WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY


WELCOME BACK! We hope everyone enjoyed Memorial Day Weekend!

  • The US Senate confirms Kate Marie Byrnes as the new US Ambassador to North Macedonia. Her latest post was as the Deputy Chief of Mission of the US Embassy in Greece. Read her biography here.
  • Nevena Nikolic becomes the first Montenegrin woman to graduate from West Point this weekend. In addition, Nikola Pejovic becomes the fifth Montenegrin to graduate from the US Naval Academy.
  • The Maine National Guard spent seven days in Montenegro where it worked with the Army of Montenegro on cyber issues.
  • Atlantic Council’s Balkans Forward Congressional Fellows are on a trip to the Balkans led by Damon Wilson. They met Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, and Deputy Prime Minister  Enver Hoxhaj. They will be on a week-long trip in the region that includes stops in Albania and Serbia, according to Damon Wilson’s Twitter.
  • The European Union Parliamentary elections took place over the weekend in the region. See the results in Slovenia here and Croatia here.
  • Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called snap elections after his party did poorly in the EU Parliamentary elections. Voters may have been upset due to the Prespa Agreement.
  • Angela Merkel denies having knowledge of the Thompson song “Lijepa li si” being played at an HDZ rally she attended last week. The controversial artist’s song  includes irredentist notions about the Croat part of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  • Meanwhile, the EU Representative in BiH Lars-Gunnar Wigemark tells BiH that EU membership is possible only once it completes demands.
  • Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic gave a blunt assessment of Kosovo while addressing parliament: “We need to recognize that we have been defeated.. We lost the territory…We have two options – to normalize relations by reaching an agreement or to maintain a frozen conflict.”
  • Kosovo President Hashim Thaci believes that the border between Kosovo and Albania should be removed and to “smartly work on dismantling the border crossings between Kosovo and Albania which were wrongfully imposed.”
  • Meanwhile, the mayor of the Decan/Decani municipality in Kosovo says he will not respect the Kosovo Constitutional Court’s decision to cede land to the Serbian Orthodox Church’s Decani Monastery. Decani Monastery is one of four UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kosovo, but under the authority of Serbia because Kosovo is not a full member of the UN nor UNESCO.
  • Ministers in Bosnia and Serbia have agreed that if the 100% import tariff isn’t removed by July 1, retaliatory measures will be taken.
  • Bosnian Member of the Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic met with the Palestinian Ambassador to BiH to discuss the situation in the Middle East.
  • Financial Times: “North Macedonia pushes ‘compelling case’ for EU accession talks
  • Reuters:  “Russian state-owned oil company Zarubezhneft has signed a deal to supply natural gas to a Bosnian oil refinery it owns, reducing local pollution by replacing the heavy fuel oil currently used to help run the plant, Croatian news agency Hina reported.”
  • President of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJCP) BiH Milan Tegeltija asks for personal security following an alleged corruption scandal. 
  • Quarter Century Mark: Antigovernment protests in Serbia have marched for the 25th straight weekend against President Aleksandar Vucic

BEYOND THE POLITICS

  • In Tuzla on Saturday, the 24th anniversary of the “Kapija Massacre” was commemorated. In 1995, a grenade fired from Mount Ozren killed 71 and injured over 200. The memorial event by releasing 71 doves and laying wreaths and flowers.
  • First team all-NBA star Nikola Jokic, originally from Serbia, will play for his national national team in the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China which begins on August 31. 
  • Close to 900 athletes are descending on Montenegro for the 18th Games of the Small States of Europe. Events will take place in Budva, Bar, Tivat, Cetinje and Podgorica. The athletes will compete in athletics, swimming, basketball, judo, shooting, table tennis, tennis, beach volleyball, volleyball.
  • Also in Montenegro sporting news, UEFA rejected Montenegro’s Soccer Association appeal against playing their June 7th match  against Kosovo in an empty stadium for racist chants during a 5-1 loss against England.
  • Forbes lists St. Nichols Island in Montenegro and Nugal Beach in Croatia on its 9 most beautiful beaches to visit in summer 2019.