Albanian Language Media:
- EU Council extends mandate to Special Representative Apostolova (media)
- Lekaj: Munich agreements have been presented to Government (Zeri)
- Selimi: No differences within ruling coalition on reciprocity (Gazeta Express)
- Bahtiri meets EULEX chief: Situation in Mitrovica calm (Zeri)
Serbian Language Media:
- Vucic: Anything less than 48.2 percent will be election failure for SNS (FoNet, N1)
- Specialist Prosecutor informed the president of this court of his intent to issue indictments (KoSSev)
- “Indicted will be known in six months” (KIM radio)
- Rakic: Tariffs have created even bigger rift between Albanians and Serbs (Vecernje Novosti)
- Redrawing Kosovo’s foreign policy (Prishtina Insight)
- Why Serbia’s Disgruntled Citizens Aren’t Backing the Opposition (Balkan Insight)
- AoK Committee on the Rights and Interests of Communities established (RTK)
- Albania Prosecutors to Probe Panic-Mongering About Coronavirus (Balkan Insight)
- Croatia reports first confirmed coronavirus case in Balkans (medicalxpress.com)
Albanian Language Media
EU Council extends mandate to Special Representative Apostolova (media)
European Council published the decision to extend the mandate of sic EU special representatives, including Nataliya Apostolova, representative for Kosovo.
Apostolova’s mandate has been extended for an additional six-month period, until 31 August 2020. She was first appointed to the post in August 2016.
Lekaj: Munich agreements have been presented to Government (Zeri)
Former Minister of Infrastructure, Pal Lekaj, who authorised the Kosovo officials to sign the recent agreements on Pristina-Belgrade air, railway, and road connectivity, said there was continuous coordination throughout the process with both the former prime minister Ramush Haradinaj and president Hashim Thaci.
Lekaj also said that the most recent agreement, that on establishing a railway and road connectivity, was also presented to his successor, the current Minister of Infrastructure Lumir Abdixhiku.
“We signed these agreements in line with the Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo and for the first time Serbia recognises Kosovo’s Civil Aviation Authority and the ‘Adem Jashari’ international airport,” Lekaj said.
Selimi: No differences within ruling coalition on reciprocity (Gazeta Express)
Head of the Vetevendosje Movement (LVV) parliamentary group, Rexhep Selimi, said that there are no differences of positions within the government coalition partners when it comes to removing the import tariff on Serbia and introducing reciprocity measures instead.
“What I am saying is part of the coalition agreement. I am referring to the harmonisation of programme between the partners where they agreed on all topics, including this one,” Selimi said adding that there is no set date as to when the new measures will be presented.
At the same time, Selimi said that the future steps will be taken in coordination with the United States.
“We view reciprocity as the highest level of mutual trust and mutual relations and this value, like many others, has been taught to us by the United States,” Selimi said.
Bahtiri meets EULEX chief: Situation in Mitrovica calm (Zeri)
Mayor of Mitrovica Agim Bahtiri met head of EULEX Lars-Gunnar Wigemark and briefed him about the security situation in the municipality saying that it is calm.
Congratulating Wigemark on the new post, Bahtiri said cooperation with EULEX has always been excellent.
“Significant steps have been made in our municipality to fully stabilise the overall situation. For this I am grateful to KFOR, Kosovo Police, embassies, and all those that contributed to maintaining peace in our city,” Bahtiri said.
Serbian Language Media
Vucic: Anything less than 48.2 percent will be election failure for SNS (FoNet, N1)
Serbian President and leader of ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) Aleksandar Vucic said on Monday he precisely knew what solution to the Kosovo issue would be, adding he wouldn’t accept anything that could be “a disgrace or humiliation of Serbia,” N1 reported.
Addressing the SNS Main Board meeting, Vucic told the members that any result at the forthcoming elections in Serbia which would be below 48.2 percent would be considered as failure and that some would be sanctioned.
He told them he didn’t want to listen “how the (opposition parties) boycott failed and that those who take over SNS votes want to win.”
Vucic also said he was not interested in hearing how many votes “you will bring me and how you win over those who boycott the ballot,” but that they had to reach at least the 2016 result of 48.2 votes.
“It’s been almost four years since the last elections when we addressed the people. We went through a tough period since 2016. We went through it showing that with our combativeness, great efforts and engagement everything can change. Last December, we reached, and tomorrow it will be officially confirmed by the European standards, that an average wage is 510 Euros,” Vucic said.
He added that some “dream about raising their voice at Serbia” and that Belgrade would recognise Kosovo independence, saying “they cannot be more wrong.”
Vucic also noted that the SNS would be on the electoral list with its current coalition partners.
See at: https://bit.ly/2uwzN5A
Specialist Prosecutor informed the president of this court of his intent to issue indictments (KoSSev)
The Specialist Prosecutor notified the President of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers of his intent to initiate proceedings before this court, the Kosovo Specialist Chambers announced today. According to attorney Nebojsa Vlajic, it was a ”clearly presented intent” to issue the first indictments.
The Specialist Prosecutor notified the President of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers of his intent to initiate proceedings before the Specialist Chambers and requested that a Pre-Trial Judge be assigned in accordance with the Law – the Kosovo Specialist Chambers wrote in a statement today.
The President has therefore assigned a Pre-Trial Judge in accordance with the Law and the Rules of Assignment of the Specialist Chamber Judges from the Roster of International Judges to review indictments filed by the Specialist Prosecutor – the statement further reads.
The content of indictments remains confidential, unless and until confirmed by the Pre-Trial Judge.
This is a clearly presented intent to issue the first indictments, Nebojsa Vlajic, a defense attorney and solicitor on behalf of victims, told KoSSev.
”The public prosecutor intends to file charges against some persons, and it is obvious that the prosecution cases have reached that stage. Therefore, he requested that pre-trial judges be appointed in the Specialist Chambers so that there is someone who would receive and act on the indictments,” Vlajic said in a statement for KoSSev.
From November 2018 to date, the Kosovo Specialist Chambers has questioned hundreds of people. According to the Kosovo media, only 250 former KLA members have been questioned or summoned for questioning by the end of last year, however, no charges have been filed yet.
The Special War Crimes Tribunal for the former Kosovo Liberation Army members was formed to prosecute cases of crimes committed during and after the armed conflicts in Kosovo – from 1998 to 2000. The court is part of the Kosovo judicial system, but the trials will take place in Hague, Netherlands.
The court will deal with crimes committed by KLA members against civilians, Kosovo Serbs, as well as members of other communities, including Albanians who were allegedly accomplices of the Republic of Serbia’s regime.
One of the most important tasks of this court will be to shed light on the allegations made in the report of the Council of Europe’s Special Rapporteur Dick Marty, adopted in January 2011. Marty’s report accuses the KLA leadership, including current Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, of involvement in ”human organ trafficking, abduction and abuse of prisoners” during the Kosovo conflict.
Ever since it was established in 2015, this court was often criticized, while numerous attempts to obstruct its work were made by the former KLA members or in part by Kosovo officials and institutions.
Almost five years later, according to still unconfirmed information, hundreds of people were questioned as witnesses or suspects, and among them, a good number of Pristina officials – former KLA members.
According to the 2015 Kosovo Constitutional Amendment, based on which the Specialist Chambers was formed, the court’s five-year term expires next year, Radio Free Europe recently reported.
See at: https://bit.ly/2PnmRGt
“Indicted will be known in six months” (KIM radio)
The indictments and the indicted that will be found before the Specialist Chambers will be known within six months at the latest, Bekim Blakaj, Director of the Humanitarian Law Center in Pristina told KIM radio.
Responding to yesterday’s announcement that the Special Prosecution would initiate the processes, Blakaj says that it should mean that the prosecutor will forward the indictments to the judge for confirmation.
“The judge now has to confirm that, to see if there is enough evidence to indict the people on those charges. There is a 6-month deadline for a judge to do this. So, within six months at the latest, the judge will either confirm the indictments, return them to the Prosecution for amendment, or dismiss the indictments. I do not believe that this will be the case, nor that it will last for six months, but for sure that we will see in six months who are the indicted, ”Blakaj tells RTV Kim.
Blakaj says the moment that has been awaited for several years has finally come.
“We hoped that these processes would proceed faster. We have been awaiting these indictments for several years, but of course this process of investigation and the writing of the indictment is the responsibility of the Specialized Prosecutor’s Office. In doing so, they show that they were obviously working seriously and that they were seriously investigating.”
Asked if, while waiting for the Special Court to begin its work, the citizens of Kosovo have lost hope that this institution will satisfy the justice of the victims, Blakaj says:
“Opinions have been divided about justice. In Kosovo, the majority sees this court as one-sided, but I believe that the victims’ families were hopeful in this court, especially the families of non-Albanian victims, as well as the families of those Albanian victims who were a part of the political conflict. It remains to be seen, however, but I am afraid that this court will not meet the expectations of all victims, as no other court couldn’t, because it is an ad hoc court and which will end its term one day, and unfortunately many victims will not receive justice.”
Referring to Fatmir Bajshori’s case, who refuses to respond to the Special Court’s invitation, Blakaj says he will only suffer damage because of his decision.
“That means he will be detained if he is charged. No one can escape justice in such a way that they refuse to appear in court. He can only make matters worse,” Blakaj concludes.
Rakic: Tariffs have created even bigger rift between Albanians and Serbs (Vecernje Novosti)
President of Serbian List Goran Rakic in an interview with Belgrade-based Vecernje Novosti daily said there was willingness to cooperate with Albanian elected representatives, but that there were still many obstacles. Serbs are being attacked and the international community remains silent, Rakic added.
“Serbian List’s position is clear and public: we are ready to work with legitimately elected Albanian representatives, to work together to address the problems which the Serbian people in Kosovo are facing. But it is primarily the responsibility of the newly formed government that manages institutions at the central level”, Rakic further noted and pointed out it was too soon to forecast the stances of the new Pristina government towards Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija.
Q: The Serbian List has two ministries and you are not part of the ruling coalition. How will this work with Kurti at the helm of the government, which threatened with “compulsory military service” and war reparations?
Rakic: The positions of Serbian List in the institutions are the result of plebiscite support of our citizens and are not the result of agreement with the ruling parties in Pristina. We dared not allow ministries to be led by those who would have served the interests of Pristina instead of our members. Threats with the introduction of compulsory military service and war reparations, among other reasons, are why we could not be part of that coalition, because we will never support these ideas.
Q: There have been numerous incidents in recent days – the demolition of a Serbian house, graffiti writing, the attack on cemeteries …
Rakic: The tolerance shown by international representatives towards incidents where Serbs are victims, as a rule, are incomprehensible and disgraceful. In our meetings with them, when mentioning the threats to Serbian people we have their “understanding” but also the wall of silence. Some of them, who say it is necessary to give Kurti more time, I have reminded them of their impatience regarding the removal of the barricades at one point in time. And I told them I do not accept that our citizens are being attacked with impunity, because that has been going on for over two decades.
Q: What are your expectations for plans on the establishment of the rail and air traffic between Belgrade and Pristina?
Rakic: Signing of the letters of intent to connect our people from central Serbia and from the territory of Kosovo and Metohija is an extremely positive news, for which we are especially grateful to President Aleksandar Vucic and Director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Đuric. The highway and the railway line will be the lifeblood that will create enormous opportunities for economic and business development after the tariffs are abolished.
Q: When do you expect the Brussels dialogue to continue?
Rakic: As soon as Pristina abolishes the anti-civilization tariffs, our negotiation team is ready for negotiations. President Vucic repeated this several times. Too much time has passed since the tariffs were introduced, and the consequences are not only economic, but have widened the rift between the Serbian and Albanian people. When it comes to the dialogue, it is a disgrace that the EU, as a guarantor, is strikingly silent on the fact that Pristina has not yet fulfilled its only obligation – the formation of the Community of Serb-majority Municipalities (ZSO).
Q: What is your municipality doing to keep Serbs in Kosovo?
Rakic: We are fighting for every man in Kosmet, and that fight is more difficult here, because of the unresolved status it is unrealistic to expect some bigger foreign investments. That is why we rely on the support of our state of Serbia, which in Kosmet implements projects supported by President Vucic himself, worth more than 150 million euros. On the other hand, this year we managed to secure more than 100 new jobs in the municipality of Mitrovica North. We want to support citizens to stay and raise their children here.
Redrawing Kosovo’s foreign policy (Prishtina Insight)
The Jamaica debacle and events at the Munich Security Forum have laid bare the embarrassing state of Kosovo’s diplomatic efforts and highlight the need for a new, holistic strategy on foreign affairs, Aidan Hehir and Donika Emini wrote for Pristina Insight.
Since Kosovo declared independence, achieving diplomatic recognition from other UN member-states has been its primary foreign policy objective. Operating on the assumption that increased recognition would serve as a means to strengthen its international status, Kosovo’s approach has been to focus on attaining formal recognition from as many states as possible.
See at: https://bit.ly/2w2zkbL
Why Serbia’s Disgruntled Citizens Aren’t Backing the Opposition (Balkan Insight)
It will take a united front of angry citizens and opposition parties to topple the regime of Aleksandar Vucic – but there is not much sign of that happening.
Serbia’s democratic opposition parties, and citizens striving for change, are failing to unite into a single political bloc, as they did in the time of Slobodan Milosevic, when the dissatisfied and the opposition acted as one.
See at: https://bit.ly/2HRB5en
AoK Committee on the Rights and Interests of Communities established (RTK)
Kosovo Assembly Committee on the Rights and Interests of Communities was constituted unanimously by votes of 12 members of this committee on Monday, RTK reports. The committee members have pledged to protect the interests of the citizens they represent.
The Chairwoman of the Committee is a Serbian List MP Miljana Nikolic, who after the forming of the Committee explained the rules of procedure, as well as her competences.
RTK reported it is also the responsibility of this Committee to propose a draft law that would deal with communities’ issues, adding that each draft law is sent for consideration. The Commission also cooperates with the competent ministry and can request direct reports. This is the second item on the agenda for the area of competence.
MP who represents the Egyptian community, Veton Berisha, said that their Committee for Egyptian communities should have its day and date. “I ask them to go out and oversee the process of house construction, because there is a lot of discontent about it” he said.
Nikolic proposed a Committee meeting to be held on Tuesday. According to RTK, Albanian MPs who are part of the Committee also said they would be committed to the rights of minority communities in Kosovo.
Albania Prosecutors to Probe Panic-Mongering About Coronavirus (Balkan Insight)
Prosecutors in Albania have warned that the malicious distribution of fake information about the coronavirus, with the purpose of spreading panic, will be treated as a criminal offence.
Prosecutors in Albania said they were opening an investigation into what they called “diffusion of fake information or announcements in any form aimed at creating a state of insecurity and panic among the people”, warning that causing panic in this manner is a crime.
Prosecutors said they suspected fearful messages were being spread mainly through WhattsApp.
The prosecutor’s announcement on Monday followed an eruption of coronavirus cases in nearby Italy, a country with which Albania has multiple links.
The scare over the virus prompted directors and teachers of a private school in Tirana to take a two-week holiday. Their announcement met harsh criticism from the Minister of Education, Besa Shahini, however, who warned she might annul the operating license for the school.
See at: https://bit.ly/2usL6vz
Croatia reports first confirmed coronavirus case in Balkans (medicalxpress.com)
Croatia confirmed the first case of the new coronavirus in the Balkans region on Tuesday after a young man who recently returned from Italy was found to have become infected.
The announcement comes amid an outbreak of the virus, named COVID-19, in nearby Italy where infections have surged to nearly 300 in a matter of days.
“It has been confirmed that the first patient was infected with the COVID-19 virus,” Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said at a press conference at a hospital in Zagreb.
The patient is a young man “showing mild symptoms”, he added.
Health Minister Vili Beros said the man was in Milan between February 19 and 21.
“For now he shows signs of a milder disease and we hope it will remain that way,” Beros said.
See at: https://bit.ly/2Tgr4N4