WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

CORONAVIRUS by the numbers:
  • BiH: 2,775 confirmed cases,  2,063 recovered, 161 deaths.
  • CROATIA: 2,249 confirmed cases, 2,130 recovered, 106 deaths.
  • KOSOVO: 1,298 confirmed cases, 913 recovered, 31 deaths.
  • N. MACEDONIA: 3,364 confirmed cases, 164 deaths.
  • MONTENEGRO: 324 confirmed cases, 315 recovered, 9 deaths.
  • SERBIA: 12,031 confirmed cases, 11,348 recovered, 251 deaths.
  • SLOVENIA: 1,488 confirmed cases, 109 deaths.

SOLIDARITY: Protesters gathered across the Balkans to march in support of George Floyd.KOSOVO-SERBIA DIALOGUE: French President Emmanuel Macron wrote to Kosovo PM Avdullah Hoti on to congratulate becoming PM. In his note, Macron said he looked forward to the resumption of the dialogue at a Summit in Paris. He wrote, “For more than a year, France and Germany have been committed to resuming dialogue, which could begin during a forthcoming Summit in Paris. I believe in your participation in this summit and in your readiness to take the necessary measures to enable the resumption of dialogue, while Serbia will also have to make its part of the effort. Once the dialogue resumes, it is up to the European Union to support your efforts to reach an agreement. The role of the EU must remain central, because this dispute is a challenge to European security and because like Kosovo, Serbia aims to integrate into our Union. High Representative Josep Borrell and new Special Representative Miroslav Lajcak enjoy my full confidence to lead this mediation.”

HOTI’S PRINCIPLES FOR DIALOGUE: PM Hoti outlined his three principles for dialogue with Serbia: territorial integrity is non-negotiable, the agreement must guarantee that Kosovo’s constitutional organization is not negotiated, and that the agreement must be in the spirit of the highest legal act.

THACI BACKS TRUMP, GRENELL: Kosovo President Hashim Thaci reiterated his faith in U.S. President Donald Trump and his special envoy, Richard Grenell, to help reach a deal with Serbia. He said, “I fully believe the Trump’s Administration and Grenell will move things towards a final agreement which will bring mutual recognition between Kosovo and Serbia. I believe the US will take right decision, especially now after removing of dialogue obstacles. Now Serbia has no pretext and every delay will be attributed to them.” Thaci said.

ASSOCIATION OF SERB MUNICIPALITIES: PM Avdullah Hoti will look to create the Association of Serb Municipalities to show Kosovo’s seriousness with agreements. He said, “I believe we should show state seriousness when we respect the agreements we have signed and ratified in the Assembly of Kosovo.”

FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR SKEPTICAL: Former U.S. Ambassador to Serbia William Montgomery (2001-2004) remains skeptical that Serbia and Kosovo will reach a deal by the end of the year. He said, “Your president (Aleksandar Vucic) is a strong leader who understands international politics very well and he is the only person in the region who has the strength and desire to reach a good solution to this problem. The question is whether international forces and internal Kosovo-Albanian divisions will enable it. ‘I am pessimistic.'”

MONTENEGRO + NATO: Montenegro’s President Milo Djukanovic met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on the three year anniversary of Montenegro joining the alliance. Stoltenberg wrote on Twitter, “Pleased to see (President)Milo Djukanović again & congratulate Montenegro on the 3rd anniversary of its accession. Membership has been good for Montenegro’s security & prosperity and Allies have supported the country during COVID19. (Montenegro) is a highly valued Ally.” Watch the full press conference here.

SLOVENIA’S EU PRESIDENCY: “State secretaries from Slovenia, Portugal and Germany discussed the priorities of the countries’ successive stints at the presidency of the Council of the EU in a videoconference on Tuesday, agreeing that they would be strongly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and noting the importance of development cooperation.The virtual meeting featured Tone Kajzer, state secretary at the Slovenian Foreign Ministry, Teresa Ribeiro, Portuguese secretary of state of foreign affairs and cooperation, and Martin Jäger, state secretary at the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.” (Slovenia Times)

ILLEGAL BUILDING IN MONTENEGRO: Parliament Speaker Ivan Brajovic called for every illegal building to be demolished regardless of what type of building it is. He said, “We are an organized state and we should not keep stories here about whether an illegal building collapsed, be it a church or some other. This state should demolish every illegal building.”

VARHELYI REACHES OUT TO MACEDONIAN LEADERS AHEAD OF ELECTIONS: European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi spoke to the leaders of the two largest political parties in N. Macedonia, SDSM’s Zoran Zaev and VMRO-DPMNE’s Hristijan Mickoski, “to stress the importance of free, fair, inclusive elections in North Macedonia, taking into account COVID-19 situation as well as the need to efficiently address economic recovery.”

ALBANIAN PM IN N. MACEDONIA?: Leader of the ethnic Albanian party Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) Ali Ahmeti called for Albanians to elect the first Albanian PM in N. Macedonia. Ahmeti said, “However, this (Ohrid Agreement, Prespa Agreement, NATO member) is not enough. Now is the time to pursue the dream. For bigger dreams because the time has come to achieve even more. North Macedonia is our country. The place we fought for. We have an equal share in the history, heritage, economy and future of our country. Now is the time for full equality, for taking responsibility for leading! It is time for the first Albanian Prime Minister in Northern Macedonia!”

AIR FORCE DAY IN N. MACEDONIA: Nine helicopters and fighter jets flew over Skopje to mark Air Force Day in N. Macedonia. Defense Minister Radmila Sekerinska said she hopes to modernize the military.

BiH + SERBIA FMs MEET: Bosnian FM Bisera Turkovic met with Serbian counterpart Ivica Dacic in Belgrade. They discussed good neighborly relations and ambitions. Turkovic noted, “For Bosnia and Herzegovina, it is important to open a consulate in Novi Pazar, and there is reciprocity, because we have easily agreed to open consulates in Banja Luka, Mostar and Drvar.”

MILANOVIC IN MONTENEGRO: Croatian President Zoran Milanovic will be on an official visit to Montenegro on June 22-23.

DIPLOMATIC FIRST?: The German Foreign Ministry announced that a couple will share Ambassador duties to Ljubljana. Natalie Kauther, 45, and Adrian Pollmann, 43, have young children and will begin their join four year assignment in August. The two are career diplomats since 2005. They have both been working for the ministry since 2005.

VUCIC AND DODIK TO ATTEND VICTORY DAY: Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic and Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik will be attending Russia’s Victory Day Parade on June 24.

CROATIA + EUROZONE: “Croatia meets all the criteria for entering the euro zone, except membership of the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM II), the European Commission said on Wednesday. The Commission published the 2020 convergence report in which it provides its assessment of the progress non-euro zone member states have made towards adopting the euro.” (N1)

KOSOVARS AGAINST UNIFICATION WITH ALBANIA: “Around 54 percent of Kosovo citizens are opposed to the unification of Kosovo and Albania in case of recognition by Serbia. The data was published by the Research Institute of Development and European Affairs (RIDEA) during the presentation of their latest survey. The survey further shows that about seventy percent of Kosovo’s citizens support the resumption of the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, while thirty percent are in favor of reaching a final agreement with the neighboring state through a land swap deal. Moreover, only 12 percent are satisfied with the status-quo between the two countries.” (Tirana Times)

BANKRUPTCY: With a decrease in international commercial aviation and continued uncertainty about Podgorica-Belgrade relations, Montenegro Airlines has voiced concern about bankruptcy.


IN OTHER NEWS

OP-ED: “Trump, elections, and the Balkans” by Paolo Bergamaschi in Osservartio balcani e caucaso transeuropaANALYSIS: “More land swap lobbying uncovered” by Jeta Xharra in Prishtina Insight

ANALYSIS: “You wouldn’t give away your ethnic identity. So why should Macedonians?” by Bill Nicholov in Emerging Europe

ANALYSIS: “When the rule of law is defended: Three examples from Bosnia and Herzegovina” by Adnan Cerimagic in European Western Balkans

HUMAN INTEREST: “Faces Of The Balkans, 100 Years Ago” (in pictures) by Amos Chapple in RFE/RL

CULTURE: “Submerged Ancient Port Discovered on Croatia’s Coast” in Archeology

SPORT: “Stipe Miocic to fight Daniel Cormier at UFC 252 in August” in Croatia Week

SPORT: “Luka Life in Quarantine: Slovenian Trainer With Mavs Details” in Sports Illustrated

TRAVEL: “Niksic is Waiting for Guests to Discover Its Natural Beauties” by Antonela Stjepcevic in Total Montenegro News