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UNMIK Media Observer, Morning Edition, April 1

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• Four more cases with coronavirus confirmed (media)
• Government decides with majority of votes for reciprocity with Serbia (media)
• Kurti: Tariff is lifted and reciprocity to be implemented from tomorrow (media)
• EU High Representative hails lifting of import tariff on Serbia (media)
• Haradinaj opposes decision to lift import tariff on Serbia (media)
• Kosovo acting Prime Minister Albin Kurti interview to KTV
• Mustafa speaks about no-confidence motion in interview with Klan Kosova
• Constitutional Court rules against govt’s decision to restrict movement (media)
• PDK’s Tahiri: We will remain in opposition (media)

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  • Four more cases with coronavirus confirmed (media)
  • Government decides with majority of votes for reciprocity with Serbia (media)
  • Kurti: Tariff is lifted and reciprocity to be implemented from tomorrow (media)
  • EU High Representative hails lifting of import tariff on Serbia (media)
  • Haradinaj opposes decision to lift import tariff on Serbia (media)
  • Kosovo acting Prime Minister Albin Kurti interview to KTV
  • Mustafa speaks about no-confidence motion in interview with Klan Kosova
  • Constitutional Court rules against govt’s decision to restrict movement (media)
  • PDK’s Tahiri: We will remain in opposition (media)

 Kosovo Media Highlights

Four more cases with coronavirus confirmed (media)

Kosovo’s National Institute for Public Health announced on Tuesday evening that four new cases with coronavirus have been confirmed.

Media are also reporting that five people who were previously infected have now been cured.

The total number of infected cases in Kosovo is now 116.

Government decides with majority of votes for reciprocity with Serbia (media)

Acting Minister of Economy Rozeta Hajdari announced that the decision for implementation of reciprocity with Serbia gained majority of the votes of the government.

She said she was informed about the decision from Prime Minister chief of the cabinet, Luan Dalipi.

“Two essential measures are undertaken with today’s decision: The main one is that trade relations with Serbia will be in accordance with the Constitution of Kosovo and legislation in power…And the second measure concerns veterinary certificates for food and non-food products at the border,” Hajdari told TV Dukagjini.

She mentioned a trade barrier that Serbia has imposed to Kosovo wines, which could be exported to Serbia but not with the “Made in Kosovo” labels.

Minister of Economy said Kurti government kept the promise of replacing 100 percent tariff with reciprocity measures.

Kurti: Tariff is lifted and reciprocity to be implemented from tomorrow (media)

All news websites reported on Tuesday evening that Kosovo acting Prime Minister told a press conference that the import tariff on Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina is lifted and that reciprocity measures toward Serbia would be implemented starting from Wednesday.

Kurti said the decision on reciprocity would be periodically assessed, starting on June 15. He said that since the CEFTA agreement entered into force, Serbia repeatedly created non-tariff trade barriers and political obstacles against Kosovo.

Kurti also said that the reciprocity measures would serve to ensure equal trade policies.

EU High Representative hails lifting of import tariff on Serbia (media)

The European Union High Representative Josep Borrell took to Twitter on Tuesday evening to welcome the Kosovo Government’s decision to lift the import tariff on Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“Happy to see the decision on the full lifting of tariffs by #Kosovo caretaker government for goods coming from Serbia and BiH. This is an important decision. Regional cooperation is key as is maintaining flow of goods, in particular in times of crisis #COVID19,” Borrell tweeted.

Haradinaj opposes decision to lift import tariff on Serbia (media)

Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) leader Ramush Haradinaj said on Tuesday evening that by deciding to lift the import tariff on Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, “acting Prime Minister Kurti lost the political power that Kosovo created with the 100 percent tariff, which was designed to be used in exchange for a final agreement between Kosovo and Serbia on mutual recognition in the current borders”.

“He will forever be remembered as a Prime Minister that opened the door to Serbia led by a former minister of Milosevic, without honor and without any benefit,” Haradinaj said.

Kosovo acting Prime Minister Albin Kurti interview to KTV

Kosovo acting Prime Minister Albin Kurti said in an interview to KTV on Tuesday evening that he cannot believe what he called “the submission of certain Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) officials to the agenda of Kosovo President Hashim Thaci”. Kurti said some LDK officials that did not even run in the October parliamentary elections grew stronger in their party after their meeting with U.S. senior official Richard Grenell.

Kurti said President Thaci failed in his attempt to declare a state of emergency at the meeting of the Kosovo Security Council on March 17. “The President needs a different Prime Minister, one that does not oppose his plan to declare a state of emergency,” he said. Kurti also said that the transcripts from that meeting have disappeared “and this shows that the state is still seized”. “I didn’t want to read or publish the transcripts, but I am alarmed by the fact that there has allegedly been a problem with the hard-disk. But the memories from the meeting are still very fresh … Without a single fatality from the coronavirus and only 19 persons infected, the President tried to declare a state of emergency. For two reasons: Article 131, Point 7 of the Constitution, enables the President to assume control over the armed forces and sends off the Minister of Defense. According to Article 131, Point 8, he takes over chairmanship of the Security Council and takes the Prime Minister out of the game. He [Thaci] does not seem to agree with the ceremonial competencies that he has. He can return to the election race if he wants power,” he said. “There is not a single duty that our institutions did not carry out. The state of emergency is close to an act of desperation when the system does not function. But this was not the case in our country”.

Kurti confirmed he will answer Thaci’s call for a meeting following the no-confidence motion but that he will not go for consultations but to express his position. “My legal advisors were tasked to assess the invitation of the President and they have advised me to go to the meeting tomorrow. I will go there as acting Prime Minister to present my position in detail. I will not consider this as consultation to form a government because this would constitute a violation of the Constitution because we are not in a post-election situation,” he said.

Kurti argued that when the Assembly met to vote on his candidacy for Prime Minister on February 3, President Thaci invited non-Serb minority representatives to a lunch outside Prishtina. According to Kurti, Thaci told the minority representatives “Kurti will fail and then in the second round we will have someone from the LDK where you will receive much more than Kurti has offered you”.

Kurti said “I believe the best thing would be for all of us to focus in fighting the coronavirus in April. The President should, in consultation with the parties, set a date for elections and not try to form a new government … and for elections to be held some time in June. Our Constitution does not offer other alternatives. A new Assembly is needed for a new government … He wants a government that in reality won’t be a government so that he can be more than a President. I will make this clear to him tomorrow.”

Asked what he would do if the President gives the mandate to the LDK to form a new government, Kurti said they would address the Constitutional Court and that the latter would overrule such a government.

“You cannot form a government without the leading political party. The ruling [of the Constitutional Court] in 2014 provides for this … Following the no-confidence motion, I don’t believe there is any other solution than going back to the people.”

On a recent statement by Vetevendosje member and Mitrovica South Mayor Agim Bahtiri on possible fratricide, Kurti said he totally disagrees with the remarks. “I believe that people must keep their calm and find the strength to overcome the frustration … There is indignation among the people, and this is blowing up at one point and boiling over in politics. I call on the people to keep their calm, to stop attacks, and to stand together – our main enemy is the coronavirus,” he said.

Kurti said he never told Ambassador Grenell that he would lift the import tariff on Serbia without reciprocity. “We had two meetings with Grenell, in October and in January. The tariff was the topic in both meetings. In both meetings I maintained the same position. There is no message where I told Ambassador Grenell that I would lift the tariff without reciprocity. I repeatedly said that the tariff should be replaced with reciprocity.”

Kurti said claims about his alleged anti-American sentiments are banal. “You have seen them calling me a Marxist and a bolshevist too. But in doing so they are insulting the Americans because they by using these simple words they consider the Americans un-sophisticated,” he said.

Kurti said Kosovo needs both the U.S. and the European Union and that there is no substitute for them. “Without the U.S. we cannot have protection from Russia,” he said.

Kurti also said that Germany and France supported his government. “These are the two key EU member states following the Brexit. We also need to welcome the support from the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Instead of seeing these as something positive, some people in Kosovo started saying that ‘Borrell and Lajcak are with Albin and we are with Grenell’. These are kids’ games, they attack the minds of people instead of helping us move forward. The EU is faced with its own crisis. But the pandemic will pass, and we need to move as quickly as possible toward Brussels, but we also need to bring order in our country. Being that decisions in the EU are made with consensus, this certainly makes the situation frustrating. We are all disappointed with delays in the visa liberalization process.”

Kurti said the junior partner in the coalition government, the LDK, was not honest about cooperating. He said some members of the LDK were not willing to cooperate and that they unfortunately had a lot of power both in the LDK and in government.

“Even if we go back today, I don’t believe we can reach an agreement. They were adamant in their position that the tariff should be lifted without reciprocity. In our government we didn’t have Vjosa Osmani who also ran in the elections with the idea of replacing the tariff with reciprocity,” he said.

Kurti also said the LDK applied pressure by using the alleged “U.S. card”. “The LDK were repeatedly saying that the U.S. would withdraw their troops, that we would be isolated and so on.

“I asked General Risi [COMKFOR], a man that loves Kosovo and his work, and he told me that there is no request for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. It was used as means of spreading panic,” Kurti added.

Kurti said that even before the coalition agreement was signed, he could notice a sense of mistrust from the LDK. “I could sense their great discomfort that the Vetevendosje was the winning party. They were confident that they would be the winning party,” he said.

Kurti said relations with the international community have not changed saying that regular meetings with foreign ambassadors continue and that the main topic of their meetings is the fight against the spread of the coronavirus.

Kurti said he is very grateful to the aid Kosovo is receiving for the fight against the coronavirus. “The European Union gave us €5 million in medical equipment and the U.S. gave us 1.1 million. We are very grateful for this precious aid in these difficult times. We need all kinds of aid,” he said.

Mustafa speaks about no-confidence motion in interview with Klan Kosova

Leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) Isa Mustafa said in an interview with Klan Kosova that the former Interior Minister Agim Veliu was right in expressing his position about whether to declare a state of emergency as this was not something that the government had taken any decision on and was still at the stage of proposal.

“The government had not discussed the issue because there was no government decision on whether a state of emergency needed to be declared. There was the position of the prime minister, the deputy prime minister and another minister which were not aligned,” he said.

He said that if the acting Prime Minister Albin Kurti thinks he is an ‘absolute ruler’ and that no one can be entitled to have a different opinion, “that is an issue his leadership system which is not in line with our constitutional order.”

He denied there was any coordination with President Hashim Thaci on the state of emergency issue. “There was no communication or meeting with the president before I published a status on the state of emergency.”

Mustafa also was asked to comment on the Assembly Speaker and deputy leader of LDK Vjosa Osmani’s vote against the motion of no confidence for the government saying he has not discussed the issue with Osmani as yet but noted that the decision-making at the party needs to be unanimous. “No one has called them to say why they voted against, but whether that was the right thing to do is something that will be judged in relation to the majority. To me it is important that 24 MPs voted in favour. It is not relevant at all that three MPs voted against.”

LDK leader said that even if the Veliu’s dismissal did not happen, his party would have initiated a motion of no confidence because of the government’s refusal to entirely lift the tariff against Serbia. “Before Veliu was dismissed, I wrote to Kurti that if he is not ready to lift the tariff, we would be withdrawing from the Government once the risk of pandemic is over.”

“We made no haste at all because I had warned Prime Minister Albin Kurti earlier that the tariff would have to be dropped unconditionally and that the reciprocity issue would have to be in cooperation with the U.S. but also the EU,” Mustafa said.

Constitutional Court rules against govt’s decision to restrict movement (media)

The Constitutional Court of Kosovo ruled that the Government of Kosovo’s measure to restrict the movement of people as a preventive response against the coronavirus is unconstitutional.

“The Court in this ruling specified that it is not its role to assess whether the measures taken by the Government to prevent and fight the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak are adequate and right. Furthermore, the Court emphasises that the need to take steps and their necessity was not disputed by any party in this case,” the ruling states.

“The Court explained that the Government cannot restrict any fundamental right and freedom through decisions if such a limitation of the respective right is not foreseen in an Assembly law. The Government can only implement an Assembly law that restricts a fundamental right or freedom,” the Court said further.

The Constitutional Court has set 13 April as the time when the government measure needs to be repealed.

PDK’s Tahiri: We will remain in opposition (media)

Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) MP Abelard Tahiri said in a debate on Tuesday evening that the PDK wants to remain in the opposition and that the Vetevendosje Movement, LDK, AAK and Nisma should join forces and “live the dream they had in 2014 for a government against the PDK”.

Tahiri said the PDK would continue to have a role in the process of dialogue and in other important processes for Kosovo.

“New institutions need to be formed. The country cannot remain in limbo. The PDK will be a constructive opposition,” he said.

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