WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

CORONAVIRUS by the numbers:

  • BiH: 4,606 confirmed cases,  2,432 recovered, 188 deaths.
  • CROATIA: 2,831 confirmed cases, 2,155 recovered, 108 deaths.
  • KOSOVO: 2,991 confirmed cases, 1,644 recovered, 54 deaths.
  • N. MACEDONIA: 6,454 confirmed cases, 306 deaths.
  • MONTENEGRO: 576 confirmed cases, 315 recovered, 12 deaths.
  • SERBIA: 14,836 confirmed cases, 12,722 recovered, 281 deaths.
  • SLOVENIA: 1,613 confirmed cases, 111 deaths.

KOSOVO-SERBIA DIALOGUE: U.S. Special Representative to the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer and EU Special Representative to the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue Miroslav Lajcak deny there is any rift or rivalry between the U.S. and EU with who should lead the dialogue. Kosovo is establishing a council of experts for the dialogue within the Office of the Prime Minister. Unnamed EU officials claim that Brussels does not view Kosovo President Hashim Thaci as a partner after his war crimes indictment was made public and are continuing the dialogue without him. Meanwhile the European Parliaments Rapporteur for Kosovo Viola von Cramon tweed a video message that there will “hopefully be a mutual recognition agreement during the fall” after a Paris Summit.

MONTENEGRO PASSES SAME-SEX LEGISLATION: Montenegrin Parliament voted in favor of adopting the law on Life Partnership of Persons of the Same Sex, a major breakthrough for the LGBTQ+ community in Montenegro. In essence, same-sex marriage is now legal by law in Montenegro. Just last year, the legislation did not have the votes to pass parliament. PM Dusko Markovic noted on Twitter it is  “A great step in the right direction for MNE society, its democratic maturity & integration processes. Equality & same rights for all are the cornerstone of human and European values.”

SERBIA’S SANDZAK COVID CRISIS: Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic on Wednesday denied there were any issue with hospitals in southeastern Serbia and concluded it is “better equipped than any German hospital in places with up to 100,000 population.” Meanwhile, the Bosnian Foreign Ministry said that Serbia refused medical aid earmarked for Sandzak where Serbia’s PM Ana Brnabic on Tuesday received a hostile reception.

MONTENEGRO OFFICIALLY OPENS FINAL EU CHAPTER: Montenegro officially opened Chapter 8 of its EU accession process. Foreign Minister Srdjan Darmanovic noted, “The future of Montenegro is in the European Union and we are convinced that the process of European integration contains transformative power that encourages the overall development of the state and society.” Montenegro has provisionally closed three chapters.

FOUNDER OF PDK JAILED: One of the founders of the Democratic Party of Kosovo, Adem Grabovci, has been jailed for a year and two months for abuse of power in the “Pronto case.”

NEW SEECP CHAIRMAN: Turkey has taken over the chairmanship of the South East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) for a one year period. It is the third time Turkey will chair SEECP.

SLOVENIA TELECOMMS COMPANY SOLD: “The Slovenian telecoms equipment maker Iskratel, which has been looking for a strategic partner for a while, has been acquired by the Austrian group S&T. The deal, worth EUR 37.5 million, is expected to be finalised in the autumn as it awaits regulatory approval.” (Slovenia Times)

WAR CRIMES: The Belgrade Prosecutor’s Office has filed an indictment against Kosovo citizen Nezir Mehmetaj for war crimes. Mehmetaj’s lawyer denies the indictment is for war crimes.

IN OTHER NEWS

OP-ED: “Trans-Atlantic relations and the Western Balkans” by John Capello and Ari Mittleman in Modern DiplomacyOP-ED: “Trump Administration’s Bet on Kosovo’s Thaci Fails to Pay Off” by Dean Pineles in BIRN

ANALYSIS: “How Pandemic Upended Croatia’s Bold EU Presidency Plans” by Natalie Liu in Voice of America

HUMAN INTEREST: “The young people fighting the worst smog in Europe” by Jessica Bateman in BBC News: “The city is so polluted that people with respiratory illness move uphill to escape, and young people dream of emigrating. But a simple app has begun a movement to deal with the smog. ‘We always knew there was a problem with pollution because we can see it,’ says Kosta Barsov, who lives in Skopje, North Macedonia. ‘In winter it stinks – if I open my bedroom window while I’m studying it feels like I’m suffocating. If I go walk my dog, I have to change my clothes when I get back because they smell.’ Every day in winter, 16-year-old Barsov opens the AirCare app on his phone and checks the pollution levels around him. ‘There are two sensors close to my house and it’s always really polluted in winter,’ Barsov tells me. If he sees a green circle, the air around him is reasonably clean. If it’s yellow, there’s some pollution but it doesn’t break EU limits. If it’s red or darker, pollution is over the limit, and hazardous to health.”

CULTURE: “A Serbian Croatian pancake meets Italian flavors in this family recipe mash-up” by Kara Elder in the Washington Post

CULTURE: “An exclusive Montenegro resort island was an influencer obsession last summer — and it just reopened amid the pandemic. Take a look inside.” by Hillary Hoffower in Business Insider

TRAVEL: “PHOTO: First Czech, Slovak tourists arrive in Rijeka on new train service” in Croatia Week