WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

SCHMIDT NAMED NEW HIGH REPRESENTATIVE TO BiH: The Ambassadors of the Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council appointed Christian Schmidt as the next High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina. He will be replacing Valentin Inzko who resigned on Thursday.

  • Chairman and Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik said Inzko’s resignation was “a bluff by the international community made for someone else to come.”
  • “I’ve some indications of this yesterday, so I reacted that we will accept only the one who is appointed in accordance with Annex 10, which means that all signatories of that Annex must agree, and those are the Republika Srpska entity, Serbia, the Federation of BiH entity, Alija’s BiH, which no longer exists, and Croatia,” said Dodik at an event titled “The Original Dayton or Peaceful Dissolution of BiH.
  • Meanwhile, the Russian Embassy in Sarajevo said Schmid’s appointment was based on “non-consensus and illegitimate actions that could have a destabilizing effect.”

MEPs ADOPT COMMISSION REPORT ON BiH: The European Parliament adopted the 2019-2020 Commission report on BiH which called on the European Council to back Bosnia’s European perspective.  The vote was adopted by 50 votes in favor, 8 against, and 12 abstentions.

  • European Parliament Rapporteur for BiH Paolo Rangel noted, “Bosnia and Herzegovina is at the heart of Europe and its diversity is at the core of European DNA. Further reforms are needed, building upon modest progress to date.”
  • “We support an inclusive dialogue involving reforms that will allow BiH to advance on its European path and to obtain candidate status. This is only possible by affirming Bosnia and Herzegovina’s pluralistic nature while ensuring a functional democracy where all citizens are equal!” added Rangel.

CHINA’S $1BN ROAD IN MONTENEGRO: Montenegrin President Milo Djukanović revealed that China is open to extending a grace period to Montenegro to repay the $1bn loan to China’s Export Import Bank after he spoke on the phone with General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Xi Jingping on Wednesday. Montenegro publicly asked the EU for assistance to repay the loan, but the European Commission noted it refuses to pay third party debts.

Read more: Montenegro learns true cost of China-backed $1bn road to nowhere in AFP

SPEAKING OF CHINA: Croatian PM Andrej Plenković on Thursday received China’s Director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission Office Yang Jiechi. The pair discussed economic cooperation between Croatia and China ($1.39bn in trade last year), the 17+1 after Lithuania decided to leave the mechanism, and the EU-funded, Chinese built Pelješac Bridge. They highlighted the increasing tourism and are aiming for a direct Beijing-Zagreb flight.

KURTI RECEIVES VISOKI DEČANI ANSWER: A day after Kosovo PM Albin Kurti wrote an open letter to the Visoki Dečani Monastery signaling he wanted to visit, the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC) Diocese of Raška and Prizen called on Kosovo to show good will for respecting the rights of the SOC in Kosovo, but fell short of rejecting a visit by the Kosovo PM.

  • While the SOC does not recognize Kosovo’s institutions or Constitution, it expects Kosovo Constitutional Court decisions to be respected and protections in the Constitution to be adhered to.
  • The Constitutional Court in 2016 ruled on what constituted monastery property and was within the Special Protected Zone (SPZ). Meanwhile, the Deçan Municipality attempted to ignore the ruling and build an international road through the SPZ. A breakthrough appeared in November 2020 – an international road would bypass the SPZ and a local road would be built within the SPZ. The Diocese cited that the Minister of Spatial Planning in Kurti’s government has openly rejected the compromise.
  • Last week Bishop Tedosije of Raška and Prizren called on all communication with the Kosovo government to be suspended until

RAMA SLAMS GERMAN HEALTH MINISTER: Albania’s PM Edi Rama slammed German Minister of Health Jens Spahn for blaming the Balkans and Turkey for the spread of Covid-19. Spahn claims around 50% of new infections are due to family visits to the region. Rama told Germany’s Bild, “It is scandalous that the German minister publicly accuses the Balkans and thus humiliates people of migrant origin… I will not allow Albania to be presented as a risky region for tourists. There are no figures to prove that.”

ALBANIA BROADCASTER FINED: Albania’s national broadcaster Radio Televizioni Shqiptar 2 has been fined €16,200 for airing political ads on the day before the April 25 elections. The broadcaster could be facing fines for giving more airtime to the ruling Socialist Party.

CROATIAN FM IN LISBON: Croatian FM Gordan Grlić Radman attended an informal meeting, known of Gymnich, of FMs in Portugal yesterday. In addition to attending Gymnich, Grlić Radman met with Portuguese counterpart Augusto Santos Silva. Grlić Radman said that Portugal has unwavering support for joining the Schengen Area, the OECD, and Club Med/MED7.

ROTH IN N. MACEDONIA: “Germany’s Minister for Europe, Michael Roth, said on a visit to Skopje that there is a chance of a breakthrough between Bulgaria and North Macedonia that would allow the start of North Macedonia’s much-delayed EU accession talks on June 22 in the EU Council.

“Roth addressed the issue on Wednesday after parlays with his host, North Macedonia’s European Affairs Minister, Nikola Dimitrov.

“‘I am grateful to our friends here … [in North Macedonia] and in Bulgaria because now we have a big chance to put forward a solution that could be accepted by all sides as soon as June,’ he said.” (Balkan Insight)

PREŠEVO MAYOR ACCUSES SERBIA OF ETHNIC CLEANSING:  The Mayor of Preševo, Serbia, Ardita Sinani, has accused Belgrade of ethnic cleansing by deleting addresses and people off of Serbia’s civil registry. Serbian law requires citizens on the civil registry to live in Serbia while many ethnic Albanians in the Preševo valley have left to work abroad.

  • “Deleting addresses is a major problem. It is not normal when the addresses of those who pay their obligations on property get deleted from the civil registry,” said Sinani.
  • She added, “An ethnic cleansing is being done by the deactivation of addresses. The aim is remove Presevo valley citizens from their places.”
  • She also called for Albanians in the Preševo valley to be addressed in the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue.
  • She said, “Addressing the position of Albanians in Presevo valley is a necessity. For a longstanding and sustainable peace in the region, Presevo valley should necessarily be part of the talks.”
  • And added, “If reciprocity measures are to be discussed, then they should also discuss Albanians in Serbia having the same rights (as Serbs in Kosovo), or territorial autonomy or unification of Presevo valley with Kosovo. It needs to be addressed.”