Albanian Language Media:
- Kurti: Without punishment of war crimes, there can be no justice (Koha/Zeri)
- Kurti doesn’t attend meeting with Thaci (Koha)
- Thaci thanks LDK for constructivity (media)
- Haradinaj: Thaci showed no document from his meeting with Vucic (media)
Serbian Language Media:
- Vucic on Kurti’s text that agreements reached through coercion and threats have no value, compares it with Kosovo case (Tanjug, B92)
- Jeremic on Kosovo membership in UN, elections in Serbia (Voice of America, N1)
- Mihajlovic: Jeremic spreads misinformation (Danas)
- Vucic: “US won’t give up pressure, some EU countries have sympathies for Kurti” (RTS, Tanjug, Kosovo Online)
- Double-headed eagle painted on wall of Serb school in Preoce village (RTS)
- Kurti: Agreements reached through coercion and threats have no value (FAZ/Koha)
- Facebook Extends Political Ads Rules to Balkans Before Elections (Balkan Insight)
- Kosovo considering stepping up preventive measures against coronavirus (media)
- International Women’s Day Marked Across Balkans (Balkan Insight)
- More Balkan Countries Confirm First Coronavirus Cases (Balkan Insight)
- Balkan States Beef up Borders against Migrant ‘Security Threat’ (Balkan Insight)
- Post-War Kosovo Becomes Hub for Mine-Clearance Expertise (Balkan Insight)
Albanian Language Media
Kurti: Without punishment of war crimes, there can be no justice (Koha/Zeri)
Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti said that there is still no justice for survivors of sexual violence and expressed commitment of the government to support the plight of this category.
In his remarks at the special session of the Assembly called to pay tribute to survivors of sexual violence during conflict and to raise the awareness of the society on this issue, Kurti aid that “we cannot imagine the pain and horror the survivors of sexual violence experienced.”
“Silence and failure to act protect the crime and perpetrator. Our courts and prosecutions need to treat these cases with utmost seriousness,” Kurti said.
He said that crimes committed by Serbian forces in Kosovo, including those of sexual violence, will be raised at the dialogue process. “Kosovo’s genocide lawsuit against Serbia is a priority for my government. Without punishment of war crimes, there can be no justice,” Kurti said.
Kurti doesn’t attend meeting with Thaci (Koha)
Prime Minister of Kosovo and leader of the Vetevendosje Movement Albin Kurti did not go to a meeting called by President Hashim Thaci.
Kurti said that Thaci should have instead taken part in today’s session of the Kosovo Assembly dedicated to the survivors of sexual violence during conflict and not organise meetings.
Kurti told Koha that as a leader of Vetevendosje he has no readiness to meet Thaci but that as prime minister he is obliged to do so.
“There are two reasons why I will not have a meeting with the Kosovo president. First is that today is the day when Ms. Vasfije Krasniqi-Goodman will speak. The president should have come to the Assembly to hear her. Not to organise separate meetings to divide. Second, the President has scheduled to meet leaders of parties today. As leader of the Vetevendosje Movement I have neither an interest nor readiness to meet the current President. As Prime Minister it is my duty. We will meet some other day when he finishes meeting parties,” Kurti said.
Thaci thanks LDK for constructivity (media)
President of Kosovo Hashim Thaci met today the leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) Isa Mustafa and the deputy leader Lutfi Haziri.
LDK officials made no statements to reporters after the meeting while Thaci wrote on Twitter: “Excellent working meeting with former Prime-Minister and leader of LDK, Mr. Isa Mustafa. We agreed to have a unified position on key national issues. Grateful to Mr. Mustafa and LDK for always being constructive in state-building matters.”
Thaci has called leaders of main political parties to meet him today to discuss, as he said, issues of state interest.
Haradinaj: Thaci showed no document from his meeting with Vucic (media)
Leader of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) Ramush Haradinaj met President of Kosovo Hashim Thaci today.
He spoke to the media after the meeting and said that Thaci informed him about his meeting with President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic in Washington. Haradinaj quoted Thaci as saying that the meeting with Vucic focused on ways to move forward towards a final agreement and that no document was signed.
Haradinaj said that he presented his position on dialogue with Serbia issue. “I explained the fact that the success of an agreement depends on the topics discussed. If the border issue is discussed, the process will fail even without properly beginning.”
Serbian Language Media
Vucic on Kurti’s text that agreements reached through coercion and threats have no value, compares it with Kosovo case (Tanjug, B92)
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said Saturday he fully agrees with Albin Kurti’s statement that decisions brought under pressure are worthless, Tanjug news agency reports.
However, he reminded the Kosovo prime minister everything that results from mere force is even less worth, as was the case with Kosovo seizure from Serbia by NATO aggression.
In a text to “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung”, Kurti said that signing something under pressure or consenting to something through threats or coercion cannot be valid and lacks validity, legitimacy. Commenting on this Vucic said that “this is the only thing I agree with Kurti.”
He said he would repeat Kurti’s statement everywhere, because, as he explained, it implies that, everything obtained by force is even less worth:
“Kurti must take into account that everything that has been achieved by force, and by aggression against Serbia, by the terrible aggression of 19 countries against Serbia, which is more than a threat and is a direct coercion”, President Vucic said.
He said that Serbia would wait for Pristina to abolish tariffs on Serbian goods, adding that Serbia would not thank them then.
“We will not say thank you when they suspend tariffs, but we will tell them how much damage they have done to us, unlawfully, what they have done against our country and our people, and we will continue to work, to try to make this damage incomparably less in the future,” Vucic told reporters in the village of Mala Remeta near Fruska Gora when visiting “Deuric” winery.
He stated that he doesn’t intend to thank “the ones who ruined our economy”.
Vucic again noted that he was “very pleased” by Kurti’s statement on pressure and coercion, added that he would quote it “on any occasion and the meetings he attended in the world” and would “ask” everyone to appreciate Kurti’s argument, because, as he stated, “all that is obtained in Kosovo by force and aggression cannot be respected”.
Vucic also said that the US had taken a very rational and principled approach to the abolition of tariffs by Pristina.
“When we are asked by individual European partners to praise the partial abolition of tariffs, it is like when you have a bully in the house, who is beating a woman with his fists and feet, but says one day – starting from today, I will no longer use my fists and feet but, as a sign of goodwill, I’m just going to slap you. And then this woman should say, “I’m just happy about that, it’s a wonderful sign of attention and we’re now much better off”, Vucic concluded.
See at: https://bit.ly/2TynnDK
Jeremic on Kosovo membership in UN, elections in Serbia (Voice of America, N1)
Leader of Serbian opposition Peoples’ Party (NS) Vuk Jeremic paid a visit to Washington and met with US State Department officials, congressmen and senators. He told the Voice of America (VoA) that they discussed upcoming elections in Serbia.
The US administration is against the boycott of the election, and Jeremic claims they have now accepted it (the boycott), Voice of America reports.
“What was very important was that something we had been told before – that unless we took part in the election we would no longer be a credible interlocutor of the international community, was obviously taken off the table, and the Serbian opposition remains a credible interlocutor of the international community,” Jeremic said.
It was not difficult to conclude that the US has high expectations from Belgrade and Pristina immediately after the elections in Serbia, he added.
“Before the elections in Serbia – no, but after the elections, there are high expectations. I expressed my concern regarding those expectations. I don’t think that what was presented is true. I also expressed my suspicion in the credibility of Vucic’s Washington interlocutor Hashim Thaci expressing doubt that he could deliver what they agreed on,” Jeremic said.
Asked if he knew what they had agreed on and what will happen with Kosovo after the election, Jeremic said they did not tell him.
“It would be wrong of me to convey even the insinuations which US officials may have conveyed to me. My expectation is that it is a comprehensive agreement to normalize relations between Belgrade and Pristina,” Jeremic said.
My conclusion is that Ambassador Grenel and the top US administration expect Belgrade and Pristina to conclude their November agreement. When I spoke to my interlocutors in Washington, none of them said they disagreed with my analysis,” he added.
Asked what the comprehensive agreement on normalization of relations could entail and does it include recognition of Kosovo, Jeremic responded it entails Kosovo in the UN in a full capacity, in an equal capacity as Serbia, France, Greece and all other UN member states. Jeremic added that Serbian opposition in no way would support that.
“Our position is very clear. Any sort of agreement that would bring in question territorial integrity of Serbia, is unacceptable for Serbian opposition. That agreement, which would bring Kosovo into the UN would be a direct and flagrant violation of our Constitution and we are against it,” Jeremic said.
Mihajlovic: Jeremic spreads misinformation (Danas)
Member of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) presidency and Minister of Infrastructure, Zorana Mihajlovic said that the leader of Peoples’ Party (NS) Vuk Jeremic continues to display disrespect towards Serbia and its citizens by using any chance available abroad to spread misinformation about his own country, Danas daily reports.
Mihajlovic made these remarks commenting on the interview Jeremic gave to the Voice of America during his visit to Washington.
“It is interesting that Vuk Jeremic talks about the possibility of Kosovo getting a membership in the UN, right at the time when thanks to the foreign policy Serbia is conducting, countries that have recognized Kosovo for the first time do not constitute a majority in the UN,” Mihajlovic said in a written statement.
She also assessed that “it is more important to Vuk Jeremic to voice his stances outside of Serbia than to talk to the citizens directly and tell them what his political program is.” She also opined it is probably because “citizens of Serbia would not want to listen to the misinformation about their country, something that Jeremic regularly does while abroad.”
Vucic: “US won’t give up pressure, some EU countries have sympathies for Kurti” (RTS, Tanjug, Kosovo Online)
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic says he is sure Washington will not give up pressure on Pristina to abolish tariffs, but adds that there is no doubt that in some European countries there is some sympathy for Albin Kurti, who is not part of the negotiations and initiatives led by the United States.
“I am sure that Washington will not abstain from seeking fulfilment of the conditions for the beginning of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue,” Vucic told reporters after visiting Krusik, city of Valjevo, answering the question whether stronger pressure from Washington could be expected in the coming days.
Asked if he believed Kurti had strong EU support, given that tariffs had not been yet abolished, Vucic replied that there was no doubt that in some European countries there was some sympathy for Kosovo PM, Albin Kurti but added that such sympathy was present and in a part of Serbia’s public .
“Until the man did not start talking about the formation of Greater Albania, now they are a little embarrassed that they supported him when he won the elections, but that passes … The honeymoon always lasts for a short time,” Vucic said.
Double-headed eagle painted on wall of Serb school in Preoce village (RTS)
Graffiti depicting a double-headed eagle in black and red colours was painted on the wall of a school premise in the Serb village of Preoce, Gracanica municipality, RTS reports.
Village residents noticed the graffiti on Sunday and reported the case to the police. Village representatives also recalled that 20 days ago they faced similar provocation when “KLA” and other graffiti glorifying Kosovo and Albania were inscribed on the same premise.
They urged authorities to prevent such occurrences that cause disturbance among the local population as well as find those responsible.
“We are getting the message that we no longer have a place to live here, but we hope we shall sustain. People feel disturbed and afraid,” Aleksandar Kostic said.
The police conducted the investigation, and the wall will be painted over.
Gracanica mayor Srdjan Popovic said no one has expected something like this will happen again, particularly after the appeal they sent to the police and other respective bodies. He said they would continue insisting that the perpetrators are found.
The Office for Kosovo and Metohija reacted as well, saying “where threats, intimidations and violence reign there is no room for a dialogue.”
“Such messages target the most vulnerable ones, Serbian children, and the question arises when will international representatives in Kosovo and Metohija finally realize that the situation is alarming and that urgent and decisive acts are needed before the great-Albanian chauvinism in our southern province turns into an open violence,” the Office said in a statement.
Serbian List (SL) in the strongest terms condemned the endangering of peace and tranquillity of the Serbian population.
SL said that the inscription of provocative graffiti on educational institutions attended by the Serbian children “is absolutely shameful and deserves every sort of condemnation”.
“Such an attitude is a consequence of Pristina politicians’ irresponsibility who are using the language of hatred and thus create conducive ground for inciting national hatred. However, the responsibility also lies on the security bodies who as per rule remain silent and passive when it comes to finding out and sanctioning those responsible,” SL said in a statement.
The SL also said they are disappointed over the silence of the international community regarding the attacks against Serbs, in particular against the institutions where Serbian children are being educated.
Kurti: Agreements reached through coercion and threats have no value (FAZ/Koha)
Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti wrote an opinion piece for the German daily paper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung where he spoke about dialogue with Serbia and stressed that “a quick agreement between Kosovo and Serbia is good but a good agreement is better.”
“A good agreement must be based on democratic principles,” Kurti wrote adding that only as such can it have long-term success.
He said that reciprocity towards Serbia that is being sought by the Kosovar government and which aims to create preconditions for a substantial agreement, represents in the short term an important step in achieving economic and political stability between Kosovo and Serbia. In the long term, it is an important step towards building good neighbourly relations until they are fully normalised.
According to Kurti, normalisation of relations is only possible if the parties agree upon rules and principles which they will both observe. “Politics aimed at retaliation is short-lived and without perspective.”
“We invite the European Union and the United States to monitor the process and pre-define measures to be taken in the event of non-compliance with the principles and any violations of the agreement,” Kurti wrote.
He noted that the 100 percent tariff measures on Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina were inherited from the previous government and underlined that the principle of reciprocity was always a guiding principle of his Vetevendosje party. “Furthermore, reciprocity as a value stems from the concept of equality and is present in all international relations. Sustainable peace and equality are the guiding principles of the Kosovar government, of which I have been prime minister since the beginning of February. Mutual respect is essential for achieving these goals, because only this way can a possible agreement have a really positive impact on people’s lives.”
Agreements reached through ‘coercion’ and ‘threats’ which are not based on mutual respect, added Kurti, “are not worth the paper on which we sign.”
“Therefore, as a sign of our goodwill and willingness to resolve political disputes, we want to lift the tariff for raw materials imported from Serbia and Bosnia-Hercegovina from March 15, 2020. In return, we call on Serbia to end the campaign against the recognition of Kosovo’s independence and to remove non-tariff barriers to trade. If the Serbian side shows goodwill here, the Kosovar government will completely lift import duties for goods from Serbia and Bosnia-Hercegovina for a period of 90 days from 1 April 2020. We hope that the European Union will offer visa liberalisation to the Kosovar side before the Zagreb Summit on May 7th.”
Kurti said that if Serbia does not respect the goodwill gesture of the Kosovo government, “on 1 April we will begin the gradual implementation of the principle of reciprocity, first in trade, then also in economy and politics. We will then focus on our primary domestic government goals that are essential to people’s lives: jobs and the rule of law. To achieve this, we will fight corruption with all means and thus take care of the economic development of our country.”
Facebook Extends Political Ads Rules to Balkans Before Elections (Balkan Insight)
With elections due this year in at least three Balkan states, the social media giant has added five countries in the region to its list of states that must label any political or election-related ads clearly as such.
Facebook has added Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Moldova and Turkey to its updated list of countries that must adhere to its strict political advertising transparency regulations.
The enforcement of the new regulations is expected in mid-March, about a month before parliamentary elections in Serbia and North Macedonia, due on April 26 and April 12 respectively. Montenegro is also due to hold the elections this year, by October at the latest.
Facebook launched the regulations in June last year. They mean that any adverts paid for by a political group or candidate must be labelled as such.
See at: https://bit.ly/39A42I9
Kosovo considering stepping up preventive measures against coronavirus (media)
Kosovo’s Deputy Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti said that in coordination with the Ministry of Education, they are looking into whether the government needs to undertake additional preventive measures in education institutions against COVID 19.
“Any measure will be coordinated with healthcare authorities. We will discuss this issue at the meeting of the government and will undertake necessary measures,” Hoti wrote on Facebook.
Earlier in the day, Pristina Mayor Shpend Ahmeti said that Kosovo institutions need to take appropriate measures to prevent coronavirus infections.
Preventive measures that should be considered without delay, according to Ahmeti, include banning public gatherings and even closing schools.
International Women’s Day Marked Across Balkans (Balkan Insight)
Women across the Balkans held protest rallies on International Women’s Day on March 8, drawing attention to the plight of many women in their countries, and to the fight against violence, chauvinism, misogyny and nationalism.
Women in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Romania, North Macedonia, Serbia, Kosovo, Bulgaria and Croatia staged rallies on International Women’s Day, opposing violence and discrimination and demanding better rights and more equal treatment.
See at: https://bit.ly/2wImUWA
More Balkan Countries Confirm First Coronavirus Cases (Balkan Insight)
With Albania, Bulgaria and Moldova reporting their first cases of the coronavirus, countries in the region are tightening security measures and restricting travel to and from Italy.
Albania, Bulgaria and Moldova registered their first cases of the coronavirus at the weekend as the illness continues to expand its reach in the Balkans and worldwide.
The Albanian Ministry of Health on Sunday said the two cases had arrived from Italy, were in a stable condition and have been placed in care.
“The patients, a father and son who flew from Florence to Tirana, are stable and without complications,” a Facebook post read.
The ministry urged recent travelers from Italy to quarantine themselves at home for 14 days and call 127 if they feel sick.
See at: https://bit.ly/2TRGPKG
Balkan States Beef up Borders against Migrant ‘Security Threat’ (Balkan Insight)
Rights groups deplore “hysterical and inappropriate language” framing crisis as an issue of security, rather than human rights.
Governments in the Balkans are beefing up borders and readying soldiers in the event of a new influx of migrants and refugees, with Serbia reportedly ready to seal its southern frontier with North Macedonia after Turkey abandoned a 2016 migration pact with the European Union.
The Balkan peninsula became the crossing point for hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war, poverty and repression in the Middle East, Africa and Asia in 2015.
A 2016 deal between the European Union and Turkey helped stem the flow but at the end of February, smarting from military setbacks in neighbouring Syria, Ankara scrapped the pact and lifted restrictions on millions of refugees and migrants within its borders.
Tens of thousands are now on the border with Greece and at Aegean ports, their route to Europe blocked by Greek police whom rights groups accuse of using increasingly heavy-handed tactics to keep them out.
See at: https://bit.ly/3aG5E3a
Post-War Kosovo Becomes Hub for Mine-Clearance Expertise (Balkan Insight)
After the success of efforts to clear unexploded mines from the 1998-99 war, a training centre in Kosovo is teaching deminers to remove explosives in other conflict-ravaged countries around the world.
Yugoslav-era mines lie scattered across the ground in an area marked off with sticks. In the middle of the area, the remains of a dead animal can be seen.
To the left, another zone is marked as ‘contaminated’ with unexploded ordnance, although no mines are visible to the eye. Instead they are covered by vegetation, even deadlier than if they were in plain sight.
This is a mocked-up minefield at the MAT Kosovo training centre in the town of Peja/Pec, intended to simulate the kind of treacherous terrain that deminers will find when they are working in the field. The only difference is that the mines here at the training centre have been deactivated.
See at: https://bit.ly/3cIa9fn