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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, March 17, 2020

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Albanian Language Media:

• President Thaci calls for mobilisation of KSF (media)
• PM Kurti address to Western Balkans Conference (media)
• Western Balkans Prime Ministers meet online (RTK)
• All incoming flights with passengers suspended (media)
• ContourGlobal halts plans to build “Kosova e Re” power plant (Media)

Serbian Language Media:

• Conflict between citizens on the Ibar River (RTK2, KoSSev, Kosovo Online)
• Djuric: Albanians try to provoke conflicts again (Tanjug, Kosovo Online, TV Pink)
• North Mitrovica mayor Rakic urge international community and Kosovo Government to prevent illegal works on Ibar River (Kosovo Online)
• Eight new cases of coronavirus in Serbia, a total of 65 (B92)
• The Government of Serbia passed the Decree: Constitution guaranteed rights restricted (B92, Tanjug)
• Sixteen years since March pogrom in Kosovo (KoSSev, N1)
• Djuric: Serbia resolved not to allow repetition of March violence (Kosovo Online)
• Brnabic: More drastic measures may be introduced tonight (B92, Tanjug)
• Democracy watchdog appeals for election postponement in Serbia, stops monitoring (N1)
• Gracanica: Increased measures of precautions (KIM Radio)
• In Serb communities in Kosovo Pomoravlje district no infected persons with coronavirus (RTV Puls)

Opinion:

• Don’t Leave Roma out of EU Enlargement Talks (Balkan Insight)

International:

• EU to Ban Entry to 26 Schengen Area Countries (schengenvisainfo.com)
• Public authorities enforce coronavirus measures (Prishtina Insight)
• Lavrov’s Visit To Serbia Postponed Over COVID-19 Concerns – Serbian Foreign Ministry (urdupoint.com)

Humanitarian/Development:

• Experimental COVID-19 Vaccine Test Begins as U.S. Volunteer Receives First Shot (time.com)

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Albanian Language Media:

  • President Thaci calls for mobilisation of KSF (media)
  • PM Kurti address to Western Balkans Conference (media)
  • Western Balkans Prime Ministers meet online (RTK)
  • All incoming flights with passengers suspended (media)
  • ContourGlobal halts plans to build “Kosova e Re” power plant (Media)

Serbian Language Media:

  • Conflict between citizens on the Ibar River (RTK2, KoSSev, Kosovo Online)
  • Djuric: Albanians try to provoke conflicts again (Tanjug, Kosovo Online, TV Pink)
  • North Mitrovica mayor Rakic urge international community and Kosovo Government to prevent illegal works on Ibar River (Kosovo Online)
  • Eight new cases of coronavirus in Serbia, a total of 65 (B92)
  • The Government of Serbia passed the Decree: Constitution guaranteed rights restricted (B92, Tanjug)
  • Sixteen years since March pogrom in Kosovo (KoSSev, N1)
  • Djuric: Serbia resolved not to allow repetition of March violence (Kosovo Online)
  • Brnabic: More drastic measures may be introduced tonight (B92, Tanjug)
  • Democracy watchdog appeals for election postponement in Serbia, stops monitoring (N1)
  • Gracanica: Increased measures of precautions (KIM Radio)
  • In Serb communities in Kosovo Pomoravlje district no infected persons with coronavirus (RTV Puls)

Opinion:

  • Don’t Leave Roma out of EU Enlargement Talks (Balkan Insight)

International: 

  • EU to Ban Entry to 26 Schengen Area Countries (schengenvisainfo.com) 
  • Public authorities enforce coronavirus measures (Prishtina Insight)
  • Lavrov’s Visit To Serbia Postponed Over COVID-19 Concerns – Serbian Foreign Ministry (urdupoint.com)

Humanitarian/Development:

  • Experimental COVID-19 Vaccine Test Begins as U.S. Volunteer Receives First Shot (time.com)

 

 

Albanian Language Media

 

President Thaci calls for mobilisation of KSF (media)

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci met today with General Rrahman Rama, Commander of the Kosovo Security Force (KSF). Thaci called for the mobilisation of the KSF, to raise its readiness at the highest level and to help prevent, address and overcome the coronavirus crisis.

Rama said the KSF is at a state of high alert and has the required capacities to address any challenges. “The KSF stands ready to act at any time and in every corner of Kosovo,” he said.

Several news websites note that the KSF mobilisation is the last step before the President declares a state of emergency.

PM Kurti address to Western Balkans Conference (media)

Kosovo Prime Minister of the Republic of Kosovo, Albin Kurit, participated in today’s video conference “Western Balkan Conference” organized by the Austrian Chancellor Mr. Sebastian Kurz, where the European Commissioner Mr. Varhelyi, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Austria, Mr. Schallenberg, Minister for EU, Ms. Edtstadler, and all other Prime Ministers of the Western Balkans were present.

In his speech, Prime Minister Kurti emphasized, among other things:

The population of Kosovo is young and energetic, so I have no doubt that we can work hard. But it is also necessary for the European Union to work and be committed to us.

In this pandemic crisis where cities and states across the globe are closing borders and isolating their people, we understand how important freedom of movement is. But when the pandemic ends, citizens all over Europe will be ready to move freely across Europe again, as long as we in Kosovo remain isolated.

Visa liberalization for Kosovo citizens is long overdue.

Western Balkans Prime Ministers meet online (RTK)

The meeting of the Western Balkans Prime Ministers with the Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurtz and EU Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi, is being held online.

The Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti is partaking in the meeting, however Albania’s Prime Minister gave more details about it. He said they will discuss guaranteeing access to the European market for the countries of the region with regards to medical imports while fighting the COVID-19.

The economic response plan to the aftermath of this war on business and private sector workers forced to stay home and the European Union’s contribution to the countries of the region in this response.

And, the European Council’s meeting next week where decision on opening of membership negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia is expected to be decided. 

All incoming flights with passengers suspended (media)

All news websites report that the Kosovo Government’s decision to suspend all incoming flights with passengers to Prishtina International Airport has entered into force at midnight. The decision is part of measures aimed at preventing the further spread of the coronavirus in Kosovo.

ContourGlobal halts plans to build “Kosova e Re” power plant (Media)

ContourGlobal company has halted plans to build the 500 megawatt coal-fired power plant ”Kosova e Re”, and announced through e press release that it will make no further coal plant investments. According to Reuters, political changes in Kosovo were also mentioned among the reasons to halt this project.

“Kosova e Re project cannot move forward. As a result of the political situation in Kosovo from July, forming of a new government led by a Prime Minister who publicly objected to the project and lack of action of the government, our development project is incapable of reaching its milestones prior to the required project completion date,” ContourGlobal said.

The government of Kosovo signed in 2017 the agreement with the U.S. company ContourGlobal to build “Kosova e Re ” power-plant which would have cost 1.3 billion Euros. Building of the powerplant was planned to start this year, and conclude in 2023.

 

 

Serbian Language Media

 

Conflict on the Ibar River (RTK2, KoSSev, Kosovo Online)

Kosovo based media in Serbian language reports that an incident occurred today in the middle of the Ibar River towards Suvi Do. According to portal KoSSev, a clash of groups of citizens from the north and south happened  in the part where the so-called pedestrian bridge is. 

Groups of people, according to a KoSSev reporter, were on an embankment on the river, where this bridge is being made, separated by excavators and pipes. Police in a small number tried to end the conflict and separate the groups. Soon after, police reinforcements arrived with two vehicles.

“The police quickly intervened, both from the north and from the south, we were on the ground. Everything is calm. No injuries. It was a minor incident, a brawl, without stronger physical contact between citizens,” Deputy Commander of the Kosovo Police for the Region North, Besim Hoti, told portal KoSSev.

He could not fully confirm the cause of the conflict, except for allegations that there had been disputation between the two groups of people from the North and the South regarding the construction of the pedestrian bridge, or the issues which of the parties claim the right to that part of the jurisdiction, or over that part of the Mitrovica municipality territory.

The bridge under construction is located near the main bridge on Ibar, and above the pedestrian bridge that KFOR built in the early 2000s, primarily for the Albanian population living in the North, due to frequent clashes and closure of the main bridge, reported KoSSev.

Portal Kosovo Online reported that a group of Albanians attacked Serbian members of KP North by the excavator, which were preventing an attempt of illegal construction of embankments on the Ibar.

According to the portal, the embankment on Ibar between South and North Mitrovica is being built contrary to local government decisions.

Djuric: Albanians try to provoke conflicts again (Tanjug, Kosovo Online, TV Pink)

Director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija, Marko Djuric, said today that “the eclipsed minds of Albanian separatists” are trying to provoke conflicts and bloodshed even in such a difficult situation, reported Serbian media. 

Commenting on the news that a group of Albanians tried to attack Serbian KP members North with the excavator, who were preventing an attempt to build an illegal embankment on the Ibar river, Djuric told Belgrade based TV Pink that they had tried to ”break into northern Kosovka Mitrovica and attack Serb Kosovo Police members”. 

“On that occasion, there were strikes and attacks on gathered Serbs and KP members of Serb ethnicity, led personally by Agim Bahtiri, one of the leaders of the Albanian separatists and a man close to the current regime in Pristina,” Djuric said, quoted Serbian media.

North Mitrovica mayor Rakic urge international community and Kosovo Government to prevent illegal works on Ibar River (Kosovo Online)

Portal Kosovo Online quotes the statement of North Mitrovica Mayor Goran Rakic saying that ”a group of South Mitrovica hooligans attacked Serb police officers from the North Mitrovica police station, with the help of construction machines, who provided assistance to municipal authorities in accordance with the law, in connection with a decision by the municipal inspection to remove an illegal makeshift facility blocking the Ibar River and which realizes the Agim Bahtiri’s announced intention to seize North Mitrovica.” 

The statement adds that police officers from North Mitrovica did not use the powers and means of coercion, “on the disturbers who came from the southern part of the city”, to prevent the conflict from escalating.

”On behalf of the municipality of North Mitrovica, I strongly condemn the construction of this illegal embankment, which, according to our information, is being carried out by the municipality of South Mitrovica illegally and without any permits. I also condemn the brutal attack on Serbian police by hooligans who must be arrested and prosecuted as a matter of urgency. Violence against police officers who take care of peace and security of all citizens is absolutely unacceptable,” Rakic emphasized.

He called on the international community and representatives of the Government of Pristina to “urgently order the municipality of South Mitrovica to cease illegal works obstructing the Ibar River and raise tensions and thus show in act how much they care about the rule of law, but also to most urgently deprive of liberty the extremists from the municipality South Mitrovica who attacked law enforcement officers”. 

He urged the citizens of North Mitrovica to remain calm and restrained.

Eight new cases of coronavirus in Serbia, a total of 65 (B92)

According to the latest information from the Ministry of Health, eight new COVID 19 cases have been reported in Serbia

Thus, the number of patients from 6 pm on March 16 to 8 pm on March 17 increased from 57 to 65.

Samples of 19 individuals were tested, 8 of which were positive and 11 negative for the new coronavirus.

Three people with a less severe clinical picture were found in home isolation, while five people were kept in hospital without any complications, in a stable general condition.

By 8 a.m. on March 17, 2020, a total of 335 individuals who met the case definition criteria were tested in the national reference laboratory of the Torlak Institute for the novel coronavirus.

https://bit.ly/2QjXs0Q

The Government of Serbia passed the Decree: Constitution guaranteed rights restricted (B92, Tanjug)

Government of Serbia adopted a Decree on Emergency Measures, which derogates from Constitution guaranteed human and minority rights during a state of emergency

The regulation, passed on March 15, and published today in the Official Gazette, states that the Ministry of the Interior, in agreement with the Ministry of Health, may temporarily restrict or prohibit the movement of persons in public places.

The same ministries may order individuals or groups of persons who are infected or suspected of being infected with an infectious disease COVID-19 to reside at their place of residence, with the obligation to report to the competent health institution.

The Ministry of Interior may order the closure of all accesses to an open space or facility and prevent it from leaving that space or facility without special approval, the Regulation states.

It is stated that the Ministry of Interior can order compulsory stay of certain persons or groups of persons in a certain area and certain facilities such as migrant reception centers, etc.

The ordinance prohibits the convening and holding of rallies and all other gatherings of citizens outdoors.

All gatherings indoors (sports, cultural and other events) are also prohibited, except for gatherings that are of particular interest for the operation and functioning of state bodies and services.

Special interest gatherings require special approvals issued by the Minister of the Interior.

With the entry into force of this Regulation, all election actions in the conducting of elections for MPs, MPs of the Assembly of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina and councilors of the assemblies of municipalities and cities, which were called for April 26, 2020, shall be suspended.

Conducting of election actions will continue from the day the state of emergency ceases, the Decree states, and it is the responsibility of the election commissions to provide and preserve existing election documentation until the continuation of the conducting of election actions and elections.

https://bit.ly/2WjgmbV

Sixteen years since March pogrom in Kosovo (KoSSev, N1)

Today marks the sixteen years since 17 March 2004 pogrom against the Serbs, the largest ethnic violence that happened in Kosovo and Metohija, following the arrival of the international military and civilian forces, N1 writes citing the KoSSev portal report.

Serbian Orthodox Church Raska-Prizren Eparchy, Cultural House in Gracanica and Association of Victims’ Families will mark this day with several initiatives, that as organizers said, should encourage restoration of destroyed cultural heritage, frescoes, icons, paintings, books and libraries.

The program this year will be held without the presence of an audience and guests, in line with the measures introduced because of coronavirus.

A memorial service will be held in Gracanica Monastery, and after that, white roses will be laid in front of an art installation MISSING in Gracanica, as well as the exhibition will open. The opening of the exhibition will also happen without the presence of an audience and guests.  

KoSSev portal recalled that more than 280 Serb houses, more than 35 churches, monasteries and cemeteries have been destroyed and burned down, as well as more than 4000 Serbs living in the south of Kosovo expelled during a three-day violence of Albanians against the Serbs. Eight Serbs have been killed in the violence, and 11 Albanians who were killed in clashes with French and US KFOR troops trying to prevent the violence.

International prosecutors and judges in Kosovo processed seven cases of destruction of churches and sentenced 67 persons to prison sentences in duration from 21 months to 16 years. However, the masterminds behind this, as international circles assessed it on several occasions – organized violence – have never been identified.

The reason for this largest ethnic cleansing of Serbs and non-Albanian population in Kosovo since 1999, N1 reports was the drowning of three Albanian boys on March 16, 2004 in the village of Cabra that borders with Serb village of Zupca in Zubin Potok municipality.

The Kosovo media accused the Serbs of chasing the boys to the Ibar River with dogs. UNMIK Police spokesperson Dareck Chappel later refuted that Albanian boys drowned because they were escaping from the Serbs. However, this did not help to stop the attacks in Mitrovica.

The role of the Kosovo media became a particular issue, and the OSCE in Vienna published a report on this topic, in which it criticized “an obvious spinning,” “irresponsible and sensationalist” reporting of the electronic media in the Albanian language, KoSSev portal recalled.  

Djuric: Serbia resolved not to allow repetition of March violence (Kosovo Online)

Director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija recalls in his Instagram post that ”today is 16 years since the first pogrom in Europe in the 21st century and that Serbia and the Serbian people have been resolved not to allow something like this to happen again,” reports Kosovo Online.

“Today, we mourn all our fellow citizens killed in a three-day crime spree of Albanian terrorists and extremists in Kosovo and Metohija in 2004. Our thoughts and all our strength and determination are with the Serbian people in the southern province,” Djuric said.

”Those who thought that they could erase the Serbian people in this way and the traces of their existence were forever defeated then, because Serbia and the Serbian people were determined not to allow anything like this to happen again,” the director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija said in his post.

Brnabic: More drastic measures may be introduced tonight (B92, Tanjug)

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic does not rule out the possibility of introducing more drastic, “most difficult”, measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, B92 reports.

Brnabic said that a large number of citizens yesterday did not take the government’s recommendations and measures seriously, and added that it seems that the situation is better today, but that it is not nearly good enough.

“I do not rule out the possibility that tonight we will decide on more drastic, most difficult measures, especially for the elderly,” Brnabic said.

She stated that she would have a meeting with President Aleksandar Vucic this afternoon, a meeting with political parties and opposition movements, as well as a meeting of both crisis staffs, after which she would address the public. She said that the situation regarding the coronavirus in Serbia is complicated.

She stated that 65 people were confirmed to be infected with the virus. Brnabic added that 31 people are in home isolation while the rest are hospitalized. Most are stable while four are on a respirator.

“We have the case these days that over 50 percent of people are in self-isolation, and now 48 percent of people are under home treatment,” Brnabic said.

See at: https://bit.ly/2w6Bjw6

Democracy watchdog appeals for election postponement in Serbia, stops monitoring (N1)

Serbia’s CRTA, a democracy watchdog, said on Monday it had withdrawn its 120 monitors across the country because of the severity of the situation with coronavirus pandemic and appealed with the state institutions to delay the election process until the limits of human and civil rights were not imperilled, N1 reported.

“Since the safety of the people is our first concern, we believe that in this situation this is the only right and responsible decision,” CRTA said in a statement.

Serbia has declared the state of emergency on Sunday, and Prime Minister Ana Brnabic even suggested a curfew might be introduced.

See more: https://bit.ly/3d5zvnB

Gracanica: Increased measures of precautions (KIM Radio)

Gracanica based KIM radio reported yesterday that there were no corona virus infected people in Serb communities in central Kosovo. 

In order to avoid coming to healthcare institutions and possibly spreading the virus, mobile teams were organized to visit the most vulnerable category of the population, reported KIM radio. 

All patients who have respiratory or other health problems were told to first call the doctors at the Health Center in Gracanica where tests were performed, said the director of the Gracanica Health Center, Mirjana Dimitrijevic.

“The seasonal flu has been going on for a long time, so it is difficult to diagnose whether it is flu or coronavirus, which is why the patient’s medical history is very important, and whether a patient has traveled somewhere. As for the symptoms, we monitor every temperature, every shortness of breath, and any other respiratory problems that patients have, after which we report to the epidemiological service,” said Dimitrijevic.

What was the situation at the Clinical Hospital Center in Gracanica, remained unknown to KIM radio, since the director of the clinic, Bratislav Lazic, was “in the meeting”. 

KIM radio reported there were no disinfectants and masks in pharmacies in Gracanica. 

Pharmacist Armen Shabani, a pharmacy owner in Gracanica, told RTV Kim that citizens were buying medicine more than usual, and he assumed that they were making supplies. He noted that medications for chronic patients are available but there were no masks and disinfectants.

“As for the disinfectant, masks and gloves, there are none in the market. It’s a shortage, we have them occasionally but not constantly. We have nowhere to get them. That is not our fault,” Shabani said, adding that the price of protective equipment has not increased. 

According to him, the masks cost from 10 to 50 cents. The price of alcohol has also increased in procurement, and from the former 50 cents has reached the price of 1.20 euros. The price of gloves remained the same, 10 cents a pair.

The radio reported that local stores mostly lack necessities of life. There is no flour for days, while there is very little oil, pasta and sugar.

In Serb communities in Kosovo Pomoravlje district no infected persons with coronavirus (RTV Puls)

Director of the Gnjilane Health Center, Doctor Zoran Peric told RTV Puls yesterday that in the Serb communities in Kosovo Pomoravlje district so far there were no infected persons with coronavirus.

Dr Peric visited several Serb communities in the district where health stations exist, and noted that there were no infected persons with coronavirus for the time being.

“Our people should know that we have created special teams that will screen those suspected of the virus and refer them for further treatment with us or other medical institutions, depending on the clinical picture,” Peric said.

However, due to the seriousness of the situation, Dr. Peric urges citizens to watch television and listen to official’s addresses.

 

Opinion

 

Don’t Leave Roma out of EU Enlargement Talks (Balkan Insight)

Those who champion EU membership for Western Balkan countries should open their eyes to the exclusion of Roma communities from the accession process.

Almost half a year since France dashed Western Balkan hopes of joining the European Union, politicians and experts across the continent are discussing ways to reinvigorate the accession process.

The consensus view is that we need to avoid the mistakes of the past, including too little focus on the rule of law, a timid attitude towards autocratic tendencies in some countries and limited accountability for governments.

However, one fundamental failure looks set to be repeated: a blatant refusal to consider the situation facing the Roma minority in the Western Balkans and how Roma people themselves could benefit from a new approach to EU enlargement.

See at: https://bit.ly/33q8sPs

 

International

 

EU to Ban Entry to 26 Schengen Area Countries (schengenvisainfo.com) 

The European Union is set to shut down all Schengen Area Borders, as an extreme measure to prevent the Coronavirus from further spreading in the borderless area.

The European countries have discussed today the idea of introducing a ban on entry to the 26-state Schengen passport-free travel zone, which would cover all non-essential visits from third countries, with exemptions including for citizens of the Schengen area, people familiar with the work.

The proposal was announced by the President of the EU Commission Ursula von der Leyen.

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

Public authorities enforce coronavirus measures (Prishtina Insight)

Kosovo Police arrested eight people for failing to comply with decisions taken to prevent the spread of coronavirus on Sunday, while hundreds of inspections have taken place on businesses reported to have increased prices during the epidemic.

Kosovo’s Minister of Economy Rozeta Hajdari told a press conference on Monday that the ministry’s trade inspectorate is continuing to conduct investigations into businesses reported for increasing their prices on essential items during the coronavirus epidemic.

On Thursday, BIRN reported that 228 citizens had made reports to the Tax Administration of Kosovo concerning increases in the price of goods, mostly in supermarkets and pharmacies. Hajdari revealed on Monday that the number of reports now total over 1,000.

See at: https://bit.ly/2w60lLQ

Lavrov’s Visit To Serbia Postponed Over COVID-19 Concerns – Serbian Foreign Ministry (urdupoint.com)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s Serbia trip has been postponed due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, the Serbian Foreign Ministry announced on Monday

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s Serbia trip has been postponed due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, the Serbian Foreign Ministry announced on Monday.

Earlier in the day, Lavrov had a phone conversation with Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic.

See more at:https://bit.ly/39TiI58

Humanitarian/Development

 

Experimental COVID-19 Vaccine Test Begins as U.S. Volunteer Receives First Shot (time.com)

U.S. researchers gave the first shot to the first person in a test of an experimental coronavirus vaccine Monday — leading off a worldwide hunt for protection even as the pandemic surges.

With a careful jab in a healthy volunteer’s arm, scientists at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute in Seattle begin an anxiously awaited first-stage study of a potential COVID-19 vaccine developed in record time after the new virus exploded from China and fanned across the globe.

See at: https://bit.ly/2Qmlb05

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