WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

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CORONAVIRUS – BiH: Italy’s Ambassador Nicola Minasi handed over donated masks to the FBiH Health Minister Vjekoslav Mandic and said it was time for Italy to show its solidarity.  By the numbers: 1,987 confirmed cases, 85 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – CROATIA: European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Paolo Gentiloni says Croatia is on track to be one of the fastest EU countries to return to the economic level of 2019 by the end of next year. By the numbers: 2,119 confirmed cases, 85 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – KOSOVOBy the numbers: 860 confirmed cases, 26 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – N. MACEDONIA: Deputy PM Bujar Osmani highlighted key aid delivered to fight COVID-19 including $1.1 million from Norway and aid from Slovenia, Germany, and the US, among others. By the numbers: 1,539 confirmed cases, 88 deaths.

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

CORONAVIRUS – SERBIA: Supporters of the Serbian opposition broke lockdown measures to protest a pro-government protest that happened earlier. Serbian parliament lifted the state of emergency on St. George’s Day (Djurdjevdan). By the numbers: 9,791 confirmed cases, 203 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – SLOVENIA: Nearly 11,000 jobs have been lost in April due to COVID-19. The total number stands at around 88,500. A government report blames the former government under Marjan Sarec as the reason why PPE procurement has been difficult. By the numbers: 1,488 confirmed cases, 99 deaths.

EU WESTERN BALKANS SUMMIT: Kosovo President Hashim Thaci urged the EU to lift visa restrictions for Kosovar citizens and candidate status for the EU. Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic highlighted the positive impact the Western Balkans could have on the EU and warned not to let the region be “left to third parties.”  Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic pressed for more expansion of the EU and committed to Serbia’s EU ambitions, but noted, “I will not cow tow to anyone and speak out against China and Russia.” The EU approved a 3.3 million euro aid package for Western Balkan nations during COVID-19 times. Afterwards, various European political parties broke off into their own virtual meetings. For a full breakdown of the day’s events, check out the European Western Balkans’ live updates.

BiH AT THE UN SECURITY COUNCIL: The UN High Representative to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Valentin Inzko, on Wednesday presented his semiannual report to the UN Security Council. He highlighted the success in combating COVID-19, but warned that corruption still plays a role in international efforts to support BiH’s attempts to fight the virus.

IOWA + KOSOVO: Around 400 Iowa National Guard soldiers received mobilization orders to join NATO’s KFOR mission.

KURTI SLAMS BORRELL: Acting Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti and the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) slammed the EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, for a statement that didn’t condemn the changing of borders.

SLOVENIA + AZERBAIJAN: Slovenia’s Minister of Economic Development and Technology Zdravko Počivalšek has called for new areas cooperation between the two countries. He said, “I am convinced that we can create a lot of green solutions, creative ideas and take smart decisions for mutual benefit and increase the economic cooperation between Slovenia and Azerbaijan. We just need to get to know each other better.”

ENERGY: “Projects worth HRK 12 billion (EUR 1.6 billion) are prepared and will be implemented after the introduction of the new model of incentives for energy from renewable sources, which envisages premiums, Maja Pokrovac, Managing Director at Renewable Energy Sources of Croatia (RES Croatia), told Balkan Green Energy News.” (Balkan Green Energy News)

KOSOVO SPECIALIST CHAMBERS: The acting Kosovo government denied reports in Serbian media that acting PM Albin Kurti was summoned to the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague.

TERRORISM: Kosovo prosecutors filed charges against a woman from Kosovo for traveling to Syria to join ISIS.

IN OTHER NEWS

OP-ED: “The Western Balkans belong with Europe” by Nathalie Tocci (Adviser to EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell) in Politico EuropeOP-ED: “Against all odds, the COVID-19 pandemic cemented EU ties with the Western Balkans” by Olivier Varhelyi (EU Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement) in European Western Balkans

OP-ED: “China’s Balkan Investments Are Paradoxically Speeding Region’s EU Integration” by David Felsen and Dennis Feltwell in BIRN

ANALYSIS: “Macedonia and the EU – Assessing Bulgaria’s Language Demands” by Alex Vasilevski in Generation M

ANALYSIS: “After Greece, North Macedonia faces new challenge on EU path” Bulgaria” by Nikola Djordjevic in Emerging Europe

ENTERTAINMENT: “The MEDIA Desks of the Baltic countries, Croatia and Slovenia join forces for Europe Day” in Cinema Europa