WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

CONGRATS to Slovenia’s Tadej Pogačar for winning the Tour de France for the second year in a row on Sunday! He becomes the youngest double winner in the history of the race.

BIDEN ANNOUNCES NOMINEE FOR AMB TO BiH: U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday nominated DAS for European and Eurasian Affairs Michael J. Murphy for the post of U.S. Ambassador to BiH. Murphy’s regional experience includes roles as the Deputy Chief of Mission at th U.S. Embassy in Kosovo and Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in BiH. In addition, he served as Director of the Office for European Security & Political-Military Affairs in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs.  Earlier, he served as the Associate Dean of the Leadership and Management School at the National Foreign Affairs Training Center.

  • Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik called on Murphy to respect the Dayton Peace Agreement.
  • He said, “The ambassador is tasked to carry out American interests, we have some interests of our own, but it is important for him to know that the situation here has significantly changed compared to before. We know him from earlier, from some earlier periods, but this is not 2005 or 2008 but 2021, when the letter of Dayton must absolutely be respected and that’s our policy.”
  • Speaking of Dodik, as of today he is no longer the Chairman of the BiH Presidency. Bosnian Croat Member of the Presidency Željko Komšić takes over the role today for an eight-month term.

KOSOVO AND SERBIA SLIDE FURTHER AWAY FROM NORMALIZATION AGREEMENT: High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell and EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue Miroslav Lajčák on Monday held a new round of the Dialogue with Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vučić and Kosovo’s PM Albin Kurti with “very little progress” achieved aside from agreeing to meet again in September and their chief negotiators would meet monthly. Both Vučić and Kurti claimed the other side was to blame for the lack of progress in today’s meeting, and the dialogue in general.

  • Vučić says Serbia agreed to the EU’s three points – intensify joint efforts to find missing persons, refrain from things that could potentially destabilize the situation on the ground, and for the negotiators to meet monthly – but Kosovo’s Kurti did not accept the second point.
  • Kurti claims Serbia’s Vučić did not accept point two because he did not accept Kosovo’s six point plan and says it “proves their (Serbia’s) unwillingness to reach an agreement.”
  • Kurti wrote on Twitter, “For as long as Serbia refuses to face the past and agree on non-aggression, it shows that it is not interested in dialogue and agreement, nor in peace and reconciliation among our countries.” Read his full statement HERE.
  • Read Kosovo’s proposed “Joint Declaration of Non-Aggression, Non-Belligerency and Peaceful Resolution of Conflicts” which was not considered during the meeting HERE.
  • The EU’s Borrell noted, “Kosovo and Serbia must finally close the chapter on their painful past through a comprehensive legally binding agreement on the normalization of relations and looking forward to a European future for their citizens.”
  • Kurti focused on the past in the meeting. He said Serbia committed genocide against Albanians three times – in 1878, during World War I, and then in the Kosovo War in 1999.
  • Ahead of the Dialogue, Vučić on Friday met with Russian Ambassador Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko to discuss the Dialogue and bilateral relations.
  • On Monday, Serbia’s FM said that he hopes Greece will not recognize Kosovo. “I wish to believe that this will not happen and I will pray to God that this doesn’t happen,” he noted.

DJUKANOVIĆ SAYS SOC RESPONSIBLE FOR SREBRENICA: Montenegrin President Milo Djuknaović told a conference that the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC) was responsible for the Srebrenica Genocide.

  • He noted that the SOC arrived there before the army. He added, “They followed the same path – first the Church, then the army and, in the end, they were responsible, among other things, for the genocide in Srebrenica. The church is a dangerous tool in the hands of retrograde nationalism, and we should focus the political responsibility and attention on them if we want to eliminate destructive forces, dangerous for peace and stability in the Western Balkans.”
  • On the region, Djukanović noted that Serbia’s Vučić uses the “protection of Serbs” throughout the region as a manner to destabilize the region.
  • “Interference in the internal affairs of another state cannot be a legitimate goal. I am sorry that Serbia is repeating its mistakes, and I am afraid that this is a realistic potential for creating instability in the region. Serbia is doing that relying on Moscow’s support,” said Djukanović.

SPEAKING OF SERBIAN INTERFERENCE IN THE REGION… Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin’s rhetoric on the creation of a “Serb World”, which should be treated as promoting a “Greater Serbia”, has caused anger among its neighbors.

  • On Sunday, Vulin said, the goal of younger politicians is to unify all Serbs wherever they live. He noted that Serbs “do not have the right to give up on unification.”
  • Bosnia’s FM Bisera Turković called on Serbia’s Vučić to condemn Vulin’s statements or it should be understood as “Serbia’s official policy is to overthrow the Dayton Peace Agreement and that it aims to annex parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina to Serbia.”
  • First Deputy Speaker of Bosnia’s House of Representatives Denis Zvizdić said the comments are an “obvious hegemonic narrative that did not bring anything good to the Serb or any other Balkan peoples” and only led to “wars, suffering, ethnic cleansing, and genocide.”
  • Vulin doubled down on his statement on Monday by comparing it to German unification. He said, “You forgot, Ms Turkovic, to say that I said the Serbs would unite peacefully, without a single bullet, when the conditions for that are met. If the Germans could, why couldn’t the Serbs, or are you also against a united Germany?”
  • These statements would bring Vulin ripe for U.S. sanctions following U.S. President Joe Biden’s Executive Order of June 8. Since its signing, no one contributing to the destabilizing situation in the Western Balkans has fallen under U.S. sanctions.
  • Read Johns Hopkins SAIS professor Dan Serwer’s take on the “Serbian home” HERE.

ČOVIĆ SAYS NO ELECTIONS IF NO ELECTORAL REFORM: Leader of the HDZ-BiH Dragan Čović said that elections could not take place next year unless there are amendments to election law. The U.S. and EU have urged BiH to amend its constitution to implement rulings from the European Court of Human Rights.

  • “Without the Election Law, elections cannot be organized and conducted, just as elections in Mostar could not be organized until we agreed on election rules in Mostar. Certain regulations of the Election law have been repealed due to the decisions of the Constitutional Court of BiH. So, in order to hold elections next year, amendments to the Election Law must be adopted in the BiH Parliament in this non-election year,” said Čović.

DF REFUSES GOV’T RESHUFFLE: The leaders of the Democratic Front and Movement for Changes will reject Speaker of Parliament Aleksa Bečić’s reshuffle proposal, writes Pobjeda. They oppose the plan because Zdravko Krivokapić would remain PM. Krivokapić says that they refuse to accept the reshuffle because they don’t have a vice-presidential position in some ministries.

U.S. COMPANY BUYS BULGARIAN GAS COMPANY: “Bulgaria’s largest private gas trader is looking to expand into west Balkan gas markets after a US company bought a 50% stake.

“Yuliya Georgieva, gas origination and trading manager at Overgas, said the share sale to Linden Energy earlier this month will put Overgas in the ideal position to expand in markets such as Albania and Kosovo, while also taking advantage of new sources of gas entering the region.

“Until last year, the company was 50% owned by Gazprom, but the Russian producer divested its stake, reaching a final settlement earlier this year.” (ICIS)

SLOVENIA GIVES ENERGY PERMIT FOR KRŠKO POWER STATION: “The Infrastructure Ministry has issued an energy permit for the construction of the second unit at the Krško nuclear power station, a step that allows permitting procedures to begin and comes a week after the national climate strategy enshrined nuclear as a long-term energy option. The project will be managed by the state-owned Gen Energija.” (The Slovenia Times)

IN OTHER NEWS

OP-ED: Kosovo’s Klecka War Crimes Trial was No Joke by Dean B. Pineles in Balkan Insight

OP-EDHow Serbia Became China’s Dirty-Energy Dumping Ground by Vuk Vuksanović in Foreign Policy

OP-EDWhy we need to challenge genocide denialism in the Balkans by Ehlimana Memišević in Al-Jazeera

OP-EDGreece and Kosovo’s budding relationship by Klaris Fetahu in Prishtina Insight

ANALYSISGame on for the Premier League in the Balkans? by Marko Milosavljevič in Open Democracy

ANALYSISNorth Macedonia’s Greatest Football Club Faces ‘Darkest Days’ by Vlado Apostolov and Sinisa Jakov Marusic in Balkan Insight

ANALYSISSlovenia’s Media Faced With Hostile Rhetoric, Threats, Attacks, Analysts Say by Marja Novak in Voice of America