WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

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CORONAVIRUS by the numbers:

  • BiH: 18,609 confirmed cases, 12,336 recovered, 571 deaths.
  • CROATIA: 8,888 confirmed cases, 6,632 recovered, 175 deaths.
  • KOSOVO: 12,683 confirmed cases, 8,788 recovered, 488 deaths.
  • N. MACEDONIA: 13,914 confirmed cases, 578 deaths.
  • MONTENEGRO: 4,444 confirmed cases, 87 deaths.
  • SERBIA: 30,974 confirmed cases, 734 hospitalized, 707 deaths.
  • SLOVENIA: 2,722 confirmed cases, 133 deaths.

VUCIC + DODIK MEETING: Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic met with Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik on Wednesday in Belgrade. The meeting was also attended by President of the Republika Srpska (RS) entity, Zeljka Cvijanovic, and PM of RS Radovan Viskovic. Key takeaways from the meeting:

  • The Republika Srpska entity will not be linked to the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue and Dodik backtracked on calls for RS to secede from BiH. He said, “Secession is not on our agenda, but the implementation of the Dayton Agreement is.” And added, “We ask that the Dayton Peace Agreement and the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina are implemented, we want nothing other than that and we believe that it’s our obligation to inform President Vucic about it. It’s my obligation to defend Republika Srpska.” Vucic said Serbia fully respect the Dayton Peace Accords.
  • Serbia’s Vucic announced infrastructure projects including Serbia building an airport in RS and building a 17km bridge over the Sava River near Bijeljina. He also hoped to support an industrial zone in border towns. Finally, Vucic aims to harmonize the school programs which would include cross-border field trips.
  • Vucic announced Serbia would fund a memorial complex in Bosnia and Herzegovina for victims of the WWII-era Jasenovac concentration camp.

RAMA SUPPORTS DJUKANOVIC: Albanian PM Edi Rama released a video in support of Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic ahead of this Sunday’s election. Rama said, “It’s not up to me to judge what you (Djukanovic) have not yet done for Montenegro, I leave that to your people… What I can say (to the people of Montenegro) is that without a doubt what Djukanovic has done for Montenegro and the region should be the pride of every citizen of Montenegro.” Meanwhile, Djukanovic has accused Belgrade of organizing an anti-Montenegro coalition.

HOTI INVITES OPPOSITION TO WASHINGTON: Kosovo PM Avdullah Hoti has written to opposition parties Vetvendosje and the PDK to invite them to send representatives to join the dialogue team for the meeting in Washington.

MEANWHILE IN BRUSSELS: PM Hoti noted that economic issues will be discussed today in Brussels at a technical meeting as a part of the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue.

ZAEV SUBMITS GOV’T PLAN: PM designate Zoran Zaev submitted the names of nineteen proposed cabinet ministers and plan for the next four years for the government of N. Macedonia. Zaev said, “The program for the Government’s work fully demonstrates the dedication of all political parties that are part of the coalition for an uncompromising fight against crime and corruption, thorough cleansing of the judiciary and inspection of the property and funds of all officials. All coalition partners agree to committedly continue the implementation of the agreements with the Republic of Greece and Republic of Bulgaria that led to NATO membership and a decision for starting the EU accession negotiations, as well as the Ohrid Framework Agreement which is the cornerstone of the peaceful coexistence.” Parliament Speaker Talat Xhaferi noted that parliament will vote on the government on Saturday.

INFORMAL MEETING OF EU FMs: “Ministers of Foreign and European Affairs will have an informal meeting on Thursday and Friday to talk about Belarus, the EU’s relations with Turkey and Russia, and the geopolitical impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Croatia’s Foreign and European Affairs Ministry has said. Ministar Gordan Grlic Radman will attend the informal meeting, known as the Gymnich meeting, on August 27 and 28. The two-day meeting will be an opportunity for informal discussion of current trends and issues at the European and international level. On the agenda are the topics of Belarus, relations between the EU and Turkey, also in the context of the events in the Eastern Mediterranean region, relations between the EU and Russia, and the geopolitical effect of the coronavirus pandemic and EU’s strategic response, the press release said.” (N1)

TRADE TO BE EASED B/T EU AND W. BALKANS: The EU has agreed on principles regarding rules of origin in an attempt to increase trade with the Western Balkans and aid the economic recovery in Europe post-Covid. European Commissioner for Economy Paolo Gentiloni said, “We need to do everything we can to facilitate trade and economic activity between the EU and our neighbors in the Pan-Euro-Mediterranean area, and to promote regional integration.” Meanwhile, Djukanovic warned that the election results will make or break the future of Montenegro – it could continue along its Euro-Atlantic integration or fall “under the umbrella of Belgrade and Moscow.”

BiH + MONTENEGRO: Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro will open the Vracenovci-Deleusa joint border in October, three months ahead of the planned deadline. It will be open for international travel and freight traffic.

CROATIA ON DIGITAL NOMADS: Croatian PM Andrej Plenkovic announced his country is planning to amend legislation for the status of people who can work anywhere in the world with internet access. Croatia would be “one of the first countries to legally regulate the stay of digital nomads.”

IN OTHER NEWS
OP-ED: “Why EU’s Balkan Expansion Faces Long and Winding Road” by Misha Savic in BloombergANALYSIS: “Kosovo Political Parties Shun Campaign to Abolish Hague War Court” by Serbeze Haxhaj in BIRN

HUMAN INTEREST: “Boris Pahor, fighter against totalitarianisms, turns 107” in Slovenia Times: “Boris Pahor, an acclaimed Slovenian writer from Italy’s Trieste, a Nazi camp survivor and an outspoken fighter against all totalitarianisms, turned 107 today. While only last year he still attended a special event celebrating his birthday, an online event will be organised this year due to his health concerns. In a video posted by the Ljubljana-based publisher Mladinska Knjiga, Pahor points to the three main postulates for the 21st century – freedom, justice and truth.”

HUMAN INTEREST: “Little Mila returns home to Croatia after successful treatment in America” in Croatia Week: “More good news in the story about little Mila Rončević from Croatia who has been fighting leukaemia (acute myelogenous megakaryocytic leukaemia AML M7) and was given just a 1% chance of beating it.  A massive fundraising campaign in Croatia and abroad back in April last year helped raise $5.6 million to get her to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in the United States of America for urgent treatment. Now, after more than a year and three months, during which Mila had a successful bone marrow transplant which saw her leukaemia recede, she has returned with her parents to her hometown of Rijeka.”

CULTURE: “New wave of plant conservationists supported in the Balkans” by Oliver Avramovski in Bird Life International

CULTURE: “Orlovaca Cave: The hidden Beauty of Bosnia and Herzegovina” in Sarajevo Times

SPORT: “Luka Kovačič Climbs Slovenia’s 5 Highest Peaks in 14 hours” in Total Slovenia News

ENTERTAINMENT: Beyond Eurovision: Severina” by Costa Christou in EscXtra

ENTERTAINMENT: “Entry Level: Hinayana’s Casey Hurd Hears Slovenian Black Metal” in Invisible Oranges

TRAVEL: “Uneasy peace as pandemic calms Montenegro’s tourism ‘chaos’” in AFP

TRAVEL: “Budva Set Up Interactive Info Totem in front of the Old Town” in Total Montenegro News