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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, April 9, 2020

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Albanian Language Media:

• Kurti discussed pandemic, dialogue with Serbia in telephone call with Macron (media)
• Kurti plans to have two teams for dialogue with Serbia (Koha)
• Kurti in Malisheva: April, decisive in fight against COVID – 19 (media)
• Vitia: Malisheva will lack no protection kits (media)
• “COVID – 19 could result in long-term loss at work and production” (media)
• MEPs: After the crisis, new elections may be the right way forward (Kallxo)

Serbian Language Media:

• Possibility of further restriction of movement, Vitia: No decision will be made without 100% coordination with Rakic (KoSSev)
• Two new Covid-19 infection cases in Serb-populated areas in Kosovo (Kosovo-online)
• Jevtic in strongest terms condemns Rasic’s statement (Radio kontakt plus)
• Bilčík: Freedom of expression, media to be guaranteed during state of emergency (N1, Danas)
• Dr Kon: Total ban on any contact; 219 new cases of coronavirus in Serbia yesterday (B92)
• EU earmarks 800 million Euro in pandemic aid for Western Balkans and Turkey (N1)

Opinion:

• World Powers Use Pandemic to Flex Muscles in Balkans (Balkan Insight)

International:

• Kosovo’s Kurti Assures EU Of Commitment To Dialogue With Serbia (RFE)

Humanitarian/Development:

• China takes new measures fearing that the epidemic might reappear (B92, Tanjug)
• Kosovo Company Manufactures 3D Ventilator to Fight COVID-19 (Balkan Insight)
• ‘Destructive’ hydropower construction continues despite lockdown (Prishtina Insight)

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Albanian Language Media:

  • Kurti discussed pandemic, dialogue with Serbia in telephone call with Macron (media)
  • Kurti plans to have two teams for dialogue with Serbia (Koha)
  • Kurti in Malisheva: April, decisive in fight against COVID – 19 (media)
  • Vitia: Malisheva will lack no protection kits (media)
  • “COVID – 19 could result in long-term loss at work and production” (media)
  • MEPs: After the crisis, new elections may be the right way forward (Kallxo)

Serbian Language Media:

  • Possibility of further restriction of movement, Vitia: No decision will be made without 100% coordination with Rakic (KoSSev)
  • Two new Covid-19 infection cases in Serb-populated areas in Kosovo (Kosovo-online)
  • Jevtic in strongest terms condemns Rasic’s statement (Radio kontakt plus)
  • Bilčík: Freedom of expression, media to be guaranteed during state of emergency (N1, Danas)
  • Dr Kon: Total ban on any contact; 219 new cases of coronavirus in Serbia yesterday (B92)
  • EU earmarks 800 million Euro in pandemic aid for Western Balkans and Turkey (N1)

Opinion:

  • World Powers Use Pandemic to Flex Muscles in Balkans (Balkan Insight)

International:

  • Kosovo’s Kurti Assures EU Of Commitment To Dialogue With Serbia (RFE) 

Humanitarian/Development:

  • China takes new measures fearing that the epidemic might reappear (B92, Tanjug)
  • Kosovo Company Manufactures 3D Ventilator to Fight COVID-19 (Balkan Insight)
  • ‘Destructive’ hydropower construction continues despite lockdown (Prishtina Insight)

 

 

Albanian Language Media

 

Kurti discussed pandemic, dialogue with Serbia in telephone call with Macron (media)

Acting Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti had a telephone conversation with President of France Emmanuel Macron last night.

According to a statement issued by the Kosovo Prime Minister’s Office, Kurti informed Macron of the steps the government of Kosovo has taken to combat the COVID-19 pandemic saying and thanked him for the statement issued jointly with Germany regarding the motion of no confidence against the government of Kosovo at this time. “Kurti underlined that the gap created by his motion cannot be filled nor can the political crisis be overcome, unless there are new elections, as the only legitimate and legal way to put in place a new government.”

“Any other attempt at producing a government otherwise at the present situation would follow unconstitutional ways. New political elections are possible only once the health crisis is resolved,” Kurti said.

Macron on his part is said to have expressed support for the way the pandemic is being fought by the government of Kosovo.

Kurti and Macron also discussed dialogue and after hailing the resumption of movement of goods between Kosovo and Serbia, the French president also pledged the commitment to increase France’s role and his personal engagement in the facilitation of the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia. Macron stressed that this would be the goal of a Paris summit, as soon as conditions allow for such an event to be arranged.

Kurti highlighted that the effectiveness of dialogue depends on Europe’s participation in the process. “Europe cannot be replaced by another continent, nor can France be replaced by another country. Europe is the environment and perspective of normalisation of relations between Kosovo and Serbia,” Kurti is quoted to have said in the conversation.

Kurti plans to have two teams for dialogue with Serbia (Koha)

Acting Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, replied to reporters’ questions about dialogue with Serbia during a visit to Prizren today.

Kurti said that together with political advisors they have prepared a plan for how the dialogue with Serbia should be organised saying that their goal is two have two teams.

“The first is political representation, consisting of the prime minister, president, assembly speaker, and one member from seven political parties, in total a ten-member team. On the other hand, there will be a team of experts from different fields,” he said.

Kurti in Malisheva: April, decisive in fight against COVID – 19 (media)

Kosovo’s acting Prime Minister, Albin Kurti, said during a visit to Malisheva today that April is a decisive month in the fight against COVID – 19, most news websites report. “We all stand united. Let us focus on fighting this evil. Given that we don’t have a lot of experiences with these situations, I think we are doing a good job. April however is a decisive month,” he said.

Malisheva mayor Ragip Beqaj told reporters after meeting Kurti that Malisheva is in the most difficult position with the highest number of infected cases in Kosovo. “I believe our cooperation will increase and that the Government of Kosovo will show greater commitment to Malisheva. I am expecting greater support,” he said.

Kurti said the government will support Malisheva but that the municipality too needs to step up restriction measures. “Kosovo has major limitations. Our healthcare sector is not a satisfactory level and we have a poor population, this is why we need to cooperate maximally in order to stop the spread of COVID – 19. This is also why we need to step up restrictive measures. On this issue, Mayor Begaj and [Health] Minister Vitia will be in constant communication. We call on all citizens to limit their movements and to stay at home,” he added.

Kurti said the municipality of Malisheva must respect all measures undertaken by the central government and the guidelines of experts. He said more aid will be given to the municipality but also called for more strict measures. 

Vitia: Malisheva will lack no protection kits (media)

Kosovo’s acting Minister of Health, Arben Vitia said during a visit to Malisheva today that this municipality will lack no protection kits in the fight against COVID – 19. He said they lacked equipment in the first weeks but that now they have sufficient supplies.

“Malisheva is among the top priorities of the Ministry of Health and all actions will be coordinated with the municipality including measures on limited movement,” Vitia said.

Vitia also called on all Kosovo citizens to follow the guidelines as they are the only weapon against COVID – 19.

“The virus is unpredictable therefore being careful and keeping the distance are the only means to fight it,” he said.

“COVID – 19 could result in long-term loss at work and production” (media)

The New World Bank report on the region of Europe and Central Asia, economic update – spring 2020, published today, plans that Kosovo’s economy – similar to other countries in the region – will suffer a slowdown in 2020 , even if preventive measures are removed during the second quarter of the year. In addition to the temporary closing of key economic activities and the loss of related investments, in kosovo the impact of pandemisë will be accompanied mainly by reducing Diaspora-LED Diaspora, non-foreign direct investments in the building of housing; But the economy is expected to recover in 2021., but if the pandemic continues beyond the second quarter of 2020, the impact of covid-19 will be more severe on the side of the economy, leading to long-term loss at work and production. The World Bank is planning an action programme to help kosovo manage and ease the impact of the crisis, including a new project with quick approval to respond to the urgent health sector’s priority and protect the income of the health sector and protect the income of the health sector; one Restructure already approved projects to mobilize funds in support of small and medium-sized businesses; and finally a development policy loan operation to support economic recovery and help financing the budget. Together, these programs are likely to surpass 120 m euros.

See more at: http://wrld.bg/uWAr30qwwF3.

MEPs: After the crisis, new elections may be the right way forward (Kallxo)

A group of European Parliament members have written an open letter to Kosovo’s acting Prime Minister Albin Kurti expressing support for measures taken to fight the spread of coronavirus pandemic and at the same time noting with concern the current political situation.

“Being strong supporters of respecting the principles of rule of law and democracy, we are very concerned about the political situation in your country after the no-confidence  vote against your government, and when reading the announcement of the president Thaci about possible constitutional interpretations. Nobody should misuse the current crisis for political games. And we hope, that there is still common sense in Pristina,” the letter reads. 

MEPs thanked Kurti for the decision to lift the tariffs on goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina saying that the move should encourage Serbia to follow up with some good will gestures. 

“We are convinced, that Kosovo needs a functioning government, especially in this time of crisis. After the crisis, new elections may be a proper way forward in accordance with your constitution.”

The MEPs further said that they are continuously advocating for visa liberalisation for Kosovo and encouraged Kurti to continue the fight against any misuse of the coronavirus crisis. “It would only give additional arguments to those, who are still working against Kosovo,” they concluded.

The letter was signed by MEPs: Tanja Fajon, Tonino Picula, Andreas Schieder, Evin Incir, Viola von Cramon-Taubadel, Knut Fleckenstein. 

Serbian Language Media

 

Possibility of further restriction of movement, Vitia: No decision will be made without 100% coordination with Rakic (KoSSev)

“The Kosovo Ministry of Health is in constant communication with the Mayor of North Mitrovica, Goran Rakic, in which it also discusses possible new measures solely to protect the lives of citizens, especially of North Mitrovica, as well as the population in Kosovo, which could soon include further restriction of movement from noon to six in the morning. But it will depend solely on the decision of Mr. Rakic himself, and what he deems to be in the best interest of the city he governs,” Kosovo Minister of Health Arben Vitia told portal KoSSev. 

The decision that due to the increased number of people infected with coronavirus in the north of Kosovo and the further spread of coronavirus, further restrictions on movement could be introduced – from noon to six in the morning, for now is only considered as an option and, if applied, would exempt certain categories of employees or more important services. 

The Kosovo Ministry of Health makes decisions on movement restriction based on a declared public health emergency, but Vitia emphasizes, solely on the basis of coordination and joint decision-making with mayors of municipalities who know their cities better, and the same case is with North Mitrovica, respectively Mayor Rakic.

“Firstly, I am in constant coordination with Mayor Rakic. No decision, I emphasize, will be made without coordinating with him 100%. If he thinks that the following decisions are needed for the benefit of the citizens, I will have an understanding for it, and I will pass on information to him every day so that new measures are in line with epidemiological and professional measures. That is why, of course, this coordination is necessary, which will continue with all mayors in the future. If he thinks that such a decision is needed, so it will be, because he knows his city better than I do,” Vitia said, adding:

“Secondly, I ask the public to understand that any decision that I and Mr Rakic are making now is in the exclusive, I emphasize, the exclusive interest of protection of the health and life of citizens and the North Mitrovica and the entire population. I would ask the public to understand that there is no room for politicization here and that we are working together on this.”

KoSSev tried to get a response on a possible further restriction of movement for North Mitrovica according to this schedule (from noon to 6 in the morning) from the Mayor of North Mitrovica, Goran Rakic, but he did not answer. KoSSev reports that in the meantime, questions were sent in writing, also regarding his assessment of the current situation in the city, and what his message was to the citizens.

Kosovska Mitrovica (northern part of the city) and Zvecan have been quarantined since Friday 6pm, according to the decision of the crisis staffs of the two municipalities, and as confirmed in Pristina, including Health Minister Arben Vitiu, the decision was made in “full coordination” between Pristina and local governments in the North, and that coordination continues.

Two new Covid-19 infection cases in Serb-populated areas in Kosovo (Kosovo-online)

Over the last 24 hours two more cases of Covid-19 infection were registered in the Serb-populated areas in Kosovo, media report, thus bringing the total number of infected persons at 38.

Epidemiologist Aleksandar Antonijevic said the two new cases were registered in Leposavic and Zubin Potok.

Out of the total number of infected persons, 20 are in Mitrovica North, 10 in Zvecan, 4 in Leposavic, 3 in Zubin Potok and 1 in Gracanica. 

KoSSev also reported that the first confirmed patient with Covid-19 infection from northern Kosovo was released from hospital in Nis.  

Jevtic in strongest terms condemns Rasic’s statement (Radio kontakt plus)

Kosovo Minister for Communities and Return Dalibor Jevtic in the strongest terms condemned the statements Nenad Rasic, director of the Office for Communities Affairs, within the prime minister’s cabinet, made on coronavirus spread in the north and Belgrade’s responsibility. Jevtic said that certain individuals with their new political engagement “use this moment and time to continue destroying all the bridges of cooperation between Serbs and Albanians.”

In a press statement, Jevtic said that the need for cooperation, communication and coordination at this moment is more than needed.

“I have emphasized several times, publicly and in the meetings I had, my appreciation to the Kosovo Minister of Health Arben Vitia on his professional attitude, work and responsibility he has demonstrated. I am emphasizing it once again. At the same time I want to thank all the others who have removed political barriers between us, so we can together win against this dangerous virus,” Jevtic said.

He added that representatives of the international community and ambassadors clearly praised the efforts of responsible officials in joint engagements at these difficult times.

“I also call upon them to equally condemn the statements of Mr. Rasic, to clearly say ‘no’ to a person who won’t stop there, because he has got a chance that as a director of the Office for Communities Affairs instead of working to resolve the problems citizens face, cause distress and division with his statements,” Jevtic underlined. 

Bilčík: Freedom of expression, media to be guaranteed during state of emergency (N1, Danas)

The European Parliament (EP) Raportauer for Serbia Vladimír Bilčík said that the guarantees for the freedom of expression and media should be respected even during the state of emergency, adding the EP oversaw the situation in Serbia carefully,” the Danas daily reported on Thursday.

 “I was very concerned with Ms (journalist Ana) Lalic arrest last week. But I was relieved when Serbia’s Government reacted fastly and withdrew measures for ‘centralising’ public information,” Bilčík told the daily.

He added that “it should be taken into account that as soon as the situation on the ground allows, general and local elections are due in Serbia.”

“We (the EP) are carefully watching the situation in your country and will continue to do that,” Bilčík said.

Commenting on aid Serbia was receiving from China and the EU, he said that “it is important to talk about what the EU is doing.”

But, referring to China, he said that “if the authorities there informed the world and their people about COVID-19 spreading in December, the current pandemic would have been substantially less serious everywhere, including Serbia.”

“EU firmly supports our Western Balkans’ partners with concrete steps and commitments. The EU is there for people in Serbia in good times and bad,” Bilčík said, recalling the EU aid to the country during the 2014 floods.

He said the EU “has so far mobilised 15 million Euro for direct aid to the health care system and was offering 78.4 million Euro for the social and economic recovery from coronavirus epidemic across Serbia.”

“Last Friday alone, the EU with its UN partners allocated 4.9 million Euro for purchasing respirators, tests and protective equipment for all people in Serbia who are daily fighting coronavirus ‘on the first frontline’,” Bilčík said.

https://bit.ly/3aZaPeU

Dr Kon: Total ban on any contact; 219 new cases of coronavirus in Serbia yesterday (B92)

There are 219 new cases of coronavirus registered in Serbia, while four have died in the last 24 hours, reported Belgrade based B92 yesterday. 

All the deceased are male patients.

At the moment, there are 112 people on respirators.

There are 38 patients at the Infectious Disease Clinic (9 on the respirator), 16 patients at the NIS Clinic, 127 patients at the Vojvodina Clinic (7 on the respirator), 57 patients at the Kragujevac Clinic (10 on the respirator), and 259 patients (37 on the respirator), Pulmonology Clinic 76 patients (6 on respirator), old building KC Nis 23 patients (12 on respirator), department of pulmonology KC Nis 33 patients, in Zemun 335 patients (20 on the respirator), Zvezdara 361 patients (11 on respirator), Belgrade Fair – 124 patients, Cair Sports Hall in Nis 171 patients, Novi Sad Fair – 48 persons, at the Military Medical Center 48 patients.

Dr Predrag Kon pointed out that there is still no talk of repealing the measures and that this is a topic we can discuss in future.

“The data shows that we are reaching the peak of the epidemic and that we are at that maximum. The peak can take about two weeks and after that we can expect a decrease,” said Kon.

He said he advocated a total ban on contact.

“I’m in favor of a total ban on contacts. That would mean you can’t see two people together on the street. My idea is more serious than a ban on moving”, he said.

He added that we would be in much bigger trouble if we had not introduced a state of emergency. He confirmed that it was confirmed at the Crisis Staff that the military hospital in Nis would be open for COVID free citizens.

“In Nis, the military hospital will be open for the citizens, and the new building of the clinical center will be a completely COVID devoted hospital. Infectologists from the military hospital in Nis will move to that new COVID hospital. This is necessary because Nis is filling up relatively quickly”, he said. He added that Belgrade was considered to have capacity and was considering freeing space and moving to the Fair.

At the gynecological-obstetric ward in Sabac, one midwife was infected.

“She will, according to my information, go to the Belgrade Fair,” Kon said.

In Bor, a member of the police department died. He was not COVID-positive.

The curfew on Friday starts from 5 pm and runs until 5 am on Monday. Speaking of potential exemptions, experts said pensioners would be able to go to the stores on Friday from 4 to 7 am, while the old rules apply to pets.

Kon also talked about the promptness of getting results of COVID testing.

“There is a need to pull healthcare professionals from somewhere. We still have problems with the promptness of issuing test results, but this is an administrative-logistical thing. It is not about tests, it is not about capability of the staff, but we do not have adequate capacity of those who are ready to insert data, that is a problem as particular medical education is necessary in order to be able to do that. We cannot rely only on technicians. It can complicate things, the wrong Personal ID number carries further mistakes”, Kon said, adding that these people should work in infectious conditions, where they have not been before, so they have resistance to it and that is a serious problem.

He also referred to the celebration of the coming holidays.

“Forbidding contacts would be the best measure, which would involve celebrating Easter in a special way, without gathering, at home. The same goes for the upcoming Jewish holidays,” Kon said.

“Now if we give in, everything that we have done so far can be in vain,” Kon said, adding that the virus must not enter gerontology centers in future, as we fight hard to prevent this from happening.

https://bit.ly/3e94MGT

EU earmarks 800 million Euro in pandemic aid for Western Balkans and Turkey (N1)

The European Commission said on Wednesday that it had set out plans for a robust and targeted response to support partner countries’ tackle the coronavirus pandemic, including 800 million Euro in aid for the Western Balkans and Turkey.

 “The EU’s collective action will focus on addressing the immediate health crisis and resulting humanitarian needs, strengthening partner countries’ health, water and sanitation systems and their research and preparedness capacities to deal with the pandemic, as well as mitigating the socioeconomic impact,” a press release said.

Commission Ursula von der Leyen said that international cooperation is needed to combat the pandemic.“The virus knows no borders. This global challenge needs strong international cooperation,” she said.

Her words were echoed by the EU’s top diplomat, High Representative Josep Borrell. “The coronavirus pandemic requires united, global action in response… This is a global fight that we will either win or lose together,” he said and added that the EU needs to help its neighbors.

Neighbourhood and Enlargement Commissioner, Olivér Várhelyi said that the EU is “redirecting more than 3.8 billion Euro of foreseen funds for the Western Balkans and our immediate neighbours to the East and to the South for urgent response to the health crisis, to strengthen the health systems and to mitigate the socio-economic impact of the pandemic”. “We share a continent and we can only succeed together,” he said.  

https://bit.ly/2UVoa2A

 

Opinion

 

World Powers Use Pandemic to Flex Muscles in Balkans (Balkan Insight)

As China, Russia and the US use aid and political games during the coronavirus to enhance their positions in the Balkans, the EU risks seeing its much more substantial help for the region being sidelined.

The line between a true friend, a good neighbour and an interested party was always blurred in the Balkans – and the need to differentiate between them was never as crucial as it was in this time of the coronavirus outbreak.

Weakened by years of power games, nationalism, populism and corruption, governments across the region were ill prepared for the outbreak. They established first lines of defence against the virus, but as the crisis drags on, it threatens to further deplete the capacities of their frail health, economic, financial and political systems.

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

International

 

Kosovo’s Kurti Assures EU Of Commitment To Dialogue With Serbia (RFE) 

Kosovo’s caretaker prime minister has assured a European Union special envoy of his commitment to resume dialogue on normalizing ties with neighboring Serbia.

Albin Kurti said in a letter to envoy Miroslav Lajcak on April 8 that a deal should be accompanied by a political, economic, and financial package to “accelerate the convergence of the two countries’ standards of living and their integration into the European Union.”

But Kurti warned that “under no circumstances or situation will issues of mutual sovereignty, territorial integrity, and internal affairs be discussed.”

https://bit.ly/2Rm4hzg

 

 Humanitarian/Development

 

China takes new measures fearing that the epidemic might reappear (B92, Tanjug)

China, in which the coronavirus epidemic has passed, has taken new measures to prevent asymptomatic virus carriers from causing another wave of contagion

Although the number of newly infected has fallen since its peak in February, when China isolated several cities, authorities are calling for continued caution over fear of a new wave of contagion.

Of the 63 new cases, 61 are travelers arriving to China from abroad.

In addition to imported cases, Chinese authorities are also concerned with asymptomatic cases, people carrying the virus who do not have any clinical symptoms such as fever or cough.

On Wednesday, 56 new asymptomatic cases were reported so the total number of such cases, also called “tacit transmitters” by Chinese media, has risen to 657, Reuters reports.

As a result, new measures have been adopted. Healthcare providers must report asymptomatic cases within two hours of discovery. Local governments must then identify all known close contacts within 24 hours.

Asymptomatic patients will be placed in collective quarantine for 14 days and will be counted as confirmed cases if they begin to show symptoms.

Also, the two-week quarantine will include their close contacts.

A new feature appeared on the WeChat mobile platform early in the week, allowing people to check if they have ever sat on a train or plane next to an asymptomatic virus carrier that later became a confirmed case.

Chinese health authorities have previously warned that about two-thirds of asymptomatic patients will later develop symptoms of coronavirus infection.

https://bit.ly/3aUQKq5

Kosovo Company Manufactures 3D Ventilator to Fight COVID-19 (Balkan Insight)

Responding to the worldwide need for more ventilators to assist the fight against COVID-19, a Kosovo-based company has come up with a low-cost, open-source ventilator prototype that uses 3D printing technology.

Arianit Zabergja, co-founder of Formon, told BIRN that over the last 10 days the company had redirected all its resources towards developing the ventilator, using 3D printers from its own stock. Called VentCore, more than half of its parts are 3D printable parts.

A 3D printer essentially works by extruding molten plastic through a nozzle that it moves around under computer control. It prints one layer, waits for it to dry, then prints the next layer on top.

As the company points out, the Ventcore “is not meant to replace proper medical devices, it is an emergency device when all other options are depleted. It is to be used only under medical doctors supervision.”

https://bit.ly/3e6Rjix

‘Destructive’ hydropower construction continues despite lockdown (Prishtina Insight)

The construction of several small hydropower plants on the Lepenc River in the south of Kosovo is continuing, despite concerns from local residents that workers will contribute to the spread of coronavirus in the region.

Agron Rushiti, a resident of Lower Biti in the municipality of Strpce, was part of a protest against the work ongoing in his village held on 17 March. Speaking to BIRN, Rushiti raised concerns that not only will the hydropower plant damage the river, but that continued construction during the pandemic could contribute to the spread of coronavirus. 

“Today I came out because of coronavirus,” he said. “There are workers from all over, Prizren, Suhareka, Ferizaj and Kacanik, and I fear that they will bring the virus here.”

A coalition of civil society organisations have demanded that construction be halted immediately. Through a press release published on Wednesday, the coalition emphasized that the projects underway on the river are damaging the tributaries of the Lepenc and endangering the residents. 

https://bit.ly/34u0HZh

 

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