WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

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CORONAVIRUS by the numbers:

  • BiH: 17,715 confirmed cases,  11,329 recovered, 532 deaths.
  • CROATIA: 8,175 confirmed cases, 5,801 recovered, 171 deaths.
  • KOSOVO: 12,448 confirmed cases, 8,505 recovered, 467 deaths.
  • N. MACEDONIA: 13,595 confirmed cases, 564 deaths.
  • MONTENEGRO: 4,313 confirmed cases, 84 deaths.
  • SERBIA: 30,657 confirmed cases, 29,028 recovered, 698 deaths.
  • SLOVENIA: 2,615 confirmed cases, 131 deaths.

KOSOVO-SERBIA MEDIA ON SEPT. 4: The White House postponed its September 2nd meeting between Kosovo PM Avdullah Hoti and Serbia President Aleksandar Vucic by two days. The meeting will be chaired by NSA Robert O’Brien and Special Representative to the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue Richard Grenell. Serbian media reported that President Trump may join the meeting if there is an agreement to sign. Meanwhile, former Kosovo PM Albin Kurti has called for Grenell to be ousted for pressuring Kosovo to revoke reciprocity with Serbia.

RUSSIA’S LAVROV ON THE DIALOGUE: Russian FM Sergei Lavrov released a statemnet on the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue. It reads, ““The dialogue is stagnating today but it has no alternative however much someone wants to cut the Gordian knot. Activities are intensifying in Brussels and Washington to move the negotiation process forward. Outside influence should be free of blackmail and arm twisting against one side while fanning the dubious appetites of the other side. The alternative to the dialogue is very dangerous for everyone.” And adds, “It can yield results only by taking into account the legal interests of the Kosovo Serbs and their concerns while respecting international law.”

DODIK WANTS BiH STATUS LINKED TO KOSOVO: Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik wants Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic to link the status of BiH’s Republika Srpska (RS) to the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue in a document on the “status of Serbs.” Bosnia’s Party for Democratic Action (SDA) rebuked Dodik’s assertion in a statement which reads, “Coordinated actions of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic with the RS authorities to connect the status of Kosovo with the RS entity in the current negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo represent a continuation of aggression against Bosnia and Herzegovina, with the aim of endangering its integrity.” Vucic took aim at the SDA – “They are forcibly trying to make an enemy out of a friend, which is a big mistake. And they have been doing it for a long time, not just since yesterday. I will not be their enemy no matter what they do and how they behave and I will always work on the best possible relations with Bosniaks.” But Vucic also told Dodik, “I will not interfere in your internal affairs.”

EUROPEAN DAY OF REMEMBRANCE FOR VICTIMS OF STALNISM AND NAZISM: Croatia’s PM Andrej Plenkovic laid a wreath at the Goli Otok prison and gave a speech to commemorate the victims. He said, “On the occasion of the European Day of Remembrance for the victims of all totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, we are today on Goli Otok to pay tribute, in this particular case, to the victims of the communist regime, a totalitarian regime which marked the history of the 20th century, as well as of Croatia and the Croatian people.” And added, “We are here for the European Day of Remembrance in the context of totalitarian systems. Deputy Prime Minister Medved’s visit to Grubori on August 25 with Deputy Prime Minister Milosevic is of a different character. It has to do with crimes committed, first of all, against the Croatian people in the Homeland War, and then, unfortunately, with several omissions, misdeeds against citizens of Serb ethnicity in Croatia. I think it is good that we show respect to all victims.” Meanwhile, Montenegrin Defense Minister Predrag Boskovic laid a wreath in Niksic for a similar commemoration.

NEW GOV’T IN N. MACEDONIA: Key posts are being filled in the new SDSM-DUI coalition. Zoran Zaev will have the post of PM while DUI’s Ali Ahmeti will retain the post of Speaker of Parliament. Meanwhile, outgoing FM Nikola Dimitrov will be a Deputy PM in charge of European Affairs. The government will consist of 19 ministries, 11 of which will be headed by SDSM. DUI will head 4 ministries and BESA and LDP will each run 2 ministries.

AHMETI IN THE HAGUE: DUI’s Ali Ahmeti is set to be interviewed at the Kosovo Special Chambers in The Hague on September 2.

ELECTIONS IN MONTENEGRO: Montenegro’s State Election Commission (SEC) President Aleksa Ivanovic said all legal preparation for the August 30 elections have been completed.

BOSNIAN PRIDE PARADE: The second Bosnian Pride Parade was supposed to take place yesterday, but was cancelled due to Covid-19. But the organizing committee will not stop pushing for reforms. They wrote in a statement, “Today, August 23, 2020, the Organizing Committee of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Pride Parade, together with LGBTIQ persons and supporters, says that we cannot continue to wait due to sluggishness of systemic changes. We exist and live in this country and demand laws, protection, security and equality. The Bosnian Pride is not a commercial event but a necessary political protest and an expression of resistance, as are other protests by citizens who are stripped of their rights. In this way, we once again point out all the institutional and legal obstacles that LGBTIQ people face continuously and on a daily basis. Through our actions and the fight for equality, we have encountered serious, unequal problems in accessing public space.” The international community

CARAVAN FROM SERBIA TO MONTENEGRO: The Serbian Orthodox Church organized a caravan from Belgrade to the border with Montenegro ahead of elections next weekend. The caravan also supported property rights of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

SERBIA IN NEGOTIATIONS W/ AIR SERBIA: Serbia’s Finance Minister Sinisa Mali said that Air Serbia is a vital company to the country and will assist in settling its debt. Mali noted, “Negotiations are underway with creditors whose details I cannot reveal, but what I can say is that we will certainly help Air Serbia. Together with our partners from the Etihad, we are working on solving the problem” when asked about a 56.5 million loan last September.

SERBIA DONATES TO RS: The government of Serbia made a one-time donation of 1,950,000 million euro to Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity, Republika Srpska (RS), under the Agreement on Establishing Special Parallel Relations between RS and Serbia.

MIGRANTS ON BiH-SERBIA BORDER: Bosnian Croat Member of the Presidency Zeljko Komsic argued that a key reason for the migrant buildup on the Bosnia-Serbia border is RS’s refusal to accept the Armed Forces of BiH on its border. Komsic said, “At the session of the Presidency of BiH on June 11th last year, Dodik resolutely rejected such a possibility, which continued the illegal crossings of migrants from the territory of Serbia to the territory of BiH. He actually invited migrants to the RS entity.”

RED LISTED: The UK and Slovenia have added Croatia to their “risky” list of countries. The move is sure to put a dent into Croatia’s attempts to salvage its tourist season. Over half of Slovenia’s imported Covid-19 cases are coming from Croatia between June 1 and August 23.

IN OTHER NEWS
ANALYSIS: “The Balkans are getting short of people” in The EconomistHUMAN INTEREST: “Bombings, shootings and death: Bosnian refugee on growing up during the Srebrenica genocide” by Rachel Nichol in Chronicle Live : “Smajo Bešo’s world was turned upside down when the Bosnian War against Yugoslavia started in April 1992 and his family became victims of ethnic cleansing. Smajo Bešo has fond childhood memories of growing up in the beautiful Bosnian countryside surrounded by mountains, rivers and a feeling of freedom. Growing up within a multicultural family and community, Smajo said that there was no separation between ethnicity, religion and skin colour.”

HUMAN INTEREST: “Girl beaten and has hair shaved off by Muslim family for ‘loving a Christian boy’” in Mirror (UK): “A teenage girl was beaten and had her 2ft long hair shaved off by her Muslim parents for ‘being in love with a Christian boy.’ The Bosnian girl, 17, was beaten and had her long locks shaved off by her parents, aunt and uncle for having a relationship with a Serbian Christian boy, 20. The ‘act of torture’ took place on Monday in the eastern city of Besancon, France and left her with bruises and a broken rib according to judicial sources.”

CULTURE: “World War I & the Slovenians, 1914-1918” in Total Slovenia News

CULTURE: “Restaurant Review: Balkan Café blends culture, family and food” by Mike Field in Jacksonville.com

CULTURE: “Coronavirus: Croatia’s culture capital Rijeka tries to salvage year” by Guy Deluaney in BBC News

SPORT: “Ivan Perišić becomes 11th Croatian to win UEFA Champions League title” in Croatia Week

TRAVEL: “A guide to Slovenia – Europe’s best-kept secret” in Travel Daily News