WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

CORONAVIRUS by the numbers:

  • BiH: 3,588 confirmed cases,  2,285 recovered, 172 deaths.
  • CROATIA: 2,366 confirmed cases, 2,142 recovered, 107 deaths.
  • KOSOVO: 2,169 confirmed cases, 1,047 recovered, 37 deaths.
  • N. MACEDONIA: 5,311 confirmed cases, 251 deaths.
  • MONTENEGRO: 378 confirmed cases, 315 recovered, 9 deaths.
  • SERBIA: 13,092 confirmed cases, 12,054 recovered, 263 deaths.
  • SLOVENIA: 1,534 confirmed cases, 109 deaths.

GRENELL AIMS FOR A MINI-SHENZHEN: U.S. Special Envoy to the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue, Richard Grenell, said in an interview on Newsmax, that the goal is to “create a little mini Shenzhen zone,” a reference to China’s first special economic zone. He added, “We think that’s a very, very good idea, and we think if you can create jobs in the region, if you can bring capitalism and force the parties to get along economically and commercially, then the political issues would be the second step. The political issues are clearly the responsibility of the Europeans.”

LAJCAK IN BELGRADE: EU Special Envoy to the Western Balkans, Miroslav Lajcak, on his second day in Serbia met with PM Ana Brnabic. In a Tweet, he noted, “We spoke about next steps and modalities for resuming the EU-facilitated Dialogue, and the need for progress on Serbia’s reform agenda. Both are key elements to pave the way to the EU.”

KOSOVO & SERBIA LEADERS IN BRUSSELS: Before setting off to the United States, the leaders of Kosovo and Serbia will have separate meetings with the European Commission in Brussels. EU Spokesperson Peter Stano said, “The exact date is still being discussed. Both sides agreed to resume the talks, so the date or time framework should be decided on.”

VUCIC MEETS PUTIN IN MOSCOW: Serbia’s president, Aleksandar Vucic, met with Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin ahead of today’s Victory Day Parade. Vucic described the meeting as “heartfelt and good meeting” and added, “We talked about all key issues, the situation in Kosovo and Metohija, the region, the world and economic cooperation.” The Kremlin released a brief transcript of their conversation (in Russian) that focused on increasing economic and military relations.

MILANOVIC’S TRIP TO MONTENEGRO: Croatian President Zoran Milanovic wrapped up his two day visit to Montenegro. He met with President Milo Djukanovic, PM Dusko Markovic, and Speaker of Parliament Ivan Brajovic in Tivat and Kotor. In the meeting with Brajovic, the Croatian president noted, “By joining NATO and negotiating with the European Union, you have clearly and irrevocably chosen the character of Western democracies.”

SLOVENIA TO INCREASE MILITARY SPENDING: “The government unveiled on Monday a bill under which investments worth EUR 780 million are to be made in the Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF) in 2021-2026. The bill is expected to be adopted on Wednesday. The majority of the funds, or EUR 408 million, is to go for eight- and four-wheeled armoured personnel carriers for a battalion battlegroup. The core of the first battalion battlegroup will be a medium-sized mechanised battalion, which the government would like to fully equip while this piece of legislation is in place.” (Slovenia Times)

SNSD TO CONDEMN ACTIONS IN MONTENEGRO: The Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) is set to put forward a declaration condemning Montenegro’s Religious Freedom Law and in support of protests, which have become violent at times. The SNSD rejected a similarly worded in February penned by the opposition.

U.S. OIL SETS SAIL TO CROATIA: “A light sweet crude cargo has departed the US Gulf coast for a rare voyage to Croatia amid a drop in competing Russian supplies. The Aframax tanker Iasonas finished loading at Corpus Christi, Texas, today and is expected to arrive at Omisalj, Croatia, around 14 July, marking the first US crude cargo destined for the eastern European country in more than a year, according to preliminary tracking data compiled be Argus. The vessel is likely carrying light sweet WTI, West Texas Light (WTL) or Eagle Ford, which are staple grades out of the Corpus Christi export hub. This is the fifth US crude cargo shipped to Croatia since the US lifted its ban on oil exports in late 2015, with the first US crude shipment loaded in November 2018, and the most recent cargo prior to this month departing in May 2019.” (Argus Media)

SREBRENICA GENOCIDE AFTER 25 YEARS: Sarajevo City Hall announced that it will commemorate the victims of the Srebrenica Genocide by sounding sirens in the capital.

ELECTIONS IN CROATIA: PM Andrej Plenkovic announced the elections will go ahead on July 5 as planned. He noted, “I don’t understand why this is even being called into question. The election will take place on July 5 and that is in the purview of the Electoral Commission. All this spin and theories, mostly coming from the opposition, that it is unsafe simply do not hold water.”

ELECTIONS IN N. MACEDONIA: The state of emergency ends today in N. Macedonia and marks the beginning of campaigning. The OSCE’s Office Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) will observe the July 15 parliamentary elections.

WAR CRIMES: A Kosovo court sentenced Darko Tasic for 22 years for desecration of corpses and looting houses in the aftermath of the Krusha e Madhe/Velika Krusa massacre.

MIGRANTS: Police found 64 citizens of Bangladesh in a truck near the Greek- N. Macedonia border.

IN OTHER NEWS

OP-ED: “Aleksandar Vucic, Serbia’s stabilocrat” by Norbert Mappes-Niediek in Deutsche WelleOP-ED: “Wanted: EU-US cooperation on Kosovo” by David L. Phillips in EU Observer

ANALYSIS: “North Macedonia faces ‘necessary evil’ when voters head to ballot” by Darko Duridanski in AFP

HUMAN INTEREST: “What the end of Yugoslavia taught me about belonging” by A. Baric in Calvert Journal

HUMAN INTEREST: “Farmer Vera Videnovich is raising Balkan sisters the Native American way” by Mika Sula in Chicago Reader

CULTURE: “The Underwater Wine Cellars Of Croatia Beneath The Adriatic Sea” by Jim Dobson in Forbes

SPORT: “No. 1 Novak Djokovic, wife have virus after his exhibitions” by Dusan Stojanovic in AP News

SPORT: “Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic tests positive for coronavirus in Serbia, return to U.S. delayed” in ESPN

SPORT: “FIBA EuroBasket Dream Teams: Slovenia” in FIBA