WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

Balkan Insider is proud to invite you to our Diaspora Fireside Chat webinar series featuring one-on-one conversations with Diaspora leaders from the region. For more information and registration, click here. Coming up – Thursday, May 7United Macedonian Diaspora President Meto Koloski. MondayMay 11Advisory Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina President Ajla Delkic. If you missed any our webinars with Croatian and Serbian leaders, check out our YouTube page for the full video.

CORONAVIRUS – BiH: The EU approved 3 million euro in macroeconomic assistance to BiH to combat COVID-19. Bosnia’s Foreign Trade Minister Stasa Kosarac (party SNSD) was allegedly at a “Corona party” in Sarajevo with health workers that was broken up by police. Bosnian Serb Member of the BiH Presidency Milorad Dodik says Kosarac ended his political career with the SNSD and politics in BiH by attending the party. By the numbers: 1,946 confirmed cases, 79 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – CROATIA: Croatia changed its slogan to combat COVID-19 from “Stay Home” to “Let’s Stay Responsible” after the government initiated the second phase of its easing of restrictions. FM Gordan Grlic Radman says Croatia is open for those who wish to be repatriated. And Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli says that Croatia may open its borders for tourists in June. Croatian Cultural Minister Nina Obuljen Korzinek says festivals won’t be cancelled but will be adapted according to meet safety guidelines. By the numbers: 2,112 confirmed cases, 83 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – KOSOVO: In a letter to acting PM Albin Kurti, OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria wrote that the OECD has been analyzing the situation with COVID-19 and included a “summary note of our preliminary assessment of the COVID-19 impact on the Western Balkans, which features some recommendations for immediate action.” By the numbers: 855 confirmed cases, 26 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – N. MACEDONIA: By the numbers: 1,526 confirmed cases, 86 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – MONTENEGROBy the numbers: 324 confirmed cases, 8 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – SERBIA: The Halyard Mission Foundation is pleased to be providing humanitarian assistance to over 75 needy, disabled and elderly residents in Trstenik in the close cooperation and partnership with the municipality. The donation was made possible with because of the support provided by LifeLine Chicago, Pittsburgh Tri-State Committee, HRH Crown Princess Katherine Foundation, and our individual supporters in the U.S. By the numbers: 9,677 confirmed cases, 200 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – SLOVENIA: Slovenia’s macroeconomic institute says that the country’s GDP could fall by as much as 15% due to COVID-19. By the numbers: 1,445 confirmed cases, 98 deaths.

WESTERN BALKANS SUMMIT: EU leaders and the heads of state or government of the Western Balkan Six are set to meet today for the “EU-Western Balkans Zagreb Summit.” While the EU perspective is encouraged, the word “enlargement” will be left out of the final declaration. For the full program, check out the European Council of the EU website here.

EBRD ON THE REGION: “The EBRD Regional Director for the Western Balkans Zsuzsanna Hargitai said on Monday that the region can’t deal with the cost of the coronavirus pandemic on its own. Speaking ahead of the European Union-Western Balkans summit, Hargitai said that ‘the cost of bringing the coronavirus under control was high”. “The Western Balkans countries cannot shoulder this burden alone. They do not enjoy the benefits of EU or Eurozone membership – but they are not alone,’ a press release quoted her as saying. ” (N1)

BULGARIA + N. MACEDONIA: Bulgaria and N. Macedonia are in a bitter battle over the Macedonian language and its history. The EU is hoping the two countries can resolve their current disputes aftera Bulgarian MEP claims that authorities in Skopje have been falsifying history. Meanwhile, President of N. Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski says the EU would not be worth it if the price is the cost of the Macedonian identity and language.

VENICE COMMISSION DENIES KURTI REQUEST: The Venice Commission has denied acting Kosovo PM Albin Kurti’s request to review President Hashim Thaci’s decision to give a mandate to the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK). Instead, the Venice Commission will respect the decisions of the Constitutional Court.

BiH PRESIDENCY: “The Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina will initiate and manage the reforms towards the necessary degree of coherence with the membership criteria, based on the key priorities set by the European Commission, the collective head of state agreed on Monday in a meeting with an ad-hoc group in charge of European integration.” (N1)

SERBIAN ELECTIONS: Serbia amended election laws making it easier to notarize signatures and put in place social distancing measures. MEP Tanja Fajon warns that right now is the the political environment isn’t right to hold the elections.

THE EU’S BORRELL WEIGHS IN: EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell says, “We are looking with special concern at political pluralization in Serbia and call to all political actors to reduce tensions and build constructive dialogue between our sides because these elections are especially important for Serbia.” And added on the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue, “It is not up to us to say to Serbs and Kosovars what they have to agree or not. We have to study a possible agreement because every agreement between Serbia and Kosovo will have consequences and collateral effects on the rest of the region.”

CROATIAN ELECTIONS: Croatia’s ruling party, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), aims to hold elections in June, July, or August, as long as the conditions allow. Reuters writes, “In one recent public opinion poll, HDZ led with 27.9% of support from the opposition Social Democrats with 23.2%.”

SARAJEVO REMEMBERS THE CHILDREN: Sarajevo on Tuesday honored the 1,601 children killed during the Siege of Sarajevo. Mayor Abdulah Skakah said, “The murder of the children of besieged Sarajevo is an unforgettable and incurable wound on Sarajevo’s heart. It is our moral duty and obligation to recall of this painful memory by teaching the new generations about the meaning of the culture of memory. We must not and will not allow that what happened to Sarajevo happens ever again.”

MEDIA UNDER FIRE: Serbian media outlet KRIK came under fire for posting a photo of the son of President Aleksandar Vucic with leaders of an organized crime organization. Pro-government outlets sought to discredit KRIK.

MONTENEGRIN AMNESTY: The ruling party in Montenegro supports a reduction in prison sentences by 15%.

NBPA MATCHES PLAYERS DONATIONS: The National Basketball Players Association Foundation (NBPA) has matched player donations for philanthropic purposes leading to over $500,000 in donations. Ante Zizic, Dario Saric, Dragan Bender, Ivica Zubac, and Luka Samanic donated to support relief efforts for the Croatian earthquake. Meanwhile, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Bojan Bogdanovic, Dzanan Musa, Mario Hezonja, and Nemanja Bjelica made donations in support of COVID-19 assistance in their respective countries.

IN OTHER NEWS
OP-ED: “An opportunity to end Kosovo’s isolation in Europe” by Bernard Nikaj (Kosovo Amb. to the EU) in EuraktivSPORT: “History of Maksimir stadium which opened 108 years ago today” in Croatia Week

SPORT: Kosovo and Albania’s basketball federations are exploring options to create a joint basketball league to increase competition.