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UNMIK Media Observer, Morning Edition, April 21

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37 new cases of COVID-19 in Kosovo over the last 24-hour period (media)
Kurti speaks Covid-19 and new elections to int’l media reps (media)
Kosovan acting PM accuses Trump envoy of meddling (The Guardian)
Thaci: I’ll take final constitutional steps next week (media)
Grenell denies talk of land swaps between Kosovo and Serbia (media)
Serwer: A really bad deal (media)
Borell: EU to work to resolve differences between Kosovo and Serbia (media)
KOSTT joins European energy operators (media)
Kurti: Veliu was part of Thaci – Vucic plan for Kosovo partition (Express)
Mustafa doesn’t rule out PM candidacy (Klan Kosova)
Nagavci: Mustafa has set himself in Thaci’s service (RTK)
Shala: U.S. did not accept Kurti as head of delegation for dialogue (media)
Kurti: Covid-19 tests from Serbia should not be politicised (Telegrafi)
Osmani: No aid from Serbia can erase its committed crimes in Kosovo (RTK)
Krasniqi: Kurti enabled Vucic to try to atone genocidal crimes with tests (Klan)
EU MPs call for visa liberalisation for Kosovo as soon as possible (Express)

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  • 37 new cases of COVID-19 in Kosovo over the last 24-hour period (media)
  • Kurti speaks Covid-19 and new elections to int’l media reps (media)
  • Kosovan acting PM accuses Trump envoy of meddling (The Guardian)
  • Thaci: I’ll take final constitutional steps next week (media)
  • Grenell denies talk of land swaps between Kosovo and Serbia (media)
  • Serwer: A really bad deal (media)
  • Borell: EU to work to resolve differences between Kosovo and Serbia (media)
  • KOSTT joins European energy operators (media)
  • Kurti: Veliu was part of Thaci – Vucic plan for Kosovo partition (Express)
  • Mustafa doesn’t rule out PM candidacy (Klan Kosova)
  • Nagavci: Mustafa has set himself in Thaci’s service (RTK)
  • Shala: U.S. did not accept Kurti as head of delegation for dialogue (media)
  • Kurti: Covid-19 tests from Serbia should not be politicised (Telegrafi)
  • Osmani: No aid from Serbia can erase its committed crimes in Kosovo (RTK)
  • Krasniqi: Kurti enabled Vucic to try to atone genocidal crimes with tests (Klan)
  • EU MPs call for visa liberalisation for Kosovo as soon as possible (Express)

Kosovo Media Highlights

37 new cases of COVID-19 in Kosovo over the last 24-hour period (media)

37 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed yesterday in Kosovo by the acting Minister of Health Arben Vitia.

In a Facebook post, Vitia said that 353 tests were carried out yesterday. “It is encouraging that some municipalities like Malisheva, Ferizaj, and Suhareka, that were hardest-hit for many days, have not had any cases today,” he wrote.

Vitia also said that 21 persons have recovered with the total number of recoveries reaching 123. “However, we have new cases in some new locations. These cases are believed to have been infected at least two weeks ago, early April, through their contacts,” he said. Vitia urged the citizens to respect the preventive measures which he said are crucial.

Meanwhile, Kosovo’s National Institute for Public Health confirmed three new deaths from coronavirus, taking the number of total deaths to 15. Two of the deaths are from Mitrovica North and one from the Leposavic municipality, the Institute confirmed.

The number of COVID-19 cases in all municipalities of Kosovo presently is 645.

Kurti speaks Covid-19 and new elections to int’l media reps (media)

Acting Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti held a virtual news conference with representatives of international media outlets where he spoke about measures the government of Kosovo has taken to fight the spread of COVID-19 pandemic and the political developments, a press release issued by the government of Kosovo said.

Kurti is quoted as saying that his government has inherited a health system that has been destroyed through corruption and mismanagement for years and that as a result, preventive measures are the only option to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

On the political front, Kurti noted that new elections are the only way forward following the motion of no confidence against his government. He said reciprocity instead of the 100 percent tariff on Serbia was something that was agreed jointly with his now former coalition partner, the LDK but that he faced pressure to renounce reciprocity.

Kurti said he is not against dialogue with Serbia or against the prospect of an agreement but that he does oppose a process without principles. He said he is also against a dialogue with maps that would include territorial swap or redefinition of borders underlining that the content of the agreement is more important than the speed with which it is achieved.

Kosovan acting PM accuses Trump envoy of meddling (The Guardian)

Kosovo’s caretaker prime minister, Albin Kurti, has launched a stinging attack on Donald Trump’s acting national intelligence director, accusing him of meddling in the country’s politics and helping to bring down his former government with the goal of delivering a quick diplomatic victory for Trump.

Kurti is staying on as PM in an acting capacity after his coalition partners turned against him in a parliamentary vote last month that was egged on by US diplomats. The upheaval was met with disbelief among many Kosovans, who wanted the government to focus on fighting coronavirus.

Kurti acknowledged the crisis had a local dimension, but accused Richard Grenell, who has been working on a potential deal for Serbia to recognise Kosovo, of being “directly involved” in pushing for the vote.

“My government was not overthrown for anything else but simply because Ambassador Grenell was in a hurry to sign an agreement with Serbia,” said Kurti in a press conference held via video link from Pristina.

A Trump loyalist, Grenell is the US ambassador to Germany and was also recently appointed as the acting director for national intelligence, coordinating the work of 17 US intelligence agencies. He previously caused controversy in Berlin by saying he wanted to “empower” rightwing forces in Europe.

“What he [Grenell] needs is a quick deal to show they can fix crises in the world, perhaps in contrast to the Clintons, Bushes and Obamas, without any military intervention, and this can be presented as a success in this electoral year,” said Kurti.

He accused Grenell of being disinterested in the substance of any deal and of being focused only on getting “the signature on the bottom of the paper” as soon as possible.

Full article at: https://bit.ly/2ziksaO

Thaci: I’ll take final constitutional steps next week (media)

All news websites reported that Kosovo President Hashim Thaci took to Twitter on Sunday to say that “next week I’ll take the final constitutional steps to enable the formation of a new Government w/ full legitimacy from Parliament, capable to fight #COVID19 and serve the people. Tariffs & reciprocity need to be dropped in order to strengthen USA & EU support for Kosova”.

The US Presidential Envoy for the Kosovo – Serbia Dialogue, Richard Grenell, retweeted Thaci’s message, saying “once tariffs/reciprocity are dropped (maybe this week?), then Dialogue begins in earnest. I’ve spoken with leaders in Serbia and Kosovo to make clear they must start building confidence today in preparation – and they’ve committed to do so. More to come soon.”

Grenell denies talk of land swaps between Kosovo and Serbia (media)

Most media covered a tweet by the US Presidential Envoy for the Kosovo – Serbia Dialogue, Richard Grenell, on Sunday in which he denied any talks for territorial exchange between Kosovo and Serbia.

Grenell tweeted: “There has been absolutely no talk of land swaps from me – and it’s never been discussed by anyone else in my presence. We have said this many times.”

Serwer: A really bad deal (media)

Several news websites cover an opinion piece by Balkans analyst Daniel Serwer published in peacefare.net. Below is the full text of Serwer’s piece:

Kosovo caretaker Prime Minister Kurti in a Zoom press conference this morning confirmed a lot of suspicions:

The United States, in particular Special Envoy and Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell, has played an important role in unseating Kurti, who has been defeated in a confidence vote the US welcomed.

Grenell has opposed Kurti’s efforts to get reciprocity for Kosovo and instead insists on unilateral and complete abolition of the tariffs Kurti’s predecessor imposed on Serbian goods, without any quid pro quo from Serbia.

The dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade should be held under the auspices of both the EU and the US, not one or the other but both acting together.

Kurti said he was not invited to such a dialogue but only to an opportunity to sign up for the land (and people) swap Presidents Vucic and Thaci have been discussing.

It would send three majority-Serb municipalities (but not North Mitrovica) to Serbia and provide for both extraterritoriality for Serbian sites south of the Ibar river as well as a Serb Association of Municipalities, with only part of the majority-Albanian Serbian municipality of Presevo in return.

Kosovo would not even get Serbian recognition, but rather a kind of acceptance of the status quo, like West and East Germany.

NATO would still protect Kosovo’s main water supply, Gazivoda.

Kurti believes Thaci is doing this to protect himself from indictment by the Special Tribunal in The Hague but does not see how such a deal could be approved in Kosovo’s parliament, much less by the electorate.

Albin is proving strikingly popular in recent polling, not least due to his insistence on reciprocity with Serbia and his opposition to his President’s land/people swap plans. He made it clear in his remarks that he anticipates instability if he is removed from office (and implied he wouldn’t do anything to discourage it). What he wants is early elections, which he anticipates winning, perhaps even with an absolute majority in parliament.

This is all happening in the midst of the corona virus epidemic, which remains a big challenge for a poor country that has a weak health care system and has lost many medical personnel to emigration. For now, a new election is out of the question. More likely is that President Thaci will find an alternative majority in parliament that will name a new prime minister and grant him the emergency powers he has sought. They will be used not only to fight Covid-19 but also to try to proceed with the land swap deal, under pressure from the Americans to give President Trump something he can boast about during the US election campaign.

This is an ugly situation, with much wider implications in the Balkans and beyond. The land swap would validate an ethno-territorial concept Moscow has pursued not only in the Balkans, in particular Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also in Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. Russian President Putin would enjoy the consequences no end, a result the ethno-nationalist Trump Administration would welcome.

Ironically, President Vucic may right now be the biggest obstacle to a quick deal. He has made it clear he will not proceed until after the Serbian elections, which have been postponed from April due to Covid-19. That said, the kind of deal Kurti outlined today should be more than satisfactory to Belgrade, which is required to do little but give up part of a municipality whose population it finds troublesome. By the same token, it is hard to fathom how anyone in Pristina would even consider it.

Borell: EU to work to resolve differences between Kosovo and Serbia (media)

European Union High Representative Josep Borrell said on Monday that the Western Balkans cannot be stable without a clear perspective from the EU, news websites reported. In an address to European MPs, Borrell said the lack of a dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina is the most pressing issue in the Western Balkans. “In order to have a clear perspective, the EU needs to work to resolve differences between Kosovo and Serbia,” he said.

Borrell said the EU special envoy for the dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak, assumed this duty recently and that he is in contact with authorities from both sides. “He is setting up a team and we need to give him some time to see how he can help the two sides return to the table of talks,” he said.

Borrell also said that Lajcak is an experienced diplomat that will work with all stakeholders, including the United Nations and the United States of America.

KOSTT joins European energy operators (media)

European Network of Transmission System Operators (ENTSO-E) has endorsed agreement with Kosovo’s transmission, system and market operator (KOSTT), a move which is being hailed as enabling Kosovo to be energy-independent.

Acting Prime Minister Albin Kurti said the decision enables KOSTT to enjoy equal rights and responsibilities with other European operators. “Today’s voting in ENTSO-E enables access of KOSTT to the regional market & in the 400kV power line btw Kosova&Albania,” Kurti tweeted. He thanked Germany for the financial support and the European representatives for their votes.

President of Kosovo Hashim Thaci also hailed the vote which he said leads to Kosovo’s full energetic independence from Serbia. “A great step forward for #Kosovo. Grateful to our allies for their unwavering support,” he wrote on Twitter.

The German Embassy congratulates KOSTT and the Government of the Republic of Kosovo on the positive outcome of the voting process within the European Network of Transmission System Operators (ENTSO-E). “The Connection Agreement finally enables the establishment of an independent control area for Kosovo – this is a milestone for Kosovo and for cooperation in the region,” the German Embassy said in a statement adding that this was a result of a long effort on which Germany stood alongside the Kosovo governments and institutions. “Kosovar citizens of all communities will profit in the end.”

Kurti: Veliu was part of Thaci – Vucic plan for Kosovo partition (Express)

Kosovo caretaker Prime Minister Albin Kurti said on Sunday that Agim Veliu, former Interior Minister and Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) deputy leader, was dismissed from duty because he was part of a plan for Kosovo’s partition. Kurti said in an interview to Syri TV: “in the project for Kosovo’s partition are the presidents of Kosovo and Serbia. Part of the same project was also the former interior minister whom I dismissed. It was not an issue of dismissing a minister, he [Veliu] was the plan. The plan had two phases: declare a state of emergency and divide Kosovo”.

“After declaring a state of emergency, with a small majority of votes, Thaci would become king in Kosovo. He is not content with the competencies he currently has. This is why I have asked him to return to politics and to run in the elections. Kosovo is a parliamentary republic and the President is a public notary,” Kurti was quoted as saying.

Mustafa doesn’t rule out PM candidacy (Klan Kosova)

Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) leader Isa Mustafa is not ruling out his possible candidacy for Prime Minister of Kosovo, the news website reported on Monday.

Mustafa said the LDK presidency and the steering council have expressed their support for an eventual coalition with the AAK, NISMA and AKR.
He said the first step of their eventual government would be to drop the reciprocity measures against Serbia.

Mustafa also told reporters that it was good that the ruling coalition between the LDK and Kurti’s Vetevendosje Movement came to an end. He also said that “when we form the new government with the AAK [Alliance for the Future of Kosovo] and some smaller parties, we will create a system of good governance”.

Mustafa said their eventual government would have two priorities: the fight against COVID – 19 and the dialogue with Serbia.

Nagavci: Mustafa has set himself in Thaci’s service (RTK)

Deputy Speaker of the Assembly of Kosovo Arberie Nagavci accused the leader of the Democratic league of Kosovo (LDK) for his position towards lifting the tariff and reciprocity measures for Serbia. 

“After President Thaci’ last night’s tweet, LDK’s leader today immediately made an announcement, proving once again that they will be in Thaci’s service.

President Thaci on 19 April: Tariffs and reciprocity should be lifted. LDK leader Isa Mustafa on 20 April: If LDK led the government, the first step would have been lifting reciprocity. The mosaic is being completed, Thaci only reconfirmed the truth of bringing down the Kurti government through majority of LDK MPs. The intention was and remains creation of an anti-constitutional government, to  remove the country from the principal of reciprocity with Serbia, and open way to the signing of the agreement with Serbia,” Nagavci wrote. 

Shala: U.S. did not accept Kurti as head of delegation for dialogue (media)

Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) MP Kujtim Shala said in a debate in T7 on Sunday evening that the U.S. administration did not want Kosovo caretaker Prime Minister Albin Kurti as head of the delegation for talks with Serbia.

“The Embassy did not recognise the Prime Minister as the head of the Kosovo delegation. The LDK tried to mediate. It was important that the U.S. administration understood that as a partner we supported the Prime Minister. But they were adamant that the Prime Minister would not lead the dialogue,” Shala said. “The main problem were relations with the U.S. The LDK knows that our relations with the U.S. is existential.”

Kurti: Covid-19 tests from Serbia should not be politicised (Telegrafi)

Acting Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti spoke about the donation of 1,000 tests for coronavirus from Serbia saying that the issue should not be politicised and that the move did not improve Serbia’s image.

“If it has improved image it would be through agreements in which Kosovo representatives put their signatures too. We have demonstrated we make no distinction between the citizens, be it on age, party, municipality, religion, ethnicity,” Kurti said.

He added that if the Government of Kosovo were to refuse the donation, it would be accused of being irrational. He said that regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations are necessary during the fight against the pandemic.

Osmani: No aid from Serbia can erase its committed crimes in Kosovo (RTK)

Vjosa Osmani, Speaker of the Assembly of Kosovo said no aid from Serbia can erase Serbi’s crimes committed in Kosovo.

After consultative meeting with the Acting Prime Minister Albin Kurti, Osmani requested political consensus to fight the pandemic adding that this matter should not be politicised.

Asked about Serbia’s sending COVID-19 tests to Kosovo, Osmani said that not only Kosovo, but the entire world is aware of Serbia’s crimes in Kosovo. “They happened in front of the eyes of the world and they are proved by the International Court. Therefore Serbia at this time of pandemic could have sent aid, but this does not erase what each of us experienced,” she said.

Speaking about the political situation, Osmani said it has been a long time that LDK leadership is not informing her on future actions for the governing coalition. 

I am not informed, I just heard that there is another meeting today, where I was not invited. It is nothing new, it has been a long time that I have not been invited or consulted,” she said. 

Krasniqi: Kurti enabled Vucic to try to atone genocidal crimes with tests (Klan)

Deputy leader of the Democratic Part of Kosovo Memli Krasniqi, said his political party responded to the meeting called by Acting PM Kurti, to show that they overcome all differences when interests of the country are concerned.

He however criticized Kurti for ‘bad management of the situation.’

“You are aware that it has been more than a month that we held press conferences, we made proposals and undertook legal initiatives at the Assembly for the pandemic, but unfortunately, up to date, we only met with arrogant and ignoring behavior of the Acting PM and government,” he said. “Now, that the situation appears to get out of their control, and management of the situation is becoming each day more difficult, they made an invitation that should have been made six weeks ago,” he said.

Krasniqi criticized the Acting Pm for making illegal decisions which violated citizens’ rights of freedom. He was especially harsh towards the Kurti and the government for accepting 1000 COVID-19 tests from Serbia.

“This PM and this government succumbed to Serbia enabling effective management of the pandemic in northern municipalities and unfortunately in other municipalities with Serb majority. They justified extraordinary measures set by Serbia, harming seriously sovereignty of our country.”

Krasniqi once again criticized the government for a small numbers of testing for COVID-19, saying that Kosovo continues to have the lowest numbers of testing. Krasniqi said institutional stability should be created as soon as possible, he however added that ‘we do not vote any government that is not led by PDK. All the others have our ‘against’ vote.”

EU MPs call for visa liberalisation for Kosovo as soon as possible (Express)

Members of the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET) called on the European Union to grant visa liberalisation to Kosovo as soon as possible, according to the recommendations of this institution on Western Balkans enlargement strategy, which was voted with majority of votes on Monday.  

The AFET Committee held a video conference meeting on Monday and concluded that keeping the door open to Western Balkan countries is in the European Union’s own political, security and economic interest. “The EU has to ensure that its enlargement methodology supports reforms and sustains fully-fledged membership as the final goal for accession countries, concluded Foreign Affairs Committee MEPs in their recommendations on the Western Balkans, adopted on Monday,” it is stated in the recommendations of the AFET. The decision to open accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia was in the EU’s own political, security and economic interest, MEPs said.

 “The EU should ensure that reforms in the Western Balkans focus on state capacity building, implementation of court rulings, judicial reforms and efforts to counter corruption and organised crime, MEPs ask. The EU should increasingly engage in solving outstanding bilateral issues in the region, promoting good neighbourly relations and regional cooperation,” according to the AFET conclusions. MEP Tonino Picula in a statement posted on Twitter said this report is a clear sign of the European Parliament’s support to the EU aspirations of Western Balkan countries.

 

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