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Belgrade Media Report 30 April

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LOCAL PRESS

Vucic: We may lift the state of emergency next week, curfew Thursday through Saturday (RTS/B92)
Serbian parliament confirms Decision on Declaring a State of Emergency (RTV/Tanjug)
Brnabic labels opposition MPs as cowards and liars (FoNet)
Gojkovic throws DJB MPs out of Serbian parliament (Beta)
EU High Representative wants Kosovo dialogue resumed soon (N1)
Ban on movement from today at 6pm until Saturday at 5am (Tanjug/RTS/B92/Beta)
Another 285 cases, 1,343 recovered patients (RTS)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina

Viskovic: I am afraid that we are paying the price of events during Easter (Nezavisne)
Tegeltija criticizes FB&H for relaxing measures against spread of coronavirus (EuroBlic)
FB&H and RS do not respond to B&H Presidency’s request for harmonization of protective measures (BHT1)
Irregularities in process of procurement of ventilators in FB&H continue to spark reactions, US Embassy to B&H concerned about corruption in process of public procurement (N1)
EU secures 3.3 billion Euros for Western Balkans (N1)
Sattler meets Covic, discuss mitigation of consequences of pandemic, local elections, Mostar elections, EU integration (Hayat)
Dodik: IMF funds are blocked because Bosniaks are not sticking to the agreement (Vecernji list)
B&H Security Ministry: Entities cannot reach decisions about borders; Minister Radoncic instructed Border Police not to execute orders of RS Crisis HQ (Dnevni avaz)
Nelson: B&H must demonstrate reasonable plan when it comes to EU path (Hayat)
B&H CEC to discuss problems with organizing local elections on Thursday; Radmanovic: CEC members appointed unlawfully (RTRS)
All quarantines in ZDC closed, 200 citizens who returned from abroad test negative for COVID-19 (N1)
Another spike in B&H’s Covid-19 cases, four more deaths (N1)
Croatia

Divjak: Only healthy students will be allowed back when elementary schools reopen May 11 (Hina)
In Croatia, 14 new infections, 2.076 in total, 2 more died (N1)
Montenegro

One person from Podgorica tests positive for coronavirus (CDM)
Republic of North Macedonia

VMRO says “no” to having “corona elections” while Macedonia has the highest death rate in the Balkans (Republika)
Pisonero: Negotiating framework for North Macedonia expected in June (MIA)
Western Balkans’ leaders meeting: EU reinforces support to address COVID-19 crisis and outlines proposal for post-pandemic recovery (MIA)
President Pendarovski won’t say whether he agrees with his adviser Maleski’s claim that the Macedonian history was falsified (Republika)
In North Macedonia 111 patients have recovered, 23 new cases and 4 more died (Libertas)
Albania

WB: A severe recession is expected in Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro (Radio Tirana)
More Covid-19 infections in Albania (Radio Tirana)

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Vucic: We may lift the state of emergency next week, curfew Thursday through Saturday (RTS/B92)

 

Curfew begins at 6 pm on Thursday and runs until 5 am on Saturday, and a state of emergency is expected to be lifted next week, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told Radio and Television of Serbia (RTS) on Wednesday evening. “You ask me the question as if it depends on me, it depends on the virus and the decision of the doctors,” he responded when asked when the citizens of Serbia would return to the state before the epidemic. He adds that he understands that people are impatient, but that impatience is not our ally for the moment. “People haven’t even had a chance to see what the real crisis looks like,” the President explains. “None of us are sadists, nobody wanted to bother people, we just wanted to save the country and our people,” the President says, stating that the numbers are good. He added that the doctors agreed with the measures. He says he spoke with Prime Minister Ana Brnabic and Dr Predrag Kon tonight, and tomorrow he will come up with a proposal that epidemiologists have been seeking. “I said we would listen to the profession, not politics. We would come out with a proposal that tomorrow, Thursday at 6 pm, a ban on movement would last until Saturday at 5 am.” He also added that the pensioners can go outside twice on Friday, with curfews starting on Saturday and Sunday as on weekdays at 6 pm and continuing until 5 am on the following day. An additional rule is to ban the gathering of more than five people. According to him, when the action was taken and the state of emergency was introduced, many people criticized the decision. “It was necessary to introduce a state of emergency. The democratic question arises – should it have been introduced in the National Assembly or the way we did,” the President says, adding: “When the parliament is unable to meet, the decision is made by the President, the parliament speaker and the Prime Minister.” Asked how he understands the message of whistles and whackers, the President replies that he will not discuss politics. “I’m used to the pots and pans. There is only one thing that hurts me, which is that the doctors lost because they start whistling at 20.02 already, and the applause to the medical staff was thus shortened.” “I am a man who believes in the profession. My job is to be a leader. And that doesn’t mean that I should follow everyone’s wishes. I have no problem with people whistling. I never cried over it. I do my job honestly. And I certainly won’t change political standpoints because of the whistles.” The President said that we currently have 675 new clinical respirators in Serbia and 375 in our warehouses in China. “We ordered 3.500, I believe we will have 1.500 respirators,” he says. Vucic said that he wouldn’t exclude the possibility that by the end of next week the state of emergency might be lifted. “Then, there will be no curfew either,” he says. “On Monday, I will have a meeting with the representatives of the political parties who want to participate on the elections, we will leave 4-5 days for everyone to prepare and that’s when the election campaign begins,” he says. He adds that everyone is welcome to the debate, and that he states that he will not engage in an election campaign for the first 15 days, but will deal with presidential affairs. “I was ready to hear every proposal, even though I didn’t agree with it,” he said, explaining that he would not succumb to the blackmail and the pressures.

 

Expect turbulences in Pristina

Asked about Kosovo and Metohija, the President said he would like to establish an absolutely free flow of people, goods, capital and services. He says this is of crucial significance for Belgrade and Pristina. “There will be a lot of problems regarding everything and nothing will be easy. Expect major upheavals in Pristina, since legitimacy there is on a seesaw,” Vucic said.

As he put it, if the situation is more stable, then Belgrade has a partner for talks, but if it is not, then the leaders there will be competing who will repeat more times that Serbia committed genocide and other things. That is why he is not looking forward to any setbacks and turbulences in Pristina.

 

Serbian parliament confirms Decision on Declaring a State of Emergency (RTV/Tanjug)

 

On 29 April, by majority vote, the Serbian parliament adopted the Bill on the Confirmation of the Decision on Declaring a State of Emergency and the Bill on the Confirmation of the decrees the government, co-signed by the President of the Republic, adopted during the state of emergency, submitted by the government.The parliament also ruled on the violations of the Rules of Procedure the MPs complained of in the course of the session and decided that none of the provisions of the Rules of Procedure had been violated. As the parliament had completed the debate on all the items on the agenda and ruled on them, parliament speaker Maja Gojkovic concluded the First Session of the Serbian parliament during the state of emergency.

 

Brnabic labels opposition MPs as cowards and liars (FoNet)

 

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic described on Wednesday the opposition MPs who continued to boycott the parliament session as cowards who avoided to come to hear the truth about all the lies they, according to her, spread during the state of emergency, FoNet reported.

“It’s easy to have a monologue in the parliament hall to which no one can respond. Only a coward can stand in the hall and have a monologue and take a wage. They showed their cowardly face again in the ugliest possible way,” Brnabic said. She accused the opposition “of criticizing the parliament for not holding sessions while they boycott it and spread lies on Twitter, they lie about some terrible things.

 

Gojkovic throws DJB MPs out of Serbian parliament (Beta)

 

Serbian parliament speaker Maja Gojkovic threw three opposition MPs out of the second day of a Serbian parliament session on Wednesday because they refused to wear gloves and masks.

Gojkovic interrupted Prime Minister Ana Brnabic to ask Dosta je Bilo (DJB) MPs Sasa Radulovic, Branka Stamenkovic and Vojin Biljic to put on masks and gloves which were made available to everyone at the entrance to the building. “You came here to create an incident. Put on masks and gloves. There will be no discussion about government measures. Leave if you won’t follow those measures,” she told the MPs. The DJB MPs walked out of the session after the speaker refused to allow them to speak. “The rules apply to everyone, this is a serious state,” Gojkovic said as they were leaving. Stamenkovic told reporters later that Gojkovic “suddenly demanded to know why we weren’t wearing masks” just half an hour before DJB leader Radulovic was scheduled to speak.

 

EU High Representative wants Kosovo dialogue resumed soon (N1)

 

European Union High Representative Josep Borrell said on Thursday that the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue needs to be resumed soon. “The current status quo is not tenable. There is no alternative to a rapid resumption of the normalization talks between Belgrade and Pristina,” the EU’s top diplomat said in a written reply to a question from the European Parliament. He added that “Serbia and Kosovo need to create an environment that is conducive for the Dialogue to resume, to the benefit of both” and that he is looking forward to a swift resumption of the dialogue to help achieve a comprehensive normalization of relations. Borell recalled in the reply that he “underlined his readiness to play his role as the facilitator of the Dialogue on behalf of the EU and to continue engaging with all political actors in Kosovo” following a visit to Belgrade and Pristina earlier this year and that he welcomed the Kosovo government’s decision to lift the 100 percent tariffs on goods from Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina as a step which had a positive effect on restoring regional trade and ensuring the free flow of goods to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Ban on movement from today at 6pm until Saturday at 5am (Tanjug/RTS/B92/Beta)

 

The Serbian government adopted today at its session changes of decisions regarding measures to protect the population from infectious disease COVID-19 during the May Day holidays. The restraining order will start today at 18.00 and will last until Saturday, 2 May at 5.00. Citizens over the age of 65 will be allowed to go for a walk twice a day for an hour, at any time of the day, no more than six hundred meters from their place of residence on Friday. On Saturday and Sunday, the ban on movement start at 18.00 until 5.00 the next day. Then the oldest fellow citizens can go for a walk once under the same rules, during the period of prohibition of movement. It is important to emphasize that during the weekend, in order to reduce social contacts to a minimum, the ban on gathering more than two people outdoors is still in force and this measure will be strictly controlled by the competent authorities.

 

Another 285 cases, 1,343 recovered patients (RTS)

 

Until 3pm, there have been another 285 cases, in total 9,009 infected. Six more deaths, in total 179 deaths. There are 1,343 recovered patients, and 71 patients on respirators.

 

REGIONAL PRESS

 

Viskovic: I am afraid that we are paying the price of events during Easter (Nezavisne)

 

RS Prime Minister Radovan Viskovic said that the RS has done everything it could to curb the spread of coronavirus infections, in order to make sure that there is no significant pressure on the healthcare system. However, according to Viskovic, “citizens need to know that virus is here among us, that it will remain here and we all need to learn how to live and work in line with that”. “The worst thing is that there is no cure for this virus,” Viskovic said, adding that no one can say for sure how long will it take for medical workers to find the cure. Commenting on the current epidemiological situation in the RS, Viskovic said that sudden increase in the number of newly-infected persons is a consequence of citizens being less disciplined than in the previous several weeks; he explained that citizens need to act in line with measures introduced by competent institutions in the RS, and underlined that irresponsible individuals might eventually force the Government of the RS and the RS Crisis Headquarters to impose even more restrictive measures. “I would not like to see that happening, but judging by epidemiological situation, we might be forced to do that”, said Viskovic, adding that some measures have been eased over the past several days, but citizens need to continue behaving in responsible manner in order to avoid some restrictive measures being imposed once again. “Irresponsibility of individuals can annul everything good we have achieved so far,” said Viskovic. He confirmed that police curfew will be in force in the RS during 1 May holidays, more exactly between 12:00 hours on 1 May and 05:00 hours on 2 May, between 12:00 hours on 2 May and 05:00 hours on 3 May, and between 12:00 hours on 3 May and 05:00 hours on 4 May. “The number of newly-infected persons is a reason for concern and it is a serious warning. I am afraid that we are paying the price of events during Easter, even though we had urged citizens to respect measures”, said Viskovic. He added that the government of the RS will meet on Thursday and pass decree-law according to which members of Utility Police, inspectors and members of the RS Ministry of Interior will have the right to penalize individuals who do not act in line with measures – including those who do not wear protective equipment, those who fail to stay in quarantine, and those who do not respect ban on gathering in public. Furthermore, Viskovic reminded that the B&H Presidency has asked for coordination among entities with regards to Federation of B&H (FB&H)’s decision to abolish quarantines. “We still believe that this measure was premature,” said Viskovic, adding that the RS authorities might be forced to deploy police patrols near the inter-entity boundary line if they conclude that epidemiological situation in the FB&H might spill over into the RS. “Let me say this immediately, this is not about establishing check points, or something like that. While quarantines were functioning (in the FB&H), there was no check points. We only want to protect the health of our citizens,” Viskovic said. He called on authorities in the FB&H to think carefully about decisions they make, and noted that experts in the FB&H disagree with decision to abolish quarantines. “We in the RS are always listening to the opinion of experts,” concluded Viskovic.

 

Tegeltija criticizes FB&H for relaxing measures against spread of coronavirus (EuroBlic)

 

Chair of the Council of Ministers (CoM) of B&H Zoran Tegeltija said that stances of Minister of Security of B&H Fahrudin Radoncic on the problem of illegal migrations got the full support of B&H CoM and he added: “I can say that I agree with most of the measures Minister Radoncic is undertaking and with stances he publicly presents”. Tegeltija reminded that he always disagreed with the policy on illegal migrations of the past convocation of B&H CoM because it caused problems for B&H. “We changed the policy on illegal migrations, I think we will keep this policy according to which interests of B&H citizens are more important than anyone else’s interests, including those of illegal migrants,” Tegeltija said. Tegeltija also warned that security aspect of illegal migrations is the most serious problem B&H is faced with and all other problems connected to migrations come second. Tegeltija said that Radoncic is not overreacting because it is necessary to know what migrants in B&H want, who they are and whether they represent a security threat or not. He also noted that he will continue to cooperate with Radoncic and support him in cooperation with all security structures in B&H and international partners, because there is a very high number of migrants in Greece and Turkey who will probably move towards Europe as soon as the coronavirus situation calms down. Asked to comment on the fact one seat in B&H CoM still has not been filled in by a minister representing Republika Srpska (RS), Tegeltija said that the failure to appoint the Minister for Human Rights and Refugees of B&H represents a big problem and added that he believes Mladjan Bozovic was treated in an unfair manner because he has the capacity to perform such an important function. Tegeltija noted that he expects a new Minister for Human Rights and Refugees of B&H to be appointed in May.

Commenting on the fact Minister of Foreign Affairs of B&H Bisera Turkovic criticized Hungary and EU for assistance they provided to the RS, Tegeltija said that he believes ministers in B&H CoM should act as ministers first and only then they should act as representatives of their respective political parties. “Unfortunately, several ministers, not only Mrs. Turkovic, acted as members of their political parties in their public appearances and only then they acted as ministers, and they completely neglected the position of the collective body which they represent, i.e. B&H CoM,” Tegeltija noted. Asked to comment on the agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Tegeltija said that he is very satisfied with the agreement and with the IMF’s Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI). “From the first version, which stipulated that 150 million Euros will be secured for B&H, through negotiations with the IMF we got to the position in which B&H received more than EUR 330 million from the RFI” Tegeltija said and added that there are no dilemmas as far as the arrangement is concerned, having in mind that the money was already transferred to the account of the Central Bank (CB) of B&H. Tegeltija added that the process of transfer of those funds from the CB B&H to the accounts of entities and Brcko District is now ahead of B&H and he noted: “I think this is only a technical issue and certain disagreement between ministers representing Bosniak and Croat people”. Tegeltija explained that nobody disputes allocation percentages, but there is only a dispute about a single sentence which was agreed upon but not written down. Tegeltija called everyone to overcome the situation so that the money can be distributed from the account of the CB B&H to entities and Brcko District. Tegeltija confirmed that the Ministry of Treasury and Finance of B&H is currently preparing the Budget of B&H Institutions for 2020 and he added that everything that can wait in 2020 will not be financed. “All of the funds that can be saved will be made available for use in fight against the coronavirus pandemic or remedying of certain consequences,” Tegeltija added and reminded that the deadline for delivery of the budget to the Presidency of B&H will expire on 31 May. Asked whether airports were open for return of B&H nationals from abroad, Tegeltija said that airports were not open for B&H nationals or foreigners. Tegeltija reminded that the option of exceptions was left available in order to adopt individual decisions and enable transport of B&H citizens to B&H, but he emphasized that a decision of B&H CoM is needed for each of those cases and full consent with crisis headquarters of the entities must be reached in order for such individual cases of transport to be approved. Commenting on the decision of the Federation of B&H (FB&H) to abolish quarantine, Tegeltija assessed that this, in his opinion, was the worst possible decision adopted since the start of fight against the spread of the coronavirus. “I think that, essentially, the FB&H did not use capacities of the Armed Forces of B&H which were put at its disposal and that there was a pressure exerted by people who were placed in quarantines. However, with some effort and good will, I think those quarantines should have been maintained at least by middle of May” Tegeltija said. He noted that the Presidency of B&H tasked him, as the Chair of B&H CoM, to consult both the RS and FB&H and try to find a way to harmonize their practice: “Either to have the RS abolish its quarantines, which I think would be really bad, or for the FB&H to again establish quarantine in its local communities”. Tegeltija added that he discussed this matter with representatives of both entities on several occasions but there was no readiness to harmonize the measures. Tegeltija also assessed that the FB&H should not have relaxed curfew either, especially on the eve of International Labor Day and he added that he will keep insisting on coordination of measures, both healthcare and economic ones, because coordinated measures produce better results.

 

FB&H and RS do not respond to B&H Presidency’s request for harmonization of protective measures (BHT1)

 

B&H Presidency’s requested on Tuesday from B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) to harmonize different measures in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic between entities and Brcko District within 24 hours, in cooperation with the RS and the Federation of B&H (FB&H) Governments and Brcko District authorities. This request has not been met yet and B&H CoM confirmed on Wednesday that further measures in this regard will be considered at the session scheduled for Thursday.

 

Irregularities in process of procurement of ventilators in FB&H continue to spark reactions, US Embassy to B&H concerned about corruption in process of public procurement (N1)

 

Numerous reactions have been recorded due to irregularities in the process of procurement of 100 ventilators over company ‘Srebrena malina’ owned by Fikret Hodzic, in which the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FB&H) Civil Protection Administration is directly involved as well. SDA stated that it is necessary to investigate the process of the procurement and that this process should be public and transparent. The statement also reads that the ventilators are vitally important for healthcare in the FB&H, given the high demands for these goods all over the world, but the authorities should certainly establish mechanisms to make the process of procurement public and transparent as much as possible. NS leader Predrag Kojovic stated that the case is about typical distribution of tasks within SDA itself: “While one man is stealing, the other one yells: ‘Catch the thief!’ – but only pretending.”

The US Embassy to B&H stated that it would not make a comment on this specific case, but it is certainly concerned about the presence of corruption in the process of public procurement during the coronavirus pandemic. According to the US Embassy to B&H, if corruption in the process of public procurement used to result in a loss of public funds in the past, it could result in a loss of human lives in these circumstances. The US Embassy also reaffirmed its support to prosecutors who are ready to confront corruption in the process of public procurement, as well as all problems it could cause during the coronavirus pandemic. In a statement to the daily, US Embassy’s Press Office stated that all the reports about corruption activities in the time of pandemic concern them. They repeated that in the current situation the corruption may result in loss of human lives. The Embassy noted that B&H citizens are clear how deep the corruption is embedded in this country and they stressed that this is an opportunity for everyone to prosecute this case and show there is hope in fight against corruption. SDA also called on the FB&H government to urgently define the swift and transparent process of procurements during the period of state of natural or other disaster. Reporter reminded that Novalic and Director of the FB&H Civil Protection Administration are members of SDA.

 

EU secures 3.3 billion Euros for Western Balkans (N1)

 

The EU has prepared an expanded package of assistance to the Western Balkans, in order to help the countries in the fight against the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, as well as in socioeconomic recovery after the restrictive measures are alleviated or abolished. Namely, the EU will secure a total of 3.3 billion Euros for six countries of the region – the EU candidates and potential candidates. The European Commission (EC) will secure 1.6 billion Euros from different funds, while the European Investment Bank (EIB) will secure 1.7 billion Euros through loans. EC Vice President Vera Jourova stated that long-term recovery will focus on transport and energy links, resolving the challenges that governments in the region are facing, as well as supporting the green and digital transition. “The EC reminds that recovery will be efficient only if the countries of the region show visible results in the implementation of reforms, focusing on the rule of law, functioning of democratic institutions and public administration,” Jourova was quoted as saying. The EC is also preparing additional amounts of money to help the region in the implementation of further reforms in the EU integration process. Details of the future economic-investment plan will be presented during the EU-Western Balkans Summit in Zagreb on 6 May. However, this plan should be adopted later on, after an agreement on long-term budget of the EU, according to the reporter.

 

Sattler meets Covic, discuss mitigation of consequences of pandemic, local elections, Mostar elections, EU integration (Hayat)

 

Head of the EU Delegation (EUD) to B&H and EU Special Representative in B&H Johan Sattler met leader of HDZ B&H Dragan Covic in Mostar on Wednesday. The officials discussed mitigation of consequences of the pandemic, local elections, the Mostar elections and the EU integration. Addressing media, Sattler said: “The EU ensured over 70 million Euros grants for small and medium-size companies. A significant number of the companies is doing business here in Herzegovina in the tourism sector, as one of the sectors that suffers the biggest consequences. We will certainly provide support in this part. This is one part of financial assistance, while the second part of the macro-financial assistance that the EU is securing for B&H amounts to over 250 million Euros”. Addressing media, Covic stated: ”I fear that scars that will remain when this entire process of pandemic ends will be demonstrated and if we are not organized well, and with all the help of friends from the EU and from across the world, we will have difficulty dealing with everything on our own in the way we have done so far – with emphasized mistrust and with a number of problems”. Covic said that there is the continuity in search for acceleration of the EU path of B&H especially at the time of the Coronavirus pandemic. Covic stated that they also discussed the activities related to the local elections in B&H, which should formally begin next week. “We should see how to approach this issue and whether we will create the preconditions. In our opinion, if there are no preconditions to organize the elections in a fully legitimate and transparent manner, we should think about what to do in that case. In other words, if something like that happens, we should consider how to find a solution for Mostar itself, given the fact that we have not had an election process here for a long time,” Covic explained. Sattler stressed that the right place to reach an agreement is the B&H parliament, but he reminded of the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which stipulates that if no solution is found, the B&H Constitutional Court shall be the one to make a decision on the way of holding the elections. “I repeat, I advocate finding solutions through the legislative bodies,” Sattler said. He also voiced his hope that Covic will remain an active participant in the initiatives related to the country’s path towards the EU, referring to the EU-Western Balkans Summit in Zagreb on 6 May. Sattler stated that he came to Mostar to encourage Covic for the political agreement and solutions that will allow local elections, particularly in Mostar. He noted that according to the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) if there is no political agreement, the B&H Constitutional Court may decide on the manner in which the elections will be held, but he advocates the solution by the legislative bodies. Covic said for the media that calling for elections at present might not be possible.

 

Dodik: IMF funds are blocked because Bosniaks are not sticking to the agreement (Vecernji list)

 

Member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik said that the funds from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which have been paid into the account of the Central Bank of B&H, are not being drawn because of problems in the FB&H and because of the fact that the Bosniaks do not want to accept that cantons are a constitutional category, which is why they have to reach a consensus with Croats about it. Dodik stated it is evident that the problem lies in the FB&H and that an agreement has been reached that the funds for the FB&H should be distributed in a way that 50% remains in the FB&H’s accounts, whilst 50% is to be paid to the cantons. He went on to say that the RS is suffering because of this situation and that the RS is not causing the halt. Meanwhile, RS Prime Minister Radovan Viskovic, commenting on possible economic consequences of coronavirus epidemic in the RS, reminded that the government of the RS has passed decree-laws which regulate all measures that will be taken with the goal of helping economy. Author noted that measures planned in the RS also depend on funds approved by the IMF, which have not been distributed yet because there is no agreement in the FB&H. Viskovic replied by saying that the RS has done its part of the job, and the money is now sitting in the bank account of the Central Bank of B&H because of unresolved relations between Bosniaks and Croats in the FB&H. “I do not want to even think about the arrangement being in danger because of this. They meet every day and we in the RS are waiting,” said Viskovic, adding that a number of measures aimed at alleviating consequences of coronavirus epidemic in the RS are supposed to be financed with funds approved by the IMF. He concluded, however, that the RS has enough money to start implementing those measures even before the agreement on distribution of money from the CBBH’s account.

 

B&H Security Ministry: Entities cannot reach decisions about borders; Minister Radoncic instructed Border Police not to execute orders of RS Crisis HQ (Dnevni avaz)

 

B&H Ministry of Security issued a statement which reads that the RS Crisis HQ has reached a decision that “agricultural producers in border region alongside Drina River, will be able to cross the border as of Thursday to preform agricultural works”. “The issue of the border is under the sole competence of B&H Council of Ministers, which reaches its decisions based on the proposal of competent proponent, i.e. Security Ministry of B&H. Also unacceptable is the activity of Serbian government about intention to open small-border crossings without informing B&H Security Ministry and Foreign Ministry of our country, but directly addressing the Center in Trebinje,” reads the statement. Therefore, Minster Fahrudin Radoncic issued an instruction to B&H Border Police to act in line with the Law and not to execute orders of the RS Crisis HQ. The statement further reads that in case the RS request is submitted to the Ministry it will be carefully discussed and upon possible positive recommendation, submitted to the B&H Council of Ministers for further processing. “At the same time, Serbian government needs to send a memo to the Foreign Ministry of B&H concerning their intention, which will again submit it to the Security Ministry to handle” reads the statement. The Ministry stressed that there is no compromise on the issue of borders and everything has to be in line with the law and in spirit of good neighborly relations of B&H, by respecting B&H’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

 

Nelson: B&H must demonstrate reasonable plan when it comes to EU path (Hayat)

 

US Ambassador to B&H Eric Nelson said that B&H must demonstrate a reasonable plan when it comes to the EU path. Nelson also said that an important meeting was held on Wednesday between members of the B&H Presidency and the Ambassadors of the Quint countries, but there is no more time for excuses and it is time for unity so that this country can move forward. Nelson stated: “It has been a year since the EU gave its opinion to the B&H request for the EU membership. Since then, only silence of domestic institutions and political leaders is noticeable. Next week, on 6 May, the Western Balkan Summit will be held in Zagreb. B&H must have a program to present and while some of its neighbors prepare programs for the EU accession, B&H must also show that it has a reasonable plan. The meeting was important because the Presidency reached a unanimous decision that this must be a priority. Political leaders and institutions of this country must cooperate in creation of a plan not just for this year but also for the rest of the mandate of these authorities, until 2022 regarding obligations that institutions are ready to respect in order to achieve progress in creation of the road to the EU. There is no doubt that B&H has the potential to make these steps forward, but it is always hard when it is connected with some other, global compromise in which everything must be solved all at once. There are many chances for slight progress in implementation of reforms starting with public administration to transparency and corruption. Citizens expect it and support it and as I said before, there is no more time for excuses”.

 

B&H CEC to discuss problems with organizing local elections on Thursday; Radmanovic: CEC members appointed unlawfully (RTRS)

 

The B&H Central Election Commission (CEC) is expected to discuss on Thursday the problems with regard to organizing the local elections in B&H. Speaker of the B&H House of Representatives (HoR) Nebojsa Radmanovic stated that there is no reason to postpone the elections. He assessed that certain members of the B&H CEC were appointed unlawfully, adding that the Court of B&H will have a final say with regard to this issue.

 

All quarantines in ZDC closed, 200 citizens who returned from abroad test negative for COVID-19 (N1)

 

All quarantines in the Zenica-Doboj Canton (ZDC) were shut down on Wednesday. ZDC Minister of Healthcare Adnan Jupic confirmed that around 200 citizens who returned from abroad, who were accommodated at the hotels and motels in this canton, tested negative for COVID-19. According to the latest information, the COVID-19 case toll in the ZDC currently stands at 159. As many as 3,233 persons are currently under medical supervision.

 

Another spike in B&H’s Covid-19 cases, four more deaths (N1)

 

B&H’s health authorities recorded another spike in cases of Covid-19 for the second time in a row, with 80 new cases, accompanied by four more deaths. Over the past 24 hours, the RS recorded 53 new cases after testing 627 fresh samples – 20 men and 33 women. Of this number, four women and five men are said to be younger patients. According to the FB&H Crisis Staff, 1,030 samples have been tested in the past 24 hours for Covid-19, of which 27 came back positive. So far, 17,295 persons have been tested in this entity and 918 came back positive, the Crisis Staff confirmed. According to Goran Cerkez from the Crisis Staff, the fact that the normalization begins this Sunday does not mean that measures and recommendations are no longer needed or applicable. “It’s important that we remain committed to the measures which the Crisis Staff proposed. I think that most citizens have respected all the measures so far and we don’t any major problems in the coming period, but there are always some citizens that to hear these things from time to time. Therefore, I urge everyone to remain cautious and I wish you a happy upcoming holiday (May Day,)” Cerkez noted. Banja Luka University Hospital reported four fatalities over the past 24 hours – two women and two men. The women were 72 and 63 years old, while the men were 65 and 48. All were patients at the hospital undergoing treatment for Covid-19. According to the state Civil Affairs Ministry, there are now 1,757 confirmed cases in the country, of which 727 have recovered and 69 died.

 

Divjak: Only healthy students will be allowed back when elementary schools reopen May 11 (Hina)

 

Public day care centers and elementary school grades 1-4 are scheduled to reopen on 11 May, under the government’s three phase plan to lift coronavirus restrictions, but parents and teachers have many questions about how this will work and will it be safe. Teachers unions have come out against the plan, raising concerns about their safety and whether schools are equipped to manage the kind of hygiene and social distancing measures that will be required. Education Minister Blazenka Divjak said on Wednesday that the number of students who will be eligible to return will be limited. Only students who meet the criteria set by epidemiologists will be allowed to return, Divjak said. Students with respiratory issues, fevers, or whose family members suffer from these afflictions, will not be allowed back in schools, nor will students suffering from auto-immune diseases. Students excluded from regular classes would continue with virtual classes from home, but critics have pointed out this would create a parallel system that would create new problems. Divjak said she had received a draft of guidelines that will be issued by the Croatian Public Health Bureau and that those guidelines were being streamlined. The guidelines will be published on Thursday and Divjak said she would hold a virtual meeting with school principals to discuss the measures. Asked about whether she would send her own children to school under these circumstances, Divjak said she would. “If my child did not have any of the problems that were mentioned, if the school followed the guidance, and if I had to go to work, then yes, my child would go to school,” she said. Earlier on Wednesday, the Most party said the coronavirus task force had made the decision to open schools without explaining how it would work. Most MP Sonja Cikotic raised a number of questions, including how teachers would be protected and whether schools would be issued all the protective equipment and thermometers they will need.

 

In Croatia, 14 new infections, 2.076 in total, 2 more died (N1)

 

Currently, a total of 2.076 people has been confirmed to be infected with coronavirus in Croatia, and 1.288 have been cured. Two more people has died. So far, 69 people have died. “In the past 24 hours, we have 14 newly infected people in Croatia, which gives the total number of 2.076 patients,” Health Minister Vili Beros said at a cabinet session on Thursday. “The percentage of coronavirus positives in Croatia is still declining, and now stands at 5.98 percent. Compared to other countries in terms of deaths and sicknesses per million inhabitants, data in Croatia is encouragingly, thanks to the self-discipline of its citizens in implementing civil protection headquarters measures,” Beros said.

 

One person from Podgorica tests positive for coronavirus (CDM)

 

Institute for Public Health has reported one more coronavirus case yesterday, bringing total number of infections to 322. So far, 206 persons have recovered. “After the analysis of 40 samples, we found one positive sample. The new case is from Podgorica and is contact of the previously known case,” the Institute says. There are currently 109 active cases. Around 1,819 citizens are under watch. So far, seven persons have died. Total number of cases by municipalities:

Podgorica 164

Tuzi 37

Niksic 34

Bar 23

Ulcinj 22

Andrijevica 7

Budva 7

Plav 7

Bijelo Polje 6

Herceg Novi 6

Danilovgrad 3

Gusinje 3

Tivat 3

 

VMRO says “no” to having “corona elections” while Macedonia has the highest death rate in the Balkans (Republika)

 

Even using the hopelessly dated 2002 census, which placed its population at two million, Macedonia still has the worst Covid-19 death rate per capita in the Balkans with 34 deaths per million. The actual rate is believed to be much higher, given the emigration out of the country since 2002 and the middling rate of testing. The infection rate in Macedonia stands at 682 people per million, which is again one of the worst rates in the Balkans. “Under these circumstances, it’s unimaginable to hold elections” VMRO-DPMNE Vice President Vlado Misajlovski said. The ruling SDSM party is pushing to recall the dissolved Parliament, and its supporters in the public have been pushing for elections in June or July, apparently hoping to have a quick vote before the full extent of the economic decline is felt in the public – an idea derisively called “corona elections” in the public. “We are in a delicate situation, and we all must be aware that the health of our citizens comes first. I hope that this epidemic died down quickly and we can remove restrictions on the citizens. The Republic of Macedonia is seemingly in a permanent political crisis and we need to exit it,” Misajlovski said. VMRO-DPMNE has rejected the recall of the dissolved parliament, as well as holding early elections before it is safe to vote. The opposition party is calling for a meeting of party leaders to discuss how the country can proceed politically, given that it is left without a parliament and is ruled by decree under a state of emergency which even President Stevo Pendarovski acknowledged is unconstitutional when he extended it.

 

Pisonero: Negotiating framework for North Macedonia expected in June (MIA)

 

European Commission spokesperson Ana Pisonero has told MIA that Brussels expects the negotiating framework for North Macedonia to be presented in June. Pisonero reiterated that the European Commission has been drafting the negotiating framework after EU members decided to open accession negotiations in March. The negotiating framework incorporates the principles of the negotiations, and once drafted, it should receive the green light from all Union member-states. The optimistic scenario is presentation of the framework in June, its approval by member-states sometime in the fall, followed by the first intergovernmental conference, i.e. opening of the first chapter by the end of the year. The German EU Presidency, which begins on1 July, is expected to maintain the focus on the Western Balkans and EU enlargement.

 

Western Balkans’ leaders meeting: EU reinforces support to address COVID-19 crisis and outlines proposal for post-pandemic recovery (MIA)

 

The European Commission announced Wednesday over €3.3 billion of EU financial support mobilized jointly with the European Investment Bank to the benefit of the Western Balkans’ citizens. This package aims to address the immediate health and resulting humanitarian needs of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as help with the social and economic recovery. In addition to the reinforced support, the Commission is in its contribution ahead of the EU-Western Balkans’ leaders meeting of 6 May 2020 also outlining the broad parameters of longer-term support to be presented later this year in the form of an Economic and Investment Plan for the region, the EC said in a press release. President of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen, said: “We have a special responsibility to assist in this pandemic our partners in the Western Balkans, as their future clearly lies in European Union. The EU is mobilizing a substantial financial package, confirming the strong solidarity. Together we will overcome this crisis and recover. And beyond that, we will continue to support the region, including with the reforms needed on their EU path, as the recovery will only work effectively if the countries keep delivering on their commitments.” Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement, Oliver Varhelyi, commented: “The European Union acted quickly and comprehensively to support the Western Balkans in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, with unparalleled financial assistance as well as access to many of the EU’s initiatives. And our work will continue as we prepare an Economic and Investment Plan for the region, to tackle the hard socio-economic impact of the crisis, to modernize the economies in the region, support the reforms and start closing the development gap, thus bringing concrete benefits to the people faster.” The EU financial support package of more than €3.3 billion includes reallocations from the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance of €38 million of immediate support for the health sector, in particular through delivering essential supplies to save lives, such as personal protective equipment, masks and ventilators; €389 million to address social and economic recovery needs and a €455 million economic reactivation package, in close cooperation with the International Financial Institutions. It also includes a proposal for €750 million of Macro-Financial Assistance and a €1.7 billion package of assistance from the European Investment Bank. The EU is also providing immediate humanitarian assistance to vulnerable refugees and migrants amounting to €4.5 million and €8 million to address pressing needs in migrant camps across the region. As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, the Western Balkans have also activated the Union Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM) and have already started to receive assistance through delivery of equipment and repatriation of citizens from the UCPM Member States and Participating States. Furthermore, given their European perspective, the EU is treating the Western Balkans as privileged partners by granting them access to many initiatives and instruments reserved for EU Member States. This includes for instance joint procurement of medical equipment, exempting the region from the EU’s export authorization scheme for personal protective equipment, ensuring the fast flow of essential goods across land borders through “green lanes”, and the EU supply of testing material to ensure the correct functioning of coronavirus tests in the Western Balkans. The region is also associated to the work of relevant health bodies. The Western Balkans will require continued support to address the impact of the pandemic once the immediate crisis is over. The European Commission will later in the year come forward with an Economic and Investment Plan for the region, to spur the long-term recovery, boost economic growth and support reforms required to move forward on the EU path. It will also include a substantial investment package for the region. For the 2021-2027 period, the Commission has proposed a total envelope for the Pre-Accession Instrument III of €14.5 billion, of which the lion’s share is destined for the Western Balkans. The Commission foresees a doubling in the provision of grants through the Western Balkans Investment Framework and substantially increasing the financial guarantees to support public and private investment in the region through a dedicated Guarantee Instrument under the Western Balkans Investment Framework. The Green transition and the Digital transformation will play a central role in relaunching and modernizing the economies of the Western Balkans. Investing in clean and digital technologies and capacities, together with a circular economy, will help create jobs and growth. Support will also be provided to improve the competitiveness of the economies of the Western Balkans, to better connect them within the region and with the EU, and to help make the Western Balkans fit for the digital age. A strong focus will be put on the transport and energy links, which are crucial for the economic development of the region and the EU alike. The recovery from the current crisis will only work if the partners keep delivering on their reform commitments and produce tangible results in their implementation. This is also key to realizing their European perspective. In addition to continued economic reforms, this requires a stronger focus on the rule of law, the functioning of democratic institutions and public administration.

 

President Pendarovski won’t say whether he agrees with his adviser Maleski’s claim that the Macedonian history was falsified (Republika)

 

President Stevo Pendarovski is yet to comment on the growing controversy over his foreign policy adviser Denko Maleski, who declared that much of Macedonia’s history was falsified to create a nation separate from the Bulgarian. Maleski, who was once a die-hard opponent of Macedonia’s independence but from Serbia, or rather Yugoslavia, even as he served as the first Foreign Minister of Macedonia, presented his new line of thinking in an editorial, and quickly followed up with a round of interviews in Bulgaria. While his presidential bid in 2019 failed, Maleski was promptly appointed as foreign adviser to Pendarovski. The President has now remained silent over whether he agrees or disagrees with his adviser on the key issue of national identity, which Pendarovski claimed is guaranteed by the treaties signed with Bulgaria and Greece. Faced with Bulgarian demands that are laid as conditions for Macedonia to open EU accession talks, Pendarovski himself made one concession, which was quickly seized by Bulgaria, when he proposed that legendary VMRO leader Goce Delcev is list as a self-described Bulgarian who fought for Macedonia. Pendarovski later tried to walk back this concession, but Bulgaria is holding him to his word.

 

In North Macedonia 111 patients have recovered, 23 new cases and 4 more died (Libertas)

 

The Ministry of Health of North Macedonia informs that today the Institute of Public Health registers 111 patients which have recovered, in: Skopje-13, Kumanovo-74, Shtip-1, Prilep-18, Bitola-1, Ohrid-1, Kriva Palanka-1, Probistip-1 and Demir Hisar -1. At the Clinic for Infectious Diseases and Febrile Diseases, one patient from Skopje has passes away at the age of 62. At the hospital “September 8” a patient from Gostivar also passed away at the age of 59. The Institute reports two additional deaths of patients from the Kumanovo area, age 72 and 79. In the past 24 hours, 386 tests were performed and 23 new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed. With this total number of measles diagnosed in our country is 1.465. The number of patients which have recovered is 738, the number of deaths is 77, and at the moment the number of active cases in the country is 650. A total of 16.436 Covid-19 tests have been performed in the country so far.

The last distribution by city is as follows:

Skopje – 498

Kumanovo – 389

Debar – 51

Stip-34

Paste –150

Tetovo – 82

Lathe – 66

Veles – 71

Bitola –19

Ohrid –15

Kavadarci – 5

Gostivar –17

Gevgelija – 4

Strumica – 2

Palanka-5 curve

Radovis – 4

Krusevo – 3

Kocani – 28

Probistip – 2

Kicevo – 2

Uncertainty -9

Demir Hisar – 1

Makedonski Brod -2

Pehcevo- 2

Delcevo-1

Valandovo -1

Vinica – 2

 

WB: A severe recession is expected in Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro (Radio Tirana)

 

The World Bank released the Regular Economic Report highlighting that the recession will be particularly severe in Montenegro, Albania and Kosovo due to their dependence on tourism.

Albania has had two successive strikes with devastating consequences: the November 2019 earthquake and the COVID-19 pandemic have frozen much of the economy. If most economic activity resumes in early summer, annual GDP growth is expected to shrink by 5 percent by 2020. The Albanian government has taken a series of measures to support the economy and mitigate its consequences in people’s lives. A quick and well-thought-out implementation would increase the effectiveness of these measures. Once the crisis is overcome, the normalization of economic activity and the reconstruction process to mitigate the effects of the earthquake are expected to support rapid growth, but in the medium term it is necessary to continue structural reforms. Globally, according to the latest UNWTO assumption, the decline in the number of international tourists could reach up to 30 percent, much higher than the global drop of 4 percent recorded in 2009. Under the basic scenario, Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro will experience a 20-35 percent drop in tourism revenues by 2020, and this will have a significant negative impact on their economic growth in 2020 because for all three countries, direct and indirect tourism revenues are estimated to account for 15 to more than 25 percent of GDP. Economic recovery in transport and tourism is also expected to be more gradual, so growth during the second half of the year will not offset the losses of the summer season. Only Kosovar tourism can resume sooner after the ease of travel restrictions, as 80 percent of its travel service exports are driven by Diaspora tourism. Negative developments in the real sector will exacerbate existing fiscal and external imbalances, especially for countries with limited fiscal space, such as Kosovo, Montenegro, and to a lesser extent Albania. According to the negative scenario, growth in the Western Balkans could fall by about 5.7 percent in 2020, causing an even more severe recession than the global financial crisis. If the restrictive measures are extended until August, Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro would lose most of their tourism season in 2020. This loss could reach up to half of the expected revenue from tourism, worsening the rate of economic decline. A longer crisis could translate into slower medium-term growth for the Western Balkans due to limited domestic and foreign investment. During the medium term, economic growth is expected to return strongly in all Western Balkan countries as life and economic activity gradually return to normal, although the speed of recovery will depend on the duration and intensity of the pandemic. An extended pandemic would make it increasingly difficult to manage the economic crisis. The situation could get worse. The main danger for the Western Balkans is that, together with a problematic social and political environment, a protracted pandemic combined with a deeper recession in the EU could make it increasingly difficult to manage the economic crisis that will unfold. In addition to increasing human and social costs, a longer pandemic would reinforce the spread of global effects through trade, financial and commodity channels. Its extension would also intensify anti-investor risk behavior and consequently borrowing costs, which would have significant fiscal costs for Western Balkan countries that have high external debt-to-GDP ratios. Adverse exchange rate developments may further increase debt service costs. Future COVID-19 blast waves that require isolation will further increase economic uncertainty as well as economic and social costs. In addition to the pressure on fiscal and external accounts, there is a risk that countermeasures to the socio-economic crisis will not be effective in the new context of social distancing, the imperfect scale of online government use and interruptions in the functioning of public administration.

More Covid-19 infections in Albania (Radio Tirana)

 

The number of people affected by coronavirus in our country continues the upward trend. In the last 24 hours, 7 new cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Albania, in total 773 people have been infected in the country. The new cases, according to the Ministry of Health, came out after the testing performed on the suspects during the last 24 hours. “The number of recovered is twice as high as those of the infected. We have 272 active infected cases, while the number of recovered continues to be higher in the last two weeks said the Ministry of Health. Regarding the latest confirmed cases, 3 cases have been detected in Kruja, two in Tirana and two in Shkodra.

Coronavirus killed another person in Albania, a 71-year-old man from Shkodra who was in serious conditions for 1 month, bringing the total number of deaths to 31. The 71-year-old patient with the initials B.S., from Shkodra, with bilateral pneumonia, who also suffered from concomitant diabetes, heart failure, hypertension, chronic anemia, despite specialized medical assistance in the resuscitation of “Shefqet Ndroqi” hospital, couldn’t make it. “The Ministry of Health and Social Protection expresses its condolences to the family of the deceased and appeals to the citizens to strictly observe the physical distancing measures, as they are decisive for curbing the spread of COVID-1,9” announced the Ministry. Minister of Health and Social Protection, Ogerta Manastirliu said that the total number of infected in Albania now is 773, but 470 patients out of this number have recovered, showing that the situation is under control. “It means that we are still in the active phase of the epidemic, although we are actively investigating where there are hotspots. Today we identified 100 active hotspots, mainly families and workplaces. We are doing uninterrupted work 24/7 to break the chain of coronavirus. The first phase has passed. We are heading for reopening, as we have had consultations with foreign and domestic experts. We must not reduce the measure of social distancing,” said Manastirliu.

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