WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

CORONAVIRUS by the numbers:

  • BiH: 20,804 confirmed cases, 14,120 recovered, 635 deaths.
  • CROATIA: 11,094 confirmed cases, 8,266 recovered, 194 deaths.
  • KOSOVO: 12,683 confirmed cases, 8,788 recovered, 488 deaths.
  • N. MACEDONIA: 14,762 confirmed cases, 606 deaths.
  • MONTENEGRO: 5,165 confirmed cases, 104 deaths.
  • SERBIA: 31,676 confirmed cases, 545 hospitalized, 718 deaths.
  • SLOVENIA: 3,032 confirmed cases, 134 deaths.

KOSOVO-SERBIA TALKS IN WASHINGTON: NSA Robert O’Brien and special envoy Richard Grenell hosted delegations led Kosovo’s PM Avdullah Hoti and Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic. Representatives from the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, Millennium Challenge Corporation, and EXIM bank were present at the meetings.Talks are set to resume today. Key quotes takeaways:

  • “The leaders of Serbia and Kosovo are already making progress. Our conversations this morning centered on bolstering economic ties and economic normalization. Looking forward to further discussion this afternoon,” said NSA Robert O’Brien
  • A sixteen point plan was presented to the two sides that included recognition of Kosovo in point ten. President Vucic remains adamant that recognition is not on the table., “Serbia should not be afraid about the recognition of Kosovo. It won’t happen. Full stop.” And added, “agreements which are unacceptable for Kosovo have never come nor will come out of the White House. We have made a big improvement in economic cooperation, and we are a step closer to end this issue. Everything we talk about with Serbia relates to recognition. The question of (the borders) has not been mentioned neither would it be ever.”
  • Special envoy Richard Grenell took to Twitter to deny that Serbia recognizing Kosovo was a part of the sixteen point plan by simply replying to a Tweet saying “Not true.”
  • Meanwhile, PM Avdullah Hoti remains optimistic on the talks. He said, “Some progress has been achieved on economic issues and we have made an important step forward.” He also denied land swaps would be discussed.
  • For the second time in three weeks, Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik linked the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue to the Republika Srpska entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina should Serbia recognize Kosovo. He said, “We don’t want to believe that such a superpower as the U.S. would allow itself for new misunderstandings to arise from under the roof of the White House, and such an offer would mean just that. We do not believe that the United States would sacrifice the stability of the entire region because they have invested so much to stabilise the situation here.” And added, “A paper seeking recognition of Kosovo’s independence would automatically also raise the issue of the status of Republika Srpska, the independence of which was discussed by the United States while the civil war in Bosnia and Herzegovina was still ongoing.”
  • Serbian FM Ivica Dacic weighed in from Belgrade on the idea of recognition. “I was told from Washington that Vucic in a fierce way rebuffed that point. He has clearly said it is unacceptable for Serbia and that he will behave in line with (Serbia’s) Constitution. Besides, the issue is not whether Vucic will accept or not,” said Dacic.

MONTENEGRIN ELECTIONS AFTERMATH:

  • President Milo Djukanovic is ready to work with the new government. “I have no doubt that as responsible people who are in state positions, we will respect that circumstance and that we will contribute to something that is common, that is, the national good,” he said.
  • Leader of the Movement for Changes Nebojsa Medojevic called the recognition of Kosovo as the “biggest disgrace of Montenegro” and aims to revoke its recognition. The Movement for Changes is a constituent member of the Democratic Front alliance.
  • Albanian List leader Nik Gjeloshaj focused on rights of Albanians in Montenegro. He said, “Only Albanians decide on Albanians.”
  • Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik on the attacks against Bosniaks and the Islamic community in Pljevlja: “The unpleasant scenes from several cities in Montenegro where Bosniaks – Muslims live are a job for the competent police authorities of Montenegro, which are still under the administration of the government which has not been changed yet and which is obliged to find the perpetrators of these vandal acts.” He added, “This is why I believe that the behavior of Bosniak political and religious leaders in Bosnia and Herzegovina is not only harmful but also dangerous, as the terminology and argumentation they are using is nothing other than the repetition of old patterns which doesn’t contribute to calming tensions in our neighboring and brotherly country and is meant more for their internal purposes.”

CROATIAN DOUBLE TAXATION TREATY: U.S. Ambassador to Croatia Robert Kohorst met with Deputy PM and Finance Minister Zdravko Maric to hand over a draft of the Double Taxation Treaty between the U.S. and Croatia.

BURNT MELANIA ON DISPLAY: “A burnt wooden statue of Slovenian-born U.S. First Lady Melania Trump, described by the artist as representing tensions in the United States, goes on show at an art gallery in the Slovenian seaside town of Koper on Wednesday. The statue was torched by unknown perpetrators while on show in the open air near her birth place Sevnica, on July 4, celebrated as Independence Day in the United States.” (Reuters)

NEW HEAD OF EU IN MAK, MNE, & KOSOVO: Director for Western Balkans in the Directorate-General for Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations Genoveva Ruiz Calavera welcomed the announcement of David Greer as the new Head of the EU Delegation to N. Macedonia, Tomas Szunyoga as Head of the EU Office in Kosovo, and Oana Cristina Popa as the EU Ambassador in Montenegro.

PAHOR WORRIED ABOUT EU’S EAST-WEST DIVIDE: Slovenian President Borut Pahor warned of a potential east-west divide within the EU at an annual meeting with Slovenian diplomats in Brdo pri Kranju. Pahor said, “Where there used to be the Iron Curtain, there could be a kind of a Velvet Curtain in the future. I believe it’s not in our interest for this to happen.” And added, “we should be careful, in particular if the crisis of EU development persists, that a new east-west divide does not emerge.” He spoke about the strength of the U.S.-Slovenia partnership while maintaining relations with Russia and China. He explained, “The US is our ally. Of course we want to have good relations with Russia. And with China. But the US is our ally and in this sense our privileged partner.”

KOSOVO SPECIALIST CHAMBERS: Leader of the Democratic Union for Integration in N. Macedonia, Ali Ahmeti, finished two days of questioning for his role in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) by the Kosovo Specialist Chambers (KSC) at the EULEX office in Pristina. He says he was invited as a witness. Meanwhile, former Kosovo PM and KLA Commander Agim Ceku has been summoned to The Hague by the KSC as a suspect. He is set to be interviewed on September 28.

SLOVENIA BREACHES EU LAW: “By seizing European Central Bank (ECB) documents from the Slovenian central bank in an investigation of the 2013 bank bailout, Slovenia breached provisions of EU law that grant the ECB special immunity, an advocate general at the Court of Justice of the EU said in her opinion in a case brought against Slovenia by the EU Commission. Advocate General Juliane Kokott said that by seizing communication and electronic documents from the premises of Banka Slovenije in 2016 without first coordinating with the ECB and securing a court decision, Slovenian law enforcement breached Articles 2, 18 and 22 of Protocol No. 7 on the Privileges and Immunities of the European Union.” (Slovenia Times)

BiH + IMF: “Bosnia’s prime minister Zoran Tegeltija said the country decided to launch negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a new funding arrangement. An IMF mission is expected to arrive to Bosnia for the purpose in October, Tegeltija said in a statement on Wednesday, after meeting with Fadil Novalic and Radovan Viskovic, the prime ministers of Bosnia’s two autonomous entities – the Federation and the Serb Republic, respectively. Tegeltija noted that the Bosnian authorities expect to agree a deal with the IMF within two months after the arrival of the Fund’s mission.” (SEE News)
IN OTHER NEWS

OP-ED: “Trump Has a Fix for Kosovo. He’s Ignoring It.” by Edward P. Joseph in Foreign PolicyOP-ED: “Latest US-EU Discord Bodes Ill for Balkan Stability” by Srecko Latal in BIRN

ANALYSIS: “The Balkan mafias wielding their power in Spain” by Patricia Ortega Dolz in El Pais

CULTURE: “One of the greatest Bosnians: 131 Years since the Birth of Isak Samokovlija” in Sarajevo Times

CULTURE: “Little Balkans Festival: a celebration of heritage, history” by Morie Price in Four States Homepage:”Southeast Kansas’s annual festival, Little Balkans Days, is a celebration of history, heritage, and unity. Dating back to September 1984, this festival has brought area residents together every Labor Day weekend for fun, music, and historical interactions. ”

ENTERTAINMENT: “Srebrenica film skewers UN failure to stop massacre” in AFP

INFOGRAPHIC: “The Fences Of The Balkans” in RFE/RL