WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

  • US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Palmer will meet on Monday with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Belgrade. The topic of discussion was not disclosed.
  • Foreign Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina Igor Crnadak was in Washington DC last week where he met with Matthew Palmer, among others. They discussed “the current political situation in the Republika Srpska and the Federation of BiH, as well as the process of forming the government.”
  • Deputy Senior Director for European Affairs on the U.S. National Security Council John Erath told Voice of America on the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue: “We’ve heard that it’s important for the U.S. to be involved in the dialogue, to play some kind of facilitating role, but we can’t do this until there’s an actual dialogue—that is, until the tariff goes away.”
  • In Divaca, US soldiers and the Slovenian Armed Forces hosted a community engagement day including, among other activities, fly overs and the chance to wear tactical gear.
  • Meanwhile, the US Military Police held joint exercises with their Slovenian counterparts with a focus on firearms techniques and marksmanship. 
  • In a visit to Croatia, the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Junckeradvocated for Croatia joining the Schengen Zone. “I would like the European Commission to give a recommendation before the end of our term in office for Croatia’s Schengen zone accession.”
  • Meanwhile, Prime Minister of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev said on Thursday he would resign and have elections if the EU does not set the accession date for June.
  • The German Bundestag struck a blow to the opening of accession talks for North Macedonia and Albania as it wasn’t discussed and will be going on a summer break.
  • On Saturday, a meeting between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Zaev was announced.
  • French President Emmanuel Macron will visit Serbia in mid-July after the Kosovo-Serbia meeting on July 1. The visit was postponed from November due to protests in France.
  • The United Nations Security Council will discuss Kosovo on Monday when UN Special Representative to the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) will present his report for January 16-May 15. 
  • NATO Spokeswoman Oana Lungescu praised Montenegro’s accession to the alliance: “Montenegro is, therefore, appreciated and committed NATO ally and it has many benefits form the membership. For example, the Air Policing mission carried out by Italy and Greece ensures the safety of air space of Montenegro…Ever since it joined NATO, foreign investments from the Member States have doubled. NATO membership has been beneficial for Montenegro, the entire region and NATO.”
  • Belarus, Russia, and Serbia will conduct military exercises called Slavic Brotherhood 2019 in Pancevo, Serbia from June 14 to June 27. The exercises coincide with NATO’s Sabre Guardian 2019 drills in neighboring Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania.
  • On the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller and Bosnian Chairman of the Presidency Milorad Dodik discussed the Turkstream pipeline.
  • Bosniak Member of the Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic stated that the discussions Dodik had were not on the consensus of the tripartite presidency or official state positions.
  • Meanwhile, leader of the SDA in Bosnia and former BiH Presidency member Bakir Izetbegovic discussed the formation of the government with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
  • Kosovo President Hashim Thaci has employed convicted war criminal Rrustem Mustafa as an adviser since February 2019, unknown to the public. This comes on the heels of Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj dismissing convicted war criminal Sylejman Selimi as an adviser.
  • Foreign Minister of North Macedonia Nikola Dimitrov and Bulgarian counterpart Ekaterina Zaharieva will today hold he first meeting of the Macedonian-Bulgarian Joint Interministerial Committee.
  • Twelve bodies were exhumed from a mass grave on Mt. Igman, west of Sarajevo.
  • Thousands took to the streets of Zagreb for the 18th Zagreb Pride Parade. Program co-ordinator for the parade said, “The message of this Pride parade is that we are here, that this is not just a phase, that we are a part of the Croatian society, that we are not going anywhere and that we want full equality.”
  • Politics Creep Into Sport: Montenegrin soccer manager Ljubisa Tumbakovic was fired as manager after the Serbian-born Tumbakovic refused to manage the team against Kosovo. Two Serbian-born players for Montenegro also refused to play. Ironically, a Kosovo-born player was the captain for Montenegro’s for the Euro 2020 qualifier. 
  • Meanwhile in Skopje, 223 Polish soccer fans were arrested following clashes with the police as Poland played N. Macedonia in their Euro 2020 qualifier. They paid a total of $37,885 (33,450 Euros) in fines.
  • Bloomberg: “Fitch Ratings raised Croatia’s credit score to investment-grade level, making it the second major rating company to bring the Adriatic Sea country out of junk-bond status since March. The sovereign rating was upgraded by one notch to BBB-, with a positive outlook, from BB+, Fitch said on Friday, citing the European Union member’s efforts in lowering public debt, balancing the budget, and improving economic growth.”

BEYOND THE POLITICS

  • Oslobodjenje: “A new Bosnian NGO aims to foster entrepreneurship and innovation” by Tea Ivanovic: “At a private art gallery in the capital’s Dupont Circle neighborhood, Washington D.C. welcomed its newest non-for-profit organization: The Inclusive Movement for Bosnia and Herzegovina (IMBiH), an all-volunteer NGO aimed at engaging people who care about BiH and promote the country’s advancement.With three main pillars – innovation and entrepreneurship, cultural and humanitarian activities, and networking, IMBiH seeks to create a bridge between the two nations and its peoples.”

  • American Airlines first flight between Philadelphia and Dubrovnik landed safely on Friday. This is the first direct flight since independence in 1991. 
  • Air Serbia launches 21 new routes for the summer season from Belgrade and Nis. 
  • An Afghan migrant was stabbed to death in Belgrade in what appears to be a revenge killing for participating in the murder of another Afghan migrant the night before. 
  • A Marriott Courtyard hotel will open in Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina on July 1, 2019.
  • But it won’t be in time for the Cevap Fest that is expected to draw 20,000 to Banja Luka.