WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

CORONAVIRUS by the numbers:

  • BiH: 21,439 confirmed cases, 14,636 recovered, 651 deaths.
  • CROATIA: 11,964 confirmed cases, 9,008 recovered, 198 deaths.
  • KOSOVO: 14,119 confirmed cases, 10,546 recovered, 563 deaths.
  • MONTENEGRO: 5,533 confirmed cases, 108 deaths.
  • N. MACEDONIA: 15,090 confirmed cases, 617 deaths.
  • SERBIA: 31,905 confirmed cases, 479 hospitalized, 724 deaths.
  • SLOVENIA: 3,165 confirmed cases, 135 deaths.

KOSOVO-SERBIA DIALOGUEat the White House in Washington:

  • Kosovo’s PM Avdullah Hoti and Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic signed separate documents during a ceremony in the Oval Office with U.S. President Donald Trump.
  • Key points of the agreements include: implementing infrastructure projects agreed upon at the Munich Security Conference in February, mutual recognition between Kosovo and Israel and Serbia will move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by July 2021, Serbia agrees to halt is derecognition campaign and Kosovo will not attempt to join international organizations for one year, the U.S. Int’l Development Finance Corporation will set up an office in Belgrade, a feasibility study on Gazivoda/Ujmani Lake (in Kosovo) led by the U.S., and no 5G networks from “untrusted vendors” (read China) and removal of existing equipment.
  • President Trump tweeted, “Another great day for peace with Middle East – Muslim-majority Kosovo and Israel have agreed to normalize ties and establish diplomatic relations. Well-done! More Islamic and Arab nations will follow soon!”
  • “The White House released a press statement noting, “After a violent and tragic history and years of failed negotiations, my Administration proposed a new way of bridging the divide.  By focusing on job creation and economic growth, the two countries were able to reach a real breakthrough on economic cooperation across a broad range of issues.”
  • “We have also made additional progress on reaching peace in the Middle East.Kosovo and Israel have agreed to normalization of ties and the establishment of diplomatic relations.  Serbia has committed to opening a commercial office in Jerusalem this month and to move its embassy to Jerusalem by July.”
  • At the signing, Trump also hinted that he would be visiting Kosovo and Serbia “in the near future.”
  • Meanwhile Secretary of State Pompeo congratulated the leaders via Twitter, “Congratulations to the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo on today’s historic agreement. We reaffirm our support for ongoing Serbia-Kosovo negotiations, and we welcome Kosovo’s normalization of ties with Israel, while commending Serbia for committing to move its Embassy to Jerusalem.”
  • President Trump’s special envoy to the talks, Richard Grenell penned an op-ed in The Hill, “Serbia-Kosovo agreement results from Trump’s different brand of diplomacy“: “President Aleksandar Vučić of Serbia and Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti of Kosovo took an enormous step toward a long-term resolution of their historic conflict on Friday morning. At the White House, under the auspices of President Trump, President Vučić and Prime Minister Hoti signed a brokered commitment to achieve economic normalization between the peoples and governments of Serbia and Kosovo.”
  • Grenell also insists, “The Trump Administration will continue to make Serbia & Kosovo a top priority.”
  • Russia’s Spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova mocked Serbian President Vucic’s photo sitting across from President Trump, comparing it to a scene with Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct. It drew harsh criticism from Serbia’s Director for the Office of Kosovo Marko Djuric. And Serbia’s Vucic noted, “The primitivism and vulgarity she showed speaks about herself, but also about those who have given her the job.”
  • Turkey released a press statement criticizing Kosovo’s decision to open an embassy in Jerusalem. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote, “Turkey, one of the first countries to recognize Kosovo, has also provided great support for the efforts towards the international recognition of this country from the very outset. However, we do not find it right to build this process against international law and especially upon the suffering of the Palestinian people whose territories are under occupation.” It cited the UN resolutions that call for a two-state solution with the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.
  • Palestine’s Ambassador to Serbia criticized Serbia the country moving the embassy to Jerusalem. He said, “There is no doubt that this would harm the traditional friendship between Palestine and Serbia and would not serve this development.” Meanwhile, the embassy wrote in a statement, “That is, as far as it happens, contrary to international law and to UN resolutions relating to the Palestinian question and to Jerusalem as an occupied city and that it harms the rights of the Palestinian People to exercise its state in all the territories that Israel occupied in 1967 including Jerusalem.”

meanwhile in Brussels…:

  • Serbia’s Vucic yesterday spoke to Russian FM Sergei Lavrov to debrief him on the meetings in Washington and Brussels
  • Kosovo’s Hoti and Vucic held meeting in Brussels with EU Special Envoy to the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue Miroslav Lajcak and U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and Special Representative to the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer.
  • Kosovo’s Hoti says he is meeting Serbia’s side only for mutual recognition. He wrote on Facebook, “Based on the pledges we made at the Paris Summit on July 10, 2020, as well as the support we received from President (Emmanuel) Macron and Chancellor (Angela) Merkel, on Monday in Brussels we meet the Serbian party to dialogue on the final agreement for mutual recognition and normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia.”
  • He added, “The agreement is reached only when it is concluded with mutual recognition.”
  • And concluded, “There will be no indirect, partial or creative agreements that would not resolve the issue for good. There will only be a final agreement on mutual recognition, which is systematic and includes all issues that need to be resolved between two independent states based on conventions, standards and international practices regulating relations between two independent states.”
  • After meetings at the expert-level, Kosovo’s coordinator for the dialogue, Skender Hyseni, said, “We have come closer. Today, the discussion and exchange of opinions were a bit more constructive. What’s left is to finish everything at the highest level. There is a visible convergence of views on what I call elements of a comprehensive agreement on mutual recognition.”
  • A high-level meeting is happening today and culminates the latest progression in Kosovo-Serbia talks.

PROTESTS IN MONTENEGRO: Police estimate around 50,000 people protested against the opposition parties that won elections last weekend. They were clad in the red and gold of Montenegro’s flag. Outgoing Defense Minister Predrag Boskovic posted a video of the tens of thousands signing the national anthem and lighting flares in Podgorica.

KURZ IN SLOVENIA TOMORROW: Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz will travel to Ljubljana for talks with PM Janez Jansa. They are expected to talk about the upcoming EU summit on September 24 and 25, Slovenia’s Presidency of the Council of Europe in the second half of 2021,  and the upcoming 100th anniversary of the Carinthia plebiscite that created the modern day borders between the two countries.

N. MACEDONIA’S EU PATH: President Stevo Pendarovski does not expect Bulgaria to block the starting of EU accession negotiations. He warned that the negotiation process under the new methodology remains to be seen and noted that it took Croatia 7 years before joining the EU, Serbia is in its seventh year of negotiations, and Montenegro its ninth.

SLOVENIA + CROATIA: “(Slovenian)President Borut Pahor and his Croatian counterpart Zoran Milanović attended on Saturday a memorial ceremony honouring the victims of the Fascist concentration camp Kampor on Rab island. According to Pahor’s office, this was the first time that the two countries’ presidents attend the annual event together. Prior to the ceremony marking the 77th anniversary of the liberation of Kampor, Pahor and Milanović laid a wreath to the monument of the victims of the camp, known as one of the most notorious Fascist camps in the Second World War.” (Total Slovenia News/STA)

EUFOR WRAPS UP QUICK RESPONSE: The European Union Force Bosnia and Herzegovina (EUFOR) concluded its annual military exercises over the weekend at Camp Butmir in Sarajevo. Hungarian members of NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR) participated in the exercises.

RUSSIA’S LAVROV, POSSIBLY PUTIN TO VISIT CROATIA: Russian Ambassador to Croatia Anvar Azimov said on Friday in an interview with RTL that he hopes Russian FM Sergei Lavrov will make his (postoponed due to Covid) trip to Croatia in late October. And added “Our president’s visit is on the agenda and I am sure it will come sooner or later.”

RS EXPECTS COVID VACCINE SOON: Bosnian entity Republika Srpska (RS) expects the entity to have a Coronavirus vaccine in the first three months of 2021, according to RS Health Minister Alen Seranic.

ELECTIONS IN BiH: The Central Election Commission (CEC) of Bosnia and Herzegovina yesterday noted irregularities – at least 25 people who are deceased registered to vote. Commission, Zeljko Bakalar said there will be irregularities, but the CEC will wait until recieving forms from people voting outside of Bosnia.

IN OTHER NEWS
OP-ED: “Kosovo and Serbia Sort of Agree to Sort of Disagree” by Eric Gordy in BIRNOP-ED: “How the use of ethnonationalism backfired in Montenegro” by Ermin Sinanovic in al-Jazeera

OP-ED: “The Balkans are becoming China’s highway into Europe” by Gabriel Gavin in Reaction

ANALYSIS: “Why Montenegro is attracting South African investors” in Business Tech (South Africa)

HUMAN INTEREST: “Ana Ros of Hisa Franko, Slovenia’s only two-star Michelin chef: ‘I hate comfort zones’” by Lisa Hilton in The Sunday Times

CULTURE: “Tesla is finally going to Nikola Tesla’s home country” by Fred Lambert in Electrek

CULTURE: “Wine Stars Light the Way for Croatian Wine Lovers” by Kit Pepper in Total Croatia News

CULTURE: “The Story about Saraci: The Street that has always been on Postcards” The in Sarajevo Times

CULTURE: “Bring on the Dessert!” by Nancy Cummings in Patch: “Marija Pejkovic, owner of Balkan Bakery, describes the variety of tempting surprises at this unique ethnic bakery in La Grange (Illinois). Pies, coffee cakes, sugar cookies…you won’t find any of that here. Kinder cake, cream puffs and Russian Hats, you’ve come to the right place! You must be asking yourself, what is Balkan Bakery as you drive up and down La Grange Road hundreds of times a year to and from work. Should you stop, should you not? Don’t know what to expect and bored with the usual ‘what’s for dessert?’ response. One day, you decide to steer off the beaten path and make that turn into our parking lot.”

ENVIRONMENT: “Croatian and Slovenian divers join forces to remove underwater waste in Savudrija Bay” in Croatia Week

SPORT: “Novak Djokovic out of US Open after hitting line judge with tennis ball” in ESPN

SPORT: “Cycling: Roglic takes control as Tour turns into Slovenian tale” by Julien Pretot in Reuters

NATIONS LEAGUE:

WEEKEND RESULTS:

Friday, Sept. 4

Bulgaria 0 – Albania 2
Italy 1 – Bosnia and Herzegovina 1

Saturday, Sept. 5

Portugal 4 – Croatia 1
Cyprus 0 – Montenegro 2
N. Macedonia 2 – Armenia 1

Sunday, Sept. 6

Kosovo 1 – Greece 2
Serbia 0 – Turkey 0

UPCOMING (all games @ 2:45PM EST):

Monday, Sept 7
Albania v. Lithuania
Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Poland

Tuesday, Sept. 8

France v. Croatia
Georgia v. N. Macedonia