- Thaçi travels to Washington (TV stations, RTK)
- PDK calls on Kurti Government to keep hands off independent institutions (TV stations, KTV)
- Braathu: Dialogue and normalization of relations with Belgrade are priorities for Kosovo (Kosovo Online)
- Notaries announce lawsuit against Justice Minister Haxhiu (Kosovo portals)
- Reka: Visas might be lifted by end of year (TV21)
- US Embassy supports Serb footballer for choosing to play for Kosovo (TV stations, Klan Kosova)
- Vucic: Serbia won’t be able to accept the Kosovo solution about to be proposed (N1)
Thaçi travels to Washington
(TV stations, RTK)
The Kosovo President Hashim Thaçi on Sunday travelled to the United States, where he will be meeting with senior officials of the US administration. Prior to travelling to Washington, President Thaçi said that Kosovo is fortunate that the US remains committed to Kosovo, to peace, stability and prosperity for Kosovo as well as for entire region.
“President Trump’s leadership, Secretary Pompey’s support, and the direct engagement of Special Envoy, Ambassador Grenell, is an encouragement for us,” President Thaçi said.
“We are blessed with our lasting friendship with the United States,” he added.
In Washington, Thaçi will also attend two debates on developments in Kosovo and the region, and he will meet influential think tanks on the US foreign policy.
At those meetings, President Thaçi will talk about Kosovo’s achievements priorities, as well as challenges and opportunities on the Euro-Atlantic integration journey.
PDK calls on Kurti Government to keep hands off independent institutions
(TV stations, KTV)
At a press conference, PDK vice chairperson Shaqir Totaj has called on Kurti Government to keep hands of the independent institutions and individuals, who, according to him, have exceled with their success up to now.
According to Totaj, given that Prime Minister Albin Kurti has no clear vision, he has taken actions that essentially attack the independent state administration.
“It is true that this Government, allegedly under the legality cloth, has launched political cleansing in the Kosovo institutions. An example is the case of the Customs Director, who had been appointed to this position following a transparent vacancy announcement, monitored by the British Ambassador, which even happened at the time when the Minister of Finance was from LDK. We call on this Government to keep hands off the independent institutions and individuals, who up to now have exceled with their success, and in whom the state of Kosovo has invested for many years,” Totaj highlighted.
Totaj said that Prime Minister Kurti’s directive to ministers to take care of the selection process of applicants for civil service is an illegal interference that threatens independence of civil servants.
“What is obvious and what is a flagrant violation of principles of the applicable legislation is the Prime Minister’s directive for ministers to take care of selection process of applicants in the civil service. As long as this matter is regulated by law, any interference of political stakeholders is an illegal interference that undermines equality of parties in the process, and threatens independence of civil servants from politics,” Totaj added.
Braathu: Dialogue and normalization of relations with Belgrade are priorities for Kosovo (Kosovo Online)
Head of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo, Ambassador Jan Braathu said in an interview with Kosovo Online that he expects the priorities of the new Kosovo Government to be to fight against corruption and resumption of the dialogue with Serbia on normalizing relations. Braathu also says that there are numerous challenges to the Kosovo judiciary.
Ambassador Braathu, what do you expect from the new Government of Kosovo, what should be its main priorities?
The OSCE Mission in Kosovo is neutral and ready to work with every duly elected Government. The fight against organized crime and corruption should certainly be an ongoing priority for any government of Kosovo or the region. We see that the parties forming this government have emphasized the anti-corruption imperative. Strengthening the judiciary is very important in this regard.
The normalization dialogue with Belgrade should be another priority. We have seen messages from all the key international partners (US, EU, Quint), many of which contained in the actual congratulatory notes to the new government, that the normalization of relations with Belgrade is high on the international agenda of priorities. The OSCE has supported this process since the beginning, including in very practical terms; it has brought benefits in the lives of citizens, and we would like to see it continued.
From a more specific OSCE perspective, we would like to see a more harmonized and efficient judiciary, prioritization of the safety of journalists and the caseload of killed and missing journalists in the conflict, enhanced implementation of laws benefiting non-majority communities, continuation of the Assembly work on strengthening electoral processes (which OSCE and EU launched in 2019, having to do with the implementation of recommendations of EU election observation reports), enhanced language compliance (including better translation of laws), more intercommunity dialogue, and further support to the return process and durable solutions for the displaced.
How do you comment on Prime Minister Kurti’s position to impose reciprocity measures on Serbia instead of tariffs, even though the international community, specifically Ambassador Grenell, insists on the complete abolition of tariffs without introducing other measures?
We take note of the positions on this issue and emphasize that the dialogue process continues in a way that benefits people in their daily lives.
Ambassador, Kosovo’s dialogue with Serbia has been on hold for more than a year, has this affected the process of normalization of relations?
The dialogue has indeed been halted for more than a year, having been substantially stalled also before that. It is clear from my previous answers that the OSCE is in favour of the dialogue and would like to see it continued.
While the dialogue was ongoing, it brought many concrete benefits in the lives of the citizens. It enabled enhanced freedom of movement on both sides through the acceptance of IDs, drivers licenses and vehicle plates, it provided for accepted municipal, police and judicial structures in the north, it regulated customs revenues there and channelled them for the benefit of the local communities in the four northern Kosovo municipalities, it enhanced trade through the agreement on the customs stamp, and so forth. There are also benefits in the wider sense, as the dialogue has significantly contributed to reduction of tensions and stabilisation of inter-ethnic relations in the north and in Kosovo in general. The OSCE Mission has provided considerable support to the implementation of the Brussels Dialogue agreements. You will recall the OSCE facilitation of Kosovo local elections in the northern municipalities in 2013, which was the first major implementation point of the April 2013 Normalization of relations agreement. In the same spirit, we facilitated the 2014 Kosovo Assembly elections in northern Kosovo, and conducted a technical support operation to the Kosovo Assembly and Local Elections in 2017, and now again for the October 2019 Assembly elections, again in the northern municipalities. All these were important for the normalization process and gave the Kosovo Serb community in these municipalities the opportunity to express their electoral will.
What is the role of the US and EU in the dialogue, given that the US has already appointed two delegates to deal with the issue of Kosovo and Serbia, and the EU should appoint its representative soon for dialogue?
We are in favour of all efforts that contribute to easing of tensions and creating a climate conducive to dialogue. Clearly, the United States, the EU and others, have shown for many years commitment to working with regional partners to promote peace, cooperation and economic development.
How do you assess the rule of law and how could Kosovo fight corruption and organized crime?
The justice sector has many challenges. One indicator of this is the very low level of public trust in these institutions. One problem is the backlog of cases and the failure of the courts to process them within procedural deadlines – excessive delays undermine the rule of law and diminish public trust. Therefore, efficiency and case management need to improve. The integration of the judiciary following the Brussels Agreement has been a positive step towards achieving a better-functioning, multi-ethnic justice system that provides better access to justice for all the inhabitants of Kosovo.
Regarding corruption and organized crime, we recall that in July 2018 the European Commission concluded that Kosovo institutions had met all the benchmarks for visa liberalization, including a strengthened track record in the fight against crime and corruption. Indeed, we see in recent years that the judiciary has been much more active in terms of prosecuting organized crime and corruption. There are some concerning elements still, such as the relatively high percentage of corruption allegations that are discontinued at the investigation stage or that result in an acquittal. Due to the complexity of such cases, investigators, prosecutors and the courts need adequate resources; and good co-operation between police investigators and prosecutors is imperative in order for there to be a successful prosecution. Capacity building trainings and effective multi-agency co-operation is fundamental to the success of any high-level investigation or case; as are thorough financial investigations that trace the proceeds of crime and whenever possible ensure that assets are seized so that criminals cannot reap the benefit of their crimes and the loss to society is minimised.
Would clarifying the fate of missing persons contribute to reconciliation between Serbs and Albanians?
I believe so. The families of missing persons deserve to know the fate of their loved ones. The unresolved issues of missing persons will not go away, and I believe that the sooner answers are found, then the sooner it will be possible to achieve wider societal reconciliation, which is the basis for mutual trust and building a shared society for the future.
The Mission has taken the lead in advocating for resolution of one segment of the missing persons issue, namely that of the issue of killed and missing journalists. Between 1998 and 2005, 15 journalists and media workers –Serbs and Albanians – went missing or were murdered. 11 journalists were killed and 4 of them disappeared, with little to no information about their whereabouts ever since;
Our Mission, associations of journalists, and individual journalists have taken on the challenge of facilitating a process to raise awareness and provide further information on the fate of these journalists. Most recently, our efforts culminated in two high-level and broadly covered conferences that for the first time provided a platform where family members of the murdered and missing journalists could share their stories, express their grief and discuss institutional responses to each of these cases. The conferences were preceded by systematic investigative journalism over many years and the publishing of articles by Jelena Petković, an independent journalist and the contributions of Veran Matic and the UNS and others. The OSCE Mission has followed and supported this work and has conducted its own awareness raising activities on this issue. We will continue to push forward to ensure that these cases remain on the agenda until they are resolved. In view of these efforts, we also welcomed the adoption of a resolution by the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) that calls for effective investigation into these cases. This has been a significant milestone jointly achieved by associations of journalists in Prishtinë/Pristina and Belgrade. The EFJ will further add to this resolution in the coming months and we will follow with further efforts, including the production of a documentary and the publishing of a book on murdered and missing journalists in Kosovo.
In this effort, there are several concerns. Firstly is the human concern: Families deserve to know the fate of their loved ones. Furthermore, there is the principle that journalists must be allowed to work even in times of conflict and that they are non-combatants. Finally, there is the concern that impunity for crimes committed may lead to further crimes in the future. Fighting impunity for crimes against journalists is at the heart of the OSCE Mission’s efforts to secure an environment where journalists are safe and unhindered to report on all matters of public interest. Our efforts are in line with the OSCE Ministerial Council Decision on the Safety of Journalists, agreed in December 2018 in Milan, which calls for effective measures to end impunity for crimes committed against journalists by ensuring accountability as a key element in preventing future attacks.
What is the position of Serbs in Kosovo and how much are the rights of minority communities respected?
Kosovo Serbs are represented in both the Assembly and in municipal governance structures. A robust legal framework protects their rights and there are institutional mechanisms specifically created to promote and protect the rights of communities and their members. At the municipal level, these are the communities committees, municipal community safety councils, municipal offices for communities and return, deputy mayors for communities and deputy chairpersons of the municipal assembly for communities. At the government level, these include the Communities Consultative Council within the Office of the President, Office for Communities’ Affairs within the Office of the Prime Minister, and the Ministry for Communities and Return.
Despite the robust legal and institutional framework in place, lack of implementation remains an issue and members of non-majority communities continue to face challenges in accessing their rights. The legislation on the use of languages is often not respected. Adequate representation in the civil service and public companies remains a challenge. While the number of security incidents affecting the Kosovo Serb community keeps decreasing, negative security perceptions do prevail. Durable solutions remain to be found for many Kosovo Serbs and members of other communities displaced in the wider region. Unemployment and generally poor socio-economic situation still plagues all communities in Kosovo. Over the years, Kosovo Serbs have also faced a lot of difficulty in terms of protecting their property rights, and some issues in this field still linger.
The OSCE Mission in Kosovo remains fully committed to further advancing the rights of non-majority communities in Kosovo. At the same time, I encourage Serbs in Kosovo to participate in the mechanisms mentioned above. The best way to protect community rights is for the community to be active and constructive in dealing with open issues.
Notaries announce lawsuit against Justice Minister Haxhiu
A few days ago, the Justice Minister Albulena Haxhiu decided to cancel the long-spoken-of appointment process of new notaries. At a media conference, Haxhiu had said that the process was not legal and transparent, and thus it could promote a compromising process.
This has triggered reaction of a group of notary applicants, who have been penalized by the Minister’s decision. They said they have agreed to follow all legal proceedings, in order to oppose the decision, which they consider unfair and illegal.
In addition, they have announced to inform local and international institutions and missions in Kosovo about their dissatisfactions.
Following the announcement, Minister Haxhiu posted a reaction on Facebook, justifying the decision of the Ministry of Justice.
“Ministry of Justice is obliged to oversee performance of notaries, private law enforcement agents, and mediators. In the recent days, I have seen concerns of citizens about breach of duties by some law enforcement agents and notaries,” Haxhiu wrote.
Reka: Visas might be lifted by end of year
Minister of EU Integration Blerim Reka stated that visa free movement for Kosovo citizens to the EU countries might happen by the end of this year, if Kosovo will be able to convince some states about the rule of law in the country.
Reka emphasized that they will do their best with regard to the EU requirements, although his Ministry has not much to do given that 95 requirements have been met.
“What remains to be done is to convince two or three hesitating states and to provide specific evidence that our judiciary will solve high-level corruption cases,” Reka said. He stated to TV21 that the first days indicate that Kurti Government enjoys support from the international community.
US Embassy supports Serb footballer for choosing to play for Kosovo
(TV stations, Klan Kosova)
The US Embassy in Kosovo has congratulated Serbian footballer Ilija Ivic on deciding to play for the Kosovo U19 national team. According to Klan Kosova, Ilija’s parents were dismissed from work after he decided to play for Kosovo.
“Congrats to Ilija Ivić! He inspires all young people in Kosovo to work hard, develop their talents and follow their dreams. Politics has no place in sports. This is a moment to celebrate diversity and a talented young Kosovo athlete. Kosovo is your home,” the US Embassy wrote on Facebook.
Vucic: Serbia won’t be able to accept the Kosovo solution about to be proposed
An offer that will be proposed to Serbia concerning the status of Kosovo this year will be difficult to reject but impossible to accept, President Aleksandar Vucic said on Sunday. Vucic told Prva TV that the solution will be worse than whatever he had proposed in the past and that he will not accept any ultimatums, even if he will have to resign because of it. “They will tell Serbia ‘your EU membership will be guaranteed but you have to grant Kosovo recognition and you will get special status for the Serbs here and there’,” Vucic said. He announced that he would ask the people of Serbia about it and reminded that he had made his proposal for resolving the situation three years ago, but that no one had accepted it.