WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

CORONAVIRUS by the numbers:

  • BiH: 18,029 confirmed cases,  11,861 recovered, 547 deaths.
  • CROATIA: 8,311 confirmed cases, 5,926 recovered, 173 deaths.
  • KOSOVO: 12,448 confirmed cases, 8,505 recovered, 467 deaths.
  • N. MACEDONIA: 13,673 confirmed cases, 568 deaths.
  • MONTENEGRO: 4,343 confirmed cases, 84 deaths.
  • SERBIA: 30,714 confirmed cases, 29,132 recovered, 701 deaths.
  • SLOVENIA: 2,665 confirmed cases, 133 deaths.

KOSOVO’S RULING COALITION MEETS, TALKS PRESIDENCY: Leaders of Kosovo’s ruling coalition (the Democratic League of Kosovo, Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, Alliance for a New Kosovo, and Social Democratic Initiative) met on Monday to discuss the upcoming White House meeting set for September 4. On the backdrop of the meeting, the parties also endorsed their leaders for the presidency in 2021 when current president, Hashim Thaci, will finish his mandate. It could be sooner if Thaci is indicted by the Kosovo Specialist Chambers (KSC) for war crimes.

THACI LOOKS TO EXTEND KSC: President Thaci is looking to extend the scope of the KSC. He said, “he politics should not interfere justice and justice should not interfere politics either. This was my conviction every time special panels and international courts were established over the last twenty years. And I still believe this now urging the Assembly of the Republic of Kosovo to extend the mandate of the Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office until a final announcement of the EU Council in consultation with the Government of the Republic of Kosovo on concluding the mandate of this court.” And added, “We need clarification the way the Specialist Chambers will close, therefore I believe MPs will support my initiative.” Meanwhile, leader of DUI in N. Macedonia, Ali Ahmeti, will be testifying before the KSC as a founder of the Kosovo Liberation Army.

XHAFERI ANNOUNCES GOV’T SESSION: Speaker of Parliament of N. Macedonia Talat Xhaferi announced there will be a government session today to draft a decision on the number of vice-presidents there will be in parliament. In addition, it will discuss the resignation of DUI MP Florin Besimi, brother of proposed Finance Minister Fatmir Besimi. PM designate Zoran Zaev noted he would immediately submit his proposal for government leadership and plan for the next four years to parliament when parliament provides mandates for MPs and announces VPs. *Note in yesterday’s edition of Balkan Insider, we incorrectly wrote Ali Ahmeti would retain his post as Speaker of Parliament. Talat Xhaferi will retain the post.*

SLOVAKIA + MONTENEGRO + DEFENSE
: Slovak Minister of Defense Jaroslav NaRd’ met with Montenegro’s President Milo Djukanovic and Defense Minister Predrag Boskovic. Djukanovic thanked Nad’ for Slovenia’s continued support and cooperation in NATO and Montenegro’s EU aspirations. Boskovic hoped the two countries will move forward with cooperation in the future. Meanwhile, Nad’ urged elections to be held in a free and fair manner without “interference of third parties” including neighboring states and the Church. He said, “We saw what happened in Montenegro in 2016, and I am convinced that because of that you have to position yourself well, and you must not allow third party interference. One more thing I have to tell you, faith in God is a personal matter for every person. It’s okay to believe in God, but it is not okay if the Church wants to interfere in politics.”

BiH + NATO: The Minister of Defense of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sifet Podzic, received on an official visit the Commander of the NATO Headquarters in Sarajevo, Brigadier General William Edwards on Monday. General Edwards was interested in the activities of the Ministry of Defense and the Armed Forces of BiH (AFBiH) in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the implementation of the Defense Review document. Minister Podzic and General Edwards also discussed the process of registering promising military assets and the implementation of Ministry of Defense of BiH tasks arising from the Reform Program.” (Sarajevo Times)

RUSSIA + SERBIA + DEFENSE: Serbian Chief of Staff of the Army General Milan Mojsilovic met with Russian counterpart Valeriy Gerasimov in Moscow to discuss the security situation in the region particularly on Kosovo. In addition, the Serbian Defense Ministry press release says, “The Army of Serbia (VS) Chief of Staff stressed especially the aid from the Russian Federation in equipping the VS with modern military equipment and training our flight and technical personnel on Russian-made aircraft.”

IRAN AMB.’S FAREWELL SPEECH: Ambassador of Iran to Bosnia and Herzegovina Mahmoud Heidari gave a heartfelt farewell message to Bosnia about the historical ties and great cooperation between the two countries during his tenure. He said, “After four years of my life here in beautiful Bosnia and Herzegovina, I’m about to depart the country as my mission is going to end shortly. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to all Bosnians who are such kind-hearted people and whose hospitality turned these four years into a memorable experience for me and my wife. Profound cultural affinity and historical ties have bound the two nations of Iran and BiH together. Such ties go beyond economic interests and materialistic motives and have manifested themselves under trying times.” And added, “I will leave Sarajevo hoping to see that the strong tree of friendship between the two nations of Iran and Bosnia and Herzegovina will continue to be evergreen and fruitful and will remain safe from ill-wishers and those of corrupt thinking, by God’s will.”

MEDIA FREEDOM IN SERBIA: “Marinika Tepic, the opposition Party of Freedom and Justice (SSP) deputy leader, showed to reports on Monday the contract between the state-owned Telekom Serbia and private Wireless Media company, based on which the latter owned by Igor Zezelj, received 38 million Euro from Telekom. ‘Including other Zeselj’s company Mondo INC… the contract is worth 38 million Euro of our money. That is a true crime, organised crime,’ Tepic told the news conference outside the Telkom headquarters. She produced the document which, according to her, confirmed what she had been saying for weeks – ‘the (Serbia ruling Serbia Progressive Party led by President Aleksandar Vucic) SNS (Telekom’s) management pays and buys media in Serbia with our money.'” (N1)

MONTENEGRO TO UPGRADE AIRPORTS: Montenegro’s airport operator, Aerodromi Crne Gore, plans to upgrade terminals at the international airports in the capital, Podgorica, and Tivat. The project is expected to cost upwards of 1 million euro. Around 400,000 euro will be invested to upgrade the business lounge at the airport in Podgorica.

FRANCE TO DEPORT BOSNIAN FAMILY AFTER ATTACK: France’s Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin warned the family of the 17-year-old Bosniak girl who was beaten and had her head shaved for dating a Christian boy would be deported after the court case. Minister Darmanin tweeted “They (the mother, father, aunt, and uncle) will be taken back to the border because they have no reason to be on our soil.”

IN OTHER NEWS

OP-ED: “Restoring America’s Role: What Could a Joe Biden Victory Mean for the Balkans?” by Visar Visar Xhambazi in Visegrad InsightOP-ED: “In Central and South-Eastern Europe, media freedom is under attack, and journalists are on the frontline” by Jelena Protoric in Equal Times

ANALYSIS: “Ratko Mladic Prepares to Challenge Genocide Verdict at UN Court” by Haris Rovcanin in BIRN

ANALYSIS: “Testing Times for Kosovo” by Kreshnik Gashi and Dorentina Kastrati in Transitions Online

ANALYSIS: “Migrants at center of political tug-of-war in divided Bosnia” in AP News

ANALYSIS: “The disappearing Balkans” by Marcus Roberts in Mercator Net

HUMAN INTEREST: “Eerie Belgrade exhibit turns Ratko Mladic diary into art” in AFP: “For nearly four years Serbian artist Vladimir Miladinovic started his day with a morning coffee and the diary of one of the Balkans’ most notorious war criminals, Ratko Mladic. Word for word, he painstakingly copied the notebook’s 400 pages by hand onto fresh white sheets, which now cover the walls of a Belgrade exhibit raising questions about how to confront one of the region’s darkest chapters. For the 39-year-old artist, the task was in part a ‘performative act of trying to deal with this very harsh material which we are still forced to deal with today, 25 years after the war’, he told AFP from the austere gallery on the banks of the Danube.”

SPORT: “FC Prishtina out of European competition after positive coronavirus tests” by Jack Robinson in Prishtina Insight