WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY
KOSOVO-SERBIA MISSING: Authorities in Belgrade and Pristina, including Director of the Office for Kosovo Petar Petković and Kosovo PM Albin Kurti, each claimed the other side was not doing enough to open archives to research the location and incidents involving missing persons.
- “Opening the state archives of Serbia is of the utmost importance because the crimes were not committed by individuals, but by the Serbian state,” said Kurti.
- Petković responded, “We have repeatedly and unequivocally stated that we are ready to open all archives and search all locations Pristina suspects to contain the remains of missing Albanians. At the same time, we expect concrete cooperation from Pristina on this issue. Unfortunately, Pristina consistently refuses any mention of opening KLA archives or allowing our expert teams to search locations in Kosovo, for which there are very clear indications that they contain the bodies of Serbs who went missing during the conflict.”
- Missing persons is a key theme in the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue that is set to resume in mid-June.
GET RID OF THE VETO IN THE EU?: German FM Heiko Maas yesterday called on the EU to abolish individual vetoes on because of foreign policy implications. He said, “We can no longer be hostages of those who through their veto paralyze European foreign policy. So I say it openly: the veto must be lifted – even if it means we can vote against it. Those who threaten to veto, more or less, are playing with the cohesion of Europe.”
- Macedonia is currently facing a veto by Bulgaria over language and national heroes. In effect, Bulgaria has held up N. Macedonia’s path to the EU by vetoing Skopje’s start of EU accession talks.
- President Stevo Pendarovski in an interview with Serbia’s Politika news outlet noted that the Macedonian identity and language would not be up for debate in conversations with Bulgaria.
CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES IN SERBIA: Speaker of Serbia’s National Assembly Ivica Dačić yesterday said a referendum on constitutional changes might take place in autumn.
- “Because this composition of the Assembly has to declare new constitutional changes. In that case, it is realistic to have the referendum in autumn,” said Dačić.
- Meanwhile, PM Ana Brnabić told parliament yesterday that her cabinet is ready to make changes in rule of law as it attempts to tackle corruption.
- “We have to reinforce rule of law and that will bring a rise in average salaries and pensions. Progress in rule of law should bring the citizens a feeling that they are all equal before the law, that justice is quick and attainable, that the judiciary is independent and responsible and much more efficient,” said the Serbian PM.
DODIK, ČOVIĆ AIM TO KEEP ETHNIC DIVIDE IN BiH: Chairman and Bosnians Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik (SNSD) and HDZ BiH leader Dragan Čović met to discuss election law reform. The Bosnian Croat and Serb leaders agreed on “the constituency of peoples in BiH, so that the legitimate representation of constituent peoples can be respected.”
- Čović slammed the Central Election Commission and questioned its legitimacy. He said, “Our common position is that the Central Election Commission is illegitimate and that it can’t it sustain the needs of the electoral process in BiH.”
- Meanwhile, Dodik noted, “We cannot accept that the notion of the constituency of the people be erased from the Constitution. We believe that it should remain there, that it’s a pledge for the construction of BiH on the basis of the constituency of peoples, and that only on the basis of that concept can BiH function.”
SASSOLI WANTS TO BRING WB INTO EU: European Parliament President David Sassoli called on the EU to allow the Western Balkan states into the EU. “Enlargement can bring immense benefits both to the region and to Europe as a whole, helping to secure a stable, prosperous and peaceful continent,” said Sassoli. He was realistic in his backing by noting that “reforms still need to be completed in every single one of these countries.”
MILANOVIĆ ON OPERATION STORM COMMEMORATIONS: “President Zoran Milanovic said on Monday that he had only proposed, but never insisted, that the central celebration of the Operation Storm anniversary not be held in Knin this year.
“After visiting the children’s hospital in Zagreb, Milanovic said that he had proposed that this year’s celebration be held in Glina after this suggestion was made to him by many war veterans including generals.
“Commenting on the opposition of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party to the proposal, the president said: ‘Whatever I suggest, they can’t live with it’.” (N1)
CHINESE COMPANY AIMS TO CURB JOURNALISTS AT FACTORY: For the second time since May 18, the security of the Chinese car tire factory Linglong near Serbia’s northern town of Zrenjanin tried to stop a TV crew from filming outside their construction site late on Sunday.
“After trying to prevent the team of Dutch journalists of NOS (Nederlandse Omroep Stichting) from recording an activist’s statement outside the factory last month, the Linglong security members did the same with the NewsMax Adria crew. Wearing uniforms and without IDs, the security people went on to the public area and stood in front NewMax Adria cameraman, trying to block the shooting.” (N1)
SERBIAN ARMS FACTORY EXPLOSION: Just a few days after the first incident, a second explosion rocked a Sloboda munitions plant in western Serbia near Čačak after police and firefighters managed to put out a fire on Friday.. No injuries were reported.
KLA PROTEST ON JUNE 12: The Association of Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) Veterans will hold a protest on June 12 against the Albin Kurti government for being “against national values.” The veterans organization wrote in a press release, “We all knew that Kosovo institutions were openly against national values. Recently we saw a tendency to accuse KLA leaders, starting from Prime Minister Kurti, Minister of Foreign Affairs Gërvalla, and Minister of Internal Affairs Svecla.”
MLADIĆ’S FINAL VERDICT: Judges at the UN will today provide a ruling on Bosnian Serb Ratko Mladić’s genocide conviction for the Srebrenica Genocide in 1995. This final verdict is an appeal from his 2017 sentence for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
- Chairman and Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik offered his open support for the Bosnian Serb convicted war criminal who will most likely have his genocide charge upheld.
- Dodik said, “They want to make him a criminal, which is unacceptable for the Serb people and for me as the leader of that people… My expectations from the Hague tribunal and the Mechanism (International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals) are clear and they are part of the experience that we have. They are biased and focused on the story of the Serb so that when the history is written they can say they are bad guys.”
SPEAKING OF WAR CRIMES: Kosovo PM Albi Kurti yesterday joined the working group meeting to discuss establishing a War Crimes Research Institute in Pristina.
- “Last year we met to discuss composition of a preparatory team, and today we are continuing the second phase where this team is tasked to draft a document on establishment of the War Crimes Research Institute,” said Kurti.
CoE ON MONTENEGRO’S DIVISIONS: The Council of Europe (CoE) took note of the growing divide between ethnic communities in Montenegro in its report on the Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. The report identified hate speech as a key area for Podgorica to work on.
SPEAKING OF THE CoE… Slovenian PM Janez Janša attacked the CoE’s Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović after she expressed concern over the situation for the media in Slovenia. Janša used a classic Trump line and wrote on Twitter that she “is a part of #fakenews network. Well paid by our money.”
CHURCH IN BiH DEMOLISHED: An illegally built Serbian Orthodox church was demolished on Saturday near Srebrenica and land returned to its owner prior to the war, Fata Orlović. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2019 that the church had to be destroyed.
RS DAY TO BE MOVED?: Chairman and Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik said Bosnia’s Republika Srpska (RS) entity could move the Day of RS from January 9 to Serbia’s statehood day, February 15. He indicated there would still be some activities on January 9. Bosnia’s Constitutional Court ruled the holiday unconstitutional in 2015 yet Dodik and Banja Luka continue to ignore the court ruling and celebrate the day.
IN OTHER NEWS
OP-ED: Albania’s Corrupt Government of Edi Rama by Peter Tase in Eurasia Review
OP-ED: In the Western Balkans, ethnic nationalism threatens the path to Europe by Orlando Crowcroft in Euronews
CULTURE: Uncontrolled Development Puts North Macedonia’s UNESCO Heritage Site At Risk (video) by Margot Buff in RFE/RL