WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY
BIDEN AIMS TO TACKLE CORRUPTION, DESTABILIZATION: US President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Blocking Property And Suspending Entry Into The United States Of Certain Persons Contributing To The Destabilizing Situation In The Western Balkans. He expanded the scope of three previous executive orders from the early 2000s.
- The executive order says, “the situation in the territory of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Republic of Albania (the Western Balkans), over the past two decades, including the undermining of post-war agreements and institutions following the breakup of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, as well as widespread corruption within various governments and institutions in the Western Balkans, stymies progress toward effective and democratic governance and full integration into transatlantic institutions, and thereby constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”
MLADIĆ SENTENCE UPHELD: Former Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladić had his life sentence for genocide upheld by a UN judge at The Hague yesterday. He appealed a 2017 life sentence for his role in the Srebrenica Genocide.
- US President Joe Biden released a statement reaffirming Mladić’s conviction. “Justice and reconciliation are the foundation for peace and stability for the future, and today’s decision is also an important confirmation that this is possible. I sincerely hope leaders in the region will respect this judgment and reinforce its importance for the rule of law,” said the statement.
- US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted, “May today’s UNIRMCT conviction of former Commander of the Bosnian Serb Army, Ratko Mladic, for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, bring some measure of peace to the victims and their loved ones. The U.S. will continue to speak out for justice and accountability.”
- Meanwhile, ahead of the reading of the verdict, a film glorifying Mladić was played in the town of Bratunac, a mere 4.2km from the Srebrenica Genocide Memorial in Potočari.
- Chairman and Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik denied a genocide happened in Bosnia. He said that the ruling was “an attempt to create a myth about the genocide in Srebrenica that never happened.”
BERLIN PROCESS VIRTUAL MEETING: Foreign Ministers of the Berlin Process countries gathered virtually to discuss the EU accession process, regional cooperation and reconciliation, and progress towards the Berlin Process Summit in July.
- A key takeaway from the virtual meeting is German FM Heiko Maas urging the FMs of the region to “use all your energy to make this summit a success for the people of the region.
- “In particular, the agreement on freedom of travel with ID cards would strengthen trade and travel.In the same way, the common visa area and the recognition of academic and professional qualifications would make life easier for many citizens,” added the German FM.
DODIK ON MEETING WITH AMB. NELSON: Meanwhile, Dodik commented on recent talks with US Ambassador to BiH Eric Nelson on the new High Representative in the country. He said that the talks were “unpleasant” and the interlocutors had different views on the legitimacy of the procedure for Christian Schmidt’s appointment. Dodik continues to question Schmidt’s appointment and claims the procedure was against international law.
AMB. KIM CALLS FOR INVESTIGATION INTO ELECTIONS: US Ambassador to Albania Yuri Kim and Prosecutor General Olsian Çela met with victims coordinators from Korça, Elbasan, and Pogradec yesterday. Ambassador Kim and the Prosecutor General “talked about the continuing importance of pursuing electoral crimes and in all cases were there is a crime the victims must be satisfied and the perpetrators must be punished.”
CROATIA’S AIM FOR THE SCHENGEN AREA: “The Strategy for the Schengen Area for the first time clearly articulates the link between Croatia’s membership of the Schengen Area and the EU’s security, Interior Minister Davor Božinović said in Luxembourg on Tuesday.
“‘The debate today on the Strategy for the Schengen Area is especially significant for us because for the first time it has identified a clear link between Croatia’s membership of the Schengen Area and security for the EU as a whole,’ Božinović said ahead of a meeting of the EU’s Home Affairs Council.” (Total-Croatia-News)
MEDOJEVIĆ RESIGNS FROM PARLIAMENTARY SEAT: “The president of the Movement for Changes (PzP) and one of the leaders of the Democratic Front, Nebojša Medojević, resigned from the parliamentary function.
“He said at the press conference that he made the decision to withdraw the amendments to the Budget Bill for this year.
“‘There is no need for MPs to bother and discuss my amendments. Obviously, they are not that important, and thus the conditions have been met for me to fulfil my promise to resign from the parliamentary seat,” said Medojević.” (IBNA)
WESTERN BALKANS SUMMIT IN TIRANA: The next summit of the leaders of the Western Balkans will meet in Tirana on June 10 at the Palace of Brigades. The summit will be chaired by Albanian PM Edi Rama and EU Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi. The meeting comes two weeks before the EU’s decision to formally open negotiations with Tirana and Skopje.
DAČIĆ ON DIALOGUE: Serbian Speaker of Parliament Ivica Dačić on Tuesday told Russian news outlet Izvestiya that Kosovo and Serbia are far away from a solution despite a renewed spirit to the dialogue.
- Dačić said that “the other side (Kosovo) does not want to compromise…The only thing they want is for the international community to pressure Serbia and make Belgrade recognize Kosovo. That is unacceptable for us.”
- On Russia and China’s stance in the UNSC, Dačić said “In order to reach a peace agreement, Russia, China and the other permanent UN Security Council members have to be involved in the process. In the end the UN Security Council will have to vote on a final decision.”
KOMŠIĆ COMMEMORATES LAST BOSNIAN KING: Bosnian Croat Member of the Presidency Željko Komšić spent Tuesday in Jajce paying respects to King Stjepan Tomašević, Bosnia’s last ruling king.
- “We would like to mark the continuity of Bosnian statehood in this way as well, by paying tribute to the last Bosnian King Stjepan Tomasevic. BiH survived and outlived the Ottoman Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, as well as the former Social Federalist Republic (SFR) of Yugoslavia. It means that BiH is one of the countries in a world that has outlived other, much larger, and more powerful countries that once existed,” said Komšić on the occasion.
KOSOVO + ALBANIA REMOVE TEMPORARY RESIDENCE PERMITS: “Kosovo’s Government adopted in principle an agreement with the Albanian Ministerial Council to abolish temporary residence permit allowing the two countries’ citizens to reside in either state for up to five years.
“The decision was in the mutual interest of the two countries, according to Blerim Gashani, Kosovo’s Deputy Interior Minister.” (N1)
WHAT’S UP WITH EULEX?: The former head judge of the European Union Rule of Law mission in Kosovo (EULEX) Malcom Simmons wrote a letter to Kosovo PM Albin Kurti outlining his potential statement to Kosovo’s Parliament on the wrongdoings of EULEX should he be invited.
- “A failure by the Assembly to inquire into these matters, would serve to further undermine justice and rule of law in Kosovo. EULEX is a political mission masquerading as a rule of law mission,” Simmons wrote.
- The Council of the European Union published a decision to extend EULEX’s mandate to June 14, 2023. The budget for until 2023 is $173,693,683.
BiH + AZERBAIJAN: Speaker of the House of Peoples of BiH Bakir Izetbegović arrived in Azerbaijan with a parliamentary delegation for a two-day visit. The delegation was met at the airport by First Deputy Speaker Ali Huseyni and head of a working group for interparliamentary relations between BiH and Azerbaijan Mazahir Afandiyev.
IN OTHER NEWS
POLICY PAPER: Governance versus Authoritarian Influence in the Western Balkans by Marko Pankovski in GMF
OP-ED: ‘People Who Really Matter’ Still Drive West’s Bosnia Policy by Kurt Bassuener and Alex Cruishanks in Balkan Insight
OP-ED: Why is Serbia not going to join EU sanctions on Belarus? by Vuk Vuksanović in EU Observer
OP-ED: Who were the Caucasian Albanians? By Javid Agha in Eurasianet
ANALYSIS: BIRN Fact Check: Skopje’s Mayor’s Green Agenda a Work in Progress by Siniša Jakov Marušić in Balkan Insight
HUMAN INTEREST: North Macedonia’s first Jewish lawmaker breaks taboos, is hit with antisemitism by Cnaan Liphshiz in The Times of Israel