WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

Aloha from sunny Maui, Hawaii – we hope everyone had a safe Fourth of July holiday weekend. On another note, congratulations to the US Women’s National Soccer Team for winning the 2019 World Cup in France.

  • US Embassies across the region celebrated 4th of July including the opening of the new US Embassy in Pristina, Kosovo by Congressman Eliot Engel (D- NY, 16), US Ambassador Philip Kosnett, Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, and Mayor of Pristina Shpend Ahmeti.
  • But it wasn’t all peachy at the US Embassies. In Skopje, Macedonian singe Tamara Todevska sang the national anthem of N. Macedonia, but left out a verse that included the names of Macedonian heroes.
  • New US Ambassador to N. Macedonia Kate Bynres posted a video message and noted, “The United States is proud of its strong friendship with the people of North Macedonia. We value the courage and professionalism of your soldiers, and we look forward to welcoming you as NATO’s 30th member.”
  • The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) declares July 11 as a day of mourning in remembrance of the Srebrenica genocide. The Croatian Parliament commemorated the genocide on July 5 by reading out the names of 33 people who will be buried on July 11. It was organized by the Association of Bosniak Homeland War Veterans and Parliamentarian Ermina Lekaj Prljaskaj.
  • The South Eastern European Cooperation Process (SEEP) is due to take place today and tomorrow in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Albania will not attend the conference in solidarity with Kosovo which was not invited as a full state. But Turkish President Recep Tayipp Erdogan will be in attendance
  • Serbia-Bulgaria Row: Bulgaria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned Serbia’s Ambassador after its Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic told Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borrissov to “respect the attitude of the EU” with regards to Kosovo. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic hopes for relations to get better quickly and will speak with Borrisov and Bulgarian President Rumen Radov next week.
  • RFE/RL: “Kosovo Government Denies Ban On Serbian Officials, Deepening Confusion“:  Kosovo’s government has denied there was a ban on Serbian officials entering the country, contradicting the Foreign Ministry and deepening confusion in Pristina. The comment July 5 by spokeswoman Donjeta Gashi came one day after an adviser to Foreign Minister Behgjet Pacolli announced that no officials from Serbia would be allowed to enter Kosovo.”
  • Speaking of Kosovo and Serbia, Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj gave an interview in Serbian to news portal KosSev. He stressed that the tariffs will remain in place until recognition is on the table and it would benefit Serbia to recognize Kosovo.
  • The OSCE in Montenegro released a report on violence against women. Read it here.
  • Croatia officially launches its bid to join the Eurozone. It hopes to enter the two-year preparation period under the European Central Bank in 2020. Eurozone finance ministers will discuss Croatia’s bid today.
  • A fence separating students based on ethnicity in the city of Travnik, Bosnia and Herzegovina has been removed. Students in nearby Jajce, BiH protested in recent years until the “two (or three) schools under one roof” policy was reversed. 
  • ISIS: A Bosnian national could face the death penalty in Erbil, Iraq after allegedly fighting for the Islamic State. Meanwhile, Bosnian women, some with children, are begging for repatriation from Kurdish camps. It is estimated there are 90 Bosnian nationals in the camps.

BEYOND THE POLITICS

  • With a chainsaw, an American artist carved a statue of Melania Trump in her hometown Sevnica, Slovenia. 
  • On July 20th, Fly Jordan will launch a direct flight between Amman and Sarajevo. Flights will be on Saturdays through October. 
  • Many in Serbia unhappy with Djokovic-Ivanisevic partnership” by AP’s Dusan Stojanovic. “Novak Djokovic is again under scrutiny in his native Serbia — this time because of inviting Goran Ivanisevic to join his coaching team at Wimbledon.Serbia’s state-controlled tabloids called it a “scandalous” partnership between the top-ranked Serb and the former Wimbledon champion from Croatia.”