WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

Please join us for a timely event on developments in Serbia. Citizens across Serbia have been protesting conditions during the pandemic and holding elections in this atmosphere. We are pleased to announced that we will be joined by opposition leader H.E. Vuk Jeremic, founder of the People’s Party and former UN General Assembly President, for a timely discussion on the elections, pandemic, and ongoing protests. The event will take place on Zoom TODAY, July 13 at 11:00 AM EST/ 5:00PM CETREGISTER HERE.

CORONAVIRUS by the numbers:

  • BiH: 6,402 confirmed cases,  3,037 recovered, 216 deaths.
  • CROATIA: 3,722 confirmed cases, 2,486 recovered, 119 deaths.
  • KOSOVO: 4,931 confirmed cases, 2,267 recovered, 102 deaths.
  • N. MACEDONIA: 8,111 confirmed cases, 382 deaths.
  • MONTENEGRO: 1,164 confirmed cases, 325 recovered, 23 deaths.
  • SERBIA: 18,360 confirmed cases, 13,875 recovered, 393 deaths.
  • SLOVENIA: 1,841 confirmed cases, 111 deaths.

SREBRENICA 25 YEARS ON: World leaders commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide on July 11. Chairman of the Bosnian Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic called on the international community to help Bosnia get a law that would ban genocide denial. Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik said “a serious crime was committed against Bosniaks in Srebrenica” but is against a law that would ban denying genocide. The remains of nine victims were buried at the Srebrenica Genocide Memorial in Potocari.

HAPPY STATEHOOD DAY MONTENEGRO!: Montenegro is celebrating statehood day today to commemorate the Berlin Congress in 1878 recognizing Montenegro as an independent state.

KOSOVO-SERBIA DIALOGUE:

  • The leaders of Kosovo and Serbia resumed the dialogue yesterday.
  • Speaking on Serbian TV, President Aleksandar Vucic said the aim was to lose as little as possible. He said, “The goal is to get something, lose as little as we have to and get some of what was lost between 2000 and 2008.”
  • Meanwhile, Kosovo PM Avdullah Hoti laid out his position according to the three guiding principles: the integrity of Kosovo was inviolable and could not be a part of the negotiations, the internal order couldn’t be changed and a final agreement with Belgrade should be in line with Pristina’s Constitution. He noted, “A comprehensive agreement between the Republic of Kosovo and the Republic of Serbia should result in mutual recognition. Without such an outcome, any agreement cannot be successful. The mutual recognition is the only way to normalize the relations and open a way to the European integrations for both countries.”
  • Vucic in the past called the principles “impossible, unrealistic and unacceptable.”
  • The EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, said the negotiations will be tough and “will require political courage from both sides.” He added, “Our aim is clear: to restart serious and intense work on the normalisation of the relations between the two sides.”
  • EU Special Representative to the dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak, announced the next meeting will take place in Brussels on Thursday.
  • Where’s the U.S.? Former Vice President and Democratic nominee Joe Biden slammed the Trump Administration’s approach to the dialogue and dealings with the EU. He wrote in the press release that he would “facilitate peace and security in southeastern Europe and work in tandem with our EU partners to make that dream a reality.”
  • He was rebuked by the U.S. special envoy for the dialogue, Richard Grenell who claims the former vice president has “thrown the negotiations between the parties into a US presidential political issue.”

THACI OFF TO THE HAGUE: Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaci sent out a video message on Saturday ahead of his flight to The Hague where he is being questioned by prosecutors today for alleged war crimes. Thaci said, “It is true we violated the laws of Slobodan Milosevic’s regime and for that, I am proud as people and as an individual. But (I have violated) no international law under any circumstances.” And added, “No one can re-write history. Kosovo is a victim. Genocide and ethnic cleansing have occurred in Kosovo but we are facing new situation and paying the price of freedom.”

MARKOVIC IN BRUSSELS: Montenegro’s PM Dusko Markovic is in Brussels where he will meet with European Council President Charles Michel, President of the European Parliament David Sassoli, the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell, and Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varheyli.

PROTESTS IN SERBIA: Protesters continued to take to the streets over the weekend to let their voices heard over elections during the pandemic and how the government has been handling the crisis. Protesters have tried holding a sit down protest so violent elements could not infiltrate the generally peaceful protests. Serbia’s PM Ana Brnabic on Friday said the government wouldn’t hesitate to put restrictive measures in place. Croatian MEP Tonino Picula on Thursday called on Vucic to stop the violence against protesters and encouraged EPP colleagues to reach out to Vucic. He added, “The destruction of democratic institutions in Serbia and the strengthening of Vucic’s authoritarian practices are among the main obstacles to Serbia’s more visible progress on the journey to the EU.”

ELECTIONS IN N. MACEDONIA: The campaign is all but over as N. Macedonia heads into pre-election silence. Left-leaning SDSM and rival VMRO-DPMNE are expected to face off in a tough election. Parliamentary elections are set for Wednesday, but those with Covid can vote today and those in self-isolation can cast their vote tomorrow.

ELECTIONS IN MONTENEGRO: While at an event marking the beginning of the work on the Cetinje – Cevo – Niksic road, President Milo Djukanovic said that parliamentary elections will take place as scheduled on August 30.

ZALAZJE REMEMBERED: Bosnian Serbs near Srebrenica commemorated the 69 Serbs who were killed on July 12, 1992.

HELLO EURO: The Croatian Kuna has been added to the Exchange Rate Mechanism, the final waiting room before adopting the Euro. Croatia could officially get rid of the Kuna from as early as January 2023.

EULEX EXTENDED: Kosovo President Hashim Thaci extended the EU’s rule of law mechanism in Kosovo, EULEX, by a year.

CROATIA OPEN TO AMERICANS: Croatia opened its borders for Americans for business, tourism, and other pressing reasons. The majority of EU countries have banned U.S. citizens from entering due to Covid-19.

SKOPJE’S NEW GREEN BUSES: “The new LPG gas-powered eco-buses, produced by the German company MAN, have hit the streets of Skopje today. The city authorities inform that the drivers of the new buses, which will service the lines No 2, 5, 15, and 57, have been properly trained by a certified driver-instructor from Croatia. A single eco-bus can save up to 25.000 EUR in fuel costs annually i.e. compared to the amount spent by the old diesel buses, these buses consume two times less fuel, which additionally will lower the public transport enterprise JSP’s expenses, and at the same time they lower the pollution with its very low emission of CO2 gasses.” (Meta)

SLOVENIAN BEEHIVES TO EU MEMBERS: “The Slovenian Beekeeping Association would like Slovenia to donate one bee house with two beehives to each EU member state while it presides over the bloc in 2021. It believes that with this symbolic gesture, the country would remind the world of the need to jointly take care of bees and other pollinators.” (Slovenia Times)

IN OTHER NEWS

OP-ED: “The European Union’s Shot at Redemption in the Balkans” by Austin Doehler in War on the Rocks

OP-ED: “25 Years After Srebrenica: No Peace or Reconciliation in West Balkans” by Denis MacShane in The Globalist

ANALYSIS: “The massacre of Bosnian Muslims is still denied by Serbs” in The Economist

ANALYSIS: “In Pictures: 25 years since Srebrenica genocide” in Al Jazeera

ANALYSIS: “Belgrade is embracing China as it ditches its Russian alliance” by Vuk Vuksanovic in Reaction

ANALYSIS: “Public anger rises across Balkans as coronavirus toll grows” by Valerie Hopkins in Financial Times

CULTURE: “Artist Profiles: Trio Balkan Strings” in World Music Central