CORONAVIRUS by the numbers:

  • BiH: 9,767 confirmed cases,  4,555 recovered, 280 deaths.
  • CROATIA: 4,857 confirmed cases, 3,866 recovered, 136 deaths.
  • KOSOVO: 6,917 confirmed cases, 3,753 recovered, 169 deaths.
  • N. MACEDONIA: 10,086 confirmed cases, 460 deaths.
  • MONTENEGRO: 2,747 confirmed cases, 43 deaths.
  • SERBIA: 23,730 confirmed cases, 18,628 recovered, 534 deaths.
  • SLOVENIA: 2,082 confirmed cases, 116 deaths.

LAJCAK’S BUSY THURSDAY: The EU’s Special Representative to the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak, had a busy end of the week. On Thursday, he met with Marko Djuric and Skender Hyseni “expert level” discussions on missing persons and displaced persons. Additionally, he spoke to President of N. Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski on the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue and the formation of the government in N. Macedonia. The last image he posted on Thursday was with Acting Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Phil Reeker.

ON THE DIALOGUE: Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik asked Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic to link the status of Republika Srpska, a Serb-dominated entity within Bosnia and Herzegovina, to Kosovo.

HOTI ON THE DEFENSIVE: Kosovo PM Avdullah Hoti denied there are no secret negotiations and promised transparency in the dialogue process. In addition, he said that Kosovo would continue to try to join international organizations. Serbia’s president, Aleksandar Vucic, rebutted Hoti by claiming Serbia would restart its derecognition campaign and lobby against Kosovo’s membership in international organizations.

COVIC + VARHELYI: Bosnian Croat leader Dragan Covic met with the EU Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi via video call on Friday. They discussed economic recovery from the pandemic and Bosnia’s candidate status for the EU. Varhelyi emphasized the 13 points in the Opinion of the European Commission.

ELECTIONS IN N. MACEDONIA: The State Election Commission (SEC) announced the final results for the July 15 parliamentary elections – SDSM/Besa – 46 seats, VMRO-DPMNE – 44 seats, DUI – 15 seats, Alternative/Alliance for Albanians – 12 seats, Levica – 2 seats, and DPA – 1 seat.

MOSTAR ELECTIONS: Bosnian Croat leader Dragan Covic slammed the decision to hold local elections in Mostar on December 20 while the rest of the country goes to the polls on November 15. Covic wrote.a letter to Western officials. In it, he wrote, “Mostar cannot be an exception, especially not now when we have a firm agreement backed by a consensus, which gives the visible result. The simultaneity of the election and integrity of the election process are achievable only under harmonized conditions, rules and circumstances. In regard with that, we will not support any further exception for Mostar from general standards nor any attempt to separate the elections. We have waited for too long for this progress to accept some improvised and unreasonable decisions, which deviate from the law.” There has not been a vote in Mostar since 2008.

RUSSIA + SLOVENIA: “Russian Ambassador to Slovenia Timur Eyvazov has discussed the Slovenian-Russian relations in an interview for Večer. Asked about the reproaches during the term of the previous government about Slovenian foreign policy being pro-Russian oriented, he said he would not agree with such assessments. ‘Slovenia is a member of the EU and NATO and, as far as I know, implements its commitments as part of these organisations one hundred percent,’ Eyvazov said in the interview the Maribor-based paper published on Saturday. ‘At the same time, the Slovenian leadership has always understood, in our opinion, that good relations with Russia suit the interests of both the European Union and Slovenia,’ he added.” (Total Slovenia News)

SPEAKING OF RUSSIA..: Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova denied any Russian interference in the July 15 elections in N. Macedonia “absurd.” She added, “It was not difficult to notice a series of video messages posted by senior Western politicians during the election campaign in North Macedonia that openly and persistently called on people to vote for one or another party. Against the background of this foreign interference, speculations about certain Russian influence are absolutely unfounded and completely absurd.” News aggregator Time.mk and the ministries of education and  health were attacked by hackers.

SERBIA REARMING: Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin presented 56 new Russian-made vehicles. The UAV Patriots will be used by the military police and the army, among others.Vulin said 8 more would arrive before October. Meanwhile, President Aleksandar Vucic is aiming to upgrade the Serbian Air Force.

AHMETI SUMMONED: Leader of the Democratic Union for Integration Ali Ahmeti has been summoned by the Kosovo Specialist Chambers as a witness. Ahmeti, an ethnic Albanian from N. Macedonia, fought in Kosovo for the Kosovo ?Liberation Army.

GANG WARS: A Serbian citizen and Montenegrin citizen were killed in Corfu, Greece. The two are being members of rival gangs in Kotor and were gunned down in the assassination.

5G TO SLOVENIA: Telekom Slovenije announced it is bringing 5G to the small European nation.

ENERGY: “The Western Balkan countries are slow in using their potential in energy efficiency improvement, despite the fact that energy-saving measures could lead to additional investments worth EUR 2.5 billion and lower energy consumption in buildings by 40%, according to the Energy Transition Tracker. The slow pace translates to energy productivity in the range of 20% to 50% in the EU while the investment gap in energy-saving measures in buildings is widening. The Energy Community Secretariat has launched the Energy Transition Tracker to monitor the process in the Western Balkans. After details on the development of the power exchanges in the regionreduction of the pollutant emissions, and renewable energy sector, Balkan Green Energy News presents the latest results in the efforts to use energy more efficiently in the region.” (Balkan Green Energy News)

OP-ED: “The Fall of Zepa Showed Bosnian Serb Forces’ Cruelty” by Edward P. Joseph in BIRNOP-ED: “North Macedonia’s Success Story May be About to End” by Dimitar Bechev in Foreign Policy

OP-ED: “Don’t Leave the Balkans to Europe” by Reuf Bajrovic and Ivana Strander in The American Interest

OP-ED: “The Treachery Of Spreading Bosnia Genocide Denial In The Muslim Community” by Ernin Sinanovic in Muslim Matters

CULTURE: “Daredevil divers plunge from Bosnian bridge in centuries-old tradition” by Dado Ruvic in Reuters

TRAVEL: “10 of the best restaurants in Bled, Slovenia’s culinary bolthole safe for post-lockdown travel” by Robin Mckelvie in The Telegraph

TRAVEL: “Croatia’s Empty Pearl: A Dreamy, Tourist-Free Dubrovnik” by Clement Guillou in Le Monde

TRAVEL: “Discover The Croatian Road Less Travelled: Donji Miholjac” by Marc Rowlands in Total Croatia News