WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

  • US President Donald Trump taps former US Ambassador to Bolivia, US Ambassador to the Philippines, Chief of Mission to Kosovo, Desk Officer to Bosnia, and Richard Holbrooke‘s Special Assistant Philip S. Goldberg as the next US Ambassador to Colombia.
  • N. Macedonia Elections: Prime Minister Zoran Zaev is optimistic for opening EU accession talks at a rally for SDSM-led coalition presidential candidate Stevo Pendarovski:  “I have just arrived from Berlin following meetings with German chancellor Merkel and French president Macron. We have big friends in Europe. This year, the country not will become a NATO member, but it will also launch accession talks with the EU.”
  • N. Macedonia Elections: Pendarovski noted himself, “There is room for improvement, the stakes on May 5 is the difference from going to the front or going backwards.”
  • N. Macedonia Elections: Meanwhile, VMRO-DPMNE’s Dr. Siljanovska-Davkova says that reforms must come from those in the highest positions in the country and added she does not believe EU accession talks will begin until autumn, the earliest.
  • N. Macedonia Elections: She said, “The Prime Minister and the people around him were convinced that the conclusion of the Prespa Agreement was enough to be used and abused as an alibi in seeking a start for negotiation. I am convinced that this is not enough, because I, or we, call upon the rule of law and justice, because without that condition there is no beginning of negotiations or Europeanization.”
  • Speaking of which, President Borut Pahor urged Slovenians to get out to the polls in the European Parliamentary elections. 
  • Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic will be on a state visit to Canada from May 12-17.
  • Financial Times: “Kosovo’s president warns of danger of return to ethnic conflict“: “Disagreements among western governments are hindering a settlement of Serbia’s dispute with Kosovo, creating the danger that violent ethnic conflict will return to the Balkans, Kosovo’s president said on Tuesday. In an interview with the Financial Times, Hashim Thaci described the EU as too weak, internally divided and worried about populist advances in the forthcoming European Parliament elections to take a strategic approach to the Serbia-Kosovo problem.”
  • Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj in Germany: “After meeting German Minister of Internal Affairs, Horst Seehofer, we got a ‘Yes’ from Germany on visa liberalization. Thank you chancellor Merkel and Germany for trust and continuous support for the people of Kosovo.”
  • Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic takes aim at BiH Chairman of the Council of Ministers: “Denis Zvizdic saying that a change of borders means opening Pandora’s box is meaningless and ridiculous…We don’t care what they think, who’s asking them how the issue of Belgrade and Pristina will be resolved – who are they to give any opinion about it?”
  • Bosnian Foreign Minister Igor Crnadak notes that the incumbent government will not recognize Kosovo or discuss its NATO Membership Action Plan.
  • Montenegro’s Prime Minister Dusko Markovic notes there are 15,000 more workers in Montenegro than 2015 on International Worker’s Day. 


BEYOND THE POLITICS

  • Foreign Policy: “China’s Belt and Road Partners Aren’t Fools“: “Bojan is three months unemployed, and his wife earns just 120 euros a month—not nearly enough to feed a family of four. He blames Serbia’s increasingly authoritarian president, Aleksandar Vucic, for his troubles. He also blames the European Union, which he says is Vucic’s ultimate master. He describes Brussels as a vaguely imperialist entity that demands too much of Serbia while delivering little. ‘And China?’ I ask. ‘China is good. China is here to help,’ he says.”