WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

BIDEN EMPHASIZES DIALOGUE IN LETTER TO OSMANI: U.S. President Joe Biden wrote a congratulatory letter to Kosovo’s President Vjosa Osmani on Monday.
  • Biden noted the “the Biden family has a personal connection to your country” through his son Beau who worked in Kosovo.
  • He underscored the shared priorities with Kosovo including rule of law, corruption, minority rights, rebuilding post-Covid, economic development, and a sustainable energy future.
  • On the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue, Biden called for a “comprehensive normalization, which we believe should be centered on mutual recognition.” He underscored the deal “will require flexibility and difficult compromise along the way.”

SPEAKING OF THE U.S. AND THE REGION: In an extensive interview with The Washington Diplomat, Serbian Ambassador to the U.S. Marko Djurić said he wants to “increase the level of trust” between Serbia and the United States. He added that “We (Serbia) would love to see a US president visit Serbia.” This year marks 140 years of diplomatic relations between Belgrade and Washington.

Economic Development – Ambassador Djurić highlighted the economic success of Serbia over the past few years. He noted there has been “more foreign direct investment than all the surrounding countries” which he says is due to the “incentives we over, and a generally favorable investment climate.” He called for an increased flow of goods, services, and capital around the region through creating a mini-Schengen Zone.

On the Dialogue Ambassador Djurić noted that it will be “difficult” with the new government in Kosovo because its new PM Albin Kurti has not made the Dialogue a priority, but Serbia remains committed to the Dialogue.

  • He noted, “We want to do this in a way that won’t leave wounds on both sides, at least partly satisfying our mutual ambitions. This will definitely not be an easy task. But we need to start talking. It’s better to talk a thousand days than be in conflict for one single day.”

VÁRHELYI CALLS FOR ACCELERATED TALKS
: European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi yesterday briefed the General Affairs Council (GAC) on the delivery of Covid vaccines and the “state of play of (the) accession process.” He called on the European Council to adopt the negotiating frameworks for Albania and N. Macedonia and to hold the first Intergovernmental Conference and speed up the talks with Serbia and Albania.FUTURE OF BORDERS IN THE REGION: On the heels of Slovenia’s non-paper that calls for a redrawing the borders of the Western Balkans, in particular Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serb politicians around the region have responded in numerous ways.

  • Chairman and Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik’s Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) launched a campaign on YouTube calling for the “peaceful separation” of Bosnia and Herzegovina. By peaceful separation, Dodik is calling for the independence of Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity named Republika Srpska.
  • Dodik said that for the “non-functionality of Bosnia and Herzegovina, peaceful separation is the best message.” and noted it is “increasingly talked about around the world.”
  • But Dodik’s dream of potentially joining Serbia have hit a speed bump in Belgrade. Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vučić said it was not going to happen if it means Serbia has to recognize Kosovo in an interview with Senad Hadžifejzović on Face TV.
  • “You say that Serbia will recognize the independence of Kosovo to get Republika Srpska in return. That’s not going to happen. None of that is real nor good nor we need it, and this is all I can say about it. I refuse to speak about something that does not exist.” Vučić said.
  • He added, “We don’t need the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
INJAC + TONIN: Montenegrin Defense Minister Olivera Injac began a three-day visit to Slovenia yesterday. She was welcomed by counterpart Matej Tonin who called Montenegro a “prominent example” for the rest of the region for joining NATO and path to joining the EU. The two interlocutors praised the continued improvement of defense cooperation between Podgorica and Ljubljana.
SLOVENIA’S PAHOR TALKS WITH MIJATOVIĆ: “President Borut Pahor talked on Monday with Council of Europe (CoE) Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović about freedom of the press and hate speech in Slovenia. Pahor stressed the importance of supervisory mechanisms of international institutions, including the CoE, and the need of regular and open dialogue with them.”The president’s office also announced in a press release that Pahor emphasised in the telephone conversation the importance of public media and informed the commissioner with the efforts to preserve and strengthen their independence.” (Slovenia Times)
JASENOVAC TO HAVE SEPARATE COMMEMORATIONS…AGAIN: There will be separate commemorations for the victims of the World War II Jasenovac Concentration Camp again this year.
  • The three separate commemorations include representatives from Serbs, Jews, Roma, and antifascists; President Zoran Milanović; and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and Speaker of Parliament Gordan Jandroković.
  • President Milanovics’ spokesman Nikola Jelić noted that “the Office of the President had not received a reply from the government or the parliament to its invitation to pay tribute to the Jasenovac victims together.”
  • Meanwhile, Plenković noted, “The President of the Republic or his staff are now launching an initiative for the Parliament Speaker and myself to lay a wreath with him in Jasenovac.”
  • “We were not the ones to start with the ‘animal farm’, we were not the ones to start with insults or a number of other things that are most inappropriate, so there is no reason to put on an act, let that be clear to everyone,” continued the PM.
  • The government delegation will be at Jasenovac at 9:00AM CET and the delegation led by Milanović will follow at 11:00AM CET.
ALBANIAN ELECTION CENTRAL: As Albanians prepare to go to the polls this weekend for parliamentary elections, here are the latest stories coming from the Adriatic country.
  • A man was shot an opposition party’s (the Democratic Party) office in Kavaja. Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha blamed the ruling party’s leader and current PM Edi Rama for the shooting. Rama denies the shooting was politically motivated.
  • Meanwhile, Rama aims to turn Albania into the region’s latest “champion of tourism.” He cited the opening of the Kukës International Airport on Sunday and yesterday’s agreement to open an international airport in Vlora as key investments to boost tourism.

MAMIĆ FLEES TO BiH, JOINS BROTHER: Former soccer head coach of Dinamo Zagreb, Zoran Mamić, fled to neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina where his brother is currently a fugitive from Croatian law. Both have been convicted over 15 million euros that they were stealing from the club through falsified player transfer documents. Meanwhile, Croatian PM Andrej Plenković said more should have been done to keep Zoran Mamić in Croatia. Both brothers hold dual citizenship.

SUPERCOMPUTERS IN SLOVENIA: “Slovenia’s Supercomputer Vega was officially launched on April 20 putting the country on the global map of computer super powers, the European High Performance Computing Joint Undertaking (EuroHPC JU) announced.”Vega went online in a high-level ceremony in Maribor. The system was completed by local company Atos. Vega supercomputer was jointly financed by EuroHPC JU through EU funds and the Institute of Information Science in Maribor (IZUM). The value of the joint investment is €17.2mn.” (bne Intellinews)

CRIME: Bosnian Serb Army military policeman Goran Visković was charged with the killing of eight Bosniak civilians at the Sušica facility in Vlasenica. Visković is currently serving an 18-year sentence for crimes against humanity committed at Sušica.

Portuguese authorities arrested two Montenegrin mafia members, Igor and Vladimir Božović, who are allegedly members of the Kavač gang.

IN OTHER NEWS

OP-EDThe Orbanisation of Slovenia by MEP Tanja Fajon in International Politics and Society JounralANALYSISBrain drain? In Serbia, Montenegro, and North Macedonia there are signs of ‘brain gain’ by Nikola Djordjević in Emerging Europe

HUMAN INTERESTTorpedo: The Double Life of an Accused US-Albanian Drug Trafficker by Besar Likmeta, Demond Hoxhaj, and Përparim Isufi in Balkan Insight

CULTUREInside a Top Chef’s Melange of Italian and Croatian Flavors by Ashok Selvam in Chicago Eater

ENTERTAINMENT‘Not just a film’: Bosnia brings Srebrenica to the Oscars by Merisha Gadzo in Al Jazeera

TRAVELSlovenia on the list of best places to retire by the Government of Slovenia