Albanian Language Media:
- Zagreb summit: EU to reaffirm Western Balkans perspective (RFE/Koha)
- President Thaci to represent Kosovo at Zagreb Summit (media)
- EU: Kosovo to decide who represents it at the Zagreb Summit (Express)
- Borrell is not against Kosovo border changes (Koha)
- Mayors’ call on citizens: Danger has not passed, be cautious (Telegrafi)
- PDK: Special committee to investigate quarantine centre death case (media)
- CoE rapporteur urges political responsibility and respect for the rule of law (Koha)
- S. Embassy: Success of youth is our top priority, education is key (media)
- Police commander suspended over social media comments (media)
Serbian Language Media:
- North Mitrovica: One new person infected of Covid-19 (Kontakt plus radio)
- Vucic says elections for Serbian parliament on June 21 (N1)
- Bilcik: Belgrade-Pristina dialogue important for EU perspective (media)
- Pavicevic: Horrible and flagrant violation of Pristina’s obligations (TV Most)
- Dacic: Opening of borders doesn’t depend on Serbia (FoNet, N1)
- Balkans Face Same Problems, Only Worse, Once Pandemic Ends (Balkan Insight)
- Spain: We will not boycott Zagreb Summit over Kosovo’s presence (EWB)
- MEPs: Westerns Balkans summit must bring step-change and strengthen democracy (EWB)
- EU to reassure Balkan hopefuls they are not forgotten (france24.com)
- Elections Return to Balkan Agenda as Pandemic Wanes (Balkan Insight)
- OpisMEDIJavanje: Even-steven, only in the interest of truth (KoSSev)
- Coronavirus Causes Massive Layoffs Across the Balkans (Balkan Insight)
Albanian Language Media
Zagreb summit: EU to reaffirm Western Balkans perspective (RFE/Koha)
The EU is expected to reaffirm the Western Balkans European perspective at the EU-Western Balkans Zagreb summit that will take place on 6 May 2020 via video conference due to the COVID-19 pandemic, RFE reports.
European perspective will be emphasised in a joint declaration that the leaders of the EU member states and of the Western Balkans will agree to at the event.
The term ‘enlargement’ or ‘EU integration’ will however not be appearing in the text of the declaration as, according to diplomatic sources, certain countries are skeptical when it comes to further enlargement of the EU and there is also a differences of positions among member states regarding Kosovo’s status and its participation in the summit.
The declaration will mostly focus on the European Union’s support for the region and particularly the recent European Commission financial assistance in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
President Thaci to represent Kosovo at Zagreb Summit (media)
Several news websites report that Kosovo President Hashim Thaci will represent Kosovo at the Zagreb Summit through a video conference on May 6. Thaci tweeted: “Glad that the #ZagrebSummit of the EU & Western Balkans is still on schedule and will take place through a video conference on May 6th. This is a good opportunity for #EU to reconfirm EU perspective for #Kosovo and signal an overdue decision on visa liberalization.”
EU: Kosovo to decide who represents it at the Zagreb Summit (Express)
Participants at the Zagreb Summit which will be held through a video conference on Wednesday, will be discussing coping with COVID-19 and Western Balkans perspective towards EU integration.
Representatives of the EU-member states as well as leaders of six Balkans countries, including Kosovo, will be participating at the Summit.
As far as level of representation of the Western Balkans countries is concerned, officials from Brussels consider that it belongs to the countries of the region to decide at what level they will be represented.
Alain Taverrti from the European Council told Gazeta Express that it belongs to Kosovo to confirm who is going to participate at the Summit and added that they expect President Hashim Thaci to be representing Kosovo.
Borrell is not against Kosovo border changes (Koha)
In an interview with four reporters of media from the Western Balkans, including Koha, the EU High Representative for Foreign Policy and Security, Josep Borrell, talked about the importance of the EU summit in Zagreb tomorrow. In his answers, Borrell did not rule out the idea of Kosovo border changes if Kosovo and Serbia were to agree on this. He said that if the parties reach such an agreement “the EU cannot be more catholic than the Pope”.
Borrell said the EU has an agreement of cooperation with Kosovo. “This proves that we accept that something that is called ‘Kosovo’ exists. You cannot sign an agreement with something that does not exist. On the other hand, the recognition of a state is not an issue for the European Union, because this is not under its competencies. This is in the competencies of every member state and every country makes their own decisions. You know that some countries recognise it and that others don’t. But a difference needs to be made and I am sure you do this, between individual recognitions of a country by a member state and the fact that we have an agreement at the level of the European Union. The Commission has signed an agreement with Kosovo in order to cooperate and help the Kosovars to address their many challenges. We have also recently appointed a Special Representative, following my proposal, to mediate the dialogue between Prishtina and Belgrade. This proves that we acknowledge that something as Kosovo exists. I have personally visited Kosovo among the first places after I took over my mandate. We are engaged in the dialogue, which is the only way to resolve the problem. The problem will not be resolved at the summit because it is a problem that can be resolved only by the Serbs and Kosovars,” he said.
Asked if he, like Germany, is opposed to the idea of land swaps between Kosovo and Serbia, Borrell said: “this is an issue that needs to be resolved in the dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo. I don’t see a need for us to be more catholic than the Pope. It is not up to us to tell the Serbs and Kosovars what they should or should not agree upon. Our role is to facilitate the dialogue. But like I said we should not be more catholic than the Pope. If they agree on something, we definitely need to study that agreement because any agreement between Serbia and Kosovo has an impact on the region. In principle, this needs to be a free and fair dialogue between the parties. A lot has already been achieved and this should not be underestimated, because today we have a free movement of goods between Serbia and Kosovo. The integration of police and Serb courts in the Kosovo system, elections in Kosovo, are proof of progress in difficult circumstances. But it is also true that some agreements were not implemented as expected. This is why we need to resume the dialogue and then it will be up to the Serbs and Kosovars to decide on the outcome of the process.”
Asked by Koha that his reply “the EU cannot be more catholic than the Pope” can be interpreted that he doesn’t rule out Kosovo border changes and if the EU will not oppose land swap if the parties agree, Borrell said: “Let us say that I am more eclectic. We need to facilitate the dialogue and like I’ve said we need to take into consideration the collateral effects of any agreement on other parts of the region, where the problem of border changes has always been a sensitive issue. I completely understand the position of Germany and others, but my role and the role of my Special Representative is to facilitate the dialogue.”
Mayors’ call on citizens: Danger has not passed, be cautious (Telegrafi)
The news website reports that after the relaxations of restrictions following a decision by the Ministry of Health on Monday, citizens throughout Kosovo are feeling more relaxed and can even be seen going out without wearing gloves and masks. In Prishtina and Gjakova mainly, large numbers of people could be seen on the streets and this triggered reactions and concerns from institutions that are doing their best to manage the COVID – 19 pandemics.
Prishtina Mayor Shpend Ahmeti took to Facebook asking the citizens to be cautious, warning them that a new wave of infections can break out. “Many cars and people can be seen in the city. The measures have not been lifted completely and it would be very regretful if there is a new wave of infections. Please be careful and do not go out if you don’t really have to,” Ahmeti wrote.
Gjakova Mayor Ardian Gjini too warned in a Facebook post that large numbers of people going out increases the threat of new infections. “Restriction measures were relaxed because the number of coronavirus started to go down. But this doesn’t mean that there will be no new cases. And if there are new cases then we will have to isolate again for weeks. The way people are going out this evening presents a threat of new infections and longer isolation. This is why I will ask the police to take measures. You need to follow the rules if you want us to pass this pandemic,” Gjini said.
Prizren Mayor Mytaher Haskuka said in a Facebook post that “the relaxation of measures does not mean that we have passed the health emergency”. “We must respect the measures in place! People should go out only in the periods determined by the Ministry of Health. Keep a physical distance and wear masks in public spaces,” Haskuka wrote.
Kosovo’s National Institute for Public Health said in a statement on Monday that the citizens need to be careful and called on the institutions and the inspectors to engage more in the coming days. The Institute said the threat from the coronavirus persists and that people must maintain physical distance and wear masks and gloves.
News websites also report that Kosovo Police arrested 72 people in the last 24 hours for failing to comply with the restrictions.
PDK: Special committee to investigate quarantine centre death case (media)
The Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) has called for a special parliamentary committee to be established and investigate the death of the 26-year-old man at the quarantine centre in Pristina on Sunday.
“One of the main functions of the Assembly of Kosovo is to oversee the Government and demand accountability for all its actions. This parliamentary committee would have to investigate the Government’s behaviour and actions during the pandemic period, dealing specifically with institutional responsibility,” said MP Eliza Hoxha at a news conference today.
She said that the documents that have been published over the last days indicate that the health authorities in Kosovo had knowledge about the health problems of the victim.
CoE rapporteur urges political responsibility and respect for the rule of law (Koha)
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) rapporteur Peter Beyer has called for political responsibility for the rule of law in Kosovo underlining that PACE’s support for democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Kosovo continues to be strong during the pandemic crisis.
“My sympathy goes especially to those who are directly affected by the crisis: health-wise, economically, and in the places hit hardest by the disease outbreak. I welcome in this respect recent examples of positive cross-community and cross-boundary co-ordination and the solidarity shown between leading medical professionals and officials, across ethnic and political divides,” he added.
Beyer at the same time recalled that Kosovo also finds itself in the midst of a political and constitutional crisis since the elected government lost a vote of confidence as the COVID-19 crisis was unfolding.
“In this dramatic situation, it is essential for the future of Kosovo* and its people that checks and balances are upheld and secured. This especially applies to a fully-functioning Assembly and an independent constitutional court system,” said Mr Beyer.
“I strongly urge all those who are politically responsible in Kosovo, and also those in the judiciary, to act exclusively in the interest of their citizens and in strict compliance with the Kosovo* Constitution. I also trust that everybody in Pristina is solely guided by the rule of law and ensures the principle of proportionality with regard to all measures deemed necessary to cope with the current pandemic and political crisis, always with a view to ensuring compliance with the standards of the European Convention on Human Rights, which are part of the domestic legal system,” concluded Mr Beyer.
U.S. Embassy: Success of Kosovo youth is our top priority, education is key (media)
The United States Embassy in Prishtina in a Twitter post today said they are teaming up with Kosovo’s Ministry of Education to keep e-learning lessons going, several news websites report. “The success of #Kosovo’s youth is our top priority, and education is the key. The US Embassy in Prishtina is teaming up with the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology & Innovation & other supporters to keep e-learning lessons going. #TogetherWeCan defeat COVID-19,” the Embassy tweeted.
Police commander suspended over social media comments (media)
Most news websites report that a Kosovo Police commander in Skenderaj region has been suspended after commenting in social media on recent political developments. Indeksonline reports that Kosovo Police General Director has issued a decision instructing all police officers not to make any comments or posts on social media that may affect their positions.
Serbian Language Media
One new person infected of Covid-19 in Serbian majority areas (Kontakt plus radio, TV Most)
One new case of coronavirus infection has been reported in Serbian communities in Kosovo in the past 24 hours, it was said in the press release of the Crisis Management Committee in North Mitrovica.
According to the statement, the person who tested positive to coronavirus is from North Mitrovica.
Since the start of the pandemic, a total of 109 people have fallen ill in Serbian communities, nine have died, and 72 patients have been cured.
Here is the breakdown of cases: North Mitrovica, 43 patients so far, three have died and 30 have been cured; Zvecan 25 patients, one person passed away, 19 have been cured.
In Zubin Potok municipality, the total number of infected persons is 21, 15 patients were cured, and one died, while in Leposavic there are 20 patients, four died and eight were cured.
Currently, there are eight patients undergoing treatment at the Clinical Centre in North Mitrovica, 17 at the Student Centre in North Mitrovica, two at the Kragujevac Clinical Centre, and one at the Clinical Centre Nis.
Vucic says elections for Serbian parliament on June 21 (N1)
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said Monday that parliamentary elections would be held on June 21.
Speaking after a meeting with officials of parties planning to field candidates, Vucic said that he accepted a proposal from some of those parties because they need to have 38 days to campaign before the elections.
The president said that it’s certain that there will be no large-scale gatherings in May, “especially not in closed spaces”. He added that the holding of gatherings in June will depend on the views of epidemiologists and on the health of the nation.
See more at: https://bit.ly/3b4Qfcj
Bilcik: Belgrade-Pristina dialogue important for EU perspective (Kosovo Online, Tanjug, RTV)
European Parliament rapporteur for Serbia Vladimir Bilcik said that the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue was an important part of the European perspective of the entire Western Balkans and would help the region and the two sides make real progress when it comes to relations, Belgrade based news agency Tanjug reports, quoting Radio television of Vojvodina (RTV).
Bilcik said it was important for the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue to get a “fresh start” and that the things in the region ”get started”.
“It won’t be easy. The political situation on the ground is not simple, but (EU envoy) Miroslav Lajcak has EU support. We want to be engaged on the ground, to continue the dialogue as quickly as possible and to produce results,” Bilcik said in a statement to RTV Vojvodina.
The rapporteur for Serbia in the EP believes that it was important to appoint an EU Special Representative to resolve some of the outstanding issues and conflicts in the Western Balkans.
“This is not just about Kosovo, but also about the wider security of the region,” Bilcik said.
He added that Miroslav Lajcak, with whom he was in constant communication in Bratislava, would be in charge of dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, but also that an important part of his work would relate to the situation in BiH.
“We have four countries in the region that are in the negotiation process, but we have other parts of the Western Balkans that are far from that. Lajcak’s main task is to focus on the most problematic issues while Commissioner Varhei will deal with enlargement and accession negotiations,” says Bilcik.
Bilcik added that together with Lajcak he would address the members of the Slovak Parliament tomorrow during a special session dedicated to the EU-Western Balkans leaders’ conference scheduled for May 6 in Zagreb.
Pavicevic: Horrible and flagrant violation of Pristina’s obligations (TV Most)
After being halted for almost five hours at the crossing point Jarinje, a liaison officer in Pristina, Dejan Pavicevic was allowed to enter Kosovo, TV Most reports.
“This is a horrible and flagrant violation of obligations that Pristina undertook in Brussels. This is not the only obligation that has been violated, however, at the times of pandemic when unimpeded functioning of the liaison officer was needed the most, keeping someone for five hours on administrative crossing point goes beyond reason, and it is a decision that lacks common sense. I was not alone at Jarinje, Professor Zdravko Vitosevic, Rector of Pristina University, temporarily relocated to Kosovska Mitrovica was with me. And he was coming to Kosovo as a doctor to oversee and help curb this pandemic. We do hope things like this one will not happen again, because this very much impacts normal functioning and normal life of the Serbian population,” Pavicevic told TV Most.
Meanwhile, Office for Kosovo and Metohija Director Marko Djuric requested swift reaction by the EU over this flagrant violation of the international obligations of Pristina and its anti-civilized attitude.
Dacic: Opening of borders doesn’t depend on Serbia (FoNet, N1)
Serbian Foreign Affairs Minister Ivica Dacic said Tuesday it should not be expected that the borders would open soon because it did not depend on Serbia alone but the international community and the European Union, FoNet news agency reports.
Dacic told Belgrade-based TV Happy that Brussels would decide on new rules within the Schengen area, adding they would first open borders among themselves which had been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“So, at the moment, it is difficult to predict when people will be able to go across the borders,” Dacic noted.
Balkans Face Same Problems, Only Worse, Once Pandemic Ends (Balkan Insight)
The Western Balkan states have succeeded in saving people’s lives but – once the COVID outbreak is over – all the old challenges in the form of economic difficulties, democratic deficits and uncertain EU perspectives will return, Vesko Garcevic writes for Balkan Insight.
Every crisis precipitates a redistribution of power at a local, regional, and global level – and the ways in which actors manage the challenges differentiate successful policies from failures.
Every day, we can read numerous analyses all over the world about the pandemic and the changes unfolding in front of us. Over and over, the media bombard us with information about the winners and losers of a COVID-19 world, portraying the day after in gray colors.
See at: https://bit.ly/35zFwW4
Spain: We will not boycott Zagreb Summit over Kosovo’s presence (EWB)
“Spain will not boycott the EU-Western Balkans Summit in Zagreb”, it was confirmed today for EWB in a written response from the Permanent Representation of Spain to the European Union.
The Permanent Representation of Spain to the EU stressed that the Spanish delegation will be present at the Zagreb Summit as an EU Member State. “Depending on the configuration of the Summit, Spain will be present by a level of representation or another”, it is stated in the response.
Ahead of the previous EU-Western Balkans Summit that took place in Sofia in 2018, Spain insisted that Kosovo’s participation in the Summit was unacceptable. The Spanish Prime Minister at the time Mariano Rajoy attended the Summit in Sofia, but would not participate as he refused to sit at the same table with the president of Kosovo.
“Spain will maintain its stable position throughout the time of non-recognition of Kosovo as a State, a position shared with 4 other Member States and 80 other countries in different regions in the world and in accordance with international law and the UN system”, concludes the response of the Permanent Representation of Spain to the EU.
On January 29, Radio Free Europe’s Balkan Service published that Spain “threatens to boycott Zagreb Summit over Kosovo’s presence”, obtained from “reliable sources in Madrid, Zagreb, and Brussels”. The information was picked up by several major outlets, including the public broadcaster Radio and Television of Serbia.
MEPs: Westerns Balkans summit must bring step-change and strengthen democracy (EWB)
STRASBOURG – The Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, the standing rapporteurs and the chairs of delegations of the European Parliament for Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia welcome the Western Balkans summit of 6 May as an opportunity to reconfirm the EU’s historical, political and financial commitment to the region and the continuation of the region’s transformation.
They consider the summit to also be an opportunity for the Western Balkans participants to affirm their adherence to the rule of law, democracy and continued reforms.
“We welcome the virtual Western Balkans summit, which can deepen ties between the EU and Southeastern Europe. It shows that any hurdle can be overcome in the commitment to the enlargement process and that fully-fledged EU membership is the ultimate goal. Such public expressions of solidarity are more important than ever, as disinformation campaigns attempt to create divisions”, it is stated in a press release adding that during these difficult times, the European Parliament stands shoulder-to-shoulder with its Western Balkans partners and reaffirms its unprecedented political, financial and medical assistance to the people of the region.
See more at: https://bit.ly/3dhKWrx
EU to reassure Balkan hopefuls they are not forgotten (france24.com)
With the coronavirus crisis hardening Europe’s borders and draining the continent’s resources, Brussels is trying to reassure its Balkan neighbours it hasn’t forgotten about their needs and membership dreams.
An EU summit with six Western Balkans countries, all of whom aspire to join the bloc, was originally scheduled to kick off Wednesday in Zagreb.
But the talks will now be held virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed more than 250,000 lives in a matter of months and has battered Europe especially hard.
With fewer than 500 confirmed virus deaths, the Western Balkans has so far avoided the devastation seen in Europe’s worst-affected countries.
But the poor region’s weak economies are bracing for a painful economic fallout — and wondering how their future fits into an EU focused on its own survival.
Of the EU hopefuls, Montenegro and Serbia are furthest along in their membership talks, with the earliest possible date of entry slated for 2025.
Behind them are North Macedonia and Albania who, after months of delays, were given the green light in March to embark on the process.
And at the back of the pack are Kosovo and Bosnia, who are still hoping to be granted candidate status.
– ‘Special responsibility’ –
After facing criticism over initially slow steps to help the Balkans navigate the virus crisis, Brussels has been trying to affirm its support for the pocket of countries that sits outside its southeast border.
The campaign comes after China earned plaudits for its swift shipments of masks and other gear to the region, where it has been chalking up influence in recent years.
Since then EU officials have been highlighting the bloc’s already significant investments in the Balkans’ healthcare over the past two decades, plus fresh injections of coronavirus aid.
And ahead of Wednesday’s summit Brussels announced an additional 3.3 billion euros ($3.6 billion) to help the region combat COVID-19 and ease its social and economic recovery.
“We have a special responsibility to assist in this pandemic our partners in the Western Balkans, as their future clearly lies in (the) European Union,” European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement.
The package was “confirming the strong solidarity”, she added.
A diplomatic source in Brussels told AFP the summit would “demonstrate the EU’s renewed commitment to the European perspective for the Western Balkans region”.
An EU statement outlining the meeting’s objectives used similar language, without mentioning the words “membership” or “enlargement”.
Ever since Croatia, which currently holds the EU presidency, became the last country to join the bloc in 2013, the tide has turned against the enlargement process as the appetite for adding new member states shrinks.
Last October, France and the Netherlands sparked outrage by insisting on redrawing the accession process before agreeing to begin talks with Skopje and Tirana.
That move dented EU credibility in the region, where many viewed the bloc as failing to keep promises to Skopje and Tirana, despite significant reforms on their part.
In March they were given the green light but a concrete start date has not yet been set for negotiations likely to drag on for years.
Elections Return to Balkan Agenda as Pandemic Wanes (Balkan Insight)
Governments in the Western Balkans are eyeing the prospect of holding elections as soon as emergency measures are lifted – hoping to bank votes before almost inevitable recessions descend.
When the COVID-19 crisis kicked in during March, prompting Balkan states to declare states of emergency and impose curfews, it also put on hold the preparations for general elections in North Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia.
Now, as the number of new infections slowly dwindles, and as hope grows of a return to a more normal state, talk of early elections, however discrete, is gaining traction.
Political observers say the timing of these polls will be determined by the ruling elites. They are not likely to leave things to chance, and will probably prefer elections sooner rather than later, during the summer, while the focus remains on the health crisis, and when they can profit from the largely popular measures they took.
See at: https://bit.ly/2L4KCjG
OpisMEDIJavanje: Even-steven, only in the interest of truth (KoSSev)
A journalist protects the right of citizens to be fully, timely, and above all, truthfully informed. In order to fulfill this role, a journalist is obliged to establish and convey the truth, to review and criticize those who run the institutions. If a journalist does not do this, then they are not a journalist.
The World Media Freedom Day was celebrated on May 3. Insajder journalist, Senka Vlatkovic-Odavic spoke about the media’s role in society in the latest episode of OpisMEDIJavanje (Media Literacy project).
“The one who has the information is the one who rules. And if the states are really there to serve the citizens, then the citizens need to have the information to be able to decide who will rule their country,“ she said.
According to Vlatkovic-Odavic, the responsibility of journalists is important because “when they publish news they often seem unaware of their responsibility.“
On the other hand, she described the claims that questioning the decisions made by the authorities is propaganda or hate speech as unacceptable.
“It is clear that without information the citizens cannot make the right decision about anything in their lives. The public interest is certainly above the individual, above the private interest of any individual or group. Another important thing when it comes to protecting the public interest is for a journalist not only to detect abuse, but also influence the change in the system that legalized those abuses, therefore, causing a change in the law,“ she added, citing as an example Insajder’s series “Abuse of Official Duties“ from 2009, which brought about a change of law.
See more at: https://bit.ly/3dkq6HU
Coronavirus Causes Massive Layoffs Across the Balkans (Balkan Insight)
Many workers across the Balkans have lost their jobs permanently or temporarily as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, although the systems used in non-EU states in the region to compile job statistics mean that their figures cannot be considered reliable.
Hundreds of thousands of workers in Balkan countries have lost their jobs due to economic hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, official statistical data show. And many fear the real numbers of job losses could be considerably higher, as not all countries in the region have compiled comprehensive records.
See at: https://bit.ly/3c80GNF