WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

CORONAVIRUS – BiH today is opening its borders to neighboring countries.By the numbers: 2,510 confirmed cases, 1,862 recovered, 153 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – CROATIA: The Association of Croatian American Professionals Foundation (ACAP Foundation) announced that close to $180,000 has been raised to provide relief for Croatia’s hospitals dealing with the aftermath of earthquakes in Zagreb and COVID-19 pandemic.
By the numbers: 2,246 confirmed cases, 2,072 recovered, 10 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – KOSOVO: By the numbers: 1,064 confirmed cases, 829  recovered, 30 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – N. MACEDONIA: President Stevo Pendarovski extended the state of emergency another 14 days and called for an election agreement. By the numbers: 2,226 confirmed cases, 133 deaths.

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

CORONAVIRUS – SERBIABy the numbers: 11,412 confirmed cases, 6,698 recovered, 243 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – SLOVENIA: Primary schools are set to open at full capacity this week.Tourism is back after the government took many measures to open up Slovenia. By the numbers: 1,473confirmed cases, 108 deaths.

BLACKLISTED: The U.S. State Department added Amir Zukic to the sanctions list. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote “In his official capacity as a Member of the House of Representatives in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) and as the General Secretary of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA), Zukic was involved in corrupt acts that undermined the rule of law in Bosnia and Herzegovina” in a press release. Zukic said he was “surprised” about being added to the blacklist.

SPEAKING OF CORRUPTION: Croatia arrested dozens of former government officials and businesspeople on suspicion of corruption.

KOSOVO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT DECISION: “The Constitutional Court of Kosovo on Thursday ruled that President Hashim Thaci did not make an unconstitutional decision when he gave a mandate to a new prime minister to form a new administration without holding fresh elections. He took this action after the outgoing ruling party, Vetevendosje, did not nominate anyone for the role. The court ruling sparked anger from Vetevendosje, which has demanded snap elections since its government was ousted in March in a vote of no confidence, and has threatened to stage street protests.” (Balkan Insight)

BORDER BATTLE: The war of words between Podgorica and Belgrade continued over the weekend. Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic fumed, “It is somewhat illogical that, on the day that Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto says that Hungary will open its borders with Serbia, that when Greek and Bulgarian Prime Ministers Mitsotakis and Borisov respectively declare that they will open the borders for Serbian citizens without obligatory testing and quarantine, Montenegro decides to keep its border with Serbia shut.” Montenegro updated the list of citizens allowed, and Serbian citizens remain off the list.

DODIK VS. CONSTITUTIONAL COURT: Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik labeled the Constitutional Court as a “criminal organization” over the weekend. He said, “The Constitutional Court of BiH has become a criminal organization that does not respect the Constitution or laws, or respects only the laws imposed by the High Representative. This is obviously a robbery that is being tried to be legalized by the decisions of the Constitutional Court, which continuously violates the Constitution and works against the Republika Srpska.”

KOSOVO’S RECIPROCITY: Acting PM Albin Kurti extended reciprocity measures with Serbia on trade. The EU special envoy to the dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak, tweeted he was “disappointed” with the measures.

KOSOVO + SERBIA: The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, tried to calm nerves over him being a Spanish national and the EU’s special envoy to the dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak, coming from Slovakia. Both countries do not recognize Kosovo’s independence.

BRNABIC TELLS REGION TO CATCH UP: “Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said on Saturday that some politicians from the region are creating tensions between countries and peoples only to ‘cover up their inability of keeping up with Serbia.’ Speaking on Happy television, Brnabic said that Serbia had “caught up and overtaken” some countries in economy and that disagreements between the official Podgorica and Belgrade were a consequence of that. She assessed that Serbia has built a strategic partnership with Hungary precisely on the basis of cooperation between Belgrade and Budapest on the rights of national minorities.” (N1)

PRIJEDOR REMEMBERED: Bosnians marked White Ribbon Day to commemorate over 3,000 innocent civilians being slaughtered and 30,000 civilians put in camps in and around Prijedor, BiH.

STATEHOOD DAY: Croatia celebrated Statehood Day on May 30, the date of the first multi-party parliament in Croatia.

SERBIA + CHINA + RUSSIA: The US Ambassador to the OSCE James Gilmore said in a statement that Washington supports the Serbian people’s goals of strengthening democracy and integration into European institutions but warned that recent decisions by the government to purchase Russian weapons and engage in non-transparent deals with China are counterproductive to those objectives.” (N1)

SLOVENIANS
PROTESTS: “For the sixth week in a row, thousands of people in Ljubljana and other cities rode their bikes on Friday evening in support of the protest organised by civil society groups that also accuse the government of corruption.’The resignation of Prime Minister Janez Jansa is only a first step,’ Tjasa Prosek, one of the organisers, told AFP adding that the action would continue and gradually put forward more demands.” (AFP)

BOSNIANS PROTEST: “Thousands of Bosnians marched through Sarajevo to protest bad governance and corruption. This follows the ongoing procurement scandal around ventilators. The Platform for Progress Party organized. ‘What we are hoping to do is to wake the people up so that they know it is up to them, that they can actually bring about change,’ party leader Mirsad Hadzikadic told Reuters as he led the march.” (Reuters)

THEY’RE BACK: Social media trolls for N. Macedonia have returned, but now they are spreading disinformation about COVID-19.

MIGRANTS: Bosnia’s border police stopped 120 migrants from illegally entering the country and turned them back to Serbia.

IN OTHER NEWS

OP-ED: “A Republic of Kosovo is not what the Balkans needs” by Aleksandar Nikolic in The Jerusalem PostCULTURE: “Exploring Serbian wine country: Elsewhere in emerging Europe” in Emerging Europe

SPORT: “The Curious Case of Croatia: Looking back at their 2018 World Cup Run” in Extra Time Talk

ENTERTAINMENT: Serbia’s famed EXIT music festival will go on. It is scheduled for August 13-16.