WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

ALBANIAN ELECTION RESULTS: PM Edi Rama is charging towards win his third term as prime minister with the Socialist Party holding a commanding lead from Sunday’s parliamentary elections with 48% of the vote counted at the time of this writing.
  • The Socialist Party has garnered 50.22% of votes as of 11:00PM EST/ 5:00AM CET according to Albania’s Central Election Commission.
  • The Democratic Party is came in second with 38.34% of the vote followed by coalition partner Socialist Movement for Integration which received 6.81% of the vote.
Kurti Criticized for Voting in Albania: Kosovo’s PM Albin Kurti was criticized for voting in Albania’s elections by German MEP Viola von Cramon and Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vučić. Kurti holds Albanian citizenship.
  • Von Cramon wrote on Twitter, “I cannot understand what this is all about. On one hand everyone in Kosovo complains about interference from Serbia or from President Aleksandar Vučić himself but on the other hand here does the PM of #Kosovo even vote in a neighbouring state. Not acceptable. At least not for me.”
  • Meanwhile, Serbia’s Vučić wondered what the reaction would be from Kosovo and the international community if he voted in Gračanica, Zubin Potok, or Zvečan in Kosovo.

Attack Thwarted: A man who attempt to disrupt elections at the Skanderbeg Square pedestrian zone was stopped by a civilian who jumped into driver’s car through the window and dropkicked the driver.

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VUČIĆ MEETS LAJČÁK IN BRUSSELS: Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić arrived in Brussels on Sunday and met with EUSR for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue Miroslav Lajčák. The interlocutors discussed “the work ahead.” Lajčák is set to meet with Kosovo’s PM Albin Kurti later this week. The two Western Balkan leaders are set for separate meetings with European officials throughout the week.

BUT FIRST…. Vučić met with German FM Heiko Maas on Friday and told him that Belgrade is ready to continue the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue. After the meeting, Vučić said, “Serbia was against ‘the frozen conflict’ and that the essence of the progress for both Albanians and Serbs was peace.”

On Serbia’s European future, the German FM noted, “Each state in the Western Balkans determines the pace of its own rapprochement with the EU. This requires national efforts & reforms, especially regarding rule of law. The direction in which Serbia is heading is the right one.”

Maas also met with PM Ana Brnabić and inaugurated the new building of the German Embassy in Belgrade on his trip to Serbia.

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OSMANI IN KOSOVO: FM of N. Macedonia Bujar Osmani visited Kosovo on Friday. He met with President Vjosa Osmani, PM Albin Kurti, FM Donika Gërvalla, and Speaker of Parliament Glauk Konjufca, They discussed bilateral and regional relations, the Euro-Atlantic path of both countries, and planned to organize a joint government session.

EU’S JOHANSSON TALKS MIGRATION IN CROATIA: European Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johnasson met with Croatian officials on Friday to discuss the migrant situation in Croatia. They discussed the New Pact on Migration and Asylum which calls for better migration management for EU members, Croatia’s ambitions to join the Schengen Zone, and migration in neighboring countries.

BiH’S MAP ACTIVATED: Bosnian Croat Member of the Presidency Željko Komšić said that Bosnia’s Annual National Programme (ANP) has been sent to NATO and activated its Membership Action Plan (MAP) on Friday. Komšić remains confident about Bosnia’s NATO aspirations. He said, “Now we have before us the reforms that our country must fulfil in order to become a full member of this alliance.”

MONTENEGRIN FM VISITS ATHENS: Montenegrin FM Djordje Radulović on Friday met with Greek FM Nikos Denidas. They discussed bilateral relations and Montenegro’s path to the European Union.

  • Denidas noted, “What will lead the Western Balkans to the 21st century is having a European prospect, the European values, understanding and good neighborly relations.”
  • “We consider the Western Balkans as a region of direct interest and as a region where there are many friendly countries. We are always concerned when we see countries with other agendas that are not European and not friendly to our region, trying to abuse their presence in these countries in an attempt to revive old empires and glories,” he added.

SLOVENIA TO FOCUS ON W. BALKANS: “There will be a special focus on the Western Balkan region during Slovenia’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union between July and December 2021, the Slovenian Government told N1.”We want to continue the process of EU enlargement with countries in the region. In October, we are planning a summit at the level of heads of state and government dedicated to this region,’ the Slovenian Government said.” (N1)

OHR WANTS EXPLANATION FOR RS PURCHASE: “After the Republika Srpska (RS) Ministry of the Internal Affairs (MIA) recently submitted a request to state institutions seeking approval for the procurement of certain weapons that fall into the “heavy” category, the Office of the High Representative (OHR) also announced…”‘The question that should the RS authorities be asked is why they think it is necessary to procure such heavy weapons of military rank for their police forces and what is the security threat that would justify the use of such deadly weapons,’ the OHR told to agency FENA when asked about the additional armament of the MIA of RS.” (Sarajevo Times)

SPEAKING OF THE OHR…: Canada said it fully backs German Christian Schmidt as Valentin Inzko’s successor as the High Representative in BiH according to Canadian FM Marc Garneau.

  • Garneau said, “I entirely agree that the appointment of a new High Representative is an important matter that needs to be closely considered. High Representative Valentin Inzko has excellently performed this duty for years but he signaled his wish to resign.”
  • “There were several talks between the members of the (PIC) Steering Board in order to see if all factors were taken into consideration and that a consensus is possible,” added the Canadian.

MEDIA ATTACKS IN MONTENEGRO: “The new head of the Commission for Monitoring Violence against Media, Mihailo Jovovic, has called on authorities to show the political will to clarify attacks on journalists and media in the country.”Jovovic said police and prosecution investigations should detect the preparators and masterminds behind the attacks, adding that the previous government didn’t show the political will to investigate old cases.” (Balkan Insight)

IN OTHER NEWS

OP-EDKosovo should rule out any further compromise by Aidan Hehir in Prishtina InsightOP-EDDefender Europe 21: A Historic Milestone for the Western Balkans by Valbona Zeneli and Joseph Vann in The National Interest

OP-EDShould Balkan Borders be Redrawn? by Harun Karčić in Newsweek

ANALYSISIn Albania, a New Left Is Challenging the Oligarchs’ Parties by Griselda Qosja in The Jacobin Magazine

ANALYSISNon-paper, non-reaction: Why is the EU silent over explosive memo on redrawing Bosnia’s borders? by Sandrine Amiel in Euronews

ANALYSIS‘Pimping Girls’: Sexual Exploitation Case Threatens To Take Down Serbian Kingpin, Vucic Ally by Ljudmila Cvetković in RFE/RL

HUMAN INTERESTPjeter Shala: Kosovo Liberation Army’s Shadowy ‘Commander Wolf’ by Serbeze Haxhiaj and Xhorxhina Bami in Balkan Insight

ENTERTAINMENTWhy Quo Vadis, Aida? deserves an Oscar by Aida Hozić and Srdjan Vučetić in Al Jazeera

ENTERTAINMENTFive reasons why turbo-folk is actually great by Nikola Djordjević in Emerging Europe

TRAVELA city guide to Ljubljana, Slovenia’s compact capital by Jessica Vincent in National Geographi