WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY
CORONAVIRUS by the numbers:
  • BiH: 16,111 confirmed cases,  9,856 recovered, 486 deaths.
  • CROATIA: 6,656 confirmed cases, 5,254 recovered, 166 deaths.
  • KOSOVO: 11,275 confirmed cases, 6,961 recovered, 390 deaths.
  • N. MACEDONIA: 12,840 confirmed cases, 547 deaths.
  • MONTENEGRO: 4,035 confirmed cases, 77 deaths.
  • SERBIA: 29,782 confirmed cases, 27,493 recovered, 677 deaths.
  • SLOVENIA: 2,429 confirmed cases, 129 deaths.

AMB. NELSON ON DAYTON, BRAIN DRAIN: In a new interview with Voice of America, U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina Eric Nelson spoke about the legacy of the Dayton Peace Accords but noted, “it is obvious that the BiH constitution needs reforms, and both Dayton and the BiH constitution need to be reformed. Why? Because the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina want to be part of the transatlantic community.” He added, “There is a whole range of constitutional issues that need to be addressed in order for the country to meet trans-Atlantic standards. Many of these issues are difficult to resolve, but none are impossible to resolve.” He cited the creation of a unified Armed Forces of BiH and local election in Mostar as two examples of success for BiH, though he warned that the slow progression has led to a large amount of brain drain. Amb. Nelson spoke how green corridors will help the region and ultimately attract foreign direct investment, but international countries that choose to invest in BiH will want their investments protected and fair which can be done through the rule of law and fighting corruption.

UK EMB. IN KOSOVO PULLS FUNDING FOR GOV’T AGENCY: The British Embassy in Kosovo is “disappointed” in the Parliament of Kosovo’s failure to appoint the Commissioner of the Information and Privacy Agency. The embassy wrote in a Facebook post, “A transparent and meritocratic process, supported by our Recruitment Project, had produced two suitable candidates. Failure to appoint either of them puts into question the declared commitment of political parties to implement the MoU with the British Embassy, but most importantly sends a negative signal to independent professionals in Kosovo and their hopes of contributing to Kosovo institutions.” It warned of breaches of privacy and data without a commissioner. The statement concluded, “It will also lead to the repetition of the recruitment process for the fourth time, and delay of EU funding for the Agency. The next process will not be supported by our Recruitment Project. We will not waste British taxpayers’ money on repeating processes that have been transparent and well run, and that produced appointable candidates.”

KOSOVO FM TRIP TO THE U.S.: Kosovo FM Meliza Haradinaj yesterday met with New York City Councilman Mark Gjonaj at the Kosovo Consulate in NYC. The pair discussed political developments in the Western Balkans and the role Albanians play. In addition, FM Hardinaj thanked Councilman Gjonaj for his commitment to promoting Albanian-American interests.

COALITION IN N. MACEDONIA EXPECTED: Party secretaries of the SDSM and DUI met yesterday to cement a coalition between the two parties. SDSM’s Zoran Zaev and DUI’s Ali Ahmeti are meeting today in the hopes of establishing a ruling coalition. A joint statement noted that the government could be formed in the coming days particularly with the Covid-19 crisis still spreading in the country. In a separate statement, DUI noted it expects a deal to get done today.

CRNADAK CALLS OUT DODIK: MP of the National Assembly of Republika Srpska, the Serb-dominated entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and former FM of BiH Igor Crnadak called on Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik to immediately withdraw his congratulations to embattled Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko. Crnadak said, “He should do so for the concern of the RS, for the future of our children, who should learn from an early age that abuse, repression of their people, and the purging and arresting the opposition are completely unacceptable. RS must strive for Europe, democratic achievements and Western value system, a system in which elections must be free and in which no one is allowed to threaten or blackmail citizens.”

SPEAKING OF LUKASHENKO…: Deputy leader of Serbia’s opposition party, the People’s Party, Sanda Raskovic Ivic compared President Aleksandar Vucic to Lukashenko. She said, “Without the opposition in the parliament… he resembles Lukashenko and similar dictators.” And added that a potential decision to call elections in 18 months would be to “reduce pressure” from abroad and within Serbia.

N. MACEDONIA’S FINANCE MINISTER UNDER INVESTIGATION: N. Macedonia’s outgoing Finance Minister Nina Angelovska will be investigated by the State Commission for Prevention of Corruption over a potential conflict of interest after withdrawing money from Euro Standard Bank before its collapse.

PLAV-DECANI/DECAN ROAD:

  • Kosovo PM Avdullah Hoti reiterated that the Plav-Decani/Decan will be built, but will be “respecting the laws of the state of Kosovo. Noise is not a solution for the concerns of our citizens, but work, engagement and respect of legal and constitutional norms.” He also noted, “Religious and cultural sites of all ethnicities and faiths in Kosovo are the common value and memory of our society and have survived for centuries due to the protection by the people of Kosovo. This is a commitment rooted in our tradition.”
  •  Decan/Decani Mayor Bashkim Ramosaj presented a 15 point plan which includes building the road within the Special Protective Zone (SPZ), replacing KFOR soldiers with Kosovo Police to protect the monastery, and amending laws on land rights.
  • Decani Monastery Abbot Father Sava Janic reiterated that the Kosovo Parliament and Constitutional Court ruled that the road cannot be built in the SPZ and the monastery should not be blamed.
  • Meanwhile, B92 in Serbia reports that the government and the Serbian Orthodox Church will organize a special team for the protection of Serbian spiritual heritage in the coming days.

HDZ COMMEMORATES 30 YEARS: Leaders of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and HDZ BiH commemorated 30 years of the political party at the Mirogoj cemetery in Zagreb. They placed wreaths on HDZ’s founder and first President of Croatia Franjo Tudjman and wartime Defense Minister Gojko Susak. Leader of HDZ BiH Dragan Covic noted “Today we want to express our gratitude to HDZ founder and Croatia’s first president Franjo Tudjman and the wartime defense minister for what they did so that we, as a people, could seek equality in Bosnia and Herzegovina and feel like a constituent nation.” And added, “Because of the need to join the EU and NATO and the need to make life better in Bosnia and Herzegovina, we need to look for new rational solutions and protect the equality of the Croat people in relation to the other two constituent peoples as well as ensure their legitimate representation.”

IN OTHER NEWS

OP-ED: “Why Serbia’s President Doesn’t Want a Kosovo Deal” by Austin Doehler in Real Clear WorldANALYSIS: “Bosnian Mountain Resort Enjoys Influx as Virus Limits Foreign Travel” by Nedim Dervisbegovic in BIRN

ANALYSIS: “Montenegro to hold elections amid coronavirus and religious tensions” by Nikola Djordjevic in Emerging Europe

CULTURE: “Kosovo, the coronavirus and the crisis of the wedding industry” by Arta Berisha in Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeurope

CULTURE: “Study Shows Endangered Dolphins Join Bottlenose in Slovenian Waters” in Total Slovenia News

CULTURE: “Belgrade gets pet cemetery by mid-next year, Deputy Mayor says” in N1

ENTERTAINMENT: “11th edition of Anibar kicks off online” by Antigone Isufi in Prishtina Insight