The Balkans Today: 1st - 5th August 2016
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The Balkans Today

Up to the minute news and updates from the Balkan region

The Balkans Today: 1st - 5th August 2016

Our team brings you live updates of the most important events and developments in the Balkans as they happen.

  • Top stories from the Balkans this Monday:
    • Violent attacks on refugees and migrants have increased in the Balkans since the spring, the medical organisation MSF in Serbia reports. Read more.
    • Montenegro is offering Afghanistan's embattled military 400,000 US dollars, despite opposition at home to the country's participation in NATO missions overseas. Read more.
    • Zoran Zaev, the youthful Social Democrat leader and former businessman, dealt the Gruevski government a heavy blow by revealing thousands of Macedonians have been illegally wiretapped. Read more.
  • The former president of the now defunct State Union of Serbia and Montenegro, Svetozar Marovic, did not appear before the court in Podgorica on Monday because of the health issues.

    The court supposed to decide on Marovic's prison term and on the size of the fine he should pay after he after admitted guilt in a high-profile graft case linked to his hometown of Budva.

    Svetozar Marovic. Photo: Facebook.

  • Hometown entrant Lorens Listo wins for 10th time diving competition from Ottoman-era bridge in #Bosnia's Mostar

  • The agreement reached on Sunday between the Bosniak member of the Bosnian Presidency, Bakir Izetbegovic, and the President of Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, which is hoped to unblock the country's EU accession process, is a "dead letter", Dragan Covic, the Croat member of the Presidency, told Sarajevo-based news website Klix on Monday morning. 

    "For me this agreement is a dead letter, it only satisfied the need to make Dodik and Izetbegovic talk, but this cannot happen at the expenses of a third party,” Covic said, adding that he thinks it will not be approved by the Council of Ministers.

    Covic claims the deal over the EU Coordination Mechanism, which is one of the key conditions set by the EU for the continuation of Bosnia’s accession talks, eliminates the authority of the ten cantons of Bosnia’s Federation entity. 

    "No one can make an agreement on the coordination mechanism without representatives of all political parties... or representatives from the three constitutive peoples," Covic argued, lamenting that he was excluded from Sunday's meeting.

    Dragan Covic. Photo: 

  • Bosnian war veterans have blocked several border crossings with Croatia and two major roads on Monday after the government of the country’s Federation entity did not approve a resolution signed by several veterans associations, calling for the introductions of measures to increase the rights of former soldiers of the 1992-95 war. 

    According to BIHAMK, Bosnia’s automobile club, veterans are occupying the section of the M-17 between the  towns of Zenica and Zepce, as well as the M-5 between Travnik to Vitez, all located in central Bosnia. 

    The former soldiers have also blocked four border crossings with Croatia, at Doljani, Bijaca, Crveni Grm and Orahovlje.

    Former soldiers blocking the border crossing at Bijaca on July 27. Photo: Anadolu. 

  • President of Poland Andrzej Duda signed the law ratifying Montenegro’s accession to NATO, the president’s office said. The Polish parliament backed the legislation earlier in July.

    “The Montenegrin party has repeatedly signalized it was important to it that Poland, the NATO [Warsaw] summit host and the state, which really supports the accession of the country to the alliance, would be one of the first country-members to ratify the protocol,” the office said in a statement, quoted by the Polish PAP news agency.


  • The high court of honour of the Croatian centre-right Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, decided on Monday to reinstate Drago Prgomet and Milan Kujundzic, former high-ranking party officials.

    After weeks of media speculation, Kujundzic and Prgomet, who left the party in 2013 and 2015 respectively, can now take part in HDZ's campaign for parliamentary elections in September.
  • Serbia’s foreign ministry has sent two protest notes to the Croatian embassy in Belgrade, one of them condemning the recent quashing of Croatian general Branimir Glavas’s conviction for war crimes against Serb civilians.

    Serbia said this was incomprehensible from "both a legal and a moral point of view" and was anti-Serb.

    The second note was sparked by the instalment of a statue of Croatian soldier Miro Baresic, who was killed during the war in 1991, in the village of Drage.

    Baresic killed a Yugoslav ambassador in Stockholm in 1971 and Serbia called on Croatia to distance itself from "the praising of a convicted terrorist" and remove what it called a "shameful monument".

    Branimir Glavas. Photo: Beta 

  • The council within the Constitutional Court of Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity, Republika Srpska, concerning the protection of the interests of the three constitutive peoples of Bosnia, decided on Monday to accept a request from the Bosniak delegates of the Council of Peoples to safeguard the interests of Bosniaks in the upcoming referendum on the entity’s national holiday, Al Jazeera Balkans reported. 

    The Council for protection of vital national interest also agreed with the decision of Republika Srpska’s assembly to publish the results of the 2013 census autonomously, and will take its final decision on both requests within 30 days.

    Last week, Bosniak politicians in Republika Srpska warned that the procedure to protect the vital interests of Bosniaks in the entity is likely to fail, and that the international community should take steps to avoid the referendum, planned for September 25.

    Photo: Anadolu. 

  • Bakir Izetbegovic, the Bosniak member of the Bosnian Presidency and leader of the Party of Democratic Action, SDA, told Fena news agency that the Croat member of the Presidency, Dragan Covic, “is making unnecessary problems” in relation to the agreement on the formation of an EU Coordinating Mechanism reached between Bosniak and Bosnian Serb leaders on Sunday.

    Referring to Covic’s claim that the mechanism excluded the ten cantons in Bosnia’s Federation entity, Izetbegovic said: "The Cantons are equally represented inside the coordination mechanism, in accordance with their constitutional competences".

    He added that he believed Covic had submitted Bosnia’s EU application, which happened in February, too early, claiming Covic “insisted on submitting a premature and immature application for the EU membership” and that he has since personally worked to ensure the application is credible.

    Bakir Izetbegovic. Photo: SDA / Facebook. 

  • Montenegro sent a protest note to Zagreb over the inauguration of a statue of Miro Baresic, who killed a Yugoslav ambassador Vladimir Rolovic in Stockholm in 1971.

    "The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration expects from the Croatian government to distance itself from this uncivilized act, given that Vladimir Rolovic was a prominent anti-fascist and a prominent Yugoslav and Montenegrin diplomat," the statement said.
  • Top stories from the Balkans this Tuesday:
    • Disagreements over a new contract with Italy’s A2A for the management of the state power company could lead to Montenegro's opposition ministers resigning from the cabinet. Read more.
    • Freshly released inserts of wiretapped phone conversations in Kosovo reportedly illustrate the ruling party’s powers of political patronage over top jobs in the public sector. Read more.
    • Croatia's Adriatic coast is maintaining its image as a hot tourist destination, with Britain's Tony Blair joining various other celebrities soaking up the sunshine. Read more.
    • The resignation of the director of the National Opera and Ballet highlights the challenges facing Albanian artists as a result of the paltry budgets they are expected to operate on. Read more.
  • Macedonia today celebrates St. Elijah Day, its biggest national holiday, marking 113 years since the Ilinden [St. Elijah] uprising against the Ottoman empire, as well as 72 years since the first session of the WWII Anti-Fascist Assembly of the National Liberation of Macedonia, ASNOM, which set the cornerstone of today's Republic of Macedonia and is locally known as the second Ilinden.
    Photo by: MIA
    by sinisa via null edited by emma.krstic 8/2/2016 9:02:21 AM
  • Political parties in Albania will focus on completing the country’s judicial reform during the first weeks of August, with an ad hoc parliamentary commission on the reform having met on Tuesday to discuss the seven outstanding laws that need to be passed to complete the package.

    The core aspects of the reform, demanded by the EU and considered crucial for the fight against corruption and political influence, were passed unanimously in parliament on July 22 with the remaining seven expected to be approved this month.

    Albanian Parliament after the judicial reform passing. Photo: LSA/Franc Zhurda  

  • A group of 13 members of the Bosnian State Parliament wrote to Bosnia’s High Representative, Valentin Inzko, and several other representatives of the international community within the country, to ask them to stop the referendum Republika Srpska, Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity, plans to hold on September 25 over the entity’s annual holiday.

    The letter - also delivered to the EU, US, French, German, Russian and British ambassadors in Bosnia - called on the international community to “urgently intervene in order to impede” the referendum and to put an end to the currently “dangerous” situation in the country, which the group of parliament members claim first escalated when organs within Republika Srpska made the decision in November last year to oppose the Constitutional Court and call for this vote.

    The letter states that, as co-creators of the Dayton agreement, the international community has “an important role and obligation in the process of preserving the peace process and the protection of the peace agreement.”

    Valentin Inzko. Photo: OHR.

  • The leader of Albania’s opposition Democratic Party, Lulzim Basha, told journalists on Tuesday that if the country had a technical government, his party would be satisfied that the general elections scheduled for June will be free and fair. 

    Basha claimed that the upcoming elections are at risk of government corruption and crime, so he believes the only way to ensure the polls are credible are to instate an interim government.

    Lulzim Basha. Photo: Facebook 
  • It is still not known how long it will take to extradite Bosnian war crimes suspect Nikola Ceranic from Brazil to face trial, the Justice Ministry in Sarajevo said on Tuesday.
    Ceranic was held in Indaiatuba, near Sao Paolo, on July 30 after Interpol issued a ‘red notice’ to arrest him on suspicion that he committed crimes against civilians in Trebinje in 1992.
    “It is impossible to foresee how long the extradition process in Brazil will last in this case,” the Bosnian Justice Ministry said in a statement.
  • The Roma Holocaust Memorial Day was commemorated in Croatia on Tuesday at the Roma cemetery in the town of Ustica, where a part of the largest WWII concentration camp in Croatia, run by the Nazi puppet regime, the Independent State of Croatia, NDH, was located. 

    Huge atrocities were committed against Croatia's Roma population by the NDH’s Ustasa units during the Second World War, with 16,173 Roma - including 5,608 children - were killed in the camp between 1941 and 1945.

    The international remembrance day marks the 2,987 Roma who were killed on August 2, 1944, in the Auschwitz extermination camp in Poland.

    Memorial on the Ustica Roma cemetery. Photo: 

  • Top stories from the Balkans this Wednesday: 
    • Montenegrin arms broker who sold almost 300 tonnes of aging Yugoslav-era weapons and ammunition to Saudi Arabia says “It’s no concern of mine” if the Gulf kingdom later diverts them to Syria. Read the full investigation.
    • Despite being accused of slavishly obeying Macedonia's ruling coalition party, Ali Ahmeti is seen by many as an effective negotiator for ethnic Albanians in Macedonia. Read more.
    • As the government crackdown on alleged coup instigators develops into a broad sweep against the opposition, tens of thousands of Turks find themselves caught in the middle. Read more.
  • Former Yugoslav State Security Service officials Josip Perkovic and Zdravko Mustac have been sentenced to life imprisonment by the higher court in Munich for abetting the murder of a Croatian émigré in Germany in 1983.
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