WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

LEADERS GATHER FOR SEECP MEETING: Leaders from countries across south east Europe gathered for the South-East European Cooperation Platform (SEECP) Summit in Antalya yesterday. High Representative Josep Borrell represented the EU at the SEECP Summit. Today, leaders will stay in Antalya for the Antalya Diplomacy Forum.

  • At the conclusion of the summit, the leaders signed a declaration noting “Southeast Europe is an inalienable part of the European continent. This region shares the fundamental values and principles of inclusive and sustainable development with the European Union.”
  • It added, “Participants call on the EU to step up the enlargement process for SEECP participants in order to keep the region at European core values. European and Euro-Atlantic integration, based on the current commitments and aspirations of individual SEECP participants, is crucial for the stability and prosperity of the region.”
  • Albania’s FM Olta Xhaçka met with Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on the sidelines of the summit. They discussed deepening “cooperation in different areas especially in regional and international fora.”
  • BiH’s FM Bisera Turković held a bilateral meeting with Turkey’s Çavuşoğlu to discuss bilateral and regional issues.
  • Chairman and Bosnian Serb member of the Presidency, Bosniak Member of the Presidency Šefik Džaferović, and Bosnian Croat Member of the Presidency Željko Komšić will meet with Turkey’s PresidentRecep Tayyip Erdoğan on the sidelines of the Antalya Diplomacy Forum.
  • Croatia’s PM Andrej Plenković asked Turkey’s Erdoğan for support on Croatia’s stance on electoral form in neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina. He said, “For us it is also important that consensus is reached on the election legislation reform during the process of negotiations between political parties and institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and in this regard, I asked for Turkey’s support.”
  • Kosovo’s President Vjosa Osmani held a bilateral meeting on the margins of the summit with the EU’s Josep Borrell. According to Osmani it was a “substantial meeting.” She “emphasized that a new chaper of the dialogue should be guided by the principle of equal treatment and be centered on mutual recognition.”
  • Montenegro’s FM Djordje Radulović signed a Memorandum of Understanding in the field of protocol affairs with Turkey’s Çavuşoğlu. Montenegro is opening a consulate in Antalya today.
  • N. Macedonia’s President Stevo Pendarovski met with Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. They discussed bilateral relations and cooperation within the NATO alliance.
  • Serbia’s FM Nikola Selaković said that EU membership was Serbia’s key foreign policy and strategic goal.

ZAEV MEETS WITH BULGARIAN LEADERS: PM of N. Macedonia Zoran Zaev, Deputy FM for European Affairs Nikola Dimitrov, and FM Bujar Osmani yesterday were in Sofia to discuss coming to an agreement to allow N. Macedonia to officially open EU accession talks with Bulgarian leaders. During the visit, they met with President Rumen Radev, Acting PM Stefan Janev, leader of the center-right GERB party and former PM Boyko Borissov, and leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party Cornelia Ninova.

  • Although there wasn’t a breakthrough in the negotiations on language, identity, and history, the meetings built momentum ahead of the June 22 meeting of the European Council. Bulgaria is expected to continue to block N. Macedonia from formally opening EU accession talks until after elections.
  • Bulgaria heads to parliamentary elections in July 11 after no party was able to form a coalition in April.
  • Meanwhile, Former PM Boyko Borissov wrote on Twitter, “I assume the caretaker government of President (of Bulgaria) Radev will desert & the decision on the EU integration of 🇲🇰 will be left to the next regular government…If we don’t find a solution, next generations will hate each other.”

SPEAKING OF EU TALKS: The Dutch Parliament formally voted that Albania has fulfilled all conditions set and is ready to hold its first intergovernmental conference.

LEPOSAVIĆ SACKED: Montenegro’s Parliament dismissed Minister of Justice, Human and Minority Rights Vladimir Leposavić for questioning the Srebrenica Genocide.

  • He said in March that he would recognize the Srebrenica Genocide “when it was established unequivocally.”
  • Despite backtracking and apologizing, Leposavić was dismissed yesterday with votes in parliament from opposition MPs and the Black and White coalition MPs.
  • On Wednesday, he told parliament, “I call on all citizens, especially Christians and Muslims, to cooperate, talk and respect the crimes committed against their nation. In the earlier statement, I said that I was sorry that my clumsy answer hurt people…I will pay the price but the government will survive.”
  • Ruling coalition partner Democratic Front, a pro-Serb party, said his dismissal could put the coalition into question.
  • Montenegro’s Parliament on Thursday passed a resolution condemning the Srebrenica. According to Balkan Insight, it “prohibits public denial of the Srebrenica Genocide and calls on the state institutions to investigate and prosecute war crimes.”

VUČIĆ MEETS WITH JOHANNSON: Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vučić on Thursday met with European Commissioner for Internal Affairs and Migrations Ylva Johansson. At a press conference after the meeting, Johansson encouraged Serbia to make progress in the rule of law and the fight against corruption and organized crime. She noted that Belgrade has the support of Brussels.  In addition, Serbia and the EU signed a €2.5 million contract for migration management “to support reception capacity, protection services and access to education in Serbia.”

CROATIA NEEDS TO TACKLE CORRUPTION: European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders yesterday said that local-level corruption and a slow judiciary are key challenges for Croatia. He noted that Croatia ranks at the bottom of the EU rankings for trust between the citizens and judiciary. He encouraged Croatia to learn from older members in the EU on how to tackle reforms.

WHAT’S SHAKING WITH THE ASM?: U.S. Ambassador to Kosovo Philip Kosnett on Wednesday encouraged Kosovo to form the Association of Serb Municipalities (ASM) following the meeting of the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue in Brussels. Yesterday, British Ambassador to Kosovo Nicholas Abbott backed his American colleague statement on the formation of the ASM. Abbott said, “I think it’s clear the issue is on the table and that Kosovo’s Government has agreed on it.”

  • Kosovo PM Albin Kurti responded by noting there can’t be a monoethnic association of municipalities in Kosovo.
  • He said, “I don’t think it’s possible under Kosovo’s constitutional order to form an ethnically-based community. An association of municipalities can exist based on development needs or geography…And practically such a conclusion was made with the ruling of the Constitutional Court published on December 23, 2015.

The conclusion of the Kosovo Constitutional Court ruling from 2015 states:

  • “The First Agreement, ratified on 27 June 2013, foresees the establishment of an Association/Community of Serb majority municipalities in Kosovo. Furthermore, it provides for the establishment of this Association/Community by a Statute. In addition, it defines the structures of the Association/Community to follow the same basis as the existing statute of the Association of the Kosovo municipalities.
  • “the participating municipalities are entitled to cooperate through the Association/Community col1ectively based on the European Charter for Local Self-Government and Kosovo law”
  • “the Association/Community will exercise other competencies delegated by the central authorities. Thus the establishment of the Association/Community has become part of the internal legal system.”
  • “The Principles as elaborated in the ‘Association/Community of Serb majority municipalities in Kosovo – general principles/main elements’ are not entirely in compliance with the spirit of the Constitution, Article 3 [Equality Before the Law], paragraph 1, Chapter II [Fundamental Rights and Freedoms] and Chapter III [Rights of Communities and Their Members] of the Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo.
  • “Thus, these Principles shall be in compliance with the constitutional standards of the Republic of Kosovo as reasoned by the Judgment of the Court.”

DAČIĆ IN MOROCCO: Serbia’s Parliamentary Speaker Ivica Dačić on Wednesday visited Rabat where he met with FM Nasser Bourita and Speaker of the House of Advisors (upper house of Morocco’s Parliament) Hakim Benchamach.

  • Dačić identified Morocco as “an essential partner of Serbia on the African continent.” He reiterated that the two sides agreed to hold an economic forum before the end of this year after Serbia’s FM Nikola Selaković visited Rabat last May.
  • Morocco World News writes, “While it isn’t clear what the two diplomats specifically met to discuss, it seems to have been a fruitful meeting… A huge factor in the close relations between both countries stem from shared issues of territorial sovereignty that both Morocco and Serbia have been forced to contend with during their respective histories.”

SPEAKING OF DAČIĆ’S MEETINGS… He is set to meet with Russia’s Deputy FM Alexander Grushko today at 10AM CET. Grushko yesterday met with State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Serbia Nemanja Starović. Serbia’s Foreign Ministry wrote on Twitter, “Today’s bilateral political consultations covered dialogue on numerous topics of mutual interest for the two fraternal countries.”

SLOVENIAN PARTIES TO HOLD ELECTIONS ON SATURDAY. Slovenian political parties, the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) and the Pensioner’s Party (DeSUS), are both set to host party elections on Saturday.

  • Current PM Janez Janša is expected to run unopposed to lead the SDS, the party which he has led since 1993.
  • Meanwhile, DeSUS expects its third leadership change in the past year-and-a-half. The three potential leaders are former party leader Ljubo Jasnič, former senior police officer Srečko Felix Krope, and former minister for Slovenians abroad Gorazd Žmavc, according to the Slovenia Times.

RIMAC TO GO PUBLIC: Croatian electric supercar Rimac is planning on going public in 2022. In addition, it aims to takeover Bugatti which will be a joint venture with its partner, Porsche. The deal would see Rimac holding 55% and Porsche 45% of the shares.

SERBIA’S AIK BANK TO BUY SBERBANK OPS IN SEE: “ Finance reported on Wednesday that the Serbian AIK Banka is close to signing a deal to buy all of Russian Sberbank’s operations in Southeast Europe, including those in Slovenia. A potential merger of Sberbank in Slovenia and Gorenjska Banka, which is owned by AIK, would create the third largest banking group in the country.

“The Russian banking group announced a few days ago that it intends to withdraw from the European market within a year or two. At the beginning of June, Sberbank also announced that it intends to sell its majority stake in the Croatian group Fortenova, which includes the Slovenian retailer Mercator, within two years.” (Slovenia Times)

WAR CRIMES VERDICT: “The first-instance verdict in the retrial of Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic in The Hague is scheduled for June 30, the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals said on Thursday.

“Stanisic, the former head of Serbian State Security, and Simatovic, his former deputy, are being retried for alleged participation in a joint criminal enterprise whose aim was the forcible and permanent removal of the majority of non-Serbs, mainly Croats and Bosniaks, from large areas of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in the period from 1991 to 1995.” (Balkan Insight)

IN OTHER NEWS

 ANALYSIS: Wielding Twitter, Europe’s ‘Marshal Twito’ Takes Aim at the Media by Andrew Higgins in The New York Times

ANALYSIS: Reshuffle or Election Only Options Left for Montenegrin Government by Samir Kajosević in Balkan Insight

ANALYSIS: With Parliament Decision, Albania Deals Fresh Blow to Media Freedom by Fjori Sinoruka

HISTORY: Yugoslavia: why shared Slavic identity couldn’t save an idealised nation from fracture and bloodshed by John Connelly in the BBC’s History Extra magazine