WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

DIPLOMATS CORNER:

  • Albania – DAS Matthew Palmer’s “virtual visit” to Albania included meeting with Champions of Justice Reform from state institutions, independent justice institutions, media, civil society, and academia. He “reinforced U.S. support for the implementation of justice reform and its commitment to democratization, strengthening rule of law, and combating corruption in Albania.”
  • DAS Palmer said, “Justice reform is not easy, quick, or perfect, but it is beginning to show results now – and we will continue to support you as you push forward to implement reforms, both with our advocacy and with our assistance programs… The United States will stand with you as you change the entrenched culture of corruption and impunity in Albania”
  • Read the full transcript of the conversation HERE.
  • BiH – U.S. Ambassador Eric Nelson Head of the OSCE Mission Kathleen Kavalec, EU Special Representative Johann Sattler, and High Representative Valentin Inzko met with Bosnia’s Central Election Commission “to discuss this year’s window of opportunity for electoral reforms,” according to a U.S. Embassy statement.

EU PRESIDENCY DEFENSE MINISTERS MEET: The Ministers of Defense of Germany, Portugal, and Slovenia met to discuss the Strategic Compass process, EU-NATO cooperation, military mobility, and the bloc’s support for stabilization efforts in Mozambique on Tuesday.

DAČIĆ REJECTS EU MEDIATORS: Speaker of Parliament of Serbia Ivica Dačić rejected the mediation of the European Parliament but insists he will meet with parties within the next two weeks to discuss “the agenda and dynamics.” He says 19 political parties have already committed.

OSMANI TO CONSULT OPPOSITION ON DIALOGUE: After meeting with U.S. Ambassador to Kosovo Philip Kosnett, new President Vjosa Osmani said she will be consulting with the opposition with regards to the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue.

  • According to a press release by Osmani’s office, she “will be fully committed to establish a genuine platform for dialogue across the political spectrum, noting that in this regard special emphasis will be given to consultations with the opposition and their active involvement in matters of special interest to the country. “

SLOVENIA’S JANŠA MET SPYWARE FIRM IN ISRAEL: “During a state visit to Israel in December, Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša met for several hours with representatives of five Israeli companies, including a controversial spyware firm with a history of hacking phones of human rights activists and journalists, Slovenian investigative outlet Oštro revealed.Among those Janša spoke to a day before he met with his counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu were representatives of the NSO Group – a firm specialized in surveillance software and founded by graduates of the Israeli army’s elite cyber intelligence squad known as Unit 8200 (also known in Hebrew as Shmona-Matayim).” (OCCRP)

TUZI LOOKS TO ALBANIA AND KOSOVO: The leader of the Albanian Alternative Nik Djelosaj said the municipality of Tuzi may look to become a part of the state budget of Albania and Kosovo. He says that the Albanian majority municipality is not currently planning any investments in the municipality in 2021.

NEW ALLEGATIONS AGAINST CROATIAN POLICE: Croatia’s Interior Ministry denies there was any wrongdoing after the Danish Refugee Council reported the police sexually abused an Afghan woman in mid-February.

ZIJIN INVESTS MORE IN SERBIA: Chinese company Zijin announced a $408 million investment in mining in mining complexes in Bor and Majdenapek. Zijin has invested $1.1 billion in Serbia in the last three years.

IRANIAN TROLL FARM BUSTED IN ALBANIA: “Facebook removed hundreds of fake accounts linked to an Iranian exile group and a troll farm in Albania.

“The social media company said in a statement on Tuesday that it removed more than 300 accounts that were a part of a network tied to Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), an Iranian opposition body previously designated a terrorist group by the US.

“The social media giant observed that while the network had limited success in gaining any kind of meaningful audience, it was run by “what appears to be a tightly organized troll farm linked to an exiled militant opposition group from Iran”.” (Middle East Eye)

FORMER CEO OF JANAF ARRESTED: “The former CEO of state’s oil pipeline operator Janaf and a suspect in the Janaf corruption case, Dragan Kovacevic, was again arrested on Wednesday, together with another three suspects, for accepting bribes to fix jobs, a source close to the investigation told state agency Hina.

“The police confirmed that the criminal investigation conducted by the police anti-corruption office PNUSKOK in cooperation with the USKOK anti-corruption office was under way.” (N1)

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