WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

  • The United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the Protocol to the North Atlantic Treaty of 1949 on the Accession of the Republic of North Macedonia. It will now go to a full Senate vote.
  • Acting US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Reeker said that N. Macedonia is on the right track for NATO and EU integration and that the US and N. Macedonia “are launching a new stage in their relations and cooperation as allies in the Alliance.”
  • US Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina Eric Nelson writes in his new blog “Citizens’ Right to the Rule of Law in Bosnia and Herzegovina” (in Bosnian and English) that Bosnia needs rule of law reform in order for society to progress and “Citizens of BiH bear the weight of corruption on their own backs every day:  they struggle when access to good health care, education, and jobs requires connections to the political patronage system.  Seeing their personal progress obstructed, many emigrate, choosing countries that have a strong rule of law to secure their future.”
  • The US Embassy in Kosovo issued a security alert: “During the summer season security measures in Kosovo remain heightened due to ongoing threats posed by transnational terrorist organizations and individuals inspired by extremist ideology”
  • After appearing in The Hague as a suspect of war crimes, former Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj calls on the EU and US to stop pressuring Kosovo on tariffs and “The agreement with Serbia should include mutual recognition within the existing borders, and at the same time free trade must be linked with the recognition.”
  • European Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn visited Skopje and Belgrade late last week. In Skopje, he called on officials to reform the judiciary sector before the opening of EU accession talks. Meanwhile, in Belgrade, Hahn said he will still be committed to the region, but might give up his current portfolio.
  • Romania claims to have blocked a shipment of Russian military equipment including tanks and armored vehicles heading for Serbia. The Russian Ministry of Defense refutes the claim and says that the shipment arrived on schedule.
  • Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic arrived in Israel on an official state visit. She will meet counterpart Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Speaker of the Knesset Yuli-Yoel Edelstein, and Foreign Minister Israel Katz.
  • New Croatian Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Gordan Grlić Radman outlined his main goals in the position with a strong focus on economic diplomacy.
  • Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic says that the Central African Republic has revoked its recognition of Kosovo. 
  • Slovenia’s Janez Lenarcic was endorsed by the EU Affairs Committee. Slovenia nominated him for Slovenia’s European Commissioner position.
  • Montenegrin Speaker of Parliament Ivan Brajovic stresses the importance of cooperation between small European countries for unity and cooperation while on a trip to Monaco.
  • The funeral for Croatian soldier Lance Corporal Josip Briski, who was killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan, was held on Friday in Zagreb. He was buried with the highest military honors.
  • The Qatar Charity will build an a village in Mitrovica, Kosovo. The project “includes 40 houses, a school, health clinic, service center, mosque, shops and green spaces, providing an integrated environment.” and will cost around $2.5 million, of which the Qatar Charity will pay $1.67 million and the Mitrovica municipality will pay the rest.
  • President of the Bosnian entity of Republika Srpska Zeljka Cvijanovic met with Iranian Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina Mahmoud Heidari. The two discussed increasing economic and cultural cooperation.
  • Serbian Parliament ratifies the agreement to have joint traffic control on the border with N. Macedonia at the Presevo-Tabanovce border crossing.
  • “Montenegro’s 307-megawatt (MW) Perucica hydro power plant will go offline for a 32-day overhaul, starting from July 29, power utility Elektroprivreda Crne Gore (EPCG) said on Friday.” (Retuers)
  • Migrants: Twenty-one migrants were found in the woods on the border of N. Macedonia and Serbia. They were from Pakistan, Iraq, and Syria. 
  • Justice: A Balkan organized crime group was busted by Europol for drug smuggling. Sixteen members were arrested for trafficking drugs, primarily cocaine, from South America to Europe, and beyond.
  • A huge fire near Sibenik, Croatia caused roads to be blocked and 120 firefighters to battle the flames. 

BEYOND THE POLITICS

  • Blog: “An Air Force Pilot Explains How His F-16 Was Shot Down in Battle” by Dario Leone in The National Interest: “On Jun. 2, 1995 U.S. Air Force (USAF) F-16 pilot Scott O’Grady (callsign Basher Five-Two) was flying a standard “two-ship” formation with Bob “Wilbur” Wright (callsign Basher Five-One) as the lead pilot to keep peace in Bosnia. Both pilots were assigned to the 555th Fighter Squadron (FS), or the “Triple Nickel,” of the 31st Fighter Wing (FW)from Aviano Air Base (AB), northeastern Italy…Two  missiles were fired by 2K12 Kub (NATO reporting name SA-6 Gainful) mobile SAM launcher without radar assistance (so the Serbs could avoid being detected). The Serbs turned on the radar when the missiles were just seconds away from O’Grady’s and Wright’s jets.”
  • Sport: Bosnian soccer player Sead Kolasinac fought off attackers armed with knives while with Arsenal teammate Mesut Ozil. The English Premier League warned other players against taking measures into their own hands. 
  • Sport: Montenegro names Bosnian Faruk Hadzbegic as its new national soccer team manager after firing Serbian Ljubisa Tumbakovic for refusing to manage against Kosovo last month.
  • Tourism: The first Hilton Garden Inn opened in Zagreb. The hotel has 153 rooms and is within walking distance of Maksimir Park. Zagreb has two other Hilton properties.