WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

CORONAVIRUS BiH – The UN Development Program handed over an  anesthesia machine to a hospital in Sarajevo. By the numbers: 2,551 confirmed cases,  1,939 recovered, 157 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – CROATIA: The U.S.-based humanitarian organization International Medical Corps donated 70,400 protective masks, 12,000 facial guards and 18 pulse oximeters. U.S. Ambassador to Croatia Robert Kohorst, Deputy Interior Minister Damir Trut and the director of the Croatian Institute for Emergency Medicine, Maja Grba Bujevic, were on hand to receive the donation. By the numbers: 2,246 confirmed cases, 2,095 recovered, 103 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – KOSOVO: By the numbers: 1,142 confirmed cases, 871 recovered, 30 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – N. MACEDONIA:  After confirming more than 101 new COVID-19 cases, the government has reimposed curfews. Health Minister Venko Filipche said they would be from 9:00PM on Thursday to 5:00AM on Monday in areas with high infection rates. By the numbers: 2,492 confirmed cases, 145 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – MONTENEGROBy the numbers: 324 confirmed cases, 315 recovered, 9 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – SERBIA: Montenegro has set requirements for Podgorica to open its borders to Serbian citizens including cutting the number of COVID-19 patients from 4,000 to 2,000. By the numbers: 11,523 confirmed cases, 6,852 recovered, 245 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – SLOVENIA: Slovenians are free to travel into any neighboring country. Meanwhile, Slovenians will be able to redeem tourism vouchers when schools break for summer. By the numbers: 1,477 confirmed cases, 109 deaths.

KOSOVO’S NEW GOV’T: Kosovo voted in a new government by a vote of 61 for, 24 against, and 1 abstention. It passed the threshold by a single vote. The government will be have sixteen ministries and ministers will be broken down by party: 7 from the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), 4 from the Alliance for Future of Kosovo (AAK), 2 from the Social Democratic Initiative (NISMA) and Srpska Lista, and 1 from the Democratic Party of Kosovo Turks. Key positions include: PM Avdullah Hoti (LDK), Minister of Foreign Affairs Mirza Haradinaj (AAK), Minister of Defense Anton Quni (LDK),  Agim Veiu (LDK) returns as Minister of Interior, and Goran Rakic (Srpska Lista) as Deputy PM and Minister for Local Government.

REACTIONS: Outgoing PM Albin Kurti released a 3 minute video on Facebook with the headline “Four months of good governance.” He spoke about government successes during

The U.S. Embassy in Kosovo Tweeted, “Congratulations on the peaceful formation of the new government. We look forward to working with the Hoti government to continue important work on peace, justice, and prosperity, including efforts to strengthen regional relations and combat COVID-19.”

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci Tweeted, “I applaud the voting of the new Government of #Kosovo. This shows that our vibrant democracy and constitutional order works. Now, I urge the new cabinet to immediately start working on the economic recovery plan after #COVID19 and ensure prosperity for all citizens.”

The EU Special Representative to the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue Miroslav Lajcak also took to Twitter, writing “Congratulated Avdullah Hoti on his election as Prime Minister of Kosovo in our (phone) call today. Looking forward to closely working with him on the (EU)-facilitated Dialogue and towards a European perspective for the people of Kosovo.”

New Kosovo PM Avdullah Hoti makes the dialogue his first priority. He said, “The priority [of the government] will be taking the responsibility to move forward on the dialogue [with Serbia] in cooperation with the EU and the USA, by not allowing change of territory or territorial exchange”

No tweet from U.S. Presidential Special Envoy to the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue Richard Grenell, yet. But his spokesperson Dick Custin said Grenell was “looking forward to cooperating with the new government and continuing dialogue with Serbia.”

Srpska Lista said its ministers would “try to help eliminate all obstacles to the (Belgrade – Pristina) dialogue on the normalisation of relations and the improvement of the Serb’s position.” And added, “The new government will abolish the (100 percent import) taxes (on good from Serbia) and ‘reciprocal’ measures. In line with the coalition agreement, the new cabinet is obliged to implement the agreements that Belgrade and Pristina have reached so far and respect the rights of the Serbs in Kosovo.”

PROTESTS were held outside of the Kosovo Parliament building against the formation of the new government. The protesters are dismayed by the formation of the new government without guaranteeing elections in October.

PLENKOVIC REFLECTS ON FOUR YEARS: “Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said that his government had for the most part delivered on its four key election promises from 2016: Political stability, legal security, economic growth and social solidarity. He added that today Croatia is in a better position than it was prior to 2016: ‘If we look at the areas in which we have seen growth, salaries are higher today by an average of 1,150 Kuna on average. The minimum wage grew by 754 Kuna. No government has achieved this kind of growth so far. Pensions also grew, and our economic growth was based on a healthy foundation,’ Plenković said.” (Voice of Croatia)

SERBIA VS. CORRUPTION: “In its latest report, the Group of States against Corruption, the Council of Europe’s (CoE) anti-corruption monitoring body headquartered in Strasbourg, (GRECO), said that till the end of 2019, Serbia partially introduced 10 of 17 recommendations, while ignored the remaining seven, the Beta news agency reported on Wednesday…According to the report, Serbia was one of three GRECO members alongside with the Czech Republic and Bosnia and Herzegovina, which did not wholly implement a single measure to prevent the corruption of MPs, judges and prosecutors.” (N1)

DODIK ON RADONCIC RESIGNATION: Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik raised alarms that former Security Minister Fahudin Radoncic was confronting the Bosniak political elite when he resigned. He said, “Radoncic himself said that this is a problem of migrants where there is an SDA party plan. We could hear about that at the session of the BiH Presidency a month ago and it was clear that something was not working there.” And added, That position certainly belongs to Bosniaks, but it is necessary, of course, to pass all the checks and procedures for the new candidate. As for Radoncic, I think that he showed more engagement after the disastrous consequences at that position in the previous mandate”

MONTENEGRO FM DEFENDS GOV’T DECISIONS: Montenegro’s FM Srdjan Darmanovic defended governmental decisions vis-a-vis Serbia. He said, “It is true that I stated that Serbia interferes in the internal affairs of Montenegro and now I repeat that to you. The media in Serbia have a special role. I would say that even in Milosevic’s time there was not so much hatred in the media campaign against Montenegro.” And added that rhetoric coming from Serbia’s PM Ana Brnabic, FM Ivicia Dacic, and Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin only create problems in neighborly relations, especially ahead of elections in both countries. Finally, he reminded Serbian political elites that some NATO allies cannot travel to Montenegro. He said, “Montenegro did not open its borders to NATO allies Italy, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Great Britain on the basis of the same criteria.”

FDI IN CROATIA: “In 2019, foreign direct investments (FDI) in Croatia totalled €1.24 billion, or 19 percent up from the year before, and the largest single-year amount since 2014, according to data recently released by the central bank. By country of origin, the single largest investing country was Luxembourg, where €286 million of FDI investments came from. It was followed by Austria (€257 million), Slovenia (€140.8 million) and Germany (€135 million). A major FDI outflow was reported with Switzerland, worth €157.8 million.” (N1)

MONTENEGRIN ARMY IN HOT WATER: Montenegro’s Ombudsperson has accused Montenegro’s Armed Forces of violating the rights of Montenegrin soldiers by banning them from protesting for the Serbian Orthodox Church.

SERBIA + ANTISEMITISM: The World Jewish Congress Tweeted, “Serbia has announced it is adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism. It is an important step in implementing the fight against antisemitism at all levels.”

IN OTHER NEWS

CULTURE: “Croatia: New Brochure on Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe” in Council of Europe

CULTURE: “‘Baby dragons’ go on display for the first time in Slovenia” by Tom Allan in The Guardian (UK)

CULTURE: “Slovenian Recipe of the Week: Cherry Mousse Cake” by Neza Lostrek in Total Slovenia News

ENTERTAINMENT: “Exclusive: US network show The Outpost to resume production from tomorrow” in KFTV