WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

  • The US Embassy in Sarajevo reiterated the longtime US policy of not drawing parallels between Kosovo and Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It told Patria News Agency, “As we have repeatedly stated, there are no parallels between Republika Srpska and Kosovo. BiH was a sovereign and internationally recognized state even before the Dayton Agreement. The United States of America and other members of the international community are fully committed to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina are basic elements of the internal political organization of Bosnia and Herzegovina. As is well known, the Dayton Peace Agreement and the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina do not entitle either entity to secede from BiH. The existence of these two entities is entirely dependent on the existence of BiH.”
  • Serbia could be facing sanctions after purchasing Russian made Pantsir-S anti-aircraft missiles. Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic is confident that sanctions won’t be levied after a meeting with U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation envoy Thomas Zerzecki. Dacic remains optimistic that no one will be sanctioned if they continue with the deal.
  • The second meeting of leaders in the Western Balkans in Ohrid included PM of N. Macedonia, Zoran Zaev, PM of Albania, Edi Rama, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, and BiH’s Chairman of the Council of Ministers Denis Zvizdic. The agreement aims to integrate the four freedoms of the EU to Albania, N. Macedonia, and Slovenia.
  • French President Emmanuel Macron drew a strong reaction from Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) after calling BiH a “ticking time bomb.” He noted, “If you’re concerned about this region, the first question is neither Macedonia, nor Albania, it’s Bosnia-Herzegovina. The time-bomb that’s ticking right next to (the EU member) Croatia, and which faces the problem of returning jihadists.” Read his full transcript with The Economist here.
  • Bosnian Croat Member of the Presidency Zeljko Komsic summoned the French Ambassador to Sarajevo over Macron’s comments.
  • “The incoming head of the European Union’s executive branch is pressing for the bloc to open membership talks with North Macedonia and Albania after its leaders failed to agree last month on launching the negotiations. Ursula von der Leyen said in Berlin Friday that the EU demanded a great deal from the two countries ‘and they fulfilled it all.’ She added: ‘Now we also must stand by our word and make membership talks possible.'” (US News & World Report)
  • “Slovenia’s center-left minority government on Wednesday lost the support of the opposition Left party, in a move that analysts said could eventually lead to an election before 2022. The Left party agreed in March to back the government’s main projects, but said it had decided on Wednesday to break off cooperation after the five parties in the coalition government refused to support its proposal that would cancel the system of additional health insurance.” (Reuters)
  • Meanwhile, Kosovo has finalized its election results. Of the 120 seats in parliament, Vetvendosje won 32 seats, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) won 29 seats, the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) won 25 seats. Vetvendosje and the LDK will create a two party coalition and are hoping to include some, if not all, of the six ethnicities in the government.
  • Swedish Crown Princess Victoria urged Bosnia and Herzegovina to face air pollution head on. She noted that without reform, EU hopes remain slim.
  • Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic on the diaspora: “‘The fact that Croats live in many countries and that many contribute to their homeland… with their business, cultural, artistic, sports and other activities reflects the great unity of the Croatian nation and of the expatriate community and the homeland. That unity is high on the government’s list of priorities…In the last three years we have financed 1,537 projects around the world worth HRK 115 million.'”
  • The Serbian Anti Corruption Agency is investigating Minister of Interior Nebojsa Stefanovic for arms deals his father made.
  • An adviser to Kosovo’s outgoing Foreign Minister Behgjet Pacolli called Serbia’s Marko Djuric “nationalist scum.” Djuric’s deputy responded by calling him a “Serb hater.”
  • Meanwhile, the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro baptized its first transgender male.
  • Foreign Minister of N. Macedonia Nikola Dimitrov met his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias in Geneva. They discussed bilateral cooperation and the implementation of the Prespa Agreement.
  • Node, the first turnkey AI-as-a-service platform focused on powering predictable business outcomes, has opened a new office in Novi Sad, Serbia. The Silicon Valley based company will be hiring top talent as part of this European expansion. Node has raised $36 million in funding from renowned American entrepreneur Mark Cuban, Avalon Ventures, NEA, NewView Capital, GingerBread Capital, Canaan Partners, JetBlue Technology Ventures, Will Smith’s Dreamers VC, MS&AD, Wharton Alumni Fund, Plum Alley, Major Lazer and former Google and Microsoft executive James Whittaker.” (Yahoo Finance)
  • Serbian investigative journalist Stevan Dojcinovic received an award at the ICFJ dinner in Washington DC.
  • KOSOVO SPECIALIST CHAMBERS: Outgoing Kosovo Speaker of Parliament Kadri Veseli and Mayor of Drenas Ramiz Lladrovci were summoned to The Hague for questioning.
  • MIGRANTS: A 20-year-old migrant died in Slovenia. Bosnian police found a van with 17 migrants heading to Croatia.
IN OTHER NEWS…
  • HUMAN INTEREST: “As bigotry stirs globally, Bosnian Jews, Muslims recall lesson in tolerance” by Maja Zuvela in Reuters: “Bosnia’s Jews and Muslims on Thursday marked the bicentenary of the rescue of a dozen Jews from an Ottoman-era governor’s jail, saying their liberation by Sarajevo Muslims is a great example of co-existence at a time of rising global sectarian hatred. The 1819 rescue, which happened during a Muslim uprising, and consequent removal of corrupt Turkish governor Mehmed Ruzdi Pasha is a holiday for Sarajevo’s Jews, known as Purim di Saray. The governor had sought a huge ransom to spare the Jews’ lives. The event was marked by a joint exhibition and conference depicting the events and celebrating nearly 500 years of peaceful coexistence between Jews and their Muslim neighbors, as well as between Jews and Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats.”
  • HUMAN INTEREST: “Reader Report: From Newport to Croatia — ambassador shares his elegant but guarded life” by David C. Henley in Daily Pilot: “Our car crept across the crowded boulevards of Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, until we reached Tuskanac, an elegant suburb of grand mansions in the forested foothills of Mount Medvedica. Tuskanac — named for the central Italian region of Tuscany, whose inhabitants began settling in the quiet neighborhood in the 15th century — is the home of Newport Beach businessman W. Robert “Bob” Kohorst, whom President Trump appointed U.S. ambassador to Croatia in September 2017.”