WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

CORONAVIRUS by the numbers:

  • BiH: 7,411 confirmed cases,  3,335 recovered, 235 deaths.
  • CROATIA: 3,953 confirmed cases, 2,629 recovered, 120 deaths.
  • KOSOVO: 5,237 confirmed cases, 2,462 recovered, 112 deaths.
  • N. MACEDONIA: 8,530 confirmed cases, 393 deaths.
  • MONTENEGRO: 1,287 confirmed cases, 24 deaths.
  • SERBIA: 19,334 confirmed cases, 14,047 recovered, 429 deaths.
  • SLOVENIA: 1,878 confirmed cases, 111 deaths.


HOUSE RES. ON SREBRENICA
: Congresspeople Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX- 30), Eliot Engel (D-NY, 16), and James McGovern (D-MA,2) introduced House Resolution 1045, “Condemning the genocide and other crimes against the Bosniak community perpetrated by Bosnian Serb forces at Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina in July 1995” on Monday. The strongly worded resolution was referred to the House Armed Forces Committee.

BOLTON INTERVIEW: In an interview with BIRN, former U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton discussed the controversial land swap idea. He cemented the Trump Administration’s steadfast approach – if they reach an agreement, who are we to say no. He said, “if the parties themselves felt that as part of an overall solution that adjustments to territory made sense, that the United States would support that. And I think that policy is a sound approach.” He added, “Europeans were looking at that (the land swap) as well, and many took exactly the same view. I understand from others in the Balkans the concern that if some borders are changed all borders are at risk. I understand what they’re saying but I think that fear is exaggerated.” And concluded, “Within Kosovo, within Serbia, a land swap would be controversial on both sides, although obviously for different reasons. But if the leaders thought this was a way to reach an agreement and could persuade their respective parliaments, I just can’t see outsiders saying we’re not going to let you do that.”

ELECTION RESULTS IN N. MACEDONIA: With 3,459 out of 3,480 polling stations counted (as of this writing), the SDSM-BESA coalition, “We Can,” holds a narrow lead over VMRO-DPMNE. The We Can coalition polled at 36% while VMRO-DPMNE received 34.71% of counted ballots. The ethnic Albanian DUI is in third at 11.48% and the Alliance for Albanians/Alternative is fourth at 4.13%. The Macedonian voter turnout is at 51.34% for the elections held during COVID-19. Shockingly, the State Electoral Commission website crashed when counting the ballots.

KOSOVO-SERBIA DIALOGUE TO RESUME: Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo PM Avdullah Hoti are set to meet in Brussels today to continue the newly restarted Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue. Vucic said the first item on the agenda will be discussing missing and internally displaced persons from the Kosovo War. When pressed on the rise in COVID-19, Vucic denied his party, the Serbian Progressive Party, held large rallies that could have added to the increase of cases. He also denied a stadium packed with 20,000 people had to do with the rise in cases.

NELSON + DODIK: U.S. Ambassador to BiH Eric Nelson met with Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik to discuss “the urgent need for BiH to pass a state-level budget and deliver on the citizens’ basic right to elections,” according to a tweet by the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo. The Embassy added, “The coming 25th anniversary of peace in BiH is an important point for mutual respect and reforms that will bring a quick economic recovery from the pandemic and a prosperous future for all.”

CROATIAN GOV’T TO DOWNSIZE: PM and leader of the HDZ Andrej Plenkovic yesterday announced there will be fewer ministries than in his previous government. He will soon reveal the names of ministers in the proposed government. He said, “I know how many ministries there will be and who all the people are, but I will let you know in the coming days.” He is set to meet President of Croatia Zoran Milanovic today to discuss the new government and officially be announced PM designate.

HOTI + VARHELYI: Kosovo PM Avdullah Hoti yesterday met with EU Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi. According to Varhelyi, they discussed “COVID-19, preparations for Economic & Investment Plan to be put forward in autumn and regional cooperation. Also agreed on working together on strong reform agenda for Kosovo.” Meanwhile, PM Hoti emphasized the discussions revolved around visa liberalization for citizens of Kosovo and his country’s relationship with the EU.

GERMANY + WESTERN BALKANS: Germany’s State Minister for Europe Michael Roth told Deutsche Welle that he expects improvements in Europe’s “central backyard” during the his country’s presidency of the EU. He said, “It is not some kind of EU’s backyard, but our central backyard, and it serves our interests if the Western Balkans find its way to democracy, rule of law and regional reconciliation as soon as possible, and if the young generations gain perspective.” And added, “We want to organize a separate conference to discuss the future of the young generation in the Western Balkans. This region will achieve prosperity and stability only if the EU takes on more responsibilities.” He also acknowledged the EU’s role must be clear. He said, “We need to be more emotional. It must be clear that we are not some kind of technocratic caravan.”

TROUBLE IN PARADISE: Leader of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) Ivica Dacic said there has been dissent in the party. He sacked his adviser after his son took part in anti-government protests. In addition, those in the SPS are disillusioned with Vucic’s leadership. Nevertheless, Dacic said he would step down to follow Vucic and the SNS’s lead in Serbia.

SERBIA + IRAN: “Head of Trade Promotion Organization of Iran (TPOI) Hamid Zadboum and Serbian ambassador to Tehran Dragan Todorovic exchanged their views on the problem facing money transfer in bilateral trade transactions, efforts to reestablish direct flights from Tehran to Belgrade and also issues related to the agriculture and tourism. In this bilateral meeting which was held on Tue., Serbian envoy pointed to the 15th Iran-Serbia Joint Economic Forum, held two years ago, aimed at resolving problems ahead of money transfer in mutual trade and economic transactions, planning for visit of Serbia president to the Islamic Republic of Iran and making effort to reestablish direct flights between Tehran and Belgrade, etc. The two sides also discussed about the development of cooperation between the two countries in the field of health and coronavirus pandemic, COVID-19, development of cooperation in the field of agriculture and agricultural research. They also emphasized the need for establishing coordination and cooperation for holding the 16th Iran-Serbia Joint Economic Forum in Tehran.” (Mehr News)

SERBIA IMPOSES COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS: The Serbian government announced restrictions amidst a spike in COVID-19 cases including mandatory masks even when outside, social distancing of 1.5 meters (~2 feet), and restricted gatherings of more than 10 people. Serbia has been protesting the handling of COVID-19 and elections in the country the past week. Speaking of COVID-19, Bosnian Serb-dominated entity, Republika Srpska, announced that its PM Radovan Viskovic tested positive for COVID-19. And the new Acting Director of the Sarajevo airport, Alan Bajic, also tested positive.

BOSNIA TO EXHUMES SITE: After receiving a tip from a Bosnian Serb, authorities from various institutes in Bosnia and Herzegovina are working on logistics to exhume the site near Prijedor.

SLOVENIAN CUTS TO MEDIA: “An announced media reform, which includes major cuts for RTV Slovenija and more government control in staffing at the STA, continued to draw strong criticism, including from the EBU and trade unions. Coalition partners meanwhile announced the less than week-long public consultation period would be extended.The Culture Ministry-proposed changes, unveiled last Thursday, were meant to be subject to public consultation until tomorrow, which was a major point of contention along with the far-reaching impact.” (Slovenia Times)

FORMER ISIS FIGHTER SENTENCED: Armen Dzelko pleaded guilty to terrorism and organizing a terrorist group. Bosnian courts sentenced him to 3.5 years in prison after a plea deal was struck.

IN OTHER NEWS
OP-ED: “Forget Expectations: German EU Presidency no Magic Wand for the Balkans” by Vesko Garcevic in BIRNSPORT: “World’s best Tennis Player Novak Dokovic met with Bosnian Presidency Member Milorad Dodik” in Sarajevo Times

ENTERTAINMENT: “Dua Lipa talks long journey from Kosovo to the top: ‘I was stuck in limbo’” by Andrea Dresdale and Andrea Tuccilloin ABC News

TRAVEL: “Air Serbia Eyes August Return To Israel & Russia” by Jakov Fabinger in Simple Flying

TRAVEL: “Tourism in the Corona Age: 10 Virtual Ways to Discover Bibinje” by Paul Bradbury in Total Croatia News