WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

CORONAVIRUS by the numbers:

  • BiH: 8,787 confirmed cases,  4,002 recovered, 364 deaths.
  • CROATIA: 4,422 confirmed cases, 3,183 recovered, 123 deaths.
  • KOSOVO: 5,877 confirmed cases, 3,069 recovered, 139 deaths.
  • N. MACEDONIA: 9,412 confirmed cases, 432 deaths.
  • MONTENEGRO: 2,381 confirmed cases, 35 deaths.
  • SERBIA: 21,605 confirmed cases, 16,392 recovered, 491 deaths.
  • SLOVENIA: 1,977 confirmed cases, 114 deaths.

VARHELYI + BiH: The EU’s Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement met with Bosnia’s leaders via video conference. He spoke to Chairman of the Council of Ministers Zoran Tegeltija about Covid-19, speeding up reforms and work on the 14 priorities, and the European Commission’s economic and investment plan for the Western Balkans that will be put forward in autumn. He stressed to Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik the 14 priorities, economic and investment plan, and the need for reconciliation, concluding agreements with Frontex. He spoke to Bosniak Member of the Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic on reforms for its EU path and the economic and investment plan.

EU BUDGET FOR NEXT 7 YEARS: After five days of intense talks, the EU’s budget for the next seven years is 1.07 trillion euro and 750 billion in post-pandemic recovery aid (390b in grants, 460b in loans). Croatia is set to receive 12.6 billion and 9.4 billion from the Next Generation EU instrument for a total of 22 billion euro. Meanwhile, Slovenia will receive 10.6 billion euro for the seven year budget, the highest it has ever received – see a full breakdown of funding here. Finally, the EU earmarked 12.5 billion euro for pre-accession funds for the Western Balkan countries.

SOC + MNE: Representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC) and the Government of Montenegro met on Tuesday for dialogue on the Law on Religious Freedom. The government proposed to change articles 63 and 64 of the law. Essentially, the changes in the law would entail the government having the burden to land ownership and Orthodox religious facilities can only be used by the SOC and Metropolitanate of Montenegro. In addition, PM Dusko Markovic requested all religious communities, including the SOC, to register with the state and act within the laws of Montenegro.

VON CRAMON IN THE HAGUE: MEP Viola von Cramon (Greens) visited the Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Special Prosecutor’s Office in The Hague. She tweeted that the institutions are “cornerstones of Kosovo fulfilling its international obligations and building up the rule of law.”

BOSNIA ONE STEP CLOSER TO ELECTIONS: Bosnia is one step closer to holding local elections in November after the House of Peoples adopted an amended 2020 budget with six amendments. The two chambers of legislature will convene to harmonize the budget and continue Bosnia on the right track for elections.

CONFUSION IN N. MACEDONIA?: Leader of SDSM Zoran Zaev stated that the We Can coalition (SDSM and Besa) will form the next government after securing two more seats in parliament than VMRO-DPMNE. Meanwhile, VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickokski says he will form a cabinet.

JANSA’S OPPOSITION: “The opposition have raised concern that Slovenia’s foreign policy might be changing course following unofficial information that PM Janez Janša sided with his Hungarian and Polish counterparts over the rule of law in the ongoing talks on the EU recovery fund, a charge that Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek denies. Janša had already dismissed yesterday the Financial Times report that Hungary, Poland and Slovenia were resisting the system that would tie EU budget funds to respecting fundamental human rights. He said Slovenia wanted the same standards apply to all member states.” (Slovenia Times)

KOMSIC + ISLAMIC COMMUNITY: Bosnian Croat Member of the Presidency Zeljko Komsic met with the head of the Islamic Community in BiH Husein Kavazovic. The two discussed relations between the Islamic Community and Catholic Church and political developments in BiH. In addition, they agreed they should Agreement between the Islamic Community and the state and to pass legislation on the  restitution of property to religious communities.

HYSENI ANNOUNCED: Kosovo PM Avdullah Hoti officially announced Skender Hyseni’s appointment as State Coordinator on Dialogue. Hyseni’s previous positions include the first FM of Kosovo and Minister of Interior of Kosovo.

OSMANI QUESTIONS LDK MEMBERSHIP: Speaker of Parliament of Kosovo Vjosa Osmani has begun questioning her membership to the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) after being ousted as deputy leader of the party a month ago. She said she would “remain politically engaged” with the LDK but “there is no room left for cooperation.” She said the future of her party membership “would require more time.”

CAUGHT IN THE CROSSHAIRS: The Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh flared up again last week leaving sixteen dead including an Azerbaijani general. The Embassy of Azerbaijan in Serbia sent a letter to Serbia’s Foreign Ministry “to clarify the issue of the use of Serbian-made weapons by the Armenian armed forces during the offensive on the Azerbaijani-Armenian border in the direction of Tovuz district.” Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry also summoned Serbia’s DCM in Baku. But Serbia’s outgoing Minister of Trade Rasim Ljajic explained, “Arms were exported to Armenia in 2020 by a private company, state-owned companies had no part in that. I can’t name the company but we know that it exported mainly rifles and pistols worth less than a million Euro in two shipments in May and June.” He added, “Every one of them (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Internal Affairs, and Defense, and the BIA) gives their view and only once the four of them have approved can we issue an export permit.”

TO THE SEA: To date, over 130,000 Slovenians have claimed their Covid-19 tourism voucher worth 20 million euro. The National Tourist Board of Croatia says there are 600,000 tourists in total, including 90,000 from Croatia alone. This is 60% of the occupancy to today.

BYE BYE COAL: “Ten units of coal-fired power plants in total will be shut down by the end of 2023 in BiH, Montenegro and Serbia as a consequence of the implementation of the EU’s Large Combustion Plants Directive (LCPD), according to the Energy Transition Tracker.The shutdown of the facilities with an installed capacity of about 1,000 MW will mean a temporary end of operation for thermal power plant Pljevlja in Montenegro and, for now, permanent closure of TPPs Kolubara A and Morava in Serbia. The Energy Community Secretariat has launched Energy Transition Tracker to monitor the process in the Western Balkans. Balkan Green Energy News published the details of the development of the power exchanges in the region, and now we reveal the activities that are underway to reduce the emissions footprint.” (Balkan Green Energy News)

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