WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

POMPEO TALKS W. BALKANS IN GREECE: While on an official visit to Greece, U.S. Secretary of State spoke to Greek counterpart Nikos Denidas about cooperation in the Western Balkans. The U.S. Embassy in Greece released a joint statement with the Greek MFA that says, “The United States and Greece reiterate their support for the integration of all the countries of the Western Balkans into European and Transatlantic institutions according to the choice of their citizens. They highlighted Greece’s efforts to this end, noting the continued relevance of the Prespes Agreement and North Macedonia’s subsequent accession to NATO, while underscoring the importance of its consistent implementation in good faith.”

COUNTERTERRORISM CHIEF VISITS SLOVENIA: The State Department’s Coordinator for Counterterrorism Ambassador Nathan A. Sales on Monday visited Slovenia where he will meet with the Office of the PM, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Interior, and senior officials. The purpose of the trip is to “press European governments to take action against Hizballah by designating or banning the group in its entirety and promoting shared action against the terrorist organization,” according to a State Department press release.

BORRELL MEETS OSMANI: FM of N. Macedonia Bujar Osmani met with High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell on Monday in Brussels.

  • Borrell expects the “new government to continue to deliver on the country’s EU commitments, to sustain and accelerate the implementation of EU-related reforms. This concerns in particular rule of law, the fight against organised crime and corruption, as well as further strengthening of good neighbourly relations.”
  • FM Osmani tweeted, “The🇲🇰#AN green light demonstrated readiness for visionary decisions in the spirit of true #EU leadership. 1st #IGC start during @EU2020DE would strongly incentivize🇪🇺idea among #WB6

COVIC, DZAFEROVIC VISIT CROATIA: Croatian PM Andrej Pleknovic met with vice presidents of the House of Peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina- SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic and HDZ-BiH leader Dragan Covic. BiH’s FM, Bisera Turkovic, also took part in the meeting in Zagreb. They discussed the role of the three constituent peoples in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

  • Before the meeting, PM Plenkovic noted, “with today’s visit we are continuing dialogue on the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the status of Croats, certain legislative solutions, equality and here, I primarily think of the election law.”
  • He added, “We have a continued dialogue with representatives of the peoples in Bosnia and Herzegovina for some time now. I think that it is important to open communication with all the peoples in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Mr. Izetbegovic is a very influential person, particularly as the leader of the SDA.”
  • Chairman of the Presidency of BiH Sefik Dzaferovic said, “I see it as a meeting of party leaders. If so, and it is so, then the meeting is not harmful to Bosnian institutions. What happened earlier, Croatian President inviting one Presidency member and bypassing the Chairman and the institution of the Presidency, that was harmful to Bosnian institutions.”
  • He called for a meeting of the presidencies – “The best thing would be if we had had a meeting of the Presidencies. The policy of holding talks with national leaders, and we do not have the title of national leader, is something that is not good and such was the meeting with (Serb presidency member Milorad) Dodik because the Presidency was directly bypassed.”
  • This comes three weeks after Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency and leader of SNSD Milorad Dodik visited Croatia’s PM in Zagreb.

EX-KLA MEMBER IN THE HAGUE: Former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) officer Salih Mustafa became the first former member of the organization to appear before the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague. Mustafa declined to enter into a plea. He said, “I will not plea today, I will consult my lawyer.” Meanwhile, his lawyer, Julius von Bone, requested a “long or more precise indictment.” Mustafa has 30 days to enter a plea.

CROATIAN PM COMMEMORATES MASSACRE OF SERBS: PM Andrej Plenkovic and Croatian Serb political leaders Milorad Pupovac and Deputy PM Boris Milosevic commemorated a massacre of nine elderly Serbs in the village of Varivode on its 25th anniversary. PM Plenkovic noted, “This crime is an insult to modern Croatia because it insults human dignity, it tramples on those ideals for which the vast majority of  defenders fought, including Serbs who honorably defended Croatia.”

KOSOVO’S ECONOMIC RECOVERY FROM COVID BEGINS: Kosovo PM Avdullah Hoti announced that 87 million euro has been allocated for businesses and citizens. Of that total, 60 million euro will cover subsidies for unemployment, 12 million to double agriculture subsidies and 7.5 million euros for social assistance Click here to see the full allotment (in Albanian).

KOSOVO TO SET UP OFFICE FOR PRESEVO VALLEY: In the same press release for economic recovery, Kosovo will set up the Office for Providing Assistance to the Citizens of the Presevo Valley within the Office of the Prime Minister. It says, “Kosovo will be committed to take the necessary measures to facilitate and improve the lives of citizens living in the Presevo Valley in the field of education, culture and economy.”

CROATIAN PRESIDENT, PM TRADE BARBS OVER JANAF: “There appears to be no end in sight with regard to the public bickering between President Zoran Milanović and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković over the JANAF corruption investigation.

After President Zoran Milanović announced plans to shift the focus of his upcoming meeting with the prime minister from the appointment of Croatia’s ambassadors to the manner in which state institutions are being run, he once again said that he expects to talk to to the prime minister regarding several issues.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković gave a short response saying that these are senseless initiatives and noting that the only meeting they we will have, will be related to appointing ambassadors.” (Voice of Croatia)

JANKULOSKA ARRIVES TO JAIL: Former Interior Minister of N. Macedonia Gordana Jankuloska arrived at the Idrizovo rison to serve a four year jail sentence for her role in the Tank affair for abuse of power. She will join former Deputy Interior Minister Gjoko Popovski who is already in prison for his role while former PM Nikola Gruevski fled to Hungary to avoid prosecution.

REGIONAL LEADERS WEIGH IN ON ARMENIA-AZERBAIJAN: The past few days have been fraught with armed violence that could spiral into a full scale war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh/Artsakh.

  • Chairman of the Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic wrote a letter to Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev in support of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity.
  • Meanwhile, leader of the largest Bosniak party and MP in the House of People Bakir Izetbegovic added that the Azeri people have every right to defend themselves and territorial integrity.
  • The Croatian Foreign Ministry released a statement that reads: “Croatia is following with great concern the escalation of conflict at the Nagorno-Karabakh line of contact, which has already taken human toll and caused damage to the infrastructure. We call for ceasefire and return to talks mediated by the OSCE Minsk Group. Croatia supports all diplomatic efforts directed at reinstating dialogue and finding a peaceful and sustainable solution to the conflict.”

BOSNIA GOING DIGITAL: The UN Development Program (UNDP) and the UK Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina signed a Memorandum of Understanding to “launch a USD 5 million four-year digital transformation programme, which will focus on the introduction of new digital solutions, policies and services, as well as advancing digital skills and capacity in the public sector.”

  • UK Ambassador to BiH Matt Field noted, “The UK has significant experience as a global leader in digital government. As part of our commitment to supporting reforms in BiH, we want to share this knowledge to help transform the way governments in BiH work, increase their accountability to citizens, and better deliver the services citizens rely on. We have already begun to do so. And, this MoU is a public statement that we will bring together the UK’s digital experience and leadership with the local sector expertise and knowhow of UNDP as they launch the new Digital Transformation program for 2020-2024.”
  • Resident Representative of UNDP in Bosnia and Herzegovina Steliana Nedera added, For UNDP, digital governance and transformation in the public sector is a high priority and is a long-term priority. The digital transformation affects all parts of our society and all parts of our lives these days. We have always worked to strengthen institutional capacities for good governance but also work on the equal access of the citizens to services, strengthening the dialogue between citizens and their elected representatives and provision of good services. We are very proud today to formalise our partnership through this Memorandum of Understanding, aiming to work at scale and to deliver a comprehensive portfolio of support to our partners so that e-governance and e-services are available to all citizens.”
RAMA MEETS DJELOSAJ IN TUZI: Albania’s PM Edi Rama made an unannounced visit to Montenegro to meet with leader of the Albanian Alternative party Nik Djeljosaj who confirmed he spoke to PM Rama but did not reveal the contents of their discussion.
VISA FREE TRAVEL FOR CROATIANS TO USA: Total Croatia News reports that the country has reached the mandatory 3% or lower denial rate of visas to qualify for the U.S. Visa Waiver Program and could come as soon as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to the country on October 2.

MIGRANTS IN SERBIA: “Dozens of migrants from the Middle East and Africa have set up tents outside Subotica, a town in northern Serbia, with a view to sneaking over the nearby border with Hungary and on to Western Europe.According to the Asylum Protection Centre, there are around 1,000 migrants in the northern province of Vojvodina waiting to try to cross into neighbouring countries including Romania and Hungary en route to wealthier parts of the continent.

A further 1,000 or so were in Belgrade, many of them living in the open air in parks or on river banks before they also moved north towards the border.” (Reuters)

CONGRATS to Slovenian superstar Goran Dragic for leading the Miami Heat to the NBA Finals against Lebron James’s Los Angeles Lakers.
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