WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

CORONAVIRUS by the numbers:

  • BiH: 3,273 confirmed cases,  2,241 recovered, 169 deaths.
  • CROATIA: 2,317 confirmed cases, 2,142 recovered, 107 deaths.
  • KOSOVO: 1,486 confirmed cases, 953 recovered, 33 deaths.
  • N. MACEDONIA: 5,106 confirmed cases, 238 deaths.
  • MONTENEGRO: 362 confirmed cases, 315 recovered, 9 deaths.
  • SERBIA: 12,894 confirmed cases, 11,947 recovered, 261 deaths.
  • SLOVENIA: 1,520 confirmed cases, 109 deaths.

PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION RESULTS IN SERBIA: President Aleksandar Vucic’s party, the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) ran away with Sunday’s election with 63.35% after opposition parties boycotted. Voter turnout reached 49%. Some lucky voters may have seen U.S. Ambassador to Serbia Anthony Godfrey who volunteered as an election observer.Full preliminary results here.

KOSOVO-SERBIA DIALOGUE:

  • U.S. President Donald Trump’s Special Envoy, Richard Grenell, on Thursday told Gazeta Express that the U.S. would lead economic dialogue while the EU would lead the political aspect of the dialogue. He indicated he has been in touch with the National Security Advisers of France and Germany.
  • Grenell on Thursday went on Fox News and spoke to Laura Ingraham. He placed the blame on the land swap idea on former National Security Adviser John Bolton. Grenell said, “When it comes to Kosovo and Serbia, we’re having both of those two together at the White House next Saturday to talk about a historic movement and agreement. And yet I’m fighting constantly about this rumor about land swaps between the two. And that’s not Trump’s policy but when you dig deep, both sides say: Well, that’s what John Bolton said. And so I’m fighting all of the rumors that that persisted because Bolton was pursuing his own policy rather than President Trump’s policy.”
  • EU Special Envoy for the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak, will be in Serbia today and tomorrow, a day after Serbia’s parliamentary elections and a week after a three day visit to Kosovo.
  • Serbia’s President, Aleksandar Vucic, on Thursday said Serbia would not recognize Kosovo in return for EU membership. He said, “In reply to a possible offer (to Serbia) to recognize Kosovo and that Kosovo enters the UN, and we receive nothing in return, except EU membership, our answer would be ‘no’” after meeting with Russian FM Sergei Lavrov.
  • Kosovo’s PM, Avdullah Hoti, claims he will lead the dialogue over President Hashim Thaci. “If you read the Constitution is clear on who should be leading the dialogue process, the President knows this. I will fully exercise my competencies, and I will not transfer them to anyone.”
  • President of N. Macedonia, Stevo Pendarovski, warned, “I’m not saying that border-changes can’t be the solution to the Kosovo issue, but that solution mustn’t lead to the domino effect in the region and it mustn’t threaten our borders.”

TRUMP WRITES TO SENATE ON CROATIA: U.S. President Donald Trump wrote to the U.S. Senate regarding the U.S.-Croatia Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement. He wrote, “The U.S.-Croatia Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement formalizes and strengthens the institutional framework for legal assistance between the United States of America and the Republic of Croatia in criminal matters.  Because the United States of America and the Republic of Croatia do not have a bilateral mutual legal assistance treaty in force, the U.S.-Croatia Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement is a partial treaty governing only those issues regulated by the U.S.-European Union Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement, specifically:  identification of bank information, joint investigative teams, video-conferencing, expedited transmission of requests, assistance to administrative authorities, use limitations, confidentiality, and grounds for refusal.” And added, “I recommend that the Senate give early and favorable consideration to the U.S.-Croatia Extradition Agreement and the U.S.-Croatia Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement.”

MACRON TO BLAME FOR KOSOVO’S VISA LIB. DELAY?: European Rapporteur for Kosovo, Viola von Cramon, squared the blame on the European Council and French President Emmanuel Macron for the delay in visa liberalization for citizens of Kosovo. She responded to former Kosovo FM Behgjet Pacolli and U.S. Special Envoy Richard Grenell on Twitter: “As I explained to @RichardGrenell it’s up to @EUCouncil to decide on this matter. Unfortunately. But if you guys want to play a constructive role here pick up the phone & ask @EmmanuelMacron why he is so reluctant on granting VisaLib to Kosovo. You’ll be surprised about his answer.” Meanwhile, she hopes that visa liberalization will happen under Germany’s EU Presidency.

OSMANI REMOVED FROM LDK LEADERSHIP: Speaker of Parliament of Kosovo, Vjosa Osmani, has been voted out of her deputy leader position within the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) and has been replaced by Kosovo PM Avdullah Hoti.

DJUKANOVIC ON NATIONALISTS: Montenegro’s President Milo Djukanovic met with EU ambassadors and conveyed, “Regarding the current topic of church-state relations, I can say that Montenegro will persevere in the postulates of a multi-ethnic civil society that adopts the European value system. And, despite numerous political pressures, there will be no compromise with nationalists and those who want to destroy the heritage of this generation.”

PRESIDENT MILANOVIC BEGINS INT’L TRIP: Croatia’s President, Zoran Milanovic, today is setting sail to Montenegro aboard the Croatian Navy Ship Omis. He will hold a bilateral meeting with President Milo Djukanovic. He is scheduled to attend the Victory Day Parade in Moscow on June 24 and will have a bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

PM PLENKVOIC ON REBUILDING ZAGREB: Croatia’s PM, Andrej Plenkovic, on Saturday said his party, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), is committed to rebuilding Zagreb after the March 22 earthquake. He said the reconstruction would take ten years and cost up to 11.5 billion euro.

EP TO DEBATE W. BALKANS REPORT: “The European Parliament is set to debate a report on the Western Balkans which calls for the start of pre-accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia and speedier closing of chapters with Serbia and Montenegro. The report by rapporteur Tonino Picula MEP was adopted by the EP Committee on Foreign Affairs two months ago. It was used in preparing the Zagreb Summit in May.   According to Picula, the European Union is committed to expanding to include the Western Balkan countries but expects them to continue reforms on the road to membership. He said that the document sends the EP’s strong message of support to the expansion process and states that membership in the EU is the final goal which is in everyone’s interest.  ” (N1)

PROTESTS IN SLOVENIA: Slovenian riot police cleared a central square in Ljubljana in front of the Parliament. Roughly 30 protesters had gathered alleging democratic backsliding by PM Janez Jansa.

ABDIC – ONE MONTH DETENTION: Mayor of Velika Kladusa, BiH has been ordered for a one month detention on suspicion of abusing his position.

ELECTIONS IN MONTENEGRO: President Milo Djukanovic announced parliamentary elections on August 30.

JANEVA JAILED: Former Special Prosecutor of N. Macedonia, Katica Janeva, has been jailed for seven years.

WAR CRIMES: Hungary is extraditing Ljubisa Manitasevic to Serbia to investigate killings during the Kosovo War. The Hungarian Ministry of Justice found that “the legal preconditions for Ljubisa Manitasevic to be extradited to both Belgrade and Pristina had been met,” but ultimately decided he should be sent to Serbia.

MIGRANTS/BORDER: Two Croatian police officers on Friday were arrested for allegedly beating an asylum seeker. Meanwhile, Croatia is tightening the border with Serbia and Bosnia amidst a rise in COVID-19 cases. Meanwhile, Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik said Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity, Republika Srpska (RS), is seeking the “urgent deportation” for migrants in RS. One hundred and forty-two migrants were found in a truck in N. Macedonia.

IN OTHER NEWS

ANALYSIS: “The Age-Old Struggle for Narrative” by Edward P. Joseph and Ognen Vangelov in The American Interest: “As global order teeters in the face of pandemic, a stubborn conflict in the Western Balkans is showing that even serious calamity is not forcing hostile governments to bury grievances and work toward positive-sum solutions. As both Bulgaria and North Macedonia extend COVID-19 states of emergency amid lingering pandemics, the former has mounted another challenge to Macedonian identity—an academic squabble that has very real consequences.”ANALYSIS: “Pushing for Serbia-Kosovo Peace Deal, U.S. Roils Allies” by Patrick Kingsley and Kenneth P. Vogel in The New York Times

CULTURE: “Balkan LGBT+ artists still fighting for Pride” by Rayna Breuer in Deutsche Welle

CULTURE: “Sports, raspberries, but no sea: five facts about Serbia” in France 24

CULTURE: “National disaster declared in county in Croatia after 50 million bees poisoned” in the Daily Sabah

SPORT: Inching toward normalcy, Ljubljana will host beach volleyball bringing together Olympic and world class athletes from July 30 to August 2.

SPORT: “Adria Tour final canceled after player tests positive for Covid-19” in Voice of Croatia

TRAVEL: “Travelling amid a pandemic from the US to Skopje” by Teodor Parolo Tasevski in ExYu Aviation