WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

  • WELCOME!: Macedonia signed its NATO Accession Protocol  “for the future North Macedonia” in Brussels on Wednesday enabling it to become the 30th member. The Greek Parliament will ratify the protocol for Macedonia’s admission on Friday.
  • Backsliding Democracy: Freedom House released its 2019 Freedom in the World Report. Key takeaways from the region include: Serbia backsliding from free to partly free. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia: Partly Free. Croatia and Slovenia: Free. Read the report here.
  • US Ambassador to Kosovo Philip Kosnett took to Twitter to criticize the Kosovo goverment for appointing convicted war criminal Sulejman Selimi as an advisor: “Convicted war criminals have no place in#Kosovo’s government. Leaders of all parties should stop supporting such individuals. Such support calls into question Kosovo’s commitment to the rule of law.”
  • US + Kosovo: Kosovo President Hashim Thaci was in Washington DC where he met with Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-AL) and discussed the vital role of the US in the region.
  • Defense: In addition to the events held in Washington, DC the past few days, Bosnian Foreign Minister Igor Crndak was in town for a meeting on the Global Coalition in the Fight Against ISIS. 
  • Selimi was interviewed by the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in the Hague for his role during the war on Wednesday.
  • Kosovo-Serbia: Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic met with the EU High Representative Federica Mogherini today. He insists that Kosovo-Serbia talks will resume only after the 100% tariffs are lifted. Kosovo President Hashim Thaci said that Russia will back any deal made between Kosovo and Serbia.
  • UNwelcome?: Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj said that the state has ceased communication with the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) because “The UNMIK staff is writing these reports and forwards them to UN. I don’t think this reflects the reality.”
  • Privatization: Serbia chose private financial advisor Lazard to sell the government’s stake in Komercijalna Banka. 
  • Speaking of privatization, Hungary is seeking over $875 million from Croatia over the INA deal in 2003 for damages.
  • Regional Support: Slovenian Member of European Parliament Igor Soltes has urged the EU to keep Bosnia and Herzegovina as a top priority.
  • Bosnia on the Right Path: Bosnia and Herzegovina signed an agreement with the European Border and Coast Guard Agency to allow the agency to be deployed to it.
  • SANCTIONS: Montenegro and Albania join Ukraine and Norway have aligned their sanctions on Russia to the Council of the European Union over the war in the Donbas. They are extended to July 31, 2019.
  • WORRISOME: Alon Ben-Meir writes, “Freedom Of The Press In The Balkans Is Life-Threatening“: “Kosovo investigative journalist Parim Olluri knew the assailants who physically attacked him two years ago in front of his house, while the police and other security institutions remained silent. ‘I sent names to the Kosovo Police as well as to the Prosecutor’s Office, but none of them took any action,’ says Olluri. Instead, the politicians, who were identified by the journalist to the police, sent messages to Olluri denying that they were involved in the attack…As a result, many journalists who are committed to candid reporting in Kosovo and other Balkan countries feel unsafe as it has become normal to be threatened and even physically attacked. The growing intimidation of independent media outlets in Balkan countries clearly points to the pervasive corruption and organized crime in this part of Europe.”


BEYOND THE POLITICS

  • From the White House to Slovenia: A twenty minute documentary about First Lady Melania Trump’s homeland, Slovenia, was released and is called “First Ladyland: Melania Trump’s Homeland is Open for Business.” Watch is here.
  • The Tunes of Bosnia and Herzegovina: KBBG FM 88.1 based in Waterloo, Iowa is going to be playing music from Bosnia and Herzegovina. If you’re in the area and missing home, you know what to listen to!
  • DETAINED: A monk in Montenegro has been detained in Podgorica for 30 days for being the driver of the boat that capsized and killed two people last week.
  • The Last Woman Standing: Bosnia has only one female coppersmith left. Read her story here.
  • Social media influencers from Germany and the UK have  descended on Croatiaafter a trip to Slovenia