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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, March 23, 2020

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Albanian Language Media:

• Osmani asks Institute for professional opinion on Assembly session (media)
• LDK Minister: We will proceed with non-confidence motion (Express)
• Merkel and Kurti to have videocall today (Express)
• Swiss MPs: Stop the political games (Koha)
• Heldt: Include Kosovo in corona global updates (media)
• Kosovo Serbs send COVID-19 tests to Belgrade (RFE, Express)

Serbian Language Media:

• Petritsch: Kosovo issue put on hold due to pandemic (Kosovo Online)
• Borrell: Lajcak will do an excellent job mediating Belgrade-Pristina dialogue (Beta, N1)
• Jevtic: We are working to provide help, in particular to vulnerable groups in return areas (Kosovo-online)
• Vucic and Orban discuss economic cooperation after coronavirus pandemic ends (FoNet, N1, RTS)
• 34 new coronavirus cases confirmed – total of 222 infected (B92)
• Chinese team: 29 days needed to calm down COVID-19, will present new steps (FoNet, N1, RTS)
• DW: People in Balkans fear coronavirus the least (N1)

Opinion:

• COVID-19: Truth and Viral Consequences (Balkan Insight)

International:

• MEPs: Western Balkans should be included in EU+ export authorization scheme (EWB)

Humanitarian/Development:

• Schools emptying in Drenica’s villages (Prishtina Insight)

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Albanian Language Media:

  • Osmani asks Institute for professional opinion on Assembly session (media)
  • LDK Minister: We will proceed with non-confidence motion (Express)
  • Merkel and Kurti to have videocall today (Express)
  • Swiss MPs: Stop the political games (Koha)
  • Heldt: Include Kosovo in corona global updates (media)
  • Kosovo Serbs send COVID-19 tests to Belgrade (RFE, Express)

Serbian Language Media:

  • Petritsch: Kosovo issue put on hold due to pandemic (Kosovo Online)
  • Borrell: Lajcak will do an excellent job mediating Belgrade-Pristina dialogue (Beta, N1)
  • Jevtic: We are working to provide help, in particular to vulnerable groups in return areas (Kosovo-online)
  • Vucic and Orban discuss economic cooperation after coronavirus pandemic ends (FoNet, N1, RTS)
  • 34 new coronavirus cases confirmed – total of 222 infected (B92)
  • Chinese team: 29 days needed to calm down COVID-19, will present new steps (FoNet, N1, RTS)
  • DW: People in Balkans fear coronavirus the least (N1)

Opinion: 

  • COVID-19: Truth and Viral Consequences (Balkan Insight)

International:

  • MEPs: Western Balkans should be included in EU+ export authorization scheme (EWB)

Humanitarian/Development:

  • Schools emptying in Drenica’s villages (Prishtina Insight)

 

 

Albanian Language Media

 

Osmani asks Institute for professional opinion on Assembly session (media)

Kosovo Assembly President Vjosa Osmani has asked the National Institute for Public Health for a professional opinion whether or not it is safe for the Assembly to meet and vote on the non-confidence motion, an advisor to Osmani told the news website today.

The Assembly Presidency will nonetheless meet tomorrow to discuss the non-confidence motion.

LDK Minister: We will proceed with non-confidence motion (Express)

Besian Mustafa, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Development, who is also spokesperson of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), told the media today that a non-confidence motion will proceed at the Assembly of Kosovo.  “This is the decision of LDK’s leadership,” he said.

Wednesday is the last day to vote on the non-confidence motion initiated by LDK at the Assembly.

However, prior to this, the Assembly has to address the National Public Health Institute for recommendation on whether there are conditions to hold the session during the current pandemic situation.  

Merkel and Kurti to have videocall today (Express)

The news website reports that German Chancellor Angela Merkel will have a videocall with Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti today.

An advisor to Merkel said in addition to measures aimed at slowing down the coronavirus, Merkel and Kurti will also discuss bilateral relations, economic issues, foreign policy and the political situation in Kosovo, namely the non-confidence motion initiated by the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK).

Swiss MPs: Stop the political games (Koha)

Six Swiss MPs in a joint statement have criticised efforts to oust the Kurti-led government and especially President Hashim Thaci’s attempt to take away competencies from Prime Minister Kurti, the news website reports.

“We are following with concern how certain political circles are trying to use the [coronavirus] crisis to their advantage. Especially President Hashim Thaci and LDK leader Isa Mustafa, whose party is a part of the government. We strongly against President Hashim Thaci’s efforts to use the coronavirus as an excuse to declare a state of emergency and strip away competencies from the coalition government led by Albin Kurti. Such a request has no basis and it would destroy Kosovo’s newly-established democratic maturity,” the statement notes. “In these tense times, we urgently call to stop the political games. Ousting the popular government would put Kosovo in an unpleasant political situation in the wave of the coronavirus … This government enjoys great respect in the international arena. If the Kurti government is ousted with lame excuses or is stripped of its competencies … countries like Switzerland would deeply reconsider relations with the Republic of Kosovo”.

Heldt: Include Kosovo in corona global updates (media)

The German Ambassador to Kosovo, Christian Heldt, took to Twitter to say that Kosovo must be included in global updates for the coronavirus.

“Dear @JohnsHopkins – team, quite astonished to see on your global updates to Corona that #Kosovo was first listed with outdated numbers and then disappeared completely. Authorities here update regularly and provide Infos. Please rectify, #inthistogether,” Heldt tweeted.

Kosovo Serbs send COVID-19 tests to Belgrade (RFE, Express)

In the Kosovo Serb-majority areas, there are currently no persons infected with the COVID-19 virus.

So far, 27 patients have been tested, and all samples of persons considered potentially infected are sent to the Institute for Virology, Vaccine and Serum “Torlak” in Belgrade.

Aleksandar Antonijevic, specialist of epidemiology of the Institute of Public Health in North Mitrovica, confirmed this to Radio Free Europe.

Antonijevic said that they are organized in all areas in Kosovo where Serbs live, such as in Gracanica, Gjilan, Shterpce and others.

Director of the Clinical Hospital Center in North Mitrovica Milan Ivanovic told RFE / RL that the epidemiological situation is stable and that health workers are ready to fulfill their obligations to treat the eventual sufferers of this infection.

He pointed out that they already have “a number of respirators”, while the Infectious Disease Clinic has 16 places for treatment, with good isolation conditions. According to him, Serb patients from Kosovo will be sent to infectious clinics in Serbia, Kragujevac, Nis and Belgrade.

 

 

 

Serbian Language Media

 

Petritsch: Kosovo issue put on hold due to pandemic (Kosovo Online)

Former Austrian Foreign Minister Wolfgang Petritsch for the portal Kosovo Online described the current situation in his country, which is also affected by a coronavirus, and gave an assessment of the continuation of the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. 

“The government has taken very drastic measures and everyone who is not necessary in infrastructure is isolated, especially the elderly. They are urged to stay home and not go outside. The number of coronavirus infected is growing rapidly, so in a week or two we will see what the situation really is and whether the curve can be less pronounced.” 

Kosovo Online: What is the situation like when it comes to the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, how much does the international community pay attention to it now? 

Petritsch: Kosovo is placed on the bench. The US has basically closed borders for everyone from the EU, so communication has been reduced to electronic media and phones. It is now low on the priority list.

Kosovo Online: How much can Brussels deal with Kosovo now?

Petritsch: Mr. Borell suggested Lajcak as a special envoy, and as far as I hear from Brussels, that election should have taken one or two months, and now it will be even longer because of the new situation.

Kosovo Online: How do you comment on the lack of EU assistance to the Balkans when it comes to a pandemic?

Petritsch: I do not think this is good, Brussels must decide to treat the candidate countries of the Western Balkans equal, and it will be a sign of solidarity with non-EU countries.

Is the Serb community in Kosovo affected double by this pandemic and by some of the decisions of the Pristina government?

It is not a good idea to use a pandemic to make life even more difficult for people. I deeply believe that in times like this, we need to put the conflict aside and focus on the well-being of everyone in the whole region. I hope the Pristina government will take this into consideration.

Are we going to see changes in Europe after the pandemic?

I believe that we will definitely see change at the global level, we will see changes at the EU level, and we will see changes at the regional level. The changes that will have to happen will be difficult but necessary and will also demonstrate the importance of good neighborly relations and with the EU. Some issues can only be addressed at European level, cooperation is very important.

Borrell: Lajcak will do an excellent job mediating Belgrade-Pristina dialogue (Beta, N1)

Slovak diplomat Miroslav Lajcak will do “an excellent job” as the EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, wrote on social media on Saturday.

“Miroslav Lajcak is a very respected politician and experienced diplomat, who enjoys full trust throughout the EU. I am sure he will be doing an excellent job as EU Special Representative, helping to relaunch the Belgrade – Pristina dialogue,” Borrell wrote on Twitter.

Pristina’s Gazetaexpress reported on March 13 that Borrell officially proposed Lajcak for the post and that the Slovak politicians will begin serving on April 1. His mandate will last until March 1, 2021, the news portal reported.

https://bit.ly/2vGQagk

Jevtic: We are working to provide help, in particular to vulnerable groups in return areas (Kosovo-online)

Undertaking concrete steps, together with other Kosovo ministries, in order to resolve the issue of the flour supply to bakeries, but also supply of other necessities to the Serb-populated areas south of the Ibar River is one of the priorities of the Ministry for Communities and Returns, Kosovo-online portal reports, citing the statement of the ministry.

As the statement said, particular attention would be given to the vulnerable groups in Istok, Klina, Prizren, Orahovac, Lipljan, Obilic, Vucitrn, Vitina, Gnjilane and Kamenica municipalities.   

Minister for Communities and Returns Dalibor Jevtic noted that “at these turbulent times of coronavirus pandemic, we need to stay together and help one another, as it is the only way to fight the crisis of worldwide proportions.”

He also said that measures introduced to prevent spread of coronavirus affect normal life in Kosovo.

“The measures, but also the general situation, in particular affect certain returns sites and vulnerable groups including elderly persons, returnees, socially vulnerable groups of population and others.”

Jevtic added that the ministry over the last couple of days has established more intensive cooperation and coordination with municipal crisis committees, offices for communities and returns, but also with institutions at the central level, in order to help citizens in a concrete manner and successfully implement measures to prevent spread of coronavirus, Kosovo-online portal reported.

Vucic and Orban discuss economic cooperation after coronavirus pandemic ends (FoNet, N1, RTS)

Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic and Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban discussed ways their countries could cooperate in efforts to eliminate the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic at a meeting in Budapest on Sunday.

Vucic posted a photo of the meeting on Instagram and wrote: “Preparations for the day after the victory against the coronavirus” next to it.

Serbia’s Finance, Sinisa Mali, and Hungary’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Peter Szijjarto, also participated in the meeting.  

Vucic and Orban discussed “bilateral relations, cooperation and solidarity in the battle against the coronavirus and plans for supporting the economic development of both countries after the pandemic ends,” the President’s office said.  

They also discussed the migrant crisis and Serbia’s Euro-integration process with Mali and Szijjarto.  

“The two countries are working on cooperating in efforts to eliminate the economic consequences of the pandemic, considering the great potential and progress in their economic relationship throughout the past period,” the press release said.

Considering that Orban “is a great friend of Serbia,” Vucic asked him to push for the “acceleration of the inclusion of Serbia and the Western Balkans in EU aid funds for the fight against the coronavirus and for the elimination of economic consequences of the pandemic,” it said.

https://bit.ly/2UsGTRn

34 new coronavirus cases confirmed – total of 222 infected (B92)

Until 6 pm 22 March, 34 new cases of coronavirus infection registered in Serbia, increasing the total number to 222 infected

From the last report to 6 pm on March 22, 2020, samples of 61 individuals were tested, 34 of which were positive and 27 negative for the new coronavirus.

Of the 34 confirmed cases since the last report, 21 have been hospitalized, without complications, with a stable general condition, while 13 have a lighter clinical picture and are at home.

By 6 pm on March 22, 2020, a total of 761 individuals were tested in the national reference laboratory of the Torlak Institute, which met the criteria for defining the case.

https://bit.ly/2UsE7LX

Chinese team: 29 days needed to calm down COVID-19, will present new steps (FoNet, N1, RTS)

Serbian Minister of Health Zlatibor Loncar said on Monday the Chinese experts who came to Belgrade to help in fighting coronavirus pandemic, were expected to present a set of measures later in the day, FoNet news agency reports.

“Till the end of the day, we will have more suggestions for the measures necessary to keep the situation under control,” Loncar told Happy TV.

The Chinese experts who came to Belgrade on Saturday, also said people should respect the measures the country’s government prescribed, and that if they did, it would take 29 days to stabilize the situation.

Late on Sunday, speaking to the public broadcaster RTS, Loncar said the experts estimated the time based on comparing Serbia to the areas in their country with similar population size and on their experience in fighting against COVID-19.

Loncar warned the population on Monday that the so far taken measures were the best possible at the moment, but that “the health system’s capacity has its limits,” which would be jeopardized if people did not honor those measures.

“Health care cannot withstand irresponsibility,” he added.

As of Monday, Serbian Ministry of Health will update on the number of new coronavirus cases once a day, at 3 pm.

See at: https://bit.ly/3bn9O0i

DW: People in Balkans fear coronavirus the least (N1)

The latest Gallup survey shows that over 70 percent of the Balkan population believe that COVID-19 virus is not that big threat as it is presented, adding it was expected in the region used to the crisis, Deutsche Welle (DW) reported on Monday.

The study says that 62 percent of the world population is afraid of the virus, but at the same time, 56 percent think the threat is less dangerous than said to be.

The Gallup President Kanco Stojcev believes the results are not contradictory as they look at first glance. “Virus is real, and it’s normal for people to feel fear,” he told DW. On the other side, he adds, viruses have always existed, everyone has had it once, and the official reactions can seem exaggerated.

“Especially in the last decades due to progress and modernity, we have a feeling that life becomes more ceratin, that we can predict and plan everything,“ Stojcev said. That’s why, according to him, politics is currently struggling with people’s emotions while facing uncertainty.

However, 56 percent of people who believe that it’s presented overdramatically should not be taken for granted since the results vary in different countries.

In Italy, where people are dying for weeks, the fear of the virus is higher.

On the other hand, in the Balkans, there is less fear, at least in three countries covered by the study.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina and North Macedonia, even 73 percent of people think the virus is presented as more dangerous than it is; in Bulgaria, 72 percent of the population believe the same.

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

 

 

 

Opinion

 

COVID-19: Truth and Viral Consequences (Balkan Insight)

Early, accurate and clear public communication is essential in fighting outbreaks like coronavirus.

Of all the challenges that humans have faced over millennia, disease has always been a particularly brutal and resourceful enemy.

The impact of disease has shaped history. Amerindians were ravaged by illnesses that the Spanish conquistadors brought to Mexico and South America; the “stout Cortez” of John Keats’s poem was accompanied by killer diseases like smallpox, measles, influenza, and typhus.

Unlike Eurasians, native populations in the New World had not spent several thousand years evolving with animals and their diseases. As a result, America’s indigenous populations declined by some 90 per cent in the 16th and 17th Centuries.

In Europe, on the other hand, fighting disease was a formative element in the growth of political authority and state governance in the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance period.

See at: https://bit.ly/2J4QgBw

 

International

 

MEPs: Western Balkans should be included in EU+ export authorization scheme (EWB)

Members of various groups in the European Parliament have sent a joint letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen requesting that the Western Balkan countries be included in a scheme of export restrictions of medical equipment and joint procurement of crisis-relevant goods.

Members of the European People’s Party (EPP), Greens and the Liberals (“Renew Europe”) in the European Parliament have sent a letter to the President of the European Commission stating that European coordination of the COVID-19 pandemic should also include the Western Balkan countries.

They warned that the imposed restrictions of exports on medical equipment could have serious consequences for the region.

See more at: https://bit.ly/2xnePH9

 

Humanitarian/Development

 

Schools emptying in Drenica’s villages (Prishtina Insight)

Urbanisation and migration abroad is emptying village schools in the Drenica region, while expanding towns like Fushe Kosove struggle to cope with the influx of new pupils.

When Teachers’ Day was celebrated across Kosovo on March 7 this year, just 11 flowers were given to Xhevdet Behrami – one from each fourth grade pupil at the Kuvendi i Drenices primary school in Lower Abri, a village near Skenderaj.

As Behrami thanked and hugged his pupils one by one, he explained that next year he will receive only eight flowers. Three pupils will migrate from the village with their families, and the next school year will start somewhere else for them.

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

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