WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

  • Former US President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright arrived in Kosovo yesterday to attend a ceremony happening marking 20 years since NATO troops were deployed to stop the Kosovo War. Clinton was awarded the Freedom Order by Kosovo President Hashim Thaci. See what Clinton said about his role in Kosovo as US President here.
  • US State Department’s Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Palmer met with Serbian opposition leaders while on a trip to Belgrade. No comments were given after the meeting.
  • Meanwhile, Kosovo Foreign Minister Behgjet Pacolli says that Kosovo has cut off all communication with the United Nations Mission in Kosovo for the time being.


  • A joint declaration of 13 countries was signed urging faster integration of the Western Balkans into the EU signaling calling for accession negotations to begin in June for North Macedonia and Albania. The declaration noted, “The EU enlargement process has a positive transformative power in the Western Balkans and is an investment in peace and stability in Europe. It is essential to ensure the overall progress of the region. The EU needs to fulfill its unambiguous commitment to the Western Balkans European integration. There is no ‘Plan B.'”
  • Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis has called on the EU to begin accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania. 
  • Babis noted at a press conference in Skopje: “European politicians have promised you if you meet the conditions that you shall be granted a starting date for EU accession negotiations. If the European politicians do not keep their word that will be a demotivator for your citizens and there will be repercussions on the whole region”
  • MIGRANT CRISIS: Bosnian Presidency Chairman Milorad Dodik refused to agree to deploying the BiH Armed Forces to the border to quell the migrant crisis despite Presidency Members Sefik Dzaferovic and Zeljko Komsic supporting the move. Dodik also blocked sending Frontex to the Bosnian border.
  • Speaking of borders, at the Velika Kladusa border crossing, Bosnian Border Police seized over a ton of tobacco and 700 packs of Marlboro cigarettes.  The Slovenian registered vehicle was driven by a 27 year old.
  • Russian Ambassador to Bosnia Peter Ivantsov marked Russia Day with an elaborate ceremony that was attended by Milorad Dodik, Republika Srpska entity’s Prime Minister Radovan Viskovic, Deputy Speaker of Bosnia’s House of Peoples Nebojsa Radmanovic,  Orthodox Archbishop Hrizostom, Jewish leader Jakub Finci, and others.
  • He noted, “As one of the guarantors of the Dayton Peace Agreement (which ended the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia) Russia sees its role in promoting strict adherence to the norms and principles of the Agreement, in line with the guaranteed equality of Bosnia’s two entities and three constituent peoples.”
  • In a separate event, Ivantsov accused the Office of High Representative in BiH of undermining the law.
  • Speaking of Russian ambassadors to the region, Aleksandr Botsan-Kharchenko has been appointed the new Russian Ambassador to Serbia replacing outgoing ambassador, Aleksandr Chepurin. Botsan-Kharchenko previously served in Croatia, as a part of a special envoy to the region, and Russia’s Ambassador to Bosnia from 2009-2014 before returning to Moscow.
  • VMRO-DPMNE threatens to boycott a census in North Macedonia which would signal a “disaster for the state.”
  • Montenegrin Parliament debated its national defense strategy yesterday.


BEYOND THE POLITICS

  • RFE/RL (Video): “Serbia’s Pups-For-Prisoners Program”: “Serbian prisoners and stray dogs have been teamed up in a novel rehabilitation program. The men train the dogs and help prepare them for new homes. Prison staff say working with the animals has helped boost empathy and decrease aggression among the inmates.”