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

PENDAROVSKI MEETS STOLTENBERG: President of N. Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to discuss Skopje’s first year as a NATO member.KURTI ARRIVES IN BRUSSELS: Kosovo PM Albin Kurti arrived in Brussels for a two-day official visit to meet with European officials.

  • Yesterday he met with Belgian counterpart Alexander De Croo, European Parliament President David Sassoli, and EUSR for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue Miroslav Lajčák.
  • After the first day, Kurti said there will not be a new round of negotiations between Kosovo and Serbia on May 11. This is contradictory to High Representative Josep Borrell’s announcement for a new round of dialogue.
  • He took his time in Brussels to meet with multiple EU Commissioners.
  • Tomorrow he will meet with EU Commission President Ursala von der Leyen, High Representative Josep Borrell, NATO Secretary General Jens Stolenberg.

U.S. WEIGHS IN ON BiH: Two State Department officials, Counselor Derek Chollet and U.S. DAS for European and Eurasian Affairs and Special Representative to the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer, emphasized the importance of Bosnia’s territorial integrity, reforms in a non-election year, and Russian influence in the region.Chollet calls for reforms: The U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo published a statement by State Department Counselor Derek Chollet.

  • Chollet “called on Bosnia to discuss key reforms necessary for greater prosperity, transparent institutions, freer and fairer elections, stronger rule of law, and deeper partnership with Euro-Atlantic institutions.”
  • He noted the non-election year is crucial to implement ECtHR rulings, election law changes, and technical reforms on the election.
  • He called for the rhetoric to cool down so citizens can regain confidence in the government.
  • Chollet emphasized U.S. support for Bosnia’s territorial integrity.
DAS Palmer on BiH: U.S. DAS Palmer emphasized that the U.S. strongly and unconditionally supports the territorial integrity of BiH in an interview with N1.
  • He commented on the Slovenian non paper which called for redrawing borders in the Western Balkans. “The ideas presented there are dangerous and wrongly directed. And those ideas were rejected long ago as completely irrelevant for the Balkans,” said Palmer.
  • He added that elections in Mostar showed that democracy is possible in BiH and the country needs to implement court rulings and reforms. He said the way forward is with “broader consent” between the three main parties.
  • On Russian influence, DAS Palmer noted that “The U.S. wants a European future for the Western Balkans. That’s why we are the strongest partner in the region.” He added that Russia can’t decide the future of Bosnia since it makes decisions on its own as an independent, sovereign state.
  • He concluded that the U.S. supports Germany’s Christian Schmidt as the candidate to replace Valentin Inzko as High Representative.

Read moreThe Cost of Rhetoric by U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina Eric Nelson

SERBIA’S VUČIĆ ON NON PAPER: Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić commented on the alleged German-French non paper published by Kosovo outlet Koha Dritore which has been denied by both he Germans and French.

  • “I was surprised by that paper. There is more in it than in the Ahtisaary’s Plan,” said Vučić.
  • The Serbian president added, “The appearance of that non-paper means Serbia will be increasingly pressured and that we are nearing the final duress under which there must be either some solution or a culprit will be declared.”
  • Vučić added a message for Pristina – “If they hope Serbia would accept the recognition of Kosovo, that won’t happen.”
CROATIA-MONTENEGRO BORDER DISPUTE: Montenegrin PM Zdravko Krivkokapić said the government will form a new commission to resolve the maritime border issue with Croatia at the Prevlaka peninsula near Dubrovnik.
  • Krivokapić told parliament, “The intention of this government is to form a commission that, in agreement with the Croatian side, will try to solve a very complex problem.”
  • “We need to resolve this because of EU integration, because they will not tolerate unresolved bilateral issues in the accession process. I hope this commission will help resolve this problem,” added the prime minister
MONTENEGRO TO DISCUSS SACKING LEPOSAVIĆ: Montenegro’s Parliament could discuss on May 11 the dismissal of Minister of Justice, Human and Minority Rights Vladimir Leposavić who said he would recognize the Srebrenica Genocide only when it was unequivocally proven. Another government official on the hot seat at the session is the President of the State Election Commission Aleksa Ivanović.

LGBTQ+ IN N. MACEDONIA: The Ministry of Justice of N. Macedonia submitted changes to the Law on Birth Registry intended to make it easier for transgender people to change their identity.

  • The draft notes a difference between sex and gender. It says, “Sex refers to the physical characteristics of the individual … Gender identity refers to the internal and individual feeling about gender of each individual person, which might not correspond with the sex determined at birth, including personal feelings about the body and the other manifestations of gender, including clothing, speech, manners.”
  • According to Balkan Insight, “If the changes pass through parliament, the procedure for legal recognition of gender will no longer require submission of proof that a person has undergone a surgical procedure, hormone therapies or any other psychiatric, psychological or medical treatments.”

BOSNIA’S MIGRANT CRISIS: “Repatriation of migrants to the countries of their origin is one of the main mechanisms to deal with the issue of migrations, Bosnian Security Minister Selmo Cikotic said on Wednesday, following the meeting with Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer, who offered support of his country in these activities.”The officials discussed the ways to improve the cooperation in sectors of security and migration management.

“Minister Cikotic said the two countries cooperate on a number of issues that include the fight against security challenges and threats, with the fight against smuggling of migrants and illegal migrations as one of the top issues.” (N1)

POLICE IN N. MACEDONIA BUST CRIME CRING: “Police in North Macedonia have broken up a major criminal ring of drug, weapons and ammunition traffickers and arrested nine people, including a police officer, authorities said Wednesday.”Interior Ministry spokesman Toni Angelovski said the arrests followed raids on a dozen homes and other locations in the village of Aracinovo, near the capital Skopje, and in the central town of Sveti Nikole.” (AP News)

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