WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

  • Montenegro President Milo Djukanovic congratulated all Montenegrins on independence day (May 21). He looks to the historical achievement of restoring independence thirteen years ago through a “peaceful democratic path” and that Montenegro is  a “modern European state.”
  • Montenegrin Defense Minister Predrag Boskovic in Afghanistan says NATO is the best guarantor of success after meeting German Brigadier General Gerhard Ernst-Peter Klaffus.
  • EU Commissioner for Enlargement Johannes Hahn acknowledged that N. Macedonia has delivered on internal reforms and believes it deserves to open its EU accession process before summer. He also noted that the “same applies to conflict resolving agreement between Serbia and Kosovo.”
  • Speaker of the Parliament of N. Macedonia Ali Ahmeti met with new President Stevo Pendarovski and agreed on close cooperation.
  • Ahmeti also called for politicians to go through a vetting before taking office. 
  • Speaker of the House of Representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovina Brojana Kristo met Iranian Ambassador to BiH Mahmoud Heydari. She hopes that bilateral relations between Sarajevo and Tehran will expand in all fields.
  • Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik said that right-wing Austrian Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache was a “frame-up” after a video showed him offering government contracts to a woman who claimed to be a Russian investor and niece of an oligarch.
  • Drama in Kosovo Parliament: The opposition walked out of a session on establishing an international war crimes court for Serbia and called for Speaker Kadri Veseli to step down after the war rape photo scandal that rocked Pristina last week. UK Ambassador Ruairi O’Connell and former President Atifete Jahjaga led the “Treat me with dignity” march in response to the scandal.
  • In another move, opposition MPs will meet to discuss filing a no confidence motion against Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj.
  • Meanwhile, the opposition in Serbia (The Alliance for Serbia) led by Dragan Djilas has formed a branch in Kosovo.
  • And Kosovo banned Serbia’s Director for the Office of Kosovo and Metohija Marko Djuric from entering. He was arrested for illegally crossing into Kosovo last year.
  • But he indicated Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic will meet with Srpska Lista officials and heads of Serb institutions in Kosovo on Friday.
  • The Council of Europe launches the first online course on violence against women and domestic violence in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was adapted to be in line with with national legal and policy frameworks.
  • Speaker of the Lower House of the Swiss Parliament Marine Carobbio Guscetti highlighted the strong cooperation between Slovenia and her native Switzerland, noting over $2 billion in bilateral trade last year while meeting Slovenian Speaker of Parliament Dejan Zidan.
  • N. Macedonia is set to host its first Gay Pride Parade on June 29, 2019.
  • The Netherlands is committed to supporting Montenegro’s EU accession. Montenegro’s Chief Negotiator Aleksandar Drljevic led a delegation to The Hague to meet with Dutch officials. The Dutch recommended that Montenegro should focus on battling corruption, independency of the judiciary, and freedom of press.
  • Speaking of the EU, Head of the EU Office in Kosovo Nataliya Apostolova: “The EU expresses deep concern on the lack of implementation of the 19 May 2016 Constitutional Court ruling on the land dispute case in Decan/e and others affecting properties of members from non-majority communities. Decisions by Kosovo’s highest legal authority are final and must be implemented without further delay. The EU calls on authorities at all levels to strongly uphold the rule of law as a fundamental democratic principle,” 
  • A Croatian national has been banned from re-entering Austria after giving a Nazi salute at the commemoration in Bleiburg over the weekend.
  • CSIS Brief: “Russian Malign Influence in Montenegro: The Weaponization and Exploitation of History, Religion, and Economics“: “The mobilization of the Orthodox Church (in Montenegro through the Serbian Orthodox Church) is one such weapon in the Kremlin’s effort to resuscitate pan-Slavism and unite the Slavic world under Russian patronage. Doing so supports the Kremlin’s narrative that only Russian president Vladimir Putin is the true ‘defender of the faith,’ and all that is culturally traditional and conservative. In effect, the Russian and Serbian Orthodox churches ‘interfere in [one’s] brain and alter an individual’s conscience‘ because the church touches many aspects of daily life, from the blessing of cars and homes to encouraging followers to fight against the decadence and liberalism of the West.”
  • Former chief executive of Kosovo’s state-owned energy company, the Kosovo Energy Corporation (KEK), Arben Gjukaj was cleared of corruption charges related to a $6.92 million security contract.
  • Total Slovenia News takes a look at what the priorities for Slovenia’s 2021 EU Presidency could entail. The ruling Marjan Sarec List says it is too far out to prioritize the presidency at the moment.
  • Slovenia Times: “Minister of Education, Science and Sport Jernej Pikalo met with Chinese Minister of Science and Technology Wang Zhigang in Beijing on Friday during his visit to China. The pair signed a memorandum of understanding between the two ministries on the joint financing of research and development (R&D) projects.”
  • A Bosnian national, Gavrilo Stevanovic, has been indicted for fighting in Ukraine for a paramilitary organization against the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the Luhansk region.
  • Police in N. Macedonia find a truck with a hidden compartment hiding 8 migrants at the border crossing with Serbia

BEYOND THE POLITICS

  • A petition has been signed by over 850 people against the early release of former Assistant Minister of the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MUP) and Chief of the Public Security Department (RJB) of the MUP Vlastimir Djordjevic from the The Hague. He was found guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced to 27 years in 2014, but reduced to 18 years after appealing.
  • Ever wonder what it’s like to jump off the famous Old Bridge in Mostar? Well, now virtual reality has been released so you don’t actually have to take the plunge.