WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

  • Former US President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright spoke at the 20 year anniversary of the end of the Kosovo War. A bust of Albright was unveiled in Pristina while Clinton gave remarks at a statue of him, conveniently located on Bill Clinton Blvd. 
  • Clinton noted: “I love this country and it will always be one of the greatest honors of my life to have stood with you against ethnic cleansing (by Serbian forces) and for freedom.”
  • Albright said:  “I am proud of what we did together and with all that you have done.”
  • Others in attendance included General Wesley Clark, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Palmer, US Ambassador to Kosovo Richard Kosnett, and Kosovo Ambassador to the US Vlora Citaku, Members of the Kosovo Parliament, and US Peace Corps Kosovo Country Director Darlene Grant.
  • The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a full committee hearing, “NATO Expansion: Examining the Accession of North Macedonia” with Acting Assistant Secretary of State Philip T. Reeker and Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Kathryn Wheelbarger giving testimonies. You can read Reeker’s testimony here and Wheelbarger’s here. Both advocated for North Macedonia’s accession to NATO and were looking forward US Congress to swiftly ratify their accession protocol. The full video of the hearing can be found here.
  • North Macedonia and Albania were given a boost for accession talks to the EU to open sooner rather than later. High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini noted the talks should open in June or July after a meeting with President of North Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski.
  • Meanwhile, European Council President Donald Tusk was positive: “To keep in line with my role as President of the European Council, I do not want to prejudge the EU’s decisions. You have done everything that was expected of you. But I want to be honest with you: not all member states are prepared to make the decision on opening negotiations in the coming days. The question today is, not if, but when. If I am a bit cautious, it is because I know that, sometimes, reaching consensus among 28 member states takes more time than I would like.” 
  • The EU Intergovernmental Conferences with Serbia and Montenegro will take place at the end of June.
  • In other news, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said that his country would protect North Macedonia should its deal for eight US-made F-16’s go through. It’s upgrading from Soviet-made MiG-29’s to adhere to NATO standards.
  • Croatia’s President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic does not regret inviting her Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic to Croatia and noted she would do it again. 
  • Associated Press: “German authorities have arrested a Kosovo national accused of supporting the Islamic State group by transferring thousands of euros to a fighter and a would-be recruit… He is suspected of 15 counts of supporting IS and 11 of violating German export laws.”
  • Quoted: Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin after meeting with Chairman of the Bosnian Presidency Milorad Dodik: “No army can separate Serbia and Bosnia’s Serb-dominated Republika Srpska (RS) entity.”
  • Slovenia’s Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratusek met her Chinese Transport Minister to Li Xiaopeng in Beijing to discuss Slovenia’s geostrategic location. In addition, Bratusek met with the management of one of the largest shipping companies in the world, Chinese state-owned company Cosco which owns a 100% stake in the port of Piraeus in Greece. 
  • N1: “An oral hearing began at the European Court of Human Rights on Wednesday on the admissibility of an application which Slovenia lodged against Croatia in September 2016 over receivables of defunct Ljubljanska Banka’s Zagreb branch dating back to the 1980s.”
  • Serbia’s Minister of Culture and Information Vladan Vukosavljevic warns UNESCO of misinterpretation facts of the Novo Brdo archaeological site. 
  • Two to be arrested and eight are under investigation at Dubrovnik’s hydropower plant after three workers died in January.

BEYOND THE POLITICS

  • Emerging Europe: “The Balkans’ moment in the spotlight is now” by Petros Stathis: “It’s absolutely critical that business owners ensure their success goes hand-in-hand with the interests of the local community. The Balkans’ moment in the spotlight is now, and as investors we must set the bar as high as possible for our peers.Rugged mountains, glittering coastline, UNESCO World Heritage sites, five-star resorts and superyacht marinas. No, this isn’t the French Riviera, Amalfi Coast or Monaco. This is the Balkans.”