WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

CORONAVIRUS by the numbers:

  • BiH: 4,325 confirmed cases,  2,366 recovered, 184 deaths.
  • CROATIA: 2,725 confirmed cases, 2,155 recovered, 107 deaths.
  • KOSOVO: 2,677 confirmed cases, 1,425 recovered, 49 deaths.
  • N. MACEDONIA: 6,209 confirmed cases, 298 deaths.
  • MONTENEGRO: 501 confirmed cases, 315 recovered, 11 deaths.
  • SERBIA: 14,288 confirmed cases, 12,581 recovered, 274 deaths.
  • SLOVENIA: 1,585 confirmed cases, 111 deaths.

THACI RESPONDS TO WAR CRIMES ALLEGATIONS: Kosovo President Hashim Thaci addressed the Kosovo Specialist Chambers’ war crimes indictment on Facebook. He vehemently denied “false accusations” of being responsible for 100 murders. He added he would “immediately resign as your President and face the accusations” if the the indictment is confirmed. He also accused the international community of not applying the same standards to Kosovo and Serbia for war crimes. Listen to the full remarks here (in Albanian). Meanwhile, Kosovo’s Ambassador to the Netherlands Lirim Greicevci wants answers from the Hague based court as to why Thaci and PDK leader Kadri Veseli were named before an official charges were brought on the pair.

ALBANIAN PM IN KOSOVO: Albania’s PM Edi Rama is today concluding an impromptu visit to Kosovo where he met with leaders. He tweeted Thaci’s indictment is “shameful stain of 21st century in the history of world justice.”

CROATIA INCHES CLOSER VISA FREE TRAVEL TO U.S.: Croatia has taken another step toward visa free travel to the United States by signing the Aviation Security Agreement. U.S. Ambassador to Croatia W. Robert Kohorst and Minister of the Interior Davor Bozinovic signed the agreement in Zagreb. Bozinovic noted, “now really makes it possible for us to say that we are embarking on the final stage” to the Visa Waiver Program.

PM PLENKOVIC REFLECTS ON EU PRESIDENCY: Croatia’s PM Andrej Plenkovic met with foreign diplomats and reflected on Croatia’s six-month EU Presidency which ends today. He said, “Despite these challenges, we actually achieved quite a lot. For us, one of the priorities was to put into focus our immediate neighborhood, the region of the Western Balkans. And one of the big achievements was to completely change the political situation vis-a-vis the enlargement that existed back in October 2019. We enabled the consensus at the level of the Council to open the accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania.”

MEANWHILE CROATIA GOES TO THE POLLS: Croatian parliamentary elections are set for this Sunday, July 5. The State Electoral Commission issued strict guidelines for poll workers and voters ahead of the vote.

BiH TO ASSIST SANDZAK: Bosniak Member of the Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic aims to send medical assistance to Serbia’s Bosniak dominated Sandzak region after reports emerged that it was facing dire circumstances fighting COVID-19. Dzaferovic said, “I call on the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina at all levels to get involved in providing medical and protective equipment. Officials from Sandzak informed me that they needed professional medical help the most. Therefore, I expect that medical teams composed of doctors and other medical staff will be formed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which would, in cooperation with the institutions of BiH and Serbia, travel to Sandzak with the aim of providing assistance.”

MORE ON BUDVA…: Former Mayor Marko Carevic and chief of the local assembly Krsto Radovic were stopped by police from entering Budva’s municipal building. Carevic and Radovic refused to give up power after a councillor of the ruling coalition left the party, thus losing the majority.

BOSNIA PRIDE 2.0: Bosnia and Herzegovina’s organizers of the Pride Parade announced the second annual event will take place on August 23 under the title “Life is not just the four walls.”

CROATIA’S EXPENSIVE RECONSTRUCTION: The World Bank estimates that earthquake reconstruction costs are between 11.5 billion euros and 17 billion euros. Zagreb was hit hardest by the 5.5 magnitude earthquake on June 22.

ELECTIONS IN SERBIA: President Aleksandar Vucic’s Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) won the parliamentary election last Saturday with 63% of the vote. Nevertheless, the Serbian Electoral Commission declared a revote will take place on July 21 in 234 polling sites.

SLOVENIA’S TOURISM INDUSTRY HAMMERED BY COVID: “About a month after Slovenia emerged from coronavirus lockdown, data released by the Statistics Office on Wednesday show tourism suffered a severe blow during the epidemic. The number of overnight stays in the first five months was 58.8% lower than in the same period last year, while in May, there was a 96.5% drop in guests over May 2019.” (Slovenia Times)

IN OTHER NEWS
OP-ED: “Nationalism May Well Haunt a Post-Pandemic Balkans” by Marija Djoric in BIRNANALYSIS: “Europe’s Betrayal of Bosnia and Herzegovina” by Torkel Brekke in the Peace Research Institute of Oslo

ANALYSIS: “Corruption, lack of judicial reform and oversight remain issues for the Western Balkans” by Nikola Djordjevic in Emerging Europe

HUMAN INTEREST: “A foreign journalist’s warning about American authoritarianism” by Zack Beauchamp in Vox: “For most Americans, having a president who poses a direct threat to democracy is uncharted, perilous territory. But it’s useful to remember that other societies have dealt with the same challenges in the recent past. To truly understand the gravity of the threat we face, it’s helpful to turn abroad — to talk to people who have seen democracy in their own country crumble. Serbian journalist Stevan Dojčinović is just such a person. The editor-in-chief of the Crime and Corruption Reporting Network in Belgrade, he, along with his reporters, has doggedly documented corruption and lawlessness in the Serbian government — an elected regime that, according to international watchdogs, has worked hard to undermine the fairness of the political system and freedom of the press. Under the leadership of the right-wing populist Serbian Progressive Party, the country has fallen lower on one widely used ranking of democracy than neighboring Hungary.

CULTURE: “Montenegro Albanians Take Pride in Abandoning Ancient Blood Feuds” by Samir Kajosevic in BIRN