WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

BORRELL ON EU-U.S. RELATIONSHIP: EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell said on Monday that the relationship between the EU and the United States is positive and they are in harmony on the EU-led dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia.
  • Borrell said, “now, the cooperation between the US and EU is very good and there is no more competition and the American attempts to take over the main role in the Belgrade – Pristina dialogue on normalization of relations.”
  • He briefed EU ministers on the dialogue yesterday and said there will be a new round of dialogue in July.

EU GENERAL AFFAIRS COUNCIL: At yesterday’s General Affairs Council in Luxembourg, member states of the EU shared views on enlargement and stabilization and association process, the Conference on the Future of Europe, and the European Council meetings in Brussels on June 24-25. Key takeaways include:

  • The General Affairs Council failed to reach an agreement on opening accession talks with Albania and N. Macedonia. Bulgaria vetoed the opening of talks over neighborly relations with N. Macedonia.
  • Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry released a statement calling on Skopje to implement the Treaty of Friendship and Good Neighborliness. The statement pinpoints key areas for Bulgaria to lift he veto: renounce claims to territorial, minority, and historical claims to Bulgaria; changes to monuments and inscriptions that incite hatred towards Bulgaria in N. Macedonia; and rehabilitate victims of Yugoslav communism that were repressed for having a Bulgarian self-conscious.
  • N. Macedonia’s leaders expressed skepticism that it will get the green light to open EU accession talks on June 24-25. FM Bujar Osmani says that only Bulgarian President Ramen Radev has the full political mandate to override the veto this week since Bulgarians head to the polls on July 11 for parliamentary elections. President Stevo Pendarovski noted, “the key problem of the EU is decision-making by consensus.”
  • The General Affairs Council confirmed that it will implement the new enlargement process for Montenegro and Serbia. No new chapters of EU accession were opened at the council.

FM LOGAR ON SLOVENIA’S EU PRESIDENCY: Slovenia’s FM Anže Logar yesterday revealed Ljubljana’s plans for the Western Balkans and its priorities for its Presidency of the EU Council.

  • Logar noted that, “In recent years, the strategy of the EU towards the Western Balkans was a wait-and-see-approach, with the bloc not being too active in the region vis-à-vis reform stalemate.”
  • The Slovenian FM highlighted that the EU needs to act quickly or there will be a vacuum that could be filled by third parties. “If we don’t fill the vacuum in the Western Balkans, our immediate neighborhood, someone else will… In that sense, it is in our best strategic interest to act as soon as possible and to integrate these countries into the EU,” said Logar.
  • Slovenia’s FM said it is “firmly against decoupling” Albania and N. Macedonia’s enlargement process. He said that “both countries fulfil the criteria that were posed to them by the U…both should proceed to the next stage.”

OSMANI MEETS WITH AUSTRIA’S LEADERS: Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani met with Austrian counterpart Alexander Van der Bellen in Vienna yesterday. Osmani called on Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vučić to lay a wreath in Batajnica where mass graves of Kosovo Albanians were found in 2001.

  • “I call on Vučić to at least lay a wreath in Batajnica, the mass grave where the bodies of hundreds of women and young children that were killed during the war in Kosovo were found,” said Osmani
  • Osmani added that justice and mutual recognition were two key aspects of the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue. She said, “We will insist on justice during the process. For us, the solution is mutual recognition, because it is necessary. No other solution would bring peace. The EU must be clear with Serbia that it cannot play two cards with both Russia and the EU, but to choose which is its true path. The moment the EU is clear with Serbia – also in terms of eliminating Russian influence and recognizing Kosovo – then there will be a solution.”
  • Austria’s Van der Bellen wrote on Twitter that “Austria has always been a strong supporter of Kosovo, even dating back to before independence.”
  • “For Austria there is no doubt: The future of all states of the Western Balkan lies in the EU, without these the European unification will not be complete. The permanent stability in this area is therefore of great strategic interest for the EU.

AUSTRIAN DEFENSE MINISTER IN BiH: Austrian Defense Minister Claudia Tanner met with Bosnian counterpart Šifet Podźić while on an official visit to Sarajevo. Tanner said Austria and Bosnia “are bound by special relations” and is proud to contribute to EUFOR’s Operation Althea.

  • She said, “The Western Balkans is a very important region for the Republic of Austria and therefore we monitor the situation and are very military present and engaged in Operation EFUOR Althea because Austria, in addition to being EUFOR commander in recent years, traditionally has the largest number of troops from Austria.”

VUČIĆ CALLS ON SERBIA TO FACE REALITY: Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vučić briefed Serbia’s Parliament on Tuesday on his meeting Kosovo’s PM Albin Kurti last week. He said that Western powers will not change the attitude towards Kosovo.

  • “The western powers won’t change their attitude and whatever happens they will advocate independence for Kosovo and secession from Serbia at any cost,” said Vučić.
  • He defended Serbia arming itself as a sovereign state but questioned the West’s arming of Kosovo.
  • Vučić claimed that Kosovo’s leaders told European High Representative Josep Borrell and EUSR Miroslav Lajčák that Pristina is “note interested in anything signed by the previous Kosovo governments, including the Brussels and Washington Agreements,” writes N1.

DI MAIO ADDRESSES KOSOVO’S PARLIAMENT: Italian FM Luigi Di Maio addressed Kosovo’s Parliament on Tuesday emphasizing Italy’s support for the Western Balkans to join the European Union.

  • “The challenge of the European Union is to restore credibility to enlargement policy. The objective remains the full accession of the Balkans. Italy hopes the negotiations between Kosovo and Serbia can write a new page based on mutual respect and understanding,” said Di Maio
  • During his visit he met with PM Albin Kurti, FM Donika Gërvalla-Schwarz, and Speaker of Parliament Glauk Konjufca.

CROATIA MARKS ANTIFASCISM ANNIVERSARY: Croatia yesterday marked Antifascist Struggle Day. The Croatian government organized an event at the Brezovica forest. It was attended by both PM Andrej Plenković and President Zoran Milanović.

  • PM Plenković noted, “In reality Croatia was divided into German and Italian occupation zones, while most of Dalmatia, Gorski Kotar and Primorje were annexed to Italy after NDH authorities ceded them to fascist Italy, and racial laws were passed against Jews, Roma and Serbs.”
  • He said that the Partisan movement comprised of 7,000 members including Croatian Serbs.
  • Meanwhile, President Milanović said, “Croatia wasn’t just on the side of the winners, Croatia was on the side of the truth and good, the majority of the Croatian people and Croatian Serbs. To point out all the time that they were winners and not losers is a risky look on life and destiny.”

MONTENEGRIN LEADERS AGAINST NEW ELECTIONS: The leaders of the parties of the ruling coalition, Aleksa Bečić, Zdravko Krivokapić, and Dritan Abazović, yesterday said in a joint statement that they were against the government falling and holding new elections.

  • They noted that “Montenegro needs stability with immediate implementation of reforms” and identified four areas where the government should focus: economic development, EU accession, the fight against corruption and organized crime, and electoral reform.

DAČIĆ ON INTER-PARTY DIALOGUE: Serbia’s Speaker of Parliament Ivica Dačić announced on Tuesday that he will meet with Bundestag officials on Friday before heading to Brussels to meet with the President of European Parliament David Sassoli.

  • Dačić said that he would be discussing the inter-party dialogue in Serbia with his interlocutors. “Part of the talks will be devoted to that issue, that is the question of their agenda because it’s high time to start that part of the dialogue. That depends primarily on the agenda of the MEPs, not on myself. The thinking now is between July 8 and 11 when they could come to Belgrade but that has not been confirmed yet,” said Dačić.

SARAJEVO, BANJA LUKA MAYORKS MEET: Mayor of Banja Luka Draško Stanivuković and Mayor of Sarajevo Benjamina Karić met yesterday in Banja Luka in the first official meeting between mayors of the two cities in 27 years. The mayors aim to increase ties between the two capitals of Bosnia’s two entities, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska.

  • Mayor Karić noted they will focus on “what unites us, what will represent us in the future and send out an image of the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a part of Europe.” She proposed a monthly meeting of the mayors.
  • Mayor Stanivuković noted that “New times have come. Friendship and cooperation are a must…our main message is that we are creating a Republika Srpska and Bosnia and Herzegovina where everyone can live and feel like a human being.”

KURTI HOSTS MAYORS OF PREŠEVO, BUJANOVAC: Kosovo PM Albin Kurti hosted the Mayors the Preševo and Bujanovac municipalities, Ardita Sinani and Nagip Arifi. The municipalities in Serbia are majority Albanian. They discussed Serbia’s lack of recognition of diplomas from Kosovo, freedom of movement, and deactivating addresses of Albanians who now live abroad. PM Kurti briefed he duo on his meeting with Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and said his aim is to apply reciprocity of minority rights in Kosovo and Serbia.

MONTENEGRO TO ATTEND SREBRENICA COMMEMORATION: Montenegro’s Deputy PM Dritan Abazović and FM Djordje Radulović will attend the Srebrenica Genocide commemoration on July 11 in Bosnia and Herzegovina according to Sadik Ahmetović, a member of the My Address is Srebrenica coalition.

  • He said, “They told me in the Organizing Committee that the Montenegro delegation will arrive. We don’t know if anyone else will join because it is still early for that, and if a high-ranking delegation will arrive it will be unveiled the last week.”
  • Last week Montenegro’s Parliament adopted a resolution on Srebrenica that drew condemnation from Serb leaders across the region.

FORMER EULEX JUDGE SAYS FILES SENT TO BELGRADE: Former head judge of the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) Malcom Simmons claims that numerous files related to war crimes were sent to Serbia for prosecution.

  • “These were investigations into alleged atrocities committed by persons of Serbian ethnicity during the conflict. Those files contained not only details of the alleged offences and perpetrators but included the personal data of Kosovo citizens who were the victims of these crimes and details of witnesses most of whom were of Kosovo Albanian ethnicity,” said Simmons.
  • Simmons added that EULEX “knew the Serbian authorities did not have the resources- or, indeed, the will to investigate these crimes.” He says that none of the cases handed over have been prosecuted.
  • Serbia and Kosovo do not have an extradition treaty. This makes it difficult for Kosovo to prosecute Serbian citizens for crimes committed during the Kosovo War.

CONGRATS to the Croatian national soccer team for qualifying for the round of 16 of UEFA’s European Championship finals after beating Scotland 3-1 on Tuesday. Croatia plays the team that finishes second in Group E (Sweden, Slovakia, Spain, Poland) on Monday, June 28 at 12:00 EST/ 18:00 CET.

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ANALYSIS: Yugoslavia 30 years on: Historical conflicts hold region’s EU future to ransom in bne Inellinews

ANALYSIS: Pilot’s Killing in Slovenia’s ‘Ten-Day War’ Causes Enduring Controversy by Anja Vladisavljević in Balkan Insight

ANALYSIS: In Serbia, the doktora will see you now by Nikola Djordjević in Emerging Europe: “Gender is a tricky subject in Central and Eastern Europe, even trickier when legislators get involved. Proposed changes to gendered language in Serbia and Czechia have once again exposed the fault lines between conservatives and traditionalists.”