WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY
TENSIONS HEAT UP BETWEEN KOSOVO AND SERBIA:
- On June 12, 1999, NATO forces entered Kosovo after 78-day bombing campaign against the remnants of what was Yugoslavia and the occasion was marked in Kosovo with the visit to the site of a massacre. PM Albin Kurti’s words will raise tension between Kosovo and Serbia ahead of a meeting of the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue on June 15.
- At a ceremony in Poklek, Kosovo PM Albin Kurti said, “June 12 marks the end of the genocide in Kosovo. Kosovo is free and independent. We will work on Kosovo becoming more developed and sovereign…We are here in Poklek because it is proof of the genocide of Serbia in Serbia. Twenty-five of those killed were young people, eighteen of them were minors.”
- President Vjosa Osmani noted, “We have to say out loud that freedom is not complete. It is not complete due to a lack of justice. And freedom will only make sense on the day when there is justice for all victims of Serbian genocidal rule. When Serbia apologizes, when it lays flowers and when it admits guilt for all the massacres in Kosovo against innocent people.
- Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić on Sunday called on Kurti to file a lawsuit for genocide. He said, “Feel free to file a lawsuit for genocide, so we will see who really committed the genocide and see if you can win it.” He added, don’t threaten us anymore, do it, and don’t play those games, since I went through that a long time ago, I’m a political veteran. Like him, he will threaten us with a lawsuit for genocide, and we will be terribly worried about that, and then someone will tell us from the outside – we will prevent the lawsuit, and you will recognize Kosovo.”
- Meanwhile, Serbian Pm Ana Brnabić on Sunday said that are no talks or agreements between herself and Kosovo PM Albin Kurti. She said that he was “an ideological fanatic with zero pragmatism.”
- She added, “He threatens Serbia with genocide lawsuits every day. Let him file the lawsuit and then say what he wants, let him prove what he has, but don’t threaten us, especially not at regional meetings, because then he makes a circus out of them.”
- Kosovo blocked two buses from Serbia entering through the Jarinje crossing for allegedly not requesting an organized visit. An organizer, Marko Jelić, from the Independent Association of Students from Belgrade said they have never had to announce their visits in previous years. They planned to visit monasteries and monuments in Kosovo.
- A day after the first liturgy since 1998 was held at the controversial Serbian Orthodox Church on the grounds of the University of Prishtina, a person wrote in graffiti “Jesus Hates Serbs.” The graffiti was removed he following day only for new graffiti to appear, “The symbol of chauvinism is becoming a holy site, with the blessing of Albin Kurti,” and students protested against the unfinished church.
RAMA SAYS ALBANIA WON’T BRING GENOCIDE CHARGES FOR KOSOVO: Albanian PM Edi Rama said that it is solely Kosovo’s decision to bring up charges of genocide against Serbia at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
- Rama said, “I believe that it would be, not an initiative that would bring about results, that would help with peace and collaboration, but it would be their independent decision, not mine or the Albanians.”
- He offered some advice for Kosovo: “Kosovo itself is a new reality that is a result of major efforts inside and outside of Kosovo. This is why, these major ideas and major decisions shouldn’t be made only because someone believes they should, but they should be made after a series of clear consultations and after hearing what our partners and allies have to say, and to this day I haven’t heard anyone support this idea. I mean our partners and allies.”
- Kosovo can’t bring a case in front of the ICJ since it is not a member of the United Nations.
NATO SUMMIT: The NATO Summit taking place today will have a significant impact on the region. Albania, Croatia, Montenegro, N. Macedonia, and Slovenia are all members of the collective security organization.
- Albania’s PM Edi Rama met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the sidelines of the NATO Summit. They signed an agreement on the coordination of 5G technology.
- Macedonia’s PM Zoran Zaev and FM will meet with Bulgarian President Rumen Radev on the sidelines of the summit to attempt to breakthrough in N. Macedonia’s European path. Bulgaria has been blocking N. Macedonia from formally opening EU accession talks over disputes in culture, primarily language and historical figures.
- Croatian President Zoran Milanović faces an uphill battle to include the Dayton Peace Agreement and Bosnia’s three constituent peoples in one of seven declarations to be released at the summit. Milanović is on his own – FM Gordan Grlić Radman is not a part of the delegation, which Milanović says was his own decision. Should the Dayton not be mentioned, Milanović says Zagreb won’t sign the declaration.
CROATIA’S NATO CONTRIBUTIONS: Croatia’s defense budget will exceed 2% of GDP for the first time since joining NATO. At the Wales Summit in 2014, NATO countries agreed to spend 2% of GDP on defense and 20% on military equipment.
INJAC ON NATO RELATIONSHIP: Montenegrin Defense Minister Olivera Injac told Euraktiv in an exclusive interview that Podgorica is not drifting away from NATO. The government in Montenegro is seen as a pro-Serb and Russian government that is playing its own balancing act as a NATO member and EU aspirant.
- The new government cancelled the plans to send 30 troops to join NATO’s KFOR mission in Kosovo. Injac highlighted the cancellation amounted to a continuation of policy to keep two personnel in the KFOR mission.
- On the decision to not send a new defense attaché to Zagreb, Injac called it “fake news.” The new attaché will be on a non-residential which Injac says will help grow its defense attaché network.
ICYMI: Albania was voted to be on the United Nations Security Council for a two-year term starting on January 1, 2022. It will join Brazil, Gabon, Ghana, and the UAE to join the 15-member council. All five countries ran unopposed. They will replace Estonia, Niger, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia, and Vietnam.
DODIK CALLS ON SERB DIPLOMATS TO IGNORE MFA: Chairman and Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik has called on ethnic Serb diplomats working in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) of BiH to ignore instructions from the MFA after slamming Bosnian Ambassador to the UN for a speech he did not agree with.
- Dodik said, “I now declare that no Serbian diplomat from BiH, regardless of rank, has any obligation until further notice to obey the orders and instructions of his bosses from the ranks of other people, and especially not the instructions of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs headed by Bisera Turković.”
- “Since in BiHthere is a language of powerlessness, general disarray, the language of unofficial duty and order, street law, the language of insolent trampling of procedures, disrespect of the official hierarchy, the language of hatred, we will answer in that way. It is pointless to demand responsibility from BiH’s irresponsible representative to the UN or the head of his party. I believe that it is time to put an end to such a shameful practice and we must do everything to respect the laws and procedures,” added Dodik
CROATIA AIMS SWIFT ENTRY INTO EURO AREA: Croatia’s Central Bank Governor Boris Vujčić said his country will likely be ahead of schedule for entry into the eurozone. Vujčić hopes Zagreb will adopt the currency in January 2023. Croatia has been hit hard in its largest sector, tourism, leaving Croatia with an increased deficit. But, according to Vujčić, “We have a situation this year that the European Commission has suspended excessive deficit procedures for all member states…In this context, we have to regard the date of Croatia’s eurozone entry.”
RUSSIAN AMB TO SERBIA ON OHR: Russian Ambassador to Serbia Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko on Saturday said that the Office of the High Representative has no role or relevancy in the Republika Srpska entity.
- “Valentin Inzko speaks as if there is a decision of the steering board. That is a lie because the Russian Federation did not give any consent,” said Botsan-Kharchenko.
- He added, “But I can’t say that something extraordinary will happen. They will consider the High Representative appointed, Republika Srpska will consider him illegitimate and non-existent, and there will be no cooperation with him.”
- Christian Schmidt was appointed as the next High Representative last month.
VISAS FOR SAUDIS TO CONTINUE IN BiH: Bosnia’s Council of Ministers for the second time failed to agree to remove visa requirements for citizens of Saudi Arabia. Bosnia’s Justice Minister Josip Grubeša (HDZ BiH) has been blocking the move proposed by FM Bisera Turković (SDA).
- Grubeša says he cannot support a visa-free regime for citizens of Saudi Arabia when Bosnian citizens would still be required to obtain visas. He also noted that BiH was following the EU’s position on visas for Saudis – if a Saudi citizen has a visa for any EU member states or the USA, the tourist can travel to BiH.
- FM Turković notes there is intense interest from Saudis to visit BiH. Saudi Airlines says would have ten flights a week between the Saudi Arabia and BiH. Turković called on Grubeša to explain why Bosnia would lose millions in VAT.
POLITICS + SPORT: At the Euro 2020 soccer championship, there have been multiple complaints over uniforms.
- Greece’s FM Nikos Denidas called on the Football Federation of Macedonia (FFM) to respect the Prespa Agreement that changed Macedonia’s name to N. Macedonia. Denidas says it should be reflected on the jerseys which has “FFM” in Macedonian Cyrillic. But FM of N. Macedonia says the soccer federation does not receive government funds and therefore is not required to follow Prespa.
WAR CRIMES CHARGES: Croatia has charged an unnamed Croatian Serb who fought for the Army of Serbian Krajina with war crimes for killing five civilians. A court in Bosnia has handed a first-instance judgement against Senad Džananović and Edin Gadžo for war crimes and sentenced them to eleven and five years imprisonment.
IN OTHER NEWS
OP-ED: Biden’s Balkan Test Has Arrived by Edward P. Joseph in Foreign Policy
OP-ED: Washington’s Fundamentally Flawed Approach to the Balkans by Gordon Bardos in The National Interest
OP-ED: Kosovo Proposes Free Trade Agreement for the Western Balkans by Bledar Qalliu in Exit.al
ANALYSIS: EU Delays Open Door to Balkans Ascendant China, Russia by Deana Kjuka and Jasmina Kuzmanović in Bloomberg
ANALYSIS: Montenegro counts on EU aid, asset sales to ease burden of China debt – officials by Aleksandar Vasović and Gabriela Baczynska in Reuters
ANALYSIS: How the ‘Hanging Woman’ revealed truth of Bosnia’s mass killer by Kim Willsher in The Guardian
ANALYSIS: ‘It’s time for Serbia to declare independence from Kosovo’ by Marek Grzegorczyk in Emerging Europe
ANALYSIS: From Partition Studies To Partition Interventions: Brief History Of A Lasting Yugoslav Misery by Zlatko Hadžidedić in Eurasia Review
ANALYSIS: Revisiting the Bosnian War by Syed Zain Abbas Rizvi in
CULTURE: Uncovering the Balkan stories left untold by Liza Premiyak