WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

UK + SERBIA: The UK and Serbia signed a Partnership, Trade and Cooperation Agreement to secure “continued preferential trade access between the UK and Serbia with significant savings for business to support jobs and the wider economy.” The Agreement was signed by UK Ambassador to Serbia Sian MacLeod and Serbia’s Minister of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications Tatjana Matić. There is currently £682 million in trade between Serbia and the UK.
  • Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office Minister for the European Neighborhood Wendy Morton noted, “This is the latest agreement signed by the UK securing hundreds of millions of pounds in trade between our two countries supporting jobs and the wider economies.”
  • And added, “It demonstrates the UK’s commitment to civil society across Serbia with the promotion of governance and rule of law reforms, while tackling the threat posed by climate change by building a greener and more resilient future together.”
SERBIA’S INTER-PARTY DIALOGUE KICKS OFF: The EU-led inter-party dialogue kicked off online yesterday. Mediators spoke to deputies of the Serbian Progressive Party and the Socialist Party of Serbia. The aim, according to MEP and member of the mediation team Tanja Fajon, is to complete the dialogue before next spring’s parliamentary elections in order to implement changes to election law. The public will be informed about the discussions after the mediators speak with both the ruling coalition and opposition.

PM EDI RAMA ON ELECTIONS: Albanian PM Edi Rama on Monday reiterated the April 25 elections are a test of Albania’s character. He said, “This is our time, this is our mission. Definitely, all Albanians today need to see April 25 just as a test of our character, and in this test of character, Albanians must decide whether to continue to climb, or once again to disappoint the project that God had when he embroidered Albania.”

CROATIA’S HEALTH MINISTER TO FACE VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE?: Opposition parties in Croatia’s Parliament are discussing whether to start a motion of no confidence against Health Minister Vili Beroš “because hospitals faced a shortage of drugs recently, if for no other reason” and the debt in healthcare. Opposition MPs are not impressed by the pace of health reform. But Beroš does have the confidence of PM Andrej Plenković and the ruling party.  Plenković said, “We, naturally, and the entire parliamentary majority will defend that, and the health reform isn’t something that is done overnight. It is done seriously and it will be done and it has nothing to do with the local election.”

NEW HEAD OF EU IN SLOVENIA: “Jerneja Jug Jerše, the new head of the European Commission’s Representation in Slovenia, considers a national recovery and resilience plan an opportunity for a country to step up. The Commission will borrow funds that will have to be repaid by future generations, so the plan should be focused on the future, she has told the STA.”Jug Jerše took over her new post on Friday. She joined the Commission in 2005 and has since worked at the internal market, economic and financial affairs, and structural reform support directorates-general. In the latter branch she headed a unit responsible for revenue administration and public financial management.” (Slovenia Times)

SARAJEVO MAYOR VISITS SREBRENICA: New Mayor of Sarajevo Benjamina Karić and deputies Haris Bašić and Anja Margetić visited the Potočari Memorial Center on Sunday to pay respects to the victims of the Srebrenica Genocide. On Monday, Karić and her colleagues were thanked by the Mothers of Srebrenica and Žepa Enclaves and the Association – Women of Podrinje.

MONTENEGRO + SOC: Montenegrin PM Zdravko Krivokapić said on Sunday that the government will sign a “fundamental agreement” with the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC). This is not unprecedented – Podgorica signed similar agreements with the Catholic Church in 2011, and the Islamic and Jewish communities in 2012. There is not an agreement with the Montenegrin Orthodox Church.

SHALA PLEADS NOT GUILTY: Former Kosovo Liberation (KLA) fighter Pjeter Shala yesterday pleaded not guilty to war crimes in front of a pre-trial appearance at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague. Shala said, “I do not feel that I have committed any crime, except that I have defended my country; I am completely innocent.”

The KSC wrote in a press release, “The confirmed indictment alleges that Mr Shala is responsible, under various forms of individual criminal responsibility, for the war crimes of arbitrary detention, cruel treatment, torture and murder committed in the context of and associated with a non-international armed conflict in Kosovo.

“The alleged crimes with which Mr Shala is charged took place between approximately 17 May 1999 and 5 June 1999 against persons detained at the Kukёs Metal Factory (Albania) allegedly used by the Kosovo Liberation Army. The public redacted version of the confirmed indictment can be read here.”

OFF TO DUBROVNIK: United Airlines announced it will have a flight from Newark, New Jersey to Dubrovnik from July to October this year. This is not the first attempt to have a direct flight to Dubrovnik. In June 2019, American Airlines operated a Philadelphia-Dubrovnik flight but permanently cancelled the line in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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