WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY
CORONAVIRUS by the numbers:
- BiH: 22,544 confirmed cases,15,273 recovered, 680 deaths.
- CROATIA: 12,917 confirmed cases, 10,142 recovered, 208 deaths.
- KOSOVO: 14,446 confirmed cases, 11,033 recovered, 581 deaths.
- MONTENEGRO: 6,094 confirmed cases, 114 deaths.
- N. MACEDONIA: 15,2414 confirmed cases, 637 deaths.
- SERBIA: 32,136 confirmed cases, 398 hospitalized, 729 deaths.
- SLOVENIA: 3,389 confirmed cases, 135 deaths.
- Balkan Insider held a timely discussion with Serbia’s Director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija on the intricacies of the document signed in Washington,DC and meetings in Brussels. Notably, Djuric said he is meeting in Brussels on September 17 to see a frist draft statute of the Community of Serb Municipalities, who “untrusted vendors” are with regards to 5G, the Serbian Embassy, and more.
- U.S. President Trump’s Special Envoy to the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue Richard Grenell proposes the the U.S. Department of Energy will do a feasibility study on Gazivoda/Ujmani Lake. The focus remains on economic cooperation.
- The EU’s High Representative Josep Borrell expects Serbia to fall in line with EU policy. . He said, “The Commission is aware of the close ties between Serbia and the Russian Federation. Serbia is expected to act in line with its strategic objective of EU membership and the commitments arising from the accession process as well as the need for regional cooperation and good neighborly relations, in particular the need to make progress in the EU-facilitated Belgrade- Pristina Dialogue.”
- Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic spoke on the phone with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin about the Washington and Brussels meetings. A Kremlin statement wrote, “Vladimir Putin reaffirmed Russia’s position of principle regarding the development of a balanced compromise solution that should be acceptable to Belgrade and approved by the UN Security Council.”
- Meanwhile, Vucic told RTS, “I’m not pro-Russian, pro-American and so on, I am pro-Serbian” and noted Putin understands Serbia’s issues.
- In the same interview, he noted that it does not say Serbia can’t use Chinese 5G. On the energy diversification point, he noted that Serbia will purchase the cheapest gas.
- Kosovo PM Avdullah Hoti stressed on Thursday the goal of the discussion in Brussels are centered on mutual recognition. He said, “We clearly stated that we are starting the process to reach a final comprehensive agreement to fully normalize relations between Kosovo and Serbia. Full normalization can only be achieved through mutual recognition and we are fully committed to that. I see no other solution.”
- A statement from the Presidency of Turkey said President Erdogan held separate conversations with Serbia’s Vucic and Kosovo President Hashim Thaci. Erdogan discussed, “steps that will strengthen Turkey-Kosovo and Turkey-Serbia relations and regional developments.”
- Israel’s Ambassador to Albania, Noah Gal Gendler, says Israel will recognize Kosovo soon. He told Albanian media, “It will be soon, this is my opinion, but no date has been set.”
- Palestine’s Ambassador to Serbia Mohammed Nabhan offered his perspective on Israel’s recognition of Kosovo and Serbia moving its embassy to Jerusalem. He noted, “Pristina also surprised me, because the (Washington) agreement could lead to the withdrawal of the recognition of Kosovo by 57 Arab League countries and the Islamic Organisation for Cooperation.” And added, “We respect President Vucic and Serbia who we have traditional, friendly and deep relations with. I believe the President did not want to harm our relations and the Palestine issue by accepting that agreement.”
DAS PALMER + AMB. NELSON IN MOSTAR: U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State/Special Representative for the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer and U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina Eric Nelson yesterday met with the nine political parties that worked together on the Mostar Agreement. In a separate meeting, the Americans met with the “Mostar City Election Commission, Pod Lupom, and CCI and discussed the importance of conducting a free, fair, and transparent election in Mostar.” Finally, they met with civil society leaders on the importance of civic engagement and how it can help BiH prosper. In between all the meetings in Mostar, they found time to snap this photo in front of the world famous Stari Most, or Old Bridge.
VARHELYI ENCOURAGES MNE: European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi encourages the new Montenegrin government to “deepen and accelerate political and economic reforms, especially in the area of the rule of law, where the next milestone is meeting the provisional benchmarks in chapters 23 and 24 relating to governance rights.”
And Varhelyi adds on Serbia’s domestic politics … Varhelyi said, “We encourage the new Serbian parliament and government to continue, and you (the opposition) to take an active role in, the inter-party dialogue led by the European Parliament as a step towards moving forward EU-related reforms. It is for all parties to play a constructive role in this respect”
CROATIA’S SEARCH FOR FIGHTER JETS: Yesterday was the deadline for bidding for fighter jets for Croatia. PM Andrej Plenkovic said in a cabinet session, “Croatia’s goals here is to maintain its readiness, to protect its airspace in the interests of national security.” While President Zoran Milovanic noted, “As you know I never run from personal responsibility, if I were the prime minister, I would most likely chair the new commission to decide on which bid will be accepted. The president is called on in an advisory role here, just as is my national security advisor, who sits on the National Security Council, so there’s no need for me to give my opinion twice. The first choice should be the American aircraft.” France, Israel, Sweden, and the United States submitted bids.
CROATIAN MEP’S UNIQUE PROTEST: Croatian MEP Ivan Vilibor Sincic protested the situation of local farmers by dumping watermelons outside of Croatia’s government building. Sincic said, “We import food, we import over 90% of salt [though we are] near the Adriatic Sea. They [politicians] do not hear the voice of farmers, they do not hear the voice of craftsmen. They only hear when they are shouted at.” Mean while Agriculture Minister Marija Vuckovic labeled the actions as “theater.”
VULIN AWARDED BY RUSSIA: Serbia’s Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin was awarded Russia’s Federal Service Director Memorial by Ambassador Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko.
MIGRANT ROUTE TO ITALY: Italian Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese announced there would be stricter border controls on the Slovenian border after an increase in migrants entering the country in the region of Friuli Venezia Giulia. According to Min. Lamorgese, there were 3,059 migrants who entered on Sept. 6 compared to 2,104 in 2019 prompting the new controls. She warned, “Through the Balkan Route, criminal organizations easily modify their own routes, adapting themselves to the changes that are implemented little by little. As soon as we close one route, they find another one. We have to take action before the criminal organizations.”
TIK TOK RESTRICTS LGBTQ SEARCHES IN BOSNIA: “TikTok admits to restricting some LGBTQ and political hashtags from users in countries including Russia, Jordan and Bosnia. A team of researchers with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) found that words such as ‘gay,’ ‘lesbian,’ and ‘transgender’ were shadow-banned by the massively popular Chinese video-sharing social networking service.” (New York Daily News)
OP-ED: “Trump’s Serbia-Kosovo Deal ‘Middle-Easternizes’ the Balkans” by Dejan Jovic in BIRN
OP-ED: “What counts in Bosnia and Herzegovina and North Macedonia?” by Kristijan Findanovski and Valentino Grbavac in EWB
ANALYSIS: Trump’s Balkan Deal Prompts Cautious Optimism on the Ground” by Bojan Pancevski and Laurence Norman in The Wall Street Journal
ANALYSIS: “Croatia’s Digital Nomad Visa: A Progress Report” by Paul Bradbury in Total Croatia News
HUMAN INTEREST: “Slavka Lakcevic, a Community Story from Montenegro” by Slavka Lakcevic in the European Commission
SPORT: “Ivica Zubac opens up on Balkan crew hangout with Luka Doncic, Nikola Jokic” by Paolo Songco in Clutch Points