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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, March 13, 2020

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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, March 13, 2020

Albanian Language Media:

• Albania shuts down border with Kosovo (media)
• Surroi: Thaci cannot sign agreement on his own (Telegrafi)

Serbian Language Media:

• Vucic on Serbia’s measures against coronavirus, salary increase to medical personnel (B92)
• Ministry: 31 persons infected with coronavirus in Serbia (B92)
• Vecernje Novosti: Trump could get rid of Kurti? (B92)
• Borrell Messages to Kurti: Tariffs need to be completely abolished, Lajcak as special envoy for Belgrade – Pristina dialogue (RTS)
• Djuric: Pristina violates agreement on freedom of movement (RTV Puls)
• Vucic and Merkel: Video-conference instead of meeting (Sputnik)
• Detention of Zlatan Krstic extended, his deteriorated health additional problem (Kosovo-online)
• Djuric with Botsan-Kharchenko (media)

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Albanian Language Media:

  • Albania shuts down border with Kosovo (media)
  • Surroi: Thaci cannot sign agreement on his own (Telegrafi)

Serbian Language Media:

  • Vucic on Serbia’s measures against coronavirus, salary increase to medical personnel (B92)
  • Ministry: 31 persons infected with coronavirus in Serbia (B92)
  • Vecernje Novosti: Trump could get rid of Kurti? (B92)
  • Borrell Messages to Kurti: Tariffs need to be completely abolished, Lajcak as special envoy for Belgrade – Pristina dialogue (RTS)
  • Djuric: Pristina violates agreement on freedom of movement (RTV Puls)
  • Vucic and Merkel: Video-conference instead of meeting (Sputnik)
  • Detention of Zlatan Krstic extended, his deteriorated health additional problem (Kosovo-online)
  • Djuric with Botsan-Kharchenko (media)

International Language Media:

  • Health system lacking basic hygienic provisions (Prishtina Insight)


Albanian Language Media


Albania shuts down border with Kosovo (media)

All news websites report that Albanian authorities have decided to shut down all border crossing points with Kosovo this morning at 06:00 hours. As part of measures against the coronavirus, the Albanian Government announced that the border crossing points will be closed until March 15.

Surroi: Thaci cannot sign agreement on his own (Telegrafi)

Publicist Veton Surroi said in a debate in TV Dukagjini on Thursday evening that a final peace accord between Kosovo and Serbia can be signed only with a broad representation of the political landscape. Surroi said that Kosovo President Hashim Thaci cannot sign an agreement without the inclusion of the government. 



Serbian Language Media


Vucic on Serbia’s measures against coronavirus, salary increase to medical personnel (B92)

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has announced last night a 10 percent pay raise for all health care workers, B92 reports. He added the increase comes in line with the pressure healthcare professionals are facing.

Vucic also stressed that the situation in Serbia is not simple.

“Serbia is in a complex situation, like the whole world, for the first time in decades. We have the simultaneous impact of a severe contagion that has hit the whole world, including our country.” Vucic noted the seriousness of the situation is shown by the fact that for the first time we have a ban on flights from Europe to the USA.

The President also emphasized that the most important concern for citizens is health.

“We have been more prepared to meet these challenges than many developed countries. It won’t get any easier in the days to come. We will have more cases and will lose some of them just as we lost some to the seasonal flu, cardiovascular diseases and cancer. We can only get through that if we are united and show solidarity,” he said.

According to him, two crisis groups will be formed, one for the medical aspects of the pandemic and the other to deal with the economic consequences

“Prime Minister Ana Brnabic will be at the head of the first task group, and Minister Loncar and other doctors will be at the helm. I, and Minister Sinisa Mali and Serbian Chamber of Commerce Director Marko Cadez, will head the second group,” Vucic said.

He also promised the payment of one-time assistance to pensioners of at least RSD 4,000, which will be paid between April 1 and 4. Vucic said that Serbia has 1.008 respirators, which is three times more than we had in 2009, and that more respirators are being purchased.

He said that the Infectious Diseases Clinic in Belgrade and some of the units of the clinical centres in Novi Sad and Nis, respectively, would be assigned solely for admitting coronavirus patients.

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

Ministry: 31 persons infected with coronavirus in Serbia (B92)

According to the latest information from the Serbian Ministry of Health, published this morning at 8.00 o’clock, 31 people have contracted coronavirus in Serbia so far, B92 reports.

By 8 a.m. on March 13, 2020, a total of 214 people were tested in the national reference laboratory of the Torlak Institute, which met the criteria of the case definition.

From last report to 8 p.m., on March 13, 2020, 29 samples were tested, 7 of which were positive and 22 negative for the novel coronavirus.

Vecernje Novosti: Trump could get rid of Kurti? (B92)

Belgrade based daily Vecernje Novosti reports that that the US has a new strategy for disciplining the government in Pristina that persistently refuses to abolish fees.

If Washington’s threats of denying economic aid and withdrawing US troops from Kosovo do not discipline the Kosovo PM, Albin Kurti, and in case he does not suspend tariffs, it is not excluded that the United States will pull another trump card – a change of government in Pristina.  

In an otherwise loose Kurti’s ruling majority, his most important partner, Isa Mustafa’s Democratic League of Kosovo (PDK) has been threatening for days to deny him support if he does not withdraw tariffs without conditioning on all goods from central Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

In a political calculation that could be pushed by the US, a new majority would be made by Mustafa’s PDK (28 MPs), Kadri Veseli’s Democratic Party of Kosovo, that is to say, Hashim Thaci (24 MPs), Fatmir Limaj’s Social Democratic Initiative (4 MPs) and Behgjet Pacolli’s Alliance for the New Kosovo (2 MPs). The required majority of the 61, out of the 120 MPs the Pristina parliament is composed of, in this case would be secured from the parliamentary “reservoir” of minority communities, not including the Serbian List, writes Vecernje Novosti. 

The “war” between Albanian leaders in Pristina over fees and relations with the United States has particularly culminated with the return of Hashim Thaci, from the United States. He sharply criticizes Kurti for his stubborn policy of seriously risking that their main patron turns back, that is, as Thaci says, he’s commitment to “destroying historic alliances”.

The leader of the Self-Determination, apparently encouraged by the support of one of the leading EU countries with a different approach to solving the Kosovo problem than the White House, accused Thaci of being anti-European and participating in the “secret agreement between Serbia and Kosovo”.

The daily writes that Thaci’s message that “the United States has finally taken over the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia,” officials from Brussels reiterate somewhat angrily that “the EU remains the only mediator in charge of organizing Belgrade-Pristina negotiations.” However, for the time being, Brussels does not offer a concrete solution to the deadlock in which dialogue has fallen due to Pristina’s unilateral moves, that is, the introduction of tariffs.

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic reiterated Thursday that “abolishing fees is a key precondition for the resumption of dialogue”:

“Also, Pristina’s decisions to form a so-called Defense Ministry and transform ‘Kosovo security forces’ into an armed formation are unacceptable to us, as they not only harm the dialogue process, but can also affect the destabilization of the region.”

Borrell Messages to Kurti: Tariffs need to be completely abolished, Lajcak as special envoy for Belgrade – Pristina dialogue (RTS)

Radio Television of Serbia (RTS) reported that High Representative Josep Borell asked Kosovo PM Albin Kurti to completely remove the tariff on Serbian goods in order to continue the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, and said that he was pleased that one of main goals, Kurti placed the relationship with the EU. 

Borell also informed Kurti that he had proposed Miroslav Lajcak as EU special envoy for dialogue.

Borell appealed for reform of the rule of law, economic development and good governance in Kosovo.

“As you know, the European Union and its Member States firmly believe that continuing dialogue talks is necessary and urgent and will require a complete abolition of the tariffs. As we have reiterated, we also expect Serbia to give its share to restart the process,” he wrote, referring to Kurti’s announcement of the partial abolition of the tariffs. 

“We need a complete abolition of the tariffs. In this context, I fully agree with you that earlier agreements and outstanding obligations must be fully implemented,” Borell said.

According to him, Belgrade and Pristina must fulfil their obligations in implementing these agreements.

“In your letter, you mentioned monitoring and sanctioning mechanisms: Since the beginning of the dialogue, the European Union has put in place concrete and comprehensive mechanisms to ensure that both parties adhere to their obligations in existing and future agreements,” Borell wrote, media in Pristina reported.

Borell also informed Kurti that he had proposed Miroslav Lajcak as EU special envoy and said that he hoped he would start with the work as soon as possible.

“In the wake of our recent telephone conversation, I would like to confirm that I have already formally proposed to Member States the appointment of Miroslav Lajcak, EU Special Representative for Dialogue and the Western Balkans, to assist me as an EU mediator. I hope that he can start soon with his work. For my part, I promise to remain closely involved in this process, and do my best to move it forward quickly and effectively. Both Kosovo and Serbia, the wider region and the EU itself will ultimately benefit from a positive outcome,” Borell concluded.

Djuric: Pristina violates agreement on freedom of movement (RTV Puls)

By banning Secretary General of the Serbian President, Nikola Selakovic to enter Kosovo, Pristina once again in the most unprecedented manner has violated agreements on the freedom of movement, guaranteed by the EU and trampled all European standards on respecting human rights and freedoms, Office for Kosovo and Metohija Director Marko Djuric said, RTV Puls reports.

He added, the EU is obliged to undertake steps and measures in order to ensure implementation of the agreement, reached under its mediation within the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, and a fact that the ban was made in order to impact independent judicial bodies of the Republic of Serbia is also a reason for an urgent action.

Djuric also said that freedom of movement must precede any further talks on normalization, and Pristina must give up on constant attempts to impose its will by provocations and blackmails. 

Vucic and Merkel: Video-conference instead of meeting (Sputnik)

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic will not travel to Berlin on the weekend to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel as it was planned, Sputnik portal reports. Instead they would have a video-conference.

According to Sputnik, Vucic will not travel to Berlin because of coronavirus. As agreed, the video-conference would take place on Monday at noon.

Vucic and Merkel will discuss Kosovo, Serbia-Germany bilateral relations, the situation in the region, EU integration and coronavirus, the portal added.

Detention of Zlatan Krstic extended, his deteriorated health additional problem (Kosovo-online)

Special Department of the Basic Court in Pristina has extended the detention of Zlatan Krstic from Kragujevac for two more months, Kosovo-online portal reports. Krstic is accused of committing a war crime in the area of Urosevac during the conflict in 1999.

Krstic’s defence lawyer Dejan A. Vasic told Kosovo-online portal that the decision to extend detention was somehow expected but underlined that in addition to several-month long detention, deteriorated health condition of his client is a major problem. He recalled that prior to the arrest, Krstic underwent several surgeries, and he is suffering from diabetes as well.

Vasic said the presiding judge requested the prison management to perform additional medical examinations and consultations, but it yielded no results. Vasic also noted he was informed that “Krstic is not allowed to take medications produced in Serbia.”

“Allegedly the doctor working in the prison banned him from taking medications produced in Serbia and now he is without therapy he was taking for years. He is forced to use medications produced in Kosovo, and I consider that these medications are not adequate for his health condition,” Vasic underlined.

He expressed hope that in the coming period additional examinations will be carried out and adequate treatment to Krstic enabled so he could follow the further course of proceeding against him.

Djuric with Botsan-Kharchenko (media)

Director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Djuric met today the Ambassador of Russian Federation Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko and discussed the political situation in Kosovo and the possibilities for continued dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.

”Special attention was paid to the position of the Serbian people in Kosovo and the problems they face on a daily basis,” reads the press release. 

”The interlocutors noted that international support for the project of self-proclaimed Kosovo is constantly weakening and that it is largely a cause for Pristina’s nervousness and the increasing political radicalization of Albanian parties in the province.”

Djuric thanked the Russian Ambassador for Russia’s consistent assistance in protecting Serbia’s national and national interests in international organizations.

”According to Djuric, Russia’s support in Serbia’s diplomatic and political struggle for Kosovo and Metohija is just one of the many proofs of the sincere friendship and brotherly relations of our two states and peoples, further strengthened by the cordial and firm friendship of President Aleksandar Vucic and Vladimir Putin,” reads the press release of the Office for KiM.

International Language Media

Health system lacking basic hygienic provisions (Prishtina Insight)

During BIRN’s televised debate on ‘Jeta ne Kosove’ on Thursday, health professionals responded to criticism over the failure to ensure the availability of basic provisions such as soap and clean bathrooms in healthcare facilities, as concerns over the spread of coronavirus grow.

An investigation by BIRN published on Thursday has revealed a lack of soap and clean bathrooms in public health institutions across Kosovo, as well as in faculties of the University of Prishtina.

As part of the investigation, filming took place at key hospitals where patients are referred to if they are suspected of coronavirus: the University Clinical Center of Kosovo, part of the Kosovo health system, and the North Mitrovica hospital, which operates as part of the Serbian health system. Both have one thing in common: they lack soap and toilet paper in the bathrooms.

BIRN also sent cameras to health centers in Peja, Gjakova, Gjilan, Gracanica, Prizren, Ferizaj and Mitrovica, discovering that all the bathrooms were missing either soap or toilet paper. The situation was the same in the bathrooms of three faculties at the University of Prishtina, the most attended public university in Kosovo.

In a debate on BIRN’s televised programme ‘Jeta ne Kosove,’ public health officials responded to claims that such basic problems could signal that Kosovo’s health sector is ill-equipped to provide patients with adequate healthcare, especially if the country experiences an outbreak of the coronavirus.

“Our staff are trained and we have contingency plans in place in the event of an outbreak,” said Naim Bardiqi, the secretary for the Ministry of Health.

Bardiqi acknowledged that there are currently some problems in terms of supply of provisions in Kosovo hospitals, as the government’s budget is yet to be approved by the Kosovo Assembly. “The Health Inspectorate is on the ground monitoring health institutions to identify whether there are any [healthcode] violations,” Bardiqi said. “We are restricted in the purchases that we can make because the budget [for 2020] has not been yet approved”.

Valbon Krasniqi is a doctor at the Infectious Disease Clinic, IDC, at the University Clinical Center of Kosovo, UCCK, where people suspected of contracting coronavirus are examined. He denies that there are problems related to hygiene and a lack of soap at his clinic.

“The level of hygiene is very high at the Infectious Disease Clinic,” Krasniqi said. “We have sanitary areas where you have soap and detergent. There may be days where we lack it, but all personnel coming in and out can always disinfect their hands. We have uniforms, masks, glasses and other protective wear that our staff have been wearing for two or three weeks.”

Krasniqi also addressed concerns over whether his Clinic is prepared to handle an outbreak following the increase in people coming in and out of the IDC for testing. He stated that the virus is caused by human to human transmission, typically through coughing, sneezing and entering the respiratory system.

As such, groups of people that are immunocompromised are at the highest risk of developing the disease COVID-19 if they come into contact with someone that has contracted coronavirus.

“We have designated a special room for people that are suspected of having contracted coronavirus,” Krasniqi said. “In all cases where a person has a high fever, coughing and other symptoms of the flu and have come from places where cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed, they are isolated in these special rooms and samples are taken.”

Asked what protocol is currently in place should there be a confirmed case in Kosovo, Krasniqi emphasized that a clear plan is in place.

“If anyone tests positive, their treatment will continue in the clinic, and we will issue requests to test anyone that has come into contact with this person. For the moment, we only have one ward on standby with a total capacity of 130 beds,” he said, adding that should this number of cases be exceeded, they will not have trouble finding more beds.

During the debate, members of the public decried health institutions across Kosovo for failing to treat patients with dignity and professionalism, forcing some to seek treatment abroad. “My relatives recently had to use healthcare services, and they told me they were not treated like human beings,” says Sali Likovci, a resident living in Mitrovica.

Dejan Djordjevic, another Mitrovica resident, is doubtful that many countries in the region are prepared to respond to an outbreak of coronavirus. “In terms of health services, neither Kosovo, Serbia or Albania are ready to deal with coronavirus,” he said.

Enver Rexha, a man in his seventies, said that he is disappointed that “even for simple things, like constipation, I had to get treatment in Skopje because they told me they can’t figure out how to treat it here.”

Shqipe Gjocaj, a researcher that has investigated the issue of maternal deaths in Kosovo’s hospitals, stated during the debate that any concerns over Kosovo institutions’ response to the coronavirus outbreak should pale in comparison to concerns over the health sector’s general inability to provide patients with basic equipment across the board.

“What I found during my research is that in delivery rooms, nurses have recommended that women bring their own basic provisions with them, their own water and sheets, for example,” she said. “This violates patients’ rights, particularly women patients. It is very typical for even the most basic of provisions, such as a bathroom, to be lacking.”

According to Gjocaj, the culture around doctor-patient relationships in Kosovo needs to change before respect for patients’ rights can improve.

“Doctors enjoy a certain status and reputation in Kosovo, and this culture of superiority needs to be demystified,” she said, adding that there is a lack of accountability in Kosovo when it comes to professional misconduct. “Patients’ rights go hand in hand with human rights, and doctors should all learn to respect the principles of equality and dignity.”

Coordination low between health institutions

Isme Humolli from the Kosovo office of the WHO responded to an audience question about the  lack of communication and coordination between central and local areas of the Kosovo health system, particularly in Serb-majority areas.

Isme Humolli. Photo: Naser Fejza/BIRN.

“Our main communication has been with the Ministry and the Institute for Public Health, and this has to be raised to a higher level,” Humolli said, explaining that during the measles outbreak of 2017, communication between central institutions, the WHO and parallel institutions in Serb-majority areas in Kosovo was almost zero.

Srdan Kostic, the deputy director of the healthcare clinic in Strpce which operates under the Serbian health care system, acknowledged that no reporting occurs between his institution and Kosovo’s Ministry of Health.

However, Kostic explained that this lack of coordination should not affect their ability to respond effectively in the event of a positive case at his clinic, despite the fact that the clinic in Strpce is not prepared to treat those who test positive for coronavirus.

“We don’t have the conditions to keep them securely, all we have is a plan, and that plan is for patients to be taken by special medical escort to the Infectious Disease Clinic in Mitrovica,” he explained. “If the patient is Kosovo Albanian, the medical team will take them to Prishtina.”

Bardiqi from the Ministry of Health agreed there is room for improvement. “This is a political issue, we have continuous coordination but it is not the best when it comes to healthcare institutions in Serb majority areas,” he said.

Equality of access to healthcare and information a concern

Audience members participating in the debate raised concerns over the ability of Kosovo’s health sector to respond for Kosovo’s Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities in areas such as Plemetin and Gjakova, where residents say they live in cramped conditions that could exacerbate a potential outbreak of coronavirus.

Responding to whether there are plans in place for a response regarding these communities in particular, and whether there are mobile teams that could visit these areas, Bardiqi said that the Ministry has focused on addressing this issue over the last twelve months.

“The Ministry of Health has conducted more than 17,000 home visits across Kosovo in 2019,” Bardiqi said. “Concerning access for these communities, they have equal access to healthcare institutions in Kosovo. We have held meetings with municipalities in this regard and invest around 50,000 euros every year for equipment in these municipalities. However, we have had issues related to the Roma community because their movements make it more difficult to control the problem.”

Humolli from the WHO emphasized that all materials disseminated by the organisation have been made available in all languages. “The WHO has translated all of its materials related to the coronavirus into the Roma language, and it has been disseminated to all of Kosovo’s healthcare institutions.”

Over thirty members of the public from the Albanian, Serbian, Bosniak and Roma communities participated in this debate, posing their comments and questions via video or while present at the public forum. This series of debates has been supported and funded by UNMIK.








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