WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

  • US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper met with a Montenegrin Ministry of Defense delegation led by Ivica Ivanovic to discuss the US role in supporting Montenegro’s continuing integration into NATO.
  • Stevo Pendarovski was sworn in as President of North Macedonia over the weekend and made calls for “reconciliation.”
  • Fourteen people, including two Russian intelligence officers, were convicted of attempting a coup in Montenegro in 2016. 
  • In neighboring Albania, Western Balkan leaders who attended the Brdo-Brijuni Summit signed a declaration to the EU urging them to make the EU accession  “a question of geopolitical importance.”
  • Kosovo President Hashim Thaci and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic clashed at the summit on Thaci’s remarks of “the creation of an Albanian space without borders under the Euro-Atlantic umbrella” and adding three municipalities in Serbia to Kosovo without giving up any land.
  • A Kosovo-Serbia deal seems far away – Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj is calling for the removal of EU High Representative and mediator Federica Mogherini at the meetings and says there will be meetings in Washington DC “so that Washington will be directly involved.”
  • Ottawa today hosts a State Visit by Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic. The itinerary is scheduled to have a welcoming ceremony with military honors, a tree planting and elegant dinner.
  • Serbia held a Victory Day parade on May 10 in the southern city of Nis with the slogan “Defense of Freedom.” Those in attendance included Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik, Republika Srpska President Zeljka Cvijanovic, and Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin.
  • The parade caused controversy with convicted war criminal General Vladimir Lazarevic leading the “Immortal Regime” who marched alongside Cossacks. 
  • Meanwhile, Dodik said that abolishing the Army of Republika Srpska was a mistake a few days after the parade. 
  • His colleague, Bosniak Member of the Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic, warns of Russia’s influence in BiH and especially Republika Srpska.
  • Prince Edward will be on an official visit to Split, Croatia on May 16-17. His itinerary includes a hosting a dinner aboard the HMS Duncan for local leaders and a trip to a high school.
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) signed a €210 million ($235.9 million) loan agreement for the Corridor Vc project that will run north to south through the country. According to the EBRD, “The completion of Corridor Vc is expected in 2030 and total cost estimated to be approximately €4billion. To date, about €1.1 billion has been invested.”
  • See all the investments and headlines made at the 2019 EBRD Annual Meeting and Business Forum held on May 8-9 in Sarajevo here.
  • 23 – The number of weeks antigovernment protests have drawn thousands to the streets of Belgrade to protest President Aleksandar Vucic. 
  • Serbia has an ally in Russia’s Chairman of the Russian Federation Council’s (upper house of parliament) Foreign Affairs Committee Konstantin Kosachev: “We have a great deal of common interests. We both have the same stance on the necessity of maintaining the UN’s role and respecting international law. We have huge projects in the sphere of gas, nuclear energy, healthcare, education, agriculture. We are very interesting partners for each other. That is why Serbia is one of our key, most interesting partners in Europe and in a more global context.”
  • North Macedonia Finance Minister Dragan Tevdoski is feeling upbeat about his country’s economy after recent elections. The country announced a 3.2% economic growth forecast for 2019 and 4% for 2020.
  • Politico published an extensive profile on Croatian PM Andrej Plenkovic and his Brussels ambitions.  
  • The Pope OKs Catholics hoping to go on a pilgrimage to Medjugore, BiH where children said the Virgin Mary appeared to them. 
  • The President of Finland Sauli Niinistö will be on an official visit to Slovenia on May 23-24. 
  • Bosnian basketball player, and Portland Trailblazers forward, Jusuf Nurkic caused a stir on social media after wearing a t-shirt with the names of 9 Bosnian soldiers who were killed in the 1990s. The Trailblazers were playing against Serbia’s Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets. 

BEYOND THE POLITICS

  • The Economist: “The refugee train from Sarajevo“: “THE flyblown plaza in front of Sarajevo’s railway station is called ‘Srebrenica Genocide Victims Square.’ The echoey, empty station is like a cathedral. When Sarajevo, Bosnia’s capital, was at the heart of the former Yugoslavia it bustled. Now only 11 trains a day depart, and 11 arrive.”
  • Hollywood/Washington Take Note: Variety reports on China funding the remake of historical Yugoslav films. The films are 1969’s “The Bridge” focused on World War II and 1972’s “Walter Defends Sarajevo” directed by Bosnian Hajrudin Krvavac.
  • Meanwhile, an Italian ferry with over 250 on board was towed to Croatia after malfunctioning over the weekend.  
  • The UK’s Independent does a deep dive into the rare rebula grape (and its wine) of Slovenia.