WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

DON’T MISS IT!: Join Balkan Insider TODAY for a timely conversation on the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue with Serbia’s Director for the Office of Kosovo and Metohija MARKO DJURIC at 11:00AM EST, 5:00PM CET.

Mr. Djuric was a part of Serbia’s delegation to the White House meetings that led to economic normalization agreements signed by Serbia and Kosovo on September 4. Following the meetings in Washington, he travelled to Brussels for expert-level talks under the auspices of the European Union.

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CORONAVIRUS by the numbers:

  • BiH: 22,258 confirmed cases, 15,208 recovered, 675 deaths.
  • CROATIA: 12,626 confirmed cases, 9,833 recovered, 206 deaths.
  • KOSOVO: 14,377 confirmed cases, 10,926 recovered, 574 deaths.
  • MONTENEGRO: 6,094 confirmed cases, 114 deaths.
  • N. MACEDONIA: 15,293 confirmed cases, 634 deaths.
  • SERBIA: 32,078 confirmed cases, 407 hospitalized, 728 deaths.
  • SLOVENIA: 3,312 confirmed cases, 135 deaths.

KOSOVO-SERBIA DIALOGUE…WHAT’S NEXT?:

  • Suzana Vasiljevic, media adviser to Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, notes the move of the Serbian Embassy to Jerusalem is not set in stone. She said, “The moving of the embassy is not a final decision. The next steps will be discussed, but all that depends on Israeli’s moves” while noting, “we haven’t signed anything since that provision was not on our paper, it is on Pristina’s paper.” The final point in Serbia’s document says Serbia agrees to “move its Embassy to Jerusalem by July 1, 2021.”
  • But, Kosovo’s PM Avdullah Hoti claims Israel has already recognized Kosovo. He said “Whoever thinks this agreement violates Kosovo’s sovereignty is wrong. I think the recognition that came from Israel 22 minutes after the agreement was signed at the White House strengthens Kosovo’s sovereignty.”
  • U.S. Special Representative to the Dialogue Richard Grenell told the American Center for Law and Justice that the documents signed, including Serbia moving its embassy to Jerusalem, puts the region more oriented towards the West.
  • Grenell said, “Instead of looking at Russia and China, Serbia and Kosovo will turn to America and the Western businesses in Europe to start widening their economic sector. That means that many people in Serbia and Kosovo will work in the companies which follow the Western values and that will be passed on to their families over the years, and transform the region.”
  • CEO of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) Adam Boehler announced a high-level delegation will open the Belgrade office during the week of September 21.
  • Kosovo’s Minister of Infrastructure Arban Arbashi spoke to RFE/RL about the infrastructure projects agreed on in Washington. He said the highway projects are “intended to be funded by the DFC” and worth 390 million euros. He added a feasibility study will be undertaken in cooperation with the DFC on the Belgrade-Prishtina railway. Arbashi mentioned an air agreement is being negotiated with Lufthansa and will be done in record time. When it comes to energy, Kosovo aims to have a gas pipeline that would go through Skopje before heading down to Greece.
  • EU Special Representative to the Dialogue Miroslav Lajcak wrote on Twitter, “Today marks 10 years since #UNGA welcomed the readiness of the 🇪🇺to facilitate a process of dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. It’s high-time to bring it to a successful end.
  • Serbia’s Office of Kosovo and Metohija announced that its director, Marko Djuric, met on Tuesday with Russian Ambassador Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko and Chinese Ambassador Chen Bo. A statement on the Djuric-Bo meeting notes, “in the spirit of an iron and repeatedly confirmed friendship between the two countries and peoples, will continue to provide active international support to Serbia.” Meanwhile, a statement on the Djuric- Botsan-Kharchenko meeting confirms, “Serbia is counting on the friendship and help of official Moscow in that struggle.”
  • Russian FM Sergei Lavrov supports Serbia’s decisions, reports Sputnik Serbia. Lavrov said, “we will support every agreement that was voluntarily reached between Belgrade and Pristina.” He made a note to remind the European Union of the 2013 Brussels Agreement point that would see Kosovo create the Association of Serb Municipalities.

DAS PALMER IN SARAJEVO: U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and Special Representative to the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer. He met with Bosnia’s tripartite presidency members – Chairman Sefik Dzaferovic, Bosnian Croat Member of the Presidency Zeljko Komsic, and Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik.

  • A statement from the BiH Presidency emphasizes the consensus on the country’s European path, issues pertaining to Covid-19 and the migrant crisis, and the current political and economic situation in the region.
  • Dnevni Azav writes that DAS Palmer reaffirmed Kosovo and Republika Srpska (RS) are not linked. The Sarajevo news outlet quotes DAS Palmer saying, “Kosovo is a country and we have diplomatic relations with it. As for the RS, the framework for its political future was defined by the Dayton peace agreement and that is a future for Bosnia-Herzegovina which is independent and has territorial integrity.”
  • The Sarajevo Times reports that DAS Palmer on Wednesday met with three prime ministers: Zoran Tegeltija, the chairman of the BiH Council of Ministers, Fadil Novalic, the prime minister of the Federation of BiH, and Radovan Viskovic, the prime minister of Republika Srpska

DODIK CALLS FOR SESSION ON MINI-SCHENGEN: Member of the BiH Presidency requests an extraordinary session of the presidency to join the Mini-Schengen zone. The request notes, “The countries that joined this initiative agreed to issue joint work permits and recognize each other’s qualifications and diplomas without additional procedures, which would provide the possibility of movement of labour and with that increase the availability of labour, and thus the attractiveness of the entire region for foreign investors.”

MONTENEGRO’S NEW GOV’T: The Montenegrin opposition who won parliamentary elections came to an agreement on key issues. The parties agreed to continue its path to the European Union, increase cooperation with NATO, continue to recognize Kosovo’s independence, and keep state symbols. Read the full agreement here.

SERBIA BACKS OUT OF SLAVIC BROTHERHOOD EXERCISES: Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin announced a complete freezing of military exercises with international partners including Belarus, Russia, NATO, and the United States. He said, “In the coming period, we will not participate in any exercises or military activities with NATO, the CSTO, Russia, the United States, China, the EU, the East or the West.” but added, “The process of equipping and strengthening our army will not be stopped, and we will work to increase our combat readiness more and more persistently than ever. This is the only way to preserve military neutrality and this painful decision obliges us to rely only on ourselves and our own.”

ZAEV + VARHELYI: PM of N. Macedonia Zoran Zaev spoke with EU Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi about an economic-investment plan for the Western Balkans and good neighborly relations. Commissioner Varhelyi noted preparations were underway for an economic-investment plan to reduce the financial gap between between N. Macedonia and the EU. PM Zaev laid out the top priorities for the government including reforms the security system, public administration, and the judiciary.

U.S. ARMY + N. MACEDONIA: “Approximately 120 military members from the United States and North Macedonia participated in the U.S.-led exercise Reinforced Dam Sept. 1-7 at Krivolak Training Area in North Macedonia. Reinforced Dam is the first joint training exercise between the U.S. and North Macedonia since North Macedonia became a NATO partner earlier this year.” (U.S. Army)

CROATIAN FM IN ISRAEL: Croatian FM Gordan Grlic Radman concluded a two-day visit to Israel where he met with counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Speaker of the Knesset Yariv Levin, Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabi Ashkenazi and Minister of Tourism Asaf Zamir. FM Ashkenazi said Israel supports Croatia’s bid to join the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Meanwhile, FM Grlic Radman welcomed the UAE-Israel deal and noted support for the Middle East Peace Process.

CROATIA OFFERED FIGHTER PLANES: Zvonimir Frka-Petesic, Chief of Staff to PM Andrej Plenkovic, said the government received bids from France, Israel, Sweden, and the US for the procurement of fighter jets. According to N1, “Croatian Army Chief of Staff Admiral Robert Hranj said that Sweden has offered its new Gripen C/D model, while the United States of America has offered its new F-16 block 70, France has offered its used Rafal model and Israel its used F-16 block 30 fighter jets.”

BOSNIA’S SDA TO BACK KOMSIC: Leader of the Democratic Action Party Bakir Izetbegovic announced the party will try to break up the Croatian Democratic Union-BiH (HDZ-BiH)-the Alliance of Independent Social Democrat (SNSD) partnership. Izetbegovic said, “if I have to choose between (Bosnian Croat Member of the Presidency Zeljko) Komsic and Covic (HDZ-BiH leader), I will choose Komsic. He is a patriot and I will work to attract left-oriented parties and make the SDA a Bosnian and civic party.” He added, “If Covic continues with threats and cooperation with Milorad Dodik and pressures, then the Komsic case will be brought down to other levels of government. We’ll do everything to break all the mechanisms allowing for these things and we’ll make Bosnia into a normal country.”

IN OTHER NEWS

OP-ED: “Will there be an ‘October surprise’ in foreign policy?” by Daniel W. Drezner in The Washington PostOP-ED: “Serbia-Kosovo meeting is a reminder that US leadership in the Balkans is vital” by Janusz Bugajski in The Washington Examiner

OP-ED: “And Now For Something Completely Different” by Agon Maliqi in SBunker

OP-ED: “Serbia, Kosovo Must Commit to Credible Missing Persons Investigations” by Kathryne Bomberger and Matthew Holiday in BIRN

OP-ED: “Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Grabovica Massacre: The Soldiers Who Couldn’t Forget” by Nikola Bacic in BIRN

ANALYSIS: “Why Israel stopped worrying about Palestinians copying Kosovo” by Lahav Harkov in The Jerusalem Post

HUMAN INTEREST: “Nursing Grad Reflects on Her Journey to UK and the Support She Got Along the Way” by Hilary Brown and Brad Nally in University of Kentucky Now:”Serxhane Ajeti, a recent University of Kentucky College of Nursing graduate, is excited to embark on a career in nursing. But as she looks forward to the future, she looks back on her past and how she came to Kentucky. In 1999, Serxhane’s family were among the thousands that fled Kosovo during the Kosovo War, one of the conflicts of the Yugoslav Wars. With the continual sound of bombs overhead, the Ajetis knew they had to leave. Through underground tunnels, her family escaped overnight on foot to Macedonia. Though only seven years old at the time, Serxhane has clear memories of their journey.”

CULTURE: “Candidates for next Croatian Michelin star restaurants” in Croatia Week

ENTERTAINMENT: “Skopje Film Festival Kicks Off Five Months Later Than Planned With Open-Air Screenings” by Marina Lazarevska in Film New Europe