WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

CORONAVIRUS by the numbers:

  • BiH: 18,920 confirmed cases, 12,480 recovered, 582 deaths.
  • CROATIA: 9,192 confirmed cases, 6,595 recovered, 177 deaths.
  • KOSOVO: 12,683 confirmed cases, 8,788 recovered, 488 deaths.
  • N. MACEDONIA: 14,004 confirmed cases, 585 deaths.
  • MONTENEGRO: 4,499 confirmed cases, 88 deaths.
  • SERBIA: 31,099 confirmed cases, 696 hospitalized, 707 deaths.
  • SLOVENIA: 2,755 confirmed cases, 133 deaths.

KOSOVO-SERBIA DIALOGUE:

  • Heads of the the technical negotiations, Kosovo’s Skender Hyseni and Serbia’s Marko Djuric, threw accusations yesterday at each other after difficult talks in Brussels. The talks were expected to focus on economics and missing persons.
  • Civil society in Kosovo and Serbia have called for resolving the issue of missing persons at a press conference in Belgrade. They accuse politicians of not doing enough to protect witnesses, have professional investigations, and that the authorities haven’t done what they should have to bring closure to families.
  • Meanwhile, Kosovo’s opposition won’t join the delegation to the Sept. 4 meeting in Washington, DC.


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” Montenegro heads to the polls on Sunday for parliamentary. President Milo Djukanovic warns that the independence of Montenegro is at stake. Meanwhile, Montenegrin Serbs gathered in front of the main Serbian Orthodox Church in the capital, Podgorica, against the ruling party.

ZAEV TO FOCUS ON INTERNAL AFFAIRS: PM designate in N. Macedonia, Zoran Zaev, said his government over the next four years will work on improving the country. He said, “I expect a good debate and a majority, so that we have the new government next week. We will focus on solving internal problems, we will be a government that will focus more on working on the inside. Our priority is to tackle the coronavirus crisis, health, economy, education ecology. Fight for every job and for the survival of companies, control of the property of employees’ money, liquidation of the judiciary, commitment to the negotiation process with the EU and the environment.”

PENDAROVSKI EYES CORRUPTION: President of N. Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski hopes the new government won’t turn a blind eye to corruption. He wrote on his Facebook page, “The region needs a European perspective and co-operation on key issues for its stability and security. In the times of fake news and hybrid campaigns, the good news is that we have become a member of NATO, with joint capabilities to deal with disinformation. The basic prerequisite for success is to gather the most skilled people, regardless of their political or ethnic background. I expect to see people with strong pro-European and democratic capacities, with clear anti-corruption records.”

SLOVENIA + GERMANY: Slovenian President Borut Pahor met with counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier at a working meeting in Berlin. Pahor’s cabinet noted in a statement, “Slovenia has several identities; it is a Central European, Mediterranean and Balkan country and is committed to closer cooperation in that framework. New initiatives for closer cooperation are possible, but they must not contradict the aspiration for a closer, more united and efficient European Union and our active place at its core, in addition to Germany and France.” The two sides agreed to further cooperation on the bilateral level and within the EU.

EU DEFENSE MINISTERS MEET IN GERMANY: Slovenia’s and Croatia’s Defense and Foreign Ministers gathered with their EU counterparts at the 7th meeting of the Frameworks Conference. Slovenian Defense Minister Matej Tonin agreed with his Portuguese and German counterparts to meet regularly during Portugal and Germany’s EU presidency. Slovenia is set to hold the presidency in the second half of 2021. Meanwhile, Croatian FM Gordan Grlic Radman focused on the ongoing dispute over the Exclusive Economic Zone between Greece and Turkey. He said, “All member states expressed their solidarity with Greece and Cyprus, while striving to resolve the existing tensions, at the same time we have not lost sight of the fact that Turkey is an important partner in NATO and candidate for EU membership, and we will definitely try to find a solution that will be acceptable to all sides.” Both Croatia and Slovenia focused on NATO’s response to Covid during the talks.

SERBIA + LUKASHENKO: Earlier this week, Serbia joined an EU declaration on the elections in Belarus. Serbia’s PM, Ana Brnabic, hoped that its authoritarian leader, Alexander Lukasenko, wouldn’t be mad at Serbia. She said, “We must not forget Lukashenko’s friendship in those difficult times for our people. I hope Lukashenko won’t feel bitter about it.”

CROATIA REBUILDS ZAGREB: The Croatian government plans to send a bill to parliament to rebuild Zagreb after a devastating earthquake earlier this year. The bill plans to focus on rebuilding hospitals, schools, and private homes. When it comes to homeowners, the government will pay for 80% of the bill while the family is responsible for the remaining 20%.

QUINT RESPONDS TO DECAN/I: The QUINT Embassies in Kosovo released a statement on the construction of the Decan/i-Plav road between Kosovo and Montenegro. Representatives from the embassies met with Abbot Sava Janic of the Decani Monastery and Mayor Bashkim Ramosaj. The statement says, “We call on parties to strictly adhere to Kosovo’s laws, in particular the 2008 law on the Special Protective Zones, and to address any remaining concerns within the framework of the Implementation Monitoring Council (IMC), prior to taking any action. Furthermore, we urge the Kosovo authorities to implement the Constitutional Court ruling of 19 May 2016 on the land dispute case in Decani. Finally, we request the Government of Kosovo to expeditiously resolve the road works issue in accordance with the above.”

BILL SENT TO CROATIAN PARLIAMENT ON DIGITAL NOMADS: “The Croatian government on Thursday sent to parliament a bill of amendments to the Law on Identification Cards and the Law on Foreigners which should also regulate the temporary residence of digital nomads. The bill on ID cards, which is expected to enter into force as of August next year, has been aligned with European Parliament’s regulations strengthening security hence the new ID cards will contain a special chip with biometric identifiers showing the holder’s face and two fingerprints in inter-operable digital format. Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic explained that the age limit for permanent ID cards had been increased to 70 from 65. The new ID cards will also feature the typical EU circle with 12 yellow stars.” (Croatia Week)

MIGRANTS IN BiH: AP News writes, “Tensions are growing in the northwestern Bosnia after local authorities launched a widespread crackdown on thousands of migrants stranded in the area and set up police roadblocks to prevent more Europe-bound newcomers from arriving. Authorities in Bosnia’s Krajina region, which borders European Union-member Croatia, dispatched special police forces Wednesday night to a U.N.-run migrant camp near the town of Bihac to calm a protest by 1,000 migrants over alleged police beating of a homeless migrant.”

IN OTHER NEWS

ANALYSIS: “Disinformation about Belarus spreads in the Balkans via online portals and social media” in Global Voices

ANALYSIS: “The Silent Balkan Killers” by Vidi Vaka in Transitions Online: “Smoke and dust choke the air around some of Europe’s dirtiest power plants, contributing to thousands of annual deaths. ‘Some mornings I can’t inhale because of the strong smell. Sometimes it seems that everything around us is full of dust – dust we know comes from digging in the coal mine!’ This is how a young man from Novaci, a village in the southern part of North Macedonia, describes life next door to MEC Bitola, the combined lignite mine and power station that produces up to 80 percent of the electricity used in the country. Here, electricity is produced in the cheapest, but at the same time dirtiest way, by burning lignite – the lowest quality coal.”

ANALYSIS: “This European Country Has Some of the World’s Worst Air, and ‘It’s Too Expensive’ to Fix” by Jana Cholakovska in Vice News

ANALYSIS: “Solar power is becoming more affordable for firms, households in Serbia” in Balkan Green Energy News

CULTURE: “Historic foods: The story of polenta and its journey from poor man’s food to classy delicacy” by Mihai Andrei in ZME Science