WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

VUČIĆ, JEREMIĆ FACE OFF: Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vučić and opposition leader Vuk Jeremić came face-to-face on Friday at the Office of the President of Serbia after Vučić challenged the opposition leader to a fight. Jeremić and three other opposition politicians showed up at Vučić’s office and were let in. Watch a video of the incident HERE.

BOSNIAN FM MEETS MEMBERS OF CONGRESS: Bosnia’s FM Bisera Turković on Friday met with Senator Ben Cardin (D, MD) and a group of twenty-five members of Congress in Washington, DC. She briefed the members on Bosnia’s NATO path.

EU FMs CALL FOR EU INTEGRATION: German FM Heiko Maas, Portuguese FM Augusto Santos Silva, and Slovenian FM Anže Logar penned an op-ed calling for EU Enlargement in the region. The FMs highlight the first Intergovernmental Conferences under the new enlargement methodology were held Montenegro and Serbia. Meanwhile, they are “highly concerned” about not starting accession negotiations with N. Macedonia and Albania. Bulgaria’s veto on N. Macedonia over historical and figures and language has been holding back N. Macedonia. The EU remains steadfast to not decouple Albania from N. Macedonia.

RADEV WON’T BUDGE: Bulgaria’s President Ruman Radev said Sofia will continue to block N. Macedonia’s EU accession talks until it recognizes that its language, ethnicity, and language are from Bulgaria. “We cannot say ‘Yes’ before being convinced that our neighbor won’t be building its identity by stealing from Bulgaria’s history,” said Radev.

  • Meanwhile, Macedonian news outlet TV 24 reports October 6 is the new date that Skopje expects some change of positions from Bulgaria.
  • FM of N. Macedonia Bujar Osmani said on Sunday that Bulgaria’s blockade has brought more European citizens in support of Macedonians.

CZECHIA TO PRIORITIZE WESTERN BALKANS: Czech FM Jakub Kulhanek told Czech ČTK news agency said his country will focus on the Western Balkans during his country’s EU presidency in the second half of 2022.

VUČIĆ REFUSES TO GIVE IN ON KOSOVO: Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vučić remains steadfast that he will not and will never recognize Kosovo’s independence. He said on Sunday, “Time can change, everything can change, the strength of our army can change, the economic strength can change, but my answer about the recognition of Kosovo has not changed and it will not change.”

PLENKOVIĆ SETS DATE FOR EUROZONE: Croatian PM Andrej Plenković on Friday said that he expects Croatia to join the eurozone in early 2023 after it meets all the requirements.

  • “That’s an opportunity for me to state once again our willingness to meet all the criteria and, after entering the Exchange Rate Mechanism last year, to meet the action plan and create the prerequisites for Croatia to become a member of the eurozone during 2023, hopefully at the beginning,” said Plenković

DODIK SLAMS SCHMIDT: Chairman and Bosnian Serb Member of the BiH Presidency Milorad Dodik said on Friday that new High Representative Christian Schmidt should have been appointed through the UN Security Council and not the Peace Implementation Council.

  • “An unelected foreigner, who would eventually come, even without a decision of the Security Council, would suspend the few democratic steps that have been made in the 26 years of the protectorate. What kind of message do they send us 26 years after the end of the civil war, if the only form of assistance to BiH is the High Representative imposed despite all procedures and rules, is what everyone would ask, especially those who enthusiastically welcome the protector who would fulfill their wartime wishes and goals,” said Dodik.

OFF TO SERBIA FOR MILITARY EXERCISES: Dodik travelled to Serbia on Sunday to observe the the joint tactical exercise Lightening Strike 2021. Over 2,300 members of the Serbian Army participated in the exercises. In addition to Dodik, senior military leadership of Serbia and the KFOR commander watched the military exercises.

GERMAN DEF. MIN. IN SLOVENIA TODAY: German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is on an official visit to Slovenia today to discuss the Western Balkans and Slovenia’s upcoming EU presidency.

DAČIĆ ON EU ACCESSION, RUSSIA: Serbia’s Parliament Speaker Ivica Dačić told New Europe that he is “very optimistic that Serbia could come to the EU’s door very shortly.” He noted that Serbia has a special “political chapter” on normalizing relations with Kosovo which is not typical for EU accession.

  • On Russia, Dačić said that Belgrade would not sanction Russia because it is “a great trading partner” and “a friend.” He added, “Every EU member, starting with Germany, in some way violates the sanctions against Russia. That is not a consistent policy. “
  • He said the EU needs Serbia because it is the “largest and most influential country in the Western Balkans, the only remaining region of Europe that has not yet been integrated into the EU, so our positive impact on stability and progress in the region is crucial.”

MINI-SCHENGEN MEETING: Albania’s PM Edi Rama, Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vučić, and N. Macedonia’s PM Zoran Zaev will discuss the creation of a mini-Schengen area within the Western Balkans tomorrow. Kosovo has refused to join the meetings despite an invitation to join the regional initiative.

LUXEMBOURG PM SAYS SLOVENIA SUPPORTS HUNGARY: Luxembourg’s PM Xavier Bettell said on Friday that Slovenia and Poland were the only two countries that supported Hungary over its anti-LGBT law at the European Union summit. Bettel noted, “The others supported us or said nothing.” He added, “I don’t recognize Viktor Orban who is at the European Council today. He is not the same…It’s sad.”

CROATIAN MPs REJECT NEW SC PRESIDENT: Croatian MPs rejected President Zoran Milanović’s nominee, Zlata Djurdjević, for the position of President of the Supreme Court.  There were 81 votes against, 37 for, and 5 abstentions.

MEANWHILE IN KOSOVO… Gresa Caka-Nimani started her role as President of the Constitutional Court of Kosovo after being sworn in on Friday. Her term is three years.

ALBANIA LOOKS TO TURKEY: Albania announced it will purchase military drones from Turkish company Baykar Defense for €8.2 million.

SLOVENIAN GOV’T TO BE SUED: “The State Attorney’s Office has not decided to sue the government over a decision not to get acquainted with the appointment of Slovenia’s European delegated prosecutors as proposed by the Prosecution Council. However, a suit has been filed by both candidates for the European delegated prosecutors, Tanja Frank Eler and Matej Oštir.

“The State Attorney’s Office, which represents the government in court proceedings, said such a suit or a legal proceeding based on is mainly designed as legal remedy for individuals.” (Slovenia Times)

KOSOVO NGOs CALL FOR SERB RETURNEE TO MOVE OUT: Eleven NGOs in the Gjakova/Djakovica Municipality have called on a Serb returnee to move out. The NGOs wrote in a statement that the municipality is not ready for Serbs to move back until the remains of family members and friends were returned.

CONGRATS to the Serbia’s Women’s National Basketball Team for winning Eurobasket 2021. Serbia defeated France 63-54 on Sunday.

GOOD LUCK to Croatia’s Men’s National Soccer Team today in their match against Spain today at 12:00 PM EST/ 18:00 CET. Croatia will be without midfielder Ivan Perišić who tested positive for Covid-19. The match will be shown on ESPN.

 

IN OTHER NEWS

REPORT: The path to recognition: Kosovo’s and Serbia’s evolving dialogue in European Council on Foreign Relations

OP-ED: A partnership short of recognition by Alush Gashi in Ekathimerini: “Pristina welcomed Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias’ visit on June 4. It was his second visit in less than a year. His first was in September of last year, just a few days after the Washington, DC agreement between Kosovo and Serbia, on economic normalization. And the second came ahead of the continuation of the European Union-facilitated dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia in Brussels on June 15. ”

OP-ED: Yugoslavia 30 Years On: Srebrenica casts a long shadow over regional politics by Denitsa Koseva in bne Intellinews

ANALYSIS: The Switzerland of the Balkans by Stefano Lusa in Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa: “Thirty years ago Slovenia proclaimed its independence. Now the pendulum that carried Ljubljana towards the West seems to be swinging backwards fast, and the models are no longer Paris or Berlin but rather Budapest and Warsaw, with their illiberal democracies”

ANALYSIS: Slovenia: Trapped in the spirit of the past after 30 years of independence? in Deutsche Welle

ANALYSIS: The Balkan State With Almost No Vaccines And No Idea How Many Of Its Citizens Are Vaccinated by Dragana Erjavec and Milorad Milojević in RFE/RL

OPEN LETTER: Slovenia’s EU Presidency must not obstruct efforts to improve media freedom in Europe in Reporters Withou Borders