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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, March 02, 2020

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Albanian Language Media:

Kosovo PM Kurti writes to President Trump, Secretary Pompeo (media)
Selimi: Opposition not clear on what is asking regarding tax (media)
Gashi: Citizens have voted for removal of tax (media)
Hamza: Kosovo needs to preserve relations with U.S. and EU (Telegrafi)
Haradinaj: We kept the tax despite pressure, new government to do likewise (Koha)
Kurti invites Veseli, Haradinaj to a meeting (Kallxo)
CEC holds ballot draw for extraordinary mayoral elections in Podujeve (media)

Serbian Language Media:

Odalovic: Most important is for Kosovo to abolish tariffs and create conditions to continue the dialogue (N1, Kosovo Online)
Vucic: Parliamentary elections on March 4 (Beta, RTS, N1)
Serbia’s Vucic: Grenell’s right, Kurti’s offer attempted hoax (FoNet, N1)
Law on the Use of Languages in Kosovo is a dead letter on paper (KoSSev)

Opinion:

The Balkans in the New Decade: Regional Opportunities Ahead (theglobalist.com)

International:

Serbia to open diplomatic mission in Jerusalem (israelnationalnews.com)
Serbian pres tells ‘Post’ he will buy weapons from Israel (jpost.com)

Humanitarian/Development:

Situation on Greek border to deteriorate, confidential Frontex report warns (ekathimerini.com)
Mirgrad – a new city for the reconciliation of Serbs and Albanians (KoSSev)
Balkans brace for another migration crisis, urge EU to wake up (euractiv.com)
Association of Journalists condemns physical assault on RTK staff (media)

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Albanian Language Media:

  • Kosovo PM Kurti writes to President Trump, Secretary Pompeo (media)
  • Selimi: Opposition not clear on what is asking regarding tax (media)
  • Gashi: Citizens have voted for removal of tax (media)
  • Hamza: Kosovo needs to preserve relations with U.S. and EU (Telegrafi)
  • Haradinaj: We kept the tax despite pressure, new government to do likewise (Koha)
  • Kurti invites Veseli, Haradinaj to a meeting (Kallxo)
  • CEC holds ballot draw for extraordinary mayoral elections in Podujeve (media)

Serbian Language Media:

  • Odalovic: Most important is for Kosovo to abolish tariffs and create conditions to continue the dialogue (N1, Kosovo Online)
  • Vucic: Parliamentary elections on March 4 (Beta, RTS, N1)
  • Serbia’s Vucic: Grenell’s right, Kurti’s offer attempted hoax (FoNet, N1)
  • Law on the Use of Languages in Kosovo is a dead letter on paper (KoSSev)

Opinion:

  • The Balkans in the New Decade: Regional Opportunities Ahead (theglobalist.com)

International:

  • Serbia to open diplomatic mission in Jerusalem (israelnationalnews.com)
  • Serbian pres tells ‘Post’ he will buy weapons from Israel (jpost.com)

Humanitarian/Development:

  • Situation on Greek border to deteriorate, confidential Frontex report warns (ekathimerini.com)
  • Mirgrad – a new city for the reconciliation of Serbs and Albanians (KoSSev)
  • Balkans brace for another migration crisis, urge EU to wake up (euractiv.com)
  • Association of Journalists condemns physical assault on RTK staff (media)

 

 

Albanian Language Media

 

Kosovo PM Kurti writes to President Trump, Secretary Pompeo (media)

Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti has written to the U.S. President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo thanking them about the support to Kosovo and informing them about the decision to lift the tariff on raw material from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“As of 15 March, we will begin to phase out tariffs on goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, introduced by the previous government. Initially, the tariff of raw material will be dropped. We do this as an expression of good diplomatic gesture and as a sign of our commitment to work closely with the United States on dialogue with Serbia. We hope our actions will be reciprocated by Belgrade which we hope will remove all nontariff barriers on trade with Kosovo, and stop campaign for derecognition of Kosovo. We also call on the United States and the European Union to set up monitoring and sanctioning mechanisms to ensure the two sides abide by the pledges made during the current and future agreements,” Kurti said. 

Kurti also said that there has been in the past period a lack of coordination between Kosovo representatives on the issue of dialogue with Serbia “and the absence of clarity on who speaks on behalf of Kosovo in the international scene and the negotiating table.”

“The Government and me as prime minister have the constitutional mandate, political will, and legal duty, as well as full and exclusive responsibility to take over leadership of this process and represent Kosovo at the highest diplomatic level. 

“We look forward to beginning work with you, your diplomats and envoys, as well as our partners at the European Union, to push this process forward,” Kurti said adding that his government sees relations with the U.S. as being of highest strategic importance and welcomes the positive impact Trump’s administration has had on the Western Balkans. 

Selimi: Opposition not clear on what is asking regarding tax (media)

Head of the Vetevendosje Movement (LVV) parliamentary group, Rexhep Selimi, rejected claims that the introduction of import tariffs on Serbia prevented partition of Kosovo. 

“The threat of partition still exists,” he said at today’s Kosovo Assembly session called by the opposition parties. 

He said LVV has been consistent in maintaining that the tariffs should be replaced by reciprocity measures while the opposition, he said, has not clearly articulated its position.

“Opposition parties have controversial positions on the tax. It inevitably leads to the question of what the opposition is demanding today – keeping or lifting of the tax,” Selimi said. 

Gashi: Citizens have voted for removal of tax (media)

Arben Gashi, head of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) parliamentary group, said that the coalition partners – LDK and LVV – have spoken in favour of the import tariff on Serbia being removed and replaced by reciprocity and adequate measures since election campaign. 

“Voters reinforced our idea and they are in favour of the lifting of the tax and of preserving relations with the U.S.,” Gashi said. 

“LDK aims to coordinate positions with our allies, particularly the U.S. by notifying them about obstacles Serbia is taking against Kosovo. We believe that in face of uncertainties we need to discuss modalities of national consensus, dialogue and agreement with Serbia and not the tariff,” Gashi said.

Hamza: Kosovo needs to preserve relations with U.S. and EU (Telegrafi)

Bedri Hamza, head of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) parliamentary group, said that Kosovo needs to take actions that support preserving relations with international allies, the United States and the European Union.

“We have come this far together and I believe that a safe future is in partnership and full strategic cooperation with the U.S. and the EU. Great commitment of the U.S. and Trump administration obliges us to act in line with geopolitical interests. All that we as a young country wanted to achieve through tax should not be abandoned half-way,” Hamza is quoted. 

Haradinaj: We kept the tax despite pressure, new government to do likewise (Koha)

Head of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) parliamentary group Daut Haradinaj said at the Assembly session today that the previous government of Kosovo kept the import tax on Serbia in place despite immense pressure it faced for its withdrawal. 

“Kosovo should not surrender now,” he said. 

Haradinaj warned that opening of the Kosovo market to Serbia will prove to be dangerous for Kosovo. “Today we have 100 reasons to oppose the lifting of the 100 percent tax. Kosovo should know that if we open the market to Serbia today it will be a danger for tomorrow.” 

“We need to make it clear to everyone that independence of 17 February and territorial integrity is nonnegotiable,” Haradinaj said. 

Kurti invites Veseli, Haradinaj to a meeting (Kallxo)

Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti has sent invitations for a meeting to opposition leaders, Kadri Veseli from the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) and Ramush Haradinaj from the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK).

In the letter to Veseli dated 28 February, Kurti said the meeting would be focusing on the governing programme and the challenges Kosovo faces in the democratic state-building, socio-economic development and foreign policy. 

Haradinaj meanwhile refused to meet Kurti saying his letter came after he announced at a press conference the partial lifting of the tax on Serbia. “I have addressed you several times publicly and you never found the time or saw fit to invite me for consultations on a subject to which I have contributed and only after you made the decision,” Haradinaj told Kurti adding that he saw the invitation as an insult. 

Meanwhile, PDK officials have not commented on Veseli’s response to Kurti’s invitation.

CEC holds ballot draw for extraordinary mayoral elections in Podujeve (media)

The Central Election Commission (CEC) held a draw to determine the position of candidates on the ballots for extraordinary mayoral elections in Podujeve scheduled for 15 March.

The candidate from the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) will run under number 11, the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) candidate under 10 and that from Vetevendosje Movement under number 12.

Head of CEC Valdete Daka called on all candidates and participants to respect the Constitution of Kosovo and applicable legislation during the electoral process.

 

Serbian Language Media

 

Odalovic: Most important is for Kosovo to abolish tariffs and create conditions to continue the dialogue (N1, Kosovo Online)

State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Veljko Odalovic, says that the most important thing is for Kosovo to abolish tariffs on goods from Serbia and create conditions for the dialogue to continue, emphasizing that there are many “interveners” in the process and that the question is what their interests are. 

Odalovic told regional broadcaster N1 that the US, with its envoys, then the European Union, or the European Commission, “which derives some right from what was before and wants to continue to conduct dialogue,” are involved in trying to continue the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue.

“There are also Germany and France, although their attempt last year failed, and the two countries would continue to try to solve the Kosovo problem,” Odalovic said.

“The question is what their interests are, do they all go to one goal, do they aim to crystallize a common position, that the great ones who have made that quasi-state, which now cause them huge problems because children have grown up and are acting increasingly disobedient,” he said.

According to him, the United States is the biggest authority in Kosovo, and Prime Minister Albin Kurti is in a tight space, as from Washington, for the first time, he receives clear messages that tariffs must be abolished unconditionally.

“Former Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj would not even have introduced them overnight if he had had such clear messages from the US,” Odalovic claims.

Asked about President Aleksandar Vucic’s message that Serbia will be offered “something that it will be hard to refuse but will not accept,” Odalovic says that Vucic rightly points to something like that.

“If it is coordinated among the big ones, who are sponsors of that conditionally speaking state, what will happen when the dialogue starts, what will be the topics to be discussed, what will be their approach to it, what will be their demands which they will put on the table, those are the questions that remain open, “Odalovic said.

He states that relations between Serbia and the United States have been enhanced by the fact that the ultimate messages no longer go exclusively to Serbia, but it will be very difficult to reach a solution that is acceptable to both parties, a just and lasting one.

The US is making the continuation of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue conditional with on the abolition of tariffs on the one hand and the suspension of the campaign on withdrawal of recognition – on the other. Referring to the request before Serbia, he said that the United States had acknowledged the fact that the recognition process was not going in the direction it had been going.

“Withdrawal of 17 recognitions was a signal that something was going on in the world … Dacic will continue by this course. It is a pure and proper thing; it is his obligation. It is certain that all these activities are carried out with full coordination with President Vucic,” said Odalovic.

Vucic: Parliamentary elections on March 4 (Beta, RTS, N1)

President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic said he would call parliamentary elections on March 4, immediately upon his return from Washington, where he is attending a meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Vucic said the election campaign will last over 50 days.

“When the campaigns last for that long, it is necessary not to rush, you can’t reach the campaign peak if you don’t have a strategy for that, everyone will have time to prepare one. I hope that the list I’m leading will make a good result,” he said.

The president also noted it was an honour for Serbia to be at the gathering he is going to attend in Washington.

https://bit.ly/39qAQmV

Serbia’s Vucic: Grenell’s right, Kurti’s offer attempted hoax (FoNet, N1)

Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic said on Friday that the US President Donald Trump’s special envoy for Belgrade an Pristina was right in criticising the idea of the partial lifting of the 100 percent of import duties on goods from Serbia and Bosnia announced by Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti, the FoNet news agency reported.

Vucic described the move as “an attempted hoax.”

He told reporters in the central town of Gornji Milanvac that no one form Serbia’s authorities reacted to Kurti’s announcement because they wanted to correctly estimate what he actually said.

Grenell said Kurti made a mistake and that Washington did not support half measure regarding the taxes.

We do not support Prime Minister Kurti’s half measure. Our position is quite clear: the tariffs must be completely dropped. Mr Kurti is making a serious mistake – and that was made clear to President Thaci at the White House today.

— Richard Grenell (@RichardGrenell)February 27, 2020

Vucic said Kurti deliberately said that a day before his trip to Washington to prevent him from discussing the issue, while the start of the implementation was planned to coincide with his visit to Berlin.

“He (Kurti) decided to lift taxes on raw material. Really… They are not interested in Serbia’s final products where we could make a profit. Has he thought about that on his own or someone helped him? We will wait for them to annul the taxes and then talk. Until then – patience,” Vucic said.

https://bit.ly/3cpI7F5

Law on the Use of Languages in Kosovo is a dead letter on paper (KoSSev)

The Law on the Use of Languages has existed in Kosovo for years now, however, in most institutions, it is only a dead letter on paper. The majority of ministries do not send out announcements written in Serbian and no interpreters can be seen at press conferences held after Kosovo Assembly sessions, reports Gracanica based news online portal, whose journalists regularly report from Assembly and Government buildings.

If a journalist poses in Serbian or asks something in the same language, he or she will get an answer in Serbian only after the politician in question assesses whether it would be advisable – or not – to actually reply in Serbian, reports Gracanicaonline.

For years, the international donors have distributed significant grants to various NGOs to address the language issue.

However, the organizations hardly produced poor results if any, while even reports to some of them on the language issue failed to be written in standard Serbian language.

Both Albanian and Serbian are official languages of Kosovo, meaning that all institutions and public service providers are required to ensure their equal use in central and local institutions, the justice system, the media, education sector, as well as in public enterprises and the private sector.

At least, that’s what the Law on the Use of Languages says. The law was adopted in 2001 by an UNMIK regulation, after which it was incorporated into the Constitution of Kosovo based on the Ahtisaari Plan. The law was adopted in the Kosovo Assembly in 2007. The constitution and law guarantee the equal use of both languages, and it is worrying that the law is violated by those who passed it.

Gracanica journalists tried to point out only a segment of the problem with a feature story, while appealing for the law to be enforced.

This reportage was supported by KoSSev, IOM and the British Embassy. It does not necessarily reflect the views of donors.

https://bit.ly/2Tsce6g

 

 

Opinion

 

The Balkans in the New Decade: Regional Opportunities Ahead (theglobalist.com)

The Balkans’ most valuable regional asset lies in the young, progressive, educated population. It can become the catalyst for the transformation of the region.

EU membership needs to remain a priority and part of the future vision for the entire region of Southeast Europe. However, the region has to provide creative and long-term solutions to its many internal challenges.

To help mitigate this reality, the Balkans need to emphasize development and initiatives at the regional level. This is crucial to strengthen the countries’ socio-political and economic outlook in the 2020s.

Without a doubt, delaying the process of EU enlargement has created a vacuum that can result in socio-political instability, slower economic growth and growing foreign influence.This is actually helpful in so far as it forces smart minds in the region to seek internal solutions and opportunities for further regional cooperation and integration.

In order to understand the challenges and opportunities to regional cooperation, these questions must be answered:

1.Is it possible for the region to move forward with socio-economic and political transformation without immediate access to the EU family?

2.How to create a conducive environment where countries in the Balkans will prosper from a mutually beneficial regional environment?

See more at: https://bit.ly/2wU9arV

 

International

 

Serbia to open diplomatic mission in Jerusalem (israelnationalnews.com)

Serbian President speaks at AIPAC Policy Conference, announces plans to opening a diplomatic mission and an economic office in Jerusalem.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic spoke on Sunday at the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, DC and announced that his country plans on opening a diplomatic mission and an economic office in Jerusalem.

https://bit.ly/2vm44oc

Serbian pres tells ‘Post’ he will buy weapons from Israel (jpost.com)

The Serbian president announced that his country is planning to open a diplomatic mission and an economic office in Jerusalem.

The president of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, told The Jerusalem Post that he intends to buy weapons from Israel in an interview on Sunday at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee annual policy conference in Washington.

In a response to questions about the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign in Western Europe targeting Israel, Vučić said the Serbian purchase of weapons from Israel will “not be a small delivery.”

See more at: https://bit.ly/3cpIcsE

 

Humanitarian/Development

 

Situation on Greek border to deteriorate, confidential Frontex report warns (ekathimerini.com)

The EU border and coastguard police Frontex expects the situation on Greece’s border with Turkey to deteriorate, according to a confidential report leaked to German newspaper Die Welt.

The report, which reportedly warns of a mass migratory influx, came after Turkey said last week it would no longer stop refugees from attempting to cross by land or sea into Greece.

The report adds that pressure on the EU’s external border is expected to intensify even if Turkish authorities restore curbs on migrant movement.

It says migrant flows are also fueled by information quickly spreading on social media networks.

On Sunday, Greece requested the deployment of Frontex’s Rapid Border Intervention Team (RABIT) with the aim of guarding the country’s external borders.

https://bit.ly/39r3eW1

Mirgrad – a new city for the reconciliation of Serbs and Albanians (KoSSev)

An architect from Novi Sad, Vojislav Devic created the conceptual design for the construction of the city of Mirgrad (Peacecity) – dedicated to the reconciliation of Serbs and Albanians in the 21st century. According to Devic, this topic is a civilization issue that should not depend on any status that Kosovo has or will have in the future. He proposed that the city be built between Koritnik and Pastrik, while all its inhabitants would have to sign the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights and swear that they will not carry weapons. Danas daily published a Sunday interview with this architect, and here we publish a summary.

See more at:https://bit.ly/2VDk7bU

Balkans brace for another migration crisis, urge EU to wake up (euractiv.com)

Following the chaos at the Greek-Turkish land borders, leaders from the Balkan region have urged the EU to take immediate action to prevent a repeat of the 2015 migration crisis.

In Sofia, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov is today preparing to meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Ankara. He called on the EU to “do everything” and “quickly” to give Turkey the money it needs to readmit and take care of the refugees.

In Zagreb, Domestic Affairs Minister Davor Bozinovic has said Croatia is ready for another migrant wave at its borders. “We have plans in case of escalation, but this is an issue that needs to be addressed diplomatically”, he said, adding that the current migration wave is exactly the same as the one in 2015. “The EU has not learned its lesson”, he emphasised.

In Belgrade, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic promised on Sunday that Serbia “would continue to treat migrants fairly,” but warned it would not let them remain “trapped” in Serbia in large numbers.

Read the full story by Krassen Nikolov, Karla Junicic and EURACTIV Serbia: https://bit.ly/2PBuaKr

Association of Journalists condemns physical assault on RTK staff (media)

Association of Journalists of Kosovo has expressed concern over yesterday’s physical assault on a journalist working for the public broadcaster, RTK.

“AGK condemns this act and calls on law enforcement authorities to determine the motives of this act and bring its authors to justice,” the Association said in a statement.

Ahmeti reported that he was attacked by five persons in a cafeteria in Pristina and also identified one of the attackers. He said he did not know the motive of the attack. 

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