WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY
CORONAVIRUS – BiH: Bosnia’s Security Minister Fahrudin Radoncic asked ambassadors in his country to not allow Bosnian nationals to return to BiH. Meanwhile, he expressed support for returning foreign nationals in BiH to their home countries. By the numbers: 1,110 confirmed cases and 41 deaths
CORONAVIRUS – CROATIA: President Zoran Milanovic has called on banks freeze loan repayments. Meanwhile, PM Andrej Plenkovic has called on government ministries to devise a strategic plan for after COVID-19. By the numbers: 1,741 confirmed cases and 33 deaths.
CORONAVIRUS – KOSOVO: Italy organized a call between the Ministers of Health of Kosovo and Serbia on how to best cooperate to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. NATO’s KFOR was present on the call. By the numbers: 423 confirmed cases, 9 deaths.
CORONAVIRUS – N. MACEDONIA: U.S. Ambassador to N. Macedonia Kate Byrnes joined Deputy PM for European Affairs Bujar Osmani and Minister of Health Venko Filipce to receive a donation of medical equipment from the U.S. Department of Defense. About 210 medical employees at a hospital in Kumanovo have been tested for COVID-19. By the numbers: 974 confirmed cases, 45 deaths.
CORONAVIRUS – MONTENEGRO: The European Commission has warned Montenegro about balancing freedom of expression and repercussions for spreading disinformation amidst the COVID-19 crisis. The National Coordination Body has extended the stay at home orders until April 30. By the numbers: 288 confirmed cases, 4 deaths.
CORONAVIRUS – SLOVENIA: Slovenia, as of Wednesday, revoked the rule that required gloves to be worn in public places. Slovenian Education Minister Simona Kustec said there is no timeline for when schools will reopen. By the numbers: 1,248 confirmed cases, 61 deaths.
PALMER ON COVID-19 RESPONSE: Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, and Special Representative to the Western Balkans, Matthew Palmer, spoke with Voice of America on U.S. aid in the region in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. He stressed that the U.S.has provided extensive aid for years when asked about Russian and Chinese aid to the region.
EUROPEAN COMMISSION ON COVID-19: “The European Commission unveiled a plan for a gradual lifting of pandemic measures on Wednesday, which set out criteria for Europe’s return to normal life. The European Commission said that although restrictions on movement introduced by member countries have saved thousands of lives, they come at a very high cost for Europe’s society and economy.” (N1)
MEPs WARN OF BACKSLIDING DEMOCRACY: MEPs Tanja Falon and Vladimir Bilcik have warned leaders of the Western Balkans that the COVID-19 crisis is not an excuse for suspending democratic standards.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY ARMY of BiH: The Bosniak and Bosnian Croat Members of the Presidency, Sefik Dzaferovic and Zeljko Komsic, visited multiple memorials and cemeteries to commemorate the Day of the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
DODIK + VUCIC: Instead of commemorating the creation of the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency met with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Belgrade. Dodik thanked Vucic for Serbia’s assistance to the Bosnia’s Serb-majority entity, Republika Srpska, during the COVID-19 crisis.
LDK LOOKS TO CREATE COALITION: Kosovo’s Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) indicates it is ready to form a governing coalition as soon as President Thaci allows the opportunity.
MEP ON KOSOVO CONSTITUTION: MEP Viola von Cramon took to Twitter to comment on Kosovo’s COVID-19 response. She wrote, “#lockdown rules need to follow #constitutional rules in #Kosovo. Rules make more confusion & are not possible to follow will cause more harm. Other countries have limited time to spend outside, but not the hour when one can go out. Gov need to go back to #constitutional basis.”
LDK’s MUSTAFA RESPONDS: LDK leader Isa Mustafa responded, “I see a serious interference of the European Parliament representative. To me this is completely unjust, unexemplary, because it is not her role to interfere internal political situation and consider that 2/3 of Kosovo Parliament MPs are irresponsible who decided to vote the motion of no-confidence, because it is huge responsibility to declare as irresponsible such a wide support of Parliament.”
VON CRAMON CLARIFIES: Von Cramon clarified her original Tweet in a thread a few hours later: “Clarification for my earlier tweet: people need to stay at home. full stop. In #Kosovo in #Germany and everywhere. Regardless what is allowed, just stay home. It’s hard. But we know it is necessary #covid #COVID19 #stayathome…Political parties in #Kosovo need to set aside differences and agree on a common legal basis for all the needed measurements to contain #corona. Opposition and gov party need to find solution together now. It‘s for your people in #Kosovo…Now there is still capacity available in #Kosovo but situation is worsening, we need to support the health care workers. They are working hard and we need to avoid the worst but without citizens and politicians acting with full responsibility, doctors cannot do anything”
THACI CALLS ON KURTI: Kosovo President Hashim Thaci has written for the third time to acting PM Albin Kurti to name a candidate for PM.
ANALYSIS: “No Limits: Serbia Fails to Rein in Coal-Fired Polluters” by Milica Stojanovic in BIRNHUMAN INTEREST: “From war-torn Kosovo to the NFL: former Bomber Hajrullahu keeps it all in perspective” by Paul Friesen in The Winnipeg Sun
HUMAN INTEREST: “Local Peace Corps volunteer describes days of uncertainty during weeklong evacuation from Europe due to COVID-19” in The Ozark County Times
TRAVEL: “Croatia counting on domestic tourists once coronavirus measures are relaxed” in Croatia Week