WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

BOSNIA’S DŽAFEROVIĆ CRITICIZES CROATIAN PRESIDENT: Bosniak Member of the Presidency Šefik Džaferović criticized Croatian President Zoran Milanović after his trip to Bosnia over the weekend.

  • Milanović insisted he would protect Croats through the Dayton Peace Accords and said that “Croatia will make no concessions and will not stop halfway or join the stronger ones.” Milanović added that “Crucially, it is not true that senior politicians in the west want to turn BiH into a civic country. There is no interest in BiH.”
  • Croatia has openly called for the continued ethnic division of Bosnia rather than moving it towards a more civic state in order to move closer to joining the European Union.
  • Džaferović responded, “Mr Milanovic has no competencies nor is he invited to deal with the internal matters of Bosnia and Herzegovina. His attempts to do that are filled with ignorance and serious arrogance, and by doing so Mr Milanovic is becoming a hotbed for instability and the rhetoric of divisions and insults.”
  • And added, “There is no word about ethnic legitimation but only about ethnic identification. In other words, Dayton does not say that the Croats will elect one and the Bosniaks the other (Presidency member). It only says that one member is Croat, and the other is Bosniak, and the European Court of Human Rights ruled that this needs to be deleted from the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, because all citizens are entitled to the right to be elected, not only the Bosniaks and the Croats.”
  • He concluded, “What Mr Milanovic is offering us is a road to the full ethnic division of BiH and full abolition of civic principle, which is also part of Dayton.”
  • According to the latest census (from 2013) in Bosnia, Croats make up roughly 15% of the population.

JANŠA CAUSES ROW WITH THE EU, IRAN: “Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša may hold the rotating EU Council presidency, but he “does not represent” the EU in foreign policy, the bloc’s diplomatic chief Josep Borrell said Monday — a reaction to comments by Janša that sparked tensions with Iran.

“Borrell’s unusual statement to reporters came after Janša on Saturday demanded an international inquiry into the 1988 executions of Iranian political prisoners. These killings led to at least 2,000 deaths, according to Amnesty International, with some observers putting the number much higher.” (Politico)

EC SAYS SERBIA MUST LEAVE EUEA: EU Spokesperson Peter Stano noted that “Serbia must withdraw from all bilateral free trade agreements”, which would include the Eurasian Economic Union, before it joins the EU. Stano urged Serbia to move towards joining the EU’s common foreign and security policy.

HUNGARY’S ORBÁN, SERBIA’S VUČIĆ PRAISE EACH OTHER IN BELGRADE: Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán late last week met with Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vučić as a part of a Hungarian delegation that arrived in Belgrade for FM Péter Szijjártó to receive an award from Serbia.

  • Orbán said, “Until Serbia is integrated [into the EU], the WB will not be integrated. Serbia is a key country and the EU should understand that.”
  • “I thank the Hungarian PM and the government itself because they were willing to be attacked and criticized for supporting Serbia’s EU membership. There are not many friends like that. We will know how to value that and to return the favor. You will see that with Serbs gratitude does not last briefly,” noted Serbia’s Vučić.

KOSOVO DPM CRITICIZES SERBIA FOR FINANCING PARALLEL STRUCTURES: Deputy PM of Kosovo Besnik Beslimi criticized Serbia for continuing to operate parrallel structures and claims Belgrade wants to legitimize them through the Association of Serb Municipalities.

  • Selimi said, “I found that Serbia is not building those structures without reason and that it wants to legalize them through the Community of Serb Municipalities.”
  • “I said that when Serbia’s parallel institutions are no longer in place in Kosovo, when there is no illegal financing from Serbia and when no one in Europe disputes the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Kosovo, then we can seriously discuss ways to protect the rights of minorities,” added Beslimi.

SERBIA’S INTER-PARTY DIALOGUE: “At a joint press conference after the second part of the negotiations about electoral conditions held under the auspices of members of the European Parliament, Serbia’s National Assembly Speaker Ivica Dacic said that the talks were constructive and the next meeting will be on September 17 or 18.

“‘I would like to express my satisfaction with the arrival of EP representatives who are helping the inter-party dialogue. I think that the National Assembly and the representatives of the EP organized a very important event, a conversation between the ruling parties and the opposition,’ Dacic said.” (N1)

SLOVENIA WATER REFERENDUM FAILS TO DROWN PM: Slovenia’s right-wing PM Janez Janša failed to win over voters in a referendum on a proposed water management system commissioned. Election authorities said that 86.6% of voters decided against changes with the highest turnout since for a referendum since 2007. Opposition figures have called on Janša to resign, but he remains steadfast to hold on to the government.

KOSOVO, SERBIA BLAME GAME: After the meeting between EUSR Miroslav Lajčák and the chief negotiators from Kosovo and Serbia, Besnik Bislimi and Petar Petković, the two sides played the blame game following the meeting.

  • Kosovo’s Bislimi said, “We presented remarks about the agreements and Serbia’s steps so far, for example the agreement on integrated border management, the recognition of diplomas, freedom of movement, the agreement on the footnote [Regional representation Agreement], and we have seen that the Serbian side has not delivered on its obligations.”
  • Meanwhile, Petković asserted, “We see yesterday and today, but also in previous days, how Pristina, Albanian politicians are talking about some crimes, the issue of missing persons and so on, but when they come to Brussels and when they need to answer specifically how to solve this issue, how to find all the missing, Pristina did not raise this issue with a single word, in its presentation.”
  • Kosovo media reports the next meeting between Kosovo PM Albin Kurti and Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vučić will take place in the third week in July.

EP ENDORSES CROATIA’S SCHENGEN AREA ACCESSION: The European Parliament (EP) adopted a resolution that says Croatia meets all conditions to join the Schengen area. The EP resolution addressed shortcomings Croatia should improve including more training, better training for staff, and follow fundamental rights after pushbacks of migrants became public. Croatia’s PM Andrej Plenković underscored on Monday Croatia’s Parliament that he expects to join the Schgen Area by 2022.

KOSOVO’S HAJDARI ENCOURAGES WOMEN TO TELL THEIR STORIES: The Head of Kosovo’s Special Prosecution Drita Hajdari urged women to come forward with their stories of wartime rape after a former policeman, Zorak Vukotić, was sentenced to ten years in prison for rape. She said the victims identites will be concealed if they come forward and she will personally handle the cases. She will also ask for the trials not be public. Wartime rape continues to hold a stigma in society in Kosovo. Only three women have come forward publicly with their stories and there are 50 ongoing court cases of wartime rape.

TAP DEAL WITH ALBANIA TO FIER: “The Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) AG, the operator of the European leg of the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC), has signed a cooperation and handover agreement for the Fier South gas facility with Albgaz Sh.a. and the Albanian Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy, a statement from TAP AG said Wednesday. TAP AG will design, procure and construct the gas exit point with a multimillion Euro investment.” (Daily Sabah)

WELCOME TO KUKËS: The inaugural commercial flight at the new Kukës Airport is arriving today from Zurich with a return flight later in the day. The airport was out of operation until 2019.

IN OTHER NEWS

OP-EDAlbin Kurti’s momentous opportunity to transform Kosovo by Alon Ben-Meir in Emerging Europe

OP-EDThe UK in Serbia: Signs of a new regional strategy? by Niall Gray in New Eastern Europe

OP-EDEurope and the Balkans – opening Pandora’s box? by George A. Papandreou in Ekathimerini

ANALYSISTravelling To/From the Balkans? The COVID-19 Rules that Apply by Milica Stojanović and Ivana Jeremić in Balkan Insight

ANALYSISBalkan Economies May Struggle to Recover From COVID Damage in Balkan Insight

ANALYSISThe debt of integration: Montenegro’s Chinese loan and the traps of Europe by Tijana Okić in CADTM

ANALYSISLack Of Information On Vaccinations In Bosnia Affecting Local And Regional Vaccination Drive by Larry Cruz in The Organization for World Peace