WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY
CORONAVIRUS – BiH: The U.S. and NATO yesterday delivered medical equipment to the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. A similar delivery was sent to Republika Srpska on Friday. Forty ventilators and 100,000 COVID-19 tests will arrive today as a part of a medical assistance delivery by the UAE . By the numbers: 2,416 confirmed cases, 1,721 recovered, 149 deaths.
CORONAVIRUS – CROATIA: Over 133 hotels and 65 campsites have reopened in Croatia hoping to salvage some of the 2020 tourism season. Meanwhile, the government lifted the ban on Sunday trading in markets. By the numbers: 2,244 confirmed cases, 2,046 recovered, 101 deaths.
CORONAVIRUS – KOSOVO: By the numbers: 1,038 confirmed cases, 791 recovered, 30 deaths.
CORONAVIRUS – MONTENEGRO: By the numbers: 324 confirmed cases, 315 recovered, 9 deaths.
KOSOVO-SERBIA DIALOGUE SHAKEN UP: Kosovo President Hashim Thaci yesterday rejected the EU’s role in the Dialogue in favor of a greater U.S. role. He said, “I fully believe the United States with conclude this process successfully, as they concluded many agreements. Without a US leading role Kosovo-Serbia problem cannot be solved.” Thaci remains skeptical of EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell (Spain) and EU Special Envoy to the Dialogue Miroslav Lajcak (Slovakia). He said, “In front of us we will have two negotiators from the countries that do not recognize Kosovo’s independence…There is no inclination on my part to participate in a negotiation process that is led by Lajcak.” Nevertheless, Thaci would be eager to attend meetings organized by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
MEANWHILE LAJCAK AIMS FOR SUCCESS: Lajcak’s spokesman Peter Stano told Kosovo outlet Gazeta Express, “The new EU Special Representative is in constant contact with all relevant partners to hear their views, expectations and concerns in order to prepare the ground, so that the dialogue can continue without delay.” And added, “Relaunching the Dialogue is a priority and should be achieved as soon as possible. The status quo in the Dialogue is not tenable and the Dialogue should resume as soon as possible, once the situation caused by the coronavirus pandemics allows it.”
DODIK CHALLENGES ELECTION POSTPONEMENT: Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik sent a written a request to the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina concerning the Central Election Commission’s decision to postpone local elections until mid-November.
SNSD WIRETAPPING: Milorad Dodik’s SNSD party has been accused of wiretapping political rivals. Milorad Dodik stated publicly, “Here, ask these people from the SDS (Serbian Democratic Party) about it, I listen to their phone conversations so I know. I have the right to listen to those. Once you are president, you will also have that right.” He added, “There is no government that doesn’t wiretap the opposition. So do we. Complain to Transparency (International), to your father, to whomever you want. I have the right to listen.” Meanwhile, former FM and current MP (Party of Democratic Progress) noted, “It makes no sense reporting it to institutions in the RS which are completely under the control of Dodik and his party. When he said he listened in on the opposition, he said he did that through the Ministry of Interior. We had nobody to report this to and I still doubt that this will be resolved.”
SPEAKING OF MONITORING: Croatian PM Andrej Plenkovic denies “in the strongest terms” that the government is monitoring correspondences between journalists after Environment Minister Minister Tomislav Coric discussed a memorandum between INA and JANAF that was posted on on a message board for journalists. Plenkovic added, “No one in the government or anyone else can or must have any insight into anyone’s correspondence, especially between journalists.”
MONTENEGRO + KOSOVO: Montenegro’s President Milo Djukanovic spoke with acting Kosovo PM Albin Kurti on the phone. The two spoke about the regional dynamic and the need for Kosovo and Serbia to reach a final agreement. In addition, they spoke about economic recovery post-COVID-19.
SERBIA’S RETALIATION: Serbia has banned Montenegro Airlines from operating in Serbia after it was not included on Montenegro’s list of nine approved countries who will be allowed to enter Montenegro on June 1st.
A STEP CLOSER TO EUROPE: “The (European) Council today adopted two decisions to conclude the agreements with Montenegro and Serbia on border management cooperation between these countries and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex). These agreements will allow Frontex to assist Montenegro and Serbia in border management, carry out joint operations and deploy teams in the regions of these countries that border the EU, subject to the country’s agreement.” (European Council)
ELECTIONS IN CROATIA: Secretary General of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and Speaker of Parliament Gordan Jandrokovic insisted the HDZ will run in Croatian elections by itself and there would not be a “grand coalition” with the Social Democratic Party or Miroslav Skoro’s Homeland Movement.
ELECTIONS IN MONTENEGRO: Speaker of Parliament Ivan Brajovic called a meeting of the presidents of political parties that currently sit in parliament on Monday, June 1st. Party leaders will discuss greater transparency and following international standards for upcoming parliamentary elections which must occur before October 30th.
ELECTIONS IN SERBIA: Chair of the Delegation of the European Parliament to Serbia, Tanja Fajon, and the European Parliament Rapporteur for Serbia, Vladimir Bilcik, spoke via video conference with Speaker of Parliament Maja Gojkovic about election monitoring and the safety of Serbian citizens. The European Parliament, Council of Europe, and OSCE, amongst others, have been invited to observe the elections. In a separate video conference, Fajon and Bilcik spoke with Deputy PM and Minister of Interior Nebojsa Stefanovic about the the electoral process, health standards, and election monitoring. The Ambassador of the EU to Serbia Sem Fabrizi joined the second call. Meanwhile, The European party Renew Europe wrote to Oliver Varhelyi, the EU Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement, slamming democracy in Serbia ahead of the elections citing media biased and no agreement for the opposition to participate.
ANALYSIS: “War Criminals Prepare to Run in Serbian Elections” by Milica Stojanovic in BIRN
ANALYSIS: “Will Serbia accept the new methodology and what could be the role of civil society?” by Nikola Burazer in European Western Balkans
ANALYSIS: “Do You Speak Corona? A shortage in food supplies is a big concern for Macedonians in Albania” in the Federal Union of European Nationalities
ANALYSIS: “10 most promising Slovenian startups to watch in 2020” by Bojana Trajkovska in EU Startups
HUMAN INTEREST: “For UCLA and USC international student-athletes, pandemic creates challenges” by Thuc Nhi Nguyen in the LA Times: “Nicolas Saveljic points his cellphone camera toward the stove. His mother, Dijana Dika Saveljic, calls from Montenegro and tells her son to add “a little bit” of seasoning as he cooks a favorite dish from his Westwood apartment. The UCLA men’s water polo player, unsure of the measurement, dumps in too much. A lighthearted argument follows.”
HUMAN INTEREST: “Stuck in Vilnius for quarantine: student from Kosovo amazed by calmness in Vilnius” in Delfi (Lithuania)
TRAVEL: “A 3-Week Itinerary For A Circular Road Trip Through The Western Balkans” by Anja Grcar in The Travel