WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

  • Balkan Insider Exclusive Interview with SDSM presidential candidate Stevo Pendarovski for the elections in N. Macedonia taking place Sunday April 21, 2019.
  • On the Prespa Agreement: “From the very beginning of the long and tough negotiations, the main goal was the agreement not to disrupt the national identity of the Macedonian people and its independence. Our Macedonian language, our Macedonian culture and civilization benefits…The next goal was the agreement to provide long-lasting cooperation and friendship with Greece, and Greece, gradually, to become our big supporter in achieving our strategic commitments…We can conclude that the key benefit from the Prespa Agreement, apart from our upcoming membership in NATO and the European Union, is precisely the economic progress, the investments and the new jobs. That is the real progress; it is the social well-being our citizens want!”
  • On Diaspora: ” One of the main objectives of my political manifesto is to establish continuous dialogue with our diaspora by encouraging their investment in the homeland, and in particular the return of young educated people who were forced to leave their homeland in the last years.”
  • On N.Macedonia-US Relations: ”USA are our strategic political partner, our supporter in overcoming many obstacles and historically hard periods, one of our most important economic partners and a home to many of our fellow compatriots…Our upcoming NATO membership would had been impossible if we hadn’t had the US support.”
  • On N.Macedonia-Israel Relations: “We are supporting the independence and territorial integrity of Israel as well as the efforts of the international community to reach a compromise and long-lasting peace in the region…There are significant number of Jews from North Macedonia that emigrated in Israel, but they always remember their home in our country and support us whenever they can.”
  • Read the full interview where he talks about his first 100 days in office and potential legacy here.
  • ICYMI: Our exclusive interview with Pendarovski’s main rival, Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova, can be read here.
  • There are two options if the voter turnout is below the necessary threshold in the presidential election on Sunday according to Justice Minister of N. Macedonia Renata Treneska-Deskoska: “…one option is voters to elect a president in direct elections in which there’s no required turnout threshold in the second round…The other option involves an election of president in Parliament.”
  • The Dutch Supreme Court will give its final verdict today on whether Dutch peacekeepers were responsible for the Srebrenica genocide. 
  • Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index Rankings: Slovenia – 34, Romania – 47, Bosnia and Herzegovina: 63, Croatia – 64, Greece 65, Kosovo – 75, Albania – 82, Serbia – 90, N. Macedonia – 95, Montenegro – 104, Bulgaria 111, Turkey 157. See the interactive map here.
  • Kosovo President Hashim Thaci says nothing will be decided in the April 29 meeting with Serbian leaders in Brussels and notes:  “There will be no dialogue, negotiations or direct meetings with Serbian representatives in Berlin. What I expect is a confirmation from Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Emmanuel Macron that they support visa liberalization for Kosovo.”
  • Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj says he has “no idea” about any final deal that could be come to in Brussels on April 29.
  • Johns Hopkins University SAIS Professor Edward Joseph tells Voice of America: “The signing of a free trade zone agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union and the potential membership of Serbia in that organization led by Russia – would be a way out for Serbia.”  Read his extensive interview on Russia, Serbia-Kosovo, and Trump’s possible role as a mediator here
  • The Sarajevo Business Forum Opened. N1 writes:  “The 10th Sarajevo Business Forum (SBF) investment conference officially opened on Wednesday in the presence of some 2,000 officials, investors and delegations from the region and the world.”
  • Reuters: “Bosnian Serb lawmakers voted on Thursday to introduce reserve police forces, a move seen as a security threat by Muslim Bosniaks living in Bosnia’s autonomous Serb Republic.”
  • Gazeta Express is reporting that Senior Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) members will be indicted by the Specialist Court including President Hashim Thaci and Speaker of the Parliament Kadri Veseli.
  • A day earlier: The High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina Valentin Inzko met the Prime Minister of Republika Srpska (RS) Zeljka Cvijanovic. In additional meetings, RS officials said it is dedicated to EU integration.
  • Montenegro’s  the Prime Minister Dusko Markovic says “We do not want to be a new problem in the EU but quality.”
  • Slovenian President Borut Pahor met with the Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency Members Sefik Dzaferovic and Milorad Dodik in Sarajevo.
  • Azerbaijan will welcome Croatia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign and European Affairs Marija Pejcinovic Buric on April 29.
  • The Croatian court system has started handing down fines over fisheries in the Piran Bay. 
  • A Bosnian former ISIS fighter returns to Bosnia and Herzegovina to serve a three year prison term after a plea deal was made.
  • Croatia will invest over $35 million of European Funda into over 300 tech companies.


BEYOND THE POLITICS

  • WELCOME!: Serbian Jelena Mitrovic signs a letter of intent to play college basketball for Oregon State University. 
  • N. MacedoniaLurzim Elezovski, a native of Macedonia, was arrested for allegedly having a network of crime.
  • BEER & SOCCER:  The Trebjesa Brewery and famed Niksicko Beer signed a two year sponsorship deal with Football (Soccer) Federation of Montenegro.