WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

CORONAVIRUS by the numbers:

  • BiH: 3,085 confirmed cases,  2,178 recovered, 168 deaths.
  • CROATIA: 2,255 confirmed cases, 2,140 recovered, 107 deaths.
  • KOSOVO: 1,486 confirmed cases, 953 recovered, 33 deaths.
  • N. MACEDONIA: 4,289 confirmed cases, 201 deaths.
  • MONTENEGRO: 326 confirmed cases, 315 recovered, 9 deaths.
  • SERBIA: 12,426 confirmed cases, 11,624 recovered, 256 deaths.
  • SLOVENIA: 1,499 confirmed cases, 109 deaths.

IN DEPTH ON THE KOSOVO-SERBIA DIALOGUE:

  • U.S. President Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien commented on the dialogue: ” I am pleased to host the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo with Richard Grenell at the White House. The United States is looking forward to these important discussions.”
  • Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic shut down any discussion of recognizing Kosovo a day before one of Serbia’s biggest holidays, Vidovdan. He said, “I am ashamed to even answer to the question whether Serbia will recognize Kosovo on the eve of Vidovdan. I am ashamed, because it says more about them. It will never be on our agenda. It speaks about what others have done.” He added, “I talked to Putin yesterday, we had a long discussion. The day after the election, Lajcak is coming to Belgrade, the day after that I’m going to Moscow. Two days after that, we have to agree which delegation is going to Washington. A few days after, I think that there will be some more important meetings that we cannot talk about right now, because we were told so.”
  • Meanwhile, Kosovo President Hashim Thaci believes the opposite. He said, “This process is about mutual recognition of Kosovo and Serbia. This process is about Kosovo and its citizens in partnership with the US, I am convinced that we will succeed.”
  • The EU Special Representative to the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue Miroslav Lajcak arrived in Kosovo yesterday and met with Kosovo’s President Thaci, PM Avdullah Hoti, and Speaker of Parliament Vjosa Osmani on Tuesday. The result? Lajcak said, “to help achieve a comprehensive legally binding agreement between Kosovo and Serbia that will normalize relations, that will solve all the outstanding issues once and for (backslash) ever, that will be acceptable to the countries of the region and the EU member states…Everything that has been achieved in the dialogue was the result of the very close and joint work of the EU and the U.S. and this is exactly our ambition to continue” at a joint press conference with Thaci.
  • And EU spokesperson Peter Stano noted, “Whatever might be agreed on the sides we’ll feed into the EU-facilitated dialogue because this is the main platform for both Serbia and Kosovo to get closer to their final agreement.”
  • Lajcak received support from European Parliament Standing Rapporteurs for Serbia and for Kosovo, Vladimír Bilcík and Viola von Cramon-Taubadel. They wrote in a statement, “we give full support to EU SR Lajcak in his tasks and urge political leaders from both sides to engage – in good faith and constructively – with the EU Special Representative.” But criticized how long it took for Lajcak to visit the countries: “Too much time has been wasted and we therefore welcome EU Special Representative Miroslav Lajčák’s first visit to Kosovo to be followed by his visit to Serbia next week.”
  • Check out the AP/Sylejman Kllokoqi article, EU, US display differences over Serbia-Kosovo negotiation, for a more in depth look into the rift between the US and EU.

NATO DEFENSE MINISTERIAL: Defense ministers of NATO countries will be meeting virtually today to review the “Alliance’s deterrence & defense missions as well as the response to the current #COVID19 crisis,” according to the U.S. Mission to NATO’s Twitter account.

BiH + ALBANIA: Albanian FM Gent Cakaj met with Bosnian counterpart Bisera Turkovic and Chairman of the BiH Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic on Tuesday in Sarajevo. Cakaj and Dzaferovic discussed improving economic relations, tourism, and infrastructure between Bosnia and Albania via Montenegro. Meanwhile, Cakaj wrote on Twitter about his meeting with Turkovic, noting, ” (we) discussed our political, econ. & diplomatic agenda. Agreed to foster trade exchanges & work on tourism growth. Committed to deliver on connectivity, digitalization & mobility. Stressed that clear #EU perspective is crucial for transformation of #WB.” Cakaj also called on Bosnia to recognize Kosovo.

IRAN + BiH: According to Iranian media, Speaker of the House of Peoples of the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina Dragan Covic invited Iranian Parliament Speaker Mohamamd Bagher Ghalibaf to BiH. Covic’s message to Ghalibaf reads, “I take this opportunity to express my firm determination to continue and improve parliamentary cooperation between the two countries in all areas of common interests. In line with safeguarding common interests and in order to strengthen and develop bilateral parliamentary relationship, I would like to invite you to visit Bosnia-Herzegovina in appropriate time. I believe that mutual meetings at the highest level will confirm the friendship between parliaments and people of the two countries.”

UK PIVOTS TO E. EUROPE?: PM Boris Johnson announced a merger of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Department for International Development (DFID) – for Americans, think a merger between USAID and the State Department. While addressing the House of Commons on Tuesday, he said, “DFID outspends the Foreign Office more than four times over and yet no single decision-maker in either department is able to unite our efforts or take a comprehensive overview. We give as much aid to Zambia as we do to Ukraine, though the latter is vital for European security. We give ten times as much aid to Tanzania as we do to the six countries of the Western Balkans, who are acutely vulnerable to Russian meddling. And, regardless of the merits of these decisions, no single department is currently empowered to judge whether they make sense or not: we tolerate an inherent risk of our left and right hands working independently.”

STATE OF EMERGENCY: President of N. Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski late Monday night announced an eight day state of emergency after a surge in COVID-19 cases. Parliamentary elections are set for July 15th.

JUDGMENT DAY: “The National Assembly failed to appoint President Borut Pahor’s nominee for a Constitutional Court judge in an unprecedented move on Tuesday. Falling four votes short in the secret ballot, Andraž Teršek was rejected in a 42:38 vote. Opposition parties, which mostly backed Teršek, say this shows how strong the coalition is. Although initially the opposition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), Social Democrats (SD), the Left, National Party (SNS), Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB), the coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC) and minority MP Felice Žiža all announced their support for Teršek, it turned out today that he only enjoyed the support of the LMŠ, SD, SAB, SMC and the Left.” (Slovenia Times)

AMERICAN TO ADVISE SARAJEVO CANTON ON ANTI-CORRUPTION: “The President of Montenegro Milo Dukanovic presented the Order of the Montenegrin Flag of the second degree to a senior adviser at the US Embassy in Podgorica Eric Larson, who, as Klix.ba unofficially finds out after July 15th, should come to Sarajevo Canton and take over the duty of advisor for the combat of corruption. Erik Larson is currently assigned as the INL Senior Justice Advisor at U.S. Embassy Podgorica. Prior to arriving in Montenegro in December 2013, he was stationed in Pristina, Kosovo as a member of the U.S. Contingent at EULEX working as an International Prosecutor in the SPRK (Special Prosecution Office of the Republic of Kosovo). Mr. Larson has been working overseas since 2003.” (Sarajevo Times)

ELECTIONS IN MONTENEGRO: President Milo Djukanovic said he would announce an election date in the next few days and it will be sometime in late August or early September. He met with leaders of the ruling party while the opposition chose not to meet with him regarding the elections. Djukanovic noted, “What is a little surprising is that they show not only ignoring Montenegrin national interests, but also ignoring democratic One of these standards is that all those who aspire to participate in elections, either from the position of government or from the opposition’s perspective, exchange views on important aspects of the electoral process in the run-up to the elections.”

BURNED: Montenegro threw five tons of narcotics into a furnace near Niksic OCCCRP noted that two of the Kavac and Skaljari clans are two of the top drug smuggling organizations in Europe.

IN OTHER NEWS