WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

CORONAVIRUS by the numbers:

  • BiH: 5,869 confirmed cases,  2,769 recovered, 209 deaths.
  • CROATIA: 3,325 confirmed cases, 2,277 recovered, 114 deaths.
  • KOSOVO: 3,886 confirmed cases, 2,003 recovered, 82 deaths.
  • N. MACEDONIA: 7,406 confirmed cases, 359 deaths.
  • MONTENEGRO: 960 confirmed cases, 320 recovered, 17 deaths.
  • SERBIA: 17,076 confirmed cases, 13,564 recovered, 341 deaths.
  • SLOVENIA: 1,763 confirmed cases, 111 deaths.

SERBIAN PROTESTERS BEATEN: Serbia’s Gendarmarie beat protestors as Belgrade was gripped with its second night of protests over how the Coronavirus has been handled by President Aleksandar Vucic and the government, which is led by his party. Vucic is accused of doctoring numbers ahead of Serbia’s parliamentary elections. Croatian FM Gordan Grlic Radman, EU Rapporteur for Serbia Vladimir Bilcik, and EU Rapporteur for Kosovo Viola von der Cramon.

U.S. CALLS FOR JUSTICE FOR THE BYTYQI BROTHERS:  The U.S. Embassy in Belgrade marked the anniversary of the death of Albanian-American brothers Ylli, Agron, and Mehmet Bytyqi who were brought to Serbia by special forces and murdered. Their bodies were found on a police training ground in eastern Serbia. The press release called for justice. The embassy writes, “The United States will not forget their deaths, nor stop in our pursuit of justice.  We repeat our call to Serbian authorities, who have promised to assist in this case over the years, for a resolution to this case.  Obtaining justice for the family of the Bytyqi brothers remains a priority in our bilateral relationship with Serbia.”

KOSOVO-SERBIA COMING UP THIS AND WEEK:

  • TUESDAY: Kosovo PM Avdullah Hoti met with French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday. Hoti wrote on Twitter, “Much honored by the reception from the President of France, Emmanuel Macron. Kosovo relations with France are excellent and we are grateful for their support. Western Balkans perspective in the #EU is the only opportunity for peace, stability and prosperity in this part of #Europe. France remains committed to support Kosovo in the dialogue process with Serbia, which should lead to mutual recognition and the normalization of relations.”
  • TODAY: Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic is set to meet with Macron today.
  • FRIDAY: Kosovo-Serbia virtual summit on July 10 under the auspicious of France’s Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
  • SUNDAY: Resumption of the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue in Brussels hosted by EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, and special representative Miroslav Lajcak.

GRENELL CHIMES IN: U.S. Special Representative to the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue, Richard Grenell, released a statement on the dialogue. It says, “We are pleased to see the Europeans will convene a meeting on July 10 for further discussions with Kosovo and Serbia. We offer our total support and are grateful for their leadership. We hope the important issue of visa liberalization will be completed at this meeting. The US has worked hard to emphasize economic normalization between the parties because we believe it is the crucial first step for this long term political dispute. And we hope the Europeans will make implementing the air, rail and motor agreements previously agreed upon a top priority. We believe these agreements are key to creating jobs and giving hope to young people. We have never believed in a quick election year deal between Kosovo and Serbia. And we never thought our sole focus on economic normalization would be a quick fix. The difficult and long term political issues will be easier to confront once progress is made on the economic issues first. The international community must keep trying new and creative ideas if we are ever going to make progress. And the people of Kosovo and Serbia deserve the European’s full and constant attention.”

BOSNIA RECEIVES HUMVEES: Bosnia received 12 Humvees from the United States and a military infirmary at the Rajlovac barracks from the United Kingdom. The ceremony was attended by U.S. Ambassador Eric Nelson, UK Ambassador Matt Field, and Bosnia’s Defense Minister Sifet Pozdic.

THACI TO BE QUESTIONED
: Kosovo President Hashim Thaci is traveling to the Netherlands on Monday, just a day after Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovar PM Avdullah Hoti meet to resume the dialogue, for questioning by international prosecutors. He was indicted on alleged war crimes on June 24.

COVID DOMINATES TRILATERAL MEETING: The 7th meeting of the Croatian, Slovenian, and Austrian president was held in Vienna yesterday. They typically discuss regional matters, but this meeting was dominated by how to respond to Covid. Croatian President Zoran Milanovic called on Austrians to visit the country.

TRUMP ON FIRE: A wooden statue of First Lady Melania Trump was burned on the Fourth of July near her hometown of Sevnica, Slovenia.

NO NEW BiH SECURITY MINISTER: After a meeting between the leaders of the three biggest ethnic political parties in BiH, the leader of HDZ-BiH Dragan Covic announced his party would vote against the proposed Minister of Security.

MERKEL LOOKS TO OPEN TALKS WITH N. MACEDONIA: In a speech to the European Parliament on Wednesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel presented the agenda for its EU presidency. She earmarked opening talks with N. Macedonia as its first priority and potentially with Albania. She said ,”During our presidency, we should do everything we can to make progress in three other foreign policy areas; Firstly, at the accession conference, at least with North Macedonia, possibly also Albania – an important step on the way to giving the countries of the Western Balkans an accession perspective.”

CROATIAN TAX CUTS IMMINENT: “Finance Minister Zdravko Maric said on Wednesday that tax cuts were not a guarantee of higher net wages but that efforts would be made to make that happen because the idea behind tax cuts was higher wages and higher employment and investments. Answering reporters’ questions outside the government offices about the government’s plans to reduce income tax rates from 36% to 30% and from 24% to 20%, Maric recalled that the HDZ party’s platform envisaged certain tax changes, adding that the party stood behind that and that they would be an integral part of the government’s programme as well.” (N1)

EBRD, EU TO FINANCE W. BALKANS: “The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the European Union (EU) are increasing their support for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the Western Balkans with the provision of additional financing, following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. The Bank will provide up to €70 million in new credit lines to partner financial institutions for on-lending to local businesses in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia. The EU is complementing these funds with €15 million to identify and verify the best available equipment and technologies to ensure that SMEs increase their competitiveness and support the shift towards a green economy.” (Sarajevo Times)

BOSNIAN TRIAL FOR RAPE STARTS: The trail of former Bosnian Army military policeman Adem Kostjerevac for the alleged rape of a Serb woman multiple times near Zvornik has begun. Kostjerevac was extradited from the U.S. to Bosnia on June 18.

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