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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, March 5, 2020

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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, March 05, 2020

Albanian Language Media:

• Periskopi: Thaci and Vucic were presented with draft agreement at White House meeting
• Thaci: Lajcak voted against Kosovo’s membership to Interpol (Kallxo)
• Veseli: Kosovo deserves better (media)
• “Thaci’s second attempt at preventing work of Specialist Chambers” (Koha)

Serbian Language Media:

• Vucic: Washington absolutely that tariffs are revoked, no recognition and Serbia to get nothing (Kosovo-online)
• Borrel for the continuation of the EU-sponsored Belgrade-Pristina dialogue (NMagazin, euractiv.jutarnji.hr)
• Serbia ranked ‘partly free’ in Freedom in the World report (N1)
• Jankovic: Americans ‘dragged’ Vucic to Washington, visit below his level (Danas, FoNet)

Opinion:

• Trump is looking for a foreign policy coup in the Balkans (aljazeera.com)
• Don’t Trust Serbian or Kosovo ‘Kings’ to Achieve Peace (Balkan Insight)

International:

• Vucic: Most Serbs Prefer a ‘Frozen Conflict’ with Kosovo (Foreign Policy)
• Populist Shrug Off Protests In Central And Southeast Europe (Balkan Insight)

Humanitarian/Development

• Bosnia confirms its first case of coronavirus – regional TV (Reuters)
• “If the Greek border falls …” (B92, Tanjug)
• Kosovo Citizens ‘Haven’t Heard of’ President’s Reconciliation Initiative (Balkan Insight)

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Albanian Language Media:

  • Periskopi: Thaci and Vucic were presented with draft agreement at White House meeting
  • Thaci: Lajcak voted against Kosovo’s membership to Interpol (Kallxo)
  • Veseli: Kosovo deserves better (media)
  • “Thaci’s second attempt at preventing work of Specialist Chambers” (Koha)

Serbian Language Media:

  • Vucic: Washington absolutely that tariffs are revoked, no recognition and Serbia to get nothing (Kosovo-online)
  • Borrel for the continuation of the EU-sponsored Belgrade-Pristina dialogue (NMagazin, euractiv.jutarnji.hr)
  • Serbia ranked ‘partly free’ in Freedom in the World report (N1)
  • Jankovic: Americans ‘dragged’ Vucic to Washington, visit below his level (Danas, FoNet)

Opinion: 

  • Trump is looking for a foreign policy coup in the Balkans (aljazeera.com)
  • Don’t Trust Serbian or Kosovo ‘Kings’ to Achieve Peace (Balkan Insight)

International:

  • Vucic: Most Serbs Prefer a ‘Frozen Conflict’ with Kosovo (Foreign Policy)
  • Populist Shrug Off Protests In Central And Southeast Europe (Balkan Insight)  

Humanitarian/Development

  • Bosnia confirms its first case of coronavirus – regional TV (Reuters)
  • “If the Greek border falls …” (B92, Tanjug)
  • Kosovo Citizens ‘Haven’t Heard of’ President’s Reconciliation Initiative (Balkan Insight)

 

 

Albanian Language Media

 

Periskopi: Thaci and Vucic were presented with draft agreement at White House meeting

The news website Periskopi reports that President of Kosovo Hashim Thaci and President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic were presented with a draft of the final agreement during their meeting at the White House.

The media outlet quotes sources saying that the draft agreement consists of two options: border correction or Association Plus, in reference to the Association of Serb-majority municipalities.

Sources also said that the upcoming stage of talks will be dynamic and similar to the Rambouillet peace talks in that the parties will be presented by an offer of the ‘take-it-or-leave-it” type.

Serbia, adds Periskopi, was not asked to stop campaign for derecognition of Kosovo until June which is the final time for when the U.S. expects an agreement between Kosovo and Serbia to be reached.

In addition, the format of talks will be at the level of presidents and their teams whose members the presidents will choose. “The parties were also offered the possibility of meeting the U.S. President Donald Trump but this was postponed for a period when an agreement between the two parties is close,” the news website writes.

Thaci and Vucic are further reported to have been told by their U.S. interlocutors that if they are not ready to sign an agreement, there will be sanctions. 

Thaci: Lajcak voted against Kosovo’s membership to Interpol (Kallxo)

President of Kosovo Hashim Thaci spoke against the proposal for the Slovakian Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak being appointed EU envoy for the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Thaci said he was disappointed the EU was considering Lajcak’s appointment to the post. 

“Brussels is making a strategic mistake in appointing an envoy from a country that does not recognise Kosovo. Lajcak is a friend of mine but is a wrong EU reference to appoint him in the midst of a sensitive process between Kosovo and Serbia,” Thaci said.

Thaci also said that Lajcak voted on behalf of Slovakia against Kosovo joining Interpol: “His was one of the decisive votes that was promised to Kosovo but at the last minute he hung up the phone and voted against Kosovo.” 

Veseli: Kosovo deserves better (media)

Leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) Kadri Veseli commented on the Kosovo government’s performance over the first months since being formed saying that “noise and arrogance” have become tools to justify the absence of work.

“A lot of talk is happening with the sole purpose of avoiding responsibility before the citizens. The government and politicians are measured with work not words,” Veseli wrote on Facebook.

“Instead of Kosovo being offered security and strengthening of international relations, the opposite is happening. Threats and weakening of relation with the U.S.,” he said adding that in one month of the new government being in place, Kosovo faced two derecognitions. “This is the picture of this one month of governance.”

“Thaci’s second attempt at preventing work of Specialist Chambers” (Koha)

President of Kosovo Hashim Thaci has not stopped actions aimed at preventing the Specialist Chambers’ operations, Koha writes adding that this is evident in a letter exchange Thaci had with the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

A response letter Pompeo wrote to Thaci ahead of the 12th anniversary of Kosovo’s declaration of independence a copy of which Koha has secured lists consequences Kosovo would face if it were to hinder the work of the Specialist Chambers.

“Abrogating or undermining the work, structure, or location of the Specialist Chambers of Specialist Prosecutor’s Office in any way would seriously damage Kosovo’s international credibility and standing; leave these allegations as a permanent mark over Kosovo; call into question Kosovo’s commitment to the rule of law; deny justice to victims; and cloud Kosovo’s future as a member of the Euro-Atlantic family and international community. The Specialist Chambers, operating in the current format, is the best way for Kosovo to close this chapter in its history and secure the continued ability of the United States to counter the arguments of Kosovo’s detractors and champions its further international integration,” Pompeo said.

Koha reports that Thaci raised the concerns about the work of the Specialist Chambers in a letter to Secretary Pompeo dated 29 November 2019.

 

 

Serbian Language Media

 

Vucic: Washington absolutely that tariffs are revoked, no recognition and Serbia to get nothing (Kosovo-online)

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said today it won’t happen that Serbia recognizes Kosovo and gets nothing, confirming that Washington is serious in its intentions that tariffs on Serbian goods are revoked, Kosovo-online portal reports.

Answering a journalist’s question in Novi Sad, how will Serbia respond to an ultimatum from Pristina, Vucic said – What ultimatum? That we must recognize them, and get nothing? That won’t happen.”

“Let them do their job, and we will do ours, and let’s see who will be more successful,” Vucic said, adding it is crucial to preserve peace and stability.

Borrel for the continuation of the EU-sponsored Belgrade-Pristina dialogue (NMagazin, euractiv.jutarnji.hr)

EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Josep Borell says that he pledged to continue Serbia-Kosovo dialogue under the auspices of the EU and welcomed any engagement in support of such dialogue, both by Member States and international partners, reports portal NMagazin, quoting the Croatian portal Euraktiv. 

In an interview with the Croatian portal Euraktiv, Borell reiterates that the Western Balkans is a priority for the EU and for him personally.

“In my role as mediator, I am committed to supporting progress in EU-sponsored dialogue. In order to strengthen my engagement and efforts, I have decided to appoint a Special Representative for Dialogue and the Western Balkans,” Borell said.

Asked if he was concerned about US involvement in Kosovo-Serbia relations and whether with this, Brussels is losing its influence in the region, Borell replies that anyone who wants to support EU-sponsored dialogue is welcome.

“We are working with all partners, the situation still requires the efforts of all who want to achieve the same goal – the prosperity of the people of those countries as well as their European perspective,” said Borell, who attends meetings of EU and foreign ministers in Zagreb.

Regarding Ankara’s decision to open borders for migrants, Borell says that the EU-Turkey agreement must be respected, and that the EU is committed at all levels to assist Greece and Bulgaria in resolving the situation.

“My message is clear: we need urgent de-escalation and a permanent ceasefire. The suffering of the people must cease. And the EU must ensure that our collective action has the greatest possible impact if we are to effectively resolve the crisis,” said the head of European diplomacy.

Borell visited Turkey on March 3 and 4, and the situation at the Greek-Turkish border is the topic of talks and an extraordinary meeting of EU foreign ministers in Zagreb.

“In Ankara, I spoke with the Turkish leadership and made it clear to them: ‘We have a common interest in ending the conflict in Syria. Only this way it will be possible to end the suffering of civilians and help solve the biggest challenges, which Turkey is facing now. Strengthening the pressure on the EU border with Turkey and Ankara’s unilateral actions will not bring any solution,” Borell said.

Regarding the new budget proposal for European defense, Borell says that the EU should take greater responsibility for its security.

“We have several crises that are at blaze in our neighborhood and beyond. It requires joint action. If we do not act, others will and not always in a way that is in our interests,” Borell said.

One of the major challenges the EU will face in the future is cyber and hybrid threats, Borell said, adding that a common view on new threats and a common response strategy must be developed.

Serbia ranked ‘partly free’ in Freedom in the World report (N1)

Serbia has been rated ‘partly free’ in the Freedom in the World 2020 report which reviews the level of democracy in individual states across the world, N1 reports.

Freedom in the World analyzes the electoral process, political pluralism and participation, the functioning of the government, freedom of expression and of belief, associational and organizational rights, the rule of law, and personal autonomy and individual rights. The report is produced by Freedom House.   

See at: https://bit.ly/3cwZiF0

Jankovic: Americans ‘dragged’ Vucic to Washington, visit below his level (Danas, FoNet)

“The Americans ‘have dragged’ Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic to Washington to sit at the same table with Kosovo President Hashim Thaci,” former Serbian Ambassador to Vatican and London Vladeta Jankovic said, FoNet news agency reports.

He also added that “the meetings Serbian President had in some ‘storage rooms’ in the State Department, with officials there, are far below his level.”

“If he couldn’t meet the US President Donald Trump, which is not simple, then the US Vice-President could have received him, it must take place on a higher level,” Jankovic assessed.

He also went on saying that “whatever he does there, Serbian President Vucic does it on his own.”

“I term it as a death of institutions in Serbia,” Jankovic said, noting that there is a parliament, and the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Serbian Parliament, however, no foreign affairs policy discussion took place there for a long time.  

He is also convinced that “Americans count on Thaci, when it comes to resolving the Kosovo issue,” emphasizing that the set of circumstances could be more favourable to Serbia, because of the conflict inside the Albanian community in Kosovo.

According to Jankovic, former Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj made, as he said, “a foolish move” by introducing 100 percent tariffs on the goods from Serbia, and even worse move because he did not want to give up on them.

He also opined that Haradinaj could get visa free regime a year ago from the EU, if he agreed to lift the tariffs. Commenting on the decision of Albin Kurti to partly remove the tariffs, Jankovic said US would not agree to it, adding there is also a clash between Kosovo and Albania.

He also said that Vucic’s regime would hold on as long as he postpones the act of Kosovo recognition, assessing there would neither be real diplomatic recognition, nor the exchange of ambassadors between Kosovo and Serbia. He noted that no one is asking for that either. However, as Jankovic opined, there would be signing of a mutually binding agreement, meaning that Kosovo would join the United Nations.

According to Jankovic’s interpretation, Kosovo will not join the UN because most of its member states recognize it, but because Russia and China will say – we will do as Serbia wants. He also assessed if Kosovo becomes a member of the UN, “Serbia will lose Kosovo forever.”

 

 

Opinion

 

Trump is looking for a foreign policy coup in the Balkans (aljazeera.com)

But Kosovo and Serbia will test Trump’s diplomacy.

In 2016, Donald Trump won the United States presidential election partially on the promise that he would clinch the best deals for the US in the international arena. Four years into his presidency, however, that pledge rings a bit hollow. Neither the “phase one” trade agreement he signed with China nor his newly unveiled deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan quite qualifies as a shining foreign policy coup. 

Could he score a major win in Europe, though? That is what he seems to be working towards.

See more at: https://bit.ly/2TGT7Wa

Don’t Trust Serbian or Kosovo ‘Kings’ to Achieve Peace (Balkan Insight)

As the over-mighty presidents of Kosovo and Serbia meet again without revealing much about their talks, the question is whether either of them has the mandate, the willpower – or the interest – to reach a final deal.

The presidents of both Kosovo and Serbia paid visits to Washington this week, and again circumvented the governments of their respective countries, reportedly making promises they have no legal right to make.

See more at: https://bit.ly/2TpZwq4

 

 

International

 

Vucic: Most Serbs Prefer a ‘Frozen Conflict’ with Kosovo (Foreign Policy)

But the Serbian president says “we need more talks” with the former province, which insists that Belgrade recognize its independence.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic traveled to Washington this week for meetings with top U.S. officials. The Balkans is seen as blind spot in U.S. foreign policy, but in recent years it has been the scene of increased interest by U.S. rivals Russia and China. 

Countries in Western Balkans are pushing to join the European Union and NATO, a major political and economic draw for many of the region’s leaders. But Belgrade faces a major diplomatic hurdle before the EU would begin accession discussions: its ongoing dispute with Kosovo, a former Serbian province that declared independence in 2008. The United States and about 100 other countries recognize Kosovo’s independence, while Russia, China, and five EU countries are among those that do not. The ongoing Serbia-Kosovo dispute has continued to fuel tensions in the region after it emerged from a bloody series of wars in the 1990s. U.S. President Donald Trump’s envoy dispatched to help resolve the deadlocked dispute, Richard Grenell, was recently named acting head of U.S. intelligence. On Monday, Vucic met with the Kosovo President Hashim Thaci at the White House with Grenell and U.S. National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien. 

During his visit to Washington, Vucic sat down for a wide-ranging interview with Foreign Policy, to discuss Serbia-Kosovo relations, Serbia’s relationships with China and Russia, and his country’s appetite to buy U.S. weapons systems. 

The full interview at: https://bit.ly/38qUVrQ

Populist Shrug Off Protests In Central And Southeast Europe (Balkan Insight)  

The latest annual ‘Freedom in the World’ report shows that mass demonstrations have done little to stop attacks on liberal democracy.

Illiberal populists in Central and Southeast Europe defended their ground or made gains in 2019, undermining democratic norms even in the face of mass protests, independent human rights group Freedom House said on Wednesday.

From Czech Republic and Poland to Montenegro and Serbia, populist regimes defied civic pressure and continued to chip away at principles of liberal democracy, the New York-based non-profit said in its latest annual Freedom in the World report.

See more at: https://bit.ly/2vJte03

 

 

Humanitarian/Development

 

Bosnia confirms its first case of coronavirus – regional TV (Reuters)

Bosnia has confirmed its first case of the new coronavirus, television in the country’s Serb-dominated region reported on Thursday, quoting the health ministry.

The case was confirmed in the Serb Republic but there were no details available immediately, the RTRS said. The regional health ministry will hold a news conference at 8 a.m. GMT. Bosnia is divided into two regions, one dominated by Serbs and the other by Croats and Bosniak Muslims.

See at: https://reut.rs/39rcbhM

“If the Greek border falls …” (B92, Tanjug)

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz pointed out that there is a triple security network in defense of the recurrence of the 2015 migrant crisis.

“There is a triple network. The first is that the Greek government, unlike earlier, is determined to defend the external border of the EU. We are in close contact with friends in the Western Balkans, and they are ready, in the event of a Greek border breakthrough, to protect their borders, preventing migrants from passing through”, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has stated, adding that the Turkish move to open its borders to Europe for migrants was an attack on both Greece and the EU, and his government will not take in new waves of migrants.

“Thirdly, the interior minister is ready to protect the Austrian border from migrant breakthroughs. This is how we prevent a new migrant crisis like the one in 2015”, Kurtz said in an interview with the Vienna daily “Kronen Zeitung”.

“This is now the trial for the European Union whether the external border defence works or not,” Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said in Vienna.

It came as the EU foreign policy chief and other European foreign ministers were meeting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara to find a solution.

“If the external border protection of the European Union doesn’t work, then Europe without internal borders is history,” Kurz said.

“This is a Turkish campaign. It is an attack by Turkey on the European Union and Greece. People are being abused in order to put pressure on Europe”, Kurz stated.

He added: “As the European Union, we mustn’t be susceptible to blackmail. If the European Union isn’t able to defy President Erdogan then we are not only showing weakness but it’s also the beginning of the end.”

He added that the surge in migrants from Turkey was the first real test for the European Union on border security since the migrant crisis of 2015 calling it an “organised rush”, but noted that the activity had been solely on the Greek border with Turkey, Kronen Zeitung reports.

The migrants gathered at the Greek border, according to Kurz, are also mostly comprised of migrants who have lived in Turkey for years, rather than asylum seekers fleeing from the Idlib region where Turkey has been conducting military operations.

See at: https://bit.ly/2TJ7UzA

Kosovo Citizens ‘Haven’t Heard of’ President’s Reconciliation Initiative (Balkan Insight)

A public opinion survey suggested that most people in Kosovo have never heard of President Hashim Thaci’s initiative to set up a truth and reconciliation commission to address the legacy of the war.

A survey by the NGO Integra published on Wednesday suggested that while people in Kosovo believe that it is important that the truth about the 1998-99 war be known, only a minority know about President Hashim Thaci’s initiative to set up a truth and reconciliation commission.

Seventy-two per cent of respondents said they had never heard of Thaci’s initiative, which aims to provide the basis for dialogue among Kosovo’s divided communities two decades after the war. Only 14 percent of respondents said they knew about the proposed commission.

See at: https://bit.ly/38qEEmL

 

 

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