Brnabic: Parliament session started once all requirements have been met (RTS/Tanjug/RTV)
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic stated today that the Serbian parliament has not convened until now because the percentage of COVID-19 infections grew from 4.27% to 33.08%, the figure of 24 March. Speaking in the parliament, where a discussion on confirmation of the Decision on declaration of the state of emergency is underway, Brnabic underlined that the Serbian government had asked this supreme legislative body to meet the very moment the conditions for that have been met. She specified that on 10 March the percentage of those infected stood at 4.27% of those tested, and then the next day it jumped to 11.92%, on 14 March it was 17.6% and on 24 March as much as 33.08%. The Prime Minister said that yesterday the number of confirmed infections out of those tested was 4.07%, which is why it was possible for the parliament to convene, with all the preventive measures in place.
Djuric: KFOR promised it would not allow extremists to use this situation (TV Pink/Tanjug/Politika)
The Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Djuric said yesterday that KFOR promised at the beginning of the corona virus epidemic that it would not allow the extremists in Pristina to use this situation and attempt to invade northern Kosovo and Metohija. “At the beginning of this epidemic, KFOR Commander (General Michele Risi) acted very concretely towards the Serb community in Kosovo and Metohija, contacted Goran Rakic, as the Head of the Serb List and mayor of North Mitrovica, and offered assistance. He said KFOR would ensure under these conditions that they should not be worried about security issues and that they should not worry that some of the extremists in Pristina would be allowed to use this situation and invade northern Kosovo and Metohija and similar,” Djuric told TV Pink. Asked what is happening with KFOR and the Slovenian soldiers when it comes to corona, Djuric says the virus entered KFOR as well, and that out of 90 tested in Bondsteel, 80 were positive.
Godfrey: Serbia’s approach to pandemic provides an opportunity for progress in Belgrade-Pristina relations (N1/Beta)
US Ambassador to Serbia Anthony Godfrey told N1 on Wednesday that he shares the concerns of the EU and others about freedom of the media in Serbia. We share the concerns of the EU and other observers about the status of media freedom in Serbia but that does not specifically have to do with the coronavirus, he said on the N1 morning show. He said that is aware of views that the restrictive measures imposed by the Serbian authorities to combat the coronavirus pandemic have gone too far but added that he would not criticize the government because this is a completely new situation in which governments reacted as best they knew how. Godfrey recalled the aid that the Serbian authorities sent to Kosovo and said that Serbia’s approach to the pandemic provides an opportunity for progress in Belgrade-Pristina relations. He said that he was impressed by the fact that the Serbian authorities sent medical supplies and shared expertise to help people in Pristina. We are trying to keep that momentum going, he added. The Ambassador said he is optimistic about the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, adding that US Special Envoy Richard Grenell is in constant contact with leaders on both sides. Godfrey said that his country’s policy toward the Western Balkans has not changed due to the coronavirus pandemic and that the resumption of the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina is important for Washington.
“Our policies toward the Western Balkans have not changed. My colleagues in Washington are displeased with the lack of progress that could have been made, but I think that we can make up for that,” Godfrey told N1. He added that it is difficult to predict when the problem of Kosovo will be solved because of the ongoing developments concerning the forming of the Kosovo government on which the continuation of the dialogue depends. He recalled that the US donated a PCR machine to the Clinical Center in Nis and said that he has been told that the machine performed 500 tests on Tuesday. Asked about how US aid has been presented to the Serbian public as compared to aid from China and Russia, Godfrey said that their aid is important as are expressions of gratitude. I quickly thanked the Serbian government when Air Serbia helped get American citizens home, he said. Asked about political influence exerted through the humanitarian aid from Russia and China, the Ambassador said that Serbia is guided by its own interests. Serbia is a sovereign country and should have all possible contacts, he said.
Mihajlovic: Serbia ready to resume air traffic on 18 May (RTS)
Serbian Minister of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure Zorana Mihajlovic told morning program of Radio and Television of Serbia (RTS) that Serbia is ready to resume passenger air traffic on 18 May, but that will depend on other countries of the European Union (EU) and when they will allow flights from their airports. Mihajlovic said that we did not shut airports, but that regular flights were abolished everywhere and recalled that the Belgrade Nikola Tesla airport has been open all the time for bringing humanitarian assistance and Serbian citizens from abroad.
Our proposal is to resume passenger flights from the airports in Belgrade, Nis and Kraljevo on 18 May. However, if Europe does not open by this date, Serbia will not be able to either, she said. Mihajlovic underlined that during the coronavirus epidemic one of the main measures was to halt passenger transport, but those measures are not gradually being lifted. Intercity transport will resume as of 4 May and public transport in Belgrade and Nis as of 8 May. On the other hand, freight traffic has been functioning since the outbreak of the epidemic and that will help us to survive the crisis economically to a great extent.
Final decision today: It is possible to shorten the curfew for May Day holidays (TV Pink/B92)
Changes to the curfew for May Day holidays are possible, epidemiologist Branislav Tiodorovic said. However, a final decision will be made today. As he stated, the detailed assessment will be done on Wednesday, and his position, as well as the position of the profession, is to keep the measures. “But the curfew does not have to start at 6 pm, it does not have to start on Thursday, it can start as of Friday. There is a lot of pressure from the public to end that curfew for the holidays,” he says. “Most people respect the measure, but there are also five percent who will say on 1 May – cold beer, hot lamb – and destroy everything we’ve done so far,” he says.
He also told TV Pink that the end of the first half of the fight with the coronavirus could be “not before the end of May.”
Another 227 cases, 1,292 recovered (RTS)
Until 3 pm, there have been another 227 cases, in total 8,724 cases. Five more deaths, in total 173 deaths. There are 2,470 patients in hospitals, and 78 on respirators. A total of 1,292 people have recovered.
B&H Presidency gives B&H Council of Ministers 24 hours to harmonize measures in fight against coronavirus pandemic at B&H level (FTV/N1/Vecernji list)
The Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Presidency tasked the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) on Tuesday to find a way within the next 24 hours how to coordinate different measures imposed due to coronavirus pandemic between the Repblika Srpska (RS), the Federation of B&H (FB&H) and the Brcko District. This refers to mandatory quarantine measure on the border crossings for citizens who arrive in B&H from abroad, which is still in effect in the RS but it was lifted in the FB&H and it was replaced by home-isolation. Political representatives of the RS have criticized lately the decision of the FB&H authorities to lift this measure, warning that it was adopted without coordination with other levels of authorities and that it is premature. Serb member of B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik told reporters after the session that one-sided behavior of the FB&H is not good and that the RS will keep the quarantine measure. “The Presidency gave a 24-hour deadline for the B&H CoM, together with others, to come up with a way to solve that issue. The RS will stick to quarantines because we believe that May 1 is a very challenging date for possible spread of coronavirus, and that this measure adopted by the FB&H authorities is hasty and it is not good because it is unilateral,” Dodik told the media following the session of the B&H Presidency. Bosniak and Croat member of the B&H Presidency, Sefik Dzaferovic and Zeljko Komsic, did not condemn moves undertaken by the FB&H institutions. However, Dzaferovic said that there is no coordination in B&H in the fight against coronavirus. “We have ordered the B&H Council of Ministers alongside entity and Brcko District governments, to issue measures in a coordinated activity, which will be consistent, harmonized, and which will not be opposing on the whole B&H territory, within the next 24 hours”. Minister of Security of B&H Fahrudin Radoncic stated that it is necessary to harmonize measures of crisis headquarters of entities because of traffic of people at border crossings. “I heard that many doctors in the Crisis Headquarters of the FB&H were against abolition of measures. Personally, I think we should have waited and, if it were up to me, I would have consulted epidemiologists”, Radoncic stated and added that he learned about the decision to abolish quarantine in the FB&H from media. “Now, we have the situation in which those who arrive to border crossings in the RS will be placed in quarantine, while hundreds of other citizens who enter through border crossings in the FB&H will go home, which might jeopardize more than a thousand of people, having in mind family members,” Radoncic warned.
FB&H made a step back (Dnevni avaz)
RS Healthcare Minister Alen Seranic repeated that the decision of FB&H authorities to shut down the quarantines and to issue decisions on home isolation for all citizens who enter the territory of B&H i.e. the FB&H from abroad, could have negative impact on control and supervision over the persons who come from abroad. He explained that the RS introduced this measure in order to control “import” of the virus and along with the measures within the community established the system of active control. “In this regard, such decision of the FB&H represents a step back,” said Seranic. He noted that the RS Inspectorate will continue with control on border crossings and with issuing of orders for local quarantines and undertake all measures agreed by competent RS institutions. Minister noted that they, in the RS, are led by the assumption that everyone is a carrier of virus and they act accordingly. He added that they monitor events in the region and all the measures adopted in the RS are based on assessment of epidemiological situation and are based on expert and legal grounds. Minister stressed that all the measures which are still in force, refer to all individuals and communities and he once again underlined the importance of avoiding of bigger gatherings, as well as hygienic measures. He appealed to all citizens to follow the prevention measures. Seranic stated that regardless of easing of measures, personal responsibility and protection measures are crucial in the fight against coronavirus. “Whatever measures we adopt when it comes to the community, there is always the issue of responsibility of individuals as to how they will behave,” Seranic said.
SIPA, SC Prosecutor’s Office and Public Procurement Agency launch investigation of procurement of ventilators carried out by raspberry production company (N1)
Procurement of one hundred ventilators in the FB&H at the price of over BAM 10 million via company raspberry production company ‘Srebrena malina’ is in the focus of the public, but also in the focus of investigative authorities in B&H. The Prosecutor’s Office of Sarajevo Canton opened a case regarding the procurement of the ventilators in the FB&H and the State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA) of B&H is also conducting certain checks. N1 recalled that 80 ventilators intended for the FB&H arrived at Sarajevo Airport last weekend. FB&H Prime Minister Fadil Novalic presented the delivery of the ventilators as a great success, stressing that two patients can be hooked up to the ventilators which were procured from China by the company ‘Srebrena malina’ which deals with distribution of fruits and vegetables. At the same time, FB&H Minister of Healthcare Vjekoslav Mandic claims that he knows nothing about the controversial procurement of the ventilators. “I repeat, the Ministry of Healthcare is not involved in the FB&H Civil Protection HQ. We are only an advisory body… We are not familiar with the case in question,” Mandic said. Owner of the company ‘Srebrena malina’ Fikret Hodzic and the FB&H Civil Protection Administration claim that everything was done in accordance with the law, while the statement made by Head of the FB&H Civil Protection Crisis HQ Jelka Milicevic casts doubt on the whole story. Namely, Milicevic claims that procedures were not respected during the procurement of the ventilators. “According to clear procedures, all needs are first identified by the experts, i.e. by the Institute of Public Health. After that a decision on initiating the procurement is reached by the FB&H Civil Protection HQ and consent of the FB&H government is obtained.” Despite the fact that the FB&H Civil Protection Administration claims that procurement of the ventilators was carried out in accordance with the Law on Public Procurement and that all procedures were complied with, the B&H Public Procurement Agency failed to find ‘Srebrena malina’ as a bidder in the specific procurement, asking the FB&H government and the FB&H Civil Protection Administration to declare on this. Director of the B&H Public Procurement Agency Djenan Salcin said that the Agency asked the FB&H government and the FB&H Civil Protection Administration to submit the entire documentation related to the procurement of the ventilators. Salcin said that one should know that a certain procedure needs to be conducted even in cases of negotiated procedure without prior publication. Hodzic had previously denied being involved in the procurement. Hodzic stated: “I was involved in certain talks about procurement of certain things, since my contacts are many, and there are many of them in China. That is where it ended, however nothing went through. Did I sign any contracts? I did not, believe me”. He is now saying that he has earned a certain sum from the procurement, however, did not say exactly how much. SIPA is investigating is money laundering took place during this transaction. Zornic reminds that 80 out of the 100 respirators were delivered to B&H four days ago and ponders whether a company that deals with fruit processing can be tasked with import of ventilators. FB&H Prime Minister Novalic said: “This is not a donation. This was purchased by the FB&H government. One hundred ventilators and we believe we have fulfilled the need for ventilators with this. This contingent costs BAM 10.5 million”. The Agency for Medicinal Products and Medical Devices of B&H, confirmed to have awarded ‘Srebrena malina’ a permit for such an import. The permit was awarded at the request of the FB&H Civil Protection Administration Director Fahrudin Solak, who signed a written statement tasking ‘Srebrena malina’ company for this import. Assistant Director Sanita Alagic said that the abovementioned company was the only one to give an offer for procurement of the ventilators. “The most important thing is that we received these ventilators and I absolutely do not see the point of discussing the manner of procurement,” Alagic said. SDP B&H’s Sasa Magazinovic wondered how come that ‘Srebrena Malina’ can import respirators in B&H given that the company was under blockade until two months ago, also asking how come that company engaged of raspberry production can import ventilators. Spokesperson for B&H Indirect Taxation Authority (ITA) Ratko Kovacevic underlined that customs procedure request concerning imported ventilators was submitted only on Tuesday. Kovacevic added that besides all other documentation, a company importing ventilators needs to have permit issued by Agency for Medicinal Devices of B&H.
Cavara: SDA wants to dis-empower Croats, some want to use the crisis and make profit out it (Vecernji list)
FB&H President Marinko Cavara from HDZ B&H, asked how satisfied is he with functioning of the FB&H and its political stakeholders during the Coronavirus pandemic, replied by saying that SDA has been conducting an aggressive attack aimed at completely dis-empowering the Croats and remove Croats from formal positions. In addition, Cavara says there was a case one month ago when the FB&H government attempted to take over role of the legislator, which would allow the Bosniak majority to adopt all decisions. Asked to comment on the daily’s remark that the Bosniak representatives are obstructing the arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) i.e. attempts that the money from the IMF is not distributed to the cantons, Cavara says it completely corresponds with the SDA Declaration, namely the aim is to centralize the FB&H and create a civic state to SDA’s liking in which the cantons would be surplus. According to the FB&H President, this is a neat opportunity for realization of such goals. In addition, Cavara says he would like to congratulate state Minister of Finance and Treasury Vjekoslav Bevanda, who defends constitutional competences and who is making efforts that the cantons are recognized in terms of distribution of money. Asked to comment on what daily refers to as scandal related to import of respirators by ‘Srebrena malina’ company, Cavara says instead of having everyone involved in positive activities aimed at protection of lives and health, some people want to gain a profit out of it, which is why “I publicly condemn these actions and public request that investigative bodies establish the real situation”.
Tegeltija speaks with Chakrabarti and Lajcak via video link (RTRS)
Chairman of the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) Zoran Tegeltija Tuesday spoke with President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) Suma Chakrabarti via video link. Tegeltija stressed that it is necessary to adapt existing financial support instruments and initiatives for the rehabilitation of the healthcare sector and for the initiation of economic activities and job creation. Tegeltija also spoke with EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue and Issues of the Western Balkans Miroslav Lajcak via video link. Tegeltija and Lajcak agreed that it is necessary to start implementing necessary measures as soon as possible in order to stimulate economic activity, strengthen the economy and restore jobs.
B&H Presidency members meet with Sattler and Quint Ambassadors, launch initiative for start of reform process and implementation of priorities from EC’s Opinion (FTV)
Ambassadors of the Quint countries, alongside Head of the EU Delegation to B&H and EU Special Representative, Ambassador Johann Sattler held a meeting on Tuesday in Sarajevo with the three members of the B&H Presidency. Participants of this meeting talked about B&H’s path towards the EU. The main focus of discussion was realization of measures stated in the 14 recommendations of the European Commission’s (EC) Opinion. Through an agreement with the EU officials, the Presidency started an initiative on formation of a political working group that will be tasked with pushing the processes within B&H forward. The working group will also try and achieve a wide consensus on B&H’s EU path. The group will include the three Presidency members, the Chairman and two Deputy Chairmen of the B&H Council of Ministers (B&H CoM), the Speaker and two Deputy Speakers of the B&H House of Representatives (B&H HoR), as well as the Speaker and two Deputy Speakers of the B&H House of Peoples (B&H HoP). “That is a wider political body that will meet here, in the B&H Presidency (building), and, based on the need, give instructions and help in solving certain matters” explained Chairman of the B&H Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic. Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik told a press conference that several conclusions were adopted at Tuesday’s meeting. One conclusion refers to the formation of this working group and Dodik confirms they will hold the first meeting in five days. At that meeting, Dodik says, a document will be adopted that will be a form of a response to the EC’s 14 recommendations. “In that way, we created space for conducting a continuous evaluation of B&H’s progress in implementing the fourteen priorities from the EC’s Opinion. That is, also, a very important message that we wish to send during the EU Summit in Zagreb next week, that we in this way showed true commitment of our country to continuation of our EU path”, reads the statement issued by Croat member of the B&H Presidency, Zeljko Komsic. Sattler and ambassadors of the Quint countries welcomed the activities of B&H Presidency members in regards to continuation of B&H’s progress towards the EU membership. They reiterated their strong support for B&H on that path. They emphasized that Zagreb Summit, which will be held on 6 May, will be a great opportunity for B&H to show that this country values unity more than divisions, and that its leaders are strong and capable of leading the country forward. “We welcomed this initiative, which is, I emphasize, the initiative of the Presidency. Its essence is launching of a mechanism that will enable realization of priorities on the EU path and determination of an Action Plan that must cover the period of next two and a half years, which is the period until the end of the mandate,” Sattler told the reporters.
Elections related stories (Dnevni list/RTRS)
President of the B&H Central Election Commission Vanja Bjelica- Prutina joined on Tuesday via video link the meeting of Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council (PIC SB) and heads of lead international organizations in B&H. On this occasion, Bjelica- Prutina gave a detailed presentation of the situation concerning the organization and implementation of local elections. According to B&H CEC statement, following the presentation, the High Representative Valentin Inzko expressed a special gratitude. Considering the challenges before B&H CEC concerning the COVID-19 pandemic, HR Inzko stated in a letter that all institutions in B&H, at all authority levels, have to fully cooperate with B&H CEC and refrain from endangering of this institution by questioning the credibility of its newly elected members. In the end, Inzko stressed that unless the court decides otherwise, the newly elected members of B&H CEC are equal members of this institution and their role must not be endangered. Meanwhile, Stressing the illegality and illegitimacy of the appointment of members of the B&H CEC, Spokesperson for SNSD Radovan Kovacevic deemed as utterly hypocritical the fact that HR Inzko is calling for respect of obvious violation of the law. Kovacevic stressed that “although we got used to Inzko protecting lawlessness of SDA and the Bosniak side, it is symptomatic that he started to care about lawlessness in the interest of SDS and PDP.” At the same time, SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic held an online meeting with Head of OSCE Mission to B&H Kathleen Kavalec. The officials discussed conditions for holding of upcoming local elections and distribution of the IMF funds. Izetbegovic stressed that decision on beginning of the elections should be left for B&H CEC to reach, after the assessment of epidemiological situation in B&H.
NATO and US Army donate necessary supplies for FB&H and RS MoIs (Dnevni avaz)
In order to provide assistance to B&H in its efforts to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, representatives of NATO and US Army, on Tuesday handed over another donation for B&H citizens. This donation presents a response to the recent request that B&H authorities submitted to NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Center (EADRCC), reads the statement published on Facebook page of the US Embassy to B&H. Representatives of NATO and US Army handed over urgently needed supplies for the FB&H and RS Interior Ministries. It is stated that this donation will assist first responders to continue their vital work protecting the citizens who need it most, wherever they may live in B&H and that this assistance is just one of several ongoing donations being made to the citizens of B&H by NATO Allies.
RS Crisis HQ approves limited working hours of non-grocery retailers that operate in shopping malls from May 1-11 (RTRS)
The RS Crisis HQ Tuesday adopted a conclusion allowing limited work of stores that sell non-food products located in shopping malls in the RS from 7 am to 7 pm in the period from 1 to 11 May. Furthermore, stores that sell non-food products located outside shopping malls have been allowed to work from 7 am to 7 pm until 11 May. The RS Crisis Headquarters also passed a conclusion on distribution of donated products and approved the donation of medical equipment and hygiene products to healthcare centers in the Municipalities of Drvar, Bosansko Grahovo, Glamoc and Bosanski Petrovac. The RS Crisis HQ will convene on 11 May to discuss re-opening of hair salons, beauty salons and kindergartens in the RS. RTRS stressed that although certain restrictive measures have been eased, citizens in the RS will have to get used to gloves, masks and physical distance if they do not want for the epidemics to flare up again. In line with the decision of the RS Crisis HQ, certain restrictive measures were eased in the RS on Tuesday, with craft shops, cultural institutions, smaller boutiques, car washes and bookstores re-opening. RS Prime Minister Radovan Viskovic said that the government will propose abolition of state of emergency in the RS after 10 May.
Cardinal Puljic: Priests allowed to start serving masses with presence of the faithful (Oslobodjenje)
Catholic Archbishop of Vrhbosna, Cardinal Vinko Puljic instructed his priests that considering the improvement of epidemiological situation in the FB&H, they are allowed to start serving masses with presence of the faithful. Puljic said that it is necessary to abide recommendations of competent crisis HQs and provided additional explanations for his priests.
B&H sees a surge of 92 new Covid-19 cases and 3 deaths (N1)
B&H health authorities confirmed a record number of 92 new Covid-19 cases over the past 24 hours, along with 3 more fatalities. The total number of cases now stands at 1,677, of which 710 people recovered and 65 had died. Health authorities in the RS discovered 59 new cases after testing 677 samples, along with one positive sample from the Brcko District, Health Minister Alen Seranic said. “Even though we only had two positive cases yesterday, today we’re in a more unfavorable situation,” Seranic said adding that the virus was also confirmed in 3 doctors and 1 nurse working at the Banja Luka University Hospital. Seranic said that 34 newly infected people deny or are unaware of being in contact with previously infected persons. The FB&H recorded 33 new cases after testing 520 samples form Covid-19, the FB&H Crisis Staff reported. According to them, the FB&H entity currently has 48 hospitalized patients, five of whom are connected to ventilators. When it comes to the fatalities, the Banja Luka Hospital said that two of their male patients had died yesterday. The third fatality was recorded in the FB&H’s Konjic town and the patient was said to be a woman who was part of the Igman Konjic cluster. This cluster appeared after the Igman Konjic company celebrated their anniversary with some 200 guests where the patient zero was a guest from Serbia.
HDZ putting own interests before public health, says opposition MP (Hina)
The deputy leader of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Rajko Ostojic, on Tuesday called out the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) for putting its own interests before those of the state and citizens, accusing ministers of not making decisions, avoiding responsibility and hiding behind the national coronavirus crisis management team. “HDZ has for the one hundredth time put its own interests before those of the state, the health of our citizens, economic health and even the interests of the European Union,” Ostojic told a press conference. “For HDZ, the election is the key to everything,” he underscored and added that the same thing happened on 15 March when the internal party election was more important that the interest of the state because immediately the next day quarantine measures were introduced and not before like in neighboring Slovenia and other countries in central Europe. He mentioned that the key measures introduced were banning employment and public procurement. “Yet, HDZ violated its own recommendations,” Ostojic said, citing the example of the Inspector-General who should be concerned with matters related to the coronavirus yet he employed a member of his family.
Ostojic said that the ban on Sunday trading was unprecedented and that it was the result of HDZ pandering to the conservative right. He added that there was no expert or scientific proof that the ban on Sunday trading could be connected with the coronavirus. Ostojic said that the situation in the retirement home in Split where the disease spread but no one was held to account was also unheard of and that SDP had called for the responsible person to be identified. He recalled that Health Minister Vili Beros had at the time very clearly said that increased temperatures and infections in the retirement home, which had gone on for about ten days, were the cause of the COVID-19 infection and underscored that if that was confirmed it should be sufficient reason for someone’s resignation.
Unions to stage an online protest rally on May Day (Hina)
One of Croatia’s largest trade union alliances, SSSH, announced that the traditional mass gatherings organized to mark the International Workers’ Day on 1 May would be replaced this year by an online protest. The online protest will take place on 11 am on Friday via the Zoom online meeting platform, and will be aired on online social networks. SSSH said in a statement that the purpose of the protest is to send a message that the coronavirus crisis is an opportunity “to clearly say that there is no going back to old ways” and that it is time for a “new paradigm of social and economic development.” During the online protest, workers will talk about the impact that the crisis has had on their jobs. SSSH announced they would also use the opportunity to present their “vision of a world, which suits the man, and the future that awaits us after the epidemic.” SSSH added that this crisis once again has shown the value of all workers for society. This of course refers to health workers, but also to people who are normally not talked about in the public discourse without whom normal life would not be possible, like cashiers, garbage collectors, police officers, firefighters, and construction workers. “Although many of them are being thanked these days for their service, what they need the most above all is that their rights – including higher wages and better working conditions, better health protection, and work safety – are respected,” the union said.
In Croatia, 15 new infections, 2.062 in total, 4 more died (N1)
Currently, a total of 2.062 people has been confirmed to be infected with coronavirus in Croatia, and 1.288 have been cured. So far, 67 people have died. “In the past 24 hours, we have 15 newly infected people in Croatia, which gives the total number of 2.062 patients, Crisis Staff Chief, Maja Grba Bujevic told a press conference of the National Civil Protection Headquarters. She added that four more people have died since yesterday. In addition to several chronic diseases, deceased were also positive for coronavirus.
Pompeo to Djukanovic: Montenegro is not just a friend of the US, it’s an important ally (CDM)
On behalf of US President, Donald Trump, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo sent a letter to Montenegro’s President Milo Djukanovic thanking him for sending the telegram of condolences for the victims of the coronavirus outbreak. Pompeo highlighted that Montenegro is not just a friend of the United States – it’s an important ally. “As the first US Secretary of State who visited your country, I feel a particularly strong connection with Montenegro and I hope that you and the people of Montenegro will accept our prayers and our support during these difficult times,” it was said in a letter. He also said that they sincerely appreciated the assistance of the government of Montenegro in returning the American people to the United States, adding that allies back one another in times of trouble. “Therefore, we proudly commit $300.000 in health assistance and another $15,000 in medical equipment to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic in Montenegro. This new assistance strengthens the long-term US investment in Montenegro totaling over $332 million and involving more than $1 million for the healthcare system,” the US Secretary of State noted.
Montenegro without new coronavirus cases for three days in a row (CDM)
There haven’t been new coronavirus cases in Montenegro for three days in a row. Laboratories analyzed 81 samples during the night and found all samples negative for coronavirus. Total number of cases remains 321. There are currently 115 active cases, whereas 199 patients have recovered. Around 1,901 citizens are under watch and seven persons who were positive for coronavirus have died. Number of registered cases by municipalities:
Bijelo Polje: 6
Herceg Novi: 6
Chulev: People’s health a priority, COVID-19 developments to determine date of elections (MIA)
People’s health is a priority at this time. There is still a high risk of spreading COVID-19 and all capacities must now be focused on getting out of this crisis as soon as possible. The handling of the COVID-19 crisis will determine the date for the elections, Minister of Interior Nakje Chulev told on Tuesday. “From my perspective within the government and what is coming from the Commission for Infectious Diseases, we are still not out of the COVID-19 crisis, there are still infections, deaths and emergency measures. Elections should not even be discussed now. The Ministry of Interior (MoI) is working closely with OSCE/ODIHR in organizing the elections. Airports are not open and I don’t know how fair and democratic elections would take place without proper international or domestic monitoring,” says Minister Chulev. According to him, MoI will respond to the task regardless of the date for the elections. “Of course, if there is a higher risk of COVID-19 then this would hamper the work of the police in planning the election process and detection of possible irregularities. Regardless, the MoI is prepared to respond to the challenge of elections, be it in July, September or October. Politicians will decide on this”, says Chulev. He says there is increasing awareness among citizens over personal protection, with the majority observing the measures by wearing masks or other protective means.
Mickoski: Election not VMRO-DPMNE’s priority now (MIA)
This composition of the parliament is a former one, and with its dissolution the mandate of the MPs has been completed. Legitimacy is back to citizens. People are the only ones who can bring parliament back. Neither Zoran Zaev nor a group of MPs can try to break the Constitution, VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski said. Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Mickoski reiterated that snap election is not VMRO-DPMNE’s priority now, but overcoming the coronavirus crisis. “VMRO-DPMNE is always ready to defeat SDSM. But, early parliamentary election, at a time of COVID-19 pandemic, when we’re coping with infected people and victims every day, facing an economic, sanitary and educational crisis, and a general crisis situation, is not one of the priorities,” he noted. In response to a reporter’s question on whether VMRO-DPMNE will take part in the election if it takes place at the end of June or beginning of July, Mickoski said it was first of all necessary to fight for people’s health, get the economy back on the winning track, and then focus on election.
Filipche: Curve flattened; Measures must be followed for return to normality (MIA)
Analyses show that the COVID-19 transmission factor in the country is below 1 but we are doing detailed analyses on certain regions and waiting for a few days to see the trend of new infections. The measures we have enforced resulted in the flattening of the curve, there is a linear number of cases and an increasing number of recovered patients, said Health Minister Venko Filipche on Tuesday. Filipche told the daily online press conference that the trend can be maintained only if all citizens provide their contribution by observing the measures, followed in gradual return of life to normality. He also reiterated the movement restrictions for the coming Labor Day weekend, with curfew starting at 2 pm and ending at 5 am on the next day, giving people an opportunity to go out and do their shopping without creating crowds in markets, green markets etc. “However, I once again urge for compulsory wearing of protective masks and 2-meter distancing. We all are responsible for ourselves but also for others. We should not bring into question everything we have endured in the recent period,” said Filipche.
In North Macedonia 105 people placed in state quarantine at Popova Shapka (MIA)
105 repatriated nationals have been placed in 14-day mandatory state quarantine in Popova Shapka hotels as of Tuesday night, in line with measures aimed to curb the spread of the coronavirus in North Macedonia. 68 people have been put up at the Slavija hotel and 37 at the Arena hotel. “This is the third group of repatriated citizens who have been placed in mandatory 14-day isolation here. They were examined at the Tetovo Clinical Center and supplied with food, water, and hygiene products. They come from several countries, including Switzerland, Australia, Israel, Brasil,” said Arena hotel representative Zharko Nedelkovski. The Tetovo police said Wednesday that one person has been caught breaking curfew in the area in the past 24 hours, while 18 people were issued isolation order and four people signed self-isolation statements.
In North Macedonia 38 patients recovered, 21 new cases confirmed, 2 have died (Libertas)
The Ministry of Health informs that today the Institute of Public Health registers 38 recovered patients in: Skopje-19, Tetovo-3, Struga-9, Bitola-4 and Gostivar-3. In the past 24 hours, 279 tests were performed, and 21 new case of Covid-19 was confirmed: Skopje – 7, Kumanovo – 6, Prilep – 4, Tetovo – 1, Pehchevo – 1, Delchevo – 1, Struga – 1. With this, total number of cases diagnosed in our country is 1442, the number of patients recovered is 627, the number deceased is 73 and at the moment the number of active cases in the country is 742. According to this, the last distribution by city is as follows:
Skopje – 493
Kumanovo – 384
Debar – 51
Tetovo – 76
Lathe – 66
Veles – 69
Kavadarci – 5
Gevgelija – 4
Strumica – 2
Radoviš – 4
Krusevo – 3
Kočani – 28
Probistip – 2
Kicevo – 2
Demir Hisar – 1
Makedonski Brod -2
Vinica – 2
Italian authorities seize 1 ton of drugs coming from Albania (ADN)
Large amounts of drugs coming from Albania was seized by Italian authorities this Wednesday morning at Bari coast. Italian media report that 646 kilograms of cannabis and 250 kilograms of hashish were seized. The seizure operation was carried out by sea and air by the Guardia di Finanza as well as the Italian army. It is reported that the drug shipment had been sent with two speedboats from Albania to Italy, while during the operation two Italians were arrested. The drug was wrapped in 50 packages weighing 2.5 to 10 kilograms each. Italian authorities report that the seized quantity is estimated to be worth about 10 million Euros on the market. Recently, it is suspected that drug and clandestine trafficking have been reactivated from Albania to Italy, as only a few days ago a 9-meter-long speedboat was seized in Karaburun, which was reported to have transported 33 migrants mainly from Middle East countries.
Thaci’s mysterious visit to Albania (ADN)
At a time when the entire audience of the country has shifted attention to the flight of Behgjet Pacolli at the Rinas Airport, an escort of cars, wherein was the President of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci, has crossed the border checkpoint in Vermica. The President stayed in Albania for several hours and returned to the country around 19:20 p.m. Sources tell that his car was not checked due to a report sent to the Commander of Vernica’s border checkpoint, Arber Telaku.
The police report says that they did not manage to see if there were other people sitting in the back of the car because it had tinted windows. Kosovo media have also tried to get confirmation from the office of the Presidency, but they have not responded. The commander, Arber Telaku, did not give details. By law, the President’s and the Prime Minister’s cars are VIPs and are not subject to inspections. This visit of President Thaci to Albania has not been announced by the Office of the President. Yesterday during the day, the Chairman of the New Kosovo Alliance party, Behgjet Pacolli, arrived from Switzerland to Tirana. It is still unknown whether Pacolli has returned to Kosovo or is staying in Albania. The former Kosovar chief diplomat Pacolli became involved in a lengthy discussion on the social network “Twitter” about his arrival in Kosovo. He accused the incumbent government of not letting him enter Kosovo.
PM: Return to normality could take 2 years (ADN)
Prime Minister Edi Rama has said that a return to normal life will only happen when a vaccine is found and it could be as long as two or three years. Rama said that the only way things will be like they were before the virus is when vaccination is found. “We will live another two to three years with the risk that we may become infected,” he said. In terms of reopening the country, Rama said that opening intercity travel will happen in the coming weeks but that no date had been set. He said that low-risk areas were already being opened and that other locations would be added by the end of the week. As regards hairdressers, shopping malls, bars, and restaurants, Rama said they are very dangerous as there is a high risk of transmission from an infected person to others. The opening of these locations needs to be carefully considered and a definitive decision has not been taken yet. Dependent on the situation, the government could consider a third aid package for high-risk businesses if their reopening is prolonged further. In terms of education, the premier said that 98% of students are attending online classes and that this paves the way for educational reform to bring lessons to students via TV and radio.
Albania eases restrictions as fear from pandemic fades (ADN)
If it weren’t for some people wearing masks here and there, Albania could be said to have returned to its pre-virus routine. After eight weeks of isolation and ‘fear’, social distancing is now just a concept. Retirees, one of the most vulnerable groups from the pandemic, are going out freely and without restrictions, despite Prime Minister Edi Rama‘s announcement every weekend that they should go out a few hours on Saturdays. They have returned to their previous normality, shopping, paying monthly bills, babysitting grandchildren, and even going out in parks with their relatives. And this is easily verifiable in every post office, in the streets and in fruit and vegetable stores where queues are mostly made up of elderly people. Police, despite mobilization and nearly 3,000 fines in recent days, are being seen as allies and oftentimes understanding, while the head of government’s head pardoned the fines imposed until a week ago and authorized the return of money and driving licenses. The same thing is happening with children. Although they do not go to school or kindergarten to contain coronavirus spread, this does not prevent them from grouping in their neighborhoods and spending the day with each other, without distances, without protective measures, without gloves and without disinfectants without masks and rules but with games and common toys. Fear has also waned among their family members, who, more than the pandemic, are afraid of their isolation. On Tuesday, Tirana woke up like this and it is only the second day of eased restrictive measures as an attempt to curb the spread of Covid-19. Other restrictions remain to be formally imposed next week, 4 May, as unofficially it appears that people have taken their freedom into their own hands. In the last 24 hours, 14 new cases were confirmed throughout Albania and the total number of those affected reached 750, while doctors only say that they are in control of the situation, but not that the virus is disappearing.
Albania schools to partially reopen on 18 May (ADN)
The Albanian government has decided that the education system will partially reopen from Monday, 18 May. According to the plan presented to the public on Tuesday by the Education Minister Besa Shahini schools will be open only for High School Seniors and lessons will last until 5 June. “The partial reopening will be realized respecting the social distancing rules and hygienic conditions. Meanwhile all other schools will not be allowed to reopen due to the large number of children and due to the fact that some schools are damages due to quake and cannot guarantee the hygiene needed,” said Shahini. Meanwhile online education will continue for others as education this year will be closed at the end of May.
In Albania 16 more cases of COVID-19 (Radio Tirana)
In the last 24 hours, 270 people suspected of COVID-19 have been tested. From the test results, 16 positive cases with COVID-19 have been confirmed, of which 9 cases are in Tirana, 5 cases in Kruja, 1 case in Shkodra and 1 case in Berat. So far, 8.028 suspected cases have been tested and 766 of them have been positively confirmed with COVID-19. Over the past 24 hours, another 24 patients have been added to the list of recovered, bringing the total number of those cured from COVID-19 to 455. Of the 281 active patients with COVID-19 in our country only 10% are being treated in two COVID hospitals while about 90% of them are in self-isolation with mild symptoms or are asymptomatic and are being monitored systematically by the family doctor. So far, 30 citizens have lost the battle with this disease, despite the efforts of the medical staff. In the total, the number of hospitalized patients in the infectious disease hospital, there are 3 imported cases of COVID-19, Albanian soldiers of KFOR who came from Kosovo. In COVID 2 hospital “Shefqet Ndroqi”, there are 6 hospitalized patients. 2 patients are in intensive care in a more severe condition. 33 patients are currently receiving services at two COVID hospitals.
The number of those affected by COVID-19 is expanding in Tirana, Kruja Shkodra and Berat. Despite the fluctuations of daily data, the situation continues to be controlled.
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
Coronavirus response: KFOR carries on with its activities and continues to provide assistance to local communities in Kosovo (NATO, 27 April 2020)
The NATO-led KFOR mission continues its daily activities, ensuring a safe and secure environment for all communities in Kosovo, according to the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 of 1999. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, KFOR has been fully implementing all preventive measures recommended by the World Health Organization. It has also provided assistance to local institutions in Kosovo. In the past days, it has donated personal protection equipment worth 70,000 Euro to the hospitals of Pristina and Gracanica. This included gloves, masks, goggles, isolation clothing, as well as infrared contactless thermometers and antiseptic hand cleansing. The project was funded by NATO and implemented by the KFOR Civil-Military Cooperation team, and is part of the overall commitment of the Alliance is support of its operations and of its member countries and partners. “The donation is an act of solidarity that reflects the close cooperation developed between KFOR and the Ministry of Public Health,” Major General Michele Risi, the Commander of KFOR said. Recently, the Italian-led Multinational Specialized Unit deployed with KFOR has also delivered more than 50 donations of food and clothing worth €70,000 to 14 Kosovo municipalities, in coordination with local charities and the Red Cross of Kosovo. The Multinational Specialized Unit consists of police forces with military status from Allied and partner countries contributing personnel to KFOR. They are tasked to support security operations, including through criminal intelligence control, mass and riot control, and information collection and evaluation. The Unit can advise, train and support local police forces on a wide range of policing issues.
Trying to weather the storm: Covid-19 and Western Balkans (Anadolu Agency, by Abdullah Keşvelioğlu, 29 April 2020)
Fragile economic and political environment in Western Balkans still renders it one of the most vulnerable regions to the political and economic impacts of the Covid-19
ISTANBUL, Western Balkan governments have taken strict measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in the region. Since most of them lack an adequate health system infrastructure, these precautions are almost the only means to fight the pandemic. The latest statistics, however, reveal that the region has been mostly successful in containing the virus. For example, in Serbia, whose population is seven million, there are around only 8,500 cases and 170 deaths. The numbers are far lower in the other countries of the region. The Western Balkans owes this success to drastic actions, such as closing all borders, schools, restaurants and bars, banning social gatherings and travel, and imposing partial curfews. However, the fragile economic and political environment in the Western Balkans still renders it one of the most vulnerable regions to the political and economic impacts of the Covid-19. In Serbia and North Macedonia, elections, which were supposed to be held in April, have been postponed to later dates. Although opposition parties supported the decision, the tensions generated by the election atmosphere are still running high in both countries. The governments of Serbia, Albania and Montenegro are under fire from the opposition parties for taking an authoritarian path and allegedly using the extraordinary circumstances to advance their political agendas. Since December 2019, the Montenegrin branch of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the main opposition parties have been protesting against the government’s recently passed legislation. The latter would arguably lead to the transfer of most of the churches in the country to the Montenegrin Orthodox Church. The protests were temporarily halted after the arrival of the Covid-19 to the country. However, the political atmosphere became tense again after the state prosecutor summoned Metropolitan Amfilohije (Radovic), the Serbian Church’s top name, and an opposition MP for disregarding the bans and participating in a funeral. In Kosovo, the rift among the coalition partners over President Hashim Thaci’s call for a state of emergency for the Covid-19 crisis led to the fall of the recently formed government. Prime Minister and leader of Self Determination Party Albin Kurti opposed the idea, as, to him, such a declaration would transfer most of the executive power to the president, and dismissed the interior minister for his support to the president’s call. This led to a crisis in the coalition and the coalition partner Democratic League of Kosovo’s call for a no-confidence vote, which passed the parliament, eventually leading to the fall of the government. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the situation is pretty different. compared to other countries in the region. Although the country is famous for its ineffective complex governmental system which leads to frequent deadlocks, both the central and local governments proved to be successful in their fight against the pandemic. Serbian-majority autonomous Republika Srpska gave a break to rigid politics during the process and showed full cooperation with the central government. Hence this cooperation among entities enabled Bosnia and Herzegovina’s state apparatuses to work effectively in containing the pandemic. On the international level, the pandemic overshadowed some important developments that the region had been waiting for years. In March, North Macedonia became the latest member of NATO. Moreover, the European Union finally decided to open negotiation talks with Albania and North Macedonia. Although the European Commission recommended the launch of the talks back in 2018, the two countries had to wait for about two years thanks to France’s veto. The EU can use the start of the negotiation talks to regain its popularity in the region. To do this, the EU must draw a solid roadmap for the Western Balkan nations and show them the way forward to make the necessary reforms in this process. However, the lack of a common strategy towards enlargement within the Union prevents the involved parties from becoming too hopeful.
There were important developments in the Kosovo-Serbia normalization process in this Covid-19 era too. Kosovo, under pressure from the EU and the US, has finally lifted the 100% tariffs to Serbian goods. These high tariffs had been put into place as a retaliation after the Serbian government launched an international campaign against its former territory’s independence. With international pressure mounting on both sides, Belgrade and its former region Pristina is expected to resume negotiations after the pandemic. However, it is unlikely that these negotiations will lead to a final resolution. To add insult to injury, the Western Balkans is expected to experience a recession in 2020. Stringent measures and a steep decline in international trade have seriously affected the economies of the region. Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro will be receiving credits from the IMF and the EU. However, Serbia has chosen a different path and declared that it would not seek IMF credits during this process. On the other hand, the EU did not include Serbia in its 3-billion-euro macro-financial assistance package. Given that all other countries in the region are included in the package, Serbia’s exclusion can be associated with its recent overtures to China and Russia. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Serbian President Alexander Vucic heaped what is considered lavish praises on the Russian and Chinese aid delivered to his country while mocking the EU solidarity by likening it to “a fairy tale that does not exist in reality”. All in all, the Covid-19 pandemic has revealed a mixed situation in the region. On the one hand, the Western Balkan states have taken effective actions to stop the progression of Covid-19. On the other hand, they will face an acute economic recession post-pandemic. Only time will tell if the current trajectory represents only a low point in the cycle or a sign of much worse things to come.
* Opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Anadolu Agency. The writer is associate researcher at TRT World Research Center