WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

Today’s scheduled Fireside Chat with President of the Advisory Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina Ajla Delkic HAS BEEN POSTPONED to Monday, April 18, 2020 at 1:00PM EST, 7:00PM CET. For registration click here. 

CORONAVIRUS – BiH: The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina entity is set to open its institutions today. The US Embassy in Sarajevo and NATO delivered “critical supplies and disinfection equipment” to the Bosnian Armed Forces and health centers in Mostar and Nevesinje. In addition, Austria provided two shipments of aid in the first week of May. Humanitarian aid arrived from Russia in Banja Luka over the weekend. By the numbers: 2,117 confirmed cases, 1,106 recovered, 107 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – CROATIA: Croatia today enters phase 3 of easing restrictions including grades 1-4 returning to school. By the numbers: 2,187 confirmed cases, 1,764 recovered, 90 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – KOSOVO: The EU has pledged 160 million euro in aid and grants to Kosovo to combat an economic meltdown due to COVID-19. By the numbers: 870 confirmed cases, 653 recovered, 28 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – N. MACEDONIA: Health Minister Venko Filipche warned that the situation could return the state to the start of the crisis.  By the numbers: 1,642 confirmed cases, 91 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – MONTENEGRO: Director of the National Tourist Organization Zeljka Radak Kukavicic eyes July as the initial phase of recovery of the tourism industry. Montenegro extended its suspension of flights until May 31. By the numbers: 324 confirmed cases, 274 recovered, 9 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – SERBIA: The British Defense Ministry donated personal protective equipment to the a military hospital. By the numbers: 10, 032 confirmed cases, 2,732 recovered, 213 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – SLOVENIA: Slovenia revealed its short-term plans to handle the effect on the tourism industry. Nearly 60% of people think Economy Minister Zdravko Pocivalsek should resign over procurement of personal protective equipment, according to a poll by Delo. By the numbers: 1,457 confirmed cases, 102 deaths.

REGIONAL COVID-19: President of Albania Ilir Meta met with the Ambassadors of Croatia, Kosovo, Greece, N. Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia in Tirana to discuss measures taken in each country to combat COVID-19.

VARHELYI ON DEMOCRACY: EU Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi said the EU will make its own assessment of democracy in the Western Balkans after Freedom House’s Nations in Transit Report downgraded Serbia and Montenegro to hybrid regimes. He said, “The commission has its own assessment when it comes to the rule of law, democracy for the Western Balkan countries, including those with which we are conducting accession negotiations. And we will be looking at this situation when we come forward with the report on Serbia and Montenegro.”

BOSNIAN MINISTER OFFERS RESIGNATION: Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations of Bosnia and Herzegovina Stasa Kosarac offered his resignation after being found at a “Corona party.” In a statement, he wrote he was “ready to bear all the sanctions imposed on me by the party” after criticism from top officials.

N. MACEDONIA STAMP CONTROVERSY: PM of N. Macedonia Oliver Spasovski sacked the members of the Philatelic Council after a stamp was released that depicted a map of the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), a Nazi puppet state during World War II. The map of the NDH includes Bosnia and Herzegovina and parts of Serbia on the stamp. Both Bosnia and Serbia sent protest letters to N. Macedonia.  See an image of the stamp here.

ISRAEL BLASTS BLEIBURG MASS: “Israel’s non-resident Embassy for Bosnia condemned, on Sunday, the Mass for Bleiburg killings announced by the Catholic Church for May 16 in Sarajevo, saying they strongly stand by the Jewish Community in Bosnia’s condemnation of this event, asking the Church to reconsider its intentions.’The state of Israel stands firm and raises its voice against all attempts of revisionism and any such and similar regrettable narratives. The Jewish Community under NDH suffered in terms which are impossible to describe. Jews were sent to their death en masse to Jasenovac and other death camps during this terrible period alongside so many other peoples,’ the Tirana, Albania, based Embassy said in their statement. ” (N1)

RTCG APOLOGIZES FOR PLAYING THOMPSON: Radio Television Montenegro (RTCG) apologized after playing a music video by Marko Perkovic Thompson on Saturday morning, Victory in Europe Day. Thompson is well-known for promoting the Ustasha greeting “For the Homeland, Ready” which was popularized during Croatia’s fascist puppet state during World War II.

ORBAN ANGERS NEIGHBORS: Hungary’s PM Viktor Orban angered neighbors when he posted on Facebook a map of “Greater Hungary” which includes parts of Croatia, Serbia, Slovakia, and Romania. Croatia’s President Zoran Milanovic noted, “In our closets and archives there are numerous historical maps and maps that show our homeland much bigger than it is today … Don’t share them and put them on your profiles. They are not contemporary or achievable today, and, more importantly, [they] endlessly irritate our neighbors.”

SLOVENIA PROTESTS: Thousands of Slovenians cycled through the capital, Ljubljana, to protest PM Janez Jansa’s government for taking measures during COVID-19 claiming it has restricted freedoms during the pandemic.

CROATIA + BiH: Croatian FM Gordan Grlic Radman spoke with Speaker of the House of Peoples of the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina (PSBiH) Dragan Covic. The two discussed the Zagreb Summit, COVID-19, and the representation of ethnic Croats in Bosnian institutions.

MACEDONIAN: FM of Bulgaria Ekaterina Zaharieva says N. Macedonia should accept that Macedonian is based on the Bulgarian language.

SERBIA PROTESTS THE EU: The EU has angered Serbia by describing scientist Nikola Tesla as Croatian on an EU website. Serbia’s Culture Minister Vladan Vukosavljevic said, “that the virus of this fake information has found its place on an official EU website.”

EU + SERBIA: “The EU’s ongoing support to the education sector in Serbia is € 35 million, and since 2003 the EU has invested more than € 100 million in education reform in Serbia, Euinfo reported. This support includes equipment for the preparation and delivery of teaching, as well as, among other things, teacher training, infrastructure improvement, curriculum modernization – all of which have an impact on increasing the knowledge, skills and competences of teachers and students, as well as on the overall development of society and economy.” (European Commission)

ELECTIONS (BiH): Bosnia and Herzegovina will hold local elections on October 4th. Mostar, which has not held local elections since 2008, is excluded.

ELECTIONS (CROATIA): Speaker of Parliament Gordan Jandrokovic on Saturday said elections should be held and a government created by September to ensure democracy in Croatia.

ELECTIONS (N. MACEDONIA): PM Oliver Spasovski indicates the date of elections will be discussed tomorrow by the ruling coalition. PM Spasovski says the date will depend on COVID-19.

IN OTHER NEWS

REPORT: “Srebrenica Genocide Denial Report for 2020” by the Srebrenica MemorialOP-ED: “‘Coronavirus Diplomacy’ Won’t Change Serbia’s Path” by Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic in U.S. News & World Report

OP-ED: “How The Coronavirus Might Finally Fix Bosnia” by Majda Ruge and Faruk Hadzic in The American Interest

OP-ED: “Filling the Balkan Power Vacuum” by Cameron Munter and Valbona Zeneli in The American Interest

OP-ED: “The Pandemic And The Past: Women’s Rights In The Balkans” by Charlie Smith in The Organization for World Peace

HUMAN INTEREST: “How the Professor of Hvar Dialects Helped Preserve Croatian Culture & Tradition” by Paul Bradbury in Total Croatia News

CULTURE: TheMinister of Environment and Physical Planning Nuredini announced that the Shar Mountains will be a national park.

CULTURE: “10 secret facts about Zagreb” by Lara Rasin in Time Out

SPORT: The UK’s Anthony Joshua could take on Bulgarian Kubret Pulev at the Roman Amphitheater in Pula, Croatia. The boxing match was originally scheduled for June 20th in London.

SPORT: “None more unbeatable than Djokovic at his best, says Martin” in Reuters