WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

  • Erolld Belegu, an advisor to Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, was in Iowa this week promoting the newly designated American Economic Zone that will be situated just outside the western cit of Gjakova/Djakovica.
  • US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Palmer emphasized US support for restarting the dialogue by suspending or removing tariffs that would eventually lead to a locally owned, comprehensive agreement with mutual recognition in his interview with RFE/RL. You can read the full interview here.
  • On Saturday, Palmer was in Sarajevo where he said that Chairman of the Presidency of BiH Milorad Dodik and Nikola Spiric would remain sanctioned by the US government.
  • Atlantic Council Executive Vice President Damon Wilson spoke with N1 after meeting with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. He noted that it is “in the interest of Serbia and Kosovo to close that chapter so that they can compete in the future otherwise their populations are going to vote with their feet and leave.” Watch the full interview here.
  • Meanwhile, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has called on US President Donald Trump to step in to bring Kosovo back to the negotiating table.
  • Politico: “The EU’s big Balkan botchup“: “A year ago, the European Union told two Balkan countries they could get the green light this month to start membership talks if they jumped through the right hoops. The European Commission says both countries, North Macedonia and Albania, have done just that. But neither will get the go-ahead at a meeting of EU ministers next week, thanks above all to France and Germany. Paris is the leading skeptic when it comes to enlarging the EU while Berlin can’t make a decision because the German parliament has yet to take a view.”
  • After originally appearing that there would be be a decoupling of Albania and N. Macedonia‘s opening of accession talks according to senior EU officials, President Stevo Pendarovski, he took to Twitter on Sunday to write, “Yesterday we communicated with Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama. Our neighbours are important. Albania’s EU integration road is as important as ours because they are intertwined.”
  • According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, Two hundred Russian paratroopers left Pskov to participate in the 2019 Slavic Brotherhood military exercises in Serbia. 
  • Russian state-run media TASS is reporting that Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic spoke about Serbs in the north of Kosovo: “If the international community fails to respond in accordance with the United Nations’ resolution, if the Serbs have to face violence, if these attacks on them continue, then Belgrade will have to react and Serbia is ready for that. However, I hope that there will be no need to do it.”
  • Dacic stirred controversy with neighboring Bosnia when he said “Bosnia and Herzegovina is not and will never be a Muslim country like the Bosniaks want. Let’s not exaggerate now, I’m starting to look like Mile (Milorad) Dodik now.”
  • Bosnian Prime Minister Denis Zvizdic fired back that Dacic was only sending “malicious messages of hatred and intolerance.”
  • And Bosniak Member of the Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic reminded the public that Chairman of the Presidency Milorad Dodik has once again violated the law by not displaying the symbols of Bosnia and Herzegovina, his time in an official meeting with the Ambassador of China.
  • INCOMING: Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović will be in Estonia tomorrow for a state visit, during the course of which she will meet with President Kersti Kaljulaid, President of the Riigikogu Henn Põlluaas and Prime Minister Jüri Ratas.
  • Minister of Interior of Montenegro Mevludin Nuhodžić and Slovenian counterpart Boštjan Poklukar met in Ljubljana to discuss cooperation between the two in the fields of organized crime and terrorism. Poklukar also reiterated Slovenia’s support for Montenegro’s EU accession.
  • Slovenia appoints Sabina R. Stadler as its new ambassador to the United Nations.
  • Bosnia moves 282 migrants who were squatting illegally in Bihac to a camp near an area filled with mines from the wars in the 1990s.
  • Reuters: “Slovenia has received bids for its third largest bank, Abanka, from U.S. investment fund Apollo and Hungarian bank OTP , daily newspaper Delo reported on Friday.
    Both bidders, each of which already own a bank in Slovenia, are offering about $450.80 million for Abanka, with Apollo’s bid the highest, Delo said, without naming its sources.”
  • In 2015, Canada’s Vermilion Energy won four licenses for exploration drilling in Eastern Slavonia, Croatia. They have begun drilling their first exploration well in Croatia and should have initial results on the presence of oil or gas within five weeks.
  • Speaking of energy, Belgrade and Budapest have signed a deal on building a gas pipeline as a part of the Turkstream project.


BEYOND THE POLITICS

  • Chinese language classes in schools could be introduced as early as next year in the Bosnian entity of Republika Srpska. Teachers could be provided by Beijing-based Confucius Institutes.
  • To ease summer traffic congestion, Croatian and Montenegrin authorities have opened a new border crossing at “Vitaljina-Njivice”.
  • Speaking of traffic – British Airways announced a new direct seasonal flight from London Heathrow to Ljubljana to accommodate growing tourist interests. 
  •  In other new flight news, Agean Airlines will link Athens and Sarajevo. Two flights a week on Thursdays and Saturdays will operate this summer.
  • Going Croatian: English soccer team West Bromwich Albion changed its Twitter handle to “West Bromić Albion” after hiring Croatian Slaven Bilic as its new manager.
  • Other sports news: Croatian basketball team Cedevita of Zagreb and Slovenian team Petrol Olimpija of Ljubljana will merge and be named Cedevita Olimpija Ljubljana and play in the Slovenian capital.