WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY
CORONAVIRUS by the numbers:

  • BiH: 15,801 confirmed cases,  9,619 recovered, 471 deaths.
  • CROATIA: 6,571 confirmed cases, 5,220 recovered, 166 deaths.
  • KOSOVO: 11,275 confirmed cases, 6,961 recovered, 390 deaths.
  • N. MACEDONIA: 12,739 confirmed cases, 544 deaths.
  • MONTENEGRO: 4,035 confirmed cases, 77 deaths.
  • SERBIA: 29,682 confirmed cases, 27,111 recovered, 674 deaths.
  • SLOVENIA: 2,416 confirmed cases, 129 deaths.

AMBASSADOR NELSON ON CORRUPTION IN BiH: In an interview with Voice of America, U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina Eric Nelson highlighted the arrival of anti-corruption adviser Eric Larson to Sarajevo is “a sign of growing concern” when speaking about corruption. He explained the U.S. approach is very holistic especially when it comes to civil society. Amb. Nelson voiced concern on the protection of whistleblowers and the corruption cases during procurement of respirators to fight Covid-19. He also noted that he sees “corruption as the main driver of the brain drain” and “It is up to the citizens to demand transparency, to demand an independent judiciary, and especially now as we prepare for elections, to hold politicians accountable.” There was positive news in the interview – Amb. Nelson cited recent work of the Office for Suppression of Corruption in the Sarajevo Canton government and the Supreme Court upholding 12 year sentences given to Hasib Bijelic and Emir Saric as positive examples of fighting corruption.

KOSOVO MINISTERS VISIT THE U.S.: FM Meliza Haradinaj and Minister of Justice Selim Selimi are on an official visit to the United States. They will meet with State Department officials, White House National Security Council staff, the Foreign Service Institute, Atlantic Council, Heritage Foundation, and Albanian-American organizations. But their first stop was at St. Mary’s cemetery in New York to pay respects to the Bytyqi brothers.

KOSOVO-SERBIA DIALOGUE CONTINUES IN THE U.S.: U.S. Special Representative to the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue Richard Grenell announced leaders from Kosovo and Serbia would be meeting at the White House on September 2, a mere five days before the two sides are set to meet in the European-led negotiations. The meeting was welcomed by Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaci and PM Avdullah.

GOV’T FORMATION IN N. MACEDONIA: A new government led by SDSM will be announced in a few days. Over the weekend, SDSM met with leaders of DUI and established coalitions principles and determinations of a possible joint future government. On Sunday, SDSM and DUI announced they were working on harmonizing a four-year program and determining who would lead which ministries.

GOV’T FORMATION IN SERBIA: President Aleksandar Vucic on Friday announced, “I would suggest two concepts. One is a simple coalition with one political party, I would not say which one. The other is, given that we are threatened by the wave of coronavirus in the fall and the situation concerning Kosovo, that in a year and a half we will go to parliamentary elections, so a kind of concentration government will be formed. If you ask me, I am closer to the first concept.” He said the proposal will come out soon.

DETAINED: Azerbaijan’s Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Serbia Eldar Hasanov was detained in Azerbaijan on embezzlement charges. The move comes during the same week Serbia’s Minister of Interior Nebojsa Stefanovic was in Baku.

ERICSSON’S 5G IN SLOVENIA: On the heels of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Slovenia last week, Swedish telecommunications company Ericsson wrote in a press release that it began to rollout a 5G network with Telekom Slovenije on July 23. Currently, major cities are covered by 5G, an estimated quarter of the population. Telekom Slovenije aims to reach 33 percent of the population by the end of the year.


SPEAKING OF 5G…: The U.S. Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina told N1, “Allowing unreliable, high-risk providers such as Huawei and ZTE to become a part of any network, be it 5G or any other, makes the major system liable to disturbances, manipulations and espionage, and it also exposes delicate governmental economic and personal information to risk.”

WORK IN DECANI TEMPORARILY HALTED: Work on the construction of the Plav-Decane/Decani road that will connect Montenegro and Kosovo was halted in Decani, Kosovo over the weekend at the request of PM Avdullah Hoti. The road has caused much contention between the municipality and the Serbian Orthodox Decani Monastery. The area surrounding the monastery is a part of the special protective zone (SPZ) and the Constitutional Court of Kosovo ruled the road cannot be built within the SPZ. Hoti’s government released a statement that said, “The legislation adopted by the Assembly of the Republic of Kosovo must be respected, as well as the decision of the Constitutional Court of Kosovo.” And added, “Understanding the direct impact of this road on the economy and quality of life of the inhabitants of the municipality of Decani, Prime Minister Hoti supports assessments of all legal and practical possibilities on the ground to complete this road that connects the Republic of Kosovo and the Republic of Montenegro.” The Mayor of Decan/Decani announced construction would resume in the SPZ today. NATO’s KFOR Commander Michele Risi held meetings with the mayor of the municipality and head of the monastery on Saturday.

KLA LAW DOESN’T PASS: Kosovo’s Parliament failed to pass the Draft Law on Protection of the Kosovo Liberation Army’s Values. Thirty-six MPs were present for the vote and thirty-five voted in favor and one abstained. The proposed law was criticized by U.S. Ambassador to Kosovo Philip Kosnett. In late July, he wrote on Twitter, “It criminalizes free speech, intimidates citizens, and is costly. It distracts from practical efforts to understand and teach Kosovo’s history.”

SPEAKING OF THE KLA…: Its veterans association submitted an initiative to parliament to amend the Law on the Kosovo Specialist Chambers. The goal is to include crimes committed by Serbs to be examined by the court. In addition, it calls for the court to have an office in Kosovo so KLA veterans can monitor the court’s work.

BATTLING DISINFORMATION: Four fact-checking organizations from the Western Balkans have joined Facebook’s Fact-Checking Program to identify and remove disinformation in the region. The organizations are based in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, N. Macedonia, and Serbia.

ENVIRONMENT: “Villagers in Rakita in southeastern Serbia have removed pipes installed to serve a new hydroelectric power plant on a nearby river. The local people, who were helped by environmental activists, fear the installation could devastate fish stocks in the Rakitska river, cause wells to dry up, and deprive livestock of water.” (Euronews)

AUSTRIANS LEAVE CROATIA AMIDST COVID FEARS: Austrian citizens on Sunday flocked to the border to return from holidays for fears of not being allowed back into their home country with cases on the rise in Croatia as the Austrian Foreign Ministry announced it warn against travel to Croatia today. Meanwhile, Croatian PM Andrej Plenkovic said Croatia beat the first stage and has to be responsible in autumn for a possible surge in cases. The Croatian Tourism Board announced on Friday that there were 820,000 visitors to the country, about 68% of the number of tourists on the same day last year.

SLOVENE TOURIST VOUCHERS UNUSED:  “Slovenians have used EUR 49,71 million worth of tourism vouchers between 19 June and 9 August, which is 14% of the amount made available as part of the government’s stimulus scheme, in place until the end of the year. The coast, mountains and spas have been the primary beneficiaries, while cities are continuing to struggle. The total value of tourism vouchers available to Slovenia’s 2.08 million residents is EUR 356.9 million, with each adult having EUR 200 and each minor EUR 50 at their disposal to pay for accommodation and breakfast in hotels, self-catering units, camps, agritourism farms and other similar facilities.” (Slovenia Times)

IN OTHER NEWS
OP-ED: “Kosovo is a test of Israel’s moral character” by David L .Phllips and Alush Gashi in The Jerusalem PostOP-ED: “Bosnia and Herzegovina’s regional challenges” by Muhamed Latic in Middle East Monitor

ANALYSIS: “Historic Polish, U.S. partnership continues in Kosovo” by Spc. Miguel Ruiz in U.S. Army

HUMAN INTEREST: “The Legacy Of Serbia’s ‘Spomenik’ Master” (in photos) in RFE/RL: “A look at the brutalist masterpieces of recently deceased sculptor Miodrag Zivkovic, who created some of Yugoslavia’s most iconic monuments.”

HUMAN INTEREST: “The ultrawealthy are spending millions to land secondary passports from Montenegro and Cyprus amid the pandemic” by Talor Borden in Business Insider

ENTERTAINMENT: “Bosnian musician Damir Imamovic awarded German Grammy” in N1

ENTERTAINMENT: “Sarajevo Film Festival Examines Wartime Solidarity and Struggle” by Azra Husaric

ENTERTAINMENT: “Nisville Jazz Festival opens online from southern Serbian city” in N1

ENTERTAINMENT: “Balkan Series Get Global Push With Sarajevo’s CineLink Drama Platform” in News Trace

TRAVEL: “Rixos Dubrovnik and the New Kings of Luxury Tourism in the Corona Era” by Paul Bradbury in Total Croatia News

TRAVEL: “Old Town Budva – A Different Perspective” by Helen Reynolds-Brown in Total Montenegro News