- UN Security Council discusses quarterly report on Kosovo (media)
- Thaci to VOA: Kosovo expected more clarity from the EU (Koha)
- EU new strategy not clear on Kosovo integration (Washington Post/RTK)
- Government says dialogue will conclude with mutual recognition (Koha)
- Hahn: Serbia to reach agreement with Kosovo before joining EU (RTK)
- The Brussels debacle (Zeri)
- Engel: Kosovo must have its army and visa liberalization (Zeri)
- In Croatia, Veseli meets top leaders (media)
- Kosovo’s Deputy PM against KSF transformation into army (Koha)
- CDHRF raises concerns over possible corruption of special court (Epoka)
- Kosovo Police and AKI know who killed Ivanovic (Gazeta Express)
- Western Balkans: A new start for Europe (EU Observer/Koha)
UN Security Council discusses quarterly report on Kosovo (media)
One of the leading stories in all media is the United Nations Security Council’s session on Kosovo. Under the front-page headline U.S. supports Kosovo’s membership in international organizations, Zeri reports that the U.S. ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said at the UN Security Council that Kosovo has made significant progress since declaring independence ten years ago and that the U.S. will continue to support it, including its efforts to join international organizations. Haley also called on Serbia to normalize relations with Kosovo. Several online media cover UNMIK’s press release on Tanin’s address. “2018 can present a new momentum for this dialogue, and as the EU High Representative herself highlighted yesterday, the dialogue could be positively concluded, given sufficient will from the leaders, and adequate encouragement from the international community,” SRSG Tanin told the Security Council. He also used his address to highlight several political controversies that encircled Kosovo over the past few months. The first was the attempt in December by 43 Kosovo MPs to revoke a 2015 law on the Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s office, whose purpose it is to prosecute individual crimes committed during the Kosovo conflict. SRSG Tanin briefed the Security Council on several of his recent discussions with Kosovo leaders, in which they offered assurances of their full intention to keep to international commitments. “This court does not target any particular community or group, but only individual criminal responsibility. This is something well-known by many in Kosovo, who understand that repealing the Specialist Chambers is simply not an option. The only way forward is accepting justice,” SRSG Tanin said. SRSG Tanin stressed the importance of solving the January 16 daylight assassination of one of Kosovo’s most prominent Serbian politicians Oliver Ivanovic, which had caused ripples of concern around the region and would prove another important test of the Kosovo institutions. “Failure to identify the perpetrators would not only be a terrible miscarriage of justice, but would also undermine confidence on all sides”. SRSG Tanin praised recent examples of cooperation between Pristina and Belgrade, including in the immediate aftermath of the Ivanovic murder and subsequent Kosovo visit of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. “It is important to note that the leaders in Belgrade and Pristina have reacted to this event in a prompt and responsible manner”. Describing ongoing challenges in ensuring the rule of law; strengthening the role of women and youth in politics, responding to the economy and social conditions in Kosovo; and building trust between Kosovo’s communities, SRSG Tanin pointed to the importance of gathering political will and unity in order to overcome these challenges. SRSG Tanin said, following a series of meetings in Pristina, Belgrade and Tirana, “Despite the significant differences voiced, I am convinced these leaders also have a broader understanding of the nature of the challenges that need to be overcome, and equally, not to continuously postpone action to another day,” SRSG Tanin said. Epoka e Re daily newspaper cover’s the SRSG’s speech under the headline Tanin calls for resumption of Kosovo – Serbia dialogue. RTK highlights Kosovo’s Ambassador to the U.S., Vlora Citaku, address at the Security Council, focusing on her remark that normalization of relations with Belgrade is possible only through Serbia’s recognition of Kosovo. Citaku said the killing of the Serb leader Oliver Ivanoic has not deteriorated the security situation in Kosovo. She said it is a common view shared by both Albanian and Serb communities that Ivanovic’s killing was a result of organized crime in the north of Kosovo. “Regardless however, we will leave no stone unturned until authors of this crime are brought before justice,” Citaku said. Speaking about the specialist chambers, Citaku said that no court can even shed bad light to the KLA battle for freedom and went on to criticize Belgrade authorities for no verdict on the Cyshk massacre case and the killing of Kosovo-American Bytyci brothers. Citaku pointed out further that the EU enlargement paper ought to have been clearer on Kosovo whereas underlined that normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia can only happen when Kosovo is recognized as an independent country. “Independence of Kosovo is an irreversible process,” she said. Pristina-based news website Indeksonline quotes Kosovo’s Deputy Prime Minister, Enver Hoxhaj, as saying that many representatives at the UN Security Council session recognised the progress Kosovo has made as an independent country and that they argued in favour of less frequent reporting by the UN Secretary-General. He said the Security Council session ahead of the tenth anniversary of Kosovo’s declaration of independence is historic. “The United Nations and the Security Council have had a determining role in what Kosovo is, considering the resolutions adopted by the Security Council during the 90s, especially in 1998-99, and above all the Resolution 1244 which had a crucial role in placing Kosovo under international administration,” Hoxhaj told Indeksonline. “Every report drafted by the Secretary-General and presented by his representative from UNMIK in Kosovo, is a reference read by the UN member states. But, assessment of Security Council members are valuable because all UN members follow the session,” Hoxhaj said further. He also said the debate at the Security Council showed Kosovo belongs in the UN and though the journey to join it will be difficult, it is unstoppable.
Thaci to VOA: Kosovo expected more clarity from the EU (Koha)
In an interview to Voice of America, President of Kosovo Hashim Thaci who is currently in the U.S., said that Kosovo expected to get more clarity from the EU enlargement strategy but that despite this, “we need to read and interpret this report right and take concrete actions.” Thaci said that on the tenth anniversary of independence, Kosovo has made significant progress and managed to gain membership in about 200 international organizations. “At the same time, we have to bear in mind that Kosovo circumstances differ from other countries in the Western Balkans because it is not yet recognized by all European Union member states,” Thaci said. He added that Kosovo “maximally” fulfilled its obligations and that of 95 visa liberalization criteria, it implemented 94 with the remaining one being border demarcation. “The border issue with Montenegro has to be concluded as soon as possible so that we can produce arguments to those in the European Union that hesitate to unanimously support Kosovo’s concrete European perspective. Therefore, instead of continuing with criticism towards the European Union, we need to take on our responsibilities and carry out our tasks at the parliament of Kosovo,” Thaci remarked. Asked about the initiative for abrogating the law on specialist chambers, Thaci said no one should be afraid of the debate. “Kosovo has completed its international obligations by establishing the specialist chambers in 2015 even though it considered it to be a historic injustice,” he said. “Kosovo was, is and will remain exampled of cooperation with international justice,” Thaci said noting that the specialist court will not be undone. Speaking about the dialogue with Serbia, President Thaci said he hoped an agreement for full normalization of relations would be achieved this year. “I believe that at the end of this process Kosovo will gain the right to at least join the United Nations,” he said.
EU new strategy not clear on Kosovo integration (Washington Post/RTK)
Kosovo leaders say the new European Union strategy on the Western Balkans discriminates against their country and does not take into consideration its successes. The European Union on Tuesday urged Balkan countries to resolve their disputes before joining the bloc. It said Kosovo would “benefit considerably from a definitive normalization agreement with Serbia.” Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 but Serbia doesn’t recognize the move. “This strategy has failed to offer clarity on Kosovo’s membership to the EU,” Kosovo President Hashim Thaci said Wednesday. While the five other countries have been given a target of 2025 to complete reforms, there is no date for Kosovo. Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj said the EU needs “to have a clear policy on Kosovo in order to advance its process of integration.”
Government says dialogue will conclude with mutual recognition (Koha)
Kosovo’s path toward EU integration is conditioned with the normalization of relations with Serbia. Unlike Serbia and other countries of the Western Balkans, Kosovo is not treated as part of the enlargement process in the EU Enlargement Strategy for the Western Balkans, the paper reports on its front page. The document mentions only the Stabilization/Association Process, the normalization of relations with Serbia and international obligations related to the special court. Kosovo government officials told the paper that the outcome of the Brussels talks should be mutual recognition. A reply from the Office of the Prime Minister noted: “Dialogue is the only alternative for normalizing relations between the Republic of Kosovo and the Republic of Serbia, and Kosovo has shown constructiveness and readiness for dialogue. However, dialogue must be structured and have timelines and its outcome should be the mutual recognition between the two countries. Dialogue cannot go on indefinitely and the European path for every country of the Western Balkans, including Kosovo, must be clear and with equal treatment”.
Hahn: Serbia to reach agreement with Kosovo before joining EU (RTK)
European Commissioner for Enlargement, Johannes Hahn, said in Belgrade that Serbia needs to first reach agreement on normalization of relations with Kosovo before it can join the EU. Speaking to reporters after a meeting with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Hahn said that the EU does not wish to import unresolved disputes between new future members. “Serbia needs to conclude and implement a legally-binding agreement with Kosovo before joining,” Hahn emphasized.
The Brussels debacle (Zeri)
The paper reports on its front page that dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade on normalization of relations, which started in 2011, has failed to achieve its main objective. “Moreover, this dialogue has helped Serbia advance in its path toward European Union integration, making it clear that it could join the Union by 2025. Meanwhile, it has left Kosovo without a clear timeline on possible EU integration,” the paper notes.
Engel: Kosovo must have its army and visa liberalization (Zeri)
U.S. Congressman, Elliot Engel, said on Wednesday that Kosovo must have its armed forces and visa liberalization as soon as possible, the paper reports on page two. “Kosovo, as an independent and sovereign country, must have its army and visa liberalization,” Engel said after meeting Kosovo’s Deputy Prime Minister, Dardan Gashi, in Washington D.C.
In Croatia, Veseli meets top leaders (media)
Kosovo Assembly President, Kadri Veseli, met in Zagreb Prime Minister of Croatia, Andrej Plenkovic, and discussed relations between the two sides which they agreed was excellent. Veseli thanked Plenkovic on the role Croatia plays as part of the KFOR peacekeeping troops and the support to the Kosovo Security Force (KSF). He also called on Croatian businesses to invest in Kosovo. The two also discussed the position of respective communities and Veseli expressed his commitment to work on improving living conditions for the members of the Croat community in Kosovo. Veseli also met the head of the Croatian parliament, Gordan Jandrokovic.
Kosovo’s Deputy PM against KSF transformation into army (Koha)
Kosovo’s Deputy Prime Minister, Dalibor Jevtic, said during a visit to the Pentagon that he is against the transformation of the Kosovo Security Force into the Kosovo Armed Forces, the paper reports on page three. Jevtic also talked about challenges related to the special court that will address war crimes allegations. “Many challenges await us this year and the way we will address them will determine Kosovo’s development. Challenges are also opportunities to end bad practices from the past once and for all. Our interest is peace and stability and Serbs in Kosovo expect the implementation of the rule of law,” Jevtic was quoted as saying in Serbian media.
CDHRF raises concerns over possible corruption of special court (Epoka)
The Pristina-based Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms (CDHRF) issued a media communique on Wednesday raising concerns over the possibility of “corrupt UNMIK and EULEX prosecutors and judges corrupting the special court too”. “These wandering mercenaries, who have been recruited in opposition to every moral values and positive laws, will continue the orgy and corruption in the special court too, due to huge material benefits, the political influence of officials in power and their further advancement,” the media release noted. The CDHRF also argued that “the international factor has politicized and made unprofessional the judiciary in Kosovo”.
Kosovo Police and AKI know who killed Ivanovic (Gazeta Express)
Citing unnamed sources, the Pristina-based news website reports that Kosovo Police and the Kosovo Intelligence Agency (AKI) have accurate information on who killed Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic. “Both KIA and Kosovo Police have information about the perpetrator and motives behind Oliver Ivanovic’s murder,” a well-informed source told Gazeta Express. “Maybe the information they have is not the most important to proceed with arrests, but there is a track. There is also the risk that if arrests were to be made now, this could jeopardize the course of investigations. Security institutions have informed political leaders on the matter,” the source said.
Western Balkans: A new start for Europe (EU Observer/Koha)
Koha Ditore re-runs an opinion piece published in the EU Observer by Srdjan Cvijic, a senior policy analyst at the Open Society European Policy Institute. Cvijic wrote: “The European Commission is rarely praised for bold action these days. But the EU Strategy for the Western Balkans published Tuesday (6th February) deserves applause. Long neglected by the West, the Western Balkans region is an easy prey for other geopolitical powers that see instability as their opportunity. The EU’s wavering political commitment to future membership of the six Balkan countries has caused many people in the region to lose hope. The EU strategy aims to turn the tide and push the region towards EU membership and deep transformation. The commission has proposed bold measures; particularly important are progressive opening of EU funds, inclusion of the Balkan six governments in EU policy-making processes even before membership, lifting of visible and invisible barriers for trade and travel. The mention of 2025 and other target dates for progress in negotiations are especially valuable as a powerful incentive for the region’s politicians to work to meet the criteria for membership. These incentives for reform now need to be matched by clear standards for the region’s governments to work towards. The European commission must follow the strategy document with an overhaul of its instruments to monitor of progress in the region. Otherwise, the more sceptical member states would be right to fear that mention of dates would favour speed over quality of reforms. Many citizens in the region also see the EU membership not as an end in itself but as an opportunity to improve governance so that they can live in orderly, prosperous and open societies. The commission’s country reports will not lead us there by themselves. This is especially true in the rule of law, where domestic problems were highlighted last month by the appalling assassination of the Kosovo Serb moderate politician Oliver Ivanovic and the continuation of the mafia wars in Serbia and Montenegro. The new strategy foresees new instruments to monitor progress, such as the kind of report produced by Reinhard Priebe on corruption and one-party takeover of state institutions in Macedonia in 2015. However, the proposed system needs spelling out and consistent implementation. New tools need to be public, concrete and easily understandable. The language of the Priebe report made it reach the hearts and minds of the Macedonian population. The commission be bolder in naming and shaming laggards and fake reformers in the Balkans. Corruption and organised crime are the biggest threat to stability of the region. The strategy is right to focus on it. According to the data of the Crime and Corruption Reporting Network (KRIK) and the Radio Free Europe, there have been 102 organised crime-related murders on the streets of Serbia and Montenegro since 2012. Only five were successfully resolved, while the perpetrators remain unknown in 75 cases. Given that the overall clearance rate for murders is roughly 80 cases resolved out of 100, either law enforcement is utterly incompetent or there is political collusion. Corruption and organised crime are endemic in the rest of the region. Albania is undergoing an ambitious judicial reform but this is just a beginning. Even without the accession negotiations open, the commission is asking Macedonia and Albania to implement reforms that front-runners Serbia and Montenegro have not yet completed. This is a sign of learning by doing on the commission’s part, but it also shows that the countries that are not yet in negotiations could in theory leapfrog those further ahead to join on the 2025 target date if they are successful in implementing reforms. The strategy promises a shift in focus from the countries adopting EU legal frameworks to respecting its fundamental values. Well managed, EU accession negotiations are also region’s best chance for an irreversible transformation in a number of crucial fields such as reconciliation, bilateral disputes, Roma and other minority rights. But the commission will need to use its new and effective tools to twist the arm of politicians to overcome the oligarchies and push through meaningful reforms. The next president of the European commission who will start in 2019 should start by creating a separate directorate-general dealing only with the countries having a credible membership perspective (call it DG Membership). That would ensure the DG’s internal capacity to go beyond the monitoring of the adoption of laws towards a credible assessment of the real impact of reforms. Member states, civil society and investigative journalists should be included in the monitoring process. To separate enlargement from neighbourhood policy again would be no insult to neighbouring countries in the East and South. Insincere membership promises did no one any good. The progress of some should serve as an encouragement for the rest. The best part of the Western Balkans strategy is that is moves beyond the ‘stabilitocracy’ approach shown by the EU when it favoured local strongmen who display worrying illiberal tendencies. This approach encouraged a protracted political crisis in Macedonia, growing euroscepticism in Serbia, hopelessness and emigration elsewhere in the region. Now the EU should recognise the citizens of the regionas its true partners, and press for reforms that serve their long-term interests in better governance”.