WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

CORONAVIRUS – BiH: Bosnia’s Republika Srpska entity has lifted its state of emergency. BiH police raided the property of the company that procured Chinese ventilators at an inflated price. By the numbers: 2,181 confirmed cases, 1,228 recovered, 120 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – CROATIA: The EBRD predicts the Croatian economy will contract by 7% due to COVID-19. By the numbers: 2,213 confirmed cases, 1,834 recovered, 94 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – KOSOVOBy the numbers: 919 confirmed cases, 671 recovered, 29 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – N. MACEDONIABy the numbers: 1,694 confirmed cases, 1,229 recovered, 95 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – MONTENEGRO:  By the numbers: 324 confirmed cases, 298 recovered, 9 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – SERBIA: Heavy metal legend Ozzy Osbourne donated orthopedic wheelchairs to a hospital in Pancevo. It is estimated that 200,000 people in Serbia have lost their job in COVID-19 times. By the numbers: 10,295 confirmed cases, 3,824 recovered, 222 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – SLOVENIA: The EBRD predicts Slovenia’s economy will contract by 5.5% this year due to COVID-19. Meanwhile, the Chamber of Small Businesses has drafted what the third COVID-19 aid package would look like. By the numbers: confirmed cases,  recovered,  deaths.

AMB. NELSON + TEGELTIJA: The U.S. Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina tweets, “Amb Nelson and CoM Chairman Tegeltija today discussed the need to adopt a state budget to implement BiH’s National Trafficking in Persons Strategy, as well as the importance of party cooperation to ensure state-level functionality and decision-making on reforms BiH citizens need.”

LAJCAK + OSMANI: The EU Special Representative to the Western Balkans Miroslav Lajcak spoke with acting Speaker of Parliament of Kosovo, Vjosa Osmani over the phone. He wrote on Twitter, “Very insightful & useful (phone) conversation with Speaker of Kosovo’s Parliament (Vjosa Osmani). Discussed current political situation in Kosovo & preparations for resuming EU-facilitated Dialogue asap. Agreed on importance to bring EU-perspective closer to people of Kosovo & Serbia.”

SERBIA OPENS BORDERS: Serbia is set to open its borders with Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, N. Macedonia, and Montenegro. Acting Kosovo FM Glauk Konjufca took to Twitter to call the act discriminatory against citizens of Kosovo and announced reciprocity. He wrote, “The Kosovo government condemns Serbia’s discriminatory and unequal regional approach to Kosovo. Serbia has opened its borders to citizens of all countries in the region, but not to citizens of Kosovo….This approach proves once again that Serbia is not interested in normalizing relations with Kosova. The Republic of Kosovo will reciprocally respond to this obstacle of Serbia for the citizens of Kosova.”

UNREST IN MONTENEGRO: Montenegrin police detained Serbian Orthodox Church Bishop of Budim-Niskic Joanikije and eight other priests for defying COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings and holding a liturgy on Tuesday. The police on Wednesday dispersed crowds who took to the street and started throwing rocks and objects at the police in two towns. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Irinej, expressed “great concern” over the incidents.

SERBIA REPLIES TO FREEDOM HOSUE: Serbian PM Ana Brnabic says the government sent an 18 page reply to Freedom House which downgraded Serbia’s democracy rating to a “hybrid regime.” Brnabic said, Freedom House did not engage an expert team, but a person (Milos Damjanovic) who works with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN).” And added, “the author referred to sources and references that contradicted the content of his report.”

LATEST N. MACEDONIA POLLS: The latest polls in N. Macedonia show the country favors the ruling SDSM over VMRO-DPMNE by six percent, according to SDSM leader Zoran Zaev. He noted the poll was commissioned by the SDSM.

IN OTHER NEWS
OP-ED: “Comment: Bleiburg – A Way Forward” by Brian Gallagher in Croatia Business Report