WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

CORONAVIRUS by the numbers:

  • BiH: 19,793 confirmed cases, 12,968 recovered, 598 deaths.
  • CROATIA: 10,123 confirmed cases, 7,212 recovered, 184 deaths.
  • KOSOVO: 12,683 confirmed cases, 8,788 recovered, 488 deaths.
  • N. MACEDONIA: 14,330 confirmed cases, 600 deaths.
  • MONTENEGRO: 4,790 confirmed cases, 98 deaths.
  • SERBIA: 31,365 confirmed cases, 626 hospitalized, 711 deaths.
  • SLOVENIA: 2,865 confirmed cases, 133 deaths.

MONTENEGRIN ELECTION RESULTS: Elections are tight in Montenegro’s parliamentary race. With 95 per cent of the vote counted, the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) won 30 seats, the For a Better Future coalition holds 27 seats, the Peace is our Nation coalition won 10 seats, while the United Reform Action (URA) won 4 seats. The leader of the DPS and President of Montenegro Milo Djukanovic says his party would have 40 seats in the 81 seat parliament with traditional coalition partners. Meanwhile, leader of the URA Dritan Abazovic will back the opposition coalition and urges for an expert government to lead the country. URA’s role as kingmaker would oust the pro-Western DPS from power after 30 years for a more Belgrade-Moscow leaning government.

SEN. DOLE STATUE: Authorities in Kosovo’s capital, Pristina, unveiled a statue dedicated to U.S. Senator Bob Dole. PM Avdullah Hoti attended the ceremony and thanked Senator Dole for his visit to Pristina 30 years ago and continued support for Kosovo. Senator Dole sent a video message and also wrote on Twitter, “30 years ago today, my colleagues and I traveled to Pristina for the first time. None of us could have known it was the beginning of a journey to independence for the people of Kosova.”

KOSOVO-SERBIA DIALOGUE:

  • Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said he expects surprises at the White House meeting scheduled on for this week. Vucic confirmed, “The meeting in Washington will take place on the 3rd, while the September 4th meeting is conditional – meetings at the highest level will happen if they (cf. the hosts) are satisfied.” He also added he could reject meeting with President Trump should an ultimatum be put on the table. He said, “If I accept that and if I am right that there will be surprises – when it comes to the demands presented to Serbia. If I accept that, I believe that I would be the first Serb and the first Serb president who could have, not only a meeting with Avdullah Hoti and Trump, but also a bilateral meeting with Trump. Since I believe I know what that surprise could be, I sense that, and not because I have data – most likely I will refuse it and that meeting will not take place”
  • Trump’s special envoy for the dialogue, Richard Grenell, clashed with former Obama Special Assistant and Spokesperson for the NSC, Ned Price, on Twitter. Price said the dialogue “failed spectacularly.” Meanwhile, Grenell responded, “Kosovo and Serbia negotiations are at the White House next week. Your team ignored the people of Serbia and Kosovo for 8 years.”

ZAEV GOV’T CONFIRMED: The Parliament of N. Macedonia confirmed Zoran Zaev’s government over the weekend. The government will consist of 19 ministries. For the first time, an ethnic Albanian will hold the post of FM.

DODIK AGAINST INT’L OBSERVERS?: Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik announced that elections are completely sovereign and should not be overseen by an international organizations. He said, “Elections are one of the most sovereign matters. Elections are a matter of domestic processes, but we have a practice that some institutions, like those from the US, will have an insight into the list of voters, the financing of political parties, the use of public resources… through a possibly signed agreement.” And added, “That’s the first step towards full control over the election process, with an aim to manipulate with the will of people, which is unacceptable.”

EUFOR MILITARY EXERCISES START IN BiH: The EU’s military force in Bosnia and Herzegovina, EUFOR, yesterday held its opening ceremony for the annual Quick Response exercise.

BLOOD SAMPLES TO IDENTIFY MISSING: “The European Union’s mission in Kosovo on Sunday called on ethnic Albanians in the country to give blood samples to help identify the remains of people missing for more than two decades since they were taken away by Serb police and paramilitary forces. The EU Rule of Law Mission, or EULEX, established in Kosovo after the 2008 independence declaration, made the call on the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances. Kosovar authorities say 1,643 ethnic Albanians are still unaccounted-for since the 1998-1999 armed uprising by ethnic Albanian separatists that led to a bloody Serb crackdown and an international humanitarian crisis. It ended after a NATO bombing campaign.” (AP News)

CROATIAN ECONOMY TEETERING: The Croatian government is set to take six measures to help save the Croatian economy after it dropped 15% in the second quarter. Measures include: a shortened working week, favorable loans for businesses, building hospitals and schools in Zagreb, tax relief, increased salaries after talks with unions, and investments. The government will have a blueprint drafted for economic recovery by October 15.

BLED STRATEGIC FORUM: “The 15th Bled Strategic Forum (BSF) will be very different from previous iterations of Slovenia’s flagship foreign policy event. Restrictions will be in place to help prevent the spread of coronavirus and some panels will be held online. But Peter Grk, the BSF secretary general, notes that the line-up will nevertheless be ‘exceptional’. Peter Grk, secretary general of the Bled Strategic Forum ‘We’re trying to show that in these altered circumstances, it is possible to organise an event such as the BSF,’ Grk told the STA, noting that flexibility was one of the hallmarks of BSF, ‘as is the quest for innovative answers and solutions to this constant changeability of the world.'” (Slovenia Times)

FIAT TO RESTART OPERATIONS IN SERBIA: “Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) will resume operations at its assembly plant in Serbia in September, eKapija reported on August 28. FCA closed the plant in Kragujevac in mid-February because of a shortage of parts from China due to coronavirus (COVID-19)-related trade restrictions and re-opened it on July 7. However, two weeks later, the company sent the workers on paid leave until the end of August due to market conditions. On August 31 and September 1, the factory will carry out preparatory works before beginning working at full capacity on September 2.” (Bne Intellinews)

ARRESTED: Canadian police arrested Slovenian businessman Sergej Racman for suspicion of involvement in a sex trafficking ring.

IN OTHER NEWS
OP-ED: “Building on history, Serbia is modernizing its partnership with Israel” by Serbia’s outgoing PM Ana Brnabic in The Jerusalem PostANALYSIS: “Even ‘Proud Friend’ Serbia Is Silent As EU’s Balkan Aspirants Cautious About Belarus” by Andy Heil and Iva Martinovic in RFE/RL

ANALYSIS: “Belgrade’s New Game: Scapegoating Russia and Courting Europe” by Vuk Vuksanovic in War on the Rocks

BACKGRONUD ON MONTENEGRO’S ELECTION:

HUMAN INTEREST: “Five years on, Balkans still a road of hope for migrants” in AFPCULTURE: “831st Anniversary of the Signing of the Charter of Kulin Ban marked in Sarajevo” in Sarajevo Times

SPORT: “Jusuf Nurkic, Mario Hezonja break bread with Balkan boys inside NBA Bubble” NBC Sports NW

SPORT: “Kosovo denounces burning of Greek flag by soccer fans” in AP News: “Kosovo denounced on Friday the burning of a Greek flag by local soccer fans whose club lost a Europa League qualifying match against a team from Cyprus. Fans burned the flag on Thursday in the city of Pristina, where SC Gjilani lost to APOEL Nicosia 2-0 and was eliminated from the competition.”