WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

CORONAVIRUS by the numbers:

  • BiH: 20,234 confirmed cases, 13,435 recovered, 620 deaths.
  • CROATIA: 10,414 confirmed cases, 7,735 recovered, 187 deaths.
  • KOSOVO: 12,683 confirmed cases, 8,788 recovered, 488 deaths.
  • N. MACEDONIA: 14,455 confirmed cases, 604 deaths.
  • MONTENEGRO: 4,835 confirmed cases, 100 deaths.
  • SERBIA: 31,482 confirmed cases, 579 hospitalized, 715 deaths.
  • SLOVENIA: 2,924 confirmed cases, 133 deaths.

MONTENEGRO ELECTIONS UPDATE: Montenegrin President Milo Djuknaovic conceded defeat to the opposition in Sunday’s elections and blamed Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic for stoking nationalism in Montenegro. He said, “President Vucic and Serbia’s current politics showed intentions to interfere in the internal political life of other states and trying to revive the Greater Serbia nationalist politics in the region. Both are extremely wrong and very dangerous.” He added, “Belgrade’s official policy, and that even the blind could see, was to try to create an atmosphere in which Montenegro would become a part of the Serb world in the Belgrade-Banja Luka-Podgorica triangle.”

CLASHES REPORTED ON TUESDAY NIGHT: Montenegrin media reported clashes between supporters of the outgoing government headed by the Democratic Socialist Party (DPS) and the incoming government. Leader of the coalition For the Future of Montenegro, Zdravko Krivapovic, called on supporters to celebrate at home and blamed the DPS for the violence. Leader of URA, Dritan Abazovic echoed Krivapovic blame game and called for supporters of the new government to preserve peace. He said, “We are the guarantor of a sovereign and civil Montenegro. We are the guarantor of a strong state of Montenegro, and weak crime and exterminated corruption.” Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador to Montenegro Judy Rising Reinke wrote on Twitter she was “worried” about the reports of clashes and noted, “All sides must engage peacefully & avoid violence – dialogue & the protection of minorities are key to #democracy.”

KOSOVO-SERBIA DIALOGUE:

  • An unnamed special adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump told journalists to expect no surprises or secret plans at the Sept. 4 meeting between Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo PM Avdullah Hoti. He said, “We are exclusively focused on implementing the agreements we have already agreed on – the airline, the railway and the highway. These agreements will allow us to build economic development.” But he added there was room to expand the talks. He said, “We will test whether there is a desire on the part of the parties to talk about these issues. I think we will present almost every issue, but it will depend on them whether they want to go further with that.” And concluded, “The United States has no secret plan.”
  • Kosovo’s PM Hoti told Klan Kosova, “We meet with Serbia only for mutual recognition. We do not meet for other things. On the advice of our international friends, in this case the U.S., we are sitting down to agree on an agenda of economic cooperation between the two countries and beyond the two countries, but everything is in the function of normalizing relations between the two countries which means mutual recognition.” He continued, “There is no other formula. We have made this clear from the first day in government, at the Paris Summit, as well as in the communication we have had with the main centers in the EU, but also in the US, because mutual recognition is the only solution to normalize relations in between the two countries. I believe that this kind of approach is now completely clear to our international friends.”

EU NOT UNIFIED ON CONDITION OF RECOGNITION: Slovakia’s Ambassador to Serbia Fedor Rosocha said his country’s position of nonrecognition of Kosovo has remained the same since 2007 – “territorial disputes shall never be resolved unilaterally and against the principles of international law, and so we still have no reason to change our perception of the Kosovo issue. On the other hand, Slovakia is clearly interested in the social and economic development of Kosovo, our development aid programmes have been present in various regions of Kosovo for years, but this does not mean recognition.” But he was encouraged his fellow countryman, Miroslav Lajcak, has gotten the dialogue back on track as the EU’s special representative to the talks. Slovakia is one of 5 EU countries that does not recognize Kosovo. The others countries include Cyprus, Greece, Romania, and Spain.

AND FIRST A TALK WITH RUSSIA’S AMB. TO SERBIA: Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic yesterday met with Russian Ambassador Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko to discuss preparations for the upcoming visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In addition, the two interlocutors discussed the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue, Vucic’s meeting in Washington this week, and bilateral relations.

N. MACEDONIA’S EU PATH: Deputy PM for European Affairs Nikola Dimitrov said the European Parliament will discuss the draft negotiating framework for N. Macedonia on September 8.

LEADERS MEET WITH W. AMBASSADORS: As the new government in N. Macedonia settles in, new ministers and leaders have been meeting with the international community. Speaker of Parliament Talat Xhaferi met with UK Ambassador to N. Macedonia Rachel Galloway. The two discussed bilateral relations amidst Brexit, cooperation in NATO, and the Covid-19 crisis. Meanwhile, FM Bujar Osmani met with German Ambassador Anke Gisela Holstein. The interlocutors discussed N. Macedonia’s EU accession and Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

AHMETI HEADS TO THE HAGUE: Leader of the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), Ali Ahmeti, tomorrow will be questioned in The Hague as a witness for questioning as a witness for his role with the Kosovo Liberation Army. DUI is a part of the ruling coalition in N. Macedonia.

VON CRAMON ON SERBIA: MEP Viola von Cramon (Greens) spoke to EWB on reforms the EU expects Serbia to make and how the European People’s Party (EPP) needs to get tougher on Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. She said she hoped there would be change after the EU responded positively to the Serbian oppositions request for an expert group to be created, but warned that if there wasn’t change it “remains interesting words on a piece of paper.” She expects Vucic to “show his commitment” to joining the EU if he is serious about joining the bloc. She targeted former President of the European Council Donald Tusk because he would blast Orban one day and praise Vucic another. She expects change from the EPP and noted, “Now we need to convince the EPP that their behavior is harming their own and the EU’s credibility too and sooner or later we need to confront Vučić with some tough questions.”

SPEAKING ABOUT VIKTOR ORBAN…: Slovenian PM Janez Jansa awarded Orban with a special commendation and award for Hungary’s support to Slovenia during the Covid-19 at a bilateral meeting in Slovenia. The two discussed the close cooperation between the two countries and “highlighted the importance of strategic cooperation in the Central European area.”

SLOVENIA + CROATIA: Slovenian PM Janez Jansa told Croatian counterpart Andrej Plenkovic in a meeting at the Bled Strategic Forum that Slovenia supports Croatia’s bid to join the Eurozone and Schengen Area. Plenkovic clarified, “Prime Minister Janez Jansa was very clear. Slovenia supports Croatia’s membership in the eurozone as well as of the Schengen area. I think that is good both for Croatia and for Slovenia.” He doesn’t think Slovenia would put conditions on membership. He said  “I think it is good that Croatia has a firmer, less porous border. That is good for all our neighbors within the European Union, most of all for Slovenia.”

N. MACEDONIA ARRESTS TERRORISM SUSPECTS: Three terrorism suspects have been arrested in the town of Kumanovo. The Ministry of Interior said in a statement they are “recidivists, ie. returnees, persons who have previously committed the crime of participation in a foreign army, police force, paramilitary or para-police group” and had previously served sentences for the crimes.

CROATIAN PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE ENDORSES BILL TO RECONSTRUCT ZAGREB: “The parliamentary Physical Planning and Reconstruction Committee on Tuesday endorsed a bill on the reconstruction of Zagreb and its environs following the March 22 earthquake with nine votes for and three abstentions, and the bill will be debated in the Sabor on Wednesday. The final draft bill for the reconstruction of buildings damaged by the quake in the City of Zagreb, Krapina-Zagorjre and Zagreb counties regulates a model of financing the reconstruction of the building structure according to which the government will finance 60%, local government will finance 20% and property owners will finance 20%.”

MASKS REQUIRED: Croatia’s Speaker of Parliament, Gordan Jandrokovic, on Tuesday announced that masks are now required, not just a recommendation, inside Croatia’s parliament. In addition, electronic voting with social distancing will be implemented from today, as well.

MIGRANTS IN BiH: A migrant was killed outside Sarajevo as two groups of migrants clashed after it was announced that two migrant centers would be closed in northwestern Bosnia. The person was stabbed during the violence. Minister of Security Selmo Cikotic said in a session of the House of Peoples of BiH that the EU has paid nearly 70 million euros to Bosnia since the beginning of the migrant crisis. He noted, “Yesterday, during the meeting involving representatives of international organizations, I received information from representatives of the European Commission that the EU has paid 70 million euros since the beginning of the crisis. These funds were mostly paid to the International Organization for Migrations. These are funds for renting space, salaries, for the procurement of food and other funds for migrants in reception centers.”

NEW HYDROELECTRIC STATION IN MONTENEGRO: “State-owned power producer Elektroprivreda Crne Gore got the right to build Montenegro’s first hydroelectric station in four decades and run it for up to 60 years. Hydropower plant Komarnica will cost EUR 260 million to EUR 290 million, more than in the previous official estimate. Minister of Economy of Montenegro Dragica Sekulić handed the concession document for the construction of hydropower plant Komarnica to Chief Executive Officer of Elektroprivreda Crne Gore (EPCG) Igor Noveljić. She said more than 150 GW of green energy has been installed in the past four years and that 552 MW has been contracted including the current deal.” (Balkan Green Energy News)

IN OTHER NEWS

ANALYSIS: “Nuclear cooperation can bolster US-Slovenia ties” by Olga Khakova in Atlantic CouncilANALYSIS: “Serbia, Kosovo leaders gear up for tough US talks” by Julija Simic in Euraktiv

INVESTIGATION: “Group America: A U.S.-Serbian Drug Gang with Friends in the Shadow” in OCCRP: “They’ve been accused of dismembering enemies with chainsaws, assassinating senior government officials and trading on ties with intelligence agencies. They’ve smuggled cocaine — tons and tons of it — across the world and now feed a sizable share of Europe’s drug habit. Yet few outside of law enforcement have heard of Group America. The decades-old criminal organization with roots in New York and the Balkans operates in dozens of countries, but its leaders have shown amazing ability to evade capture. Group America’s 60-year-old leader lives quietly but openly in New York. More than one senior police source has attributed the organization’s success to its ties with security services and intelligence agencies — perhaps even the CIA.”

CULTURE: “When Mucha Painted Bosnia” by Amos Chapple in RFE/RL

CULTURE: “Breaking Down the Four Walls” by Aubrey Simon in Transitions Online: “When strangers praise her as ‘normal,’ Montenegrin writer Kristina Cetkovic doesn’t take it as an insult but as evidence that the mere fact of her existence helps erase stereotypes. Kristina Cetkovic would write for hours on end, in marathon sessions that ignored meals and sleep. She finished the first draft of her novel, Within Your Four Walls, in just 20 days. After three years of rewrites, with edits from friends – psychologists, writers, activists – the Montenegrin author spent a year and a half pitching her novel, which features a lesbian protagonist, to publishers across the Balkans. Few showed interest, and none ultimately was willing to publish it. Undeterred by the apparent lack of interest, Cetkovic self-published her book, the first lesbian novel in Montenegro.”

CULTURE: “Interesting Story: Cabrina Tavern marked 102 Years of Existence” in Sarajevo Times

SPORT: “Tour de France: Slovenia’s Primoz Roglic wins the fourth stage” in France 24

SPORT: “Croatians Blaze the Trail in 2020 National Team Kit” in Nike News

SPORT: “Magic Johnson praises Croatia as he returns home: ‘The food was fantastic and the country is just beautiful!’” in Croatia Week

ENTERTAINMENT: “‘Oasis’ Trailer: Serbian Filmmaker Ivan Ikic Tapped Non-Actors to Tell an Underseen Story” by Kate Erbland in Yahoo Entertainment