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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, December 23, 2019

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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, December 23, 2019

Albanian Language Media:

• Haradinaj: Don’t lift the tariff and don’t stop the Dukagjini highway (media)
• Russia’s strategic interests and tools of influence in Western Balkans (media)
• Rugova: No alternative to LDK-LVV coalition government (Telegrafi)
• Dialogue: A new chapter with old consequences (Express)
• Agim Veliu: LDK is more than a political party (Klan)
• Osmani: We want agreement with Serbia but not at cost of Kosovo borders (Koha)
• LVV to Veliu: We did not request President’s post (Express)

Serbian Language Media:

• “Europe will support ‘mini-Schengen’ initiative with 1.2 billion euros” (B92, Tanjug)
• ‘Mini Schengen is not a replacement for EU and it doesn’t mean new Yugoslavia’ (N1)
• What happened with “poisoned ballots” from Serbia? (Tanjug, B92)
• Gracanica citizens to self-organize as a protection against thieves until a solution found (KIM radio, RTS, Gracanica radio)

International:

• In the Balkans, a disruptor poised for power (politico.eu)
• ‘Mini-Schengen’ risks driving a wedge between Albania and Kosovo (Emerging Europe)

Humanitarian/Development:

• Europe ‘will feel’ new refugee wave, warns Turkey’s Erdogan (DW)
• “White Peony” award to Milorad Trifunovic and Bajram Qerkini, “Black Peony” to Kosovo Assembly (Radio kontakt plus)

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Albanian Language Media:

  • Haradinaj: Don’t lift the tariff and don’t stop the Dukagjini highway (media)
  • Russia’s strategic interests and tools of influence in Western Balkans (media)
  • Rugova: No alternative to LDK-LVV coalition government (Telegrafi)
  • Dialogue: A new chapter with old consequences (Express)
  • Agim Veliu: LDK is more than a political party (Klan)
  • Osmani: We want agreement with Serbia but not at cost of Kosovo borders (Koha)
  • LVV to Veliu: We did not request President’s post (Express)

Serbian Language Media:

  • “Europe will support ‘mini-Schengen’ initiative with 1.2 billion euros” (B92, Tanjug)
  • ‘Mini Schengen is not a replacement for EU and it doesn’t mean new Yugoslavia’ (N1)
  • What happened with “poisoned ballots” from Serbia? (Tanjug, B92)
  • Gracanica citizens to self-organize as a protection against thieves until a solution found (KIM radio, RTS, Gracanica radio)

International:

  • In the Balkans, a disruptor poised for power (politico.eu)
  • ‘Mini-Schengen’ risks driving a wedge between Albania and Kosovo (Emerging Europe)

Humanitarian/Development:

  • Europe ‘will feel’ new refugee wave, warns Turkey’s Erdogan (DW)
  • “White Peony” award to Milorad Trifunovic and Bajram Qerkini, “Black Peony” to Kosovo Assembly (Radio kontakt plus)

 

 

Albanian Language Media

 

Haradinaj: Don’t lift the tariff and don’t stop the Dukagjini highway (media)

Several news outlets report that Kosovo’s outgoing Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj called on the Vetevendosje Movement and the Democratic League of Kosovo not to lift the import tariff on Serbian products and not to annul the decision to build the Dukagjini highway. 

Haradinaj argued that at a time when Serbian leaders are denying the crimes committed in Kosovo, the import tariff should not be lifted because it would mean political suicide. He added that if the tariff is lifted, Kosovo will have no other way to condition Serbia into recognising its statehood.

Haradinaj said the decision to build the Dukagjini highway “is untouchable because it does not belong only to the Dukagjini region but to all of Kosovo”.

Russia’s strategic interests and tools of influence in Western Balkans (media)

Koha carries a piece by Dimitar Bechev, a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, titled Russia’s strategic interests and tools of influence in the Western Balkans. Bechev writes:

In recent years, Russia has become growingly visible in the Balkans. Its forays into the region fuel the perception of the region as a geopolitical battleground, with Turkey, China, and even the Gulf monarchies also posing a challenge to the West. Russia stands out from the list. Unlike other external players, Moscow has wholeheartedly embraced the role of spoiler acting against Western interests. Moscow is vehemently opposed to ex-Yugoslav countries joining NATO and is no friend of the European Union (EU) either, even though its attitude to its enlargement remains ambiguous. Russia is also unique in terms of the range of capabilities it brings to bear. Its toolbox spans hard military power, economic instruments— particularly with regard to the energy sector—elements of what analysts define as “sharp power” (e.g. disinformation and disruption), as well as a degree of cultural appeal or “soft power” rooted in shared religion and history with a number of South Slav nations. Though it lags considerably behind the EU and NATO, Russia has proven an increasingly influential actor in the region.

Russia’s strategy

The Western Balkans are part and parcel of Russia’s strategy to establish itself as a first-rate player in European security affairs, along with other major states such as Germany, France, and the UK. Since the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, the region has been at the forefront of debates on critical issues such as transatlantic relations, the EU’s security and defense policy, and NATO/EU enlargement. Having a foothold in the Balkans means having a say on those strategic matters, which are of direct consequence to Russia. Moscow is driven by geopolitics, with other concerns such as economic interests or historic bonds with the South Slavs or the other Orthodox nations playing a secondary role. It sees the Balkans as a vulnerable periphery of Europe where Russia can build a foothold, recruit supporters, and ultimately maximize its leverage vis-à-vis the West.

Read full piece in link below: https://bit.ly/395MS59

Rugova: No alternative to LDK-LVV coalition government (Telegrafi)

Haki Rugova, member of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) chairmanship, told the news website that he believes a coalition agreement with the Vetevendosje Movement (LVV) will be achieved by Thursday when the Assembly’s constitutive session is due to take place. He also said there is no alternative to an LDK-LVV coalition.

“It is important to have an agreement because Kosovo institutions need to be formed and up and running. I have stated before that all senior posts, the prime minister, the speaker, the president, need to be part of the agreement as they are functions voted by the Assembly,” he said.

“I support an agreement as there can be no other alliances… political parties that were in the opposition need to come to power,” Rugova said.

Dialogue: A new chapter with old consequences (Express)

Two decades after peace mediation in Former Yugoslavia, Washington is planning to get involved on Kosovo-Serbia talks, as EU’s consecutive efforts did not bring any result.

Kosovo and Serbia are expected to restart a new chapter of dialogue for normalization of the relations between the two countries in spring.

The dialogue initiated by the EU was blocked last year, after Kosovo’s government imposed a 100 percent tariff on Serbian goods, as a response to Belgrade government’s harsh battle against recognitions of Kosovo’s statehood and its applying for membership at international organisations.

More than two decades after withdrawal of Serbian forces from Kosovo in 1999, and 12 years after the declaration of independence, Kosovo and Serbia are expected to restart a process which is hoped to be final on normalization of the relations.

 Agim Veliu: LDK is more than a political party (Klan)

Principal deputy leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) said on the thirtieth jubilee of founding of this political party that LDK has the best leadership which has political courage and the most loyal membership. 

“The Democratic League of Kosovo is more than a political party, it is a national institution which cultivates and affirms values, maintains friendship with western allies, the United States and NATO, and it works hard for EU integration,” Veliu said.

Osmani: We want agreement with Serbia but not at cost of Kosovo borders (Koha)

Deputy leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) Vjosa Osmani said in an interview with the Austrian paper Der Standard that Kosovo is ready for an agreement with Serbia for not for one that would affect its borders. 

“We are absolutely against exchange of territories, partition of Kosovo, or other forms of border changes because this would only threaten Kosovo’s territorial integrity and its statehood,” Osmani is quoted as saying. She added that the territorial aspect is one of the most important elements of a statehood. “We have fought this idea for two and a half years with the president of Kosovo. He can speak for himself and continue to dream but with this government, no matter who insists, such agreement cannot go any further.” 

“Alike in the 90s, Serbia is not interested about the people but only about territory. It is time for Serbs in Kosovo to realise that we are political leaders that represent their interests. We want to live in a Kosovo where they feel safe and can have a successful life.”

Osmani also said that Kosovo Serbs have not gained anything from the EU-facilitated dialogue for normalisation of relations and that this needs to change. “The dialogue was not about preserving or building the careers of presidents of the two countries or make them become good friends. This needs to be made clear to the people,” she said.  “Agreements can integrate people in Kosovo, allow them to live together and prosper economically,” Osmani underlined. 

Speaking about visa liberalisation, Osmani said Kosovo being left out of the visa-free travel zone is hypocrisy on the part of the EU but expressed hope that the issue would be included in the agenda during the six-month Croatian presidency starting in 2020.

LVV to Veliu: We did not request President’s post (Express)

Vetevendosje Movement (LVV) has reacted after the statements of the principal deputy leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) Agim Veliu, who said that it is too much for Albin Kurti’s political party to have both the post of the Prime Minister and that of the President.

LVV MP Mefail Bajqinovci took to Facebook to write that Veliu’s statement does not stand as LVV has not requested the post of the president for themselves.

He said LVV will seek for a president when the time comes, and not now while attempting to ensure parliamentary majority to govern.

Members of this political party also claim that they seek a president in accordance with the Constitution of Kosovo.

“Your request to have the (post of the) president in the manner you are requesting, does not express the repeatedly stressed commitment by you for LDK as constituent, western and engaged for the rule of law,” he said.  

 

 

Serbian Language Media

 

“Europe will support ‘mini-Schengen’ initiative with 1.2 billion euros” (B92, Tanjug)

The meeting of the Western Balkans leaders in Tirana was completed and, like the previous one in Ohrid, was marked by ‘mini-Schengen,’ B92 reports.

The meeting was attended by Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic.

After the summit, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said important decisions were made at the meeting to promote trade between the three countries, which will be signed in Podgorica or Belgrade, depending on the agreement.

“We discussed how to improve trade, facilitate the flow of goods, services and capital, and make important decisions. This is of great importance for the entire region,” Vucic said at a joint conference.

Vucic stated that the agreement on the so-called privileged operators, which Serbia and Albania will sign bilaterally at the next meeting, which implies that certain already recognized companies can cross the border more easily.

“The crossing of Presevo – Tabanovce crosses 320,000 trucks a year. Then you see the benefit to all of them”, Serbian President said. He reiterated that it is of great importance and, therefore, they want to try to create as unique a labor market as possible, which will mean a convincingly greater investment attraction.

This, he said, means that workers from Serbia who want to work in Albania or North Macedonia will have the opportunity to register and have a permanent work permit in both countries, which will be in effect the other way around.

Participating countries in the Regional Integration Initiative have called for support and assistance from international financial institutions for a new growth agenda at today’s Tirana summit, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said.

In a statement to Serbian media, he expressed his belief that much would be done by the Belgrade summit to the benefit of the Serbian people and the state of Serbia, as well as Albania and North Macedonia.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said the European Commission is ready to allocate € 1.2 billion next year to countries in the region to implement the agreements reached under the so-called “mini Schengen.”

“These are not loans but grants,” Rama said at a joint press conference after the meeting.

Aleksandar Vucic announced that the Serbian government will make a decision on Monday to help Albania with a significant, large sum of money, after a devastating earthquake that recently hit the country. He reiterated his condolences to all the families killed in the quake that struck Albania, stating that Serbia had helped as much as it could by sending units of the Emergency Sector.

He also announced that in the future, the emergency units of Serbia, North Macedonia and Albania will cooperate closely when a tragedy occurs in one of the three countries, and all available forces will be available to the affected country at the same time.

See at: https://bit.ly/2tJVbn7

‘Mini Schengen is not a replacement for EU and it doesn’t mean new Yugoslavia’ (N1)

Mini Schengen is not a “new Yugoslavia” or a replacement for European integration, according to Oliver Brankovic, a correspondent for Macedonian Radio Television, and Dusan Janjic of the Forum for Ethnic Relations. They believe that integration of the region will speed up the Western Balkan countries on their path to the EU and help to solve the bilateral disputes.

They agreed that the regional connectivity does not mean a replacement for European integration but that this can only help the Western Balkan countries to prepare for the EU membership. So-called ‘Mini Schengen will contribute to the solving of bilateral disputes, they underlined, dismissing the allegations that this might lead to a new Yugoslavia.

Brankovic stressed this was not a political alliance or coalition, but cooperation based primarily on the economy and in the interest of the citizens.

“We’re not creating a football team. It is far from that idea (new Yugoslavia) … Macedonia will get from Serbia the electronic database of workers. Any citizen can apply for a job as soon as he enters the territory of North Macedonia and vice versa. Why wouldn’t a Nis citizen come to

Skopje for an hour, an hour and a half to work. It used to take six months to get a work permit, Brankovic told N1.

The leaders of Serbia, Albania and North Macedonia agreed during a summit this weekend on cooperation in a few sectors, including the single labour market creation and cooperation in case of emergencies.

See at: https://bit.ly/2s405uR

What happened with “poisoned ballots” from Serbia? (Tanjug, B92)

There are still no results of the expertise of allegedly poisoned envelopes sent to Kosovo from central Serbia, containing the ballots for the extraordinary parliamentary elections, B92 reports today.

The envelopes were sent for further analysis, after members of the Central Election Commission allegedly suffered allergic reactions to it. The elections took place on October 6, and there are still no results of this analysis. Also, it is not known where envelops were sent to, Serbian media report, referring to the Pristina-based Koha Ditore.

The prosecution provided neither details about this issue, nor about location where samples were sent for further analysis.

“We would like to inform you that the investigation is ongoing. Several persons have been interviewed so far, and we are still waiting for the results of the analysis,” Laureta Ulaj of Pristina basic prosecution said.

Lawyer, Kushtrim Palishi said delay of such expertise is understandable, however, he thinks the entire process should be more transparent, B92 reported.

Gracanica citizens to self-organize as a protection against thieves until a solution found (KIM radio, RTS, Gracanica radio)

Six Serb households robbed in the last 48 hours; the last target of the thieves was a house located 100 meters from the police station in downtown Gracanica.

Gracanica Mayor Srdjan Popovic stated that he had a constructive conversation with local councils.

“They will call meetings today in all places in Gracanica municipality, where they will inform people that they should be more cautious these days, not to leave their homes alone until this situation is resolved,” Popovic said.

In the last three months, more than 200 criminal incidents have occurred in Serb communities in central Kosovo, and Kosovo police have not shed light on any of these crimes, Radio Television of Serbia reported. 

Residents of Gracanica, whose households were targeted by thieves, asked the Mayor of Gracanica and the local government to get involved in the solving of the thefts problem, as they did not trust the police, reported KIM radio.

At yesterday’s meeting with the citizens, and then at an extraordinary session of the local municipal councils for security, Mayor Popovic agreed that citizens should self-organize until further notice.

The meeting between the Mayor of Gracanica and representatives of the police and KFOR was announced at 11 a.m. Monday, and as said, Popovic would request a meeting with the OSCE Ambassador. 

 

 

International 

 

In the Balkans, a disruptor poised for power (politico.eu)

Albin Kurti doesn’t think he just won an election. He says it was a revolution.

Kurti, a former protester, prisoner and provocateur, is poised to become prime minister of Kosovo after his Self-Determination Movement came first in a parliamentary election in October.

Inspired by leftist anti-colonial movements in the developing world, Kurti’s organization is quite different from the parties that have ruled Kosovo and other Balkan states in recent decades. And his stated aim is to smash their model of governing — a system of endemic cronyism and corruption, coupled with close ties to organized crime.

If the 44-year-old succeeds, he could encourage similar movements across the Balkans, posing a rare challenge to political elites forged in the conflicts of the 1990s.

“We are launching a new era where the government is aware that it doesn’t have its own money, but that it just manages the people’s money,” Kurti said in an interview at his movement’s headquarters in Kosovo’s capital, Pristina. “This new culture of good governance is the key to our revolutionary victory, which I believe is the day when the future started for Kosovo.”

See at: https://politi.co/3924LSl

‘Mini-Schengen’ risks driving a wedge between Albania and Kosovo (Emerging Europe)

An initiative to create a ‘Mini-Schengen’ zone in the Western Balkans is driving an increasingly large wedge between Albania and Kosovo.

The idea was first mooted in October when the leaders of Albania, North Macedonia and Serbia agreed to explore the possibility of creating a passport and duty-free zone that would allow the free movement of people, goods, services and capital between participating countries and invited Bosnia, Kosovo, and Montenegro to join them.

See at: https://bit.ly/2PO4M4I

 

 

Development/Humanitarian

 

Europe ‘will feel’ new refugee wave, warns Turkey’s Erdogan (DW)

The Turkish president has described a new humanitarian crisis as thousands of Syrians flee renewed bombing in Idlib. But he warned that Turkey “will not carry such a migrant burden on its own.”

See at: https://bit.ly/2PNa94i

“White Peony” award to Milorad Trifunovic and Bajram Qerkini, “Black Peony” to Kosovo Assembly (Radio kontakt plus)

The Association of Journalists of Serbia in Kosovo has decided to present “White Peony” an award for the best cooperation with journalists and media to Milorad Trifunovic and Bajram Qerkini, coordinators of the Missing Persons Resource Centre in Kosovo, while the “Black Peony” an award for the worst cooperation with the media goes to the Assembly of Kosovo, Serbian media report.   

According to the association, Trifunovic and Cerkini “were always available to the media and public, despite sensitive issues they deal with for many years.”

Assembly of Kosovo received an award for the worst cooperation with the media “because of the lack of translation provided in the Serbian language during the sessions, in cases when Serbian MPs were not present.”

The “White Peony” and “Black Peony” awards were established in 2014, aiming to point to the positive and negative examples of cooperation of individuals, institutions and organizations with the media and journalists, as well as their attitudes towards the public. 

 

 

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