WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

CORONAVIRUS by the numbers:

  • BiH: 3,676 confirmed cases,  2,297 recovered, 173 deaths.
  • CROATIA: 2,388 confirmed cases, 2,145 recovered, 107 deaths.
  • KOSOVO: 2,169 confirmed cases, 1,047 recovered, 37 deaths.
  • N. MACEDONIA: 5,445 confirmed cases, 259 deaths.
  • MONTENEGRO: 389 confirmed cases, 315 recovered, 9 deaths.
  • SERBIA: 13,235 confirmed cases, 12,139 recovered, 263 deaths.
  • SLOVENIA: 1,541 confirmed cases, 109 deaths.

THACI AND VESELI INDICTED ON WAR CRIMES: The Kosovo Specialist Chambers (KSC) on April 24 filed a ten-count indictment against Kosovo President Hashim Thaci and leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo Kadri Veseli. In a press release, the KSC notes the charges include a “range of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder, enforced disappearance of persons, persecution, and torture” and they, among eight others are “criminally responsible for nearly 100 murders.” It also accuses them of trying to “obstruct and undermine the work of the KSC” and “are believed to have carried out a secret campaign to overturn the law creating the Court and otherwise obstruct the work of the Court in an attempt to ensure that they do not face justice.” A KSC pre-trial judge is reviewing the case to determine whether or not to confirm the charges.

THACI CANCELS WASHINGTON TRIP: The highly anticipated meeting on June 27 at the White House between Kosovo President Hashim Thaci and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic was cast into doubt after the KSC charges. President Donald Trump’s Special Envoy to the Kosovo Serbia Dialogue, Richard Grenell, announced on Twitter that the meeting will still take place, but Vucic would be meeting with new Kosovo PM Avdullah Hoti.

VESELI RESPONDS: Veseli denied any of the court’s indictments  in a press conference and said the they “are completely untrue and do not stand.” He added the “the real motives of the prosecutor are entirely political.”

SLOVENIA STATEHOOD DAY: The U.S. State Department on Wednesday congratulated Slovenia on its Statehood Day. In a press release, the State Department wrote, “Slovenia and the United States share a fundamental commitment to democracy, a market economy, and to human rights.  I am pleased to see our bilateral relationship growing stronger and stronger through increasing defense, security, trade, investment, and people-to-people ties.  These ties will define our common future.  We are also partnering in science and technology, working together on innovations that will enhance our security and prosperity, and that of countless others around the world.”

MEANWHILE FROM MOSCOW: Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic and Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik attended Russia’s Victory Day Parade in Red Square. Vucic commented on the visit after the parade: “We had brief talks with Putin on several occasions this morning, we touched on various topics. He escorted each of us to the car after the reception in the Kremlin. It feels good and it is a great thing when you see that he received only the President of Uzbekistan on a bilateral visit and me, as the president of Serbia, and we got a much bigger space in the Russian media. That is an honor for Serbia, and I thank President Putin.” The Serbian Armed Forces marched in the parade. Croatia’s President, Zoran Milanovic, cancelled his visit to Moscow to attend the parade after an issue with his plane and lack of flights to Moscow.

CHAOS IN BUDVA: Police arrested the former mayor of Budva who refused to give up power, Marko Carevic , and multiple other Democratic Front politicians in Budva. In addition, the police dispersed crowds outside of the municipal building. PM Dusko Markovic commented, “The laws of this state will apply in Budva, not the law of the organized mob.”

REGION REINSTATES RESTRICTIONS FOLLOWING SURGE OF COVID-19: Croatia has imposed a fourteen day quarantine requirement for visitors from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, N. Macedonia and Serbia. It also reinstated mandatory face masks on public transportation. Neighboring Slovenia took similar precautions – face masks are required on public transportation and closed public spaces. Kosovo PM Avdullah Hoti announced the creation an an executive committee to fight Coronavirus. Meanwhile, N. Macedonia will open all of its borders on June 26 and airports in Skopje and Ohrid on July 1.

SLOVENIA HIT HARD BY COVID: “Slovenia’s service industry revenues dropped in April by 30.3% year-on-year due to the coronavirus lockdown, the largest fall since 2000 when monitoring of this indicator started, the country’s statistics office said on Wednesday…Tourist arrivals into Slovenia in May dropped by 99% compared to the same month last year, the statistics office said. In the first five months of the year the number of foreign tourists fell by 68.7% year-on-year.” (Reuters)

ALBANIA’S EU ROUTE: “Members of the European Parliament urged the Albanian government to fulfill the 15 EU conditions until the first Intergovernmental Conference, in order to commence negotiations, Tirana Times reports. During the PE Foreign Affairs Committee’s Monday plenary session, several MEPs convened to discuss the current situation in Albania, including the country’s progress towards fulfilling the 15 conditions as well as the demolition of the National Theatre on May 17.” (European Western Balkans)

MONTENEGRO OPENS LAST EU CHAPTER: Montenegro opened its 32nd and final chapter in its EU accession process after nearly a two year wait. Montenegro has provisionally closed 3 chapters to date.

ELECTIONS IN CROATIA: PM Andrej Plenkovic reiterated the July 5 elections will not be pushed to a later date amidst Coronavirus fears. He noted, “Our government defeated Covid-19 in the first wave. If you look at the figures, we are among the top three EU countries with the lowest number of new cases and the lowest number of active cases.”

ELECTIONS IN N. MACEDONIA: VMRO-DPMNE leads the latest poll with 24.5% while governing SDSM in a coalition with ethnic Albanian party Besa polled at 21.4%. Nearly 24% said they were not going to vote and 18% did not want to respond. Elections are set for July 15.

ISIS: The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina handed down a 3.5 year sentence to Bosnian national Muharem Dunic. He left fought for ISIS from 2014-2019.

IN OTHER NEWS
OP-ED: “Anatomy of a Kosovo Summit Catastrophe” by Edward P. Joseph in Foreign PolicyOP-ED: “Any Kosovo-Serbia Deal Needs the European Union” in the Center for American Progress

HUMAN INTEREST: “‘Bosnia Bob’ completes sixth deployment” in El Paso Herald Post

CULTURE: “Making Kosovo’s Traditional Sharr Cheese” in RFE/RL

TRAVEL: “Where to Go Caving in Slovenia” in Total Slovenia News