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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, November 21, 2019

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Albanian Language Media:

• Albin Kurti and Isa Mustafa to meet tomorrow (Indeksonline)
• Haradinaj: Kosovo has gained a great deal from import tax on Serbia (media)
• Zeka: Reciprocity with Serbia would be more effective (media)
• “Tariff was used to cover up corruption scandals” (Gazeta Express)
• Van Gelder: World Bank supports regional economic integration activities (Koha)
• Kosovo police in search of two suspects in Oliver Ivanovic’s murder case (media)

Serbian Language Media:

• Who beat up the residents of Strpce? Ombudsman has not launched any investigation, “because nobody complained to him” (KoSSev)
• Spahiu: ”The question of Kosovan nation should not even be raised” (Kosovo Online, Klan Kosova)
• Moscow: Nothing can harm Russia – Serbia brotherly relations (Reuters, N1)
• Serbian Government says Referendum Law does not change because of Kosovo (RFE)
• Ruzic: New referendum regulations are merely harmonization with the Constitution (RTS)

International:

• Woman and Man Charged With Terror Offenses in Kosovo (AP/NYT)
• A year of the tariff (Prishtina Insight)

Humanitarian/Development:

• Street Artists Brighten Up Kosovo’s Divided Mitrovica (Balkan Insight)
• Pessimism Prevails among Serbs in Kosovo (Balkan Insight)

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Albanian Language Media:

  • Albin Kurti and Isa Mustafa to meet tomorrow (Indeksonline)
  • Haradinaj: Kosovo has gained a great deal from import tax on Serbia (media)
  • Zeka: Reciprocity with Serbia would be more effective (media)
  • “Tariff was used to cover up corruption scandals” (Gazeta Express)
  • Van Gelder: World Bank supports regional economic integration activities (Koha)
  • Kosovo police in search of two suspects in Oliver Ivanovic’s murder case (media)

Serbian Language Media:

  • Who beat up the residents of Strpce? Ombudsman has not launched any investigation, “because nobody complained to him” (KoSSev)
  • Spahiu: ”The question of Kosovan nation should not even be raised” (Kosovo Online, Klan Kosova)
  • Moscow: Nothing can harm Russia – Serbia brotherly relations (Reuters, N1)
  • Serbian Government says Referendum Law does not change because of Kosovo (RFE)
  • Ruzic: New referendum regulations are merely harmonization with the Constitution (RTS)

International:

  • Woman and Man Charged With Terror Offenses in Kosovo (AP/NYT)
  • A year of the tariff (Prishtina Insight)

Humanitarian/Development:

  • Street Artists Brighten Up Kosovo’s Divided Mitrovica (Balkan Insight)
  • Pessimism Prevails among Serbs in Kosovo (Balkan Insight)

 

 

Albanian Language Media

 

Albin Kurti and Isa Mustafa to meet tomorrow (Indeksonline)

Vetevendosje Movement (LVV) leader Albin Kurti said today he will meet tomorrow with Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) leader Isa Mustafa, the news website reports. Kurti said they will discuss the remaining issues in the idea for a government plan and that there is no time to lose because the results of the October parliamentary elections will be certified next week.

Haradinaj: Kosovo has gained a great deal from import tax on Serbia (media)

On the anniversary of the Kosovo government’s decision to introduce import tariffs on Serbia and Bonia and Herzegovina, acting Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj said that “in war as in peace, Kosovo, its territory and the right to development are priceless causes that go beyond any personal and political calculation.”

“It is regrettable that today, sold soules and servants of great Serbia, in different circles, speaking our Albanian language, give themselves the right to try and influence our opinion by calculating on other interests which are not Kosovo’s and damage it,” Haradinaj wrote on Facebook. He added that these are part of efforts to restore Serbia’s political and economic control over Kosovo. 

“Today, on the first anniversary of the 100-percent tax, Kosovo has gained a great deal! Our producer, buyer and our flag have benefited! The new government, whoever leads it, will no longer face the pressure on the tax because we have borne it for one year by saying ‘no’ to any damaging scenario.” 

Zeka: Reciprocity with Serbia would be more effective (media)

American Chamber of Commerce in Kosovo Director Arian Zeka said today that the annual balance of the 100 percent import tariff on products from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina should be measured both in political and economic terms.

“If we look back at the circumstances that led to the imposition of the tariff, it was because of Serbia’s destructive campaign against Kosovo. The economic aspects were not the objective, and now we have a new moment,” Zeka said in an interview with RTK. He added that Kosovo continues to have a high trade deficit, even though Kosovo businesses have had the chance to replace products coming from Serbia.

Zeka recalls that the AmCham had accurately predicted that prices would increase. “The effects were negative. We had requests from our allies too … but now it is too late,” he said.

Zeka said AmCham is against tariffs and that they are waiting to see what the new government’s position will be on the issue. “Whoever forms the new government, we will have to see what their assessment on this issue will be,” he said.

“Tariff was used to cover up corruption scandals” (Gazeta Express)

The news website quotes economy experts in Pristina as saying that the introduction of the 100 percent import tariff on products from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina has harmed Kosovo’s relations with the United States and the European Union.

Naim Gashi, economy expert, said today that the aggravated relations are regrettable. “The tariff on Serbian products has hurt Kosovo’s relations with its strategic partners, the United States and the European Union. It is unfortunate that 20 years after the end of the war, we hurt our relations with strategic partners. The blame for the tariff has shifted from Belgrade to Pristina and the latter is now being blamed for stopping the dialogue. But in reality Serbia is responsible because it has failed to implement 33 agreements signed with Kosovo in Brussels,” he said. 

Gashi also argued that it won’t be easy for Kosovo’s authorities to apply reciprocity with Serbia because of the Stabilisation/Association Agreement that Pristina has signed. “The Stabilisation/Association Agreement obliges Kosovo to undertake a series of measures in relations with its neighbors. At the same time, we are members of CEFTA and there are some limitations there too … I think applying reciprocity would shift the pressure to the international community’s pressure from Kosovo to Belgrade and in fact pressure both sides to reach an agreement.”

Gashi further argued that Kosovo’s outgoing Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj used the import tariff to cover up corruption scandals of his government. “In my opinion, the tariff should not be used as a tool to cover up our internal setbacks and it should not be used if it hurts our relations with strategic partners,” he added.

Van Gelder: World Bank supports regional economic integration activities (Koha)

Linda Van Gelder, World Bank’s Western Balkans Country Director, said in an interview with KTV that the World Bank supports activities that strengthen regional economic integration. Commenting on the initiative for establishing a Western Balkans Mini-Schengen, van Gelder said: “My focus is on the pledge made by the six countries in the context of several-year scope of the Berlin Process as well as agreements reached under CEFTA, the Transport Treaty, and all these agreements are aimed at strengthening regional economic integration.”

Asked on the import tariff the government of Kosovo has imposed on Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, the World Bank official said this is a political decision. “We understand that introduction of tariffs on goods is a political decision and a political choice.”    

Van Gelder also spoke about World Bank’s decision not to support the project for construction of a new coal-fired plant Kosova e Re. “The World Bank has a range of very strict restrictions according to which we cannot ensure funding for coal-generated energy,” she said adding that the World Bank has not however made any statements on whether the government of Kosovo should go ahead with the project or not.

Kosovo police in search of two suspects in Oliver Ivanovic’s murder case (media)

The Directorate for the Investigation of Serious Crimes in cooperation with Kosovo’s Special Prosecution Office is investigating the murder case of the Serbian politician Oliver Ivanovic.

With the authorsation of the Special Prosecution, Kosovo Police has published photographs of two suspects in the ‘murder’ case of 16/01/2018 in North Mitrovica.

Kosovo Police requests from the people of Kosovo to notify them through the confidential telephone number 080019999, email info@kosovopolice.com or to report at the nearest police station, in case they possess information about suspects in the attached photos.  

The photos are published with the intention of seeking help from Kosovo people to identify the two suspects. 

 

 

Serbian Language Media

 

Who beat up the residents of Strpce? Ombudsman has not launched any investigation, “because nobody complained to him” (KoSSev)

The Kosovo Ombudsman does not have a position on the allegations of Strpce residents that the Kosovo police used excessive force in early May during a protest against the construction of a mini hydro electric power plant in this municipality.

The reason why the Ombudsman has no position is that, even after five months, he has not received any complaints, the written reply states.

However, the Ombudsman also has the power to launch an ex officio investigation when he is informed of a violation of human rights of citizens, which he did not do in this case.

For almost a year, the citizens of Strpce have been actively protesting against the construction of mini hydro power plants in this municipality. One in a series of protests in early May was also marked by a clash between the police and protesters.

Twenty villagers were reportedly injured because the police used excessive force, one participant even had his nose broken and another one’s arm was broken, they said at the time, providing photographs of the injured.

”A police officer is authorized to use force only when it is necessary and only to the extent necessary to achieve legitimate police objectives. In cases of the use of force, the police officer should try to minimize interference with the rights and freedoms of persons and minimize any adverse consequences”.

According to them, seventeen of them were medically taken care of in Strpce – eyewash, repair of injuries and burns, one protester had a broken nose and the other one had his arm broken.  On the same day, the Mayor of Strpce, who condemned the ”excessive use of force”, and the Office for Kosovo and Metohija, spoke.

Kosovo Police said in a press release at the time that ”although the Police informed and ordered the protesters not to interfere with their work and leave, they did not execute the orders. On that occasion, police used tear gas and the protesters dispersed”. However, this statement did not state that anyone was injured during this police action.

At the end of September, we approached the Ombudsman’s institution and asked for the institution’s position on the above allegations of excessive use of force by the Kosovo police.

What does the Ombudsman say?

”The Ombudsman received no complaints from any citizen over the use of force during the May 3, 2019 protests. Given that no complaints have been received and such a case has not been investigated, the Ombudsman has no position on this case,” said the response of this institution from October 1, which intrigued us.

The Ombudsman Institution is an independent institution whose task is to take measures for the protection of human rights and freedoms when they have been violated by an act or failure of state bodies to act. This institution primarily deals with complaints, however, the law also prescribes cases in which the Ombudsman may act ex officio, if there are grounds to believe that in a particular case there has been a violation of human rights and freedoms of citizens.

”The law stipulates that the Ombudsman has a responsibility to “investigate violations of human rights and discriminatory action,” and “to draw attention to cases where institutions violate human rights and to make recommendations for such cases to be ended and, when it is necessary, to express an opinion on the positions and reactions of relevant institutions in relation to such cases.”

A week later, on October 7, we contacted this institution again in order to clarify their answer, that is, their responsibilities.

Article 16, Point 4 of the Law on the People’s Advocate 05 / L-019 states that the Ombudsman ”has the authority to investigate, either in order to respond to a complaint or ex officio, if from findings, evidence and facts submitted or acquired otherwise, there are grounds to believe that the authorities have violated human rights and freedoms established by the Constitution, laws and other instruments, as well as international human rights instruments”. 

Does your previous answer mean that the Ombudsman institution considers that in this particular case there are no grounds for suspecting that excessive force may have been used by the police in May this year and that for that reason the Ombudsman will not investigate this case ex officio? – was our question.

On the same day, we received an answer from the Ombudsman’s Office that our question had been forwarded to the relevant service.

Another email with a question when we can expect an answer was sent on October 21.

”At present, the answer to the question falls under the responsibility of the Ombudsman, Mr. Hilmi Jashari,” we were told from the Office of the Ombudsperson, asking us to forward the question to Mr. Jashari’s email address and info service, which we did.

We have never received a response from these addresses, although we are still awaiting it.

Does the first response we received means that the Ombudsman in these cases acts solely upon a complaint of citizens, and that, although there is information about potential human rights violations by the institutions, it is not his job to have any position on that, if those whose rights were violated did not turn to him?

Or that the allegations of the villagers, photographs of persons with bandaged arms and noses, condemnation by the Mayor of Strpce, numerous media inscriptions, do not provide sufficient grounds to suspect that the police may have used excessive force against the protesters? Or that he just does not want to investigate the case?

Unfortunately, just one month’s silence on the part of the Ombudsman leaves the public to decide for themselves which of these answers they will believe. In fact, the Ombudsman may have initiated an official investigation into these allegations in the meantime, but he did not find it appropriate to inform us about it.

These are not the first allegations of the use of excessive force by the Kosovo police in Serb-majority communities.

Zubin Potok residents presented similar allegations of police brutality during the May 28th police action under the name ”Smuggling” when a dozen people were hospitalized after obtaining injuries while allegedly obstructing officials in performing their official duty. Six of the people injured also presented these claims before the court, where the judge documented the visible injuries on their faces and bodies. Also, at the last UN Security Council session on Kosovo, UNMIK Chief of Staff Zahir Tanin said that a month-long investigation by UN experts showed that there was ”strong evidence of excessive use of force by Kosovo police” during the May arrest action.

In addition, a month ago, dozens of people were injured, including children, after the Kosovo Police intervened at another protest against the construction of a MHPP in the municipality of Strpce, according to Pristina media reports. The locals also argued that the police had dispersed the protesters by using excessive force.

The Kosovo Ombudsman has not reacted to any of these allegations to date.

https://bit.ly/37pYJKI

Spahiu: ”The question of Kosovan nation should not even be raised” (Kosovo Online, Klan Kosova)

Analyst Nexhmedin Spahiu said that the question about the existence of a Kosovan nation is not superfluous if it is raised in an international dimension, since, according to him, more than half of the world’s nations recognize Kosovo, Kosovo Online portal reported quoting Klan Kosova.

”In the context of Kosovo, this question is not supposed to be raised. Any media that questions the existence of a nation should be condemned, because it calls into question the existence of a nation recognized by George W. Bush,” the analyst said.

According to him, the Kosovan and Albanian nations belong to the same template/form; the members of the Kosovan nation are Kosovo Albanians.

He added that Marti Ahtisaari defined that ”Kosovo must have its national symbols” and that it is understood that Ahtisaari spoke of an independent Kosovo. Spahiu stressed that the US decided to recognize Kosovo as an independent and sovereign state.

According to him, the nation and the state are interconnected, just as an enterprise and an entrepreneur are, the people are the state owner and every state has its owner, and that owner is the nation.

”The owners of Kosovan nation are Kosovo Albanians. Presevo Albanians are a minority, when I was in Bujanovac they asked me why we are not a nation? I told them because you do not have a national stadium, a national library … The nation is not (defined by) in what language you speak, but in what you decide for your rights. Albanians in the Presevo Valley enjoy the rights Belgrade gives them. While Kosovo Albanians themselves determine their rights,” the analyst said.

He also stressed that Kosovo should join Albania if there would be no Kosovan nation.

”We should not have the same national symbols in Kosovo as Albania or any other country,” he said.

”If we do not want to be in the United Nations and do not want to play in FIFA, then we should not have declared independence at all, but join Albania, and it did not want that, or at least it did not at least make a stance whether it wanted it or not, but said that it was satisfied with Kosovo’s independence,” Spahiu pointed out.

Moscow: Nothing can harm Russia – Serbia brotherly relations (Reuters, N1)

Dimitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesperson, said on Thursday he was convinced nothing could imperil the “partner and brotherly relations” between his country and Serbia, the Reuters news agency reported.

His words followed the spy affair involving a Russian intelligence officer that broke out on Wednesday.

They coincided with Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic, who ordered the countries’ civilian and military intelligence agencies to investigate the affair, meeting with the Russian ambassador to Serbia on Thursday.

Vucic ordered the countries civilian and military intelligence agencies to investigate the case in which a Russian spy was seen in a video as handing out money to allegedly Serbia’s spy, and called a meeting of the National Security Council also on Thursday.

In Moscow, where Serbia’s Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic is on a two-day visit, Peskov said “the relations with Serbia are of a partner and brotherly character. Nothing can have any effect on that.

https://bit.ly/2KIULD3

Serbian Government says Referendum Law does not change because of Kosovo (RFE)

A proposal for a referendum and popular initiative law abolishing the referendum quorum, as told by the Ministry of State Administration and Local Self-Government to Radio Free Europe (RFE), should be in the Serbian Parliament in December.

The ministry said the public hearing, which began on October 25, 2019, ends on Friday, November 22. As announced, proposals and objections to this act will be considered within 15 days, which will then be submitted to the Government of Serbia.

Bojan Klacar, from the Center for Free Elections and Democracy (CESID), told RFE that as early as 2020, the first referendums could be, after the passing of this law, about judiciary and Kosovo’s status.

“It is undoubtedly good that we will get a more modern law. And it is a bad that it happens just before those two important referendums. So, the question remains why it was not done a year, two or five before,” says Bojan Klacar from CESID. 

The law, which has been in force since 1994, stipulates that for citizens to declare about change of the Constitution, for or against a decision, more than half of the registered voters (50 percent plus one) is needed.

The draft of the new referendum law now abolishes the referendum quorum, that is, the turnout threshold, and introduces a rule that a decision is made by a majority vote of voters that voted.

The law is not passed because of a possible referendum on Kosovo, but to bring it into line with the constitution, assistant minister of state administration and local self-government Sasa Mogic told RSE.

“If, for example, we were to now call a referendum for any amendment to the Constitution, the applicable referendum law would not be enforced. Because the Constitution regulated the issue, not the Law. All other comments are in the domain of politics, not laws,” says Mogic.

The 2006 Constitution of the Republic of Serbia, whose amendments have been verified in the last of the five referendums on various issues since 1990, provides that changes to the highest legal act will be confirmed by a decision of the majority of voters, without a referendum quorum, what does not follow the current law. Then a preamble was inserted into the Serbian Constitution stating that “the province of Kosovo and Metohija is an integral part of the territory of Serbia”.

Zoran Ivosevic, a former judge of the Supreme Court of Serbia, first sees the announced changes as preparations for a referendum on Kosovo.

“If the constitution reads that the borders of Serbia are changing, and this become a referendum question, then only three citizens can decide on this. If two of them are in favour, they may be enough to make this change really happen,” Ivosevic said.

According to the Constitution, “a motion to change it may be submitted by a third of the deputies, the President of the Republic, the Government of Serbia or at least 150,000 voters. That proposal must then be approved by the National Assembly by a two-thirds majority of 250 deputies. If Parliament adopts the proposal, the next step is to adopt an act to amend the Constitution in a republican referendum. Such a pleading is not obligatory for all issues, but it is when related to the change of the preamble, the principles of the Constitution, human and minority rights and freedoms, regulation of power, declaration of war and state of emergency, derogation from human and minority rights in a state of emergency and the state of war or the procedure for changing the Constitution,” reads Article 203. 

The current government in Serbia, led by the Serbian Progressive Party, so far, has formally spoken only of amendments to the Constitution in the field of justice. They are foreseen in the Action Plan for Chapter 23 in Serbia’s EU membership negotiations and are required for greater independence, de-politicization and efficiency of the judiciary. At the end of last year, in November, with the submission of the Serbian Government’s Proposal to amend the Constitution to the National Assembly, the procedure started formally.

According to Bojan Klacar, the referendum on accession to the European Union could in the future be the third major statement of Serbian citizens.

“However, given the recent events and the real situation in European integration, it seems that this referendum will still come to the agenda later than it seemed at first,” Klacar said.

Ruzic: New referendum regulations are merely harmonization with the Constitution (RTS)

Regarding public criticism that lower turnout and lighter criteria facilitate a possible decision on the final status of Kosovo, Minister of State Administration and Local Self-Government Branko Ruzic told Radio Television of Serbia (RTS) that there is no need to politicize such a topic.

He points out that it is a matter of regular business and public administration reform. 

He said that the Constitution is the highest legal act and that it states that a referendum decision is valid if the majority of voters vote. 

This is only a harmonization of the law, which was passed in 1994, with the Constitution and there are no intentions related to any political topic, stressed Ruzic.

“These are two democratic mechanisms that should support citizens, to use it for local self-contributions, for decisions on water supply, sewerage,” Ruzic concluded.

 

International

 

Woman and Man Charged With Terror Offenses in Kosovo (AP/NYT)

Kosovo prosecutors have filed terrorism charges against two people suspected of supporting or fighting with the Islamic State group in Syria.

https://nyti.ms/2qxzs0p

A year of the tariff (Prishtina Insight)

In the year since the Kosovo Government imposed a 100 per cent customs tariff on goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, imports have dropped, food prices have risen, and the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia has been suspended.

https://bit.ly/2KJaimj

Development/Humanitarian

 

Street Artists Brighten Up Kosovo’s Divided Mitrovica (Balkan Insight)

Street artists have been decorating the walls of the Ibar bridge in Mitrovica with brightly-coloured murals during this month’s Nomad festival, which is also part of a wider project called ARTivism which aims to connect communities through art.

Marko Rakic from the NGO Local Initiative LINK, one of the organisations behind the Nomad festival, said that the young artists come from both the Serb and ethnic Albanian communities in the area which has seen ethnic tensions and unrest over the past few decades.

https://bit.ly/2O5o6tw

Pessimism Prevails among Serbs in Kosovo (Balkan Insight)

Just over a decade since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia, less than 10 per cent of ethnic Serbs in the majority-Albanian country believe their lives will improve in the next three years, according to the results of a survey.

Almost a quarter of respondents said that they “never” travel to areas of Kosovo where Albanians are the majority; roughly half said they go “rarely” while only eight per cent said they travel “often” to Albanian-majority areas.

https://bit.ly/2qCaRYn

 

 

 

 

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