WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

CORONAVIRUS by the numbers:

  • BiH: 3,935 confirmed cases,  2,338 recovered, 178 deaths.
  • CROATIA: 2,691 confirmed cases, 2,152 recovered, 107 deaths.
  • KOSOVO: 2,169 confirmed cases, 1,047 recovered, 37 deaths.
  • N. MACEDONIA: 6,080 confirmed cases, 286 deaths.
  • MONTENEGRO: 481 confirmed cases, 315 recovered, 9 deaths.
  • SERBIA: 14,046 confirmed cases, 12,464 recovered, 270 deaths.
  • SLOVENIA: 1,581 confirmed cases, 111 deaths.

ICMYI – 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.

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.”

THACI TO ADDRESS PUBLIC TODAY: Kosovo President Hashim Thaci delayed an address on the war crimes allegations to today.

ALBANIA’S CAKAJ MEETS GRENELL: U.S. President Donald Trump’s Special Envoy, Richard Grenell, met with Albania’s FM Gent Cakaj on Saturday. After the meeting, Cakaj Tweeted, “Let me be clear: Grenell did a tremendous job in facilitating Kosovo-Serbia deal by focusing on economic issues. Stressed the need to generate new impetus of the economic growth in the region. Let me further make it clear: There is NO secret plan, NO land swaps, NO rush in reaching agreement behind doors. We support and appreciate his work and dedication. May God bless the United States of America!” While in Washington, Cakaj also met with U.S. Special Envoy to the Western Balkans, Matthew Palmer, and Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, Philip Reeker.

EUROPEANS LOOK TO TAKE CHARGE: The French Embassy in Kosovo on June 25 announced France and Germany were ready to host a Summit in Paris. On the same day, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic was in Brussels where he met with President of the European Council Charle MichelPresident of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, and EU Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi. Kosovo PM Avdullah Hoti met with von der Leyen and Varhelyi in a separate meeting from Vucic. He focused the meetings on obtaining visa liberalization for Kosovo. After returning from the talks in Brussels, Hoti told reporters that Kosovo was “committed” to the process led by the U.S. Meanwhile, Vucic called for the dialogue to continue despite the indictment against Thaci.

33 MEPS CALL FOR VISA LIB. FOR KOSOVO: Thirty-three MEPs penned a letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel to add visa liberalization for Kosovo on the agenda of the EU Council during the German EU Presidency. Kosovo fulfilled all requirements in July 2018, but have yet to be granted visa liberalization.

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.”

BOSNIAN PRESIDENCY ADOPTS BUDGET: Bosnia and Herzegovina’s tripartite presidency adopted the draft budget of 498 million euros for this year.

RUSSIAN HELICOPTERS + RS: Bosnia’s Serb dominated entity, Republika Srpska (RS), announced the first of three Russian Ansat helicopters would arrive in September for RS’s Ministry of Interior.

SERBIA + BELARUS COMBAT TRAINING: “Belarus and Serbia have reaffirmed the intention to resume joint combat training as the epidemiological situation improves. Belarus Chief of the General Staff Aleksandr Volfovich and his Serbian counterpart Milan Mojsilovic discussed this matter over the phone, BelTA learned from the Belarusian Defense Ministry.” (Belta)

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 is set to up its 32nd and final chapter in its EU accession process after nearly a two year wait. Montenegro has provisionally closed 3 chapters to date.

SERBIAN LEADERS INFECTED WITH CORONAVIRUS: Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin on Saturday tested positive for Coronavirus. The virus spread amongst Serbian officials including Parliament Speaker Maja Gojkovic, the Director for Office of Kosovo Marko Djuric, and Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce Marko Cadez.

N. MACEDONIA SACKS DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC HEALTH: The Ministry of Health of N. Macedonia dismissed the Director of the Public Health Institute (PHI) Arben Ziberi for “making inaccurate public statements and thus directly damaging the reputation of the members of the Commission for Infectious Diseases, and bringing into question the credibility of health institutions in the fight against the coronavirus.”

BRDO-BRIJUNI CANCELLED: The office of Slovenia’s president, Borut Pahor, released a statement cancelling the heads of state meeting that was due to take place today. The presidents of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, N. Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia were due to meet Pahor.

WORLD BANK + CROATIA:The World Bank Board of Directors on Friday approved two projects totalling $500 million to provide emergency support to the Croatian authorities to cushion the effects of the triple shock that hit the country earlier this year. The unprecedented crisis was caused by the health impacts of COVID-19; the economic crisis caused by the pandemic lockdowns in Croatia and worldwide; and the extensive damage caused by the strongest earthquake in 140 years that hit the Zagreb area on March, 22, the World Bank Office in Croatia said in a press release.” (N1)

VIDOVDAN: Serbs gathered at the Gazimestan memorial to mark the anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo in 1389.

PEOPLE WANT OUT!: In a survey conducted by the Regional Cooperation Council, people are actively looking to leave their home countries. Percentage that want to leave: Albania – 49%, Montenegro – 47%, Bosnia – 44%, Croatia – 43%, N. Macedonia – 41%, Serbia – 37%.

ELECTIONS IN N. MACEDONIA: VMRO-DPMNE leads the latest poll (conducted by the BIPS Institute) with 24.5% while governing SDSM-BESA coalition 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.

TELEKOM SRBIJA AIMS TO BUY IPKO: Serbia’s state-owned telecommunications company, Telekom Srbija, made a bid to purchase IPKO, Kosovo’s second largest mobile telephone company for 155 million euros. IPKO is currently owned by Telekom Slovenije.

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

OP-ED: “EU’s two-faced Balkans strategy” by Teresa Reiter in Politico EU

OP-ED: “The best ‘little help from our friends’ that the Balkans can get” by Albanian MP Genc Pollo

ANALYSIS: “Balkans war crime charges offer EU fresh chance to hold talks” by Valerie Hopkins and Michael Peel in Financial Times

ANALYSIS: “North Macedonia: Facebook Pages Target Users with ‘Identical Content’” by Ivana Nikolic in BIRN

ANALYSIS: “Slovenia attempts to rewrite its wartime pro-Nazi history” by Michael Pinto-Duschinksy in The Article

HUMAN INTEREST: “Bosnian Leader Alija Izetbegovic: From Prisoner to President” (VIDEO) in Al Jazeera

HUMAN INTEREST: “Three Brothers restaurant’s traditions, family love go even deeper than the 63 years it’s been in business” by Kristine Kierzek in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Growing up in her family’s restaurant, Milunka Radicevic learned her family’s history as she learned to cook. Watching her grandmother, she and her siblings learned traditional Serbian recipes by hand.  When Radicevic makes a meal for you, she is sharing their history, love and their lessons. For 63 years, her family has run Three Brothers Restaurant, 2414 S. St. Clair St. The small restaurant, now run by Radicevic, her brother Branko Jr., and their mother Patricia, has just 12 tables. While the dining room is currently closed, they’re doing phone orders for carryout and curbside pickup.

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

CULTURE: “Pilgrims head to Ajvatovica, Europe’s biggest Muslim shrine (PHOTO)” in N1

CULTURE: “Anniversary of the Assassination: Gavrilo Princip – A Hero or maybe a Criminal?” in Sarajevo Times

CULTURE: “Love Conquers All: Are Mixed Marriages in Bosnia Still Taboo?” by Suada Arnautovic

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

SPORT:  Ilija Petkovic who coached Serbia and Montenegro football at the 2006 World Cup finals died at age 74. He was coaching Shanghai Shenhua. Cause of death is not certain, but speculation is COVID-19.

SPORT: “The Dragon who conquered Europe: Goran Dragic and Slovenian magic” in FIBA