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Belgrade Media Report 27 April 2020

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United Nations Office in Belgrade

Daily Media Highlights

Monday 27 April 2020

LOCAL PRESS

Continuation of dialogue with Pristina as soon as conditions are met (Tanjug/RTV/RTS)
Dacic, Botsan-Harchenko on cooperation, UN SC session (RTV/Tanjug)
Vucic in Sremska Mitrovica Memorial Park: Genocide was committed against Serbs (B92/Tanjug)
Only B&H, Slovakia and Serbia against separation of Kosovo from EMS (Politika)
Serbia sends assistance to Italy (Tanjug)
DS, NS continue boycott of parliament (FoNet)
Another 233 cases, 1,209 recovered (RTS)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina

Commemoration for victims of Ustasha crimes in Jasenovac and Donja Gradina in WWII takes place in Donja Gradina, Sremska Mitrovica (ATV)
Restrictive measures relaxed in FB&H (FTV)
RS authorities warn decision to abolish curfew and quarantine facilities in FB&H endangers epidemiological situation in RS (RTRS)
Dodik criticizes FB&H authorities’ decision to abolish quarantine at border crossings (O kanal)
Abolition of quarantine in the FB&H is an insane and irresponsible move (Nezavisne)
RS government announces relaxation of measures as of 27 April (BNTV)
EU’s assistance to health sector of RS handed over; Dodik: RS was not forgotten by EU (N1)
Radoncic presents plan to deport migrants, Dzaferovic says migrant crisis should not be resolve by spreading of hatred and labeling of B&H as source of security problems (BHT1)
Embassy of Pakistan to B&H says statement of B&H Minister of Security on illegal migrants from Pakistan is unjustified (N1)
HNS B&H says local elections in B&H should be announced at beginning of May (N1)
Shipment containing eighty ventilators which FB&H government ordered from China arrives in B&H (O kanal)
Maglaj is COVID-19 epicenter in ZDC (BHT1)
In B&H 49 new cases and one fatality, 1,565 in total (N1)
Croatia

First stage of coronavirus exit strategy begins (HRT)
In Croatia, 9 new infections, 2039 in total, 4 died (N1)
Montenegro

Analysis of 97 samples shows all tested negative (CDM)
Republic of North Macedonia

Marichikj: EU unanimously decided to start talks with North Macedonia, Bulgarian document carries no legal weight (MIA)
Pop Arsov: Instead of EU accession, we are pushed to redefine the Macedonian identity (Republika)
Is SDSM preparing for “corona elections” in June? (Republika)
Filipce denies reports that the government is preparing for early elections (Republika)
President Pendarovski plans to host leaders’ meeting in May (MIA)
In North Macedonia 13 new cases of covid-19 have been confirmed, bringing the total number to 1399, 4 people have died while 53 patients have recovered, (Libertas)
Albania

Albanian stores reopen as govt decides to ease restrictions (ADN)
Chinese Ambassador Zhou Ding: Albania is a friendly country for China (Radio Tirana)
Three agreements have been concluded with Kosovo in the framework of foreign policy (Radio Tirana)
Albania returns again to lower daily numbers of Coronavirus Cases (ADN)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

Put aside political agendas ‘to save lives’, top UN official in Kosovo urges (UN News)
Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the UN Mission in Kosovo (U.S. Mission to the United Nations)
Delivering on health, safety and justice in Kosovo (UK Mission to the United Nations)
Statement by Permanent Representative of Russia to the UN (Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations)
Kosovo: The priority must be the normalization of relations between Pristina and Belgrade (Permanent Representation of France to the United Nations Security Council, 24 April 2020)
Chinese envoy calls for resumption of talks for political settlement of Kosovo issue (CGTN)

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Continuation of dialogue with Pristina as soon as conditions are met (Tanjug/RTV/RTS)

 

In a Security Council video session dedicated to the regular UNMIK performance report, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic expressed the expectation that conditions for the continuation of Belgrade-Pristina dialogue will be created immediately after the pandemic has ended. Dacic stressed the importance of holding this session because it is a strong message to the people of Kosovo and Metohija that they are not left alone in these difficult moments and that we care more about them than ever, aware of the fact that they lived in difficult conditions even before the outbreak of the epidemic. He said Belgrade took decisive action to help Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija to combat the epidemic. We delivered medical and protective equipment, sent doctors and medical workers, but we also expressed our readiness from the very beginning to cooperate fully with Albanians and work together with representatives of temporary institutions in Pristina to combat the epidemic, the Minister said. He pointed out that both Serb and Albanian COVID-19 patients from Kosovo and Metohija are being treated in Serbia proper and that Belgrade donated 1,000 coronavirus tests to the Public Health Institute in Pristina last week. Dacic said that Serbia will continue to provide everyone with the necessary assistance and solidarity at this time, as human lives and the fight against coronavirus are now the most important. Speaking about the resumption of Belgrade-Pristina dialogue after the epidemic wanes, he said that only one step of Pristina prevents us from doing that, and that is the abolition of tariffs and the so-called reciprocal measures adopted by Pristina, which totally deny and annul all that we have achieved in the Brussels dialogue since 2012 to date. That is why I would like to remind you once again that Resolution 1244 is the only valid UN document that must be respected, and that the formation of the Community of Serb Municipalities is the responsibility of Pristina under the Brussels Agreement. On this occasion, I would like to once again call for a return to dialogue and forgoing unilateral moves, Dacic said.

 

Dacic, Botsan-Harchenko on cooperation, UN SC session (RTV/Tanjug)

 

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic received today Russian Ambassador to Serbia Aleksandr Botsan-Harchenko and thanked him for unselfish assistance of the Russian Federation to Serbia in combating coronavirus through the donation of medical supplies and equipment. Dacic thanked in particular for the humanitarian aid that arrived in Serbia last week, sent by the Russian Peace Fund, headed by Leonid Slucki, Chairman of the Committee on International Affairs of the Russian Duma. He also highlighted the importance of the arrival of the Russian expert team in Serbia, who, by sharing their experience with our services, made an important contribution to the fight against coronavirus. The two officials exchanged views on last week’s video session of the UN Security Council on the work of UNMIK. Dacic expressed once again gratitude for the principled support of the Russian Federation on the Kosovo and Metohija issue, which was clearly conveyed during the video session.

 

Vucic in Sremska Mitrovica Memorial Park: Genocide was committed against Serbs (B92/Tanjug)

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic laid a wreath on the occasion of Remembrance Day for the victims of the Ustasha Jasenovac concentration camp in World War II. Sremska Mitrovica is one of the largest execution sites in World War II, the place where thousands of Serbs were killed, including the great painter Sava Sumanovic. On the monument in Sremska Mitrovica, on three stone slabs, among other things, it is noted that 7.950 men and women have been killed by Germans and Ustashas since 1941 to 1944. “We must not and will never forget Donja Gradina, Jasenovac, Sremska Mitrovica, no camp, mallet, knife or bullet, no tomb or crime against the Serbian people,” Vucic said. “We will not forget any of the names of those who pursued the policy of extermination of one nation, the Serbian people”, Vucic said in his address at the Sremska Mitrovica Memorial Park on the occasion of Remembrance Day for the victims of the Ustasha Jasenovac concentration camp in World War II. “We have no right to forget, because in this way we would give up and turn our heads away from justice, freedom, our own existence, and even God,” Vucic said. He said that he came to Sremska Mitrovica today, because since the opening of the Memorial Park, no Serbian President has come here, Tanjug reports. “In our schools textbooks, little is known about this place. Not enough is being learned about Jasenovac. How, then, do we think that those who are members of the people who committed the atrocities would have a different attitude to what happened in the past”, Vucic said. He recalled that for several years Serbia and the Republika Srpska have been jointly commemorating the suffering of the Serbian people. “We show unity for the first time in decades, even centuries, we show it every year, remembering the great sacrifices and sufferings of the people, and showing the direction that our people can only go towards a different future,” Vucic said. “Killings ordered by the state are not just murders, it is slaughter and genocide. Genocide was committed against Serbs in the Independent State of Croatia (NDH)”, he said. “If we had just spoken about the genocide committed against our people in time, perhaps the wars of the 1990s would not have happened”, Serbian President pointed out. “We should make sure that no Jasenovac or Storm should happen again,” Vucic concluded.

 

Only B&H, Slovakia and Serbia against separation of Kosovo from EMS (Politika)

 

Only three countries out of 29 – Serbia, B&H and Slovakia, voted against the energy independence, i.e. separation of so-called Kosovo from the “Elektromreza Srbije” (Power grid of Serbia), EMS, that was voted on Monday evening. Among the abstained were the Hungarians, Bulgarians, Greek and Spaniards, while all other members – 22 of them from the European Network of Transmission System Operators (ENTSO) of continental Europe – voted “for”. At issue are ENTSO member countries, whose member is also Serbia, and which also included Albania, Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Romania, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Switzerland, England and Turkey. And while official Serbia is being silent following these results, most of Politika’s readers who have left a commentary on the website, regret over such a decision, underlining this is perhaps a sufficient signal for Serbia not to join the EU, and that this is a step closer to the creation of a greater Albania.

 

Serbia sends assistance to Italy (Tanjug)

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Minister of European Integration Jadranka Joksimovic attended on Saturday the shipment of medical equipment donated by Serbia to Italy to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Four Air Serbia aircraft with medical equipment have flown from Belgrade to Italy and Minister Joksimovic is in one of the planes, who will personally hand over the donation to Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio. Vucic emphasized that Italy is a great friend of Serbia and that it assisted our country whenever needed. He reminded that in our country there are a large number of Italian companies that employ thousands of workers and provide livelihood for their families. The President wrote on one of the packages: We will win together, brave Italy, Serbia is with you! The help that our country is sending is part of European solidarity, but it is also an opportunity for Serbia to show that it can say thank you for everything Italy has done for Serbia, Vucic said, adding that the country had always provided unbridled support on our European path. The donation contains two million surgical and epidemiological masks, 100,000 protective suits, a million gloves, he said. Italian Ambassador to Serbia Carlo Lo Cascio said that Serbia’s generous assistance will be of great benefit to those who are on the front lines and are struggling to save every life. He conveyed to all Serbian citizens the greetings of Italian President Sergio Mattarella.

 

DS, NS continue boycott of parliament (FoNet)

 

Two major Serbian opposition parties said they will not take part in the session of parliament scheduled to debate and vote on the state of emergency and measures introduced by the government to combat the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout. The Democratic Party (DS) caucus whip Goran Ciric MP said on Monday that the party had not changed its decision to boycott parliament and elections. “Have the circumstances for the elections changed? The state of the freedom of the media is worse than it was before the state of emergency was declared and that has been confirmed by Reporters Without Borders, the German ZDF and European Union representatives,” he said.  The Presidency of the People’s Party (NS) said in a press release that its MPs will not take part in the session of parliament and added that the decision was taken in line with its view that institutions taken away from the people should not be given false legitimacy.

 

Another 233 cases, 1,209 recovered (RTS)

 

Until 3 pm, there have been another 233 cases, in total 8,275 cases, six more deaths, in total 162 deaths. There are 2,701 patients in hospitals, and 85 on respirators. A total of 1,209 people have recovered.

 

REGIONAL PRESS

 

Commemoration for victims of Ustasha crimes in Jasenovac and Donja Gradina in WWII takes place in Donja Gradina, Sremska Mitrovica (ATV)

 

The commemoration for victims of the Ustasha crimes in the Jasenovac Concentration Camp and Donja Gradina as its biggest scaffold in the World War II (WWII) was held in Donja Gradina on Sunday, on the occasion of marking the 75th anniversary since the breakthrough of prisoners from the Jasenovac Camp and the Day of Remembrance of Jasenovac Victims. No program activities were held as part of the commemoration due to preventive measures imposed in the fight against coronavirus pandemic, but the event was attended by the delegation of the high-ranking officials of Republika Srpska (RS). They laid wreaths and flowers at the ‘Topole’ grave site in the ‘Donja Gradina’ Memorial Complex and conveyed messages reminding that Donja Gradina and Jasenovac are the deepest pain and wound of the Serb people. Milorad Dodik stated that Serbs were the biggest victims on the territories where they had no freedom, stressing that such a situation must never happen again. “We come here to vow for preservation of peace that we want for all people, but I also have to say that vow here that I will never give up on the sacred oath of the Serb people to be persistent in the fight for independence, freedom and their own state,” Dodik said, adding that history has thought Serbs that they have freedom only where they have their state. RS President Zeljka Cvijanovic emphasized that for the Serb people, Jasenovac was the site of the most massive suffering during the WWII, as well as a symbol of genocide and the historical lesson which is paid in the most expensive way. ATV Banja Luka reminds that 700,000 people were killed in the Jasenovac Concentration Camp, including 500,000 Serbs. The 75th anniversary since the breakthrough of prisoners from the Jasenovac Camp and the Day of Remembrance of Jasenovac Victims was also marked in Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia, on Sunday.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic stated on this occasion that Serbia will not forget any concentration camp, grave, atrocity or names of those who attempted to conduct eradication of its people. Vucic added that by holding the joint commemoration for victims of ‘Jasenovac’, Serbs from both sides of Drina River (Those in Serbia and those in the RS) express unity after several decades or centuries and show direction towards the future of Serb people. He stressed that murders in ‘Jasenovac’ were ordered by state of NDH, adding that this type of murder can be described only as slaughter and genocide. “No one should forget that genocide was committed against Serbs in NDH,” concluded Vucic.

 

Restrictive measures relaxed in FB&H (FTV)

 

As of Friday, restrictive measures introduced due to the Coronavirus pandemic in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FB&H) were mitigated; the curfew and mandatory quarantines were abolished, while the oldest and the youngest citizens of the FB&H were allowed to leave their homes three times a week. FTV noted that easing up restrictive measures requires from citizens to be cautious and to act in a responsible way. According to the reporter, citizens of Sarajevo mostly respected recommendations and orders to keep social distance, to wear gloves and masks on Saturday. Several citizens who visited several Sarajevo’s picnic sites presented their views about this issue in details and most of them welcomed relaxation of the measures, but all of them underlined that people should be responsible towards themselves and towards others. Meanwhile, FB&H Minister of Healthcare Vjekoslav Mandic stated on Saturday that decisions to abolish the curfew and the mandatory quarantine in the FB&H should have been made one step at a time. He explained that abolishing the measures all at once could lead to expansion of the contagion, reminding of the fact that citizens of B&H are not so disciplined. “The fact that Labor Day will be marked soon also suggests that the measures were alleviated too rapidly. It is necessary to avoid public gatherings that are already banned especially on this day,” Mandic was quoted as saying. He added that the only recommendation of the FB&H Ministry of Healthcare Crisis Headquarters referred to alleviation of the movement restrictions for persons younger than 18 and older than 65.

 

RS authorities warn decision to abolish curfew and quarantine facilities in FB&H endangers epidemiological situation in RS (RTRS)

 

Head of the team tasked with monitoring of implementation of measures imposed by the RS Crisis Headquarters Nenad Stevandic has warned that the decision of the FB&H authorities to abolish the curfew and quarantine facilities and to impose new movement restriction measures in the territory of the FB&H endangers the epidemiological situation in the RS. He assessed that new measures undermine the improvement of the epidemiological situation in both entities in B&H and they even threaten to cause a new wave of the coronavirus pandemic. RS Prime Minister Radovan Viskovic said that abolition of some preventive measures in the FB&H might jeopardize results achieved so far, adding that it could also jeopardize the epidemiologic situation in the RS. RS Minister of Health and Social Welfare Alen Seranic warned on Friday that the decision of the FB&H authorities to send citizens who arrive in the FB&H from abroad to home isolation instead to quarantine facilities near the border epidemiologically threatens the RS, stressing that this decision should have been harmonized with the RS authorities. According to Spokesperson for SNSD Radovan Kovacevic, lifting the curfew and the measure of local quarantine in the FB&H create problems for the RS citizens. He concluded that the RS will find a way to protect its citizens from irresponsibility of the FB&H authorities. Representatives of the FB&H Ministry of Health Crisis Headquarters argue that new measures were imposed based on assessments of experts and they might be imposed again in case that the epidemiological situation deteriorates. FB&H Assistant Minister of Health Goran Cerkez stressed that the decision to abolish quarantine facilities and impose the health surveillance instead was passed after expert assessments of the epidemiological situation in the FB&H, expressing belief that such measures will not damage anyone as the situation in stable and the previous quarantine measure has met its purpose. RS Crisis HQ was quoted as saying: “The measures which the FB&H has issued, in relation to termination of curfew, and especially replacing quarantines with other movement-limiting measures, absolutely compromises the improvement of the epidemiological situation in both entities and threatens to challenge a new epidemiological wave on B&H territory”.

 

Dodik criticizes FB&H authorities’ decision to abolish quarantine at border crossings (O kanal)

 

Member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik criticized the FB&H authorities’ decision to abolish the mandatory quarantine at the border crossings, which he thinks is a reckless decision that was made too early given the upcoming Labor Day. Dodik stressed that the restrictive measures should not be abolished just like that, warning that there is a possibility that a growing number of citizens will arrive in B&H from the region and Europe on Labor Day. “I think it is not good that the FB&H authorities made such a decision all of a sudden, without coordinating these things with us. We will have a session of the B&H Presidency on Tuesday, so we will analyze the measures adopted and the way of their implementation. We will take a stance about this,” Dodik told reporters on Sunday. Dodik noted that nothing can be done without referring to the movements in the EU. “Next urgent date is 1 May (public holiday in B&H), the possibility of more people arriving (to B&H), and it was, in our opinion, logical to keep the quarantine system until after 1 May, and then to decide whether to keep it or not,” said Dodik. Dodik reminded that introduction of quarantine for all those entering B&H is one of joint measures of the B&H Presidency. Dodik stressed that after the RS introduced local quarantines, the B&H Presidency adopted a conclusion upon the request of members of the Presidency from the FB&H and demanded introduction of this measure in the FB&H.

 

Abolition of quarantine in the FB&H is an insane and irresponsible move (Nezavisne)

 

Nenad Stevandic, Head of the Team for Monitoring the Implementation of Measures and Recommendations of the RS Crisis Headquarters, assessed the FB&H Civil Protection Headquarters’ decision to lift curfew and mandatory 14-day quarantine for persons entering the country as an “insane and completely irresponsible move” especially as it was made immediately after the Orthodox Easter and right before the Labor Day holidays. Stevandic noted that ‘they’ – presumably authorities in the RS and institutions in charge of dealing with the coronavirus epidemic – tried to improve the cooperation with the FB&H, but the FB&H opted to pass measures without any consultations, “which says that we are already two different states and that everyone is doing whatever they want”. According to Stevandic, citizens of both the FB&H and the RS will suffer the consequences of this decision, because home quarantines and isolation at home are not enough to curb the spread of coronavirus infections. At the same time, “quarantines on borders and in local communities have curbed the spread of infection,” said Stevandic. He explained that the RS Ministry of Interior does not have the information about persons arriving in the RS after entering the country at some of the border crossings in the FB&H, and complained about decision of the FB&H Civil Protection Headquarters “ruining everything” and undermining the efforts invested over the previous several weeks to deal with the coronavirus epidemic. When asked if and when the RS will abolish quarantine, Stevandic replied by saying that it will do so when they see that quarantines are being abolished in Slovenia and Croatia. “I do not see why we should do that before they do,” said Stevandic, and once again said that he cannot believe what the FB&H has done. He concluded that if European countries start abolishing quarantines sometime around 15 May, the RS would probably do the same. Furthermore, Stevandic said that measures introduced in the RS have resulted in the RS having less persons infected than the FB&H, and criticized the FB&H for being late with introduction of some measures – and he once again said that decision to lift curfew and abolish mandatory quarantines in the FB&H might prolong the crisis in B&H for even up to an entire month.

Stevandic confirmed that the government of the RS has already created a plan of activities after 10 May, when measures might be lifted or at least eased, and he concluded that two key weeks are behind us – but the lack of discipline can still ruin everything. “People need to keep distance, they need to wear gloves and masks, we have noticed that this is the measure which is not respected as much as it should be,” said Stevandic. He noted that tourism and catering sector have suffered the biggest hit, and explained that the situation should be much clearer by June 1. “This is the seventh respiratory virus in the history of mankind, and not one of them has had epidemic and pandemic proportions in the sixth, seventh and eighth month (of the year). If we believe experts, sixth, seventh, and eighth month will be excellent, and when it comes to forecast for the fall and winter – we cannot be sure if and how much (the virus) will return,” explained Stevandic.

RS government announces relaxation of measures as of 27 April (BNTV)

 

Members of the RS government together with the RS Main Coordination Team and crisis headquarters announced relaxation of restrictive measures issued to halt the spread of coronavirus. This should take place on 27 April. They have decided to allow the resumption of work of small-scale shops, craft and service venues, since these establishments do not pose a significant risk to public health. They are also to allow delivery services and sales of thermally processed food which cannot be consumed inside the venues. The RS Main Coordination Team proposed the RS Crisis HQ allows people over the age of 65 time outdoors every workday from 7,00hrs to 10,00hrs. They have announced that the restrictive orders which were in force during the Orthodox Easter holidays could again be initiated with the upcoming 1 May holiday, and then again from 6 to 8 May. These would be preventive measures to help halt the spread of the virus in the upcoming holidays.

 

EU’s assistance to health sector of RS handed over; Dodik: RS was not forgotten by EU (N1)

 

The EU decided to allocate more than 300 million Euros as assistance to B&H for fight against Coronavirus. Part of this assistance is aimed for health sector in both entities. The EU’s donation to the health sector in the RS was handed over in Banja Luka on Sunday. This donation consists of 20,000 test kits for Coronavirus and significant number of other protective equipment. It was handed over by Head of the EU Delegation (EUD) to B&H Johann Sattler. Also, 38 ventilators and 11 X-ray devices provided by the EU should be delivered to the RS soon. Acting General Manager of the Public Health Institute of the RS Branislav Zeljkovic thanked to the EU for this assistance. Sattler said that the EU allocated more than 300 million Euros for B&H. He explained that 250 million Euros of these funds refers to macro-financial assistance, while 80 million Euros refers to urgent medical assistance and assistance to small-size companies.

Member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik thanked the EU for this as well as for announced assistance of the EU. Dodik underlined that the RS has not been forgotten by the EU, adding that it will strengthen conviction of the RS about necessity of the EU integration and the EU solidarity. “Sometimes even if we think the EU does not provide the assistance on time, we are witnesses that the assistance is provided on time. In this regard, people in the RS should be grateful,” emphasized the member of the B&H Presidency from the rank of Serb people. Dodik harshly criticized the EU earlier last week.

 

Radoncic presents plan to deport migrants, Dzaferovic says migrant crisis should not be resolve by spreading of hatred and labeling of B&H as source of security problems (BHT1)

 

The B&H authorities still do not have single stance let alone strategy concerning illegal migrants arriving and currently accommodated in B&H. Minister of Security of B&H Fahrudin Radoncic has presented two days ago a plan to resolve migrant crisis by deporting migrants to their countries of origin. Radoncic even emphasized possibility to declare the Ambassador of Pakistan to B&H (Mohammad Khalid Raopersona non-grata in this country if he fails to cooperate in implementation of abovementioned activity. One day later Chair of B&H Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic met with Ambassador of Pakistan to B&H. Following this meeting Dzaferovic stressed that migrant crisis should be resolved by applying serious measures and not by spreading hatred and labelling of B&H as source of security problems. “No one will have my support to insult and threaten to banish ambassadors accredited in B&H and especially ambassadors of countries which proved many times being honest friends of B&H and its citizens,” explained Dzaferovic. Commenting this reaction Radoncic said that the strategy he presented was aimed to discourage new waves of undocumented migrants to arrive to B&H. He underlined that reaction of Dzaferovic and B&H Minister of Foreign Affairs Bisera Turkovic encouraged illegal migrants to head towards B&H and the western Europe. According to some assessments up to 9,000 migrants are currently accommodated in B&H.

 

Embassy of Pakistan to B&H says statement of B&H Minister of Security on illegal migrants from Pakistan is unjustified (N1)

 

The Embassy of Pakistan to B&H reacted on Saturday to the statement of B&H Minister of Security Fahrudin Radoncic on illegal migrants from Pakistan, stressing that Radoncic’s statement is unjustified and unnecessary. According to the Embassy, Radoncic’s suggestion that Ambassador of Pakistan to B&H Muhammad Khalid Rao should be declared a persona non grata if he refuses to cooperate in the process of identification of Pakistani migrants in B&H is also very upsetting. Representatives of the Embassy said in a press release that the Embassy has always reported to B&H’s Service for Foreigners’ Affairs to confirm people of Pakistani origin and has offered its services to issue special travel documents, and as a result of this 73 Pakistani migrants who were ready to return home were sent to Pakistan in the period May 2019-March 2020. They also reminded that Pakistan gives great importance to relations with B&H and therefore they are worried due to unjustified comments given by Radoncic.

 

HNS B&H says local elections in B&H should be announced at beginning of May (N1)

 

The Croat People’s Assembly (HNS) of B&H stated on Saturday that the local elections in B&H should be announced at the beginning of May so that the elections can be held in October this year, through respect of all legal deadlines for holding the elections. The HNS called on representatives of the executive and legislative authorities in B&H to adopt legally-grounded decisions on this matter, stressing the importance of the final political consensus. According to the HNS, only the legislative body can adopt legally-grounded decisions to announce and hold the local elections in B&H. The HNS insists on decisions that are in line with the Constitution of B&H and laws, refraining from undermining of legislative order and stability.

Shipment containing eighty ventilators which FB&H government ordered from China arrives in B&H (O kanal)

 

A shipment containing eighty ventilators which the FB&H government ordered from China arrived at the Sarajevo Airport on Saturday. FB&H Prime Minister Fadil Novalic announced that following the first shipment, there will be another shipment which will contain twenty ventilators with which, according to him, capacities of the healthcare system will be significantly strengthened for the fight against coronavirus. “These are ventilators that supply two patients at the same time, and with 250 ventilators we have, now this represents a possibility to take care of 450 patients,” Novalic said.

 

Maglaj is COVID-19 epicenter in ZDC (BHT1)

 

Maglaj has registered 12 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, increasing a total number of persons infected with COVID-19 to 60. Maglaj has become a coronavirus epicenter in the Zenica-Doboj Canton (ZDC) with two clusters connected to two textile companies from this municipality that employ 600 people. One cluster, with 46 infected persons, is connected to the ‘H-M promet’ company, and the second cluster, with 18 infected persons is connected to the ‘Bontex’ company. Head of the Department for Infectious Diseases at the Zenica Cantonal Hospital dr. Ednan Drljevic said for the BHT1 that these cases, confirmed after 10 April, indicate that the said companies did not organized their work in line with the recommended safety measures. Spokesperson for the FB&H Ministry of Health Zlatan Persic said that the most infections are registered in the Herzegovina-Neretva Canton which has 238 registered infections, followed by the Zenica-Doboj Canton which registers 132 infections, then by Sarajevo Canton which registers 112 infections, and the West Herzegovina Canton registers 86 infections. FB&H Administration for Inspection Affairs warned that the abolishment of quarantines by the FB&H authorities has resulted in ten times more Bosnia and Herzegovina nationals returning, which could jeopardize the epidemiological situation.

 

In B&H 49 new cases and one fatality, 1,565 in total (N1)

 

A total of 49 new cases of Covid-19 as well as one virus-related fatality have been reported in B&H over the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of confirmed cases since the beginning of the outbreak of the epidemic in B&H to 1,565 and deceased to 60 health authorities said on Monday. The RS confirmed 35 new Covid-19 cases after testing 419 samples, the health authorities said Monday. Among the 35 Covid-19 patients are 5 medical workers – one doctor and four nurses. The RS health authorities said that 11 persons have been hospitalized while others will be isolated according to the official procedure. Banja Luka Clinical Centre reported that an 80-year-old patient had died in their care over the past 24 hours, making this the 60th fatality caused by Covid-19. The hospital said the man has a history of pre-existing chronic diseases. In the FB&H of the 573 samples, 14 came back positive, health authorities said, adding that this entity currently has 49 hospitalized patients, five of which are on ventilators.

Cantons with the most confirmed cases are: Herzegovina-Neretva Canton (241), Zenica-Doboj Canton (142), Sarajevo Canton (113), West-Herzegovina Canton (83), Tuzla Canton (81) and Una-Sana Canton (79).

 

First stage of coronavirus exit strategy begins (HRT)

 

By decision of the National Civil Protection Headquarters, part of the coronavirus pandemic protection measures have been withdrawn as of Monday. The goal is to partially re-start the economy. All businesses engaged in trade are allowed to open their doors, except those requiring close contact with customers and those operating within shopping centers, which will remain closed during the first stage of government’s plan. Working hours will be regulated in accordance with Article 57 of the Trade Act, with the exception of Sundays, public holidays and non-working days, which will be limited to kiosks, bakeries and gas stations. All shops and outlets are obliged to adhere to all of the measures and recommendations from the Croatian Institute of Public Health. Employers are required to inform their employees of the measures, while customers must also adhere to the measures as well. For any store where working hours are longer than 10 hours per day, it is obligatory for the employer to organize two shifts with a mandatory one-hour closure between shifts in order to adequately clean and disinfect the shop and to rotate workers. The headquarters has also supplemented its decision on the special model by which farmers markets will operate, now allowing the sale of vegetables, fruits, honey, eggs and flowers. Markets will be open from five to eight in the morning. Public transport lines in cities throughout the country and high-speed lines connecting those islands that are not connected by ferries are also being reinstated. Citizens will also be able to access libraries, museums, galleries, bookstores and antique stores. Public parking garages will also be re-opened.

If the first phase proves successful and the epidemiological situation does not worsen, the next phase of government’s three-stage plan to withdraw the restrictive measures is scheduled to come into force on 4 May. The second set of measures will enable services that involve close contact, such as hairdressers and beauticians, as well as the full re-opening of both public and private health care systems.

 

In Croatia, 9 new infections, 2039 in total, 4 died (N1)

 

Currently, a total of 2,039 people has been confirmed to be infected with coronavirus, and 1,166 have been cured. So far, 59 people have died. “In the past 24 hours, we have 9 newly infected people in Croatia, which gives the total number of 2039 patients, Health Minister Vili Beros told a press conference of the National Civil Protection Headquarters. He added that four people died. Two of them were female seniors (89 and 97) who died at KBC Split. The other two deceased patients were beneficiaries of the Nursing Home of the Split. In addition to several chronic diseases, persons were also positive for coronavirus.

 

Analysis of 97 samples shows all tested negative (CDM)

 

Labs of the Public Health Institute analyzed 97 samples as of this morning and found no new coronavirus cases, they stated. Therefore, the total number of the infected persons with the novel coronavirus is 321. There are 161 people currently infected, while 20 have been hospitalized. So far, 153 patients have recovered from the virus, while 1.869 citizens are under medical surveillance. Montenegro has so far recorded seven fatalities from Covid-19.

 

Marichikj: EU unanimously decided to start talks with North Macedonia, Bulgarian document carries no legal weight (MIA)

 

The EU General Affairs Council unanimously agreed 24 March to open accession negotiations with North Macedonia. The decision was approved 26 March by the European Council. The Council’s conclusions, which is available to the public, does not list any preconditions for starting talks, Bojan Marichikj, North Macedonia’s EU negotiator, told MIA on Sunday. He also discussed whether a document drafted by Bulgaria, which recently surfaced in the public and caused some commotion, will block the start of EU negotiations or pose an issue down the road.

Marichikj underlined that Bulgaria’s stand, annexed to the Council’s conclusions, is a unanimous statement which carries no legal weigh and doesn’t impact EU’s decision to start talks. The drafting of this document doesn’t mean negotiations will halt before they’ve even started.

“This doesn’t mean that we can ignore the need to build permanent friendships with Bulgaria and other neighbors, but it also doesn’t mean that negotiations will halt before they’ve even started. Bulgarian MEP Andrey Kovatchev said on Saturday that these issues will have to be discussed and resolved by the time we join EU. The accession process is lengthy and will allow us to find common ground on issues through mechanisms established by the friendship agreement,” Marichikj said. He underlined that establishing good-neighborly relations is a key EU principle which he expects to be implemented during the negotiations process. “We expect active cooperation and a show of good faith both from North Macedonia and Bulgaria during the process of accession negotiations. Bulgaria is one of the newest EU members, as well as our neighbor, so we expect from it help and advice. Naturally, we’ll be open to discuss all unresolved issues during the EU accession process,” Marichikj said. The document in question, drafted by the Bulgarian parliament in October 2019, was published by the Austrian parliament.

Bulgarian MEP Andrey Kovatchev, who is a member of Bulgarian ruling party GERB said in an interview with MKD on Saturday that no one can dispute that Macedonians live in North Macedonia and speak Macedonian. In order for North Macedonia to join EU, Kovachev underlined, it will have to solve historical issues with Bulgaria. Therefore, it’s crucial that the joint expert committee finds common ground on these issues as soon as possible. Committee activities were put on hold due to the Parliamentary election, which were scheduled for 12 April, but had to be postponed because of the corona crisis. Thus far, it has managed to achieve progress in issues relating to the antiquity period but failed to settle on the matter of historical figure Goce Delchev.

 

Pop Arsov: Instead of EU accession, we are pushed to redefine the Macedonian identity (Republika)

 

Former member of parliament and Macedonian Ambassador to the Council of Europe Petar Pop Arsov warns that the long-awaited push for opening EU accession talks is leading toward a redefinition of the Macedonian nation. Pop Arsov wrote an editorial after the publication of the list of Bulgarian conditions for opening accession talks, which push against the uniqueness of the Macedonian nation as separate from the Bulgarian. “Over the past 10 years we went through a long and arduous process of aligning Macedonian laws with those of the European Union. We went through numerous reforms, then reforms on the reformed reforms after the EU got reformed. Finally, we changed our name as the greatest “reform” that was imposed on us by the EU! Since 2009 we’ve nearly constantly received positive recommendations from the European Commission which found that we are ready to begin accession talks. But we never did. After all these travails, we finally came to a point that the stars aligned and we got a positive recommendation from the leaders of the EU member states. And what happened? There is a decision but there is no date! Again, no date. After spending enormous funds to celebrate the date on empty squares across Macedonia, again we were denied a date,” Pop Arsov writes in his editorial. A key issue with the decision of the European Council is now apparently the Bulgarian request that Macedonia must fully implement the treaty signed by (former PM Zoran) Zaev and Borisov in 2017, before Bulgaria allows the opening of accession talks. So far, whenever the European Council would agree to open accession talks with some country, the decision also included a date when this is supposed to happen. But apparently the Council could not reach this full decision. “There is no date because Bulgaria blocked it! I know it sound hard to accept, but that is what happened. Bulgaria submitted a written statement in which it requires that the Macedonian language is no longer named that. It demands that we renounce the Macedonian minority, not only bilaterally but also multilaterally. That Macedonia gives up on having an active role in the Council of Europe, in any of the verdicts of the European Court of Human Rights which concern the existence of Macedonians in Bulgaria and the violations of their human rights. Bulgaria is on a wrong path. It will be written that Bulgaria blocked Macedonia! Bulgaria has given up on European values and goes back to the values of the past century and the times of the Iron Curtain. The last thing we need is a new Iron Curtain between Macedonia and Bulgaria. We need a railroad, we need infrastructure that will link us, we need mutual support and cooperation. We need them to stop denying the Macedonian language which is, truth be told, far more unique from the Bulgarian that the Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian and Montenegrin languages are from each other. None of these countries deny that their neighbor has a unique language and the EU accepts that and names all these languages in accordance with the individual countries, Pop Arsov writes, before asking the question “whose interest would these Bulgarian actions ultimately serve?” And the European Union remains silent. It accepts the nebulous Bulgarian positions, it included them as an addendum to one of its documents and DID NOT GIVE US A DATE! There is not a single concrete statement that accepts the Bulgarian demands, but there is also nothing to counter them! A trial balloon for Macedonia, for its citizens and its Government. Accepting these Bulgarian positions by the EU will lead to a complete self-EUthanasia, a demolition of the system of values built after World War Two, of human rights, the rule of law, the architecture and structure of the expert institutions in the Council of Europe, Pop Arsov adds. The former Ambassador sees further threats and humiliations aimed at Macedonia and never-ending blockades in the coming future, or, possibly, speedy concessions again signed by Zoran Zaev and Nikola Dimitrov. The citizens are preoccupied with the pandemic threat, worrying how to get out of it alive and get the necessary supplies for their homes and get back before the curfew begins. The citizens at this moment don’t care about the EU, and frankly neither did I over the past month although I was closely involved in many of the events linked to this story. The reputation of the EU in our country is reduced so badly that it has become unworthy of serious criticism, it is more a subject of ridicule. The EU Ambassador should work to elevate its reputation and not turn into an “anti-ambassador”. The partisan, political approach to the execution of his office is a major violation of diplomatic principles. The silence over the many corruption scandals, compensated with tweets about a few hundred blankets gives the taint of partisanship to someone who should be the last to act as a partisan – the EU Ambassador! Now we require a serious response from all groups and individuals, to show that such trial balloons won’t fly. All who love Macedonia, who swear by the rule of law and the human rights, who support the European principles and the standards of international law. Macedonia can’t allow a few political manipulators to redefine and sell out everything that was built over centuries and paid for with blood! Pop Arsov writes.

 

Is SDSM preparing for “corona elections” in June? (Republika)

 

The push by the ruling SDSM party to re-convene the Parliament, after it was dissolved in mid-February, has sparked speculations about their motives. SDSM got 35 of its members of Parliament, and from its allied parties – excluding DUI – to sign on to a proposal to hold a session of the Parliament, ignoring the fact that it already voted to dissolve. The ostensible reason is to have the members of Parliament confirm the decision by President Stevo Pendarovski to declare a state of emergency, which Pendarovski now extended for an additional month. He acknowledged that the Constitution doesn’t give him that right but signed the order anyway, adding another layer of inconsistency in Macedonia’s current legal situation.

But does re-convening a Parliament that is dissolved – another precedent – make the damage to the constitutional order better or even worse? One line of thinking behind the push by SDSM and Pendarovski seems to be that they are worried about the legality of the decrees the Government has been issuing these past weeks. Some of them were exceptionally dubious, like the order to give back pay to the employees of the thoroughly disgraced Special Prosecutor’s Office – who are suspected of high-level extortion and racketeering. The decree to begin renaming Macedonia’s currency with the imposed name “North Macedonia” is another move where the government clearly abused the rights given to it under the state of emergency – declared to tackle the coronavirus epidemic. The government knows that it adopted a number of illegal and anti-constitutional orders which are politically driven. They are in no way linked to the state of emergency, said professor Aleksandar Dastevski, adding that the re-called parliament will likely be asked to adopt these same decrees in the form of permanent laws. Former speaker Trajko Veljanoski says that the parliament can’t be re-called once it dissolved. A precedent for this was done in 2016, again on request by SDSM, but in that case the Constitutional Court was pushed to come up with a technical problem in the vote to dissolve. This time around the Court has refused to go looking for a technicality again, and the ruling party is asking the members of parliament to re-convene on their own. Veljanoski linked the issue with the likely push by SDSM to have early elections. It’s obvious that the elections should be held once the conditions are met for the citizens to be able to vote freely and in as large a number as possible, Veljanoski said.

Holding elections while the epidemic is still on-going – June has been mentioned as a possible date – would greatly reduce the turnout. This could be in SDSM advantage as the party is down in the polls and could abuse the state of emergency and its control over the flow of information to tailor the turnout to its needs. SDSM also seems to want early elections to avoid carrying the bag for the expected economic downturn and its mishandling of the epidemic, as the effects of the crisis are still not fully felt by the public. This option is already dubbed as having “corona elections” by the public.

 

Filipce denies reports that the government is preparing for early elections (Republika)

 

Healthcare Minister Venko Filipce denied media reports that the SDSM led government is preparing for speedy elections, even before the epidemic has been fought back. The push by SDSM to recall the dissolved Parliament has sparked speculations that the ruling party has decided to set a new date for the elections unilaterally, and push it forward, before the full extent of the mishandling of the crisis and the economic blow have been felt. We are flattening the epidemiological curve. We are still at a stage when all our medical capacities are prepared to handle the possible darkest scenarios. The situation remains the same. We have excellent results but it is far too early to talk about loosening the measures and holding an event such as elections. We can’t predict anything in that direction yet. We are focused on what measures we need to take in summer and autumn, that is what we are working on, Filipce said. Macedonia is without a parliament and the elections set for12  April were called off. SDSM rejected a proposal from the opposition VMRO-DPMNE party to have a meeting of the main party leaders to discuss the political crisis that has developed.

 

President Pendarovski plans to host leaders’ meeting in May (MIA)

 

President Stevo Pendarovski intends to host a leaders’ meeting in the first half of May, the President’s office said on Saturday. Political leaders, the President’s office told MIA, are set to discuss at the meeting the development of the political process in the country and possible Parliamentary election dates. “All efforts and state resources should currently be focused on fighting the coronavirus pandemic,” said the President’s office. VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski called on President Pendarovski Friday to schedule a leaders’ meeting to discuss the initiative put forward by SDSM and its coalition partners to reconvene parliament.

 

In North Macedonia 13 new cases of covid-19 have been confirmed, bringing the total number to 1399, 4 people have died while 53 patients have recovered, (Libertas)

 

The Ministry of Health informs that today the Institute of Public Health registered 53 patients who have recovered from covid-19. By cities: Skopje-25, Kumanovo-13, Prilep-5, Struga-1, Bitola-4, Ohrid-1 and Kocani-4. Two people died at the Clinic for Infectious Diseases and Febrile Conditions, a 58-year-old patient from Zelino (Tetovo) was admitted to the clinic on April 21 with a severe form of the disease and an 81-year-old patient from Kumanovo. Both patients suffered from high blood pressure. One person from Kumanovo, aged 47, died at the CGH “September 8”. The patient was hospitalized on April 3 in serious condition and has been connected to a respiratory machine for a long time. A patient from Bitola who was treated at the hospital in Bitola also died. The patient was 66 years old and in severe general condition, with heart failure and cirrhosis. In the past 24 hours, 289 tests were performed, and 13 new cases of covid-19 were confirmed, in: Skopje-4, Kumanovo-5, Prilep-2 and Tetovo-2. The distribution by cities:

Skopje – 475

Kumanovo – 376

Debar – 51

Stip-34

Prilep –143

Tetovo – 75

Struga – 64

Veles – 66

Bitola -19

Ohrid –15

Kavadarci – 5

Gostivar –15

Gevgelija – 4

Strumica – 2

Kriva Palanka-5

Radovish – 4

Krushevo – 3

Kocani – 28

Probistip – 2

Kicevo – 2

Negotino -4

Demir Hisar – 1

Макedonski Brod -2

Pehchevo- 1

Valandovo -1

Vinica – 2

 

Albanian stores reopen as govt decides to ease restrictions (ADN)

 

Non-essential stores in Albania are re-opening today (Monday), as the country eases restrictions brought in, to combat the spread of coronavirus. Health Minister, Ogerta Manastirliu informed that flower shops, shoes and clothing stores will be open on Monday amid strong health measures. All these stores will have to ensure physical distancing and strict hygiene measures are in place, said minister. More freedom allowed even to citizens that can now leave home up to two hours during the day. From mid-March only ‘essential’ shops, such as supermarkets and drugstores, were forced to shut as part of strict measures brought in to fight the coronavirus. But Prime Minister, Edi Rama announced days ago a change in restrictions for smaller retailers.

As of today, 27 April, the courts will resume their activities in a restricted way amid the lockdown. The High Judicial Council said in a press release that court hearings on administrative, civil and criminal cases of a non-urgent nature continue to be suspended in all courts. The deadlines for filing lawsuits, filing complaints and carrying out any procedural action in administrative, civil and criminal cases of an urgent nature continue to be suspended as well. The main priority of the activity of the courts will continue to be cases of urgent nature. According to the press release, a special commission has been set up and is working intensively to draft, propose and oversee the implementation of a plan of action for the exercise of judicial services in the safest possible way during the Covid-19 lockdown. The purpose of drafting the work plan is to gradually restore activity and judicial services, with the priority of protecting the safety of the public, judges and all other court employees.

 

Chinese Ambassador Zhou Ding: Albania is a friendly country for China (Radio Tirana)

 

The Ambassador of China in Tirana, Mr. Zhou Ding stated that Albania is a friendly country for China and as such it will be helped to cope with the pandemic of coronavirus. He said that 3 tons of medical assistance are coming today to Albania from China. “China and Albania have changed, but China always considers Albania a good country. We have a real friend in the world, we have close relations with it. No matter how far away we are, we have them as neighbors, says a poet in China. So, for us you are like a special friend. In this epidemic, the aid is humanitarian, we should not include geopolitical factors in these aids, but we should look at the needs of the country. After receiving the request for assistance from the Albanian government, I reported to Beijing. At time of pandemics facing, the demands for tools to combat it has been greatly increased. There are 3 tons of medical supplies, masks and clothing coming to Albania. This is the love of the Chinese people for the Albanian people. We often send the latest protocols to Albania, we have helped with testing kits, we have kept frequent contacts,” Zhou Ding was quoted as saying.

 

Three agreements have been concluded with Kosovo in the framework of foreign policy (Radio Tirana)

 

The acting Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Gent Cakaj announced that three agreements have been concluded with Kosovo in the field of foreign policy and European integration. According to the Foreign Ministry, first with the Minister of European Integration of Kosovo, Blerim Reka, an agreement was reached to exchange experiences and expertise on issues related to the organization of structures responsible for integration, the process of approximation of legislation and more general political cooperation within the goal for membership in the European Union. “From now on, the two Ministries will organize a joint conference every year to discuss and elaborate on many issues related to European integration,” Cakaj said in his note. Secondly, with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Glauk Konjufca, the agreement on strengthening public diplomacy was closed, among other things, defining a concrete list of activities for the promotion of the image and products of the two countries, as well as the unification of the calendar. cultural activities. Also, the agreement on coordinated work in the field of foreign policy has been closed, which includes the creation of a team with special representatives for the protection of the interests of both countries.

Furthermore, Cakaj informed that through an official letter, he has asked the consent of Minister Konjufca to continue the project of developing Embassies and Consulates with common spaces. “Despite the pandemic, our work has not stopped and our commitment to maximize cooperation with Kosovo is inalienable,” Cakaj concluded.

Albania returns again to lower daily numbers of Coronavirus Cases (ADN)

 

Following some days with high number of new daily confirmed coronavirus cases, Albania returned this Monday to lower figures again, as today Ministry of Health reported only 10 cases during last 24 hours. The total number of infected in Albania now reached 736. Nine out of ten cases of last 24 hours belong to Tirana and 1 to Shkodra, while Kruja, which was one of the most problematic areas recently, has no new cases. Furthermore, Rakacolli announced also that there are 34 hospitalized patients in two COVID-19 hospitals. 9 out of 34 are in intensive therapy and 2 are in intubation. “During the last 24 hours, 212 people suspected of COVID-19 have been tested. From the test results, 10 positive cases with COVID-19 have been confirmed: 9 cases in Tirana, mostly family contacts, and 1 new case in Shkodra. So far, 7.491 suspected cases have been tested, 736 out of whom resulted positive,” informed Rakacolli. Municipality: Infected – Recovered

Tirana – 302 – 187

Shkodra – 105 – 61

Kruja – 92 – 8

Durresi – 42 – 37

Fieri – 37 – 27

Kurbini – 31

Korca – 19 – 18

Elbasani – 18 – 15

Kukesi – 18 – 10

Lezha – 14 – 14

Hasi – 14 – 12

Kavaja – 9 – 8

Lushnja – 7 – 4

Vlora – 5 – 4

Puka – 5 – 4

Mirdita – 5 – 3

Rrogozhina – 4 – 4

Tropoja – 4 – 4

Berati – 3 – 2

Mallakastra – 1

Mati – 1

 

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

 

Put aside political agendas ‘to save lives’, top UN official in Kosovo urges (UN News, 24 April 2020)

 

Zahir Tanin, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), told the Security Council on Friday, that Kosovo is especially vulnerable to threat of a wider outbreak. “Even as heroic efforts are being made by medical personnel, the healthcare resources of Kosovo are stretched thin”, he said, during his first regular briefing to the 15-member Council conducted under the organ’s new videoconference meeting procedure.

 

Anxiety, divisions and ‘no confidence’

The Special Representative commended the swift action taken by public health authorities to introduce measures to curtail the spread of the virus. However, he expressed concerns over internal political instability, marked by a parliamentary no-confidence vote which rebuffed Kosovo’s coalition Government on 25 March, following a dispute over whether to declare a state of emergency to combat the coronavirus. “It is an unfortunate feature of the present circumstances in Kosovo that political divisions have distracted the attention of many leaders away from the health crisis”, said Mr. Tanin. “These divisions have served to reduce public trust in political leadership during a time of heightened public anxiety and uncertainty.” He called for more resources for the most vulnerable in Kosovo, while welcoming new lifelines in the form of €100 million in loans from the European Union and a $56.5 million emergency loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

 

‘Cross-boundary’ cooperation ramping up

Mr. Tanin outlined several critical elements needed to defeat COVID-19 in Kosovo. Those include a focused Government, a mobilized population and resources driven by strong leadership. “I urge political leaders…to focus on unifying their energy while putting personal and political agendas aside”, he stressed. Hailing several recent strides in “cross-community” and “cross-boundary” cooperation, he said those include a better working relationship between health authorities in Pristina and the Serb capital Belgrade, which facilitated the donation of testing kits from Serbia and free movement of essential goods. In another positive development, the 100 per cent tariff previously imposed on goods from Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina into Kosovo was initially removed.

 

UNMIK: New tasks, new challenges 

The Special Representative also outlined how UNMIK and the UN Kosovo Team are adapting their work during the pandemic, providing direct support to vulnerable communities and assisting local health authorities. UN staff are responding to a 36 per cent increase in domestic violence – among other alarming new challenges – while disseminating public health information and closely monitoring human rights. UNMIK is taking all possible precautions to protect its staff, said Mr. Tanin, noting that no case of COVID-19 infection has been registered within the Mission to date. “Only through solidarity and unity of effort can we succeed in meeting and overcoming this enormous challenge,” he said. “We stand together with the people of Kosovo in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.”

 

Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the UN Mission in Kosovo (U.S. Mission to the United Nations, 24 April 2020)

 

Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you, Special Representative Tanin, for your briefing this morning. We also welcome the participation of Kosovo and Serbia’s foreign ministers today.

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that international cooperation is more important than ever. This is especially true in the Western Balkans. The United States recognizes the notable efforts of the governments of Kosovo and Serbia to respond to the pandemic, and we are encouraged by the increased cooperation between Pristina and Belgrade to facilitate the flow of essential goods and personnel required to combat COVID-19. Additionally, I want to express our gratitude to the Serbian government for its support with repatriation flights for American citizens, and the generous offer by the Kosovo government for support in the United States’ fight against COVID-19. The United States supports a stable, secure, and prosperous Western Balkans, and we are committed to helping countries in the region advance their integration into Western institutions. Furthermore, it has been encouraging to hear continued statements from both Kosovo and Serbian leaders that they remain committed to the normalization of relations. The current situation emphasizes the priority the United States has placed on the development of economic and commercial ties between Kosovo and Serbia. Although tariffs have been suspended, Kosovo must remove all reciprocal measures immediately and unconditionally. We encourage both sides to implement agreements to help businesses flourish, open up economic opportunities for their citizens, and resume the dialogue process in earnest. Today, we reiterate the importance of the meaningful participation of women in decision making, and we welcome recent progress in gender-representation in the new Kosovo government. Further, we expect the political establishment in Kosovo to focus on shared priorities and adhere to Kosovo’s constitution and law in its efforts. We also welcome the appointment of Miroslav Lacjak as the new European Union Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue and the Western Balkans. We look forward to continued US-EU coordination in the region. While the unprecedented circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic reveal the importance of cooperation, they also illustrate the fact that the Council’s time and resources must be utilized wisely – and where the need is the greatest. The United States reiterates its firm conviction that UNMIK has long since fulfilled its original purpose and should close. The United States looks forward to working with other UN Security Council members to draw down UNMIK and determine a more relevant role for the United Nations in helping Kosovo and the Western Balkans realize their full potential.

Thank you, Mr. President.

 

Delivering on health, safety and justice in Kosovo (UK Mission to the United Nations, 24 April 2020)

 

Thank you, Mr President.

I would like to begin by thanking the Special Representative and his team for their continued commitment and dedication to Kosovo, as laid out in the comprehensive report on the activities of the UN’s Mission in Kosovo. I would also like to extend my thanks to His Excellency the Foreign Minister of Serbia and His Excellency the Foreign Minister of Kosovo for their briefings this morning. The situation in Kosovo in 2020 is very different to that of 1999, when UNMIK started its work. UNMIK has played a key role in that transformation. Together with the European Union, OSCE and NATO, it has promoted security, stability and respect for human rights, not only in Kosovo, but in the region more widely. However, significant challenges remain and it is important that UNMIK’s efforts are carefully tailored to address these. We continue to support a review of UNMIK to ensure that it is able to meet current needs as effectively as possible. Dealing with COVID-19 has to be the primary task of the incumbent Government in Kosovo, as indeed it is for Serbia and other governments throughout the world. The UK stands with the people of Kosovo during this global crisis. This is not a time for political manoeuvring, but cooperation, domestically and regionally. Following the vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister by the Assembly of Kosovo, we call upon all actors to continue to respect the Constitution, and for decisions to be taken quickly to enable the incumbent or new Government to make protection of citizens’ lives the paramount consideration. We welcome the support the UN is providing the Government of Kosovo to help deal with the crisis through the establishment of an inter-agency task force, to support the procurement, and coordinate supplies of medical equipment. We urge that action be taken forward quickly. Mr President, there have been many positive examples of different communities working together to deal with COVID-19. This Council should welcome the cooperation we have recently seen between the Minister of Health and the Minister of Communities and Returns, and the Mayors of North and South Mitrovica on issues relating to the Kosovo-Serb community. We should also welcome and encourage cooperation between health ministries in Kosovo and Serbia, such as the recent virtual meeting held between Ministers in both countries to discuss their response to the crisis. I would to thank the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for making such a constructive exchange possible. We hope that these actions will solidify the foundations for closer cooperation both within Kosovo, and between Kosovo and Serbia, over the pandemic and thereafter. Access to information on COVID-19 is essential. To that end, we welcome the Kosovo Government’s development of a multi-language website and ask that they ensure that all information related to COVID-19 is available in all official languages of Kosovo. I echo the Secretary-General’s report in welcoming developments in this period to increase connectivity between Kosovo and Serbia. The normalisation of relations between Kosovo and Serbia remains crucial for regional stability and prosperity and is in the interests of both countries. I reiterate the UK’s long-standing support for the EU-facilitated Dialogue as the route to achieving a legally binding, comprehensive and sustainable agreement between Kosovo and Serbia. We welcome the decision of the incumbent Government of Kosovo on 1 April to lift the tariffs on goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. We call on Serbia to respond positively, and to halt its de-recognition campaign. We believe grievances, including non-tariff barriers, can be settled in the framework of the EU-facilitated Dialogue, if there is the political will and courage to do so. We look to both parties to take the necessary steps to return to the Dialogue at the soonest possible opportunity. I would like to take this opportunity to welcome the appointment of Miroslav Lajcak as the EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue and other Western Balkans issues. We look forward to working with him, with our Quint partners, and with Serbia and Kosovo, to achieve a comprehensive, conclusive, legally binding normalisation agreement that respects territorial integrity, is acceptable to the citizens of both countries, and will deliver long-term benefits to them and the whole region. Mr President, we welcome the progress made by the Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office. The UK strongly supports these institutions and the important work that they do. We urge the Governments of Kosovo and Serbia and the members of this Council to cooperate fully with them. Justice must be delivered for victims and their families. We cannot allow a culture of impunity to exist for the most serious crimes; to do so would be unconscionable: it would be enormously damaging for rule of law and prospects of reconciliation across the region. We regret the slow progress in domestic prosecutions for war crimes, and urge the authorities in Kosovo and Serbia to push ahead in dealing with these historic crimes. We welcome the progress made by the Government of Kosovo in dealing with the legacy of conflict-related sexual violence, with the first indictment filed by a local prosecution for conflict-related sexual violence as a war crime. We commend the work UNMIK has done in supporting survivors to share their stories and encouraging the Government of Kosovo to prioritise addressing sexual violence. The UK is committed to supporting victims and preventing sexual violence in all its forms. Through funding the ‘Be My Voice’ campaign in Kosovo, we are raising public awareness and tackling head-on the stigma experienced by victims. Mr President, last October, the people of Kosovo voted for change. They voted for a government that promised to tackle corruption and promote economic development. There is still considerable work to be done to strengthen the rule of law and deal with weaknesses in the justice system in Kosovo. We call upon the incumbent or new Government to prioritise work to deliver the people’s long-term priorities. In closing, I would like to reiterate my thanks to the Special Representative and his team. We look forward to continuing to support them in their important work.

 

Statement by Permanent Representative of Russia to the UN (Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, 24 April 2020)

 

Mr. President,

We thank the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Mission in Kosovo Mr. Zahir Tanin for his briefing. We welcome participation of the First Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia Mr. Ivica Dačić. We listened carefully to what Mr. Konjufca had to tell us today. By the way, I am looking at the flag in the background of the picture of Mr. Konjufca and I fail to recognize what flag it is. Judging by the colors, it may be Swedish or Ukrainian, or it may be the flag of Barbados. Or, since we are discussing the Balkans, is it Bosnia and Herzegovina?

Mr. President,

I would like to remind that Mr. Konjufca came to speak to us under Rule 39 of the Provisional Rules of Procedure, therefore we would like to request you to brief through the Secretariat all those who come to speak under this rule and have them informed of what background and symbols  are appropriate or not when they do their briefings.

Mr. President,

The situation in Kosovo continues to deteriorate. And no rosy pictures of “Kosovo democratic achievements” that we were presented with and heard at this meeting will convince us in the contrary. We have been consistently saying that this project is not viable. We hear today about a new looming political crisis in Kosovo. But beside this, Kosovo-Albanian leadership demonstrates no interest in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina despite readiness of Serbia to resume negotiations, but after lifting discriminatory tariffs by Pristina. Many in the West hurried to welcome, including today, the announcement by Mr. Albin Kurti that the tariffs were abolished as of April 1st. The fact is, they were just temporarily suspended with even more unacceptable demands to Belgrade.

Mr. President,

We see and notice attempts by US and EU to create conditions for the dialogue to be resumed. We believe that such attempts will fail if they ignore provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 1244 and if unilateral measures introduced by Pristina are not lifted. EU-facilitated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina remains stalled, first and foremost because EU did not ensure that Kosovo-Albanians fulfill their obligations, taken 7 years ago, in the first place – to establish Community of Serb Municipalities of Kosovo. We count that Miroslav Lajčák, the new EU Special Representative will be able to find a solution to this issue. We continue to deplore plans backed by some member states to create a so-called “Kosovo Army”. They run counter to provisions of 1244 and will only lead to destabilization of the situation in Kosovo and in the Balkans as a whole. We have a question to our US colleagues. The “Bondsteel” camp was deployed within a framework of peacekeeping operations to implement UNSC Resolution 1244, but later it became a de-facto American military base in Kosovo. It is being used to train Kosovo-Albanian units with an aim to create “Kosovo armed forces”, contrary, as we said, to the provisions of UNSC Resolution 1244. We still await information on concrete perpetrators of an incident in Zubin Potok municipality on 28 May 2019 where UNMIK officials were detained and beaten by Kosovo Police. This crime still remains uninvestigated and unpunished. We demand and insist on thorough investigation and on bringing perpetrators to justice. Incidents targeting Serbian religious sites and cemeteries continue to take place. The decision on the plot of land owned by Visoki Dečani Monastery is not implemented for several years. Pristina continues to shy away from cooperation with Belgrade in investigation of the murder of the Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanović in January 2018. In December 2019 six Kosovo Serbs were indicted. But impartiality of investigative procedures raises the most serious doubts.

Mr. President,

We have to point out once again that the Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office in the Hague do nothing to investigate crimes committed by the “Kosovo Liberation Army”. After many years of endless red tape by yet another expensive “army” of judges, prosecutors and experts, not a single indictment has been filed yet. All this legal folderol has been going on since 2011 when the EU took upon itself to investigate facts stated in the report by the former member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Dick Marty. We have a question: When will criminals, who committed numerous atrocities against the Serbs, including trade in human organs, be brought to justice?

Mr. President,

President of Serbia offered cooperation between Belgrade and Pristina in fighting COVID-19. We welcome it, but we note with concern the publication in Kosovo media of personal data of Kosovo Serbs infected with the coronavirus. This is irresponsible and inadmissible.

Mr. President,

To conclude, we will support the achievement by Belgrade and Pristina of a sustainable and mutually acceptable solution based primarily on the UNSC Resolution 1244, the solution that will be in line with international law and endorsed by the UN Security Council. No fast tracking of the so-called “final normalization” between Belgrade and Pristina nor artificial deadlines will produce this goal. The Security Council should continue to lend its support to UNMIK, which is a key international presence in Kosovo playing a leading role in monitoring the situation, maintaining stability and creating conditions for bringing a negotiated solution closer.

I thank you.

 

Kosovo: The priority must be the normalization of relations between Pristina and Belgrade (Permanent Representation of France to the United Nations Security Council, 24 April 2020)

 

Mr President,

I would like to thank the Special Representative of the Secretary-General Mr. Zahir Tanin for his briefing. I also welcome the participation in this videoconference of the first deputy prime minister and minister of Foreign Affairs of Serbia and of the minister of Foreign Affairs of Kosovo. When it comes to Kosovo, one of the utmost priorities for France is the normalization of relations between Pristina and Belgrade, within the framework of the dialogue conducted under the leadership of the European Union. This objective is our compass and I would like to make two remarks in this respect. First, France welcomes the appointment on April 3rd of Miroslav Lajcak as the European Union Special Representative for the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. We fully support the mediation of the European Union, this dispute being a European security issue. We call on the leaders of Kosovo and Serbia to engage with Mr. Lajcak.

Secondly, we welcome the announcement, on April 1st, by the caretaker Government of Kosovo of the full suspension of the 100% tariffs on goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is an important step in the right direction. The flow of goods between Serbia and Kosovo has restarted, which is an important development. We encourage both sides to take further steps to enable the resumption of the EU-led dialogue. We are aware that the pursuit of this objective is taking place in a difficult context, due to the mobilization of all resources in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 crisis nevertheless shows that cooperation is the best way to fight against common challenges, and I welcome in that respect the cooperation between Belgrade and Pristina on the ground to fight the pandemic, which, we hope, will help to rebuild trust between the parties. In addition, having in mind the political situation in Kosovo, we call on all stakeholders to leave aside their political differences and prioritize the fight against COVID-19. I also reiterate France’s support for the work of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), which works tirelessly to promote security, stability and respect for human rights in Kosovo and the region. Its work in bringing communities closer together and promoting the women, peace and security agenda is essential and must be commended. These efforts must continue, in conjunction with the initiatives of other regional and international actors, in particular the European Union Rule of Law Mission, EULEX Kosovo. France is convinced that Serbia and Kosovo have a shared European future. In order to build this future, we will continue to support the reforms needed to consolidate the rule of law and socio-economic development. In support of the EU-led mediation, we will ramp up our efforts to facilitate the conclusion of a comprehensive, final and legally binding agreement between the two parties, which will contribute to the lasting stabilization of the Western Balkans. I thank you.

 

Chinese envoy calls for resumption of talks for political settlement of Kosovo issue (CGTN, 25 April 2020)

 

A Chinese envoy on Friday called on Pristina to resume dialogue with Belgrade for a political settlement of the Kosovo issue.  China hopes that Kosovo will demonstrate the necessary political will and work toward the resumption of dialogue with Belgrade, said Yao Shaojun, minister counselor of China’s permanent mission to the United Nations. Reconciliation and harmonious coexistence are in the fundamental interests of people of all communities in Kosovo, Yao told the Security Council during a virtual meeting. Security Council Resolution 1244 of 1999 is an important legal basis for the settlement of the Kosovo issue. China has always maintained that the best way to resolve the Kosovo issue is for the parties concerned to reach a mutually acceptable solution through dialogue and consultation in accordance with the relevant Security Council resolutions, he said. At the end of the Kosovo War in 1999, Kosovo, a Serbian province dominated by ethnic Albanians, was placed under interim UN administration by Resolution 1244. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in February 2008. Serbia does not recognize Kosovo’s independence, which is partially recognized by the international community.

Yao said China respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia, understands its legitimate concerns with regard to the Kosovo issue, and commends Belgrade’s efforts to find a political solution. At this critical period of time when the world is facing the extraordinary challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, cooperation and solidarity are even more imperative, said Yao. China hopes that all parties concerned would put the interests of their people first, refrain from any rhetoric or action that could complicate or escalate the situation, and create conditions for the proper settlement of the Kosovo issue, he said. Solidarity is needed to defeat COVID-19

Meanwhile, Zahir Tanin, top UN envoy for Kosovo, asked political leaders of the territory to put aside their personal and political agendas in face of the coronavirus crisis. “I urge political leaders (of Kosovo)… to focus on unifying their energy while putting personal and political agendas aside,” Tanin said on Friday. “Only through solidarity and unity of effort can we succeed in meeting and overcoming this enormous challenge.” He expressed concerns over internal political instability, including the March 25 parliamentary vote of no-confidence.

The political landscape in Pristina is characterized by polarization among parties and competing claims to power between factions. The conflicting agendas culminated in a vote of no-confidence against the coalition government on March 25, just as the COVID-19 crisis was striking, he said.

A caretaker government is in place. But the president has called for a new government to be formed by an alternative majority while the prime minister has called this action unlawful, vowing to challenge it in the Constitutional Court. On April 17, Serbia delivered 1,000 coronavirus test kits to Kosovo in a sign of solidarity, despite trade frictions, violent recent history and Kosovo’s failure to gain acceptance by Serbia as an independent country. A Serbian official familiar with the delivery said Belgrade dispatched the kits without any political conditions but with “solely the desire to help overcome this virus problem.” “This (coronavirus) is a stark reminder that we can resolve many problems only together,” the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters. Faik Hoti, the spokesman of Kosovo’s Health Ministry, confirmed Serbia’s donation.

(With input from Xinhua, Reuters)

 

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