WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

NATO SUMMIT: The leaders of NATO members gathered in Brussels yesterday for a Summit on the future of NATO. Leaders from the region – Albania, Croatia, Montenegro, N. Macedonia, and Slovenia – joined counterparts from the 29-member alliance.

  • ICYMI – On Sunday, Albanian PM Edi Rama and US Secretary of State Antony Blinked signed a Memorandum of Understanding on 4G and 5G security.
  • Croatian President Zoran Milanović said that the final text of the NATO communiqué at the conclusion of the summit will include a note on its neighbor, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Dayton Peace Accords. The Croatian president threatened to not sign the declaration if it did not mention the three constituent peoples – Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs. Meanwhile, the West has called on Bosnia and Herzegovina to respect the European Court of Human Rights’ decisions on allowing for any ethnicity for certain offices and move towards a more civic state.
  • Croatia’s insistence on constituent peoples to be included in the communiqué was criticized by Bosnian Croat Member of the Presidency Željko Komšić who described the idea of constituent peoples as “outdated” and could lead to a conflict between Croatia and NATO.
  • The mention of the Dayton Peace Accords reads “Allies strongly support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a stable and secure Bosnia and Herzegovina in accordance with the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina and other relevant international agreements, encourage domestic reconciliation, and urge political leaders to avoid divisive rhetoric.”
  • Read the full communiqué HERE. Don’t miss point 67 on BiH, point 70 on the Western Balkans and Serbia, and point 71 on the NATO KFOR mission.
  • Montenegro’s PM Zdravko Krivokapić reaffirmed Montenegro’s support for the NATO’s principles, values, and missions across the world. Montenegrin news outlet Pobjeda reports that Krivokapić met with US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron.
  • Macedonia’s PM Zoran Zaev at the summit said the Western Balkans urged the leaders for a European perspective for the region. He noted the Western Balkans needed “to have a crystal-clear Euro-Atlantic and European Union perspective.” He underscored, “Leaving a vacuum in our part of Europe is not an option. We need a predictable, credible, and re-intensified EU and NATO integration process.” He met with Polish President Andrej Duda on the sidelines of the NATO Summit.
  • Ahead of the NATO Summit yesterday, Slovenian PM Janez Janša announced Ljubljana will not be able to meet the goal set out at the Wales Summit in 2014 to reach 2 per cent of GDP spending on defense by 2024.
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KURTI, VUČIĆ TO MEET TODAY: Kosovo PM Albin Kurti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić meet in Brussels today for the next meeting of the EU-facilitated Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue which has been stalled since 2020.

  • Serbia insists the on discussing the Association of Serb-majority Municipalities (ASM). Vučić last week said that Kurti should not show up in Brussels if the ASM was not discussed. Kosovo news outlet Gazeta Express released an options paper on the ASM drafted by the Office of EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue Miroslav Lajčák.
  • Kosovo’s PM Kurti says that the meeting today is not a resumption of the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue, but a discussion about how the dialogue will continue in the future.
  • Yesterday, Kosovo’s Speaker of Parliament Glauk Konjufca said that speaking about the ASM could be dangerous. “Our position should be clear regarding the ASM, after the Constitutional Court’s ruling every effort to redefine a new association would be very difficult and I think that Kosovo institutions should not accept such an approach,” said Konjufca.
  • He added, “Reopening such discussion is very dangerous, and our institutions should make it clear that this is a closed issue, they should not accept opening this topic, because the Agreement has affected our Constitution.”
  • Meanwhile, Serbia’s Director for the Office of Kosovo Petar Petković said the atmosphere heading into the meeting is not constructive. He said, Pristina “is generating an extremely difficult atmosphere ahead of the new round of the dialogue.”

MEP BILČÍK SLAMS SERBIA-RUSSIA-BELARUS MILITARY DRILLS: European Parliament Rapporteur for Serbia Vladimir Biličík slammed Serbia’s decision to participate in the 2021 Slavic Brotherhood military exercises in Krasnodar, Russia.

  • Bilčík wrote on Twitter, “As 🇷🇸 diplomacy is seeking 🇪🇺 support in the run-up to the political IGC on enlargement, the news of joint Russian-Belorusian-Serbian Slavic Brotherhood military drills are not helpful. European perspective is also about clear foreign policy choices, especially in today’s geopolitics.”
  • Meanwhile, Serbia’s European path is stalled – it has not opened a new chapter in 18 months and Brussels has urged Serbia to make reforms in media freedom and rule of law.
  • Sitting two chairs? – Though it will participate in the military exercises, Serbia joined the EU Declaration condemning Minsk’s action to divert a RyanAir plane travelling between two EU capitals to arrest opposition journalist Roman Protashevich.

KOSOVO CEC CHIEF DISMISSED: Kosovo’s President Vjosa Osmani yesterday sacked the head of the Central Election Commission (CEC) Valdete Daka after she refused to resign. Osmani warned that the CEC was not independent enough. Daka, a Supreme Court judge, said she worked in line with the Kosovo Constitution. She was appointed in 2018 by former President Hashim Thaçi.

BASHA REELECTED: Lulzim Basha was re-elected as leader of the Democratic Party for his third term despite its poor results in the April 25 elections. The Socialist Party won its third straight election. Basha will be in power for the next four years

ICYMI: Chinese company Huawei is setting up a regional logistics hub in Slovenia to serve nineteen Central and Southeastern European countries. Huawei identified the port of Koper and storage facilities in Ljubljana as vital infrastructure for its European operations.

PELJEŠAC BRIDGE UPDATE: Večernji List reports that the Pelješac Bridge will be completed within one month. The €550 million bridge funded primarily by the EU (€357 million) is being built by the China Road and Bridge Corporation, a subsidiary of state-owned China Communications Construction Company.

FORMER PRESIDENT HIDING IN SERBIA?: Montenegro’s request for extradition of former President of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro Svetozar Marović has been met with “no news” from Belgrade. Marović was sentenced in September 2016 to three years and ten months in prison and ordered to repay one million euros over corruption charges in Budva. Marović fled Montenegro in 2016.

SPEAKING OF CORRUPTION: The Mayor of Istog, Kosovo Haki Rugova was sentenced to one year in prison for abuse of office by singing a contract with a company owned by his brother.

IN OTHER NEWS

OP-ED: Can Albin Kurti reshape the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue? By Jack Robinson and Eraldin Fazliu in Prishtina Insight

OP-ED: New Biden Executive Order to serve as a deterrent for Western Balkan political actors by Andjela Šemić in European Western Balkans

ANALYSIS: Historic ‘Name Deal’ Between Skopje and Athens Still Being Implemented by Apostolis Fotiadis in Balkan Insight

ANALYSIS: Grave Offence: ‘Shameful Reburial of Wrongly Exhumed Albanians Angers Villagers by Raimond Kola in Balkan Insight

HISTORY: The Amazing Story of How a Stealth Fighter Was Shot Down by Trevor Filseth in The National Interest: “In 1998, following years of unrest and insurgency, an open war began between the government of Serbia, led by Slobodan Milosevic, and the Kosovo Liberation Army, a Kosovar militant group operating in Serbian-controlled Kosovo. Following reports of ethnic cleansing against Albanians in Kosovo, NATO voted to intervene against Milosevic to end the war, and airstrikes on Serbia began on the night of March 24, 1999.”

HUMAN INTEREST: ‘We are All Human’: Kosovo Albanian’s Generosity Sustains Elderly Serb by Serbeze HAxhiaj in Balkan Insight