WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

DAS PALMER, LAJČÁK IN KOSOVO DAY 2: US DAS and Special Representative to the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer and EUSR for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue Miroslav Lajčák spent their second day in Kosovo meeting with government officials and held a joint press conference.

  • The duo reiterated at a press conference that the purpose of the trip was to prepare for the upcoming meeting between Kosovo’s PM Albin Kurti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić. The EU’s Lajčák noted that EU interest in the region is increasing. “Among the EU leadership and the member states, there is increased interest in the region,” said Lajčák.
  • DAS Palmer underscored US support for the EU-led dialogue with the goal of full normalization and mutual recognition. He noted, “That’s one thing that would put this issue behind the parties and open up the path to membership in the EU for both Serbia and Kosovo.
  • EUSR Lajčák debriefed the EU Heads of Mission on his visit and the Dialogue before concluding his trip.
  • Meanwhile, DAS Palmer met with Bishop Teodosije at the Visoki Dečani Monastery to discuss issues the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC) faces in Kosovo.
  • A press release by the Diocese of Raška and Prizren said, “Bishop Teodosije expressed his position that our Church has always been open for a dialogue but that it is up to the local institution to show readiness to respect the decisions of courts and the rule of law.” But the SOC last week rejected a meeting with Kosovo PM Albin Kurti to open a dialogue on issues the SOC faces in Kosovo.

Read more: EU, US Push for ‘New Dynamics’ in Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue in Balkan Insight

 

REACTIONS FROM AROUND BiH ON SCHMIDT’S APPOINTMENT: Bosnia’s FM Bisera Turković wrote a message welcoming new High Representative Christian Schmidt to Bosnia and Herzegovina after the Peace Implementation Council (PIC) appointed the German to the position.

  • She wrote, “I am convinced that your diplomatic experience, commitment and goodwill as well as the international support that you enjoy, can bring the necessary energy and help to the efforts of BiH political forces that uncompromisingly, unambiguously, and continuously fight and work on meeting all conditions for a permanent stabilisation and full implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement, economic progress, and progress towards the EU membership.”
  • Meanwhile, US Ambassador to BiH Eric Nelson on Tuesday discussed US support for the appointment of Schmidt and “the vital role of the Office of the High Representative in facilitating implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement” with Chairman and Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik.
  • The US Embassy in Sarajevo also urged leaders to focus on reforms and warned that “divisive rhetoric only serves to slow down progress that will benefit all BiH citizens.”
  • Bosnia’s Dodik has been against the appointment of Schmidt and called to abolish the Office of the High Representative.
  • Serbia’s President, Aleksandar Vučić, weighed in on Schmidt’s appointment. He said it would be harder for Bosnia’s Republika Srpska entity because “the Germans will do their best to make, as they say, a functional state out of BiH, and that means taking over the competencies of the Republika Srpska authorities.”
  • Vučić is meeting with Bosnian Serb leaders today in Belgrade to discuss Schmidt’s appointment.

 

EUROPEAN COMMISSION ADOPTS PROPOSAL FOR COVID RECOVERY: “The Commission has adopted a proposal for a €3 billion macro-financial assistance (MFA) package to ten enlargement and neighbourhood partners to help them to limit the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. The proposal comes on top of the ‘Team Europe‘ strategy, the EU’s robust and targeted response to support partner countries’ efforts in tackling the coronavirus pandemic. It represents an important demonstration of the EU’s solidarity with these countries at a time of unprecedented crisis.

 

“The proposal, following a preliminary assessment of financing needs, provides for the MFA funds to be distributed as follows: the Republic of Albania (€180 million), Bosnia and Herzegovina (€250 million), Georgia (€150 million), the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (€200 million), Kosovo (€100 million), the Republic of Moldova (€100 million), Montenegro (€60 million), the Republic of North Macedonia (€160 million), the Republic of Tunisia (€600 million) and Ukraine (€1.2 billion).” (European Commission press release)

 

DAČIĆ TALKS KOSOVO-SERBIA IN MOSCOW: Serbia’s Speaker of Parliament Ivica Dačić yesterday discussed with Russian FM Sergei Lavrov the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue. Dačić said, “Lavrov reiterated Russia will continue backing Serbia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and will hail a solution for Kosovo that will be acceptable to Serbia.”

 

ICYMI – LOGAR IN MOSCOW: Slovenia’s FM Anže Logar met with Russia’s Lavrov on Friday. Russia’s Lavrov “reaffirmed our deep concern about Brussels’ actions, which are undermining all the mechanisms of Russia-EU ties” and “expressed our regret that the EU’s position is based on the principle of the lowest common denominator determined by the aggressive Russophobic minority.” Lavrov did not agree with Slovenia and the EU’s position on Navalny, eastern Ukraine, Crimea, and Belarus. He said he “once again provided detailed answers that are based on facts rather than unsubstantiated allegations.” Meanwhile, Slovenia’s Logar emphasized the EU positions and the importance of the Western Balkans in its upcoming EU presidency.

 

  • Read Slovenia’s press release HERE. Read Lavrov’s comments in full HERE. Watch the press conference on Russia’s state-controlled news network, RT, in English HERE. Read Politico’s David Herszenhorn summarized the meeting on Twitter HERE.

 

TROUBLE IN MONTENEGRIN GOV’T?: Montenegrin PM Zdravko Krivokapić is facing backlash from his recent trip to Belgrade to meet with representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church but not signing an agreement on the church’s rights in Montenegro. This has cost PM Krivokapić the support of the pro-Serb and Russia coalition member, the Democratic Front. Meanwhile, PM Krivokapić is hoping to sack Secretary General of the Government Božo Milonjić after an argument between the two in Belgrade. Milonjić claims he is on vacation and his role would be discussed when he returns, but he is not sacked.

 

CROATIA SUPPORTS WB AT NATO MINISTERIAL: At an online meeting of NATO foreign ministers, Croatia’s FM Gordan Grlić Radman highlighted the strategic importance of the Western Balkans to NATO. A press release underscored “support to Bosnia and Herzegovina should be stepped up and that the engagement in Kosovo should continue.” The press release also called for NATO to support election law reform in Bosnia.

 

GREECE WON’T RECOGNIZE KOSOVO: Greece’s Foreign Ministry released a statement highlighting that Athens “does not recognize Kosovo and its position remains unchanged.” But Greece wants to take a “constructive approach towards Pristina” citing the Kosovo’s trade and economic in Athens, Greece’s support for Kosovo’s EU path, Greek soldiers in KFOR, and increasing economic cooperation. Greek FM Nikos Denidas is visiting Kosovo on June 4, about eight months after his last visit to Pristina.

 

KOSOVO’S KURTI ON ASM: Kosovo’s PM Albin Kurti suggested there will be no Association of Serb Municipalities (ASM) despite Kosovo signing the Brussels Agreement in 2013 which called for its creation. Kosovo’s Constitutional Court ruled that many of the guiding principles are not legal by the Constitution, but the creation of an association of municipalities is not prohibited.

  • Kosovo’s Kurti said, “A petition of Kosovo citizens, our actions in opposition, as well as a ruling of the Constitutional Court, foretell what will happen with the association.”
  • Kosovo’s Kurti added, “We can’t have single-nation associations in Kosovo and we need to integrate all citizens regardless of ethnicity, not make buildings to separate them.”
  • Kosovo and Serbia both claim the other side is not implementing previously signed agreements with the Serb side underscoring the importance of the Association.

 

VERMONT + N. MACEDONIA: Vermont’s National Guard was joined by Vermont’s lieutenant governor and commerce secretary on a visit to N. Macedonia to discuss increasing economic cooperation in the fields of agriculture, higher education, and tourism. Vermont’s National Guard and N. Macedonia have enjoyed a robust relationship since 1993. Watch them departing Vermont HERE.

IN OTHER NEWS

OP-ED: Balkan Corruption Risks Derailing Bid to Join European Union by Jamie Dettmer in VoA

OP-ED: Bosnia’s EUFOR Mission Endangered by Russia-West Row over New Overseer by Jasmin Mujanović in Balkan Insight

ANALYSIS: Zoran Zaev – North Macedonia’s Fickle Reformer by Vlado Apostolov in Balkan Insight

ANALYSIS: Victims of Balkans Wars Are Still Seeking Justice by Serbeze Haxhiaj in World Politics Review

ENERGY: North Macedonia plans investments in energy of EUR 3.1 billion by 2027 in Balkan Green Energy News

CULTURE: Is Croatia Europe’s new digital nomad destination? By Julie Gaubert in Euronews/AFP