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UNMIK Media Observer, Morning Edition, February 13

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• PM Kurti’s interview for KTV’s Rubikon (Koha)
• Macron: Kurti government, political alternative and a hope (Kallxo)
• Berlin request immediate lifting of the tariff (Gazeta Express)
• Russia ready to find solution for Kosovo, if requested from Serbia (Sputnik/Lajmi)
• Finance Ministry publishes vacancy announcement for Customs director (media)
• Kosnett meets Konjufca, discuss advancing of Kosovo’s diplomacy (media)
• Veliu meets Apostolova, discuss also visa liberalisation (media)
• Assembly to convene today to discuss parliamentary groups (Gazeta Express)
• Kosovo Police detains then releases former Serb policeman (media)

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  • PM Kurti’s interview for KTV’s Rubikon (Koha)
  • Macron: Kurti government, political alternative and a hope (Kallxo)
  • Berlin request immediate lifting of the tariff (Gazeta Express)
  • Russia ready to find solution for Kosovo, if requested from Serbia (Sputnik/Lajmi)
  • Finance Ministry publishes vacancy announcement for Customs director (media)
  • Kosnett meets Konjufca, discuss advancing of Kosovo’s diplomacy (media)
  • Veliu meets Apostolova, discuss also visa liberalisation (media)
  • Assembly to convene today to discuss parliamentary groups (Gazeta Express)
  • Kosovo Police detains then releases former Serb policeman (media)

 Kosovo Media Highlights

PM Kurti’s interview for KTV’s Rubikon (Koha)

Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti gave an interview for KTV‘s Rubikon show where he said that he has no aspirations of becoming a prime minister of all Albanians. “Now when I want to reduce 21 ministries into 15, trust me I cannot even come close to thinking about such things. I have no such aspirations,” he said.

Speaking about the activity of the Vetevendosje in Albania, Kurti said it was up to the centre in Tirana to decide whether it wants to run in future elections in Albania or not. “They have an autonomy of positions and actions. One day they will have to sit down and discuss this [participation in elections]. I neither rule out nor encourage such a decision,” Kurti said.

Kurti also spoke about the plan to make military service compulsory in Kosovo during his mandate. “Whether this will be two months in the summer or winter, is something we will have to discuss with the Minister of Defence, Anton Quni. It is completely manageable on the budgetary aspect.”

Kurti was asked about his position on the Kosovo flag to which he said that he has accepted it although he would prefer it changed. “We have many other things but would I want to have a different flag? Yes.”

He said Kosovo does not need an independence on paper. “In our mandate a state commission will work that will meet interchangeably in Pristina and Tirana. We do not rule out a referendum if we one day get close,” Kurti noted.

He ruled out the possibility of the coalition agreement with the Democratic Party of Kosovo (LDK) being terminated because of the Kosovo president issue. “We agreed with LDK that we will agree and that we will do everything possible for our government not to fall because of the president’s issue.”

Kurti said that there is a need for discussing the dialogue with Serbia also with President of Kosovo Hashim Thaci. “A meeting where we present these things because we cannot allow for the state of Kosovo that is attacked so much, to speak in different voices. Since we haven’t met so far, I would like to invite the president for a meeting to agree on all international processes. At the end of the day, Trump’s letter to President Thaci calls for a unified voice.”

Kurti further said that the framework of the dialogue with Belgrade needs to be clarified. “Just because we sit at the same table in the Berlin Process does not mean I negotiate,” he said adding: “I was supposed to be on the same panel with [Aleksandar] Vucic but he did not come.” “There needs to be a dialogue on the dialogue,” Kurti underlined.

“I don’t see how a true dialogue for resolving the problem can be done without legitimacy of the Government in Serbia as there are elections there.”

Kurti said he believed Thaci would have to be part of the process of dialogue, “for as long as he is president.” “I don’t want him to be excluded from the process but he cannot lead it.”

Speaking about the U.S. Special Envoy Richard Grenell’s position on the tariffs on Serbia, Kurti said that Grenell has a lot of energy and means well.

“I have shown readiness to drop the 100-percent tariff and this would be done as soon as the principle of reciprocity sets in. I don’t think there is a need for a tax and reciprocity. We listen to one another a great deal and this doesn’t mean we agree on everything. We will elaborate on the principle of reciprocity. Trump has stated that reciprocity is his favourite word. Let’s say Kosovo can implement reciprocity but doesn’t. You cannot enter with Kosovo license plates in Serbia. The same came be applied by the Republic of Kosovo and this is reciprocity. We are entitled not to allow Serbia’s trucks because because we have no agreement on road transport. We are treading slowly, wisely, surely, and we will elaborate exactly as to what we mean by reciprocity.”

“Serbia is neither priority number one nor two. I ran with different things. In many ways Kosovo is a more normal country than Serbia. I will do my best to truly achieve these. I have no intention of Serbia recognising us.”

On the initiative for a Balkans mini-Schengen, Kurti said this represents Serbia’s plan to establish a fourth Yugoslavia and that it would serve Russia’s interests.

“I have to be frank in that the Balkans mini-Schengen is not a reality, it is more an idea than a project. We have the framework of the Berlin Process enabling the six regional countries to cooperate. In this respect there is nothing new. The Balkans mini-Schengen carries its own risks, I said it represents the fourth Yugoslavia which Serbia wants,” Kurti said warning of caution. “Serbia’s intentions that we again see in Montenegro, are evident.”

Kurti however said that he would not make up his mind to reject the initiative without seeing what it actually entails. “We did not see very much from these three meetings. If the government of Kosovo and I become convinced of course we would say yes but not without a careful consideration.

Speaking about his recent visit to Tirana, Kurti admitted that he and Prime Minister Edi Rama may have differences of opinions “but this was the most constructive and best meeting in quite some time. This could be the new beginning in the relations between our two countries which have slightly suffered also by personal things which is absurd as this is something that has to do with our people not with us.”

Macron: Kurti government, political alternative and a hope (Kallxo)

President of France Emmanuel Macron congratulated Albin Kurti on taking on the post of Kosovo prime minister calling the new government a “political alternative and a hope”.

Macron also announced organising a summit in Paris for reaching an agreement between Kosovo and Serbia. In the letter, Macron also called for the withdrawal of the 100-percent tax on products from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“The first step will naturally have to be renewal of dialogue which I am ready to facilitate by organising in Paris, soon, a summit with leaders of Kosovo and Serbia, together with Chancellor Merkel and High Representative Borrell. The renewal of dialogue implies actions from both sides: suspension of 100-percent tax by Kosovo for products from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina and by Serbia suspension of its campaign for derecognition of Kosovo.”

“I would like to commend your efforts to address main challenges which Kosovo faces: economic and social development and consolidation of the rule of law, especially the fight against organised crime and corruption,” Macron wrote.

Berlin request immediate lifting of the tariff (Gazeta Express)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government prefers immediate lifting of the tariff on the goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, just as the United States of America.

In a response to the news portal, Merkel’s office noted that the German position remains unchanged and that they would welcome an immediate lifting of the tariff in order to resume with the dialogue. “This would have been a significant step for the resumption of the dialogue mediated by the European Union,” an official from Merkel’s cabinet replied.

Russia ready to find solution for Kosovo, if requested from Serbia (Sputnik/Lajmi)

Alexander Bostan-Kharchenko, Russia’s Ambassador to Serbia, told Russian media outlet Sputnik that Russia is ready to help on the Pristina-Belgrade dialogue, if Belgrade makes such request. He assessed that up to date engagement of the West to reach a solution did not bring any novelty that would ensure the possibility of compromise.

He told Sputnik that all efforts to date have been reminiscent of jogging on the track, consuming a lot of energy and no real progress. Kharchenko also said he has not heard anything positive from the new Kosovo Prime Minister, Albin Kurti, so far.

“The most important thing is lifting of the tariff. This is the initial and most important duty. We have heard something, but with some conditions, which are not clear,” he said.

“Time constraints are an enemy of compromise. Compromise is possible only in the event of dialogue reopening, without limitation, with the help of the special envoys who have been appointed. There is a need for balance, but above all, pressure on Pristina. And that’s why I started with Pristina to abolish the tax,” Kharchenko added.

Asked if Russia considers nominating a special envoy Kharchenko said “In any case, Russia does not stand out of this situation. Russia is regular member of the UN Security Council, and there is no solution without it.”

Finance Ministry publishes vacancy announcement for Customs director (media)

The Minister of Finance has annulled the decision of former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj to extend the contract of the Kosovo Customs director without beforehand publishing the vacancy announcement.

Minister Besnik Bislimi said the decision to announce the vacancy is in line with his authorisations and in no way does it prejudge the performance of the current holder of the post, Bahri Berisha. “The mandate of the current director has expired and procedures require vacancy announcement,” Bislimi said and encouraged Berisha to apply for the post.

Kosnett meets Konjufca, discuss advancing of Kosovo’s diplomacy (media)

The U.S. Ambassador to Kosovo Philip Kosnett met on Wednesday Kosovo’s Foreign Minister Glauk Konjufca. They discussed increase of global partnership between the U.S. and Kosovo. Kosnett and Konjufca also discussed advancing of Kosovo’s diplomacy and ensuring of Kosovo’s Euro-Atlantic integration.

Veliu meets Apostolova, discuss also visa liberalisation (media)

Kosovo’s Minister for Internal Affairs Agim Veliu hosted on Wednesday a meeting with the head of the EU Office to Kosovo Nataliya Apostolova.

Veliu took to Facebook to inform that they discussed the priorities of the Ministry he leads, including reorganizing of the Ministry, empowering war against organized crime, corruption, terrorism and violent extremism.

“I expressed my commitment to advance further cooperation with the EU Office, especially in the process of visa liberalisation for the citizens of Kosovo,” Veliu wrote.

Assembly to convene today to discuss parliamentary groups (Gazeta Express)

The Assembly of Kosovo will gather today at a plenary session to discuss the proposal of the Assembly Chairmanship for establishment and functionalizing of the Assembly Committees.

During their last meeting Assembly Chairmanship divided among the parliamentary groups 14 committees, based on the formula established and practiced by the previous legislatures.

Kosovo Police detains then releases former Serb policeman (media)

The Kosovo Police detained and later released Zarko Zaric, former Serbian police officer from Istog municipality, to be interviewed in the capacity of a witness regarding a war crime case.

“The Kosovo police, with the authorisation of the Special Prosecution of Kosovo, accompanied a person of Serb nationality to interview him,” police confirmed to BIRN which reports that no details of the war crime to which Zaric was allegedly a witness have been made public so far.

BIRN also reported that Zaric’s detention sparked angry reactions from Serbian officials. The Serbian government’s office for Kosovo said in a statement that Zaric’s detention was part of a “campaign of systematic intimidation of the Serb people” by the Kosovo judicial authorities, and called for for his immediate release while the Serbian List said that the  detention was intended to discourage other Serbs from returning to Kosovo.

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