WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

CORONAVIRUS by the numbers:

  • BiH: 13,687 confirmed cases,  7,373 recovered, 394 deaths.
  • CROATIA: 5,604 confirmed cases, 4,861 recovered, 157 deaths.
  • KOSOVO: 9,869 confirmed cases, 5,480 recovered, 303 deaths.
  • N. MACEDONIA: 11,839 confirmed cases, 527 deaths.
  • MONTENEGRO: 3,588 confirmed cases, 62 deaths.
  • SERBIA: 28,099 confirmed cases, 24,459 recovered, 641 deaths.
  • SLOVENIA: 2,249 confirmed cases, 127 deaths.

POMPEO’S VISIT TO SLOVENIA: For the first time since 2001, a U.S. Secretary of State will be visiting Slovenia and the first bilateral visit of a secretary since 1997. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday, August 13, will meet with President Borut Pahor and FM Anze Logar. Pompeo and Logar will be signing the Joint Declaration on 5G Security. The trip will focus around nuclear energy and Western Balkans Integration. In a briefing on Friday, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Europe Philip Reeker noted that the 5G declaration will help protect the “privacy and security of the data of citizens both of Slovenia and the United States” as a part of a 5G Clean Network.

U.S. WORRIED ABOUT KLA LAW: U.S. Ambassador to Kosovo Philip Kosnett wrote on the U.S. Embassy in Pristina’s website that the law aiming to protect the legacy of the Kosovo Liberation Army will endanger freedom of speech in Kosovo. He underscored, “The fundamental issue at stake is that it undermines freedom of speech. While it would be left to the Kosovo Constitutional Court to determine whether this law violates Kosovo’s constitution, I believe at a minimum it violates the spirit of that document. Making it a crime to criticize certain classes of people, organizations, or historical interpretations, as this law proposes, would produce a chilling effect on free speech.” Moreover, he argued it would “open the door to legislation that would criminalize other forms of free speech, setting a dangerous precedent. Criminalizing criticism of any group or individual is a dangerous step, unintended though it may be, toward authoritarianism.” Read the full statement here.

DELAWARE NATIONAL GUARD TO KOSOVO: Members of the Delaware National Guard were sworn in and deployed to Kosovo on Sunday. Senators Chris Coons (D) and Tom Carper (D), Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-at large), and Governor John Carney spoke at the swearing in ceremony.

U.S. + KOSOVO + N. MACEDONIA + UKRAINE: For the first time in history, the 7th Intermediate Level Education Detachment located in Grafenwoehr, Germany, is hosting international students for Command & General Staff Officers Course Common Core or CGSOC-CC. Four field grade military officers from Ukraine, Kosovo and North Macedonia began the year-long course July 12 alongside U.S. Army officers to learn from each other and strengthen relationships. CGSOC-CC breaks down into three phases consisting of learning objectives, including intellectual development and growth, joint doctrine concepts useful to understanding and analyzing the international security environment, and strategic level military operations.” (Dvids Hub)

STATE DEPT.’S GLOBAL ENGAGEMENT CENTER: The State Department’s Global Engagement Center found that Russia meddled in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s elections. You can read the full report here.

HYSENI, VUCIC ON DIALOGUE: Leaders from Kosovo and Serbia will continue the EU-led dialogue on September 7.  Kosovo’s State Coordinator for the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue Skender Hyseni thinks the dialogue will fail if there is no agreement within 12 months. He said, “We expect an agreement which will include mutual recognition within 12 months or the process will fail. Everything we see at international level shows that this is a moment that Kosovo and Serbia must grab to make progress. Any delay means failure. I don’t know if Serbia understands that but if it intends to join the European Union it should.” Meanwhile, Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic wants to speak about creating the Association of Serb Municipalities “so we can see concrete steps and not just paper.” He added, “We want a true dialogue, not just them saying that we have to recognize them.”

IZETBEGOVIC WEIGHS IN ON RECOGNITION: Bosniak leader of the SDA Bakir Izetbegovic indicated it would be difficult to convince Bosnian Serbs to recognize Kosovo’s independence, but if they did, it would “increase appetites” for independence from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Izetbegovic noted, ““There will be lot of fuss and talk, which will eventually calm down and nothing will happen. Because the Serb side and Serb forces committed crimes and ethnic cleansing both in Kosovo and in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and this side got too much in Bosnia and Herzegovina through the Dayton Peace Agreement.” And added, “Anything more than that would lead to new conflicts and a scenario that nobody needs, especially not Bosnian Serbs. Genocide cannot and will not be rewarded with independence (of Republika Srpska), by no means.”

SERBIA + AZERBAIJAN: Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Friday spoke with Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev after it was reported that Serbia was selling arms to Armenia. Vucic described the deal with Armenia as the “wrong decision.” Vucic invited Aliyev for an official visit to Serbia and sent a special envoy to help arrange the meeting.

NO CONFIDENCE VOTE: Kosovo opposition party Vetvendosje began collecting signatures for a vote of no confidence in the Kosovar government led by LDK’s Avdullah Hoti. The motion is based on a humanitarian catastrophe due to Covid-19.

FROM PLAV TO DECANI: Montenegrin PM Dusko Markovic on Saturday visited Plav where he opened the new town square. He also announced the starting of construction of the Plav-Decani (Kosovo) road. So far there have been over 15 million euro in investments for the road.

SERBIA + CROATIA: Serbian PM Ana Brnabic over the weekend said Serbia is sending a message of peace and reconciliation to Croatia. She told Prva TV,”The relations between Belgrade and Zagreb are exceptionally complex, difficult, but we’re sending out the message of peace, reconciliation and that was the most important message in the speech of (Serbian President Aleksandar) Vucic during the ‘Oluja’ anniversary. And that’s that we want the reconciliation, peace – we don’t ask you to recognize the crimes, to apologize, to recognize genocide in Jasenovac, but let us just grief during those days.”

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: The United Nations found that 48 per cent of women in Bosnia and Herzegovina have been targets of violence since age 15. The perpetrators were male in 96 per cent of cases with the majority being intimate partners.

POSTPONED: The second Pride Parade has been postponed in Sarajevo due to Covid-19.

EU BOOST FOR JOBS IN W. BALKANS: “Thanks to a €10 million guarantee package financed by the European Union, businesses offering employment or training to young people in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo will benefit from €85 million in loans. An estimated 1,200 businesses will be able to benefit from these loans, which will allow them to create 1,300 vocational training courses, internships and employment opportunities for young people.” (European Commission)

DETAINED: A former Kosovo Liberation Army has been held in Turkey on an arrest warrant. Serbia accuses this person of committing war crimes during the Kosovo War.

DOMINO’S PIZZA + CROATIA: U.S. pizza company Domino’s opened its first location in Zagreb under the franchisee All About Pizza.

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