WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

CORONAVIRUS by the numbers:

  • BiH: 4,962 confirmed cases,  2,550 recovered, 191 deaths.
  • CROATIA: 3,151 confirmed cases, 2,196 recovered, 113 deaths.
  • KOSOVO: 3,356 confirmed cases, 1,874 recovered, 66 deaths.
  • N. MACEDONIA: 7,046 confirmed cases, 341 deaths.
  • MONTENEGRO: 781 confirmed cases, 315 recovered, 14 deaths.
  • SERBIA: 16,131 confirmed cases, 13,267 recovered, 311 deaths.
  • SLOVENIA: 1,700 confirmed cases, 111 deaths.

U.S. DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT: The U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services released its 2021 Defense Authorization Act. It supported U.S. efforts in the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue, encourages U.S. support of the Kosovo Security Force transition into an army that will be interoperable with NATO, and burden sharing of the KFOR mission.

LAND SWAP SPOKEN BY VUCIC, THACI FOR YEARS: Former U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton told the Foreign Press Association and Foundation on the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue that “there were indications as early as 2018 that the leaders (of Kosovo and Serbia) wanted to get these questions resolved…One of the things they were discussing was the possibility of a land swap.” He added in parts of Western Europe and the region there was “dismay” because of the domino effect it could have had in the region.

CROATIAN ELECTIONS RESULTS: According to preliminary election results, the center-right Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) won the election with 68 seats in the 151 seat parliament. Meanwhile, the Restart Coalition won only 43 seats and the nationalistic Homeland Movement garnered 15 seats, finishing third.

VON DER LEYEN CRITICIZED: Meanwhile, the Twitterverse criticized European Commission President Ursala von der Leyen for appearing in a video supporting the HDZ at the European Commission ahead of the elections. HDZ is aligned with the populist European People’s Party. Von der Leyen’s spokesperson, Eric Mamer, wrote on Twitter, “The President recorded a short sound bite for use in a video involving a number of EPP politicians. It was meant as a contribution in her personal capacity. Regrettably, this was not made clear in the final version of the video.”

DZAFEROVIC CONTINUES PUSH FOR NATO: Bosniak Member of the Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic responded to Russia’s Ambassador Petr Ivantsov’s comments that Bosnia’s NATO path will bring “into question security and stability” of the country. Dzaferovic noted, “It’s just the opposite. BiH’s integration into NATO guarantees the security and stability of our country, and statements such as this one made by the Russian ambassador seek to undermine that stability and security.” He hit back at Russian interference, “No one outside Bosnia and Herzegovina has the right to interfere in our internal affairs, challenge the adopted laws and decisions or determine our foreign policy goals, not even the ambassador of Russia. Bosnia and Herzegovina will continue its path towards NATO in accordance with the Law on Defense, the Foreign Policy Strategy and a number of other decisions, regardless of Russia’s position.”

KOMSIC HITS OUT AT RUSSIAN AMB.: Echoing his Bosniak counterpart, Bosnian Croat Member of the Presidency Zelko Komsic blasted Russian Ambassador Petr Ivantsov for interfering with Bosnia’s sovereignty. He said, “In this regard, I think we must be especially careful when it comes to Russia’s destructive role in this area, because the messages sent by the Russian ambassador are not harmless at all. What is perhaps good is that many in BiH today see that, and they used to condemn anyone who would try to draw attention to that.” And added, “He should neither be concerned about the NATO integration of Bosnia and Herzegovina nor does he have anything to comment on the decisions made by our highest legislative bodies.”

HOTI READY TO CONTINUE DIALOGUE: While at a press conference in Albania with counterpart Edi Rama, Kosovo’s PM Avdullah Hoti indicated he is ready for the dialogue to resume and is looking forward to talks with U.S. special envoy for the talks, Richard Grenell. He added, “If President Hashim Thaci resigns, the ruling coalition will find a solution.” Meanwhile, the Office of the PM of Kosovo said there is no legal deadline to appoint a State Coordinator on Dialogue, but the appointment will not be delayed.

SERBIA BETWEEN GREAT POWERS: Serbia’s top commander General Milan Mojsilovic met with the Chief of the NATO Liaison Office in Belgrade Brigadier General Tommaso Vitale to discuss upgrading cooperation in the Partnership for Peace Program and supporting the KFOR Mission. However, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic a day later confirmed the purchase of six Chinese drones for an unspecified amount of money.

SLOVENIAN OPPOSITION JOINS RULING PARTY: “Slovenia’s center-right ruling coalition sought on Friday to strengthen its tiny majority as it steers a recovery from economic woes caused by coronavirus, signing a cooperation agreement with an opposition party and two independent parliamentary members. The coalition led by Prime Minister Janez Jansa is composed of four parties and holds only 46 out of 90 seats in parliament after two members of a junior coalition party joined two center-left opposition parties in May, citing dissatisfaction with the government. The cooperation agreement was signed with the opposition Slovenian Nationalist Party, which holds three seats and has supported the government in most parliamentary decisions over the past months.” (Reuters)

JUST A DAY BEFORE…: “Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek does not intend to step down following yesterday’s house searches related to an investigation into alleged wrongdoing in the procurement of medical and personal protective equipment during the epidemic. He told the press today that he had Prime Minister Janez Janša’s full support to carry on.” (Slovenia Times)

WEST PALM BEACH + MONTENEGRO: No, Montenegrin officials aren’t visiting U.S. President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Montenegro on Friday wrote in a press release that it “strongly condemns yesterday’s protests, endangering security and property, as well as requests for the removal of state symbols in front of the Consulate building in West Palm Beach. Political messages and threats and ideas, which were heard during the protest, although far from Montenegro and its local ideologues and inspirers – SOC and its branches in our country, are just another sad, but also a dangerous demonstration of fanaticism, nationalism, clericalism and political primitivism of the lowest kind, which led to war and the most heinous crimes during the 1990s.”

COVID + SANDZAK: Despite top Serbian officials denying the situation in Serbia’s southwestern area, Sandzak, the military has built a field hospital in the region that can hold up to 150 patients.

ZAGREB PRIDE RIDE: Nearly 500 people rode bikes on Saturday through Zagreb in support o LGBTQ+ groups.

ELECTIONS IN N. MACEDONIA: In a poll published on July 2 , the SDSM-BESA Coalition (We Can) led the VMRO-DPMNE Coalition (Renewal) by 3.6 per cent with just under two weeks until parliamentary elections. We Can polled at 24.8 per cent, Renewal at 21.2 per cent, ethnic Albanian and junior ruling partner Democratic Union for Integration at 7.2 per cent, and the Coalition on Alliance for Albanians and Alternativa at 5.7 per cent.

WHO’S BUYING LAND IN MONTENEGRO?: Russians, Serbs, and Turks were the biggest property buyers in 2019 in Montenegro. Russian purchased land worth 39 million euro, Serbians bought 16.6 million euro, and Turkish citizens spent 12.7 million euro.

IN OTHER NEWS
OP-ED: “Srebrenica 25 years on: how the world lost its appetite to fight war crimes” by Julian Borger in The GuardianANALYSIS: “Russian interference in North Macedonia: A View Before the Elections” by Yordan Tsalov in Bellingcat

ANALYSIS: “BIRN Fact-check: Promises Fulfilled, Promises Forgotten in North Macedonia” by Sinisa Jakov Marusic

ANALYSIS: “Kosovo: Emerging Europe’s unlikely cybersecurity pioneer” in Emerging Europe

HUMAN INTEREST: “Brit soldier who raised £140,000 to help pay for life-changing treatment for Bosnian boy celebrates him turning 21” by Thomas Burrow in The Sun

SPORT: “Dončić Ready for NBA to Restart, Thanks US Ambassador to Slovenia for Help (Video)” in Total Slovenia News

TRAVEL: “Cultural Routes of Montenegro- Four Publications in English” by Antonela Stjepcvic in Total Montenegro News

TRAVEL: As Montenegro Airlines considers its future after grounding operations, CEO Vlastimir Ristic announced flights to Tel Aviv. This would be the longest route for the carrier.

TRAVEL: Spanish carrier Vueling will resume flights to Croatia. This month flights from Rome to Split and Dubrovnik will relaunch. A Barcelona – Dubrovnik flight will also start on July 13th.