The Balkans Today: 27th June - 1st July
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The Balkans Today

Up to the minute news and updates from the Balkan region

The Balkans Today: 27th June - 1st July

  • Top stories from the Balkans this Monday:
    • A working group initiated by the Electoral Commission will soon start a fresh verification of Macedonia's problematic electoral roll, after a previous attempt to cleanse the list failed to resolve concerns. Read more.

    • Kosovo’s own judicial authorities are to take over much of the responsibility for the court system from the EU rule-of-law mission - but many experts wonder if they are up to the task. Read more.

    • As the deadline for elections in Montenegro nears, the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights has expressed concern over political tensions and poor levels of media freedom. Read more.

    • Serbia should secure infrastructure investment by capitalising on Beijing's planned 'New Silk Road' trade route from Shanghai to Berlin, experts say. Read more.

  • Students at the state-run Saint Cyril and Methodius University in Macedonia’s capital Skopje blocked the entrance of the rectorate building on Monday morning, preventing professors and management from entering.
    The students, who are part of the informal movement, “Student’s Plenum”, which last year organised mass protests in Skopje and other towns against planned external testing, are now protesting against what they see as a murky and politically influenced election procedure for a new university rector. The students are demanding to be included in the procedure.

    Students blocked the entrance of the rectorate building. Photo by: Radio MOF

  • Macedonia’s junior ruling party, Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, has given its support for an initiative to form a special department in the Macedonian Criminal Court to be in charge of cases opened by the Special Prosecution, SJO, which is tasked to investigate high-level crime.

    “If this issue is opened during the [crisis] talks [between the political parties] out of principle, the DUI would support the formation of an office or a special department that will handle cases from SJO,” said DUI spokesperson Bujar Osmani.

    The initiative, originally instigated by intellectuals and political analysts, strongly supported by anti-government protesters and the opposition, gained more popular support when the Criminal Court earlier this year started rejecting demands for detention of suspects and for other measures that were coming from the SJO. The main ruling VMRO DPMNE party opted against it, denying allegations that it was pressuring the courts and accusing the SJO of prosecuting only their party members in a selective manner.

    DUI spokesperson, Bujar Osmani. Photo by: DUI

  • Moscow has issued its strongest warning yet over the prospect of Montenegro becoming a full member of NATO. The Russian State Duma addressed a statement to the parliamentary assemblies of NATO and OSCE countries, as well as to the national parliaments of the Balkan states, warning of the possibility of "a new Cold War", Radio Free Europe reported on Monday.

    Duma deputies are “seriously concerned about the policy of Montenegro’s integration into NATO,” which, they reportedly argue, threatens to rend Montenegrin society and ratchet up social and political tensions.


  • Medical doctors at the Skopje gynecology clinic say that the recently published records about the staggering infant mortality rate at the clinic were taken out of context. The clinic explained that they handle the most difficult cases, from women who have never visited gynecologists before child birth to those who ignored warnings about risky pregnancies.

    “It is very bad when numbers are taken out of context. You can have 20 accidents in one day at a busy intersection and after that only one. This clinic handles the most difficult cases,” said doctor Dragan Tanurovski, head of oncology at the clinic.

    The daily Fokus previously published what it said were clinical records that show 20 infant deaths in the past two weeks, and 82 since the beginning of the year.

    Photo by: GAK

  • Members of the Bosnian Presidency are expected to decide on Monday whether to approve the report on the proposed changes to the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, SAA, between Bosnia and the European Union.
    The agreement is a key component for the Bosnia’s efforts to become an EU candidate country. 

    The Serb member of the Presidency, Mladen Ivanic, told Bosnian media on Sunday that he will not approve the document, after the government of Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity Republika Srpska decided that same day not to give its support to the updated version of the SAA, stating that it would damage agricultural producers in the entity. 

    "I don't see any basis [for the approval of this document]... I will not vote in favour of this document until I get a positive opinion from the institutions of Republika Srpksa," Ivanic told TV network N1 on Sunday.

    Mladen Ivanic. Photo: Anadolu 

  • The final results of Bosnia's 2013 census will be made public on Thursday, June 30, the State Agency for Statistics of Bosnia and Herzegovina announced to Bosnian media on Monday. 

    The decision to publish the results without consensus on the methodology from the other main statistical agencies in the country was first announced at the end of May by the state agency’s director, Velimir Jukic. 

    The decision has been contested by the authorities of Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity Republika Srpska, which argued that without consensus from the three main statistical agencies the legitimacy of the results will be undermined, and threatened to publish them autonomously. 

    The EU has urged Bosnia to publish the results of the census by the legal deadline of July 1 to make the country’s application for membership to the union credible.

    The logo of the 2013 census. Photo: Popis 2013. 

  • An expert mission of European magistrates, organised by the European Commission, has arrived in Sofia on Monday to carry out an independent analysis of the work of the Bulgarian prosecutors, Bulgaria’s justice ministry announced.

    The mission consists of prosecutors from European countries – Germany, UK, Spain and the Netherlands - who are tasked with collecting information about the structure and functioning of Bulgaria’s prosecution office. 

    They will assess levels of integrity, hierarchy, transparency and overload of the prosecution.
    The analysis of the experts will be included in the annual report of the European Commission on Bulgaria under the Cooperation and Verification, CVM, mechanism, which monitors the state’s progress in fighting corruption and strengthening the rule of law. 

    The independent EU audit of the prosecution was requested by Bulgaria following a critical report by the European Commission. It has previously been delayed twice, which raised concerns about the progress of Bulgaria in carrying out its belated judicial reform.

    Sofia's Palace of Justice. Photo: Foxj/Twitter 

  • The working group for Enlargement and candidate and adhering countries, COELA, failed again on Monday to agree on opening Chapter 23 in Serbia’s EU accession path, with the United Kingdom now joining Croatia in stalling it.

    The UK cited “technical reasons” following its referendum on June 23 in which 52 per cent of the population voted to leave the EU.
    Serbia was hoping to have Chapter 23 opened before the Dutch presidency of the EU ends on July 1, but it is now only certain that at the intergovernmental conference in Turkey on June 30, the EU will be opening new chapters with the host country.

    On Wednesday, a working group of the European Council pulled from its agenda debates on Serbia’s opening of accession Chapters 23 and 24, which deal with the rule of law, the judiciary and human rights, after Croatia failed to give them a green light.
  • Croatia’s former junior government party, the Bridge of the Independent Lists, MOST, pleaded with the chair of Croatian parliament, Zeljko Reiner, on Monday to bring the parliament to session before it is due to be dissolved on July 15.

    MOST claims that the law on financing political activities and advertising for elections should be amended so that political parties are given less money for their upcoming campaigns for early parliamentary elections, which will most likely take place in September.
  • Serbia’s two new Mi-17 military transport helicopters, which it purchased from Russia, will arrive on Monday evening at Belgrade airport, Serbian news agency Beta confirmed.

    Serbia has been looking to update its air force equipment for several years, as the Serbian Army currently only has two working Mi-8 helicopters, which are now 36 years old.

    Photo: Defence Ministry 

    by sasa.dragojlo edited by sven.milekic 6/27/2016 2:51:30 PM
  • Croatian police have arrested four individuals from the coastal city of Split and one from Sibenik, all suspected of causing interruptions during the football match between Croatia and the Czech Republic earlier this month in the European football championship in France.

    The five people, aged between 20 and 28 years old, will be held in detention for a month, with bail set at between 5,300 and 6,000 euros each.

    The four from Split are alleged to have caused public disorder and committed a hate crime by using weapons and tools that could endanger people and damage property, which is punishable with a prison sentence of between six months to five years. 

    The person from Sibenik is suspected of taking part in causing disorder and violence in the stands, for disturbing public order and peace, and for encouraging other supporters to commit acts of violence in the stands.
  • Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said on Monday that he will not attend the Srebrenica genocide commemoration in Bosnia on July 11, as he does not want to cause any trouble.

    His announcement comes after the president of the Srebrenica municipality said earlier on Monday that people who are denying genocide are not welcome at the event.

    Vucic claimed he had understood the message, saying: "They have a right to want someone or not. We will not make problems and will accept the idea that we are not welcome in Srebrenica.
    He added: “They are always welcome in Serbia.”

    Durakovic has denied that his statement was aimed directly at Serbian state officials.

    Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic. Photo: Beta 

  • The election of Nikola Jankulovski as the rector of the state-run Saint Cyril and Methodius University in Macedonia’s capital Skopje took place amid a tense atmosphere after members of the informal “Student's Plenum” movement walked out of the session of the university senate.

    They insist that the ten current student members of the parliament, who have the right to vote for the new rector alongside the professors in the university senate, are illegitimate as the mandate allowing them to do so expired over a year ago.

    After first blocking the session from taking place, they allowed the senate’s session to start after being granted the right to participate, but not to vote. However, they later left in protest when the professors confirmed the legitimacy of the ten student representatives.

    Members of the Student’s Plenum, who blocked the entrance to the rectorate on Monday morning, were demanding the postponement of the election for the next rector until new members of the formal student parliament are elected.

  • Top stories from the Balkans this Tuesday:
    • Serbia’s economic stability during and after Britain's exit from the EU will depend on trends in the EU economy generally and on changes in the value of the euro, experts say. Read more.

    • Many Bosnians say Jose Mujica, the popular and humble former president of Uruguay,  should not have accepted the highest decoration from the Bosnian Serb entity. Read more.

    • Bulgaria’s refusal to join Romania, Turkey and Ukraine in a Black Sea naval patrol has created new tensions in the region and has raised sensitive questions about their security priorities. Read more.

    • Despite the abolition of tariffs on a range of goods as a result of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU, Kosovo customs declared an 18-per-cent rise in revenues. Read more.
  • The Bosnian Presidency did not discuss the update of its Stabilisation and Association Agreement, SAA, with the EU during its session on Monday, Bosnian media reported.

    The three members of the tripartite presidency have still not reached consensus on the issue, with the Serb member of the presidency, Mladen Ivanic, stating prior to the session that he would oppose the proposed amendments. 

    "We didn't succeed in reaching a compromise about the SAA, but the discussion is not over," Bakir Izetbegovic, the Bosniak member of the presidency, told TV network N1 on Monday evening. 

    He added: "We will continue the talks on that topic [the SAA], there is no need to create tensions and wrong perceptions about this agreement.” 

    The update of the SAA is one of the key conditions set by the EU for Bosnia to be granted candidate status.

    Bakir Izetbegovic. Photo: Facebook. 

  • Two activists taking part in the ongoing anti-government protests in Macedonia, dubbed the "Colourful Revolution", were detained in central Skopje on Monday evening and released shortly afterwards.

    The police detained actress Simona Spirovska and activist Pavle Bogoevski shortly after the end of Monday’s protest march, which was the 80th day a demonstration as part of the Colourful Revolution has taken place in Macedonia’s capital.

    Both were given fines - Spirovska for not carrying an ID card and Bogoevski for breaking the Law on Public Hygiene, likely in relation to Monday's painting of the Justice Ministry during the protests.

    The activists say this will not deter them from protesting.
  • #HumanRights must be protected not simply bc of #Montenegro's EU integration, but 1st & foremost bc of its citizens

  • #Bosnia-speaking jihadist issues call to attack US in video showing images of Golden Gate Bridge & Las Vegas: report

  • A man alleging to be a member of the Islamic State published a short propaganda video on YouTube in Bosnian language on Tuesday, in which he threatened residents of San Francisco and Las Vegas, television network N1 reported.

    During the video, which according to unofficial information was filmed in the city of Mosul in northern Iraq, the author praises Omar Mateen, the gunman responsible for the Orlando shooting in which 49 people were killed at a gay nightclub on June 12.

    At least 200 people from Bosnia have travelled to the Middle East to fight over the past three years, an analysis conducted by BIRN earlier this year showed, noting that 50 have returned home so far.

    A screenshot from the video. Photo: Twitter.

  • The Serbian Orthodox Church marked the feast of Saint Vitius on June 28, a day commemorating the Serbian medieval hero Prince Lazar and his fellow warriors who died during the Battle of Kosovo in 1389, with a liturgy at the Gracanica monastery in central Kosovo.

    A memorial service took place afterwards at the Gazimestan monument, which honours the Serbs who were killed in the famous battle.

    On the same day, Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic visited the monument to Kosovo Heroes in Krusevac in southern Serbia, where he laid a wreath in tribute to the fallen, while a monument to Prince Lazar was also unveiled in the city of Mitrovica in northern Kosovo.

    Photo: Atdhe Mulla
  • Miksaliste, a refugee aid centre in the Serbian capital's Savamala district, announced on Tuesday that it will cease operations indefinitely starting from July 1 due to a large influx of refugees in recent weeks - more than 500 per day - which is more than the centre has the capacities to handle.

    “An additional and perhaps more important problem is the lack of solidarity and dissatisfaction of the tenants and owners of commercial buildings in the area,” Miksaliste stressed on its Facebook page, adding it will continue its work as soon as it is possible to do so. 

    Since August 2015, Miksaliste has hosted around 130,000 refugees.

    Miksaliste. Photo: Facebook 

  • Croatian Interior Minister Vlaho Orepic, who is currently only performing technical duties since the collapse of the ruling coalition, confirmed that 13 individuals have been criminally reported for misbehaviour in the stands during the game between Croatia and the Czech Republic on June 17 as part of the European football championship in France.

    Orepic told media on Tuesday that ten people from Croatia are already under arrest, while Croatian police are still trying to locate three others. 

    The European governing body of football, the UEFA, fined the Croatian Football Federation, CFF, 100,000 euros because of the disorder created by Croatian fans during the match.

    Vlaho Orepic. Photo: Facebook

  • The five million euros that Serbia promised to the Srebrenica municipality in Bosnia to contribute to its development will not grant Serbian authorities entrance to the commemoration service on this year’s anniversary of the massacres committed by Bosnian Serb forces in the region in 1995, mayor of Srebrenica, Camil Durakovic, told Sarajevo-based website Klix on Tuesday.

    "If Serbian authorities thought that with that money they could buy the entrance to the Potocari memorial without recognising the genocide in 1995 they were wrong," Durakovic said.

    His statement comes after Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic announced he would not be attending the commemoration following Durakovic’s earlier remark that those who deny genocide in Srebrenica are not welcome at the service on July 11.

    Durakovic has denied this remark was aimed at Serbian state officials.

    The UN has qualified the massacres of more than 8,000 Bosniak men and children in 1995 by the Bosnian Serb army as genocide, but authorities in Belgrade and Republika Srpska, Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity, have never been officially recognised it as such.

    Camil Durakovic. Photo: Facebook.

  • The regional prosecution office in the Bulgarian city of Burgas on Tuesday put an end to its investigation against Valkan Hambarliev - the Bulgarian police officer who shot dead a 19-year old Afghan migrant in October 2015.

    The incident was the first time an EU member state’s authorities had killed a migrant.
    Police at first claimed that the bullet which took the life of Ziaullah near the southeastern town of Sredets had been fired as a warning shot and ricocheted off the side of a bridge, fatally wounding the young man.

    After the event, police had held a press briefing to explain the event, saying that Hambarliev, together with two other policemen, had encountered a group of 50 Afghan men who refused to follow their orders and were aggressive.

    However, a few days later the human rights group Bulgarian Helsinki Committee announced their team had interviewed 20 of the migrants who all claimed that there had been at least four of five policemen present and that at least four shots had been fired, one of which killed the young man.

    The decision of the prosecutors is not final and can be appealed within the next seven days.

    Bulgarian border police car. Photo: Bin im Garten, CC BY-SA 3. 

  • Top stories from the Balkans this Wednesday:
    • There are no legal obstacles to forming a special court department that would handle cases instigated by the Special Prosecution, legal experts say, as the idea gains support in Macedonia. Read more.
    • Ongoing disputes withing the Bosnian Presidency have made an agreement on a Bosnian candidate for the position of UN Secretary General impossible. Read more.
    • Ivan Vilibor Sincic and his anti-establishment party, Living Wall, are rising in popularity in Croatia because of their stance against banks, the EU and political elites, but some analysts see them as erratic demagogues. Read more.
    • Two years after the high-profile Albanian police raid on the southern outlaw village of Lazarat, the crackdown on cannabis cultivation remains an unfinished business. Read more.
  • President Barack Obama sent the US Senate the Protocol of an accession of Montenegro to NATO, asking the lawmakers to continue working with him in order to improve Europe by giving counsel and agreement for that protocol.

    "I hereby announce my agreement with the ratification of Accession Protocol of Montenegro to NATO. This Protocol has been signed in Brussels on May 19th, 2016 with a support of the US and other members of the Alliance," Obama’s statement reads.

    He said that full ratification from USA and its allies will enable Montenegro to become a member of NATO.

    Barack Obama: Photo: The White House.

  • Following Tuesday night’s triple suicide bombing at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport, Bosnia’s Prime Minister, Denis Zvizdic, sent a message of condolences to Turkish Premier Binali Yildirim, Bosnian media reported on Wednesday.

    "I am horrified and shocked by this attack on the citizens of the entire world which happened in Istanbul and where tens of persons have lost their lives and several have been injured,” Zvizdic wrote.

    He added: "We stand with the Turkish people and we will do everything to help the government of the Republic of Turkey in the battle against terrorism, which is a danger to the global peace and security. The Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina is open to every kind of international cooperation in the battle against terrorism."

    Bosnian Prime Minister Denis Zvizdic. Photo: SDA.

  • Croatia has not changed its position on stopping Serbia from opening Chapter 23 in its EU accession talks, Tihomir Oreskovic, Croatia’s now former Prime Minister, said in Brussels on Tuesday.

    After Croatia again failed to give Serbia the green light on Monday, Oreskovic said that Croatia is simply demanding the same from its neighbouring country as the other EU states are, which is for it to fulfil the set criteria for it become a member.

    Croatia is demanding that Serbia first pledges full respect for national minority rights, full cooperation with the Hague war-crimes tribunal, ICTY, and scraps a law giving Serbia jurisdiction to try war crimes committed in all the 1990s conflicts in the former Yugoslavia.
  • Bosniak member of the Bosnian Presidency Bakir Izetbegovic will travel to Germany on Thursday to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whom he expects to give support to the Euro-Atlantic integration of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Izetbegovic told Turkish news agency Anadolu on Wednesday.

    "She demonstrates a particular interest for Bosnia and I think that this time her intervention might be of particular importance for our country," Izetbegovic said, adding that he will have both good and bad news to discuss with Merkel.

    "We didn't succeed to approve the update of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement [between the EU and Bosnia], but we have implemented a huge part of the reform agenda," Izetbegovic stressed.

    He also commented on the NATO Membership Action Plan for Bosnia, which is yet to be activated, saying that "this will not happen until we register as state property the majority of military assets."

    Bakir Izetbegovic. Photo: Facebook.

  • Financial police from within Macedonia’s Finance Ministry told media on Wednesday that it seized public procurement records from the southern municipality of Strumica, where Zoran Zaev, chief of the main opposition Social Democrats, is mayor.

    The financial police say the seizure is part of their investigation into alleged suspicious dealings during tendering procedures that may have damaged the municipal budget.

    The Social Democrats suspect that the investigation is politically motivated, aimed at staining Zaev’s image and have speculated that it may also be an act of retaliation by the government after the Special Prosecution – formed last year and tasked to probe high-level crime -started criminal inquiries against a number of senior officials from the ruling VMRO DPMNE party.
  • Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic on Wednesday received a letter of gratitude from President of the People's Republic of China Xi Jinping, the Serbian government announced.

    The letter, posted on the government's website, reads as follows: 
    "During my recent state visit to the Republic of Serbia, you Mr Prime Minister and your government warmly welcomed me and thoroughly planned my visit, which left me with an unforgettable impression and nice memory. I use this opportunity to express my sincerest gratitude." 

    “…In countless meetings with President Nikolic, with you, as well as with other leaders of your esteemed country, we exchanged opinions extensively, openly and honestly and reached a broad consensus on increasing the comprehensiveness and strategies of Sino-Serbian relations, and opened a new historic page of development of relations between our two countries.”

    During Xi Jinpng’s three-day visit from June 17-19, China and Serbia signed 22 agreements on cooperation, including a joint statement on the establishment of a comprehensive strategic partnership signed by Xi and his Serbian counterpart, Tomislav Nikolic.

    Serbian PM Vucic with the Chinese President Xi Jinping and
    his Serbian counterpart Nikolic during the visit to Zelezara.
    Photo: Beta.

  • Energean Oil & Gas, an exploration and production company based in Greece, has reached an agreement with the Montenegrin Economy Ministry for hydrocarbons exploration and production in two offshore blocks in the Adriatic sea. The proposed concession contract, joint operating agreement and accounting agreement, is expected to be approved by the Parliament of Montenegro.

    According to Energean, the western offshore Adriatic has been a prolific hydrocarbon producing province for over 50 years for both oil and biogenic gas. By contrast, the eastern Adriatic remains substantially underexplored, despite having what appears to be all the necessary hydrocarbon generating components in place, Energean said.

    “Energean believes Montenegro may sit in the "sweet spot" of this untapped, under-explored potential in the eastern Adriatic," the company said.

    Photo: Energean.

  • Croatia’s centre-left Social Democratic Party, SDP, is currently the most popular political party in the country, according to a telephone survey of 1,219 people in Croatia, organised by private TV station Nova. 

    SDP received the support of 30.9 per cent of those included in the survey, which has taken place ahead of the country’s parliamentary elections, most likely to take place in September. 

    SDP’s traditional opponents, centre-right Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ – the main party in Croatia’s ruling coalition that fell earlier this month – achieved 21.5 per cent in the popularity vote, its lowest result since 2011 when it lost the parliamentary elections. 

    HDZ's former government partner, the Bridge of the Independent Lists, MOST, came in third place with 12.1 per cent, of the vote, while the anti-establishment Living Wall was fourth with 7.7 per cent.
  • The Montenegrin Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday sent a protest note to Kosovo over the violation of the state border after Kosovo politicians planted the Albanian flag deep into Montenegrin territory.

    "This act is trying to undermine the very good relations between Montenegro and Kosovo. We expect from Kosovo to take the measures to identify the perpetrators and to prevent similar actions in the future," the ministry's statement reads.

    On Monday, the MPs of the Vetevendosje (the Self-Determination Party) set the Albanian flag and a plaque reading "Republic of Kosovo" eight kilometers inside the territory of Montenegro, in an area they claimed was stripped from Kosovo in the process of demarcation with Montenegro.

    The agreement on the state border between Montenegro and Kosovo was signed in August 2015 in Vienna, under the auspices of the Western Balkans process, after three years of negotiations with the two border commissions. The Parliament of Montenegro ratified the agreement last December and said it expects Kosovo to do the same.

  • Brexit may open opportunities for Bulgaria to attract new investors, following signals that big companies will flee the UK as a result of the referendum to leave the EU, Bulgaria’s Minister of Economy Bozhidar Lukarski told journalists on Wednesday.

    According to Lukarski, who awarded Sofia-based outsourcing company Unify “Investor Class 'A'” status on Wednesday, Bulgaria offers very good investment conditions with low tax rates and expenses, as well as a qualified labour force.

    He noted that the country could provide a place for development for the businesses which decide to leave the UK, meaning Brexit could actually play a positive role for Bulgaria.

    Bozhidar Lukarski. Photo: Ministry of Economy of Bulgaria 

  • Top stories from the Balkans this Thursday:
    • Senior US and EU envoys are expected to launch a diplomatic offensive in Macedonia in early July, aimed at hammering out a new deal on resolving the country's deep political crisis. Read more.
    • Bosnia's State Statistical Agency said it will release the complete results of the 2013 census on Thursday, despite continued opposition from the Republika Srpska. Read more.
    • Moves by Croatia's outgoing government to amend the law on sports are dismissed by critics as an attempt to save the discredited management of the Croatian Football Federation. Read more.
    • Call by the leader of the opposition Democratic Party for Serbia to join NATO divides the public – and raises questions about his motives. Read more.
  • Croatian police confirmed that a fence is being built on the border crossing with Serbia near the village of Batina in northeastern Croatia.

    Police did not comment if it is connected to reports of hundreds of migrants waiting on the Serbian side of the border.

    The crossing near Batina was closed last night, due to the installation of the fence, while Croatian daily newspaper Vecernji list reports that Hungarian military trucks with armed soldiers are currently patrolling the nearby Hungarian border.
  • Macedonia's informal student movement Student's Plenum is calling for a boycott of today's elections of a new student leader at Skopje's state-run St Cyril and Methodius University.

    They deem the elections illegitimate because they are prepared by student representatives who have an expired mandate of almost two years.

    The Student’s Plenum also suspect the date of elections, when most students are on holiday, was deliberately chosen to enable the ruling VMRO DPMNE party to reinstall its own “puppets” into the student leadership.

    The call for boycott says that students "want real student representatives, not puppets!"

  • The Bulgarian parliament approved on Thursday the accession of Montenegro to NATO and ratified the Protocol to the North Atlantic Treaty.

    A total of 154 MPs voted in favour, five were against and one lawmaker abstained, Bulgarian media reported.

    On May 19, NATO signed an accession protocol with Montenegro marking the final stage of the country's path to full membership of the alliance.


  • Serbia failed to get the green light to open Chapters 23 and 24 in its EU accession path at a meeting on Thursday of the Working Group on Enlargement and Countries Negotiating Accession to the EU, COELA.

    Representatives from Serbia were hoping that EU member states would reach consensus on opening the two chapters before the Dutch presidency of the European Union is handed over to Slovenia on July 1.

    On Monday, Croatia said it was not able to approve Serbia’s bid to open Chapter 23, citing "substantial reasons", while the UK also withheld support on the basis of "technical reasons" related to the UK’s decision to leave the EU.

    Croatia, which has repeatedly stalled the opening of this chapter with Serbia, is demanding that its neighbouring country first pledges full respect for national minority rights, full cooperation with the Hague war-crimes tribunal, ICTY, and scraps a law giving Serbia jurisdiction to try war crimes committed in all the 1990s conflicts in the former Yugoslavia.
  • Former Serbian Police Director Milorad Veljovic testified at the High Prosecutor's Office in Belgrade on Wednesday that representatives of the gendarmerie, Serbian special police, are responsible for the burning of the US Embassy and the attack on several other embassies after a major “Kosovo in Serbia” rally in Belgrade in 2008 as they did not respond to calls, Serbian tabloid Kurir reported.

    The rally, held on February 21 and attended by around 100,000 Serbian citizens, was a response by the Serbian government to Kosovo’s proclamation of independence four days earlier, and ended in violence when a group of protesters broke into the compound of the US embassy and set it on fire. 

    Police and firefighters did not arrive at the scene until around 45 minutes after the incident started.
  • A Bosnian woman in her sixties was arrested by Bosnian police on Thursday on suspicions that she had travelled to Syria and joined the Islamic State, television network N1 reported.

    The woman, whose initials are O.H, was detained in the northwestern town of Izacic near the border with Croatia on an arrest warrant issued by the Federal Police Directorate.

    So far, at least 200 citizens from Bosnia have joined Islamic State, and around 50 of them have returned home, research published by BIRN in March showed.

  • Croatian satirical website News Bar, who had its previous show cut by public broadcaster Croatian Radio-Television, HRT, in March for inciting religious, national and other intolerance, will air its new TV show 'News Bar Prime Time' on regional network N1 tonight.

    The new programme will have a similar format to its predecessor, “Montirani proces" ("Framed Process").

    Scenes from the 'Montirani proces'. Photo: Montirani proces 

  • Republika Srpska, Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity, will not recognise the results of the 2013 census published on Thursday by the State Statistical Agency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nedeljko Cubrilovic, President of the National Assembly of RS, said after the data was released.

    "RS, in accordance with the conclusions adopted [last week], will use actively all legal and political means in order to reverse in an acceptable way all the irregularities committed in the work of the institutions [in relation to the publishing of the results],” Cubrilovic told Republika Srpska’s news agency SRNA.

    He added that the publication of the results goes against the country’s constitution and interests of Bosnian Serbs, also claiming it has worsened the position of Republika Srpska inside Bosnia.

    Nedeljko Cubrilovic. Photo: Facebook.

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