Join your fellow Balkan Insider readers, on Thursday, April 29th at 12:00PM EST/6:00PM CET, for a webinar with the former U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Croatia, W. Robert Kohorst. The former ambassador will share his highlights from his three plus years based in Zagreb on key geo-political issues that he faced as an American diplomat including: the Visa Waiver Program, avoidance of the Double Taxation Treaty negotiations, the completion of the floating LNG terminal off the island of Krk, and the U.S.-Croatia relations from a business perspective and as NATO allies! Register HERE.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY
ALBANIAN ELECTION RESULTS UPDATE: With 4,596/5,199 (88.4%) voting centers counted in Albania’s parliamentary elections, PM Edi Rama’s Socialist Party appears poised to narrowly win a third mandate as prime minister.
  • The Socialist Party received 48.68% of the vote, the Democratic Party is second with 39.36% followed by the Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI) with 6.90%.
  • The Social Democratic Party has 2.2% of the vote which puts it above the 1% threshold for parliamentary elections.
  • See how U.S. Ambassador to Albania Yuri Kim weighted in on the elections in an interview with Euronews Albania HERE.
NEW NON-PAPER ON KOSOVO-SERBIA: Kosovo news outlet Koha Dritore published an alleged German and French non-paper on Kosovo and Serbia.
Key takeaways of the German-French initiative include:
  • Kosovo and Serbia to respect “the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence” of each other.
  • Establishing the Community of Serb municipalities from the 2013 Brussels agreement
  • Establishing the “Autonomous District of North Kosovo” which includes the four primarily Serb municipalities.
  • Self-governance of the Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries
  • The creation of the Mitrovica Economic Zone.
  • Permanent Missions in each country.
  • Establishment of the Mutual Friendship Council.
SLOVENIA’S NON-PAPER DISCUSSIONS AND COMMENTARY CONTINUE: The Slovenian non-paper released in mid-April that calls for the borders in the Western Balkans to be redrawn continues to be condemned across the region and Europe, except for Chairman and Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik.
  • EU High Representative Josep Borrell said in a press conference with Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić that “if it is a non-paper, for me it is a non-issue.”
  • Chairman and Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik yesterday told reporters that “nobody can hide the fact that there is more and more talk of it among European structures” because of the commentary from EU institutions and officials. He added that he is “personally committed to Republika Srpska (RS) becoming an independent state” and emphasized “There is no freedom here for the Serb people until Republika Srpska is independent.”
  • Dodik reiterated his stance that the “peaceful separation” of RS from Bosnia and Herzegovina cannot include violence or war. He said he does not want “people to be mobilized for that goal and fighting a war for it.”
  • He concluded, “I have never called anyone to war, nor have I tried to do anything from that point of view, but I am convinced that BiH will fall apart because no one wants to work in it anymore.”
  • Meanwhile, the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board (PICSB) released a statement condemning “in the strongest possible terms” the “peaceful separation” including Dodik’s online campaign to change the perception of independence for Bosnia’s RS entity. The statement cites the legal framework for Bosnia’s entity system within a single constitution that guarantees Bosnia’s territorial integrity. The statement notes that Russia did not agree with the PICSB statement.
  • The non-paper was condemned by Slovenian MEP Irena Jovova who said she can’t imagine it coming to fruition, especially at the European level. She added that “Nationalism is a cheap instrument for scoring political points is still too often used.”
VUČIĆ IN BRUSSELS: Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić on Monday continued his visit to Brussels where he met with President of the European Commission Ursala von der Leyen, President of the European Council Charles Michel, High Representative Josep Borrell, and Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi.
  • European Commission President von der Leyen after their meeting tweeted that they discussed Covid-19, economic recovery, accession process with an emphasis on the Rule of Law, the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue, and the Belgrade-N. Macedonia railway.
  • Meanwhile, Vučić and Michel discussed EU integration, reform agenda, and Covid-19.
  • And at a press conference after the Vučić-Borrell meeting, the High Representative called for “the possibilities to increase the speed” of Serbia’s EU accession.
  • He called for Serbia’s EU accession negotiations “to be more dynamic” which can be achieved with “more progress on reforms and their implementation” including on Serbia’s Foreign and Security policy.
  •  Borrell added on the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue that he encouraged Vučić “to reach a comprehensive legally binding agreement on normalisation of the relations.”
  • Serbia’s Vučić meanwhile told reporters that Belgrade’s request to Kosovo is for Pristina to implement previous agreements.
  • He added that Belgrade relies on Russia’s support on the Kosovo issue which is why Serbia has not joined the EU common foreign policy and place sanctions on Moscow. “Imagine we impose sanctions against Russia every day and expect its support of our territorial integrity in return,” said Vučić.
  • Watch the full press conference with Borrell HERE.

Speaking of Serbia and the EU… PM Ana Brnabić noted that Serbia has prepared its negotiation position for Chapter 27 on environment in its EU accession talks. She highlighted investments in energy and environment will mean that it is the most expensive chapter.U.S. Ambassador weighs in on Serbia’s EU path: U.S. Ambassador to Serbia Anthony Godfrey said that “malignant influence…wants to block Serbia on the European path.” Russia and China have been key influences in Belgrade and support Serbia on key foreign policy issues like the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue.

Up next… President of N. Macedonia is set to meet with EU officials tomorrow as the Western Balkans week in the office of EU institutions continues.

NATO + N. MACEDONIA: NATO yesterday announced that President of N. Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski will meet with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels on Wednesday. There will be a press conference at 1:15PM CET following the meeting.

DEFENDER 21 EXERCISES KICK OFF: The DEFENDER – EUROPE 2021 military exercises, the largest in the Western Balkans, kicked off yesterday in Albania. U.S. Ambassador Yuri Kim noted on Twitter that she is “Pleased to see USNS Bob Hope arrive at Durrës. The Bob Hope is a supply ship that is carrying more than 800 pieces of equipment for use in the exercise. 2 other ships will join.”

SWEDISH FM VISITS SLOVENIA: Swedish FM Ann Linda yesterday was on an official visit to Slovenia where she me with counterpart Anže Logar to discuss bilateral relations and Slovenia’s EU presidency.

CROATIA TO AMEND CRIMINAL PROCEDURE ACT: “Croatian Justice Minister Ivan Malenica on Monday announced amendments to the Criminal Procedure Act and a meeting with his Bosnian counterpart on a bilateral agreement which makes it possible to serve a prison sentence in the other country.”Last Thursday, after former Dinamo football club coach Zoran Mamic went to Bosnia and Herzegovina and requested to serve his Croatian sentence there, Malenica asked Croatia’s Supreme Court president and chief state prosecutor to say if existing legislation is sufficient for deciding on precautionary measures against a defendant.” (N1)

IN OTHER NEWS

OP-ED: Biden and the Western Balkans by Vuk Vuksanović in War on the RocksOP-EDKosovo Needs Rescuing From its Middle Eastern Imbroglio by Engjellushe Morina in Balkan Insight

OP-EDWest should stop pushing Kosovo on new Serbian entity by Ekrem Krasniqi and Qazim Menxhiqi in EU Observer

ANALYSISHomage to Ratko Mladic Provokes Fear in Bosnian Town by Albina Sorguč in Balkan Insight

ANALYSISVaccine rollout gets off to a shaky start by Drenushe Ramadani in Prishtina Insight

SPORTCroatia Rally winner fined after causing traffic accident and leaving the scene in N1