We would like to wish everyone a Happy Easter to those who celebrated the holiday yesterday. 

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

KOSOVO’S NEW PRESIDENT: Vjosa Osmani was elected President of Kosovo after the third round of voting on Sunday with a total of 71 votes. Kosovo’s main opposition parties, the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) and Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK), boycotted the vote while the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) attended the session.But it wasn’t easy… There was no quorum in the first two attempts to vote for the president, including in a session on Saturday. The vote was pushed to Sunday and Osmani required a simple majority to become Kosovo’s next president. If the Kosovo Parliament failed to vote for a new president by today, snap elections would have taken place within 45 days.

Fast-tracking election law: Kosovo PM Albin Kurti on Friday introduced a bill to make it easier for diaspora to vote in Kosovo elections by allowing citizens to vote at embassies in a move largely seen as Kurti looking to solidify a stronger majority in future elections since Kurti’s Vetëvendosje won nearly 75% of the diaspora vote.The opposition said Kurti was “stoking instability” ahead of the presidential vote. The bill was defeated by four votes.

MACRON CALLS ON KURTI TO CONTINUE DIALOGUE: French President Emmanuel Macron has called on Kosovo PM Kurti to continue the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue in a congratulatory letter to Kosovo’s new PM.

  • Macron wrote, “The solving of disputes between Kosovo and Serbia is the main challenge you have to face. The last years saw substantial progress in the dialogue.”
  • And added, “you can be sure you will have my support.” He offered to host a meeting in Paris.
SEC. BLINKEN CALLS FOR CONSTITUTION CHANGES IN BiH: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday sent a letter to the Members of the Presidency of BiH – Šefik Džaferović, Željko Komšić, and Milorad Dodik – urging them to pursue changes to the constitution.
  • “Limited constitutional change will be necessary to reform the electoral system consistent with the requirement of the European Union membership and the rulings of the European courts”, wrote Blinken.
  • He added that 2021 is a key year for changes to the electoral system since there are no elections planned for this year.
  • Bosniak Member of the Presidency Džaferović welcomed the letter and said the U.S. is “the closest friend and greatest advocate of successful Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
  • Chairman and Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Dodik said he agreed with Blinken’s view that change should come from within Bosnia and Herzegovina. He remained firm that no changes will happen in the Republika Srpska entity, but hoped to change election law within the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina entity.
  • Read the full letter HERE.
EU, US CALL FOR REFORMS IN BiH: The Embassies of France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States and the EU Delegation/EU Special Representative in BiH on Friday released a statement calling for reforms as outlined in the EU’s 14 key priorities for BiH. They call for inclusion of civil society organizations, academics, and others in the dialogue for reforms.
  • The statement urges leaders in BiH to stop misrepresenting the international community.
  • They wrote, “Transparency and inclusiveness are critical for broad success, but frequent attempts to misrepresent or distort the role and intent of some international actors in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including the EU and United States, are counterproductive to the important reform processes necessary to increase democratic participation, enhance rule of law, spur economic competitiveness and recovery and restore citizen confidence.”

SLOVENIAN PM FACES IMPEACHMENT: “Slovenia’s opposition filed a constitutional impeachment motion against Prime Minister Janez Janša, saying he has failed to order enough vaccines for the nation and is hurting the freedoms of media and the judiciary.

“The government has been under increased pressure and has faced months-long protests, a failed no-confidence motion in February and five minister impeachments, three of them in March alone.

“Cracks in the ruling coalition deepened on Tuesday when lawmakers rejected a motion to oust the parliament speaker, who left the ruling alliance last week. The failure to muster enough votes for his ouster has weakened Janša’s grip on power.” (Bloomberg)

Go deeper:

KOMŠIĆ SENDS NON-PAPER TO THE EU: “The Bosnian Croat member of the tripartite BiH Presidency, Željko Komšić, wrote to Brussels on Friday, saying his country is exposed to political pressure from Moscow and interference from neighbouring Croatia and Serbia through local political parties.

“He first listed ‘new and growing pressure from Russia on Bosnia and Herzegovina as a geopolitical point, through threats regarding further steps of Bosnia and Herzegovina down the NATO path.’
Komsic also criticised the role the European Union is playing in BiH, which he argued is ‘under significant influence of Croatia.’

“‘Croatia is trying to project its own interests through the EU in order to achieve a continuous influence over Bosnia and Herzegovina, particularly through activities of the HDZ BiH,’ he wrote, referring to Bosnia’s Croat Democratic Union, the main Bosnian Croat party in the country.” (N1)

MIGRANT CRISIS: President of N. Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski on Friday sent the Armed Forces to the northern and southern border to quell migrants from entering the country as the number of Covid cases increases in N. Macedonia.

KOSOVO PM SAYS SERBIA NOT ALLOWED TO BUILD ROAD IN KOSOVO: The Kosovo Prime Minister’s Office told local media in Kosovo on Thursday night that Serbia will not be allowed to reconstruct the road between the Jarinje and N. Mitrovica.

  • The Jarinje-Mitrovica road is a regional road of the Republic of Kosovo, and its maintenance is the responsibility of the Government of the Republic of Kosovo, which also applies to all other regional roads on the territory of the Republic,” said the government statement.
  • Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vučić announced last Wednesday that Serbia would begin constructing the road within a month.

RAMA’S PARTY LEADERSHIP ON LINE IN ELECTIONS: PM Edi Rama said he would step down as Chairman of the Socialists Party if he fails to secure a third term as Prime Minister of Albania.

N. MACEDONIA’S FM LAYS OUT NEW FP STRATEGY: FM of N. Macedonia Bujar Osmani outlined the ten-year plan for foreign policy for N. Macedonia. Osmani laid out pillars that would lead to a new ten year plan. FM Osmani underscored that key aspects of the strategy include broad civic consultations and strengthening of the inclusive process by organizing thematic conferences will be the central themes of the new strategy dubbed Reflection 20-30.

MONTENEGRIN FM OPTIMISTIC ON US, ISRAEL RELATIONS: Montenegro’s FM Djordje Radulović commented on the relationship between Podgorica and Israel and the United States. He commented on the current state of relations after announcing Montenegro will open and embassy in Israel.

  • He underscored that he believes the Biden Administration will work in collaboration with the EU to strengthen the Western Balkans’ Euro-Atlantic integration. Montenegro is focused on EU negotiations related to Chapter 23 (Judiciary and fundamental rights) and Chapter 24 (Justice, freedom and security).
  • In addition, Montenegro will be focusing on economic diplomacy. FM Radulović said, “One of our priorities is economic diplomacy, that is, the establishment of mechanisms for attracting credible investments.”

EU CUTS OUT SLOVENIA, 2 OTHERS FOR COVID DOSES: “Austria, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic have been excluded from an EU move to provide millions of extra vaccines to hard-hit member countries, ending bitter negotiations over jab supply that have divided governments.

“A coalition of 24 EU countries on Thursday decided on a ‘solidarity’ mechanism that will provide 2.85m additional doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer jab to five member states: Estonia, Latvia, Croatia, Slovakia, and Bulgaria. The decision will not give additional jabs to a trio led by Austria after they blocked proposals for redistribution in protest after seeking a higher share. ” (Financial Times)

Meanwhile… The Government of Slovenia wrote in a press release that it is focusing on “eliminating the growing differences in the vaccination rate among EU Member States” on Friday.

MONTENEGRO-SERBIA RELATIONS: Montenegrin Interior Minister Sergej Sekulović described the relationship between Montenegro and Serbia as “brotherly and complicated, dynamic and opposing.” He added that relations between the citizens of the countries are stronger than that of high politicians.

PROTESTING THE “MONSTER” CASE: Ethnic Albanians in N. Macedonia protested on Friday for the five defendants in the “Monster” case that are accused of murdering five Macedonians in 2012. The protesters claim the secret police are responsible for the murders. On the same day, Kosovo Police arrested one of the suspects who was tried in absentia.

ALBANIA’S BIG PAYMENT TO ITALIAN BUSINESSMAN: “Albania was ordered to pay €110 million to Italian businessman Francesco Becchetti following the ‘politically motivated’ government closure of his Agon television channel in 2015.

“On Friday, an ad hoc panel of International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), an arbitration court, rejected a request by the Albanian government for the annulment of the court’s decision in April 2019 to award Bechetti €110 million. This is a final decision by the arbitration court and it means that Albania must start paying Becchetti now.” (exit.al)

IN OTHER NEWS

OP-ED:West’s Tension With China Presents Balkans With Tough Choices by Anastas Vangeli in Balkan InsightOP-EDBoyko Borisov’s “Russian roulette” in EU Reporter

OP-EDChina Is Changing Serbia From the Inside by Wawa Wang and Nils Resare in The Diplomat

OP-EDGreat Serbian vaccinationism by Orhan Dragaš in Euraktiv

OP-EDPolitical End In Sight For Balkans Last ‘Unconvicted War Criminal’? by Col. Wes Martin in The International Business Times

ANALYSISVaccine tourists welcome as Serbians say ‘no thanks’ to jabs in AFP

HUMAN INTERESTTraining opens ‘a window of hope’ for Albanian rug-weavers by Llazar Semini in AP News

HUMAN INTERESTLA to Zagreb: Friends quit jobs and head to the Motherland in Croatia Week

HUMAN INTERESTCristiano Ronaldo’s armband sold for € 64,000, money for sick child in N1

CULTURE: “Srijem and Slavonia: A Taste of Happiness by Marina Kaleb in Total Croatia News

SPORTCroatia’s Ivica Olić takes charge of Russia’s CSKA Moscow club as head coach in TASS

TRAVEL: Montenegro’s Empty Resorts Await Summer Season With Anxiety by Samir Kajosević in Balkan Insight

TRAVELTaking the back road to Mostar an exhilarating adventure by Rick Steves in Times Colonist