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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, December 3, 2019

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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, December 03, 2019

Albanian Language Media:

• President Thaci at summit on Western Balkans in Brussels (Indeksonline)
• U.S. Ambassador Kosnett’s Interview with Koha Ditore
• Kosovo signs trade agreement with UK (media)
• LDK’s Veliu speaks about coalition agreement with LVV (Gazeta Express)

Serbian Language Media:

• France could stop EU integration of Serbia? (Sputnik, B92)
• Lawyer Vlajic: Prosecutor paraphrased indictment; we do not know what evidence are (RTS)
• CI SDP: Silvana Arsovic neither knows, nor ever met other accused persons (Radio KIM)
• Aleksandar Ivanovic: We are interested in concrete evidence and political background (VoA, Radio KIM)
• First Serbian Medical Congress on consequences of bombing held in Mitrovica North (KoSSev, Radio kontakt plus)
• Djuric reacts to transmission system operators’ agreement (B92)
• French ambassador says Paris EU expansion proposal could benefit Serbia (N1, BETA)

Opinion:

• ‘Mini Schengen’: A Balkan Breakthrough or Political Stunt? (Balkan Insight)
• War Memorials in Kosovo Don’t Tell the Whole Story (Balkan Insight)

International:

• Kosovo Indicts Six for Serb Politician Ivanovic’s Murder (Balkan Insight)
• Kosovo signs deal on joining Albania’s power grid (Reuters)

Humanitarian/Development:

• PISA results paint dispiriting picture (Prishtina Insight)
• OSCE Mission presents report and documentary film on returns (media)
• Education centres for Roma, Ashkali, Egyptian communities face closure (Radio KIM)

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Albanian Language Media:

  • President Thaci at summit on Western Balkans in Brussels (Indeksonline)
  • S. Ambassador Kosnett’s Interview with Koha Ditore
  • Kosovo signs trade agreement with UK (media)
  • LDK’s Veliu speaks about coalition agreement with LVV (Gazeta Express)

Serbian Language Media:

  • France could stop EU integration of Serbia? (Sputnik, B92)
  • Lawyer Vlajic: Prosecutor paraphrased indictment; we do not know what evidence are (RTS)
  • CI SDP: Silvana Arsovic neither knows, nor ever met other accused persons (Radio KIM)
  • Aleksandar Ivanovic: We are interested in concrete evidence and political background (VoA, Radio KIM)
  • First Serbian Medical Congress on consequences of bombing held in Mitrovica North (KoSSev, Radio kontakt plus)  
  • Djuric reacts to transmission system operators’ agreement (B92)
  • French ambassador says Paris EU expansion proposal could benefit Serbia (N1, BETA)

Opinion:

  • ‘Mini Schengen’: A Balkan Breakthrough or Political Stunt? (Balkan Insight)
  • War Memorials in Kosovo Don’t Tell the Whole Story (Balkan Insight)

International:

  • Kosovo Indicts Six for Serb Politician Ivanovic’s Murder (Balkan Insight)
  • Kosovo signs deal on joining Albania’s power grid (Reuters)

Humanitarian/Development:

  • PISA results paint dispiriting picture (Prishtina Insight)
  • OSCE Mission presents report and documentary film on returns (media)
  • Education centres for Roma, Ashkali, Egyptian communities face closure (Radio KIM)

 

 

Albanian Language Media

 

President Thaci at summit on Western Balkans in Brussels (Indeksonline)

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci is attending a summit organised by the Friends of Europe in Brussels entitled “It takes two to tango: The Western Balkans between reality and hope”, the news website reports.

Thaci took to Facebook to say that the summit discusses relations between the European Union, Kosovo and the Western Balkans, which he argues are at a great political and historic crossroads. 

“This is not the first time we are faced with this situation: challenging, complicated and even dangerous. But it should be the last time!

‘The strategy for the enlargement of the European Union with the Western Balkans countries’ only created the impression that the European Union was giving a decisive impetus to Kosovo and Western Balkans’ objective to integrate in the European family; however, the ensuing events proved us wrong.

‘The soft power’ of the European Union vis-à-vis the Western Balkans countries is diminishing. Some of the countries in the Western Balkans are faced with tendencies of setbacks in the stabilisation of democracy and we are witnessing growing populism and nationalism. The Balkans has become a geopolitical battlefield and, in these circumstances, postponing the enlargement project of the European Union with the Western Balkans countries, reviewing the whole enterprise, is not an option, it is not a solution and it is not a way out. In reality, this option calls for new unrest in the Western Balkans.

The new leadership of the European Union must show the vision, courage and leadership, by becoming a reliable partner of the Western Balkans”.

U.S. Ambassador Kosnett’s Interview with Koha Ditore

After nearly two months, the elections are finally certified.  Vetëvendosje and LDK have announced an agreement for coalition.  What do you expect from the new government? What are the main challenges for the government?

I think this is a very exciting time in Kosovo, and it’s clear that on October 6th people voted for change.  I’ve had many meetings with the leadership of Vetëvendosje and LDK—I think they are committed to building a government that represents all the people of Kosovo, that is focused on the problems of ordinary people and I have to say it’s a very exciting time for the country.  And I think we should see a lot of progress in 2020.

One of the first duties is to resume the dialogue with Serbia.  What approach do you expect Kosovo to have in this process?

Let me put that in a broader context, if I may.  The U.S. government speaks of three key priorities for Kosovo and our efforts to support the people of Kosovo: peace, justice and prosperity.  When we talk about justice, that refers to anti-corruption which has been a key issue in the campaign, but also making sure that the rights of all the people of Kosovo are respected regardless of their community, regardless of their gender, their orientation, and so on.  So, we take a very broad view of what we mean by justice. Prosperity means economic development, economic opportunity for young people who frequently feel frustrated that no matter how qualified they are for a job, if they don’t have the right connections, then their opportunities are limited.  And then we talk about peace—and when we talk about peace, we mean both improved relations among the communities within Kosovo, but also better relations between Kosovo and its neighbors, not only Serbia, but Serbia certainly is the one that’s at the top of the list. And to dialogue specifically, it’s important for me to emphasize the U.S. view that progress on relations with Serbia is connected to the opportunity, for economic opportunity, and opportunities for better justice and equal opportunity in the country as a whole.  So, these three issues: peace, justice, prosperity are all tightly connected. Ok, that was a very long answer.

We have seen that there have been much discussions about possible final agreement with Serbia.  You see that as achievable within next year?

I do see it as achievable within the next year.  My government is focused not only on getting the governments of Serbia and Kosovo back to the negotiating table, but also in ensuring conditions for successful completion of a comprehensive agreement.  In other words, getting to the finish line as well as the start line. I believe that people in both countries will benefit greatly from these improved relations. At the same time, we think it’s important for Kosovo to meet as an equal with all the other countries in the region to chart a course towards prosperity and peace for all the countries in the Western Balkans.  For example, there’s been talk of a mini-Schengen arrangement. Our view on this is that Kosovo is being invited to the next mini-Schengen talks as an equal. Government should go—send a delegation. If there are elements of the proposals that Kosovo doesn’t like, then Kosovo should say so, should argue at the table, should negotiate as an equal with the other countries. Maybe the mini-Schengen arrangement will evolve in part because Kosovo is helping to shape it.  But I think those people who are saying Kosovo should not even bother to participate in the process are missing a big opportunity. Same thing with the dialogue: the government of Kosovo should go and sit down across the table from the government of Serbia and strongly argue its position and try to reach an agreement that is mutually beneficial.

But the final agreement is said to be compromises?  What compromises do you think are realistic in this process?

First of all, let me remind your readers that the United States is not a party to the negotiations.  The negotiation is between Serbia and Kosovo. The United States, like your Western European friends and neighbors, wants to be helpful to the process. We want to help ensure that the parties will stand by any promises that they make.  I would rather not go into great detail with regard to hypotheticals about what will happen. I will say that, as a professional diplomat, I think it’s important that the negotiators be free to discuss everything, that there not be preconditions before the delegations sit down at the table. So, in that regard we think it’s important that Kosovo suspend the tariff. We think it’s important that Serbia suspend its de-recognition campaign, and then people can talk about these issues at the table.

You mentioned the tariffs. Both LDK and VV have said they will remove the tariffs on Serbian products, and instead impose full reciprocity with Serbia. Do you see this as a positive move?

I think that their commitment to suspend the tariff is definitely a positive move. With regard to reciprocity, our view is that those are issues that should be decided at the table. Frankly, a positive outcome for us is not Kosovo adding reciprocal non-tariff barriers – it is effectively negotiating so Serbia removes the barriers to trade. We would like to see fewer barriers and more openness, more cooperation on trade, investment, on missing persons issues, on the range of issues that had been a concern for both countries for twenty years.

But what if the deal is not reached? What would be the consequences for Kosovo in this case, if there is no agreement?

I think that reaching an agreement will have great positive implications for Kosovo’s prosperity, for Kosovo’s place within Europe. The status quo is really not tenable. As Matt Palmer, our Special Representative for the Western Balkans said when he was in Kosovo recently, the failure to move the dialogue forward has not helped Kosovo. It has not helped Kosovo’s economy, it has not helped its position in the world. Again, I think that a comprehensive agreement with Serbia will open the door for foreign investment, it will create new economic opportunities for people here, and it’s not just something that matters to the international community.  The dialogue was not at the top of the agenda during the campaign, I understand that, but we don’t see it as a distraction for the new government from fulfilling its promises about domestic issues. We think that it’s necessary to have progress on domestic and international issues at the same time.

But, so far, we have seen that there was lack of unity among political parties and institutions regarding the final outcome of dialogue. While President favored border correction, parties generally were against this idea. Do you see the next government being able to overcome these differences and build a consensus?

I am optimistic that both the parties that are part of the government, and parties that are in opposition, will put the good of the country, will put the good of the people of Kosovo first. This is a time, this is a moment for everyone in the political world – whether they are in government or in opposition – to come together in a spirit of national unity and think about the ordinary citizen and what improved relations with Kosovo’s neighbors will mean for ordinary citizens of Kosovo.

Are there any differences between the European Union and the United States regarding dialogue? And, when we are here: does U.S. support border changes?

I think that the European Union and the United States are firmly committed to supporting the Government and people of Kosovo and Serbia to improve relations, to find their way forward, that hasn’t changed. This is something that we will be in close coordination, close consultation with our Western European friends as the EU develops its policies in the future. As you know there have been changes at the top of the European Union’s foreign policy structures.  In terms of land swap, border change, I think that the U.S. position on this has not been well understood and I’ll try to make it clear. Some officials of the U.S. administration, over the past year or two, have said that if Kosovo and Serbia agree on a comprehensive agreement that involved some adjustment to the border, we take a look at it–we would not reject it out of hand. People have misinterpreted that to imagine that the Americans have been actively pushing for some big border change. That was never the case. Moreover, our position has been that any agreement between Kosovo and Serbia has to be acceptable to the people of both countries not just to a few politicians. I think it’s pretty clear that there is very little support in Kosovo for a massive, dramatic exchange of land or change on the borders—I mean it’s pretty clear that that’s the case now. Is it possible that Kosovo and Serbia, as part of a broader agreement, would look at border demarcation—at some changes?  Yeah, it’s possible, but that’s a question I think for officials of the two governments looking forward—whether or not they expect that there will be some discussion of land in the future.

Sometimes there has been criticism that Kosovo’s leaders are making decisions under pressure. Do you think, is Kosovo ready to take its own decisions not to be subject of any international pressure?

I think that the leaders and people of Kosovo are quite capable of inventing their own future—of finding a path forward. At the same time, naturally, my government and other governments in the region are heavily invested in Kosovo’s future. We wouldn’t be having this interview if you thought that American voices didn’t matter, right? So, we will continue to do what we can to support both sides. But I think you used the word pressure in your question, and I don’t think—that’s not how I see it.  Do we make our positions clear? Sure, partly because many people are interested in hearing what the U.S. government and other governments have to say. I would like to emphasize that people sometimes think that certain issues are of interest to the international community don’t matter to the people of Kosovo. We often view it differently and dialogue is the best example. Many people think—they don’t see—many people don’t see how improved relations with Serbia or other neighbors will affect their lives and we do think that that’s important to ordinary citizens, that it will create new opportunities for everybody. Of course, there is suspicion and mistrust but if the governments of Serbia and Kosovo can negotiate an agreement that is in the interests of the citizens of both countries then they will have an incentive to make it stick, and my country will be there to help ensure that everybody keeps their promises.

The candidate for Prime Minister Albin Kurti has ruled out the possibility to consider the Serbian List as a partner in government, although he will fulfill the constitutional obligation for a minister from this party. How do you comment on this?

I think Mr. Kurti is well aware that his responsibilities as Prime Minister are quite different than the role one plays as an opposition leader, and Mr. Kurti understands the Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo.  I think he’s realistic and knows that it will not be possible to govern without listening to the voices of members of the Serbian community and the fact is Srpska List represents not every last individual—of course, not every Serb citizen of Kosovo is a fan of Srpska List—but it’s a very important voice. I don’t think it’s realistic to speak about trying to govern this country without abiding by the Constitutional rules on the role of minorities and without accepting the political realities of Srpska List.

And my two last questions, corruption and organized crime continue to be a concern for Kosovo society. The future VV-LDK government has announced aggressive steps against corruption and crime. Do you support new measures?

We absolutely support strong measures against corruption, both in government and outside of government.  Remember the new government hasn’t taken office yet—it’s natural over time their specific policies are going to evolve.  I have great faith in Kosovo’s judicial institutions, in the police. I think the people of Kosovo, regardless of their political views, feel strongly that corruption is holding this country back. Our embassy—I’ve personally been quite vocal on that topic in the year that I’ve been here, and we will continue to do so.  We think that shining a light into the dark corners of any country is critical to a healthy future.

The Special Court has increased the number of invitations for former KLA members, while the first indictments will be announced soon. But there are some voices in Kosovo asking the new government to revise the mandate of this court. What is your comment about this?

Two years ago, when there was a move to abrogate the Special Court, my predecessor and friend Greg Delawie said that that was a betrayal of the United States. I agree with that, but in addition I think that any move to weaken or eliminate the court is a betrayal of all the victims of all communities who deserve justice for the crimes that took place here twenty years ago. I am well aware of the history of Kosovo and the region.  I know that some people are frustrated and resentful about the Special Court’s mandate. I don’t think the answer is to reduce its effectiveness, or not to investigate or not to seek justice where it’s possible. We should be seeking more justice for victims, not less. I am confident that the Special Court will continue to do its job and seek justice within its mandate.

https://bit.ly/34IVyMc

Kosovo signs trade agreement with UK (media)

Kosovo’s acting Minister of Trade and Industry Endrit Shala and the United Kingdom’s Ambassador Nicholas Abbott signed in Pristina today agreement for partnership, trade and cooperation. 

Shala said on the occasion that good cooperation with the UK will continue in the future and added that the agreement not only strengthens the economic aspect but also political ties and affirms statehood of Kosovo. “It is a pleasure to be able to achieve this success at the end of the mandate,” said Shala. 

Ambassador Abbott meanwhile underlined that the trade agreement is an important step in strengthening bilateral relations. “Kosovo is the first country in the Western Balkans with whom we signed this agreement and it is important for political relations to continue between Kosovo and the United Kingdom,” Abbott said. 

A statement issued by the Kosovo’s Ministry of Trade and Industry specifies that the agreement will enter into force when the UK leaves European Union.

LDK’s Veliu speaks about coalition agreement with LVV (Gazeta Express)

Deputy leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) Agim Veliu said that if the Vetevendosje Movement (LVV) doesn’t agree to give the LDK the post of Kosovo president, Assembly speaker and five ministries, it can choose to leave the post of prime minister and ministries and take that of president, speaker, and not five but six ministries instead. 

Veliu said the two parties want to elaborate on all issues to prevent possible problems in the future. “The post of president needs to be on the table, needs to be defined, because after a year and a half this could lead the country to elections again, so a position needs to be defined. We have requested it be up to LDK to propose a candidate.” 

 

 

Serbian Language Media

 

France could stop EU integration of Serbia? (Sputnik, B92)

France has not yet given the green light to hold an Intergovernmental Conference with Serbia, news portal Sputnik writes. According to the portal failure to hold a conference would be another clear signal that European integration is slowing down, if not stopping.

It is already speculated that the EU may not open any new chapters for Serbia, though the latter is ready to open at least four. According to unnamed media sources in Brussels, France’s hardest anti-enlargement wing is not ready to at least symbolically opens the process through the conference.

These signals suggest that Paris has formally begun to halt the accession process of the Western Balkan countries, Sputnik continues.

Just to reiterate that France, the Netherlands and Denmark did not approve the opening of accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania in early October, and the view that Serbia should not be allowed to open new chapters might be seen as a logical follow-up.

For a long time, Brussels has pursued a similar policy towards Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and North Macedonia, and as far as these countries are concerned, on several occasions, French politicians, including Emmanuel Macron, emphasized that the enlargement process was put ad-acta by the EU, Slobodan Jankovic, from the Belgrade Institute for International Politics and Economy, claims.

“The point here is that France, under Emmanuel Macron, is now making politics, at least publicly distancing itself from the US and trying to create a new bloc that would be formally more independent than Washington’s influence”, Jankovic added.

The opening of new chapters should take place at the Intergovernmental Conference with Serbia, which is usually held on the side-lines of ministerial meetings for foreign and general affairs, this time to be held on December 9 and 10.

However, the ministerial meeting in December takes place a few days before the Conference on the Future of Europe, organized jointly by Paris and Berlin, is due to begin. That coincidence, despite all the efforts of Finland, which currently holds the EU presidency, could be the reason why Serbia will not open any new chapters this month.

See at: https://bit.ly/3635C37

Lawyer Vlajic: Prosecutor paraphrased indictment; we do not know what evidence are (RTS)

Lawyer Nebojsa Vlajic said the evidences on which the Pristina prosecutor based the indictment against the six Serbs in the case of Oliver Ivanovic’s murder are not known yet, Serbian public broadcaster RTS reports today.   

Vlajic, the former lawyer of Oliver Ivanovic, said not only the family, but also the public rightly expects the murder of Oliver Ivanovic to be resolved.

“He was a great man in our community, and the public rightly expects to know who has ordered and carried out the murder. Based on what was published yesterday we can only guess. We have not seen the indictment, but only what was published on the website, a summary of the claims made by the prosecutor and whom he charges for what,” Vlajic said.

He added the evidence were not announced. “The prosecutor said he interviewed more than a hundred witnesses, some (he interviewed) several times, but we do not know what they said and on what evidence he has based the indictment,” Vlajic said.

Vlajic also noted, the time will prove it there are enough just judges who would be able to impartially consider the case of Oliver Ivanovic.

CI SDP: Silvana Arsovic neither knows, nor ever met other accused persons (Radio KIM)

Civic Initiative Freedom, Democracy, Justice (SDP) said today that the secretary of Oliver Ivanovic, Silvana Arsovic accused for the involvement in his murder, neither knows nor ever had any contact with the rest of the accused persons, Radio KIM reports.  

The SPD said that despite asking the question over the last 22 months “who has ordered and killed Oliver Ivanovic,” there is no answer to it in the indictment either, since the indictment, as they said, “does not include the name and the surname of the mastermind (behind the murder) and the killer.”

“During all these months we have been listening to various quarrels, false speculations and disinformation, we are experiencing waging a psychological war and pressure without concrete evidence and findings. Civic Initiative SDP is interested in concrete evidence and we will request that the lawyers of accused Silvana Arsovic finally get the list of cases and clear evidence if they exist,” SDP said.

The SPD also added that “an indictment was raised against the secretary of Oliver Ivanovic, accusing her for cooperating with other suspected persons who have coordinated in the murder of Oliver Ivanovic, and Silvana Arsovic neither knows nor she ever had any contact with these persons. She is also accused that she was aware (as some media and portals reported) that the surveillance cameras were forcibly stopped in order not to record the carried act – the murder”, Radio KIM reported.  

Aleksandar Ivanovic: We are interested in concrete evidence and political background (VoA, Radio KIM)

Aleksandar Ivanovic, nephew of murdered Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic told Voice of America (VoA) he hopes that the court proceeding, following the indictment, would lead to the immediate perpetrators of the murder and later on to those who have ordered it.

He also noted, the family found out about the indictment from the media. According to him, the pollicization of the case, by both Belgrade and Pristina, since the very first moment was an obstruction to the investigation.

“We are not interested in political announcements of Belgrade and Pristina. We are interested in concrete evidence and who are the people who have carried out this murder. Foremost, we are interested in the political background of it and who stands behind it. Who has ordered that murder? Whom did Oliver bother so much, to organize all these people who killed him from the back with six bullets?” Aleksandar Ivanovic told Voice of America.  

First Serbian Medical Congress on consequences of bombing held in Mitrovica North (KoSSev, Radio kontakt plus, RTS)  

“Only those who have no good intentions say that there were no consequences”, Professor Aleksandar Corac of the Preventive Medicine Department at the Medical Faculty in Mitrovica North said at the Congress of Serbian doctors and scientists on the consequences of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia bombing in 1999, which was held in Mitrovica North on Saturday.

As KoSSev reported, key speakers at this event were some of the leading experts in this domain, including the Serbian Institute of Physics; Vinca Nuclear Institute, faculties of forestry and chemistry; the University of California Berkley, Faculty of Medicine in Belgrade, Military Medical Academy and Department of Preventive Medicine at the Medical Faculty in Mitrovica North. Representative of recently formed Serbian National Assembly Commission for examining consequences of NATO’s bombing was also present.

“If we have allowed ourselves to ask the question after 20 years, which we should have answered long time ago, then the profession should be ashamed because it did not provide an answer for something it is being paid for”, Corac added. He recalled that this topic was exploited in the media, while at the same time it wasn’t adequately addressed in the scientific circles.

“That is why this will be our attempt to answer the questions that we, as a society, should have been asking for a long time ago: Is there pollution or not? What kind of pollution, how to treat it? What are the consequences, how to reduce and eliminate them?  Many people say that many years have passed. Let’s see if there are any ways to prove that presence?” Professor Corac underlined.

Director of the Institute of Oncology in Belgrade and Belgrade Faculty of Medicine, Professor Danica Grujicic pointed out that an increasing number of children are suffering from the type of tumours which were previously typical for the elderly population only, Radio kontakt plus reported.

“The rate of our children who are getting sick is higher than before. Tumours behave in completely unexpected ways, even those that have a favourable genetic structure, and you cannot predict anything anymore”, Professor Grujicic said.

“The number of patients is increasing, and the oncology facilities are overcrowded,” she added. “This is supported by data from the Integrated Health Information System (IZIS) platform, according to which there were 58,456 new cases of malignant diseases in 2018”. She also said that BATUT (Institute for Public Health) data on 35.000 people getting malignant diseases annually dates back to 2014, noting that updated information of the number of affected persons is needed.  

She also said it was necessary for all to understand that only the Government of Serbia Commission for examining consequences of NATO bombing, has the capacity to do something and it must be composed exclusively of experts, scientists.

Grujicic pointed out with regret that the reaction of the Serbian state that was expected, e.g. coordination body that was planned to be established and include sciences across Serbia, was lacking.

She said that “not entire Serbia is polluted,” and affected parts must be clearly determined, KoSSev portal reported.  

Djuric reacts to transmission system operators’ agreement (B92)

Serbian Government Office for Kosovo and Metohija Director Marko Djuric reacting to the agreement between Kosovo transmission system operator company with Albanian Transmission System Operator said that Serbia is the owner of Kosovo power network and it constructed power plants in Kosovo and Metohija, so establishing “Great Albania” in the energy field will not be possible.

“The involvement of EMS (Serbian Transmission Network), EPS (Electric Power Industry of Serbia) and competent institutions in the past years has prevented the membership of a Pristina operator, which is illegally using part of our KiM network at ENTSOE, while the announcements of the creation of a “Great Albania” in energy field reveal the true chauvinistic face of Pristina’s politics”, Djuric staid in a press release.

He pointed out that this is not sustainable on the ground and must be stopped by the international community before it produces negative consequences for regional energy and political stability, B92 reports.

French ambassador says Paris EU expansion proposal could benefit Serbia (N1, BETA)

French Ambassador in Belgrade Jean-Louis Falconi said on Monday that the French proposal to reform the European Union expansion process is directed primarily at countries that have not started accession talks but could be useful for countries like Serbia, TV N1 reports.

Speaking for the Belgrade-based European Policy Center, Falconi said that the proposal allows non-voting membership for the countries of the Western Balkans before their accession to the EU. He said the idea is to change the negotiation process from the many chapters to closer cooperation with the EU before full integration.

The ambassador recalled Serbian European Integration Minister Jadranka Joksimovic’s “valid argument” that the method agreed at the start of the accession process should not be changed which, according to him, means that the proposal is directed at the countries that have not started the negotiations.

He added that joint proposals by the ‘Western Balkans six’ are welcome if they become possible.

 

 

Opinion

 

‘Mini Schengen’: A Balkan Breakthrough or Political Stunt? (Balkan Insight)

Can a plan to replicate the EU’s freedom of movement in the Balkans transform the region — or is it all about political posturing, Tirana-based researcher and foreign policy expert Akri Cipa writes in an opinion piece. 

Cipa says that with the third meeting of the mini Schengen initiative planned for late December, there are commentators who are skeptical to the idea of a border-free zone between the Western Balkans countries. 

The idea, initiated by Albania, Serbia and North Macedonia, “as it stands offers few incentives for other states to join”, Cipa remarks. 

“Representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro attended the Ohrid summit but the president of Kosovo declined to take part against a backdrop of scepticism across the political spectrum in Kosovo.

Kosovo’s refusal to attend underlines a fundamental challenge. Tensions between Kosovo and Serbia are a major hindrance not only for bilateral relations but for regional cooperation as well.

The ‘derecognition’ campaign that Serbia has long waged against Europe’s newest country raises doubts about Belgrade’s commitment to being a constructive regional player and undermines the premise of an all-inclusive ‘mini Schengen’.

Without the inclusion of other countries — not least Kosovo, which borders North Macedonia, Serbia and Albania — the initiative will only offer a tripartite format for solving bilateral issues.”

See at: https://bit.ly/2P8pYB6

War Memorials in Kosovo Don’t Tell the Whole Story (Balkan Insight)

Memorials in Kosovo are dominated by monuments to ‘heroes’ and ‘martyrs’, but fail to adequately commemorate the tragic events experienced by innocent people and victims of the 1998-99 war, or tell their stories, writes Nora Weller, UK-based scholar on atrocities heritage and cultural heritage protection. 

Weller notes that the commemorative landscape of Kosovo is often fragmented and does not portray the tragic events that innocent people experienced. 

“For example, most of the sites where massacres took place are not marked in any way, they are known only to researchers like myself who are chasing the past and those who were directly affected and are forever scarred by what happened there,” she writes. 

Weller says it is difficult to connect with the painful legacies of the sites of atrocities when there is no description of what events took place there. “These were innocent individuals who were taken from their homes, but often they are portrayed as ‘martyrs’ and ‘heroes’, not as victims of a brutal regime that aimed to exterminate a group of people due to their ethnicity.” 

See at: https://bit.ly/2YaVKS1

 

 

International

 

Kosovo Indicts Six for Serb Politician Ivanovic’s Murder (Balkan Insight)

Kosovo’s Special Prosecution announced on Monday that it has charged six people with participating in or organising a criminal group, misuse of office, assisting in a murder, possession of illegal weapons, disclosure of official secrets and misuse of evidence related to the killing of politician Oliver Ivanovic in the north of the divided town of Mitrovica in 2018.

“The indictees actively participated in the group’s criminal activities, knowing that such participation would contribute to criminal activities being conducted, for direct or indirect financial benefits for themselves for or others aiming to extend control over businesses and politics in North Mitrovica,” the Special Prosecution said.

See at: https://bit.ly/2P8nXow

Kosovo signs deal on joining Albania’s power grid (Reuters)

Kosovo will join Albania’s power grid from next April under a deal signed on Monday, ending decades of dependence on Serbia’s grid.

There was no immediate reaction from Serbian grid operator EMS after the deal was signed in Tirana by Kosovo’s grid operator, KOSTT, and the Albanian operator, OST.

See at: https://bit.ly/2OJ6hR9

 

 

Development/Humanitarian

 

PISA results paint dispiriting picture (Prishtina Insight)

The results of the OECD’s 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment, PISA, were released on Tuesday, with students assessed in Kosovo recording some of the lowest average scores among all of the countries tested. Just over 5,000 15-year-olds from 224 schools across Kosovo took part in the assessment, which tested abilities in reading, mathematics and science.

Students from Kosovo’s neighboring countries, Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia all recorded higher average scores in all three subjects, while the average of the three scores was the third lowest amongst all of the countries tested. In Kosovo’s only previous participation in PISA in 2015, the average score from the assessment was also among the lowest three of the countries tested. 

Outgoing Minister of Education, Shyqyri Bytyqi, told a press conference on Tuesday that time was needed to analyse the results, having made claims in September that Kosovo would climb three positions in the PISA rankings. 

“We said we expect better results, and these are not the results we expected,” Bytyqi told the press conference. “We cannot point the finger at one person only.” 

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OSCE Mission presents report and documentary film on returns (media)

Several news outlets report that the OSCE Mission in Kosovo will launch today a report on “Assessment of Voluntary Returns in Kosovo” and a documentary on returns entitled “To Be Home Again.”

The report provides an overview of the legal framework used in the returns process and its implementation in Kosovo including: information on property rights relevant for displaced persons and returnees; an assessment of the security situation for returnees and an overview of the process of finding durable solutions for displaced persons from Kosovo.

The documentary features personal stories on return and displacement and sheds light on the lives of some of the returnees.

The Head of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo, Jan Braathu, will deliver the report’s findings which will be followed by a screening of the documentary and a panel discussion. The panel will consist of Nenad Stojcetovic, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry for Communities and Return, Rozafa Ukimeraj, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Local Government Administration, Colonel Gazmend Hoxha, Director of Public Safety Division, Kosovo Police, and Milaim Cekaj, Head of Evictions Unit at the Kosovo Property, Comparison and Verification Agency.

Education centres for Roma, Ashkali, Egyptian communities face closure (Radio KIM)

Representatives of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities held a protest in front of the Ministry of Education in Pristina today, due to the fear that education centres helping the pupils from these communities to attend the education in their non-mother tongue might face closure, Radio KIM reports.

Namely, the Ministry of Education two years ago adopted an administrative instruction based on which these centres would become institutionalized and part of the education system in Kosovo, while the Kosovo government would allocate half a million-euro budget for their work.

However, this administrative instruction is not implemented yet, and the centres often do not receive foreseen funds. At the same time, donors, mainly international organization less and less are financing these education centres which in turn cause concerns among the centres’ staff and civil society they may end up closed soon.

Isak Skenderi from NGO Voice of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians said that last year the Kosovo Parliament adopted the budget of half a million euros for financing these education centres and just because the registration process did not start on time, the money could not be activated and it is still somewhere there. He thinks the key for the integration of these communities into the Kosovo society is education.

“What we request from the institutions is to take our requests a bit more seriously, primarily when they relate to the education of our children,” Skenderi said.

If the administrative instruction is not implemented, around 80 education centres across Kosovo might face closure. These centres provide support in education for more than 5000 children. Their closure would make the education of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian children more difficult, and as some civil society activists noted, some children might give up education completely, Radio KIM reported.

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