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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, March 06, 2020

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Albanian Language Media:

• Vraniqi: Grenell being misused for internal political purposes in Kosovo (media)
• Thaci authorises Ministry of Finance to sign new agreements with EU (Telegrafi)
• Kosovo Special Prosecution launched investigation into Prekaz events in 1998 (Kallxo)

Serbian Language Media:

• Atlantic Council associate and Beacon vice president: “The campaign in the US should not diminish the interest in the situation in the Balkans” (RTS)
• AmCham Kosovo concerned over tariffs (KoSSev, N1, RTS)
• US asks Serbia to stop buying arms from Russia, RFE reports (N1, B92, Beta)
• Dacic, Godfrey on armament Serbia bought from Russia, dialogue with Pristina (N1)
• Vulin said Serbia can buy weapons wherever it wants (N1)
• “Access point to the sea, this is a compromise offered to Serbia” (B92, Kosovo-online)
• Grenell denies Kosovo politician’s claim Washington won’t stop aiding Pristina (KoSSev, N1, RTS)
• Tadic: Vucic has better circumstances for resolving Kosovo issue, than those Djindjic, Kostunica and I had (Danas, Voice of America)

Humanitarian/Development

• Serbian Minister confirms first coronavirus case in Serbia (Serbian media)
• 53 people got tested for coronavirus over a one-month period in Kosovo (media)
• Serbian government meeting on migrants began; Vucic issued orders to the army, police and BIA (B92, TV Prva, Blic, Vecernje Novosti)
• Prof. Corac: 160 million tons of waste from Kosovo will end up in artificial lake on Ibar River near Raska (KoSSev)

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Albanian Language Media:

  • Vraniqi: Grenell being misused for internal political purposes in Kosovo (media)
  • Thaci authorises Ministry of Finance to sign new agreements with EU (Telegrafi)
  • Kosovo Special Prosecution launched investigation into Prekaz events in 1998 (Kallxo)

Serbian Language Media:

  • Atlantic Council associate and Beacon vice president: “The campaign in the US should not diminish the interest in the situation in the Balkans” (RTS)
  • AmCham Kosovo concerned over tariffs (KoSSev, N1, RTS)
  • US asks Serbia to stop buying arms from Russia, RFE reports (N1, B92, Beta)
  • Dacic, Godfrey on armament Serbia bought from Russia, dialogue with Pristina (N1)
  • Vulin said Serbia can buy weapons wherever it wants (N1)
  • “Access point to the sea, this is a compromise offered to Serbia” (B92, Kosovo-online)
  • Grenell denies Kosovo politician’s claim Washington won’t stop aiding Pristina (KoSSev, N1, RTS)
  • Tadic: Vucic has better circumstances for resolving Kosovo issue, than those Djindjic, Kostunica and I had (Danas, Voice of America)

Humanitarian/Development

  • Serbian Minister confirms first coronavirus case in Serbia (Serbian media)
  • 53 people got tested for coronavirus over a one-month period in Kosovo (media)
  • Serbian government meeting on migrants began; Vucic issued orders to the army, police and BIA (B92, TV Prva, Blic, Vecernje Novosti)
  • Prof. Corac: 160 million tons of waste from Kosovo will end up in artificial lake on Ibar River near Raska (KoSSev)

 

 

 

Albanian Language Media

 

Vraniqi: Grenell being misused for internal political purposes in Kosovo (media)

Erzen Vraniqi, advisor to Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti, spoke in reference to the telephone conversation Kurti had with the U.S. Special Envoy for Kosovo-Serbia dialogue Richard Grenell and the National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien.

“Prime Minister Albin Kurti expressed his clear and precise position on the gradual removal of the 100 percent tariff, and gradual introduction of reciprocity. Ambassador Grenell did not like this calling it a half-measure. However, Prime Minister Albin Kurti has chosen the best and mot useful path for Kosovo with his proposal,” Vraniqi wrote.

“At the same time, Ambassador Grenell is being misused here for the internal political battle by those who lost elections and whose interests have now been undermined by the Government’s decisions, especially the dismissal of corrupt boards of some public enterprises,” Vraniqi added.

Thaci authorises Ministry of Finance to sign new agreements with EU (Telegrafi)

President of Kosovo Hashim Thaci has authorised the Minister of Finance and Transfers, Besnik Bislimi, to sign on behalf of Kosovo two new agreements with European Union.

The agreements include Kosovo’s participation in the EU’s “Customs 2020” programme while the second pertains to participation in “Fiscalis 2020” cooperation programme.  

Kosovo Special Prosecution launched investigation into Prekaz events in 1998 (Kallxo)

The Special Prosecution of Kosovo has launched an investigation into Serbian forces’ attack on the Jashari family in Prekaz in March of 1998 where 59 people were killed over a three-day period.

The news was confirmed by Special Prosecutor Drita Hajdari. “I verified whether the case has been opened by EULEX, UNMIK, or the Hague Tribunal, and after seeing that there is no open case I decided to open an investigation to resolve the case and identify criminal responsibility of war crimes regarding the case at hand,” she said.

Hajdari said that a preliminary investigation was launched in 2019. “We are in the process of collecting evidence,” she said. 

 

Serbian Language Media

 

Atlantic Council associate and Beacon vice president: “The campaign in the US should not diminish the interest in the situation in the Balkans” (RTS)

Atlantic Council associate and Beacon vice president of US Global Strategy, Mark Simakovsky told Radio Television of Serbia (RTS) that the recent visit by the Serbian president to America is a major step forward in Washington-Belgrade relations.

He stressed that the US presidential campaign should not diminish interest in the situation in the Balkans, and in particular on resolving the Kosovo issue.

Simakovsky told RTS that Vucic’s visit to Washington was a significant sign of the upswing in Serbia-United States relations, but also of Vucic’s willingness to make some difficult decisions about Serbia’s future and engagement with Kosovo.

“I think the conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee – AIPAC, showed that he was very warmly received here in Washington, both because of Serbia’s leading role in the Balkans and Serbia’s decision to open an office of the Chamber of Commerce in Jerusalem, which is in line with the US administration’s policy toward Israel,” Simakovsky said.

He says that Vucic received sincere support from more than 15,000 AIPAC delegates, and that he also applauded him. According to him, it shows that Serbia has many friends in Washington and that it is of utmost importance that people become aware of Serbia and its leading role in the region as well as its desire to join the European Union.

“I have to reiterate that as a result Serbia has more friends in Washington after this visit and his address to AIPAC,” Simakovsky told RTS.

He points out that President Vucic’s visit must be seen in a broader context and that his appearance at the Congress of AIPAC will have a significant impact on Serbia-United States relations.

“I think the appointment of Ambassador Grenell as a special envoy is of the utmost importance; he is one of President Trump’s closest advisers, someone who will likely replace his ambassador role with a more important role here in Washington, but in any case the role that AIPAC plays affects the US political decision-making, not only with regard to Israel, but with the broader range of security issues and US involvement in Europe, I think AIPAC can support Serbia, especially after the bold decision to open its economic representative office in Jerusalem,” Simakovsky said.

He points out that President Vucic’s visit to Washington will have a positive effect on better economic relations between Serbia and the United States.

“The President of Serbia is taking bold steps to resolve Serbia-Kosovo relations, and in particular his acceptance to meet with Hashim Thaci here in Washington shows that the leadership of Serbia considers it necessary for the United States to engage and that a greater economic cooperation with Serbia is needed, as well as to discuss a strategic partnership between Washington and Belgrade that would in a concrete way enhance Serbia-US relations and help Serbia improve its economic situation and integration with the European Union,” Simakovsky said.

He believes that the presidential campaign in the United States should not diminish Washington’s interest in the Balkans and particularly in addressing Kosovo’s issues.

“I think US foreign policy should continue this way regardless of the presidential elections that await us. This administration should be congratulated for the engagement in solving problems in Europe, that continue to undermine stability and security. I am thinking of Russia’s attempt to increase its influence in the Balkans, both through Serbia and some other countries. That is why I think this administration needs and wants to be more focused on the Balkans,” Simakovsky said.

AmCham Kosovo concerned over tariffs (KoSSev, N1, RTS)

The American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Kosovo expressed concern over developments in regard to the tariffs imposed by the Kosovo authorities on goods from Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, warning that tariff barriers hinder the free movement of goods and people in the countries of the region and delay the EuroAtlantic integration process.

A press release said that the unconditional lifting of the tariffs in line with calls by President Donald Trump and other top US administration officials “is of imperative importance, and genuine evidence of a commitment for exceptional relations with the US,” it said and added that the AmCham “strongly believes that the lifting of the tariffs will pave the way for a final peace agreement which would result in mutual recognition, unhindered trade and stronger economic ties, which would ultimately improve the perception of both countries in the eyes of foreign investors”.

AmCham recalled that the US “has played, and continues to play a key role for the freedom, independence and strengthening of the state of Kosovo, through continuous investments for a stronger economy, justice, democratic institutions, as well as defense and security”, adding that the Generalized System of Preferences allows the customs-free export of more than 3,500 products from Kosovo to the US.

The press release also recalled that the US is the largest contributor to KFOR forces, “guaranteeing a safe environment and freedom for Kosovo citizens which is an indicator of stability and security for foreign investors” while the Iowa National Guard has a long-term partnership with the Kosovo Security Forces.

The KoSSev news portal recalled that several US officials have called for the immediate lifting of the tariffs imposed by Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj’s government in November 2018. Kosovo’s current Prime Minister Albin Kurti has announced the gradual lifting of the tariffs starting on March 15 but called official Belgrade to stop its campaign against recognition of Kosovo and remove economic barriers for products from Kosovo.  

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

US asks Serbia to stop buying arms from Russia, RFE reports (N1, B92, Beta)

The US embassy to Serbia reiterated on Thursday Washington was “worried about Belgrade purchases of the Russian military equipment and call on the authorities to stop with translocations which with Moscow which could lead to sanctions,” Radio Free Europe (RFE) reported.

 “We call on all our allies and partners to give up transactions with Russia which pose a risk of implementing sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA),” the embassy told RFE.

The embassy said that the US and Russia “have very different views of the Western Balkans future. Washington strongly supports Serbia’s European path and its declared goal of the European Union membership. Moscow, on the other hand, is active against the Western integration of the region and attempts to prevent the solution to ethnic tensions, marginalise the US and EU influence and slows down or prevents the Western Balkans to follow its independent orientation.”

Serbia’s President confirmed on Wednesday that the complete Russian-made anti-aircraft defence system Pantsir arrived in Serbia, RFE said.    

It added that “the new purchase of the weapons and military equipment from Russia caused concern in Brussels and Washington, and that Peter Stano, a spokesperson for Joseph Borrell, the EU High Commissioner for Foreign and Security, said on February 25 that Serbia had to adjust its foreign policy to that of the bloc.

Matthew Palmer, the State Department special envoy for the Western Balkans, was the first official to mention the possibility of the US sanctions in November last year.

Next month, Vucic said Serbia would stop buying weapons, but recently announced a new purchase of the Israel-made arms, adding that would not be “a small order.”

RFE reminds that Belgrade still expects the delivery of the Moscow donation of T-72 tanks and some armoured BRDM-2 vehicles, as well four Russian-made MiG-29 fighter aircraft from Belarus which are being repaired in Baranovichi.        

See at: https://bit.ly/2Ir0yM5

Dacic, Godfrey on armament Serbia bought from Russia, dialogue with Pristina (N1)

Serbian Foreign Affairs Minister Ivica Dacic said that Belgrade hides nothing regarding its military cooperation not only with Russia, adding Serbia will not take part in anything that is contrary to the international conventions, N1 reports.  

Dacic made these remarks in a gathering “Alliance of US and Yugoslavia – Serbia: Cold War”. The event was organized by the Atlantic Council of Serbia and US in Belgrade.

During the gathering, Dacic told journalists Washington thinks that Serbia should not stop buying all sorts of weapons.

“We shall never take part in anything which is contrary to the international conventions and stances. We neither hid nor will hide anything and we will continue to nurture policy of openness and will nurture it in the future with the US, Russia, China (…),” Dacic said.

He recalled that US State Department director responsible for sanctions to Russia, Thomas Zarzecki visited Serbia in November last year and was pleased with the meeting he had.

“We have agreed that the Ministry of Defence keeps in touch with them, to have correct communication in order to avoid issues appearing in our relations,” Dacic said.

“Foreign policy is not a matter of love and hatred only, but of interests as well, and that is why it is important to find a common denominator for the interests of the most powerful country in the world and the most numerous people in the Balkans,” Dacic noted. He recalled positive examples of US-Serbia relations in the history, expressing hope there would be some in the present times as well.

US Ambassador to Serbia, Anthony Godfrey said he appreciates the transparency Serbia demonstrated to the embassy and Zarzecki during his visit to Serbia.

“It does not mean that we are not following the transactions in this area and that US Congress is not concerned over this topic,” Godfrey said. He also noted that the US law on sanction is rather complicated

Talking about Kosovo issue, Dacic said this issue is of vital national interest and that Serbia remains fully open to further talks on technical and political levels, adding it sees the US as one of the crucial partners in reaching a lasting and sustainable solution.

He expressed hope that special envoys Richard Grenell and Mathew Palmer will continue constructive approach and active engagement to overcome the stalemate in the dialogue, as well as offer support in finding mutually acceptable, fair and sustainable solution.  

“We hope that immediately after revoking illegally introduced Pristina’s tariffs on goods from central Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, without further conditioning by reciprocity measures, the dialogue would continue in a good faith,” Dacic emphasized. 

Vulin said Serbia can buy weapons wherever it wants (N1)

Serbian Defence Minister Aleksandar Vulin said on Friday that Serbia is not a colony and can buy weapons from whoever it chooses, N1 reports.

“Serbia is not a colony and as long as it is headed by (President) Aleksandar Vucic it will take its own decisions on strengthening and equipping of its military and it will decide on its own which friendly countries it will buy arms and equipment from,” Defence Ministry said in a press release.   

“The stronger the Serbian military, the longer peace in the Balkans will last,” he said. Vulin also said that no one should be concerned over the fact that Serbia is equipping its military for defence. “As a militarily neutral country, Serbia has to be prepared and capable of defending itself and Serbs wherever they live,” he noted. 

According to Vulin, there is no reason to impose sanctions on Serbia. “I am certain that no country would do that if it respects international law and Serbia’s right to decide independently on its equipment and weapons”. 

Vulin’s comments come a day after the US Embassy expressed concern over Serbian purchases of Russian military equipment. 

See at: https://bit.ly/32SqHwL

“Access point to the sea, this is a compromise offered to Serbia” (B92, Kosovo-online)

Kosovo Minister for European Integration Blerim Reka told RTK that no one has the right to negotiate territory swap with Serbia.

According to B92, Reka also said Serbia was offered a major compromise, and that is the access to Durres port in Albania via Kosovo, without explaining the proposal in more details.

He said that Serbia is blocked and does not have access to the sea because it is blocked from Montenegro, and it cannot access it through Northern Macedonia either, Kosovo online reports.

See at: https://bit.ly/2IlzTAj

Grenell denies Kosovo politician’s claim Washington won’t stop aiding Pristina (KoSSev, N1, RTS)

Richard Grenell, the US President Donald Trump special envoy to Belgrade – Pristina dialogue on the normalisation of relations, denied Erzen Vraniqi, a member of the Kosovo ruling Self-determination movement, who said Washington would not stop aiding Pristina in case its leadership “continues to harm own people,” KoSSev website reported on Thursday.

Vraniqi said that the US officials told that to Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti in phone talks. Vraniqi added that Washington said it would not withdraw its troops from Kosovo. However, Grenell tweeted that was not true.

”This is not true. We made clear to Kurti that his decision to keep the tariffs even partially in place were harming Kosovo’s economy – and that the US would not waste our assistance in Kosovo’s leadership kept harming its people this way,” tweeted  Grenell as a response to Berat Buzhala’s question, reported portal KoSSev. 

On February 28, Grenell also told Kurti that Washington disagreed with a partial lifting of the 100 percent import tariffs on goods from Serbia and BiH.   

Tadic: Vucic has better circumstances for resolving Kosovo issue, than those Djindjic, Kostunica and I had (Danas, Voice of America)

Aleksandar Vucic has better circumstances for resolving the Kosovo issue, than those (Zoran) Djindjic, (Vojislav) Kostunica and I had, former Serbian President Boris Tadic told Voice of America. He added, there is no dilemma that the Kosovo issue must be resolved.

Tadic opined that at this moment the situation in Kosovo is marked with the fact that prime minister there is a man of a strong political energy, even some sort of a political fanaticism, but with a low state experience.

According to Tadic, this feature which slows down the process of talks about some future solution, suits Vucic as it enables him to have a short break, or even a bit longer breaks in resolving the Kosovo issue. Tadic also said that pressure is not exerted on Vucic at this moment, but rather on the Pristina’s side.

Commenting on the Vucic-Thaci meeting in Washington recently, Tadic said this meeting had no fundamental significance on the events in Kosovo, because Kurti would not react the way Thaci told him he should react. The former Serbian President noted it is good that representatives of the Serbs and Albanians meet, because there is no solution without a dialogue.

He recalled that there were attempts to impose a solution to the Kosovo issue during his tenure, something that he did not accept, in line with “the strategy that I won’t let us lose in peace, what we have not lost in the war.” In this regard, Tadic explained he referred to the north of Kosovo, underlining that Serbia must never give up on the struggle to preserve identity in relation to its historic monasteries, property protection and rights of the Serbs living south of the Ibar River.

Tadic has no dilemma whether the Kosovo issue should be resolved, it must be, as on the contrary Serbia will not be able to implement necessary reforms and ensure stability in a longer-term period as well as development for the citizens.

According to him, the Kosovo issue must be resolved in a manner that does not traumatize Serbia. He said he believes that Aleksandar Vucic and Ivica Dacic “bought some sort of international support by accepting the Brussels agreement,” something that he would not accept if he was at their place. 

 

 

Humanitarian/Development

 

Serbian Minister confirms first coronavirus case in Serbia (Serbian media)

Serbian Health Minister Zlatibor Loncar said on Friday that the first COVID-19 case had been registered in Serbia.

He said that a man in the northern city of Subotica had tested positive for the coronavirus, adding that he had been in contact with his sister in Budapest who had respiratory problems. The man self-isolated himself and is now in isolation in hospital in Subotica, the minister told a hastily called news conference.  

He said there is no reason to panic. “Serbia is absolutely prepared for this,” he said and added that everything necessary would be done. “We will continue to inform you in the most transparent way to provide information to the public,” the minister said. 

Loncar said that all the health ministers in Europe, whether in the European Union or not, should meet to agree on how to tackle the global problem.

Earlier on Friday, the Health Ministry issued its daily bulletin saying no COVID-19 cases had been reported and adding that another six people had been tested over the previous 24 hours none of them testing positive for the coronavirus.

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

53 people got tested for coronavirus over a one-month period in Kosovo (media)

Majority of online media outlets carry a statement from the Kosovo’s National Institute of Public Health saying that from the period of 8 February to 5 March 2020, 53 samples were tested for the presence of coronavirus, and all resulted negative.

The Institute said that it has received information yesterday from the Kosovo University and Clinical Centre (QKUK) about one suspected case with COVID-19. The results came back negative. 

Serbian government meeting on migrants began; Vucic issued orders to the army, police and BIA (B92, TV Prva, Blic, Vecernje Novosti)

Due to an increasingly unreliable situation, a meeting on migrant related issues and coordination of work of state bodies is held today in the Government of Serbia, reports portal B92. 

The meeting will be attended by Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, along with the Ministers of the Interior and Defense, Nebojsa Stefanovic and Aleksandar Vulin.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has already ordered the army, police and the Security Information Agency (BIA) to close border to North Macedonia almost hermetically in case of a migrant inflow that has been attempting to enter Greece for days, Belgrade media reported last night.

According to Belgrade based dailies, Vecernje Novosti and Blic, the President of Serbia has taken this precautionary step, taking into account, first of all, national security, although, as Novosti reports, he is against xenophobic politics, because Serbian people have been taught through their own tragic experience, to always show solidarity with all those who had fled the war zones.

Vucic has been receiving operational data on a daily basis from Serbian security services since Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan opened borders and allowed refugees to cross to the EU.

The President of Serbia is convinced that if necessary, Serbia would be able to protect its territory and that it would not become not become a “parking lot for migrants”.

B92 recalls that Greece has blocked the entry of nearly 35,000 migrants so far and is preparing to deport hundreds of those who have managed to enter the country since Turkey opened the border.

Ankara, on the other hand, deployed around 1,000 of its specialists to prevent the return of migrants to the interior of Turkey.

The Bundestag overwhelmingly rejected a request by the Greens to accept 5,000 refugees from vulnerable groups from the Greek islands.

Moreover, because of the migrant situation, EU foreign ministers scheduled an extraordinary meeting in Zagreb today.

See at: https://bit.ly/2vztRta

Prof. Corac: 160 million tons of waste from Kosovo will end up in artificial lake on Ibar River near Raska (KoSSev)

With each passing year, a growing number of tons of tailings will be released into the artificial lake being built on the Ibar River, between Raska and Kraljevo, where the construction of the MHPP is planned, out of the total amount of 160 million tons of industrial waste found in the territory of this basin – Professor at the Faculty of Medicine in Mitrovica North, Aleksandar Corac said on the KoSSev portal’s “Propitivanje” talk-show.

Corac pointed out that this large amount of waste has a major impact not only on the environment in Kosovo, but also in central Serbia, or part of the Danube region, as the waste used to end up in the Danube river. With the construction of the lake, the Raska area will also suffer harmful effects – he warned.

See at: https://bit.ly/39uYAGb

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