resulted in the massacre of thousands of unarmed civilians in Srebrenica in July 1995,” added the Movement for Changes leader.
  • The Movement for Changes are a part of the ruling alliance and member of the Democratic Front bloc.

MONTENEGRO’S EU PATH: Deputy PM Dritan Abazović announced that the draft amendments to the Law on the Prosecutor’s Office have been sent to the European Commission and addresses all proposals of the Venice Commission. Abazović’s office say that Chapters 23 (Judiciary and fundamental rights) and 24 (Justice, freedom, and security) of the acquis are vital to the integration of Montenegro to the European Union.

MEP ON MONTENEGRO’S DEBT TO CHINA: MEP Viola von Cramon on Wednesday wrote that it was a questionable decision to not assist Montenegro with its $1bn debt to China.

  • She tweeted, “I am not sure that’s a strategically smart decision. Corrupt leaders such as (Montenegrin President Milo Djukanović) had years to exploit the country. Now the new gov needs to clean up also the financial heritage. EU once made mistakes in Greece and China took over the Port of Piraeus.”
  • “Now the Chinese government have the chance (if Montenegro cannot serve the loan) to take over main parts of Montenegro Coastline. So, before that we should think twice not to play in the Chinese hands again,” added the German MEP.

DIMITROV IN VIENNA: Deputy PM of N. Macedonia in charge of European Affairs Nikola Dimitrov is on a working visit to Austria today. He is scheduled to meet with Minister of Europe and the Constitution Karoline Edtstadler and Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg.

SLOVENIA JOINS NATO’S CYBER EXERCISES: “The Locked Shields 21 cyber defence and strategic decision-making exercise will start on Tuesday [13 April] in 30 countries, including Slovenia for the first time. The largest and most complex international exercise in the field will in Slovenia also include representatives of businesses.

“Organised by the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE) annually since 2010, the exercise will see Slovenia participate for the first time as the country became a CCDCOE member last year.” (Total Slovenia News)

CRIME: An American citizen from Florida was arrested for Covid relief fraud to the tune of $7.2 million in Croatia. Police on the border with Slovenia detained the American before he was sent to Zagreb.

Croatian police found 1,276 pounds of cocaine in the Port of Ploče. The value of the cocaine is estimated at $68 million. No one has come to claim the cocaine hidden in fruit containers yet.

The U.S. sentenced a Montenegrin citizen to five years and 10 months in prison for intent to smuggle 18,000 kg of cocaine into the United States. The ship with the cocaine was registered in Liberia and was found in Philadelphia in 2019. The worth of the cocaine was about $1 billion.

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