WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY
ICMYI: Balkan Insider held a webinar with U.S. Army Lt. Col. C. Darren Evans (ret.) who served as Defense Attache at the U.S. Embassy in Montenegro (2013-2015) and U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. John Capello who served as a Defense Attache at the U.S. Embassy in Serbia (2007-2011). Lt. Col. Capello described the days leading up to Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia and the attack of the U.S. Embassy. Meanwhile, Lt. Col. Evans discussed the U.S. role in cementing Montenegro’s place in NATO. Watch the full webinar here.
CORONAVIRUS – BiH: The respirators donated by the UAE cannot be used in intensive care in BiH.Twenty Chinese respirators ordered by “Srebena Malina” arrived in BiH. By the numbers: 2,435 confirmed cases,  1,744 recovered, 151 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – CROATIA: Croatia’s PM Andrej Plenkovic said a European Commission plan for economic recovery for COVID includes 10 billion euro for Croatia.  By the numbers: 2,244 confirmed cases, 2,047 recovered, 101 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – KOSOVO: Museums and galleries in Kosovo have reopened their doors for visitors  Restriction of movement has been eased by allowing citizens to move from 5:00AM to 9:00PM..By the numbers: 1,047 confirmed cases, 794  recovered, 30 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – N. MACEDONIA: Restaurants and bars can begin operating under restrictions after the curfew was lifted on Wednesday. By the numbers: 2,039 confirmed cases, 119 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – MONTENEGROBy the numbers: 324 confirmed cases, 315 recovered, 9 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – SERBIABy the numbers: 11,275 confirmed cases, 6,277 recovered, 240 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – SLOVENIA: Slovenia’s FM Anze Logar today is meeting with Hungarian counterpart Peter Szijarto to discuss the reopening of the border. By the numbers: 1,471 confirmed cases, 108 deaths.

PALMER ON REGION: In an interview with Voice of America, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs and Special Envoy to the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer commented that the U.S. “The argument that the United States prefers stability to the detriment of democracy is not true. We constantly support democracy, efficient administration, rule of law, and freedom of the media. We support reforms, democratic and transparent rule, not only in Serbia, but throughout the Western Balkans, consistently for 20 years.” In addition, he encouraged Serbia and Montenegro to enter communicate about recent spat over who can enter Montenegro when it opens it borders. Finally, he encouraged the Serbian opposition to participate in parliamentary elections.

US HFAC: The US House Foreign Affairs Committee called for Serbia to exclude war criminals from running for office in a Tweet on Wednesday.

CROATIA MARKS ARMED FORCES DAY: Croatia on Wednesday marked Armed Forces Day. Government officials attended ceremonies through Croatia to pay respects on the 29th anniversary of the formation of the Croatia’s military. PM Andrej Plenkovic noted, “Armed Forces Day is not only an important message of patriotism and national unity, but also an indicator of readiness and ability to defend Croatian territory, and to provide assistance to the population in times of threat and crisis.”

VUCIC IN RUSSIA: The Embassy of Serbia in Russia confirmed President Aleksandar Vucic will attend the June 24 Victory Day Parade in Moscow. The 75th commemoration was postponed due to COVID-19.

RS TO SUE?: “The president of the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), Milorad Dodik, announced that the Government of Republika Srpska (RS) would make a decision tomorrow to sue the governor of the Central Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina because no funds from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had been allocated, Vijesti.ba news portal reports. ‘I want to inform the public that the Republika Srpska has already received the first installment of interest on the basis of the approved loan, and we have not received those funds yet. That is why the Government will make a decision tomorrow to sue the governor of the Central Bank who disputes the realization,” Dodik stated today in a statement to the journalists in Foca.'” (Sarajevo Times)

KOSOVO + SLOVENIA: Slovenian PM Janez Jansa and Kosovo’s acting PM Albin Kurti on Thursday spoke on the phone. They discussed the response to COVID-19 and academic recovery. PM Jansa also mentioned that Slovenia will takeover the Presidency of the Council of the EU in July 2021.

MARKOVIC ON SERBIA-MONTENEGRO: Speaker of Parliament of Montenegro, Dusko Markovic, commented on the opening of borders to a small amount of countries without Serbia being included. He said, “(Serbian PM Ana) Brnabic could have called me, (Serbian President Aleksandar) Vucic (Montenegrin President Milo) Djukanovic. Let’s go there and ask what to do, no way. We don’t hold anyone accountable. We are a serious society and we act European. We have not received any remarks from any country regarding the decision on borders. We only received congratulations.”

AUSTRIA + KOSOVO
: Austria’s FM Alexander Schallenberg today is leading a delegation to Kosovo on the first official visit to the country since COVID-19.

INA + CROATIA: “(Croatia’s) Economy Minister Darko Horvat told Croatian state radio on Wednesday that restoring domestic ownership of the oil company INA would be possible ‘once the company’s real market value was determined.’ Once the process of determining the market value of INA’s shares is completed, we will be able to say how much money is needed to buy back the company’s shares, Horvat said. INA is jointly owned by the Croatian state and the Hungarian oil group MOL, with MOL holding a 49.1% stake in the company, Croatia holding 44.8%, and private and institutional investors holding 6.1%.” (N1)

N. MACEDONIA ISLAMIC COMMUNITY: The governing Risjet of the Islamic Religious Community in N. Macedonia has dismissed controversial leader Sulejman Rexhepi. No reason has been given but there is speculation that the headline grabbing leader was sacked due to his marriage with a woman 50 years his younger.

CRIME: “Police from Bosnia, Croatia and regional agency Europol caught eight suspected traffickers on Wednesday and blocked the smuggling of 45 migrants into the European Union (EU), Bosnian authorities said. During a search of several locations in northwestern Bosnia, police seized mobile phones, laptops and other items that could serve as evidence in criminal proceedings, the State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA) said.” (Reuters)

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