WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

ZAEV, RAMA ON EU ACCESSION NEGOTIATIONS: N. Macedonia’s PM Zoran Zaev and Albania’s PM Edi Rama addressed reporters on the EU’s failure to open accession negotiations with Skopje and Tirana at a joint conference at the 2021 Skopje Economic Forum.

  • Zaev noted that the EU’s failure to open talks is a “great disappointment,” and a “huge failure of EU enlargement policy bad message for the whole region” because of Bulgaria’s sole opposition in the 27-member bloc. Zaev highlighted that Macedonians and Albanians are in isolation on its EU path despite holding European values.
  • Meanwhile, Rama compared the failure to a bad wedding. “It’s more or less like a wedding where everything is done right and in he end the bride doesn’t show up.” He added that “We (Albania) have not failed, they (the EU) have failed. It is their home we want to enter their house so it’s not our decision.”
  • The Head of the EU Delegation to N. Macedonia wrote on Twitter after the forum, “Our message on enlargement: the future of he WB lies in the EU. Need to continue work to launch accession negotiations ASAP for 🇲🇰& 🇦🇱. EU here to stay. Will continue to support North Macedonia on reforms, in the interests of citizens and on its path to the EU.”

PARLIAMENT SPEAKERS TO ATTEND SUMMIT IN BRUSSELS: Parliamentary speakers from the Western Balkans on Monday will meet in Brussels on the invitation of European Parliament President David Sassoli for the European Parliament’s Second Western Balkans’ Speaker Summit. They will “debate the role of Parliaments in EU Enlargement post-COVID,” according to a press release from the European Parliament. You can watch the summit online HERE.

VÁRHELYI ON MONTENEGRO’S, SERBIA’S EU ACCESSION: European Commissioner for Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi on Tuesday met separately with representatives from Montenegro and Serbia at Intergovernmental Conferences on the margins of the General Affairs Council.

Montenegro:

  • After the meeting, Várhelyi emphasized focusing on rule of law to fulfil chapters 23 (Judiciary and fundamental rights) and 24 (Justice, freedom, and security).
  • Krivokapić welcomed the EU’s commitment to assisting Podgorica and said that EU membership is the goal of the government.
  • “We must not betray the citizens because of political and personal interests, we must serve the citizens and our right path and track is to become the next member of the EU,” said Krivokapić.

Serbia:

  • The EU’s Várhelyi said there has been “considerable progress” in Serbia in cluster 3 and 4 in rule of law. He said he hopes it “creates new momentum for all of us.”
  • Várhelyi hopes that cluster one can be moved on during Slovenia’s Presidency of the EU.

EU TO HELP WITH MONTENEGRO’S DEBT WITH CHINA: “A European financial institution is prepared to help refinance Montenegro’s $1 billion debt to China, which the Balkan country incurred over a controversial highway project.

“Montenegrin Finance Minister Milojko Spajic said the low-interest credit from the financial institution will allow the cash-strapped government make savings and cut interest rates. He also told a session of the parliamentary Finance and Budget Committee on June 17 that a nondisclosure agreement prevented him from revealing the lender, but that talks were “in the final phase.”

“A European Union source told RFE/RL that an agreement on providing credit is in the process of being finalized and, once finished, will be signed by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.” (RFE/RL)

GRLIĆ RADMAN WARNS OF DISUNITY IN EU: Croatia’s FM Gordan Grlić Radman commented on a declaration that condemned Hungary’s new law that bans the “display and promotion of homosexuality” to those under 18-years-old.

  • “There are institutions, there is a need for dialogue, and we should show willingness to listen and to see. That’s our Croatian stand. Our stand is always assertive. We wish to see unity, we wish to see all those forms that connect the member states and not those that differentiate them,” said Grlić Radman.
  • The declaration was signed by Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden.

KOSOVO’S KURTI HOSTS WOLFGANG PETRITSCH: Kosovo PM Albin Kurti hosted President of the Austrian Marshall Plan Foundation Wolfgang Petritsch in Pristina to discuss regional developments and the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue. Petritsch was Austria’s Ambassador to Yugoslavia (1997-1999), EU Special Representative for Kosovo (1999), and chair of the negotiating teams at the Kosovo peace talks in Rambouillet. He also served as the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1999 and 2002.

U.S.-BiH DISASTER RESPONSE EXERCISES: The United States and Bosnia and Herzegovina will host bilateral exercises between June 21 and 25 in Sarajevo focused on response to natural and other disasters.

  • Bosnia’s Security Minister Selmo Čikotić said “This exercise is designed today as a test of the state’s ability to respond to an earthquake disaster. A similar scenario is used for many disasters caused by climate change and many other natural disasters, as well as man-made disasters.”

U.S. RELEASES REPORT ON LAKE UJMANI/GAZIVODE: The U.S. Embassy in Kosovo released a feasibility report on water management to Kosovo’s and Serbia’s governments on Lake Ujmani/Gazivode on the Kosovo-Serbia border . The U.S. agreed to write the report as a part of the September 4 Washington Agreement.

  • The report underscores how vital the lake is for Kosovo’s water dependency – it provides one-third of Kosovo’s drinking water and cool two coal plants that provides 95 percent of Kosovo’s energy production.
  • Read the full report HERE.

MONTENEGRIN RULING COALITION PARNERS AIM FOR NEW GOV’T: Leaders of the Democratic Front alliance Andrija Mandić and Milan Knezević and President of the Movement for Changes Nebojša Medojević said they will try to reach an agreement for a new government and a new prime minister at today’s meeting of the parliamentary majority parties. But they face a challenge within the ruling coalition from the Democratic Montenegro party and URA.

If the government survives, Speaker of Parliament Aleksa Bečić said he will likely schedule a meeting with the opposition on July 6 to discuss motions that require two-thirds or three-fifths majority.

PENDAROVSKI MEETS WITH ALBANIAN DELEGATION: President of N. Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski yesterday met with a delegation from Albania led by MP and Chairwoman of Foreign Policy Committee Mimi Kodeli. They discussed the strong neighborly relations between N. Macedonia and Albania and dynamic cooperation between Skopje and Tirana in the future.

BRČKO PORT RESTORATION: The Head of the Delegation of the EU to BiH Ambassador Johann Sattler welcomed the reconstruction of the Port of Brčko where he visited yesterday. He said it “can be an essential transit point for cargo traffic flows between Bosnia and Herzegovina and the EU.” He highlighted the EU contributed €3 million in grants for the project.

  • While in Brčko, Sattler met with Bosnia’s Minister of Communications and Transport Vojin Mitrović and Croatia’s Minister of Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure Oleg Butković. They discussed connecting Bosnia to Croatia including multiple bridges. He noted the EU is funding 15 infrastructure projects worth over €250 million secured through grants.

KOSOVO FAR FROM AGREEMENT WITH SERBIA: Acting head of the Parliamentary Group of Vetëvendosje Mimoza Kusari-Lila said it is unlikely that an agreement will be reached between Kosovo and Serbia while Aleksandar Vučić is President of Serbia.

  • “It takes two for the Dialogue – Kosovo and Serbia, and only yesterday we have heard two statements of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic which are against this norm. Kosovo can make all the efforts, but the dialogue can yield no results because on the other side we have a leader such as Vucic who was part of the establishment of Slobodan Milosevic’s regime,” said Kusari-Lila.
  • She added, “We have reconfirmation of Serbia’s position, and we should also be careful when we say we are entering a final phase of the dialogue. Do we want a final phase of a dialogue with a president who says that he does not recognize Kosovo’s independence?”

BiH + PAKISTAN: “Pakistani President Arif Alvi signed the Readmission Agreement between this country and Bosnia and Herzegovina, creating the conditions for its implementation, BiH Presidency told Fena news agency on Wednesday…By concluding this agreement, BiH and Pakistan confirm their readiness to join international actions to prevent illegal migration, because the Agreement regulates the issues of admission of their own citizens, third-country nationals and stateless persons residing in the territory of a contracting party contrary to their laws.” (N1)

KOSOVO CULTURAL SITE RESTORATION: The Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Raška and Prizren says it has not met with the Kosovo government nor signed agreements to restore cultural monuments, which includes three Serbian Orthodox Churches in Kosovo, rather it has had meeting with representatives of the UN Development Program (UNDP).

  • Kosovo’s Minister of Culture Halrulla Çeku announced last week that an Kosovo and the UNDP agreed on restoring 21 cultural sites in Kosovo including mosques, Orthodox Churches, Catholic Churches, towers, traditional houses, and museums.
  • The Serbian Orthodox Church refuted that it agreed with Çeku, rather it had discussion with the UNDP.
  • “The representatives of the Diocese discussed the reconstruction of the above-mentioned sites only with UNDP representatives which have expressed readiness as an international institution to financially support the reconstruction process in cooperation with the Diocesan office for spiritual and cultural heritage. No participation of the Ministry of Culture from Pristina in these projects was mentioned,” wrote the Diocese in a statement.

ZAGREB TO LOOK INTO WHERE MAMIĆ BROTHERS SHOULD BE IN CUSTODY: “A Zagreb County Court investigative judge decided on Wednesday that Zdravko and Zoran Mamic should be remanded in custody, which once it becomes final, will serve as the basis to request their extradition from Bosnia and Herzegovina, state agency Hina reported on Wednesday, citing sources at the court.” (N1)

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