Albanian Language Media:
- In London, Kurti calls for reciprocity with Serbia (RTK)
- Konjufca calls for visa liberalisation at Western Balkans conference (media)
- Cakaj: Visa liberalisation for Kosovo to boost EU credibility (Koha)
- AAK: Tax on Serbia increased employment in Kosovo, reciprocity will not work (Koha)
- Ramush Haradinaj’s family enters media business with Telecom money (Kallxo/Prishtina Insight)
Serbian Language Media:
- Vucic on Kosovo, ultimatum, EU, Pantsir S1 (Prva TV, B92)
- Alliance for Serbia: Vucic confirmed failure of his Kosovo politics (KoSSev, N1)
- Dacic: Spain has firm stance, does not accept unilateral acts (RTS)
- Trump: Grenell does very good job as Belgrade-Pristina envoy (RTS, VoA)
- NATO on Russian armament: National decision and Serbia’s right to choose (B92)
- Father of Serbian footballer who wants to play for Kosovo didn’t lose job (Radio KIM, N1)
- President of the Specialized Chambers of Kosovo: We will stand trial fairly and independently (Blic, Kontakt plus radio)
- Janjic: Ahtisaari ++ an old idea, I don’t know where it came from now (KoSSev, Kontakt plus radio)
- Milicevic: Kosovo has advanced in the last 12 years (RTK2, Slobodno Srpski)
- “Borrell discussed Kosovo partition in Berlin” (Kosovo-online, B92)
- New Kosovo Leader Ready to Revoke Tariffs for Serbian Goods (VOA)
- Serbia Receives Delivery Of Russian Antiaircraft Systems Despite U.S. Sanction Threats (RFE)
- The Western Balkans: Low Hanging Fruit for China? (thediplomat.com)
- Serb player’s parents fired after he joins Kosovo Under-19s (AP/WaPo)
- Airport workers sacked ‘in revenge’ for joining protest (Prishtina Insight)
- Balkan Countries Take Precautions Amid Fear of Coronavirus (Balkan Insight)
Albanian Language Media
In London, Kurti calls for reciprocity with Serbia (RTK)
Western Balkans leaders have come together today for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development Western Balkans Investment Summit.
Jürgen Rigterink, EBRD’s First Vice President, said the summit featured some ‘fascinating’ discussions. On Twitter he wrote: “Prime Minister of @SerbianGov @anabrnabic argues that improving regional trade is key for security in region. Prime Minister @albinkurti of Kosovo agrees and asks for reciprocity/ recognition of the country!”
Meanwhile, the official account of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development tweeted that regional inter connectivity railway, regional cooperation in the framework of EU integration are key for Kosovo.
“We have enormous diaspora and investments from them would help Kosovo enormously,” Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti is quoted as saying.
Konjufca calls for visa liberalisation at Western Balkans conference (media)
Kosovo’s Foreign Minister Glauk Konjufca is taking part at the High-Level Conference on the European Perspective of the Western Balkans, ‘From Thessaloniki to Zagreb’, underway in Thessaloniki, Greece.
Konjufca said he expressed the commitment of Kosovo institutions to continue reforms towards European integration and that he requested visa liberalisation for Kosovo to end the isolation of youth.
“I have also assured that economic and social development, good neighbourhood and dialogue with Serbia are long-term goals of the new government to contribute to and ensure regional peace.
“In the context of latest developments in the European path, I hailed the new methodology approved by the Commission and expressed by positive confidence for the summit between the EU and Western Balkans countries in Zagreb during May 2020,” Konjufca wrote on Facebook.
Cakaj: Visa liberalisation for Kosovo to boost EU credibility (Koha)
Albania’s acting Foreign Minister, Gent Cakaj, said that visa liberalisation for Kosovo would result in European Union boosting its credibility in the region.
Cakaj made the remarks at the High-Level Conference on the European Perspective of the Western Balkans, ‘From Thessaloniki to Zagreb’, taking place in Thessaloniki, Greece.
“We underlined the special importance of visa liberalisation for the Republic of Kosovo not only for its citizens but also as a way to preserve EU credibility in the region. We emphasised the necessity to open negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia: this measure is crucial to deepen internal reforms, strengthen the process of regional cooperation and uphold European spirit in the Western Balkans in general,” Cakaj wrote on Facebook.
AAK: Tax on Serbia increased employment in Kosovo (Koha)
The Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) held a roundtable today to discuss the effects of the import tariff on Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina and said that the measure has increased the level of employment in Kosovo.
The party meanwhile warned that lifting of the tax and introduction of reciprocity measures instead will not work.
AAK’s Gazmend Abrashi said the tariff was a response to Serbia’s “destructive actions”. “We have had a significant increase in employment since. 67 percent of businesses stated that their sales went up after the introduction of the tariff while 33 percent stated their sales were unaffected,” he said.
At the same time, Agim Shahini from the Kosovo Business Alliance said local businesses soon found replacements for the products that were no longer imported from Serbia. Shahini also said that based on a survey, of 500 respondents, 98 percent said initially that the tax should remain in place and at another one carried out in late 2019, this figure was 75 percent.
Blerim Kuci from AAK said the tariff is a protective measure for Kosovo and that it could be suspended to enable discussions for a framework agreement for mutual recognition. “Once this agreement would be reached, it would be automatically lifted. The 100 percent tax was a dignified state act as a response to Serbia’s aggressiveness. The tax has enabled our producers to increase production capacity.”
Ramush Haradinaj’s family enters media business with Telecom money (Kallxo/Prishtina Insight)
Kallxo and Prishtina Insight run an article authored by Ardiana Thaci-Mehmeti produced with the assistance from European Union which says that the publicly-owned enterprise Kosovo Telecom has spent millions of euros on advertising and sponsorship in recent years, with much of the money going to obscure media companies with explicit links to the previous Haradinaj government.
The investigation, carried out by BIRN, is said to have found that over 30 million euros from Kosovo Telecom’s budget has been spent on advertising and media sponsorships over the last 14 years.
“Since the end of 2015, the company has paid out approximately 2.25 million euros on advertising and sponsorship, at a time when Kosovo Telecom has been operating at losses of tens of millions of euros per year, having once been the country’s most profitable firm.
Although only 33 media outlets in total are registered with the Kosovo Press Council, the publicly owned enterprise has awarded contracts to at least 116 portals and online media in that time.”
Numerous companies run by politically affiliated people were shown to be among the beneficiaries, including one owned by former prime minister Ramush Haradinaj’s brother. Businesses owned by MPs and other political figures, especially those tied to the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), also benefited from lucrative contracts providing advertising space.
Former Director of Kosovo Telecom, Agron Mustafa, told BIRN that the contracts were simply an attempt to advertise its services.
“In order to promote its products and reach the final customer, Kosovo Telecom has had to rent advertising space in various media, be it television, online portals, social networks or even billboards,” he said. “This was the main reason, which I consider to be the fundamental basis of every business in the market when trying to sell its products.”
Mustafa refused to comment on the amount of contracts signed with companies owned by individuals in, or affiliated with, political parties. However, he stated that all contracts were processed through the Marketing, Procurement, Finance and Legal Departments of Kosovo Telecom.
Mustafa’s successor as Director of Kosovo Telecom Gent Begolli, previously a member of political party the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, AAK, refused to comment on the issue, referring to the process as closed.
One media company with significant political affiliations that has received payments from Kosovo Telecom in recent years is Agjencia per Informim Rajonal, which is not listed with the Kosovo Press Council.
The company was established in 2017, the year Ramush Haradinaj was elected prime minister, while 40 per cent of the company’s shares are registered under the name of his brother, Frasher. The rest of the shares belong to Flamur Kelmendi.
Kelmendi acknowledged being a business partner of Frasher Haradinaj, and confirmed to BIRN that the company signed an agreement with Kosovo Telecom. “We received approximately 1,500 euros a month, like all other portals that received money for advertising,” said Kelmendi. “The agreement is now over and has been for a year.”
According to data provided to BIRN by Kosovo Telecom, two contracts were signed between Kosovo Telecom and Agjencia per Informim Rajonal, one worth 7,550 euros in 2018 and one worth 6,650 euros in 2019.
Despite Kelmendi insisting that the agreement concluded a year ago, financial documents discovered during BIRN’s investigation show that payments to this online media were made from November 2018, with the last invoice being paid on January 17, 2020. The documents show 15,700 euros paid to the company in total.
As well as being the brother of former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj and MP Daut Haradinaj, Frasher is also the husband of Vesmira Haradinaj, who, in March 2019, was appointed as Deputy Director of Finance at Kosovo Telecom. Her recruitment was approved without any vacancy being announced, and she has since been promoted to the position of Marketing Director at Kosovo Telecom.
Other AAK affiliates have also been paid large sums by Kosovo Telecom while the publicly owned enterprise was under the directorship of Begolli. Valon Tolaj, Managing Director of the Kosovo Privatization Agency and former general secretary of AAK, is the part-owner of another company that received thousands of euros.
Tolaj owns 25 per cent of shares in a business registered as ‘URBAN MAG.Net LLC.’ Based on evidence provided by Kosovo Telecom, the company entered contracts with the public enterprise worth over 20,000 euros over the last couple of years, with 9,466 euros paid in 2018 and 11,606 euros in 2019.
Tolaj has neither denied ownership of the company, nor the fact that he received money from Kosovo Telecom, but argued that he has little to do with the day-to-day running of the business.
“The 25 per cent ownership and other legal restrictions make it impossible for me to deal with business management,” Tolaj told BIRN. “This means that I have no idea on the amount of funds received not only from Kosovo Telecom, but from other deals as well.”
Tolaj stated that Arlind Dermaku is in charge of the web page, which mainly focuses on architecture and design, and owns the majority of the shares. Dermaku did not respond to phone calls and email requests to provide clarification on the money received from Kosovo Telecom.
Another media company that is not registered with the Kosovo Press Council that benefited from contracts signed with Kosovo Telecom is ‘Istogu Portal,’ which has been active since January 2019. In its first few weeks of operation, it entered into a contract worth 9,500 euros with Kosovo Telecom.
The business is owned by Agron Gashi and Arian Qorraj. Based on their activity on social media, both are affiliated with and supportive of AAK, particularly MP Beka Berisha, who is the husband of the Board of Kosovo Telecom’s Chairperson, Besa Shatri-Berisha. Both Gashi and Qorraj refused to comment on this issue when contacted during the investigation.
Shatri-Berisha offered her resignation on February 19, 2020, hours before the current government took the decision to fire the board of directors.
It is not just individuals with connections to AAK that have benefited. BIRN’s investigation discovered contracts between Kosovo Telecom and numerous companies with links to other parties that made up the previous governing coalition, including the Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, the New Kosovo Alliance, AKR, and NISMA.
One such company was SHPK Media Group Republika, to whom nearly 35,000 euros was paid out over two years. The company is entirely owned by PDK official Driton Avdiu, who purchased it from journalist Besnik Batusha.
Between July 2018 and July 2019, the company received 2,900 euros per month, reaching a total of 34,800 euros in total. BIRN contacted Avdiu, who refused to provide comment on the contract.
Another portal, LajmiExpress, has received 29,000 euros from Kosovo Telecom since 2015. The company’s owner is Kaltrina Kajtazi, the daughter of the former PDK MP and a former deputy minister of Agriculture, Kurtan Kajtazi.
Kaltrina Kajtazi was hired in the marketing department of Kosovo Telecom in March 2019. She was contacted by Kohavision the same month and acknowledged being a recent employee of Kosovo Telecom.
However, she refused to comment on the contract between LajmiExpress and her new employers, which has seen a monthly payment of 1,800 euros paid since May 2015.
‘Qysh me’ is another media that has entered into contracts from Kosovo Telecom, this time worth around 20,000 euros. Uranik Begu, son of PDK MP Flora Brovina, owns 33 per cent of the shares in the company.
Begu has confirmed that he was a shareholder in ‘Qysh me’ and that the company signed a contract with Kosovo Telecom for services and advertisements, but denied being involved in the process.
“We have performed services for around three years,” he told BIRN. “The portal was said to be a success story. I was just among the shareholders and did not participate in the meetings when the contract was signed.”
Meanwhile, the Tribuna portal, owned by Besiana Hoti, daughter of former PDK MP and ex-Education Coordinator Rexhep Hoti, benefited 35,400 euros from contracts signed with Kosovo Telecom. Arberesh.Info, which is run by Rrahim Pacolli, the brother of AKR leader and former foreign minister Behgjet Pacolli, received 39,000 euros between 2015 and 2018.
Former NISMA MP, Milaim Zeka, received payments of 6,300 for services from Kosovo Telecom in 2016 through his ‘Mozaik Kosova Media Center,’ which currently appears to have ceased functioning. The following year this amount was reduced to 5,100 euros.
Meanwhile, Zeka’s wife, Edlira Qefaliaj, launched another online media in August 2017 called ‘Mozaiku.’ In the same year, the company received 1,700 euros from Kosovo Telecom, while in 2018, the amount increased to 6,937 euros. In 2019 the amount was 2,400 euros.
Numerous other media were also paid large sums by Kosovo Telecom for advertising and services in recent years. One was KosovaLajmi, which benefited hugely from revenues generated from Kosovo Telecom.
The portal was launched in June 2018, and during the first six months of operations received monthly payments of around 4,000 euros. According to data from Kosovo Telecom, a total of 42,000 euros has been allocated to KosovaLajmi.
According to data from the Kosovo Business Registration Agency, the portal was initially in the name of Jeton Isufi, while the authorized person listed with the Agency was Haris Ademi, a journalist at Klan Kosova. However, the company currently appears to be owned by a Mr. Valon Bahtiri.
Isufi told BIRN that he had given up on the business shortly after it was launched and gave it to Bahtiri for free.
“I just launched that portal. Once I noticed that I might not succeed with it, I gave it to a boy, Valon Bahtiri seems to be his name,” he said. “I gave it away for free, I didn’t sell it to him, I don’t know if there is any contract signed with anyone. It’s been a long time since then.”
Bahtiri asked for more time to respond to BIRN’s questions about Telecom’s contract, but then failed to reply.
Other media with links to the staff at Kosovo Telecom also received contracts for services.
Faton Shoshi’s ‘IndeksOnline’ portal received 75,000 euros by the time Kosovo Telecom was under the management of Gent Begolli between 2014 and 2019. His father, though retired, was hired as an adviser to Gent Begolli. Begolli and Faton Shoshi also have a joint business selling drinks named ‘Piccuku O.P.’
Meanwhile, former PTK employee Astrit Gashi, who runs the Blicmedia portal, has received 82, 000 euros since 2015.
The greatest benefactors from contracts signed with Kosovo Telecom have been the Lajmi.net portal, which received around 120,000 euros and the KosovaPress news agency, which received roughly 90,000 euros.
Speaking to BIRN, KosovaPress stated that as an independent news agency, it offers a variety of media-related products, ranging from news and photo subscriptions, the launch of video-clips and broadcasts to the provision of advertising space.
Even online media that are not registered with the Business Agency have received financially benefited from Kosovo Telecom.
One example is ‘365Dite,’ a portal that writes about health, which entered into contracts worth more than 23,000 euros with Kosovo Telecom. Another unregistered business, AMMA Media D.Sh. received nearly 30,000 euros.
A list of media entering into contracts with Kosovo Telecom and their value is included below.
See the article: https://bit.ly/2vWlEPw
Serbian Language Media
Vucic on Kosovo, ultimatum, EU, Pantsir S1 (Prva TV, B92)
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told Belgrade-based Prva TV morning programme on Sunday that Russian President Vladimir Putin advised him to buy “Pantsir S1”
“We can help and tell you what turned out to be the most effective weapon in the conflict in Syria, buy Pantsir S1,” President Vucic explained.
Asked how he commented on a statement by former U.S. Army Commander-in-Chief in Europe, General Frederick Ben Hodges, who inquired after the first two of a total of six Russian anti-aircraft defence systems Pantsir S-1 Serbia ordered from Moscow arrived to Serbia on Saturday, why Serbia needed to defend itself, Vucic said he respected him and thanked him for his advice, but we will continue to do what is best for our country.
“There is no one or few who want to see Serbia stronger and stronger than it is today, and there are many who would like to see us destroyed and weak,” he added.
Commenting on the Kosovo issue, President Vucic said that many have claimed he has promised someone Kosovo’s independence but that this is not true. “Vucic did not lie to anyone, he is not a liar,” he said.
“In the end, Vucic was the only one who essentially rejected the plan to let Kosovo enter the United Nations,” Vucic added.
“They will provide us with a solution that we will not be able to accept. I am convinced that it will happen even in the course of this year. They will try to give us guarantees for the EU, on condition that we recognize Kosovo, offering us special status for Serbs in certain parts, and then what? I’ll ask the people. Three years ago, I asked them, and nobody wanted it”, Vucic says.
Asked what he would do if he faces the ultimatum, he said: “You will see.”
“You will see. But it is quite certain that I have never accepted ultimatums, as it is certain that I will strive to find the best solution for the Serbian people, with the aim of maintaining peace and stability, without leading Serbia into war.”
“I am convinced that by the end of the year we will receive an offer that we will not be able to accept, but we will not refuse it, either. I am almost convinced of that”, President Vucic said.
He recalled that when we had a chance to resolve the Kosovo issue, we missed it.
See at: https://bit.ly/3c57NXp
Alliance for Serbia: Vucic confirmed failure of his Kosovo politics (KoSSev, N1)
Opposition Alliance for Serbia (SzS) said that President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic with his statement that Serbia would be offered a solution for the Kosovo issue “which it must not accept, but would be hard to refuse,” confirmed a failure of his Kosovo politics, KoSSev portal reports.
SzS recalled that in his statements to Belgrade-based Prva TV, President Vucic said that people refused his plan for Kosovo, and therefore Serbia will get less favourable solution now. SzS added that Vucic proposed no plan at all and no public discussion about any plan was ever held.
“Neither in the Assembly of the Republic of Serbia, nor in the public. This attempt to hide behind ‘people’ is yet another cowardly act of a usurper Vucic. Citizens of Serbia were neither asked nor have ever been presented with a plan for Kosovo and Metohija. Aleksandar Vucic negotiated on his own, and he is solely responsible for the result,” SzS said in a statement.
Meanwhile, leader of the opposition Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) Milos Jovanovic thinks that Vucic’s latest statements on resolving the Kosovo issue “unnecessary and negatively dramatized this major problem, (…) by voicing prediction that Serbia would soon face an ultimatum to recognize Kosovo independence under a threat of war.”
Speaking earlier for Belgrade-based Prva TV Vucic said that after people refused his solution for Kosovo, Serbia would get a worse solution, adding that at certain point he would let people decide about this issue.
“A referendum, which President of Serbia sees as an escape solution from his presidential accountability cannot include a question which is not in line with the Constitution of Serbia, and the one asking people to declare themselves about recognition of Kosovo would certainly not happen. In one word, there would neither be referendum nor a threat by a war, nor secession of Kosovo could be decided on a referendum,” Jovanovic opined.
Dacic: Spain has firm stance, does not accept unilateral acts (RTS)
Serbian Foreign Affairs Minister Ivica Dacic met with the Spanish Foreign Ministry State Secretary for European Affairs, Juan Gonzalez Barba and thanked him for Spain’s full support to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Serbia, as well as for the help to Serbia on its EU path, RTS reports.
“Spain has a firm stance and does not accept unilateral acts,” Dacic said in a joint press conference with his Spanish interlocutor.
Dacic also underlined that Serbia extends firm support to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Spain, adding that all institutions in Serbia were instructed from the highest level, that in case of attempts of the authorities in Catalonia to communicate with them, inform the Embassy of Spain in Belgrade about that.
Dacic also assessed relations between Serbia and Spain as strategic, privileged, without open issues and marked with cooperation in all fields.
Spanish State Secretary for European Affairs Juan Gonzalez Barba said Spain feels particular responsibility when it comes to Serbia and the Balkans, foremost because of their principled stance on the issue of Kosovo and Metohija.
“We feel particular responsibility, also because new EU High Representatives is our former Minister of Foreign Affairs and we think that Spain should be proactive in its actions when it comes to reaching a solution between Belgrade and Pristina,” Gonzalez said.
He pointed out that Spain advocates for preserving territorial integrity of Serbia, adding it is important that Pristina revokes the tariffs for the dialogue to continue.
He also said Pristina needs to think about its acts, if it wants a solution to be reached. Commenting on the recently signed letters of intent on restoring the air line and railway line, Gonzalez said it was a good signal and a way to move ahead in Belgrade-Pristina relations.
Trump: Grenell does very good job as Belgrade-Pristina envoy (RTS, VoA)
Ambassador Richard Grenell will continue his role as special envoy for Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, US President Donald Trump confirmed, assessing that he “does very well” that job, RTS reports.
President Trump told this Voice of America responding to a question on how Ambassador Grenell will carry out simultaneously three functions – that of the US Ambassador to Germany, acting head of national intelligence services and special envoy for Belgrade-Pristina dialogue.
“Ambassador will continue, because he does that job very well. He knows officials well, he did a fantastic job in both countries,” President Trump said.
He emphasised that Grenell has his “full trust” and achieves “extraordinary agreements.”
President Trump made these remarks during the talks with journalists ahead of his visit to India, RTS reports.
NATO on Russian armament: National decision and Serbia’s right to choose (B92)
Acquisition in the area of defence are national decisions and Serbia has the right to choose, NATO said today, B92 reports.
This was Alliance’s response to the Radio Free Europe question on delivery of Russian air-defence system ‘Pantsir S1’ that Serbian purchased based on the agreement from 2019.
“Serbia has the right to freely choose its political and security arrangements. NATO and Serbia are close partners and we are committed to strengthening our partnership with Serbia, with full respect of its policy of neutrality,” NATO statement reads, B92 reports.
Father of Serbian footballer who wants to play for Kosovo didn’t lose job (Radio KIM, N1)
The father of the 19-year-old Ilija Ivic wasn’t fired from a school in Kosovo after his teenage son said he would play soccer for Kosovo’s U19 selection, as Pristina media reported earlier, and his mother, also reported to have lost her job, wasn’t employed by the Gracanica municipality, in central Kosovo populated by local Serbs, RTV KiM reported.
Gazetasheshi.com reported that both parents of Ilija Ivic were fired by the Gracanica municipality.
Milan Dimitrijevic, the headmaster of the school where Ilija’s father works as an accountant, has said he has heard about the news carried by several media outlets.
He told RTV KiM that “that has nothing to do with truth, and I’m not interested in that. He (Dusan Ivic) fulfils his duties, and I don’t care about his private life. No one called me, not anyone pressured me to fire him.”
Pristina media suggested that the pressure came from Belgrade to fire the parents because of their son’s decision.
Earlier, the “Flamurtar” soccer team and Kosovo Football Associations confirmed the news about its player parents losing jobs.
Ivic was invited by Kosovo U19 coach Ramiz Krasniqi but failed to appear for the Dardanians, as he was with Flamurtar’s team in Antalya, Turkey.
President of the Specialized Chambers of Kosovo: We will stand trial fairly and independently (Blic, Kontakt plus radio)
President of the Kosovo Specialized Chambers based in The Hague, Ekaterina Trendafilova, says that she is confident that the trials will be fair, impartial, independent, and conducted in safe conditions, adding that the task of the institution would not be fully accomplished if people in the region did not understand the court’s mandate.
Trendafilova, in her article for the Belgrade based daily Blic, indicates that the presiding court, as well as many international tribunals in the world dealing with war crimes issues, is with good reason located far from where the conflict occurred.
Among those reasons are, she recalls, the need to preserve the safety of victims and witnesses, to avoid possible interventions or, at times, the possibility that the crime itself may have occurred in more than one country.
“I am also aware that if the people in the region who are most affected by these trials and judgments – primarily in Kosovo and Serbia – do not understand our institution’s mandate, our task will not be fully accomplished. Therefore, for our conversation on the work of the Specialized Council of Kosovo and giving people in Kosovo and in the region the opportunity to present their dilemmas and ask questions, was from the outset the highest priority,” says Trendafilova.
That conversation allows the Specialist Court to dispel some prejudices, which, she points out, are quite natural when the court was moved to another country.
Among these prejudices, the most common, she adds, is that the court is a political institution or is established to judge a particular group, ethnic community or organization, and that its task is to change history.
“The Specialized Chambers and the Specialized Prosecutor’s Office are completely independent. They do not receive instructions from outside, whether from institutions, governments or individuals … The Specialized Chambers will only adjudicate persons
responsible for crimes they have committed as individuals and will not prosecute any ethnic group, community or organization,” Trendafilova emphasizes.
She points out in this context that it is important to clarify which offenses fall within the jurisdiction of this court.
“Specialized Chambers are authorized to prosecute individuals for crimes against humanity, war crimes and other crimes under Kosovo law that are alleged to have been committed or commenced in Kosovo from January 1998 to December 2000 by citizens of Kosovo or the FRY, or committed against their citizens, regardless of the nationality of the perpetrator,” concluded Ekaterina Trendafilova.
Janjic: Ahtisaari ++ an old idea, I don’t know where it came from now (KoSSev, Kontakt plus radio)
“It is possible that the concept of ‘Ahtisari ++’ was used by Vucic as a technical name for full normalization with the recognition of Kosovo. However, recognition means nothing without setting boundaries. So if someone offers you full recognition now when you have a lot of arguments and ways not to do it, then it means that someone places into prospect and the change of borders for you,” Dusan Janjic from the Forum for Ethnic Relations told portal KoSSev.
The president of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, in the morning program of Belgrade based TV Prva said that this year an ultimatum will be set before Serbia regarding the Kosovo issue.
“Something we will hardly be able to refuse, but we will not be allowed to accept,” he said.
Serbia will be offered EU entry guarantees and special status for Kosovo Serbs in return for Kosovo recognition. “So, that will go to ‘Ahtisari ++’,” Vucic said.
Janjic told portal KoSSEv that Ahtisari ++ is an old idea that came up in 2010 and 2011, and that he does not know where it came from now.
“It is possible that the president used this to bring the public closer that it would not be a great departure from today’s situation, but as far as I know and understand, things are not going in that direction,” Janjic said.
However, he acknowledges that there are elements in the Ahtisaari plan that relate to the SPC (Serbian Orthodox Church) and for which the Church seeks to be part of Brussels talks, such as cultural heritage issues, SPC autonomy, or the issue of protected areas around the monastery.
It is a demand to protect the rights of the SOC, which would appear as the fourth annex to Ahtisaari’s plan, Janjic claims, stating that it was a good and necessary idea.
“But that doesn’t solve the package. The essence of the problem, what the president was talking about a couple of years ago, is that connection between full recognition and boundaries. And this idea of “give some territory for full recognition” clearly doesn’t pass now. Then, the answer is ‘no full recognition’, “Janjic said.
Janjic does not know, as he points out, anyone relevant who has advocated this concept for the last ten years.
”As far as I know, the EU stands to the full normalization, with Kosovo’s membership in international organizations unhindered. The EU has committed itself to status neutrality,” Janjic added.
So far, the framework of the dialogue has been, according to Janjic, a full normalization of relations, namely: “No Ahtisaari and no exchange of territories”.
“Which, as far as I understand, both UN Resolution and Chapter 35, does not imply full recognition of Kosovo by Serbia. And there is this major confusion that I cannot quite follow what our politicians are talking about, because they are somehow fixated on having to recognize Kosovo. Well, they don’t have to do this in this generation, but they can create the conditions to simply live a normal life without recognition,”Janjic said.
Milicevic: Kosovo has advanced in the last 12 years (RTK2, Slobodno Srpski)
The NGO Aktiv Director, Miodrag Milicevic said in the Slobodno Srpski Show that Kosovo’s society is still in transition and that it is burdened with many problems 12 years after it declared independence.
”These problems are primarily internal, especially relations between Serbs and Albanians, but there are also problems between Belgrade and Pristina, which is a key challenge for Kosovo society.”
”Still, Kosovo has made progress in some segments over the last 12 years.”
”It was almost inconceivable 12 years ago to organize any kind of conference in Pristina where Albanians and Serbs, including journalists, would be equally represented, and their mutual relations would be in a spirit of tolerance.”
Talking about relations between Belgrade and Pristina after 2008, Milicevic said that the 2013 Brussels Agreement contributed to the relaxation of relations but remained in the shadow of constant attempts by both sides to be dominant.
“If we talk about the Kosovo side, somehow I was always under the impression that the territory was always more important than the people and in that sense I see that the integration process was purely an interest for the territory, but not to the needs of the population as a whole. Belgrade, on the other hand, has a very clear policy towards Kosovo. Until a certain moment, they upheld solely the Resolution 1244, until the technical talks of 2011 began, which resulted in a concrete agreement in 2013. However, even this progress has been, in almost all spheres, riddled with problems and mutual accusations of different characters. So, we remember the situation in 2013, 2014 and 2015, how many problems the implementation of the agreement begun with, because it was not easy to apply something so concrete in the north.”
Milicevic, who recently organized a two-day Civil Society Forum: Direct Dialogue as a Tool for Regional Stability, said that it was necessary to initiate dialogue within civil society.
”I’m absolutely convinced of something like that. In fact, let’s say that the process in which I see the crucial role of civil society, which will be the primary contact between the two communities, should relax future relations between Serbs and Albanians. We ran six topics for this Forum, we had more than 25 panelists and an enviable number of people from the diplomatic corps, Albanian and Serbian communities, both from Kosovo and Serbia. The key message we have sent is that we, as civil society, are oriented towards a completely different type of communication, where we have shown and proven the ability to communicate on difficult topics, with each other, and that this should be a model.”
He opined that the first step towards a path to lasting peace between Belgrade and Pristina should be to “depoliticize key issues” that are not and should not be perceived politically.
”I am referring to, first, economic topics, topics that concern ordinary citizens, who have never been the subject of a two-party dialogue in this negotiation process. These are things that both sides must nominate, because obviously this vacuum, due to the lack of talks, has obviously left space where different statements and different signals came from both sides, which generally did not move towards the reconciliation. On the contrary, both sides have evidently high levels of mistrust and it is very difficult to rebuild it,” Miodrag Milicevic said in Slobodno Srpski talk show.
“Borrell discussed Kosovo partition in Berlin” (Kosovo-online, B92)
Publicist Veton Surroi said that EU High Representative Josep Borrell spoke in a meeting with European experts in Berlin about the border adjustments, B92 reports referring to Pristina-based Gazeta Express.
In an op-ed published by the daily on Friday, B92 continues Surroi revealed the details of a meeting Borrell had a few weeks ago in Berlin with distinguished European experts.
At the meeting, Surroi wrote, the Spanish diplomat raised the issue of border adjustment, asking if it would be a good solution for Serbia to take over northern Kosovo.
However, the experts’ negative response and the idea that a border change would open Pandora’s box prompted Borrell to ask the following question: “What should Serbia do to gain something?”
“A few weeks ago, EU Foreign Minister Josep Borrell met with prominent European experts in Berlin and, according to some participants, asked if it would be a solution for Serbia to take north of Kosovo, and received an answer that it would not be a solution but the opening of a Pandora’s box and then he said, ‘Yes, let’s see what needs to be done for Serbia to get something?’ “, Surroi said, according to the media.
Surroi further emphasized the lack of coordination between Brussels and Washington regarding the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue. According to him, Borrell and Grenell’s actions, in the context of a Rubik’s Cube, resemble each side wanting to arrange their side of the cube with a certain colour.
“In the context of the Rubik’s Cube, Borrell’s talk and Grenell’s Letters of Intent are not coordinated at all. There is an effort by Borrell, for example, to make a red wall, a solution that, for example, might appeal to Serbia, while Grenell wants to put a yellow wall with a pragmatic solutions that provide economic progress for both countries, as the ambassador points out”, the publicist added.
Surroi pointed out that Borrell’s question about how to get Serbia to gain something from the dialogue resembles a purchase logic which includes offering discounts in order to boost sales. According to him, such a question shows the dominant mindset that since Kosovo is independent, it must give something in return, Kosovo-online portal reported.
He added that if we are stuck with such mindset, “the three-year long maze that Federica Mogherini left behind while at the helm of EU diplomacy will continue”.
See at: https://bit.ly/32qaYVw
New Kosovo Leader Ready to Revoke Tariffs for Serbian Goods (VOA)
A few years ago, the newly elected Kosovo prime minister overturned Serbian trucks. But Albin Kurti now says he is ready to revoke tariffs introduced by his predecessor on Serbian goods.
Kurti, who took office in early February, is backed by most of 1.8 million inhabitants of the former Serbian province for such a move but is nonetheless walking on eggshells.
Under intense international pressure to abolish tariffs and resume stalled talks with Serbia, Kurti also faces a fierce backlash from veterans who fought for independence and dominated politics for decades.
See at: https://bit.ly/2VhqC3W
Serbia Receives Delivery Of Russian Antiaircraft Systems Despite U.S. Sanction Threats (RFE)
Serbia has over the weekend received a delivery of Russian-made Pantsir S1 air-defense systems, despite warnings of possible U.S. sanctions against the Balkan state, which is seeking membership in the European Union.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic made the announcement on television on February 23 a day after the Defense Ministry confirmed receiving two of the six ordered short-range, rapid-fire antiaircraft systems.
“Serbia strengthened its defensive and deterrent capabilities,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement.
See at: https://bit.ly/2Pnahaa
The Western Balkans: Low Hanging Fruit for China? (thediplomat.com)
The Western Balkans has seen an increased Chinese footprint, raising concerns that the region will be a battleground for great power competition.
In line with Beijing’s economic and geopolitical agenda in Europe, the Western Balkans has seen an increased Chinese footprint, raising concerns in the West that in an era of great power competition, “the Balkans can easily become one of the chessboards where the big power game can be played.”
Serb player’s parents fired after he joins Kosovo Under-19s (AP/WaPo)
The Kosovo Football Federation has complained that local authorities in an ethnic Serb commune fired the parents of a footballer who agreed to play for the Kosovo Under-19s.
Ilija Ivic, aged 17, an ethnic Serb resident in the Gracanica commune which is mostly populated by ethnic Serbs and was 9 kilometers (6 miles) from the capital Pristina, was selected by coach Ramiz Krasniqi for the national youth team.
See at: https://wapo.st/2TbenTJ
Airport workers sacked ‘in revenge’ for joining protest (Prishtina Insight)
Union says 23 staff at Prishtina Airport whose contracts were terminated over the last six months lost their jobs for taking part in union-led protests – a claim that the management disputes.
Last month, ‘Besa’ – not her real name – was cleaning the passenger lounge of Prishtina’s Adem Jashari International Airport when she was told to report to the manager’s office. She thought that she was being called to have her contract extended, as it was about to expire on January 31.
Instead, she was told to pack and leave. “I was told that it was my last day at work, and I had to hand over my ID card at 4pm,” she told Prishtina Insight.
For the 46-year-old mother of six, the news was shocking. Her monthly salary of 200 euros was her only income. “I started crying; the whole airport saw me, I didn’t know what to do,” she recalled.
But she was not alone. Another 22 staff in the maintenance department received the same news within the last six months.
See at: https://bit.ly/2v2r9w1
Balkan Countries Take Precautions Amid Fear of Coronavirus (Balkan Insight)
As concern spreads about the spread of the coronavirus, some Balkan countries have taken initial precautionary measures, issuing protection information and stepping up checks on travellers.
Several Balkan countries have stepped up health safety measures at airports and border crossings and issued protection information to their citizens, as concern spreads about a potential outbreak in the region of the coronavirus, which has killed dozens of people in China.
See at: https://bit.ly/2SSVR3s