WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY
WESTERN BALKAN LEADERS MEET IN TIRANA: The leaders of the Western Balkan 6 (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, N. Macedonia, and Serbia) gathered in Tirana to discuss regional issues and the EU’s investment plan.
- According to AP News, “EU Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi said the project would mobilize 9 billion euros ($11 billion) and potentially raise investment of up to 20 billion euros ($24 billion) in 2021-27 for the region.”
- Várhelyi tweeted, “Economic & Investment Plan also won’t work if Western Balkand don’t work as one. Plan will deliver if the region delivers on the Common Regional Market, a bold project launched last year. Need to see this at Berlin Process Summit. Making CRM reality will benefit citizens & business.” Read his full remarks at the Tirana Summit HERE.
- Not surprisingly, Serbian PM Ana Brnabić and Kosovo PM Albin Kurti got into a spat with over Kosovo’s sovereignty and Kosovo’s representation as an independent state in the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA). Kosovo currently participates in CEFTA under the UN Mission in Kosovo flag and symbols.
- On the sidelines, PM of N. Macedonia Zoran Zaev and Albania’s PM Edi Rama signed an agreement to establish joint border and customs controls.
OSMANI IN ESTONIA: Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani yesterday visited Estonia where she was welcomed by Estonian counterpart Keersti Kaljulaid. The interlocutors discussed “reforms, path towards EU, digitalization, and the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia,” according to a tweet by the Estonian President. She added Estonia “reaffirmed our support to visa liberalization and readiness to share our knowhow on e-gov.”
- Osmani also met with PM Kaja Kallas and Speaker of Parliament Jüri Ratas on her trip. President Kaljulaid’s message on support for visa liberalization, EU aspirations, and opening the door to e-government were echoed by PM Kallas and Speaker Ratas.
ZAEV IN PARIS: PM of N. Macedonia Zoran Zaev met with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris for a working dinner. France’s Macron said Paris fully supports N. Macedonia’s path to the EU and hopes that a solution to the language and historical figures issue would be resolved through dialogue as soon as possible. He noted he is “personally involved in finding a solution with Bulgaria.” N. Macedonia’s delegation consisted of PM Zaev, Deputy PM Nikola Dimitrov, and FM Bujar Osmani. Watch the full joint statement in French and Macedonian HERE.
VUČIĆ ON DIALOGUE: Ahead of the meeting with Kosovo PM Albin Kurti, Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vučić said in Jagodina that Kosovo’s representatives should not bother showing up if they are only talking about recognition.
- “I’m not interested in what they have to say. I could seriously says that if they think they’re coming for what they’ve been saying they want, they shouldn’t go,” said Vučić.
- He added, “It won’t be simple in Brussels for anyone. They are coming for a show and we want to be serious and committed to the dialogue.”
- Kurti and Vučić are set to meet on June 15 in Brussels.
ALBANIANS IN SERBIA DEMAND RECIPROCITY: Shaip Kamberi, an MP in Serbia’s Parliament from the Albanian dominated Preševo Valley, urged Kosovo to “demand mutual respt for the rights of communities in Serbia, as Serbia does for Serbs in Kosovo” at the June 15 meeting between Vučić and Kurti in Brussels. Kamberi noted that there has been a political dialogue between Albanians in the Preševo Valley and Serbia since 2001 “without serious results.” Around 50,000-70,000 ethnic Albanians live in Serbia mostly on the Kosovo-Serbia border.
PNG’D FROM MOSCOW: Russia has declared an employee of the Embassy of N. Macedonia in Moscow as persona non grata (png) after Skopje declared an employee at the Russian Embassy in N. Macedonia as persona non grata.
DODIK CALLS US SANCTIONS UNDEMOCRATIC: Chairman and Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik on a phone call with US Ambassador to BiH Eric Nelson that the White House Executive Order is not democratic nor helpful in the region. He said it is “another tool of the US administration for modelling the relations in the region and that it will make the dialogue harder, at least when it comes to BiH.” Read the Executive Order HERE.
CoE ON BiH, CROATIA, AND SERBIA: The Council of Europe (CoE) yesterday commented on electoral reform in BiH, minority rights in Croatia, and constitutional reform in Serbia.
- The CoE’s Committee of Ministers called on BiH to speed up electoral reform to fully respect the European Court on Human Rights decisions including Sejdić-Finci which would allow non-constituent people to run for certain offices.
- The CoE’s Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities praised Croatia in its Fifth Opinion on Croatia. It said that “comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation has been enacted and structures to promote equal treatment and address individual cases of discrimination at national and regional levels are in place.” But the report notes there is discrimination towards Roma and Serb minorities, an increase in hate crimes, and a “surge” in “radical nationalism.”
- The CoE urged Belgrade to refer to the CoE’s standards for constitutional reform that is vital for Serbia’s European path. The CoE wrote, “Adhering to the Council of Europe’s standards is essential for ensuring the rule of law in Serbia. This is equally important in the context of the Republic of Serbia’s further development of ties with the EU and its accession to the European Union.”
IZETBEGOVIĆ IN AZERBAIJAN: Speaker of Bosnia’s House of Peoples Bakir Izetbegović said in Baku that strengthening relations and opening embassies in capital cities. He identified improving cooperation in the fields of metal, military and wood industries, the energy sector, and tourism. While on the official visit, Izetbegović met with Speaker Sahiba Gafarova, FM Jeyhun Bayramov, and Deputy PM Ali Ahmadov.
RUSSIA TO SEND SERBIA SUPERJETS?: According to Russia’s Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov, Russia resumed the dialogue with Serbia to deliver 100 Russian Sukhoi Superjet planes. Manturov noted that contract negotiations have not begun yet.
CORRUPTION IN CROATIA: “An investigation was launched on Thursday into judges Darko Kruslin, Zvonko Vekic, and Ante Kvesic, the brothers Zoran and Zdravko Mamic, and businessman Drago Tadic for taking nearly €500,000 in bribes, influence peddling, and giving bribes in exchange for influence peddling.
In addition to launching the investigation after preliminary probes, which involved police and tax investigators, the USKOK anti-corruption office also requested custody for the six men.” (N1)
JUDICIARY REFORM IN MONTENEGRO: “Montenegro’s Supreme State Prosecutor, Ivica Stankovic, and several other prominent prosecutors retired on Thursday, opening the way for judiciary reforms initiated by the ruling majority in parliament.
According to the new Prosecution Law, the Prosecution Council will confirm Stankovic’s retirement and elect an acting prosecutor for the next six months. Media reported that it will be Drazen Buric, currently the deputy Supreme State Prosecutor.
One of the ruling Democratic Front leaders, Milan Knezevic, said on Thursday that the judiciary needs urgent reform, and prosecutors’ retirements are the first step.” (Balkan Insight)
PATRON DAY CELEBRATED IN PRISTINA: “For the first time in 23 years, Saint Patron’s Day of the Christ the Savior was celebrated in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Pristina today. The liturgy was served by the Bishop of Raska and Prizren, Teodosije.
The great Christian holiday of the Salvation was celebrated for the first time since 1998 in the unfinished cathedral in Pristina.
“‘By serving the liturgy today in this cathedral, we testify who we are, who we were, and who we should be in the future. We testify that we will never give up our holy sites, that they belong to us, representing a pledge of our eternal life,’ the Bishop of Raska and Prizren, Teodosije emphasized.” (KosSev)
IN OTHER NEWS
REPORT: The U.S. Must Defend NATO’s Open-Door Policy at the 2021 Brussels Summit by Luke Coffey and Daniel Kochis in The Heritage Foundation
OP-ED: Life sentence for ‘Butcher of Bosnia’ upheld, but will it change Serbia’s nationalist narrative? by Sonja Biserko in Deutsche Welle
VIDEO: Part I: Reconciliation – 30 Years since the Breakup of Yugoslavia by the International Institute for Peace Vienna
CULTURE: The cosmic egg hat: Is this Albanian hat about to catch on? By Sarah Palmer and Max Thurlow in Euronews Travel