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Belgrade Media Report 21 April

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LOCAL PRESS

Dacic: UN SC on Kosovo and Metohija on 24 April (TV Happy/Tanjug/RTV)
Relaxation of coronavirus restrictive measures (Novosti/RTS/Tanjug)
Borell: EU has to explain its stabilizing role in Western Balkans (N1)
Dacic: Hypocrites lecturing us (Novosti)
Trifunovic: Vucic rushing to hold elections (Danas/Beta)
Kon: End of epidemic at tenth week, seventh week most dangerous (RTS)
Another 260 cases, 977 patients recovered (RTS)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina

Dodik: It depends on epidemiologic situation recorded over next 10 days whether measures in the RS will be more lenient or more rigorous; OHR is representative of colonial authority (RTRS)
HR Inzko: RS representatives first accepted to attend PIC SB but then changed their mind, RS depends on international aid (Dnevni list)
Viskovic: Measures will be relaxed if situation remains under control in RS (ATV)
FB&H: Situation with Coronavirus epidemic under control; Option of easing some measures being considered (FTV)
Around 70 residents of Bjelave quarantine begin hunger strike (BHT1)
Citizens quarantined in motels and hotels in Maglaj, Doboj Jug and Zenica go on hunger strike (FTV)
Residents of Mostar private quarantine complain about conditions (O kanal)
IMF Executive Board approves 330 million Euros loan to B&H (Dnevni avaz)
B&H records another 46 Covid-19 patients and two more fatalities (N1)
Croatia

Ivan Simonovic named UN General Assembly’s COVID-19 Coordinator (HRT)
HDZ regains lead in voter support according to latest poll (HRT)
In Croatia, another 27 cases of infection, a total of 1908, another person has died (HRT)
Montenegro

Government response to the Covid-19 outbreak (CDM)
Opening schools and kindergartens in Montenegro isn’t priority (CDM)
New coronavirus case detected in Montenegro, number of recovered patients increasing (CDM)
Republic of North Macedonia

Entry and exit from Tetovo banned as of today (Republika)
Spasovski announces a gradual return to normal in early May (Republika)
Gov’t strengthening soft measures so it doesn’t have to introduce more restrictions (MIA)
Macedonia in chaos, disorder and incompetence backed by corruption (Republika/V Fokusu)
Anti-corruption watchdog warns the government that the state of emergency doesn’t excuse its corrupt actions (Republika)
In North Macedonia 24 recovered, 1 death and 7 new cases (Libertas)
Albania

The government wants to extend the state of emergency until 23 June (Radio Tirana)
The pandemic in Albania has been a mild one (Radio Tirana)
Italian Foreign Minister has welcomed Albania’s gesture to send to Italy 60 nurses to help fight COVID-19 (Radio Tirana)
Coronavirus cases in Albania jump to 609 as death toll stands at 26 (ADN)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

Western Balkans: EU funds to benefit people and support reforms (European Parliament)

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Dacic: UN SC on Kosovo and Metohija on 24 April (TV Happy/Tanjug/RTV)

 

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic has announced that the UN Security Council (SC) will debate UNMIK’s report on Kosovo and Metohija on 24 April via a video conference. He says that the dates had already been set, in April and October, for Kosovo and Metohija to be on the SC agenda. The Dominican Republic, as the presiding state, which is, as he put it, fair towards Serbia, has scheduled the session for 24 April. “There are no sessions at the moment, so it will be via a video conference. Eighteen people can participate, including UNMIK Head Zahir Tanin, myself and someone from Kosovo and Metohija,” Dacic told TV Happy. Such a video conference is not the case only now, but it is also valid for other topics, adds Dacic.

 

Relaxation of coronavirus restrictive measures (Novosti/RTS/Tanjug)

 

The Serbian government decided at its session on Monday, in accordance with the current epidemiological situation and the opinion of experts, to alleviate certain measures that had been imposed to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Citizens older than 65 will be allowed to go out for a half an hour walk starting tomorrow, on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. They will be allowed to walk for half an hour between 18.00h and 01.00h, 600 meters the most from their place of residence. Starting from Tuesday, 21 April, shops that offer services will be allowed to open, such as car mechanics and tire shops, shoemakers, tailors, dry cleaning, driving schools, as well as retail trade shops – bookstores, dealers in motor vehicles, bicycles, nautical, technical goods and building materials. Green markets (both those in open and closed spaces) will be open again as of tomorrow, with obligatory application of all protective measures. The government also urges employers in the construction sector (building construction and civil engineering) to continue working at full capacity as of Tuesday. All employers are obliged to provide workers with protective equipment (masks, gloves and disinfectants) and work must be done by respecting social distancing. Employers are obliged to develop a special plan of work during the state of emergency and employees are obliged to comply. Those who are still not allowed to resume their business activity are those whose work involves gathering of a large number of people, such as shops of various types located in shopping malls. Also, reopening is not allowed in activities that involve close physical contact and therefore hairdressing salons, beauty salons, gyms and fitness centers will remain closed. It is important to emphasize once again that work in facilities and areas of business activity that are permitted to resume as of tomorrow can be done only by respecting all protection measures and the use of disinfectants and protective equipment – masks and gloves. At the session the government also approved a donation of 5,000 tests to the Republika Srpska to prevent the spread of infectious disease COVID-19. The Serbian government will continue monitoring developments regarding coronavirus and will adjust its measures in line with the epidemiological situation on the ground. Once again, we appeal to all citizens to adhere to all measures without exception as this is the only way for all of us to defeat this contagious disease together.

 

Borell: EU has to explain its stabilizing role in Western Balkans (N1)

 

EU High Representative Josep Borell told MEPs on Monday that the Union has to increase its capacity to explain its stabilizing role in the Western Balkans. “We have to strengthen our capacity to explain our stabilizing role in the Western Balkans and also our will to cooperate to overcome one of the most difficult issues, the lack of a dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina,” Borell told a remote participation meeting of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs. He said that the coming EU-Western Balkans summit comes at a good moment because “everybody understands that we need each other and that the Balkans will not be a stable zone without having a clear European perspective”. He added that this can happen if Kosovo and Serbia invest effort to resolve their differences. “We have to be there to encourage, accompany, help, suggest but we cannot do the work that only they can do. Having an experienced diplomat like (former Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav) Lajcak engaged full time can be of much help”, Borell said. He expressed the hope that the coronavirus crisis will show that the EU is very much engaged in cooperation with Western Balkan countries and that a clear European perspective will be created for them. “The perspective is much better today than some weeks ago,” he said. Speaking about EU aid to Serbia, Borell said: “If you look on the streets of Belgrade you see billboards with pictures of President Xi of China saying Thanks Brother Xi which is very funny because I have never seen a billboard saying thank you EU for the help you provided and we have been providing a lot of help for Serbia and the rest of the Western Balkans”. “Sometimes the help we are providing and effort we are doing is not taken into consideration and the help that China has been provided is being put on the streets as if it is more important than what the EU has provided before and during the crisis,” he added.

 

Dacic: Hypocrites lecturing us (Novosti)

 

In a statement to Novosti, Minister Dacic harshly reacted to the EU accusations: “All serious states, including those in the EU, have limited some freedoms, especially the freedom of movement, which is the first requirement for stopping the disease. That is why we cannot be lectured by Fajon or Bilcik. Especially hypocritical is to accuse Serbia that, by accepting friendly aid from China and Russia, it is betraying some European concept, which has already crumbled on the first day when the deaths started in Italy.”

 

Trifunovic: Vucic rushing to hold elections (Danas/Beta)

 

The leader of the Movement of Free Citizens (PSG) Sergej Trifunovic has said that President Aleksandar Vucic is rushing to hold elections, which have been pushed back due to coronavirus pandemic, “because if he waits for the autumn without a new term in office, he could find himself in an ugly position.” “We will be monitoring the situation which has been considerably changing, emotions of people have intensified, expectations have also grown stronger and we must not fail them. We will also discuss a boycott of the vote, but firstly within the party ranks and then with fellow opposition members and the public will be informed,” Trifunovic told Danas. Commenting to opinions of political scientists that authoritarian politicians could exploit the virus situation to strengthen their power, Trifunovic noted: “If opportunity makes a thief, a state of emergency makes a dictator.” “Obviously, Vucic has been almost orgasmicly indulging in speaking about wars, death, rifles, blockades, enemies, miracles… He believes he is now living his dreams. However, for to truly realize his dreams, he is missing one ‘detail’ which does not depend on him – our freedom,” Trifunovic stressed.

 

Kon: End of epidemic at tenth week, seventh week most dangerous (RTS)

 

We are under impression that the virus is slowly weakening, which is obvious in an increasing number of mild and asymptomatic cases, epidemiologist Predrag Kon stated. The danger in the seventh week may again be the entrance of the virus into some collective centers and everyone who starts working must respect the protection measures, Kon told RTS. He also pointed out that the end would come when the eighth week is over, and that from week ten to week twelve we could expect no epidemic, but it’s less likely that the virus would disappear, and its presence would be monitored during the summer.

 

Another 260 cases, 977 patients recovered (RTS)

 

Until 3pm on 21 April, there have been another 260 cases, in total 6,890 cases. There have been five more deaths, a total of 130 deaths, and 977 recovered patients. There are 3,660 people in hospitals.

 

REGIONAL PRESS

 

Dodik: It depends on epidemiologic situation recorded over next 10 days whether measures in the RS will be more lenient or more rigorous; OHR is representative of colonial authority (RTRS)

 

Member of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Presidency and member of the Main Coordination Team of the Republika Srpska (RS) Milorad Dodik stated that it depends on the epidemiologic situation recorded over the next 10 days whether measures to prevent spreading of Coronavirus in the RS will be more lenient or more rigorous. He added that introduced measures achieved the result in suppression of Coronavirus epidemics and that citizens acted responsibly during the Easter holidays. The Member of B&H Presidency stated that besides Easter holidays – when more restrictive measures were introduced – the RS is about face another period carrying the increased risk of spreading Coronavirus. Dodik explained that he refers to May 1 holidays, adding that once this period is behind the RS, competent authorities will discuss whether it is time to ease abovementioned measures. “Not all measures will be abolished, we need to stay careful and committed, we cannot bring into question what we have achieved” stressed Dodik. He added that the Main Coordination Team of the RS is committed to decide when it is right time to abolish curfew in the RS. Dodik underlined that it is important that citizens resume to respect social distance measure, as well as the one obliging them to wear protective masks and gloves. He stressed that Coronavirus epidemics affected economy of the RS and revenues of the RS. He reminded that three funds worth some BAM 500 million were established to provide assistance in recovery of the RS economy. Dodik added that these funds should be sufficient for recovery of economy in this entity if the situation with Coronavirus pandemic is improved significantly by the end of May. He also stated that some 24,000 employees in police, health sector and the RS Inspectorate will get stimulation of BAM 1,000 from the RS budget. Dodik underlined that even this measure was criticized by the opposition in the RS.  According to Dodik, the opposition has been criticizing everything the RS institutions are doing. The Member of the B&H Presidency emphasized that no the RS authorities defended the position of this entity as strong as the current authorities are doing. He added that if it was up to leaders of PDP and SDS, the position of the RS would be much more difficult and the RS would be weaker. Dodik criticized the Office of High Representative (OHR) which organized a meeting concerning Coronavirus epidemic. According to Dodik, the OHR is a representative of “colonial authority.” He claims that the OHR is a political body of SDA that undermined the Dayton Peace Agreement by depriving the RS of its rights in an attempt to reduce its power and to abolish it. Dodik stressed that the international community should close the OHR. He also emphasized that the health sector in the RS successfully tackled the epidemics, adding that the RS proved it is capable and flexible society. Dodik deems that this represents a problem for the OHR and political Sarajevo, adding that evidence for this claim is distribution of funds from the IMF’s loan.

 

HR Inzko: RS representatives first accepted to attend PIC SB but then changed their mind, RS depends on international aid (Dnevni list)

 

High Representative (HR) Valentin Inzko said that the RS representatives were invited to the last week’s meeting of the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board (PIC SB) and other international institutions, and that they initially agreed to attend the meeting but later on opted for a different approach, which nobody understands. Inzko said the OHR is thanking Federation of B&H (FB&H) Prime Minister Fadil Novalic for constructive participation in last week’s session of the PIC SB and international organizations in B&H, which was attended by more than 50 representatives of embassies and international organizations. The HR said that PM Novalic presented comprehensive measures the FB&H is applying and that Novalic’s presence is greatly appreciated by the international community. Inzko added that the RS representatives initially confirmed their presence but later on opted for a different approach, which led Inzko to say that nobody understands it because the RS depends on the international aid.

Viskovic: Measures will be relaxed if situation remains under control in RS (ATV)

 

RS Prime Minister Radovan Viskovic said on Monday that in case the situation is under control in the upcoming days in the RS, restrictive measures can be relaxed. He said that the first stores that will be allowed to open will be boutiques and sports equipment stores. Viskovic added that hairdressers and catering facilities will be opened last. Viskovic explained that the measures can be relaxed only if the epidemiologic situation in the RS stays the same in the next 15 days and he announced that abolishing of the state of emergency of the RS should be expected by the end of May.

FB&H: Situation with Coronavirus epidemic under control; Option of easing some measures being considered (FTV)

 

Authorities in the FB&H said that the situation with the Coronavirus epidemic in the FB&H is under control and in this regard, they are considering the option to ease some measures. In this regard, Assistant FB&H Minister of Health Goran Cerkez mentioned the option to relax the prohibition on movement for persons older than 65 and younger than 18 in the FB&H for several hours during a couple of days in a week. He explained: “We will try to introduce all measures for a period of 15 days”. He added that they are also considering to allow work to some small companies that do not contact with a big number of people. Cerkez warned that this does not mean that things will get back to the old way of life and announced that people will continue to live under restrictions for a very long period of time. In this regard, he mentioned wearing masks and gloves and keeping social distance bearing in mind that the pandemic is nowhere close to be over. Director of the FB&H Public Health Institute Davor Pehar stated on Monday that in the current phase, based on their plan for addressing the pandemic, there will be no mass serological testing to the Coronavirus in the FB&H. According to Pehar, they will mostly rely on the PCR tests in this phase of the pandemic and they will probably use this screening method in the later stages. Pehar also said that measures planned and realized in cooperation with the citizens showed results that say they did a good job during this pandemic. He added that the development of the epidemic in the FB&H depends on everyone, the measures implemented and the realization of these measures.

 

Around 70 residents of Bjelave quarantine begin hunger strike (BHT1)

 

B&H nationals who, upon their return from Sweden, were placed in quarantine at the Student Dormitory ‘Bjelave’ in Sarajevo began a hunger strike on Monday morning. B&H nationals quarantined at the Student Dormitory ‘Bjelave’ are demanding to be sent home after the expiry of 15-day quarantine. However, competent authorities claim that 63 B&H nationals who returned from Sweden signed a document upon their return to B&H saying they will remain in isolation for 28 days. Coordinator of quarantine Ahmed Mulaibrahimovic stressed that one is exerting effort for this group of B&H nationals to be tested for coronavirus for the second time. “After that, to reduce their stay (in quarantine),” Mulaibrahimovic underlined. B&H nationals who returned to B&H from Sweden on 5 April underlined that they will not give up on their strike. They are determined to go home which is why they are considering the idea to hire attorneys, but also to invite their families to stage protests in front of the quarantine facility. They argue that the decisions they signed at the International Airport in Sarajevo do not indicate how long they have to be quarantined. On the other hand, representatives of the Student Dormitory claim that they were clearly notified that the quarantine period would last 28 days. They also claim that food, accommodation and other conditions are not the reason for the protest, while the citizens in the quarantine claim the opposite. Head of the FB&H Civil Protection Service Fahrudin Solak said that people placed into quarantine can be retested after 14 days and if the tests come back as negative twice, they can be placed into home isolation for the next 14 days. Representatives of Sarajevo Canton (SC) Crisis HQ stated that this issue needs to be solved and that they sent proposal to the FB&H Crisis HQ to change the abovementioned decree and reduce the quarantine period to 14 days.

 

Citizens quarantined in motels and hotels in Maglaj, Doboj Jug and Zenica go on hunger strike (FTV)

 

Majority of 108 citizens who are quarantined in four motels and hotels in FB&H – Maglaj, Doboj Jug and Zenica started a hunger strike on Sunday evening. Aside from refusing food, they are also refusing to have their body temperature measured. They request to be tested for COVID-19 as soon as possible, as well as for the quarantine period to be reduced from 28 to 14 days. Zenica-Doboj Canton (ZDC) Minister of Healthcare Adnan Jupic visited them on Monday. Although he told them that the quarantine period might be reduced if their health condition remains good after they get tested, they continued the hunger strike as they want to be self-isolated at home instead. “They had an order for 28 days. Today it was changed i.e. reduced to 14 days for epidemiological examination and testing. Depending on test results, everyone who is healthy will be referred to home treatment. If someone turns out to be positive, they will be referred to medical treatment, of course,” Jupic told reporters. Meanwhile, several buses are expected to arrive from countries of the Western Europe in the upcoming days. However, more than 95 percent of capacities in the ZDC are already occupied. Also, certain misunderstandings have been clarified with regard to delivery of necessary equipment to healthcare institutions in the ZDC, which the ZDC government ordered in cooperation with the UNDP. The equipment is expected to be delivered to the ZDC in the upcoming days, according to the reporter. Hasan Pasic, who is staying in quarantine in Doboj-Jug, told BHT1 that people staying in quarantines in Zenica-Doboj Canton (ZDC) are asking to be tested within 14 days. “If we are negative, we should be sent home in isolation,” Pasic said. The FB&H Ministry of Healthcare stated in a press release that cantonal public health institutes are the ones that assess when persons placed in quarantine should be tested. “We can expect that on the basis of results of testing and epidemiological report, they will possibly propose interruption of quarantine measure,” the FB&H Ministry of Healthcare stated in a press release. The ZDC Crisis HQ confirmed to BHT1 that people staying in quarantines in Doboj-Jug, Maglaj and Zenica will be tested after spending 14 days in quarantine. Second testing will be carried out two days after that and measures on further action will be adopted on the basis of test results.

 

Residents of Mostar private quarantine complain about conditions (O kanal)

 

Several people, accommodated in a private quarantine facility in Ortijes district in Mostar, have complained about inhumane conditions in this facility. They claim they were placed in a room where social distancing cannot be respected, as distance from one bed to another is around 50 centimeters. The residents say they have been kept in quarantine for days now without being checked-out by doctors or informed on when they might be tested to coronavirus. They say the facility has no kitchen or other necessary conditions, but the facility’s owner denies the claims, saying the residents have all they need. He did confirm there was no doctor in this quarantine, but emphasized this was not under his jurisdiction. The owner of the abovementioned building stated that conditions in this quarantine are in line with recommendations of the WHO. Also, only after insisting of journalists, the Crisis HQ ordered testing for Coronavirus for all people accommodated in abovementioned quarantine.

 

IMF Executive Board approves 330 million Euros loan to B&H (Dnevni avaz)

 

IMF Executive Board held a session on 20 April and approved the credit in the amount of 330 million Euros, which B&H authorities requested in the Letter of Intent. B&H Minister of Finance Vjekoslav Bevanda confirmed this information for the daily. Daily reads that these funds will be used for financing of the Law on Mitigating of Negative Economic Consequences. According to the agreement, the amount which belongs to the FB&H will be distributed in a way that 50% will be left to the FB&H and 50% will be distributed to the cantons. Out of the total amount, the FB&H will get around BAM 396.9 million, meaning that BAM 198.4 million will be distributed to the cantons in line with the 2013 census. Meanwhile, HDZ B&H President Dragan Covic held a video-conference on Monday with HDZ B&H officials in legislative and executive authorities of the FB&H and Prime Ministers of cantonal governments. The meeting focused on the economy and laws aimed at mitigating negative economic consequences (on the Coronavirus pandemic). It was stressed that the law on mitigating of economic consequences must include business community’s recommendations, and that the Federation of B&H Government must acknowledge remarks from lower levels of authorities, and that it is necessary to adopt measures that will help the economy.  It was further said that the (FB&H) budget rebalance has to be carried out in order to revive the economy, again reiterating a position that distribution of aid from higher levels must include lower levels of the authority, and that money transfers from the FB&H government must be adjusted to needs in the healthcare sector and the economy.

 

B&H records another 46 Covid-19 patients and two more fatalities (N1)

 

Another twenty-seven Covid-19 patients have been confirmed in FB7H over the past 24 hours and nineteen in the RS, bringing the country’s total to 1,342, according to the official data published by B&H Civil Affairs Ministry. Two more Covid-19 patients have died. The FB&H has tested 605 patients on its territory over the past 24 hours, said Sanjin Musa, Head of FB&H Pubic Healthcare Institute. The coronavirus infection has been confirmed with 760 persons in this part of the country to date. As for the RS, of 208 tested patients in the past 24 hours, 19 turned out positive, 564 in total, said RS Health Minister Alen Seranic. Victor Olsavzky, the Head of World Health Organization (WHO) office in the country, joined Seranic’s daily press conference, saying that the state of the coronavirus epidemic in B&H was stable and that the infections curve was flattening. He also said that the measures in effect seem to be effective.

According to official figures, B&H’s death toll stands at 51, with 32 fatalities in the FB&H and 17 in the RS, while 437 patients have recovered.

 

Ivan Simonovic named UN General Assembly’s COVID-19 Coordinator (HRT)

 

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic that has particularly struck New York, the seat of the UN headquarters, the 193 members of the “global council” have not met. The organization claims however, that its membership has remained active, saying that East River diplomats are seeking an answer to the aftermath of the global health crisis. Following quiet consultations with Member States, the President of the UN General Assembly Tijjani Muhammad-Bande appointed Croatian diplomat Ivan Simonovic the body’s coordinator for COVID-19 issues together with Afghan Ambassador Adela Raz. Simonovic’s specific role will be to coordinate the exchange of opinions, approaches and initiatives of the Member States of the General Assembly in response to COVID-19. “All Member States wanted to respond to the crisis, which aspects require a response, which actions need to be undertaken. Individual resolutions were launched at a time when the most important instrument of diplomacy, negotiation, was taken away from us because of the pandemic. Coordination will allow us to hear the views of the UN General Assembly member countries, to exchange ideas and agree on how to respond jointly to the crisis,” Croatia’s Permanent Representative to the UN said. Together with Ambassador Raz, Simonovic announced that he will shortly invited Member States to participate in a virtual conference focusing on the current aspects of the crisis, problems that could possibly arise in the future, and resolutions that imply action and a concrete response to the crisis. Along with serving as Croatian Justice Minister Simonovic has also held a number of high-level positions on the international scene. Among other things, he was Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations for Human Rights and Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General on the Responsibility to Protect.

 

HDZ regains lead in voter support according to latest poll (HRT)

 

With the coronavirus crisis dominating the airwaves, the issue of daily politics has been pushed into the background. However, according to the latest poll conducted by the Promicija Plus agency, the HDZ has regained the lead over the SDP for the first time in five months. According to the survey, the HDZ has 29.9% voter support, which is up by 2.61% from the previous month. The SDP is now second in voter support with 27.4% backing, a drop of 1.89% from the previous month. The only other party that would pass the election threshold of 5% to gain seats in parliament is the new party of Miroslav Skoro, the Homeland Movement Party, with 9.2%. However, this is down by 1.28% from the previous month. A number of political parties that currently hold seats in Croatian parliament would not pass the election threshold, such as MOST, the HSS, HNS, IDS, HSU and HSLS. However, they have traditionally relied on pre and post-election coalitions to gain seats in parliament. It should be noted that some 10% of the electorate, as usual, remain undecided. Commenting on the results of the poll, senior HDZ official and the incumbent Veteran’s Affairs Minister Tomo Medved said that it was a confirmation of the direction the HDZ and the HDZ-led coalition government are leading the country in. The survey was conducted by the Promotion Plus agency from 15 to 18 April on 1400 respondents, which guarantees a 95 percent level of confidence in response, with a statistical error of only +/- 2.62%.

 

In Croatia, another 27 cases of infection, a total of 1908, another person has died (HRT)

 

Currently, a total of 1908 people have been confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus in Croatia, and 771 have recovered. So far, 48 people have died. Today is the 57th day since the outbreak of a new coronavirus in the Republic of Croatia. In the past 24-hour period, another 27 cases have been detected, which raised a total number of infected people to 1908, Health Minister Villi Beros said at a press conference at the National Civil Protection Headquarters. One person has died since yesterday in KB Zagreb, born in 1932. She was a chronic patient.

 

Government response to the Covid-19 outbreak (CDM)

 

The government submitted to the parliament the document titled “Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic”, which encompasses all the activities it has implemented in order to cope with the coronavirus crisis. Here are some of the most important details from the material:

 

The procurement of ventilators

At the very beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, the Montenegrin healthcare system had a total of 106 mechanical ventilators, along with 33 ventilators which were procured and distributed to hospitals across Montenegro on 22 March. Meanwhile, the healthcare system got another 45 mechanical ventilators until 18 April, now making up a total of 151 ventilators in Montenegrin hospitals.

 

12 quarantines

Based on the documents prepared by the Ministry of Health, the govt declared 12 quarantines of which six were privately owned facilities and were put at the govt’s disposal free of charge. The facilities that were made quarantines are: Student campus Krost, Dr Simo Milodevic Institute, Police Academy, Zoganje, ReSpa, the training center of the Red Cross and hotels – Castellastva, Lighthouse, Vucje, Vocco, Holiday Village and Wahels.

 

Implemented activities – Montenegro nationals who returned to their homes

The reports suggest that 9.562 Montenegro nationals (of whom 5.957 were truck drivers and 1.630 were transported to MNE by plane) returned to their homes. A total of 16.036 foreigners left Montenegro in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, of whom 2.865 left our country by plane. The national airline organized 21 flights: Budapest, Rome, Madrid, Zurich, Berlin, Brussels, Ljubljana, Paris, Stockholm and Luxembourg, twice for London and three times for Belgrade, Frankfurt and Vienna. Priority was given to our nationals belonging to socially vulnerable categories of the society (patients who were under medical treatment, elderly people, people who lost their jobs or working permits), students, tourists and people in transit. Foreigners who wished to return to their countries were enabled to use Montenegro Airlines flights free of charge.

 

Setting up makeshift hospitals

Based on the current epidemiological situation, the Public Health Institute proposed the Ministry of Health to start setting up makeshift hospitals for the treatment of Covid-19 patients, which was later on considered and endorsed at the meeting of the National Coordination Body – on 11 April 2020.

Opening schools and kindergartens in Montenegro isn’t priority (CDM)

 

Director of the Clinical Center of Montenegro, Dr Jevto Erakovic, said at the press conference that schools and kindergartens wouldn’t be open yet. PM, Dusko Markovic, announced today gradual ease of restrictions. “Considering the present situation, we are not going to lift measures that could pose great risk. Therefore, opening schools and kindergartens won’t be our priority” Dr Erakovic said. He said that 17 patients were under hospital treatment and were all stable. Two patients were discharged from hospital. Three patients in the internal clinic require intensive care. Two patients are on ventilator and one of them is in critical condition.

 

Proud of excellent results

Today is the 34th day since the first coronavirus case was confirmed in Montenegro. “Temptations were huge. We are proud of the results we have achieved so far. We have proven that our healthcare system is well built. Montenegro has been successful in countering this epidemic. We must not surrender. I call on citizens to keep being responsible,” Dr Erakovic pointed out. Doctor says he is proud to be part of the Clinical Center team. Dr Erakovic said that all employees of the Infectious Clinic have been tested. “Results showed that two nurses and one technician were positive for coronavirus. They are in isolation and they don’t show severe symptoms,” Dr Erakovic said.

 

Lifting measures will go step by step

“Citizens should know that if they don’t adhere to adopted measures, we will be forced to bring them back in force again”, Dr Erakovic said. Assistant Director of the Institute for Public Health, Dr Senad Begic, says that epidemic situation is under control. “We have always tried hard to be one step before others and use all our knowledge and experience. But we must be vigilant,” Dr Begic says. He said that no element of the profession would be excluded in the process of lifting measures. Health is top priority. “The focus is on the health profession, but economic experts also do their part of work,” Dr Begic pointed out.

 

Leading position in testing

Alternating testing process has been on in Montenegro for several weeks. “We have improved the technique of taking samples. The rate of analyzed tests is 8000 on million, which is the highest rate in the WB,” Dr Begic said. Dr Erakovic says that opening schools and kindergartens won’t be encompassed by the first phase of plans referring to easing restrictions.

 

New coronavirus case detected in Montenegro, number of recovered patients increasing (CDM)

 

After 48 samples were analyzed, Montenegro has recorded one more coronavirus case this morning. The newly infected is from Budva and had a close contact with someone already infected with the virus, announced the Public Health Institute. The country now has 313 cases, while the good news is that the number of people who have recovered from the virus is increasing – 90. So far, Montenegro has recorded five fatalities from Covid-19 and they were all men. Confirmed cases by municipalities:

Podgorica: 161

Tuzi: 37

Niksic: 33

Bar: 23

Ulcinj: 22

Andrijevica: 7

Bijelo Polje: 6

Herceg Novi: 6

Plav: 6

Budva: 6

Danilovgrad: 3

Tivat: 3

 

Entry and exit from Tetovo banned as of today (Republika)

 

In accordance with the government’s decision, organized transport of passengers, namely entry and exit from Tetovo municipality and the surrounding municipalities, is banned as of today (Tuesday). Economic operators transporting their employees to the job, police, army and firefighting units are exempted from this ban.

 

Spasovski announces a gradual return to normal in early May (Republika)

 

Interim Prime Minister Oliver Spasovski said that Macedonia will slowly and gradually begin to return to normal in early May. “We are preparing a serious plan that we begin the process of return to normal after May Day. It won’t happen quickly or immediately,” Spasovski said.

So far, the government has been tightening the restrictions, extending the evening curfew and then introducing long weekend curfews. Most stores remain closed except for food and medicine, while restaurants are allowed to serve take out customers only. Additionally, it’s planned to order citizens to carry masks and gloves whenever outside.

Gov’t strengthening soft measures so it doesn’t have to introduce more restrictions (MIA)

 

Soft measures are being strengthened so as not to make restrictive measures stricter. Preparations for easing of restrictions are in the works, but it won’t happen overnight. To pave the way for relaxation of protective measures, we have to make sure we are protecting ourselves and others by wearing face masks or scarves, maintaining 2-meter distance and refraining from grouping. It is not the point to fine people, but the goal is to make sure measures are respected as much as possible, government sources told a briefing. As of Wednesday, people in Prilep, Kumanovo and Tetovo will have to wear masks, scarfs, shawls or similar piece of clothing to cover the mouth and nose. The aim of the measure is to create conditions for more movement all the while protection is guaranteed. To that end, only warnings will be issued in the beginning, fines will follow but only as the last resort. In case a fine is issued, police will have to provide a photo to justify the issuing of mandatory fine, the government sources said at the briefing. The goal, they added, is to leave no room for groundless fines. Nationwide restrictions will be eased in several stages. Plans are being made to reduce the duration of the curfew. However, it will be mandatory for people to wear face masks or scarves. The measures involving bans for grouping and mandatory 2-meter distancing will remain in force.

 

Macedonia in chaos, disorder and incompetence backed by corruption (Republika/Fokusu)

 

Slovenian magazine V Fokusu published an extremely critical review of the way Macedonia is dealing with the coronavirus. In the review, the technical government of the SDSM party is assessed as extremely incapable of dealing with the epidemic, or protecting the economy from the impact of the crisis. “The former SDSM government, now the interim government of SDSM, is sinking in the mud of its own incompetence in front of the eyes of the citizens. At a time when neighboring countries are trying to provide assistance to their economies, which are facing a crisis, the interim government of SDSM has completely neglected and left small and medium-sized enterprises that are collapsing in the lurch. While other countries in the region are preparing huge stimulus packages to keep the economy afloat, SDSM cares only about its oligarchy and its interests. They reject the opposition’s proposals to help certain segments of the economy, such as transport, which the survival of the population literally depends on. The worse the situation in the state, the more proud they become of their intransigence,” writes V Fokusu, adding that 140,000 citizens are left without jobs, to which the ruling SDSM party responds with distributing “humanitarian aid” only to its party members. The magazine writes that due to the high level of corruption in healthcare, Macedonia was left with only 200 coronavirus tests in the first two weeks of the epidemic, and public health had to rely on a private hospital for help.

“People died while waiting to be taken to the main infectious disease clinic, and the number of new patients rose to three-digit per day. Two large cities with a total population of 200,000, Prilep and Kumanovo, have exponential growth in the number of patients, but instead of declaring a crisis situation, the authorities debated who is in charge of the issue. In cases where other non-government actors, such as opposition leader Hristijan Mickoski, provided aid from Slovenia or Hungary, the authorities said it was disrupting official aid channels and almost blamed foreign interference in the country’s sovereignty,” writes V Fokusu, adding that the citizens who were repatriated were charged 300 euros each for transport. Amid this crisis, the magazine also published photos of former Prime Minister Zoran Zaev’s bizarre motorcycle ride with his friends after leaving quarantine under which he was placed following a contact with a journalist who was infected with the virus, with Zaev being described as the “main star” of this absurd situation in Macedonia. “Zaev went ‘to blow off some steam’ with his gang of bikers and state security on a tour across eastern Macedonia, thus mocking the citizens who are in isolation and who respect the orders that came into force. The whole country is under 85-hour lockdown for Easter, starting from Friday 4pm to Tuesday 5am, and the total number of patients infected with Covid-19 stands at 1,170. Unfortunately, there is a potential danger for new, big hotspots, and it is impossible to answer the question of when the epidemic can be expected to slow down, considering the above-mentioned situation in the country and the political climate,” writes V Fokusu.

 

Anti-corruption watchdog warns the government that the state of emergency doesn’t excuse its corrupt actions (Republika)

 

Anti-corruption watchdog warns the government that the state of emergency doesn’t excuse its corrupt actions. The state Anti-Corruption Commission (DKSK) warned office holders that they will be held accountable for abuses done during the epidemic. Macedonia is currently without a parliament and the government holds near total power under a state of emergency, leading to many allegations of abuse on its part, including with rigging procurement contracts. The Criminal Code does not recuse officials who abuse their office if that was done during an epidemic. Any violation needs to be punished, said Anti-Corruption Commission head Biljana Ivanovska. In an interview she urged for an end to the “dangerous cycle of corruption” and said that the government needs to make the decrees it is adopting as transparent as possible. Under the state of emergency, the government has the right to adopt decrees that have the strength of laws adopted by the parliament, and it has not shied away from using this power.

 

In North Macedonia 24 recovered, 1 death and 7 new cases (Libertas)

 

The Ministry of Health informs that today the Institute of Public Health registers 24 recovered patients who were treated at home. Recovered patients are registered in: Skopje – 4, Debar – 4, Strumica – 1, Kumanovo – 1, Stip – 3, Prilep – 3, Kocani – 5 and Tetovo – 3. A 70-year-old patient from Labunista died. The patient was hospitalized in a critical condition, on April 8 and immediately connected to a respiratory machine. In the past 24 hours, 7 new cases of covid-19 have been confirmed. By cities: Kumanovo – 2, Tetovo – 3 and Kocani – 2. The total number of diagnosed patients with covid-19 in our country is 1231, and the last distribution by cities is:

Skopje – 411

Kumanovo – 340

Debar – 51

Stip-34

Prilep –117

Tetovo – 60

Struga – 55

Veles – 59

Bitola –17

Ohrid –15

Kavadarci – 4

Gostivar –13

Gevgelija – 4

Strumica – 2

Kriva Palanka-4

Radovish – 4

Krushevo – 3

Kocani – 28

Probistip – 2

Kicevo – 2

Negotino -2

Demir Hisar – 1

Маkedonski Brod -2

Pehchevo- 1

In the past 24 hours, 207 tests have been performed. So far, a total of 12,340 tests have been performed in the country. A total of 60 patients have been hospitalized at the Clinic for Infectious Diseases and Febrile Conditions. Of these, 18 are on oxygen support and 4 are on mechanical ventilation. 45 patients were hospitalized in the CGH “September 8”. With a more severe clinical picture, there are 7 patients and 5 patients on a respiratory machine. A total of 13 patients have been hospitalized in Bitola, and 15 patients are being treated at home. In the hospital in Stip, 4 patients are hospitalized, and 19 more patients are being treated at home.

 

The government wants to extend the state of emergency until 23 June (Radio Tirana)

 

The government wants to extend the state of emergency until 23 June. Prime Minister Edi Rama is expected to address the Parliament to approve the extension of the current situation with austerity measures due to the situation with Covid-19. Even in yesterday’s communication, Rama stated that there will be an extension of the term of the emergency. On 24 March, the government declared a state of emergency for 1 month due to the situation created by the coronavirus. The extension of the state of emergency is expected to bring reactions from political and business factors, especially from the tourism sector, where it coincides with the peak of development of this industry. Due to the closure of businesses and declining production capacity from 50% to 70% of the majority of manufacturing companies, the number of unemployed will increase to 60 thousand, according to studies and figures of the Ministry of Finance.

 

The pandemic in Albania has been a mild one (Radio Tirana)

 

For the first time since the start of the coronavirus epidemic, the Chief of Surveillance and Epidemic Intelligence Service at the IPH, Eugena Tomini appeared smiling during her daily communication with the media. While talking about the measures taken against COVID 19 in Albania, Ms. Tomini said that the epidemic in Albania has been a mild epidemic. “The epidemic in Albania has been a mild epidemic, in the context of epidemiological data, the health system, and supporting elements. Timely measures and maximum commitment have shown that this epidemic is a mild epidemic,” she said. “We are pursuing the same strategy against the measures taken and in the process being released in the coming weeks,” said Eugena Tomini, head of the Surveillance and Epidemic Intelligence Service at the Institution of Public Health.

 

Italian Foreign Minister has welcomed Albania’s gesture to send to Italy 60 nurses to help fight COVID-19 (Radio Tirana)

 

The Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio has welcomed Albania’s gesture to send to the neighboring country 60 nurses who will serve in the fight against Covid-19. “Today a group of 60 nurses will arrive in Italy to support our hospitals. A concrete help, another gift that comes to us from our Albanian friends. This is the second medical group that Albania sends to neighboring Italy, after 10 doctors and 20 nurses a few weeks ago. Albania’s gesture was greeted by political figures, including Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. EU Ambassador Luigi Soreca also praised Albania’s second aid to Italy with 60 other nurses after the first group with 10 doctors and 20 nurses. Assessing it as an excellent gesture of solidarity, Soreca emphasizes that these very values are at the heart of the European Union’s own union. “Another great gesture of solidarity from Albania. Today, 60 Albanian nurses flew to Italy to contribute to the fight against COVID-19. Solidarity is at the heart of EU values. Thank you very much Albania,” writes Soreca.

 

Coronavirus cases in Albania jump to 609 as death toll stands at 26 (ADN)

 

Albania confirmed 25 new coronavirus cases in the last 24h, jumping the number of total affected people to 609. So far, 6017 cases have been tested since the beginning of the pandemic in Albania. Meanwhile, 18 more patients have recovered from COVID-19 bringing the number of recovered to 345. “25 positive cases with COVID-19 were confirmed in the last 24h. Today is the first day since the beginning of the epidemic that Tirana has no new cases. So far, 6017 suspected cases have been tested and of these, 609 cases have been confirmed positive with COVID-19. During the last 24 hours, 18 other patients have been added to the list of those who have recovered. Currently there are 238 active infected people and as can be seen the number of recovered patients is higher. This trend has been going on for more than a week now. To date, 26 citizens have lost the battle with the disease despite the efforts of medical staff. We would like to inform you that there are currently 32 patients in the infectious disease service. 5 patients are in intensive care. At the COVID 2 “Shefqet Ndroqi” hospital, there are 8 hospitalized patients. 5 patients are in intensive care in aggravated condition. At the two hospitals, 40 patients are currently receiving services. The number of those affected by COVID-19 is increasing in Kurbin and Kruja,” said Public Health Institute Director, Albana Fico.

The geographical distribution of positive cases is as follows:

Tirana – 253 cases;

Durres – 42 cases;

Lushnje – 6 cases;

Elbasan – 16 cases;

Fier – 36 cases;

Kavaja – 9 cases

Rrogozhina – 4 cases;

Korca – 19 cases;

Vlora – 5 cases;

Shkodra – 99 cases;

Lezha – 14 cases;

Berat – 2 cases;

Has – 13 cases;

Kruja – 40 cases;

Tropoje – 4 cases;

Puka – 5 cases;

Mirdita – 3 cases;

Kukes – 11 cases;

Mallakaster – 1 case;

Kurbin – 27 cases.

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

 

Western Balkans: EU funds to benefit people and support reforms (European Parliament, AFET press release, 20 April 2020)

 

Keeping the door open to Western Balkan countries is in the European Union’s own political, security and economic interest, say Foreign Affairs Committee MEPs. 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.

 

More engagement with Western Balkan countries

The decision to open accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia was in the EU’s own political, security and economic interest, say MEPs. They also call on the EU to grant visa liberalisation to Kosovo as soon as possible as well as to closely engage Western Balkan countries’ representatives in joint European initiatives (e.g. sectoral policies and programmes) prior to their accession, including the Conference on the Future of Europe.

 

Countering corruption and promoting regional cooperation

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.

 

Adequate pre-accession financing, benefiting the citizens of the Western Balkans

MEPs oppose any cuts in pre-accession assistance funding that could slow down EU-related reforms. The EU should prioritise specific projects benefiting the people of the Western Balkans and ensure that pre-accession funding is allocated in a transparent, proportionate and non-discriminatory manner, based on performance indicators measuring the progress of the beneficiary countries in implementing reforms.

 

Quote

EP rapporteur Tonino Picula (S&D, HR) said: “This report is a clear sign of the European Parliament’s support to the aspirations and efforts of Western Balkan countries to become EU members once all criteria are met. It is also a clear sign that we support the continuation of the enlargement process in general, as it has been one of the most successful EU policies. Enlargement policy is also a precondition to promote the EU’s presence and its strategic interest in the Western Balkans, so it should be seen as being in our mutual interests”. The recommendations were adopted with 58 votes for, 7 against and 5 abstentions. They will be submitted to EP Plenary in one of the next sessions.

 

Background

On 26 March, the European Council decided to open accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia. Before that, in February, the Commission proposed a revised methodology that should give renewed impetus to EU enlargement. The summit on Western Balkans is scheduled to take place before the end of the Croatian Presidency in June. Besides Albania and North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia have already started accession negotiations, while Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo are potential candidates.

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