WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY
CORONAVIRUS by the numbers:
- BiH: 6,981 confirmed cases, 3,179 recovered, 226 deaths.
- CROATIA: 3,775 confirmed cases, 2,514 recovered, 119 deaths.
- KOSOVO: 5,118 confirmed cases, 2,370 recovered, 108 deaths.
- N. MACEDONIA: 8,197 confirmed cases, 385 deaths.
- MONTENEGRO: 1,164 confirmed cases, 325 recovered, 23 deaths.
- SERBIA: 18,639 confirmed cases, 13,940 recovered, 405 deaths.
- SLOVENIA: 1,849 confirmed cases, 111 deaths.
ICMYI: In case you missed our timely discussion with Serbian opposition leader Vuk Jeremic, you can check it out here. Jeremic discussed the erosion of democracy in Serbia under Vucic, the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue, and the protests in Montenegro.
THACI @ THE HAGUE: Kosovo President Hashim Thaci on Monday was questioned by the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in the Netherlands. Thaci was met by supporters before entering the facility and said, “Today I am here out of respect for what I dreamed and fought for. A free, independent Kosovo based on equal rights, a multiethnic society based on the rule of law. Nobody can rewrite history. This is the price for freedom. I believe in peace, truth, reconciliation and justice. I believe in dialogue and good relations with all nations.” Thaci, his lawyer, and the prosecutor discussed “technicalities” and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). He is set to be quizzed today.
UCK MEETS US AMB.: U.S. Ambassador to Kosovo Philip Kosnett spoke via video to Hysni Gucati, a leader of the veterans of the KLA. Ambassador Kosnett wrote on Twitter, “The Embassy looks forward to further engagement with KLA veterans” after the meeting.
MARKOVIC IN BRUSSELS: Montenegro’s PM Dusko Markovic received support on Montenegro’s EU integration from High Representative Josep Borrell, President of the European Council Charles Michel, President of the European Parliament David Sassoli, and Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi,
N. MACEDONIA ELECTIONS KICK OFF: Monday marked the first of three days that Macedonians will head to the polls. Election observers yesterday brought ballot boxes to the residences of people infected with COVID-19 or in quarantine. Those in prison, hospitals, and the elderly will vote today before polls open on Wednesday. The U.S. Embassy in N. Macedonia donated 50,000 protective masks and 10,000 disinfectants to the State Election Commission in preparation for the elections.
SLOVENIA + ITALY: “The presidents of Italy and Slovenia met at several ceremonies on Monday linked to sorrowful events in their nations’ shared history and aimed at reinforcing reconciliation. In the area of Trieste, a port city near Italy’s border with Slovenia, Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Slovenian President Borut Pahor held hands and observed a minute of silence at a monument to four anti-Fascist Slovenes who were executed by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini’s regime in 1930. The four became symbols of the Slovene minority’s resistance to Italian Fascism. The presidents also stopped in the village of Basovizza, where an unknown number of Italians were killed and thrown into sinkholes by the forces of Yugoslavia’s communist leader, Josip Broz Tito.” (AP News)
PROTESTS IN SERBIA: Anti-government protests continued on Monday in the capital, Belgrade. The protesters gathered in front of the jail where many have been jailed in recent days before heading over to the parliament building.
MEANWHILE IN SLOVENIA…: “Anti-government protests resumed for the 12th Friday running in Ljubljana and some other Slovenian towns, with calls in support of independent media added to the list of demands. Also targeted were those who protesters said supported the “unbearable situation” in the country through inaction.” (Slovenia Times)
FEDERATION OF BiH PM TESTS POSITIVE: The PM of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Fadil Novalic, tested positive on Monday for Coronavirus. The pandemic also hit the Ministry of Foreign of Affairs.
CROATIA FINANCE MINISTER ON ADOPTING EURO: Croatia’s Finance Minister Zdravko Maric says his country will be ready to join the Eurozone by 2023. He said on Monday in Zagreb, “The time we have is sufficiently long to minimize problems and prepare for adoption of the euro. We will continue with the policies we had before the crisis, and intend to return within a year to Maastricht criteria regarding the budget deficit.”
KOSOVO APPLIES RESTRICTIVE MEASURES: The Government of Kosovo announced restrictive measures due to the spike in Covid cases. Several cities went under 9:00PM-5:00AM curfew, masks are required again outside of the house, and freedom of movement was restricted.
CROATIAN FM ON EU RELATIONSHIP WITH TURKEY: Croatia’s FM Gordan Grlic Radman met with EU foreign ministers in person to discuss Turkey. He urged dialogue between NATO allies and Turkey since it is a candidate country. He also noted the EU’s opposition to turning the Hagia Sophia from a museum to a mosque.
ANTI-NATO BILLBOARDS IN E. SARAJEVO: Anti-NATO billboards have popped up in Serb-dominated East Sarajevo. Russia’s ambassador to Bosnia, Aleksandr Botsan Kharchenko, recently wrote how Russia is is completely against Bosnia’s NATO accession. He was summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to explain his comments.
DFID CUTTING BALKANS PROGRAM?: The UK’s Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO) and Department for International Development (DFID) merger could bring a £14 billion reduction in funding since it is pegged to gross national income which has taken a hit during the pandemic. One program facing a cut is the £7 million program in the Western Balkans which fights organized crime, extremism and terrorism. Campaigners say the program isn’t transparent and doesn’t do enough to fight poverty. Nevertheless, British PM Boris Johnson looked at the Western Balkans as a target during his address announcing the merger of the FCO and DFID.
SLOVENIA GOING GREEN: “The Government of Slovenia has adopted a decision on the implementation of a national zoning plan for the Rogatec wind farm. The decision on the implementation of a national zoning plan for the Rogatec wind farm has been prepared on the initiative of the Ministry of Infrastructure. In October last 2019, the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning announced that it is working on national zoning plans for eight wind farms while power utility Dravske Elektrarne Maribor (DEM) said it plans to invest EUR 65 million in three wind farms – Ojstrica, Paški Kozjak, and Rogatec.” (Balkan Green Energy News)
HUMAN INTEREST: “Aref Bandary: a doctor, cultural mediator and migrant leading the COVID-19 response in refugee centres in Serbia” in World Health Organization
SPORT: “Bayern’s Manuel Neuer filmed singing Croatian nationalist song” in BBC News
SPORT: “The best Tennis Player in the World Novak Dokovic visited Pyramids in Visoko” in Sarajevo Times
ENTERTAINMENT: “Mexico’s Michel Franco to be awarded Honorary Heart of Sarajevo” in N1