WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

CORONAVIRUS BiH –  A Boeing 747 packed with medical equipment donated from the wife of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, mistakenly landed in Sarajevo over the weekend. Bosnia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs explained the gaffe. Children from China donated 42,000 PPEs to school children in Sarajevo. Turkish Airlines flights are set to resume between Istanbul and Sarajevo on June 21. By the numbers: 2,704 confirmed cases,  2,023 recovered, 160 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – CROATIA: By the numbers: 2,247 confirmed cases, 2,128 recovered, 104 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – KOSOVO: By the numbers: 1,263 confirmed cases, 912 recovered, 31 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – N. MACEDONIA:  One hundred and twenty-five new cases of COVID-19 can be traced to 15 families according to Health Miniser Venko Filipche. By the numbers: 3,152 confirmed cases, 156 deaths.

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

CORONAVIRUS – SERBIABy the numbers: 11,896 confirmed cases, 11,189 recovered, 250 deaths.

CORONAVIRUS – SLOVENIA: The German operator of Ljubljana Airport, Fraport, intends to lay off dozens of employees. The airport has been operating at 15% capacity since mid-March. Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio visited Slovenia to finalize reopening of the border. Slovenia has already reopened borders with Austria, Hungary and Croatia. Tourism comprises 13% of Slovenian GDP and the country is eager to reopen to salvage a summer tourism season. A town Nova Gorica on the Slovenia-Italy border was cut in half by metal fence amidst fears of a second wave of COVID-19. There is still a “window of kisses” for people to see each other without having wire separating them. By the numbers: 1,485 confirmed cases, 109 deaths.

KOSOVO LIFTS RESTRICTIONS: The new Avdullah Hoti government on Saturday eased some trade restrictions only 3 days into mandate as PM. He said, “Now we wait to see the same thing from the Serb side to lift all the obstacles and give air to the dialogue process.” And added, “we also preserve our rights as a sovereign state to set all the necessary measures to preserve our sovereignty in coordination with our international partners.” The move was welcomed by President Hashim Thaci who is excited to get back to the dialogue. Kosovo’s dialogue team will include both the PM and President per the Kosovo Constitution.

MCC IS BACK!: The U.S. Government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a USAID-like organization started by former U.S. President George W. Bush, will resume operations which were suspended after Kosovo put 100% tariffs on Serbian and Bosnian goods. Chairman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot Engel, commented, “I’m glad the MCC is resuming work in Kosovo. It should never have been suspended in the first place. Kosovo met the MCC’s tough standards. Freezing MCC to bully Kosovo into changing policies went against what the (MCC) is supposed to be about.”

SERBIA STOPS DERECOGNITION CAMPAIGN?: The second obstacle to getting back to the dialogue, Serbia’s derecognition campaign of Kosovo, has been suspended according to an unnamed senior diplomatic source in the EU.  Meanwhile, Serbian FM Ivica Dacic called this news “a big lie” and said Serbia’s stance hasn’t changed in years. Dacic noted, “Serbia has been publicly saying for several years that it will stop the campaign of withdrawing recognition only if everyone else stops the campaign for the recognition of Kosovo and membership in international organizations. As this is not the case, Serbia has not stopped campaigning to withdraw Kosovo’s recognition. When they stop, we will stop as well.”

EU CALLS ON SERBIA TO HALT DERECOGNITION: If the unconfirmed reports aren’t true, the EU has started pressuring Serbia to halt it. Peter Stano, the Spokesperson for EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell, said, “High Representative Josep Borrell and Special Representative Miroslav Lajcak welcome the decision by the government of Kosovo to remove the recently introduced measures contrary to past Dialogue agreements. By removing the remaining obstacles to the resumption of the EU-facilitated Dialogue, the new government demonstrates its commitment to re-start the Dialogue without delay. We now expect Serbia to do the same.”

PLENKOVIC IN MOSTAR: Croatia’s PM, Andrej Plenkovic, on Friday visited Mostar. He reiterated Croatia’s advocacy for Bosnian Croats within the EU. He said, “We are constantly working on that and I think that we have more than clearly communicated the topic of the equality of Croats at all levels of the Council of the EU and the European Commission.” While in Mostar, PM Plenkovic met with the leader of HDZ in BiH Dragan Covic.

VUCIC + RUSSIA: Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic confirmed his attendance at this year’s Victory Day Parade in Moscow at a meeting with Russian Ambassador to Serbia Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko. Vucic said, “It is a great honour to attend the 75th anniversary of the victory against fascism. We won the freedom in WWII owing to help of the Red Army and Serbia objects the attempts to revise history. We will fight for the truth to survive.”

LAVROV + SERBIA: Meanwhile, Russia’s FM Sergei Lavrov will start an official visit to Serbia on June 18th, just ahead of parliamentary elections, according to his Serbian counterpart, Ivica Dacic.

MONTENEGRO + SERBIA TENSION: The latest tension surrounding bilateral relations was Montenegro’s decision to not open its border with Serbia because it did not meet meet the 25 cases per 100,000 mark. Over the weekend, Serbia’s Ministry of Health claimed it cured over 4,000 cases in a day. Montenegro will be looking for answers from Belgrade over the inconsistency in numbers.

HAPPY NATO-VERSARY: Montenegron on Friday celebrated 3 years of being a NATO member. Montenegro’s President Milo Djukanovic is set to meet NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg today in Brussels.

Stoltenberg praised the country. He said,, “Montenegro is and continues to be a reliable contributor to Euro-Atlantic security, first as a partner and now as a full member of the Alliance, with a place at our table and an equal voice in shaping our decisions. I emphasize that every time I meet or talk with Montenegrin officials. I thank them for Montenegro’s ongoing security efforts.”

President Djukanovic noted, “Montenegro, with the support of the Alliance, strengthened internal security and safety, guided by the importance of peace and stability of its country, region and good neighborly relations, feeling more secure with support.”

PM Dusko Markovic said, “Apart from security, our citizens already feel the benefits of foreign investments and growth in tourism and the economy. Montenegro, on the other hand, has shown that it is a responsible ally that values ​​the Alliance’s benefits and contributes to common goals and rightly bears the epithet of a reliable member. Therefore, we are entering the fourth year of membership as a state that is counted on in preserving peace and democracy, as the fundamental values ​​of today.”

Defense Minister Predrag Boskovic spoke about NATO expansion: “We were perhaps the best lawyer for North Macedonia to become a NATO member. There is no doubt that everything we and North Macedonia have done contributes to stability in the Balkans.” He also announced a modernization of the Armed Forces.

STOLTENBERG STARTS #NATO2030: Stoltenberg on Monday laid out plans for #NATO2030 in the wake of COVID-19. Stoltenberg’s goals for NATO include: “Stay strong militarily. Be more united politically. And take a broader approach globally.” Essentially, make sure militaries are up to date, think outside to work innovatively to advance NATO goals, and to work with like-minded partners such as in Japan and Australia.

MONTENEGRO AIR FORCE: Montenegro has purchased two Bell 505 Ranger defense helicopters. Bell will train three pilots and eight mechanics in Fort Worth, Texas. Colonel Nenad Pavlovic, Montenegro Air Force, said: “We are proud to have the newest Bell 505 military trainer that is equipped with the latest technology in the Balkans Region. These aircraft will enable our pilots to better perform their public safety and other missions and to help protect our citizens.”

SPEAKING OF DEFENSE… Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar ‘vulin claims Serbia has some of the best tanks in Europe. He said, “The upgrade that we have started doing which will be designated M-84 AS1 will allow us to say that we will be one of the most modern tank powers, not just in the region but in all of Europe.”

SREBRENICA WILL BE MARKED VIRTUALLY as a result of /COVID-19. The organizers of the commemoration are trying to stick to the original plans as much as possible.

KOSOVO SPECIALIST CHAMBERS: The Press Service of the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office at the Hague denied claims that Chief Prosecutor Jack Smith is gearing up to resign to join U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign team.

CHINA + SERBIA + SPACE TECHNOLOGY: China and Serbia on Friday signed a memorandum on cooperation in space technology. Director of the China National Space Administration Kejian Zhang looks forward to the joint projects. He noted, “Our goal is to put the flag of Serbia on the spacecraft that we will jointly design.” Meanwhile, Serbian minister in charge for innovation and technological development, Nenad Popovic, said, “We deeply respect the friendship between our two countries, and we wish for the document signed today to bond China and Serbia in friendship and economic development permanently, I am sure that our upcoming projects will pave the way for our joint vision.”

CROATIA + BANKING UNION: “Croatia’s financial industry got a clean bill of health from the European Central Bank, clearing one of the hurdles on the Adriatic nation’s road to adopting the euro. The comprehensive assessment of the country’s five biggest banks showed they face no capital shortfall and have passed an asset-quality review, the ECB said in an emailed statement on Friday. Nations that want to adopt the euro are required to join the ECB’s system of banking supervision and the bloc’s bank-failure mechanism.” (Bloomberg)

PRIMOR TRUBAZ DAY: “President Borut Pahor held an open day at the Presidential Palace on Monday to honour Primož Trubar Day, a national holiday marking the birth of the key figure of the Slovenian protestant movement (1508-1586). Pahor congratulated Slovenians at home and abroad on the occasion and appealed to them to reflect on Trubar’s achievements.” (Slovenia Times)

BOSNIA + MONTENEGRO + BORDER CROSSINGS
: Bosnia and Montenegro have adopted a report that aims to create four joint border crossings between Bosnia and Montenegro.

EDUCATION IN CROATIA: The Archbishop of Zagreb, Cardinal Josip Bozanic, advocated for increased religious education in the curriculum. He suggested that religious education offers “content that reveals the deeper meaning of life to children and students…without a religious dimension, there is no complete education.”

ELECTIONS IN CROATIA: Citizens of Croatia living in Canada will not be able to vote in parliamentary elections on July 4 or 5th at embassies and consulates throughout Canada because of COVID-19.

MIGRANTS: Bosnian border police arrested 170 people trying to enter BiH. Most migrants are attempting to make it to the European Union. Speaking of migrants, the European Commission adopted a 20 million euro package for Bosnia and Herzegovina to manage migrants.

IN OTHER NEWS
ANALYSIS: “Decades Old Border Dispute Between Slovenia, Croatia Still Unresolved” in STA/Total Slovenia NewsANALYSIS: “After Unprecedented Strains With Longtime Friend U.S., Kosovo Has A New Government” by Joanna Kakissis in NPR

LISTEN: “How A Trump Diplomat Helped To Bring Down Kosovo’s Government” by Joanna Kakissis in NPR

SPORT: “Croatia Marks 27 Years without Drazen Petrovic” in Total Croatia News

SPORT: “Kobe Bryant mural in Bosnia and Herzegovina the largest in Europe” in Eurohoops

ENVIRONMENT: “Croatian swimming waters among cleanest in Europe” in Croatia Week

TRAVEL
: “A postcard from Hvar – the sleepy Croatian island that’s refound its charm” by Jane Foster in Telegraph (UK)

TRAVEL: “Top 5 Reasons to Visit Croatia – the Business Edition” by Katherine Kurelja in Total Croatia News