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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, April 17, 2020

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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, April 17, 2020

Albanian Language Media:

• Kurti writes to Thaci: Do not use double standards (media)
• Kosnett on political rhetoric in Kosovo: Focus on facts (media)
• Abazi: No substitution of democracy and no democratic legitimacy without elections (media)
• Nagavci: LVV to reply to Thaci once circumstances permit (RFE)
• Haziri: LDK ready to form a new government (RTK)

Serbian Language Media:

• Three new Covid-19 infection cases in northern Kosovo (Kosovo-online)
• Dacic: UN SC meeting on Kosovo scheduled for April 24 still on the agenda (Kontakt plus radio, TV Prva)
• Three crises in Kosovo (RTK2)
• EU Office supports cooperation of Serbian and Kosovo ministers of health (Kosovo-online)
• Belgrade ready to strengthen relations with Washington in all areas, Dacic says (N1)
• Reporters Without Borders: Authorities to investigate the arbitrary detention of KoSSev editor (KoSSev)
• CoE, NATO, OSCE: Parliaments have key role, they should work (Beta, N1)
• Kon: Percentage of new coronavirus cases in Serbia dropping (N1)

Opinion:

• Trump Is Stirring Chaos in Kosovo at the Worst Possible Time (Foreign Policy)

International:

• Prominent Kosovo Serb Journalist Says Intimidation Worsening with COVID-19 (Balkan Insight)
• Balkan Gangsters ‘Profiting From Pandemic’, Report (Balkan Insight)

Humanitarian/Development:

• North Macedonia Leads Region in COVID-19 Tracing App (Balkan Insight)
• Innovation thrives as pandemic continues (Prishtina Insight)

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Albanian Language Media:

  • Kurti writes to Thaci: Do not use double standards (media)
  • Kosnett on political rhetoric in Kosovo: Focus on facts (media)
  • Abazi: No substitution of democracy and no democratic legitimacy without elections (media)
  • Nagavci: LVV to reply to Thaci once circumstances permit (RFE)
  • Haziri: LDK ready to form a new government (RTK)

Serbian Language Media:

  • Three new Covid-19 infection cases in northern Kosovo (Kosovo-online)
  • Dacic: UN SC meeting on Kosovo scheduled for April 24 still on the agenda (Kontakt plus radio, TV Prva)
  • Three crises in Kosovo (RTK2)
  • EU Office supports cooperation of Serbian and Kosovo ministers of health (Kosovo-online)
  • Belgrade ready to strengthen relations with Washington in all areas, Dacic says (N1)
  • Reporters Without Borders: Authorities to investigate the arbitrary detention of KoSSev editor (KoSSev)
  • CoE, NATO, OSCE: Parliaments have key role, they should work (Beta, N1)
  • Kon: Percentage of new coronavirus cases in Serbia dropping (N1)

Opinion:

  • Trump Is Stirring Chaos in Kosovo at the Worst Possible Time (Foreign Policy)

International:

  • Prominent Kosovo Serb Journalist Says Intimidation Worsening with COVID-19 (Balkan Insight)
  • Balkan Gangsters ‘Profiting From Pandemic’, Report (Balkan Insight)

Humanitarian/Development:

  • North Macedonia Leads Region in COVID-19 Tracing App (Balkan Insight)
  • Innovation thrives as pandemic continues (Prishtina Insight)

 

 

Albanian Language Media

 

Kurti writes to Thaci: Do not use double standards (media)

Acting Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti has written to President Hashim Thaci concerning the request made to the Vetevendosje Movement to put forward a candidate for new prime minister.

In the letter, Kurti says that they are not hesitating to reply to the request and are not refusing it. However, he said that he is still waiting for a reply to the question he made in his last letter. 

“I expressly said: I am aware that the current situation does not permit holding of elections and this is not something we are asking be done now but as soon as conditions are in place after the pandemic is over. However, what is not clear to me is the double standard that you and political parties are trying to impose through unconstitutional ways, following this motion of no confidence which is no different from the previous practices in either the formal or material aspect.”

In addition, Kurti asked for clarifications on the legal basis that Thaci referred to, namely article 95 of the Constitution of Kosovo. “Article 95 to which you refer to has six paragraphs which regulate different issues and random reference to Article 95 is not justifiable at this moment.”

“I will be waiting for your clarification in the hope that you will use the same standard that you expect from me,” Kurti said concluding: “Once I receive your reply I will perhaps have a better understanding of the reason behind this insistence to deal with secondary and tertiary issues at a time when we all need to be united in the fight against the joint enemy – COVID-19.”

Kosnett on political rhetoric in Kosovo: Focus on facts (media)

The U.S. Ambassador to Kosovo Philip Kosnett has reacted to the harsh political rhetoric used recently in Kosovo. 

“Political rhetoric in Kosovo – as in other countries – often descends into racism, sexism, and homophobia.  This demeans those who make such attacks and those who tolerate them. Leaders have a responsibility to discourage this ugliness.  Focus on facts, not insults,” Kosnett wrote on his Twitter account.

Abazi: No substitution of democracy and no democratic legitimacy without elections (media)

Haki Abazi, acting Deputy Prime Minister of Kosovo, said that the citizens of Kosovo and the Kosovo Diaspora are rightfully concerned over the fate of public money during this time if someone else had been in power in which case COVID-19 would turn into a “tender”. “The Diaspora is happy with the great success that the Kurti government has achieved in preventing the quick spread of COVID-19,” Abazi wrote.

Abazi also said that the Diaspora in the U.S. is in direct contact with the Kurti-led government and is working in correcting what he said is wrong information presented in the U.S. about the Vetevendosje Movement by Hashim Thaci and his supporters. 

“The Kurti government now speaks directly to U.S. officials and the Diaspora. The truth has already crossed over the Atlantic.” 

“Diaspora, senators and congressmen with whom we speak on daily basis in the U.S. do not understand why LDK politicians in particular have no courage to speak about elections. What democracy are they talking about if they have no courage to head to elections. They have probably made sneaky polls and know that without Vjosa Osmani, they risk becoming the third party. But there is no substitution of democracy and no democratic legitimacy without elections.” 

Nagavci: LVV to reply to Thaci once circumstances permit (RFE)

Arberie Nagavci from the Vetevendosje Movement (LVV) told Radio Free Europe that as winner of elections, the party will reply to President of Kosovo Hashim Thaci about the candidate for prime minister when the circumstances permit. 

“We will reply to the president’s letter as soon as conditions permit and the president has no right to put pressure on Vetevendosje Movement because it is not up to him to pass the mandate to someone else, except for the winner of elections,” Nagavci said. 

She added that the Constitution of Kosovo and the ruling of the Constitutional Court specify that the mandate for forming a government rests only with the party that has won elections.

Haziri: LDK ready to form a new government (RTK)

Deputy leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) Lutfi Haziri said that his party would be ready to take over the responsibility for forming the new government of Kosovo. 

“We can form the government today, if given the mandate to do so. Only with PDK we will not enter a coalition as this is the decision of the LDK General Council,” Haziri said. 

 

 

Serbian Language Media

 

Three new Covid-19 infection cases in northern Kosovo (Kosovo-online, KoSSev)

Three new cases of Covid-19 infection were registered in northern Kosovo over the last 24 hours, making the total number of infected persons in the Serb-populated areas at 72.

Out of three new registered cases, two are in Mitrovica North and one in Leposavic, epidemiologist Desanka Novakovic said in a press conference.

Four patients have been healed so far, while two persons passed away, one from Leposavic and the other one from Mitrovica North, Kosovo-online portal reported.

President of Mitrovica Interim Council Aleksandar Spiric assessed the epidemiologic situation in Mitrovica North as stable, adding that however “people must not get relaxed about it and walk around the city without urgent need.” He urged the citizens to stay at home.

Spiric also touched upon the Serbian Government Office for Kosovo and Metohija Director Marko Djuric’s call to the citizens of northern Kosovo “to strictly and consistently obey 24-hour movement ban and all other measures made by crisis headquarters headed by mayors on the ground.”

“There is no polemics and it is a moral obligation, and I am confident that most of the people would listen to the recommendation of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Director to stay at home during the weekend, which is our general aim not only for this weekend, but also every next day is important and significant that we stay at home,” Spiric said, KoSSev portal reports. 

KoSSev also said that their question if the shops in the north would be open during the weekend, and in relation to the decision of the Serbian Government that the curfew would last from Friday, April 17 until Tuesday, April 21, remained unanswered. 

Dacic: UN SC meeting on Kosovo scheduled for April 24 still on the agenda (Kontakt plus radio, TV Prva)

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said today that a UN Security Council meeting on Kosovo was scheduled for April 24 and was still on the agenda.

He told Belgrade based TV Prva that the meeting was planned according to a previously agreed schedule and would be via video conference due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The head of Serbian diplomacy said it was “unknown” what the format of the meeting would be, since it was closed to the public.

The public would probably hear what the UNMIK representative would say from the session, Dacic said. 

On the UN website, the meeting was on the program for 24 April and it was announced as an open teleconference about UNMIK.

Three crises in Kosovo (RTK2)

”Kosovo is still where it was three years ago, there is no unity among political actors, at least among two-thirds of the representatives in the assembly, which is necessary for the adoption of a normalization agreement with Serbia,” said Bodo Weber, a German political analyst and connoisseur of the Balkans.

“We now have a special chaos in Kosovo, the so-called three crises. The coronavirus crisis, the crisis of power in Kosovo and the crisis of dialogue, in the context of relations between Kosovo and the European Union. It remains to be seen whether Kosovo will receive a new government or whether new elections will be held following the coronavirus pandemic. I am afraid that the European Union will have to make a choice, given the different interpretations of the office of the President and the government on the other hand, who is leading Kosovo in negotiations with Serbia, whether it is the Prime Minister, as stated in the Constitutional Court decision from last year or is the president, as they say from the presidency. The European Union will have to decide in the coming months who will be the chief negotiator,” Weber told RTK2.

The intensification of the US commitment to relations between Serbia and Kosovo is evident, Weber adds, noting that we should wait and see Miroslav Lajcak’s role in the whole process.

“Everything we’ve seen in the last couple of months, from the pressure of Mr. Richard Grenell and the Trump administration, the vote of no confidence in the government, has all been somehow maintained through the negotiations of that troika, two presidents, Thaci and Vucic and Grenell, in strict secrecy, they have bypassed the European Union and the government in Pristina, and we are left with speculation. What is the purpose of those negotiations, how much pressure Washington has had, and how many actors are from Pristina, whether it is all because of some fast-paced, dirty deal, such as territory swap, and whose interests these are? Now, it is impossible to sign such an agreement, given the worldwide coronavirus crisis and travel bans, but also the future role of European Union Special Representative Miroslav Lajcak,” concludes Weber.

EU Office supports cooperation of Serbian and Kosovo ministers of health (Kosovo-online)

The EU Office in Pristina has welcomed the video talks that Serbian and Kosovo ministers of health, Zlatibor Loncar and Arben Vitia had on Covid-19 pandemic, Kosovo-online portal reports.

“Working together – beyond differences – to save lives in Kosovo and Serbia! This is the way to move forward in the region. Congratulations to the Ministers of Health – and to the Italian Government for facilitating their contacts,” the EU Office wrote on Twitter.

Loncar and Vitia spoke about the measures needed to fight pandemic, and during the talks, where KFOR representatives were also present, an importance of cooperation was highlighted aiming to effectively curb pandemic.  

Belgrade ready to strengthen relations with Washington in all areas, Dacic says (N1)

Serbian Foreign Affairs Minister Ivica Dacic said Thursday that Belgrade was ready to further improve and strengthen the relationship with the US in all fields and to intensify the political dialogue with Washington which, according to him, had “a positive dynamic so far,” BETA news agency reported.

Addressing an online conference “Serbia-US Relations in the face of Coronavirus Challenges,” Dacic said both countries wanted to make the region safe, economically stable and based on democracy, “hoping for our region to become the united European community of states.”

He thanked the US for donating 6,000 tests for coronavirus, adding Serbia appreciates that aid.

Dacic recalled that the US companies had so far invested almost four billion dollars in the country and that “there are over 600 companies with the majority of US-owned stakes.

Speaking about the Kosovo issue, he said Serbia was grateful to US President Donald Trump and the State Secretary’s special representatives Richard Grenell and Mathew Palmer, for their efforts “put into the search for a mutually acceptable and fair compromise.”

“In the period ahead, especially due to the pandemic which hits everyone in the region, all of us must empower relations, stabilise the Western Balkans and solve all open issues for the benefit of the whole region,” Dacic said. 

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

Reporters Without Borders: Authorities to investigate the arbitrary detention of KoSSev editor (KoSSev)

After a number of journalistic associations and CSOs condemned the editor-in-chief of the KoSSev portal, Tatjana Lazarevic’s detention while on duty on April 11th, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) also reacted yesterday.

RSF urged the authorities to investigate this, in their words, „arbitrary detention“.

“Journalist Tatjana Lazarevic of KoSSev was detained by police on 11th April without credible reason while covering the COVIDー19 crisis. RSF calls on authorities to investigate this arbitrary detention,” Reporters Without Borders tweeted.

RSF recalled how “the KoSSev portal was criticized by the Kosovska Mitrovica Provisional Authority for streaming a press conference,” noting that the news site was “denied access to information.”

“Coronavirus can be defeated by respecting press freedom, not by denying it,” RSF underlined.

KoSSev editor, Tatjana Lazarevic was detained on April 11th in the early afternoon on the North Mitrovica – Zvecan road over, as she was told, violating the curfew. She was released over an hour later, after being told by the police that the proceedings were pending and that she would be contacted by the duty prosecutor – which had not yet happened. On the other hand, they refused to reveal the name of the prosecutor, claiming that Lazarevic was not entitled to it.

Meanwhile, Lazarevic filed a complaint with the Kosovo Police Inspectorate, expressing suspicion that the police acted illegally by detaining her and taking photographs of her, which were then forwarded to the media (the photos in question were subsequently published by other tabloids), that is, for failing to detain the person who took the photographs during the curfew.

In addition to more than ten CSOs from Kosovo and Belgrade, Lazarevic’s detention was also condemned by the following journalist associations – the Association of Journalists of Kosovo (AGK), the Journalists’ Association of Serbia (UNS), UNS in Kosovo, NUNS, the „Safe journalists“ regional platform, as well as by the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Desir.

See at: https://bit.ly/2z8zQXa

CoE, NATO, OSCE: Parliaments have key role, they should work (Beta, N1)

The presidents of the Council of Europe (CoE), NATO and OSCE parliamentary assemblies said on Thursday that the member states; parliaments had a key role in defending democratic values, processes and fundamental freedoms and that they should continue work, the Beta news agency reported.

“It’s vital for the parliaments to continue working during this crisis, to approve the packages of economic aid and extraordinary health measures, while trying to preserve democratic control and secure the effective division of power where possible,” the presidents said in a joint message to the member countries of all three organisations.

“In the next months, our parliaments will have to play a vital role in securing that emergency measures are adequately implemented and in line with democratic standards, that the limits of freedoms are appropriate and temporary, that the economic aid is distributed where most needed and that safety and stability are preserved,” they said.

CoE, NATO and OSCE have 57 member states from North Americas, Europe and Asia with over a billion-strong population.  

Serbia’s Parliament does not meet, and its speaker, the head of state and Prime Minister have taken decision normally under the assembly’s jurisdiction.

See at: https://bit.ly/3esZ9TP

Kon: Percentage of new coronavirus cases in Serbia dropping (N1)

Epidemiologist Predrag Kon told N1 on Friday that the percentage of confirmed coronavirus cases is dropping, especially in Vojvodina and Belgrade which, he added, shows that the virus is losing power.

Kon said that the number of new cases has been more than 400 a day over the past few days which is an increase in absolute terms but is a drop percentage-wise because the number of people tested has risen to 3,000 a day. The Vojvodina and Belgrade areas have registered drops in the number of new cases with the coronavirus not registered at all in some areas. “This is positive news which shows that we are the end of its maximum and that there should be no surprises as we enter week seven,” he said.

The doctor said that the situation will improve significantly over the next two weeks along with what he called “crucial decisions” coming after May 1.

See at: https://bit.ly/2wPtUl6

 

 

Opinion 

 

Trump Is Stirring Chaos in Kosovo at the Worst Possible Time (Foreign Policy)

The Trump administration has sown political turmoil in Kosovo at exactly the moment when stable governance is needed to face the COVID-19 threat. The challenge of responding to the outbreak in Kosovo has been compounded by the fallout of a U.S.-backed no-confidence vote that toppled Prime Minister Albin Kurti’s government at the end of March, after less than two months in power.

The ongoing political battle pits Kurti, who remains the caretaker prime minister and favors new elections, against President Hashim Thaci and some of his parliamentary allies, who want to form a government of national unity that would sideline Kurti and his Vetevendosje (“self-determination”) party, which campaigned on an anti-corruption platform and has balked at Washington’s outsized influence in Kosovo’s affairs. Thaci long led the Democratic Party of Kosovo, which emerged from the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA)—in which Thaci was a former top guerrilla—after the 1998-1999 war. Thus, a constitutional crisis has emerged over who has the right to govern the country. Angry residents on lockdown in the capital, Pristina, have taken to banging pots and pans to protest the machinations that brought down the Kurti government during the coronavirus crisis.

See at: https://bit.ly/3esz33x

 

 

International

 

Prominent Kosovo Serb Journalist Says Intimidation Worsening with COVID-19 (Balkan Insight)

Arrested on April 11 while trying to report on the fight against COVID-19, a prominent journalist in the mainly Serb north of Kosovo says local authorities have stepped up pressure on her outlet since the onset of the pandemic.

Tatjana Lazarevic, editor-in-chief of the online news portal KosSev, was detained by police on the road from the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica/Mitrovice to nearby Zvecan, where she planned to go to the local health centre to investigate what she said were “multiple complaints” about its readiness to deal with cases of the novel coronavirus.

See at: https://bit.ly/3er3wyN

Balkan Gangsters ‘Profiting From Pandemic’, Report (Balkan Insight)

Border closures and movement restrictions have hit migrant smugglers – but criminal traders in drugs and medical and protective equipment are thriving, as are online scams, a study reveals.

The curbs and restrictions imposed as part of government campaigns to stop the spread of COVID-19 have prompted crime gangs in the Western Balkans to find new ways to smuggle contraband goods while authorities have their hands full elsewhere, a report by the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy, BCBP, says.

The report is based on data taken from the first six weeks of the outbreak of the health crisis, starting from February 26.

See more at: https://bit.ly/2RMZDL3

 

 

Humanitarian/Development

 

North Macedonia Leads Region in COVID-19 Tracing App (Balkan Insight)

North Macedonia has become the first country in the Western Balkans to launch a contact-tracing app to tackle the spread of COVID-19, with the government at pains to stress user data will be protected.

StopKorona! went live on April 13 as a Bluetooth-based smartphone app that warns users if they have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, based on the distance between their mobile devices.

The app, downloaded more than 5,000 times on its first day, was developed and donated to the Macedonian authorities by Skopje-based software company Nextsense.

See at: https://bit.ly/2XK3YCC

Innovation thrives as pandemic continues (Prishtina Insight)

While the coronavirus pandemic has halted all daily non-essential production and business, people in Kosovo are finding innovative ways to use their free time and expertise to provide voluntary assistance to those in need, while Kosovo’s cultural community discovers new methods of entertaining the masses.

See at: https://bit.ly/34K3ldA

 

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