WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY
DAS PALMER ARRIVES IN BELGRADE: US DAS and Special Representative to the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer arrived in Belgrade yesterday for meetings with top officials from Serbia. DAS Palmer is scheduled to meet with President Aleksandar Vučić, PM Ana Brnabić, and FM Nikola Selaković.
AMBS NELSON, SATTLER, AND H.o.M KAVALEC MEET IAWG: US Ambassador in BiH Eric Nelson, EU Ambassador and Special Representative in BiH Johann Sattler, and the Head of the OSCE Mission in BiH yesterday met with the Interagency Working Group (IAWG) “to underscore the urgent need for internationally-recommended reforms to make BiH’s electoral system more fair, transparent, and effective.” They welcomed the IAWG’s work leading to a legislative package to Parliament and noted Central Election Commission experts and civil society must be heard before reforms are implemented.
SCHMIDT FORMALLY ELECTED: The Ambassadors of the Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council (PIC SB) in BiH formally voted in favor of Christian Schmidt becoming the next High Representative in BiH.
- Next Steps: The Office of the High Representative will inform the UN Secretary General of the PIC SB’s decision.
- Russia did not agree with the decision to appoint Schmidt as the next High Representative and opens the door for Russia to block EUFOR’s Operation Althea in the UN Security Council later this year.
- Meanwhile, top officials from Bosnia’s Republika Srpska (RS) entity, including Chairman and Bosnian Serb Member of the BiH Presidency Milorad Dodik, visited Belgrade to discuss Schmidt’s appointment and “all relevant issues” to the Serb people with Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vučić.
- Serbia’s Vučić announced that Serbia “won’t back the implementation of the Bonn Powers” and Serbia would demand regular reports from the new High Representative.
- BiH’s Dodik reiterated his stance that the Office of the High Representative should be closed especially now that Schmidt would not have legitimacy in RS.
Read more: Bosnia Is Heading Toward Another Meltdown by Tanya L. Domi and Ivana Strander in Foreign Policy
KURTI, VUČIĆ ON MEETING IN BRUSSELS: Ahead of their meeting in Brussels with EUSR Miroslav Lajčák, Serbia’s Vučić and Kosovo’s PM Albin Kurti commented on how they see the meeting unfolding.
- Kosovo’s Kurti indicated the meeting in Brussels will be closing the old dialogue and discussing the start of a future dialogue. He also noted, “we need to see where we stand in terms of previous agreements, their implementation, and impact.”
- Meanwhile, Serbia’s Vučić highlighted that they should not invite him if they will not be discussing the Association of Serb-majority Municipalities. As for recognition, he reiterated his long-term stance that the West is looking for Serbia to recognize Kosovo without receiving anything in return.
- EUSR Miroslav Lajčák told Euronews that both Kurti and Vučić understand that their European path goes through the dialogue and “there is no way around the dialogue both for Serbia and Kosovo.
EC REPORT ON SERBIA, MONTENEGRO HIGHLIGHTS JUDICIARY, MEDIA FREEDOM PROBLEMS: “European Commission has sent its biannual non-paper on the state of the rule of law in Montenegro and Serbia to the Member States, regional media reported. The fulfillment of the interim benchmarks in Chapters 23 and 24 are now officially the conditions for closing any other negotiating chapter, while for Serbia, the state of the rule of law determines whether it will open new chapters.
“The Commission noted problems with the judicial track record, independence of the judiciary, and a still problematic situation in the area of freedom of expression, among other findings.” (European Western Balkans)
BEROŠ SURVIVES NO CONFIDENCE VOTE: Croatian Health Minister Vili Beroš on Wednesday survived a vote of no-confidence initiated by opposition MPs in Croatia’s Parliament. There were 75 MPs who voted against the motion and 57 who voted in favor in the 151 seat parliament.
CROATIA’S NATO COMMITMENT: At the meeting of NATO Defense Ministers, Croatia’s Defense Minister Mario Banožić said that the recent purchase of 12 French Rafale F-3R fighter jets from France to the tune of over $1bn “further confirmed” Croatia’s commitment to the NATO. He highlighted that Croatia is on its way to reaching the 2% of GDP spending and 20% for equipment and modernization by 2024 agreed at the 2014 NATO Summit in Wales.
EUROPA NOSTRA DEFENDS DECISION ON VISOKI DEČANI: Europa Nostra responded to the Kosovo government’s inquiry on why the Visoki Dečani Monastery was included on the 7 Most Endangered List.
- The presidents of Europa Nostra and the Future for Religious Heritage wrote, “While noting your different point of view, we wish to assure you that the nomination dossier submitted by the Future for Religious Heritage was carefully prepared in line with the highest professional standards that are required for nominations under this programme.”
- They added, “We are confident that this statement will bring you additional clarification about the purpose and the procedures of the 7 Most Endangered Programme and the decision to include the Decani Monastery in this year’s list.”
TACKLING CORRUPTION IN ALBANIA: “The High Court has relegated to the Court against Corruption and Organized Crime (GJKKO) a prosecution request to re-launch investigations against former Minister of Defense Fatmir Mediu in relation to his responsibility in the 2008 Gerdec explosions that left 26 dead and hundreds wounded.
“GJKKO will have to decide whether the Special Prosecution against Corruption and Organized Crime (SPAK) can launch new investigations and open a case against the former minister. “ (Exit.al)
IN OTHER NEWS
ANALYSIS: Bosnian Far-Right Movement Weds Bosniak Nationalism, Neo-Nazism by Nermina Kuloglija in Balkan Insight
ANALYSIS: China In Eurasia Briefing: Is Eastern Europe’s Love Affair With China Coming to An End? By Reid Standish in RFE/RL