WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

CORONAVIRUS by the numbers:

  • BiH: 3,141 confirmed cases,  2,179 recovered, 168 deaths.
  • CROATIA: 2,258 confirmed cases, 2,141 recovered, 107 deaths.
  • KOSOVO: 1,486 confirmed cases, 953 recovered, 33 deaths.
  • N. MACEDONIA: 4,482 confirmed cases, 210 deaths.
  • MONTENEGRO: 333 confirmed cases, 315 recovered, 9 deaths.
  • SERBIA: 12,522 confirmed cases, 11,697 recovered, 257 deaths.
  • SLOVENIA: 1,503 confirmed cases, 109 deaths.

AMB. KOSNETT ON US-KOSOVO RELATIONS: U.S. Ambassador to Kosovo Philip Kosnett spoke with Kosovo news outlet Telegrafi on relations between the two countries. He said, “I think the fundamental ties between the United States and Kosovo are as strong as stone. I have no doubt that Kosovo and the United States will remain close partners in the future. I have no doubt at all. I think the nature of the partnership will evolve and that is natural.” And added, “You asked me if we had any disagreements – of course we have disagreements. We have disagreements sometimes and that is clear, but that is normal in a partnership. It is normal in the family, it is normal in the relations between the states. I think that sometimes the citizens of Kosovo are very worried about this and think that the United States will leave Kosovo, but they should not think so.”

AMB. BLANCHARD ON U.S.-SLOVENIA ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES: “US Ambassador to Slovenia Lynda Blanchard has put strengthening US-Slovenian economic development in the focus of her efforts, and would also like to encourage cooperation between Slovenian and US universities. Blanchard, who arrived in Ljubljana last August, has told the STA that Slovenia already feels like her second home. ‘We’re already excellent partners, but we want to further improve this cooperation, so my main focus will be economic cooperation, especially after the end of the Covid-19 pandemic,’ Blanchard, herself a businesswomen, said in an interview she gave for the STA on Tuesday.” (Slovenia Times)

KOSOVO-SERBIA DIALOGUE:

  • Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic on the Washington talks: “I don’t expect any spectacular things. I expect rational talks. Serbia is small to dictate anything to the White House, but is big enough to say what its interests are and that it has to protect them.” He warned the Kosovars not to come if they expect recognition.
  • Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaci remains more optimistic: “If an agreement is not reached on June 27 Kosovo and Serbia will be losers. If an agreement is reached both sides will win and gain EuroAtlantic values and the commitment of the US is reflected in the determination to reach an agreement between countries and people hostile for more than a century. I believe that only the US can do it now, President Trump’s leadership and the commitment of Ambassador Grenell.”
  • The EU’s Special Representative to the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue Miroslav Lajcak yesterday met with former PM and leader of Vetvendosje Albin Kurti one-on-one, the leaders of all other political parties in Kosovo, representatives of the Serb community in Kosovo including the Serbian Orthodox Church. Lajcak is set to visit Serbia on June 22, the day after parliamentary and municipal elections.

CHAOS IN BUDVA: “Montenegrin police arrested the president of Budva municipality Marko Carović and president of the municipal assembly Krsto Radović together with several associates this morning. Carović and Radović, representatives of opposition Democratic Front and Democratic Montenegro, refused to relinquish their positions and the seat of the municipality after they apparently lost the majority in the municipal assembly, claiming that the vote on their dismissal was not in accordance with the law.” (European Western Balkans). You can check out photos of the events here.

ELECTIONS IN MOSTAR: The head of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ in BiH), Dragan Covic, and the Party of Democratic Action (SDA), Bakir Izetbegovic, reached an agreement to hold local elections in Mostar for the first time in twelve years.

BORRELL ANNOUNCES NOMINATIONS: The EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell announced nominations for senior leadership at EU delegations in the region and across the world. Key posts include:

  • Thomas Szunyog for Head of the EU Office in Kosovo. He is currently the Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the Political and Security Committee of the European Union.
  • Oana Cristina Popa for Head of the EU Delegation to Montenegro. She is currently the Romania’s ambassador to Serbia.
  • David Greer for Head of the EU Delegation to N. Macedonia. He is currently the head of the European External Action Service Sanctions Policy Division.

CONGRATULATIONS: Friedrich-EbertStiftung announced it will award its 2020 Human Rights Award to former PM of N. Macedonia Zoran Zaev. The announcement comes on the second anniversary of the Prespa Agreement which ended a decades long dispute that changed the name of the country from the Republic of Macedonia to the Republic of North Macedonia and ended Greece’s veto of NATO accession and opening EU accession talks.

SPEAKING OF AWARDS…: Slovenia’s President Borut Pahor on Wednesday decorated physicist and researcher Bostjan Zeks and architect Boris Podrecca with the Golden Order of Merit. In addition, Pahor awarded the Head of the Consular Service of Slovenia’s Foreign Ministry Andrej Ster with the Order of Merit for his efforts to repatriate Slovenians abroad during the pandemic.

BiH TO BLOCK CROATIA’S RADIOACTIVE DUMP SITE: Bosnia’s Foreign Trade and Economic Relations Minister Stasa Kosarac said Bosnia would continue to block Croatia’s attempt to build a nuclear waste site near Trgovska Gora.

ELECTIONS IN SERBIA: MEPs Tanja Fajon and Vladimir Bilcik released a statement ahead of Serbia’s June 21st parliamentary and municipal elections. It call for “ensuring credible, transparent and peaceful elections” and  “urge all participants to respect the health and safety measures put in place for Election Day.”

BLED STRATEGIC FORUM: The event will take place on August 31 in Bled, Slovenia in a hybrid fashion – some events will be in person while others will take place virtually under the title, “Challenges and Opportunities in the Post-COVID–19 World; Neighbours – Regions – Global World: Partners or Rivals?”

ARRESTED: A former Volkswagen (VW) engineer has been arrested in Croatia and faces extradition to the United States to face charges over an emissions scandal that rocked VW in 2015.

ENERGY: “For the first phase of the construction of the Trans-Balkan Electricity Corridor, worth EUR 157 million, EMS is using KfW’s EUR 15 million loan and another EUR 6.5 million from European funds. The construction of the Kragujevac-Kraljevo overhead power link is the project’s second section out of four. A ceremony was held for the start of the construction of a 400 kV overhead power line that will link Kragujevac and Kraljevo in Serbia. The works are part of the second part of the first phase of the Trans-Balkan Electricity Corridor. According to the schedule, they must be finished in 610 days.” (Balkan Green Energy News)

IN OTHER NEWS
OP-ED: “Five mounting challenges for China in the Western Balkans” by Vladimir Shopov in European Council on Foreign RelationsANALYSIS: “Why a Kosovo-Serbia White House deal could be dangerous” by Molly Montgomery in Atlantic Council

ANALYSIS: “Don’t count on a White House Kosovo-Serbia breakthrough” by Dimitar Bechev in Atlantic Council

ANALYSIS: “Here’s how a Kosovo-Serbia White House summit could produce progress” by Damir Marusic in Atlantic Council

ANALYSIS: “Trump envoy brokers White House meeting for Kosovo and Serbia presidents” by Shaun Walker and Julian Borger in The Guardian

ANALYSIS: “Beware a China-Russia Nexus in Central Europe Amid US-EU Neglect” by Jakub Janda and Richard Kraemer in Just Security

ANALYSIS: “10 steps Serbia should take on the path of green growth” in Balkan Green Energy News

HUMAN INTEREST: “Kosovar Author Nominated for Two Prestigious Literary Awards” in Exit.al: “Kosovar author Pajtim Statovci is one of the candidates for two prestigious literary awards in Italy and the UK. His book “Crossing” has been nominated for the ‘Salerno Book of Europe Award’ and the ‘Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation award.'”

ENTERTAINMENT: “Performers fume as Serbia reopens but theaters remain shut” by Aleksandar Vasovic in Reuters