WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

CORONAVIRUS by the numbers:

  • BiH: 13,138 confirmed cases,  6,839 recovered, 379 deaths.
  • CROATIA: 5,376 confirmed cases, 4,589 recovered, 154 deaths.
  • KOSOVO: 9,274 confirmed cases, 5,190 recovered, 296 deaths.
  • N. MACEDONIA: 11,289 confirmed cases, 511 deaths.
  • MONTENEGRO: 3,361 confirmed cases, 53 deaths.
  • SERBIA: 27,033 confirmed cases, 23,104 recovered, 614 deaths.
  • SLOVENIA: 2,208 confirmed cases, 124 deaths.

ICYMI: Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and Special Representative to the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer joined Balkan Insider Editor Ryan Scherba for a webinar on current developments in the region. They discussed land swaps, democracy in Serbia, disinformation and misinformation in Montenegro and the region, coalition building in N. Macedonia, U.S.-Croatia relations, and more. Check out the full conversation here.

POMPEO TO VISIT SLOVENIA: Reuters reports that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel on Monday to Czechia, Slovenia, Austria, and Poland.

U.S. EMB. IN SERBIA ON CSOs: The U.S. Embassy in Belgrade on Tuesday released a statement in support of its work with civil society organizations on the heels of Serbia’s Anti Money Laundering Unit of the Finance Ministry announced investigations into the finances of select civil society organizations and investigative journalists. It says, “No government can provide all of the answers to the challenges it confronts on a daily basis. Problems ranging from disease to poverty to injustice are best solved with the input of other actors, including academia, think tanks, religious institutions, and civil society. Civil society organizations in Serbia have an important role to play in helping find solutions that will make this a more democratic, prosperous, and stable country.”

OPERATION STORM:

  • Croatian officials gathered in Knin to commemorate Operation Storm including Croatian Serb Deputy PM Boris Milosevic. Ahead of his arrival in Knin, Milosevic noted, “Going to Knin is not easy for me because of my personal tragedy and because of all the Serbs that lost someone in Operation Storm. But after 25 years, it is necessary to stop the hatred.”
  • PM Andrej Plenkovic arrived with a message of reconciliation. He said, “As a country that won a war that was imposed on it, with numerous innocent civilian victims, we regret all the casualties, especially civilians, and not just Croats, but Serbs and members of all other ethnic communities as well.” And added, “Finally, respects are due to every innocent victim, be they of Croat, Serb or any other ethnicity. Respects to thousands of innocent Croat victims from Vukovar to Dubrovnik … Respects to innocent Serb victims from Paulin Dvor to Varivode.” He expects war crimes to be denounced regardless of ethnicity. He noted, “We expect the same from all sections of Croatian society, especially from representatives of the Serbs in Croatia, who should also clearly condemn all the war crimes committed against Croats.”
  • Al Jazeera Balkans reports Defense Minister Tomo Medved will attend a commemoration in a village where six Serb civilians were killed after Operation Storm.

ELECTIONS IN MONTENEGRO: There will be six coalitions and six political parties on the ballot for Montenegro’s elections on August 30. Check out the full list here.

SDSM CLAIMS COALITION IN N. MACEDONIA: There have been conflicting reports about coalition building in N. Macedonia. Albanian language media in N. Macedonia claims that VMRO-DPMNE and DUI were close to an agreement that would see an Albanian PM for two years and a Macedonian PM for two years. But SDSM, which won parliamentary elections, claim it has formed a majority and is awaiting a mandate from President Stevo Pendarovski. DUI’s Bujar Osmani says no agreement has been made with neither SDSM nor VMRO-DPMNE.

VUCIC + BOTSAN-KHARCHENKO: Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic received Russia’s Ambassador to Serbia Aleksandr Botsan-Kharchenko. The two discussed bilateral issues, Covid and the resumption of high-level visits including Putin’s planned visit to Serbia, and the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue.

A TALE OF TWO AMBASSADORS: Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic received Ambassador of the EU Delegation Aivo Orav on his farewell visit and newly appointed Russian Ambassador Milorad Shepanovich in separate meetings. President Djukanovic thanked Ambassador Orav for the “exceptionally good cooperation” between Montenegro and the EU, especially with regards to opening all EU chapters. Montenegro will work on closing chapters 23 and 24 during the German Presidency of the EU. Ambassador Orav underscored the importance of the upcoming elections for Montenegro’s continued Euro-Atlantic institution. Meanwhile, President Djukanovic conveyed to Ambassador Shepanovich that Montenegro is ready to work together to normalize and strengthen bilateral relations between the countries.

HUAWEI + SLOVENIA: Huawei’s VP for central Europe and the Nordic Radoslaw Kedzia is seeking to speak with representatives from Slovenia after it announced it will sign a Joint Declaration on 5G Security with the US. Kedzia said, “Signing the Slovenia-US joint declaration on introducing 5G in Slovenia will not contribute to greater cyber security…There is no tangible proof that excluding one provider would ensure safer networks. But that would result in reduced competitiveness in the market and higher prices, paid in the end by consumers.” And concluded, “Huawei respects all the laws and regulations in countries and regions where it operates. It would never hurt the interests of any country and same applies to Slovenia. As of today, Huawei has not been involved in major cyber security incidents in more than 170 countries in which it is present, including Slovenia.”

SENTENCED: Former Skopje Criminal Court President Vladimir Pancevski was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison for misusing ACCMIS. The move was welcomed by the U.S. Embassy in Skopje.

CHINESE FACTORY CAUSES POLLUTION: A Chinese copper factory in Bor, Serbia, has caused over 3x the normal rates of sulfur dioxide in the air.

BEEFED UP BORDER: The Italian government announced it will send an additional contingent of soldiers to monitor the Italy-Slovenia border after a spike in illegal migration. Smugglers have turned to smaller border crossings after an increase in checks at major crossings.

SLOVENIA RESTRUCTURING COAL REGION: “The Ministry of Infrastructure has set up an online platform as the main communication channel for the activities related to the preparation of the national strategy for phasing out coal and the restructuring of coal regions.In accordance with the National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP), Slovenia must prepare a long-term national strategy for the restructuring and transition of coal regions, which will deliver a timetable for a just plan for the early closure of coal mine Premogovnik Velenje and phasing out coal in thermal power plant Termoelektrarna Šoštanj (TEŠ).” (Balkan Green Energy News)

IN OTHER NEWS

OP-ED: “Balkan Leaders Made Big Mistake in Politicising the Pandemic” by Aleksandar Brezar in BIRNOP-ED: “What makes a state a state? Why places like Kosovo live in limbo” by George Kyris and Agon Demjaha in The Conversation

ANALYSIS: “Serbia Turns the Tables, Investigates the Investigative Journalists” by Milan Nesic in Voice of America

ANALYSIS: “Spotlight on N. Macedonia: 10% income tax, high business ease and in the heart of the Balkans” by Elena Dimoska in EU Startup

ANALYSIS: “Germany Needs Workers from the Balkans” in Novinite

TRAVEL: “Famous David Hoffmann recommends Top Sarajevo Day Trips!” in Sarajevo Times