Albanian Language Media:
- Kosnett: President Trump has worked hard for agreement to restore Pristina-Belgrade flights (media)
- Veseli: Kosovo on the right track when it has U.S. support (media)
- Veliu: LDK has no other offer for LVV (RTK)
- British Ambassador visits Mustafa prior to LDK’s leadership meeting (Express)
- Mustafa confirms diplomatic pressure for the formation of the government (Express)
- In Davos, Thaci meets Croatian PM Plenkovic (media)
Serbian Language Media:
- US, Serbian presidents welcome Belgrade-Pristina flights agreement (N1)
- Serwer comments on Belgrade-Pristina flight, role of US (B92, Tanjug)
- O’Brien retweeted Vucic (BETA, B92)
- Agreement on airline unclear, however, the influence of the US is clear (Radio KIM)
- Vucic to participate with Thaci in a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos (Tanjug, B92)
- Serbian president Vucic meets Croatian prime minister Plenkovic in Davos (FoNet, BETA, N1)
- Buckle up, we are in for a bumpy ride (Prishtina Insight)
- EU Has Turned Enlargement into a Hamster Wheel (Balkan Insight)
- Serbia-Kosovo Flights to Resume Under U.S.-Brokered Deal (The New York Times)
- Serb Policemen Plead Not Guilty to Kosovo War Crimes (Balkan Insight)
- Construction on the shore of Badovac Lake a potential environmental problem (Kosovo online)
- A family denied (Prishtina Insight)
- Wounds that don’t heal (Prishtina Insight)
- The World Health Organization to hold an emergency meeting on China coronavirus (B92, Tanjug)
Albanian Language Media
Kosnett: President Trump has worked hard for agreement to restore Pristina-Belgrade flights (media)
The U.S. Ambassador to Kosovo, Philip Kosnett, hailed the initiative for establishing direct flights between Pristina and Belgrade as being a positive development for the region.
“President Trump & his team worked hard to reach this agreement, which is only the beginning of the bright future for our friends in Kosovo and Serbia,” Kosnett wrote on Twitter.
He also thanked the U.S. Special Envoy for Kosovo-Serbia negotiations, Richard Grenell, and the National Security Adviser, Robert O’Brien, for their leadership.
Veseli: Kosovo on the right track when it has U.S. support (media)
Leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) Kadri Veseli hailed the agreement for reestablishing direct flights between Pristina and Belgrade as a move in the right direction.
He thanked the U.S. President Donald Trump as well as the U.S. Special Envoy for Kosovo-Serbia negotiations Richard Grenell and the National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien for their support and decisive role in efforts to reach the agreement. “We know that we are on the right track in any process when we have the US support,” Veseli wrote on social media.
Veliu: LDK has no other offer for LVV (RTK)
On the occasion of the 14th anniversary of the death of the former President of Kosovo Ibrahim Rugova, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) paid homage at the cemetery. Agim Veliu, deputy leader of LDK was asked by the media about the eventual agreement for governing coalition with the Vetevendosje Movement.
He said they have sent a principled agreement and they are waiting.
“We have made our offer and we are waiting for Vetevendosje to come up with a statement, otherwise, we do not have something else. Our offer is the given one, it is a principled one and the leadership of the LDK will certainly stand by it,” he said.
British Ambassador visits Mustafa prior to LDK’s leadership meeting (Express)
Nicholas Abbott is visiting the offices of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK). On the day when LDK is remembering its former leader, Ibrahim Rugova, Mustafa’s political entity continues to consult the foreign diplomats about the eventual formation of the government in coalition with Vetevendosje Movement.
The meeting has started about an hour ago, and it is not known what they are discussing about.
Abbott’s visit is the reason Isa Mustafa and Vjosa Osmani could not join the homage at late Ibrahim Rugova’s grave. The visit comes on the day when LDK leadership will discuss about coalition with LVV.
Mustafa confirms diplomatic pressure for the formation of the government (Express)
Isa Mustafa, leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) said today after his meeting with the British Ambassador to Kosovo Nicholas Abbott that embassies are interested in the government to form as soon as possible.
“Embassies are interested in Kosovo to have a government, therefore they come to discuss with us. We are also interested to form the government as soon as possible,” Mustafa said.
He confirmed that they will discuss at today’s meeting of the leadership of his political party the issue of coalition with LVV as the latter has “de Jure” sent the candidate for the prime minister to the President. “We have a meeting of the leadership… today. We will discuss this matter. We will try to find a way to reach an agreement,” Mustafa said.
In Davos, Thaci meets Croatian PM Plenkovic (media)
President of Kosovo Hashim Thaci met at the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos Prime Minister of Croatia Andrej Plenkovic.
“Discussed the excellent bilateral relations between Kosovo and Croatia. Emphasized that Kosovo expects the decision on visa free travel during the Croatian Presidency of EU,” Thaci wrote on social media.
Serbian Language Media
US, Serbian presidents welcome Belgrade-Pristina flights agreement (N1)
The presidents of the United States and Serbia welcomed the possible resumption of Belgrade-Pristina flights with Donald Trump hailing it as another victory and Aleksandar Vucic saying a compromise had been reached.
Officials from Belgrade and Pristina signed a letter of intent with the German airline Lufthansa to resume flights between Belgrade and Pristina. Lufthansa’s Eurowings airline will fly the line once full agreement is reached to resume them. Serbian government official Marko Djuric, who heads the Office for Kosovo, said before the ceremony at the US embassy in Berlin that the flights can resume once Pristina revokes the 100 percent tariffs on Serbian goods and the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue resumes.
“Everyone said it couldn’t be done. But for the first time in a generation, there will be direct flights between Serbia and Kosovo. Another win,” the American president wrote on his Twitter profile. He thanked his special envoy the US Ambassador in Germany Richard Grenell and National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien.
President Vucic also thanked the two American diplomats. “We are grateful to Ambassador Richard Grenell and US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien for their critical role in helping to establish direct flights between Belgrade and Pristina. Serbia is ready to pursue more such initiatives, bringing people in the Balkans closer together,” Vucic Tweeted.
Speaking to reporters at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Vucic said the deal with Lufthansa is important for Serbia. “We did the best we could to confirm what we advocate, the free flow of goods, capital, people and services on one hand and on the other to protect the integrity of the territory of Serbia and find a compromise solution which no one can say was our recognition of Kosovo,” he said.
Vucic said that Air Serbia could not take over the Belgrade-Pristina line.
“The Albanians want Air Serbia more than anyone else, but Air Serbia would have to sign documents with the state of Kosovo,” he explained, adding that this would mean that the lower section of the air space over Kosovo is no longer under Serbia’s control.
See at: https://bit.ly/2v4mMzW
Serwer comments on Belgrade-Pristina flight, role of US (B92, Tanjug)
Professor at Washington State University John Hopkins, Daniel Serwer believes that a principled agreement to establish an airline between Belgrade and Pristina is a hope for renewed dialogue. He added that citizens will benefit the most from the introduction of the airline.
He further told ‘Voice of America’ that this “new impulse” should outweigh the current political circumstances in Kosovo and that Belgrade and Pristina will return to the negotiating table when the Pristina government is elected.
“And then a new problem will emerge – the election period and the campaign in Serbia. This could all slow down the more significant progress in the two-party talks. Moreover, dialogue is EU-mediated process, involving Americans from time to time. Certainly, such an interaction will always produce the best results”, Serwer opined.
He also believes that a principled agreement to set up an airline would make travel much easier, but warns that it has yet to be seen how it will be implemented. “If we go deeper, we can conclude that the agreement was reached with exclusively US mediation. And without Europeans, in consultation with NATO, it seems that there was no form of European Union involvement, or concerted action by America and the EU,” Serwer said.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg greeted the agreement as “an important step, which will make the circulation of people and goods easier and faster within the Western Balkans region”.
Serwer also believes that there has been a clear disagreement between US Special Envoy for Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue Richard Grenell, who attended the signing of a letter of intent to renew the airline, with representatives of European integration process participants. “Any results achieved without EU participants interfering with it will be very good. Because, European Union has a much firmer stance on policy towards the Balkans”, Serwer said, according to B92.
He went on saying that the EU is losing influence in the talks between the two sides, which he perceives as a consequence of its weakening influence in the Balkans in a broader sense, which, he said, has been shown through the significant role of the US in reaching an agreement on Greece and Northern Macedonia’s name change.
On the other hand, he notes, Europe is extremely important in the process because, he says, he is not sure that Americans are willing and able to carry it out on their own. He pointed out that political will remains a key factor in reaching a comprehensive legally binding agreement on the normalization of Belgrade-Pristina relations.
Serwer claims that the agreement the two sides would reach does not contain any indications that Belgrade has agreed to Kosovo’s independence.
“It is a document that would open the way for a better life, easier movement and perhaps greater mutual understanding for the people of the two countries. But it is all a matter of political will, Serwer concluded.
See at: https://bit.ly/3aueLoh
O’Brien retweeted Vucic (BETA, B92)
The US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien retweeted a tweet from the President of Serbia commenting on the reopening of Belgrade Pristina flight, Serbian media report.
On his twitter account, Vucic wrote that he was very grateful to O’Brien and Donald Trump’s Special Envoy Richard Grenell for their role in establishing a direct Belgrade-Pristina flight.
“Serbia is ready to pursue more such initiatives, bringing people in the Balkans closer together”, Vucic wrote.
Also, the same event, that is, the signing of a letter of intent to reinstate the flight, which operated 20 years ago, was also commented on by the US President on his Twitter account.
Trump wrote: “Everyone said it couldn’t be done. But for the first time in a generation, there will be direct flights between Serbia and Kosovo. Another win. Thanks to Ambassador Robert O’Brien and Ambassador Richard Grenell!”
See at: https://bit.ly/3ax3K5q
Agreement on airline unclear, however, the influence of the US is clear (Radio KIM)
One day after the sudden agreement on reinstating airline between Belgrade and Pristina was made, it remains unclear how Kosovo residents would travel to the Serbian capital in the future, Radio KIM reports. Politicians and analysts are mainly assessing the agreement itself and the US influence on both sides.
Although the agreement is reached it remains unclear when the line would get reinstated and how the citizens, in particular those living in Kosovo would travel.
“It is yet unclear, however, I think it would be the same principle as it is on the borders now. To be able to travel with documents not issued by the Republic of Serbia, but Kosovo respectively, it needs to be done in a manner that does not obstruct communication. However, as I said, we have not reached the point that the agreement has been signed yet, because this agreement would arrange how and in what manner, and what documents Kosovo residents would need to have,” Nenad Rasic from Progressive Democratic Party told Radio KIM.
Pristina-based analyst Fatmir Sheholli thinks this agreement is unique because it indicates for the first time that Serbia, Kosovo and the international community are pleased with reaching an agreement aiming to improve freedom of movement. He also assessed that people are the greatest winners in this case.
Rada Trajkovic from Serb European Movement told RTV KIM Serbs in Kosovo are caught by complete surprise over the signing of the letter of intent by Pristina and Belgrade, given that there were no negotiations in Brussels for more than a year. She also voiced surprise that European administration was completely excluded from this agreement.
Belgrade-based analyst Dusan Janjic thinks the news on reaching agreement to reinstate the airline between Belgrade and Pristina is not a surprise, however the context is, because it happens in a moment when there are no negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina.
He opined this is a demonstration of US influence and an important lesion to the EU, its diplomacy and bureaucracy which showed readiness to drag the issues for decades.
Vucic to participate with Thaci in a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos (Tanjug, B92)
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic confirmed that he will participate in a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos with Hashim Thaci today.
Asked what he expects from that meeting, Vucic said it will be an interesting meeting as there will be many leaders from Europe and the world. Vucic noted Thaci is still the legal president of institutions in Pristina and said “we will see what he says, and I will continue to represent Serbia’s interests”.
President of Serbia said he is certainly not thrilled to see Thaci, but his job is to represent Serbia and fight for its interests, and that people did not elect him president for him to be nice, but to solve problems and fight for the country.
“I expect an exchange of arguments, which will be neither simple nor easy, but I believe that in a civilized tone, we will be able to do that”, Vucic said.
He added there will be about 20 participants on that panel, which will be one of the most visited and important for the people of Southeast Europe.
Serbian President, who attended the opening of the Forum last night, first participates in the panel “Diplomatic Dialogue on the Western Balkans”, followed by a working lunch labelled as “Generating Growth for Central and Eastern Europe”.
As he announced last night, he will speak at both meetings about how he sees the future, including “mini Schengen”, economic cooperation and other issues.
Vucic will also attend US President Donald Trump’s address to the Forum’s participants, while on the sidelines of the event, he is scheduled to meet with Robert O’Brian, US President’s National Security Adviser and the President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Sumantra Chakrabarti.
Vucic said on the eve of the opening of the Economic Forum that it is very important for Serbia to be in Davos. According to Vucic, Serbia’s presence at the World Economic Forum is important for its image and as an opportunity to invite investments.
“We have been here for six years in a row and we have the biggest presence of all the countries of southeastern Europe. This is important for us because of political contacts and to create a better image and to invite business people to invest in Serbia”, Vucic said.
On the first day of his stay in Davos, Vucic had discussions with a number of officials, including European Commission Head Ursula von der Leyen and World Economic Forum President Børge Brende, as well as Armenian President Armen Sarkissian.
Namely, the main topics of this year’s gathering are climate change and action, and one of the most important sessions is entitled “Preventing the Climate Apocalypse”.
The Summit, which will run until January 24, will see some of the world’s largest companies, and the organizers of the Forum will urge everyone to commit to reaching net zero carbon by 2050 or earlier.
Serbian president Vucic meets Croatian prime minister Plenkovic in Davos (FoNet, BETA, N1)
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told reporters at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Tuesday that his meeting with Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic was open and pleasant, FoNet news agency reports.
Photos of Vucic and Plenkovic were posted on the Vucic’s Instagram account with the caption “This morning’s talks on Serb-Croat relations with Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic”.
Vucic said that he met with Plenkovic before a panel on the Western Balkans. “We touched on Serbia-Croatia relations and it seems that there is more trust and optimism,” Vucic noted.
See at: https://bit.ly/2GmENw1
Buckle up, we are in for a bumpy ride (Prishtina Insight)
In an opinion piece, Donika Emini, Executive Director of the CiviKos Platform and member of the Balkans in Europe Policy Advisory Group, comments on the recently reached agreement for restoring direct flights between Pristina and Belgrade which she says leaves the potential coalition government between the Vetevendosje Movement (LVV) and the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) further from the negotiations process.
“As the two potential governing coalition parties were busy tossing the ball back and forth, relations between Kosovo and Serbia, for months completely dormant, suddenly came out of a coma. An agreement was signed opening up the possibility of flights between Belgrade and Prishtina, an air link which has been suspended for over two decades,” she writes.
Emini adds that despite technical modalities implicated in the operation of flights, the agreement in itself represents a power shift on the side of facilitators. “It also shows that while the 100 per cent tariff imposed by the Kosovo Government in November 2018 shut down the EU-facilitated dialogue in Brussels, it did not cut off all communication between the two states.”
She says the EU’s role in finalizing a solution between Kosovo and Serbia now looks weaker than ever, while American influence is growing: “By taking a detour that sidelines the EU, the US has clearly shown that it wants results and it wants them fast.”
See at: https://bit.ly/2NKQros
EU Has Turned Enlargement into a Hamster Wheel (Balkan Insight)
By: Kristof Bender, Adnan Cerimagic and Gerald Knaus
If Western Balkan countries are to have any hope of joining the EU, the accession process must be thoroughly reformed, made merit-based – and offer credible interim goals
Further enlargement of the European Union in the Balkans is only possible if it is deeply transformative. Without radical improvements of institutions and the economy, no other Western Balkan country will ever join the European Union.
Currently, the EU enlargement process is not transformative. It does not inspire politicians and thousands of civil servants to make the intense efforts required to transform their countries. Frontrunners and laggards alike are trapped in a vicious cycle of low expectations and few reforms.
See at: https://bit.ly/2GamGJs
Serbia-Kosovo Flights to Resume Under U.S.-Brokered Deal (The New York Times)
It takes more than five hours to drive between the capitals of the two countries, but only 25 minutes to fly. A deal on flights is seen as a step toward détente between the neighbors.
Serbia and Kosovo agreed on Monday to restore flights between their capitals for the first time in more than two decades, in a step toward reconciliation brokered by the United States at a time when the European Union is urging the two Balkan countries to resume talks.
The deal will open passenger and cargo flights between Belgrade and Pristina by the German-owned carrier Eurowings. It came after months of intense shuttle diplomacy by Richard Grenell, the United States ambassador to Germany, who was named special envoy for Serbia-Kosovo relations by President Trump last year.
See at: https://nyti.ms/38uyCC3
Serb Policemen Plead Not Guilty to Kosovo War Crimes (Balkan Insight)
Former police officer Zlatan Krstic and former inspector Destan Shabanaj said they were innocent of crimes related to a deadly attack on Kosovo Albanian civilians in the village of Nerodime e Eperme/Donje Nerodimlje in March 1999.
Former policemen Zlatan Krstic and Destan Shabanaj pleaded not guilty at Pristina Basic Court on Monday, insisting that they were not guilty of committing war crimes against civilians in March 1999.
Kosovo’s Special Prosecution has alleged that the two men “grossly violated the rules of international humanitarian law against civilians and property”.
See at: https://bit.ly/2Gc8AHE
Construction on the shore of Badovac Lake a potential environmental problem (Kosovo online)
The paved road and the installed electricity pillars prove that the first phase of construction of the settlement near Badovac Lake has begun, although, according to the competent authorities in Pristina, the investor ”Kawa group” does not have a permit for construction.
The Kosovo Online portal reports that over the past months a heated discussion took place on stopping construction around the lake, some political figures also reacted, but the work apparently continues.
One quarter of the lake is under the jurisdiction of Gracanica municipality, the rest is managed by the municipality of Pristina, and the director of the urban planning department of the municipality of Gracanica, Dejan Jovanovic, explains for Kosovo Online portal that construction has started in a protected area managed by Pristina.
“Without the permission of the Ministry of Spatial Planning, the municipalities of Gracanica and Pristina cannot determine the construction zone near the lake,” Jovanovic says.
Badovac artificial lake or Gracanica Lake was created 50 years ago for the purpose of supplying water to Pristina and its surroundings. The houses and estates of the villagers of Novo Selo were flooded, who were moved to nearby Badovac.
“After many decades, because of the attractive position of the lake near Pristina, former locals want to return the property,” says Nebojsa Ivic of the Ekogen NGO.
“They now turn with their requests to the Pristina authorities and try to regain their property where they once lived and are ready to build settlements and houses,” Ivic said.
According to Kosovo Online, the companies building the settlement said in a statement to the media that the lake was not endangered and that they took care of the environment.
“To our knowledge, it is not being built on the shore of the lake. We are monitoring the situation as Gracanica is supplied with water from that lake. We hope they will comply with the regulations for wastewater treatment. None of us wants these waters to go into the lake, which would create an environmental problem,” says Jovanovic.
The construction of the weekend settlement has begun, and it is a danger to the lake and the environment, warns Nebojsa Ivic.
“Instead of thinking about capacity building, we are daily destroying the lake and the capacity of the water that is missing. It’s a huge worldwide problem, not just a local one. Kosovo lacks healthy drinking water,” says Ivic.
Water from the lake supplies Pristina and the surrounding places. Due to the decrease in water level, there are very often reductions during summer and winter.
A family denied (Prishtina Insight)
In Kosovo, people in same-sex relationships are still legally barred from marrying and starting a family. But for women like Diella and Myrvete, both of whom are in same-sex relationships, the state’s denial of their rights is no longer a situation they are willing to endure.
Diella* has been in a relationship with her fiancee for two years now. After living together happily and jointly raising Diella’s eight-year-old child together, they made the decision to get married in 2020.
See at: https://bit.ly/2NMxq4R
Wounds that don’t heal (Prishtina Insight)
After suffering injuries at work, many of Kosovo’s workers are left to cover expenses and deal with the long-term effects alone, with the absence of state protection leaving them at the mercy of their employers.
After taking some advice from one of his relatives back in 2012, Emin Ademi decided to change his job. He had previously been working at a furniture company, which required a long commute from his home village of Koshare, near Ferizaj.
Ademi, 41, started working at a company in the village specializing in steel manufacture and installation, Exim Metal, but only made a verbal agreement with his manager regarding his employment. He was asked to provide his ID card, allegedly to prepare a contract, but a formal contract was never finalized.
See at: https://bit.ly/2NMsFbt
The World Health Organization to hold an emergency meeting on China coronavirus (B92, Tanjug)
The World Health Organization (WHO) will convene an emergency committee meeting on Wednesday to discuss the recent outbreak of coronavirus in China
At that meeting on Wednesday, the World Health Organization said, their International Health Regulations Emergency Committee will determine whether the outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of international concern.
This is said in a WHO statement, after China’s National Health Commission confirmed that the virus, which causes a type of pneumonia, can pass from person-to-person, the official Xinhua News Agency said. An outbreak of a new coronavirus has spread to more Chinese cities, including the capital Beijing and Shanghai, health authorities said on Monday, Wuhan being the first town in which the virus was detected, where the cases of coronavirus surpass 200.
A fourth case of coronavirus has been reported beyond China’s borders, as Reuters reports.
Zhong Nanshan, a respiratory expert and head of the health commission team investigating the outbreak, confirmed that two cases of infection in Guangdong province were due to human-to-human transmission, Xinhua said. Some medical staff have been infected, it added, but gave no number.
Authorities confirmed a total of 217 new cases of the virus in China.
Chinese officials confirmed that the virus can be transmitted between humans. Three deaths have been reported so far.
See at: https://bit.ly/2Requ2M