WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY
CORONAVIRUS – CROATIA: Croatian Finance Minister Zdravko Maric on Wednesday said Croatia needs up to $10 billion to combat COVID-19. Interestingly enough, this amount is just under the $10.9 billion that foreign tourists brought into the country last year. Croatian PM Andrej Plenkovic is negotiating with China to purchase more medical supplies. The EU has called on member states, including Croatia and Slovenia, to restrict non-essential travel until May 15. By the numbers: 1,343 confirmed cases, 19 deaths.
CORONAVIRUS – KOSOVO: A Kosovo company has started utilizing 3D technology to build ventilators for COVID-19 patients. A doctor at the Infectious Disease Institute, Valbon Krasniqi, warns that the nunmber of infected citizens is expected to dramatically rise in the coming week. The Kosovo town of Mitrovica has introduced “sanitizing tunnels” to disinfect people. By the numbers: 224 confirmed cases, 6 deaths.
CORONAVIRUS – N. MACEDONIA: Bulgarian PM Boyko Borissov says his country will donate medical bodysuits “for our brothers” in neighboring N. Macedonia. Macedonian epidemiologist Dr. Dragan Danilovski says the country should enter a complete lockdown since the number of cases have been doubling every 5-6 days and it is the only way to effectively combat the virus until a vaccine is found. By the numbers: 617 confirmed cases, 29 deaths.
CORONAVIRUS – MONTENEGRO: Montenegro arrested a medical worker for publishing a list of citizens diagnosed with COVID-19. The government has banned more than 1 person in public areas at a time and leaving the house from 11AM on Sunday to 5PM on Monday in new measures taken to combat the virus. By the numbers: 249 confirmed cases, 2 deaths.
CORONAVIRUS – SERBIA: U.S. Ambassador to Serbia Anthony Godfrey said the U.S. has pledged 6,000 test kits to Serbia while on a phone call on Wednesday, according to Serbian FM Ivica Dacic. The son of Serbian president, Aleksandar Vucic, has tested positive positive for COVID-19. Serbia implements a curfew over the weekend from 5PM on Friday to 5AM on Monday. By the numbers: 666 confirmed cases, 65 deaths.
CORONAVIRUS – SLOVENIA: Slovenia’s second largest city, Maribor, received a combined 25,000 masks from its two sister cities in China, Hanghzhou and Chongqing. Maribor has received guarantees for 62,000 further masks from partner cities Nanjing, Huaian and Nanchang. Small businesses are feeling the economic squeeze as rent payments are due. By the numbers: 1,214 confirmed cases, 40 deaths.
WESTERN BALKAN SUMMIT POSTPONED: Croatia has postponed the Western Balkans Summit scheduled for May 7 as a part of its presidency of the EU.
U.S. AMB. TO SERBIA + SALC: U.S. Ambassador to Serbia Anthony Godfrey spoke via webcam with representatives of the Serbian American Leadership Conference (SALC) and Bishop Irinej of Eastern America. Ambassador Godfrey described relations between the two countries as “strong and growing stronger.” He mentioned Serbia “footed the bill” for the Air Serbia flight from Belgrade to Washington, DC for upwards of 200 people looking to head back to the U.S. He added one of the biggest strategic goals of the U.S. is supporting Serbia’s EU ambitions.Ambassador Godfrey denied that the U.S. had any involvement in the no motion confidence in Kosovo’s parliament and reinforced the U.S. has explicitly stated the U.S. expectations on the 100% tariffs on Serbian and Bosnian goods. Watch the full video here.
KURTI READY FOR SERBIA DIALOGUE: Acting Kosovo PM Albin Kurti wrote to EU Special Representative Miroslav Lajcak that he is ready to restart the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue to reach a deal that would include a “political, economic and financial package” to “accelerate the convergence of the two countries’ standards of living and their integration into the European Union.” But Kurti was quick to say, “under no circumstances or situation will issues of mutual sovereignty, territorial integrity and internal affairs be discussed.”
PM BRNABIC BLASTS MEDIA: Serbian PM Ana Brnabic on Wednesday blasted the media in Serbia for coverage during COVID-19. She said, “Why are you doing that, people? Do you hate Aleksandar Vucic that much that you hate your state, all your people, the whole system as well? So, a lie. But why are you doing that? Because you don’t like your state? Do you want this epidemic to last, what exactly is the intention? Why do you hate Vucic? Do you want to destroy the whole country? Well, I think it won’t happen.” And added, “Don’t do that to the President while the man is fighting for respirators with the most powerful countries in the world and is winning in that struggle. That should make us all proud. Don’t hamper (him) while he’s fighting for protective equipment, suits, masks. Don’t do it now.”
OPEN FOR BUSINESS: Croatian Interior Minister head of the National Civil Protection Authority Davor Bozinovic on Wednesday said farmer’s markets would be open for business from 8AM to 1PM “under strict rules set by the Croatian Public Health Institute.” In addition, fish markets were given the green light to operate in the port city of Rijeka.
NUCLEAR WASTE: Bosnia and Herzegovina could bring Croatia to arbitration if it goes ahead with the planned nuclear waste facility close to the Bosnian-Croatian border.
OP-ED: “NATO welcomes its 30th member, strengthening the ties that bind” by Ambassador Christopher Hill in The HillOP-ED: “China Has Its Eyes on Serbia” by Vuk Vuksanovic in Foreign Policy
OP-ED: “The Torture of a Coronavirus Test in Serbia” by Nikola Milinkovic in BIRN
ANALYSIS: “Skopje’s Roma recycling collectors try to step out of the shadows” by DM Saldana in Al Jazeera