WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

REEKER IN ALBANIA: Acting Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Reeker visited Tirana on Wednesday. He met with PM Edi Rama, Democratic Party Chair Lulzim Basha, members of the justice system, and others. According to a press released by the U.S. Embassy in Tirana, Reeker “emphasized the importance of U.S.-Albanian relations” and “underlined President Biden and Secretary of State Blinken’s determination that the fight against corruption…is a core national security interest for the United States.”

UK + GERMANY ON THE WESTERN BALKANS: UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas yesterday signed a joint declaration in Berlin. This is the first bilateral agreement between the UK and Germany on foreign and security policy issues, according the UK government.

  • They outlined a regional approach to the Western Balkans. They wrote, “We reaffirm our shared  commitment to the security, stability, prosperity and full sovereignty of all six Western Balkans countries in line with their European and EuroAtlantic paths.”
  • “We emphasise the importance of advancing the rule of law and we commit to working closely together to support the Western Balkans countries in promoting regional cooperation, tackling corruption and organised crime, especially illicit finance, and to addressing legacy issues of the past, notably Missing Persons, including in the context of the Berlin Process,” wrote the British and Germans.

MERKEL CALLS VUČIĆ, TEGELTIJA: Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vučić spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of the July 5 Berlin Process Summit. Vučić noted that “bilateral relations between Serbia and Germany are on the rise” in a post on Instagram. They also discussed the abolition of roaming charges in the Western Balkans and the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue.

The German Chancellor also called Chairman of the Council of Ministers of BiH Zoran Tegeltija to discuss the upcoming summit. In addition, they discussed Bosnia’s European path. Tegeltija thanked Merkel for Germany’s support for Bosnia’s European integration.

PENDAROVSKI VISITS ZAGREB: President of N. Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski met with Croatian counterpart Zoran Milanović in Zagreb on Wednesday. The interlocutors discussed bilateral relations and Skopje’s European path.

  • Pendarovski noted, “Our two countries and citizens are connected by deep historical and cultural ties, are close in geography, similar in language, culture and mentality, worldview and values.”
  • Milanović commented on N. Macedonia’s path to the EU. He said, “It will not be easy. It will take a lot of work. It will need friendly help and a lot of discussion and persuasion.”

UN COURT SENTENCES STANIŠIĆ, SIMATOVIĆ: The International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals in The Hague found two former chiefs of the Serbian state security service, Jovica Stanišić and Franko Simatović, guilty for “aiding and abbetting the crime of murder, as a violation of the laws or customs of war and a crime against humanity, and the crimes of deportation, forcible transfer, and persecution, as crimes against humanity, committed by Serb forces following the takeover of Bosanski Šamac in April 1992 in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia.” The duo were each sentenced to 12 years in prison. They were originally acquitted in 2013 but a retrial was ordered in 2015 after the appeals process. The retrial began in 2017.

SERBIAN GENDARMERIE HONORS RADOSAVLJEVIĆ: “The Serbian special-forces unit known as the Gendarmerie has honored former commander Goran Radosavljević, who was allegedly involved in the killing of three U.S. citizens (brothers Ylli, Agron, and Mehmet Bytyqi) who went to Kosovo to fight alongside ethnic Albanian rebels against Belgrade’s rule.

“The current commander of the gendarmerie, Dejan Lukovic, praised Radosavljevic’s work as he handed him a plaque on June 30 during a ceremony marking the Day of the Serbian Gendarmerie in the northern town of Novi Sad.” (RFE/RL)

KOSOVO SACKS DEPUTY HEAD OF INTELLIGENCE: President Vjosa Osmani and PM Albin Kurti yesterday sacked Deputy Director of the Kosovo Intelligence Agency Vlora Hyseni, according to a press release by the PM’s office. According Article 6 of Law on the Kosovo Intelligence Agency, Osmani and Kurti have 20 working days to fill the position.

TACKLING CORRUPTION IN CROATIA, KOSOVO:

  • “Zagreb Mayor, Tomislav Tomasevic, informed the public on Wednesday that “a preliminary investigation” by Uskok anti-corruption investigators started at the city administration offices at 6 am on Wednesday. Tomasevic was reacting to several arrests and searches conducted on Wednesday morning, involving associates of late mayor Milan Bandic.” (N1)
  • Voice of Croatia reports that two city employees were arrested – the head of the mayor’s staff service, Andreja Šulentić, and chauffeur Zdravko Krajina.
  • Meanwhile in Kosovo, the police arrested seven officials at the Agency for Agricultural Development suspected of receiving bribes in exchange for receiving grants. Gazeta Express says 23 people are expected to be arrested.

ALBANIA, MONTENEGRO AGREE TO POLICE COOPERATION: The General Director of the State Police of Albania Ardi Veliu and General Director of the Montenegrin Police Zoran Brdanin signed a protocol for cooperation between police forces during the 2021 tourist season. They noted there is excellent cooperation between the border police for border checks, migrant flows, and cross-border crime. They agreed to establish joint investigative teams with an eye towards organized crime.