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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, May 6, 2020

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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, May 6, 2020

Albanian Language Media:

• Thaci has telephone call with Croatian PM Plenkovic ahead of Zagreb summit (media)
• Ahead of Zagreb summit, Thaci calls for visa liberalisation (Koha)
• Varhelyi: Western Balkans, EU’s priority (DW, media)
• AAK reacts against Borrell’s statement on border changes (Telegrafi)
• LVV submits answers on the PM candidate to the Constitutional Court (RTK)
• FH: Kosovo making continuous progress (RFE)

Serbian Language Media:

• Kosovo North: One new case, two cured of coronavirus in the last 24h (Kontakt plus radio)
• Borell concerned over political situation prior to Serbian elections (N1)
• EU-Western Balkans video summit takes place today: Vucic represents Serbia (B92)
• President Vucic thanked EU for help (SRNA, N1)
• Fajon: Not wise to stage elections now (DW, N1)
• Serbian opposition to discuss whether to boycott June elections (BETA, N1)
• Lajcak: Slovakia’s experience can have an impact on WB countries joining EU (Tanjug, TASR, B92)
• EBRD warns that Western Balkans can’t deal with pandemic fallout alone (N1)
• Gashi received death threats during broadcast (Kosovo-online)
• NAO: MLGA mostly allocated projects to Serbian municipalities without criteria (KoSSev)

Opinion:

• Against all odds, the COVID-19 pandemic cemented EU ties with the Western Balkans (media)
• An opportunity to end Kosovo’s isolation in Europe (EurActiv)
• Time for a new approach to the Western Balkans (EurActiv)

International:

• Freedom House: Serbia, Montenegro, Hungary ‘No Longer Democracies’ (Balkan Insight)
• EU aims to counter Chinese, Russian influence at Balkan summit (Reuters)

Humanitarian/Development:

• Minority media in Kosovo are important but financially vulnerable (KoSSev)
• Women entrepreneurs feel the strain amid COVID-19 pandemic (Prishtina Insight)
• Kosovo’s Museums in the Post-Corona World: an Opportunity for Change (Kosovo 2.0)
• Kosovo Film Festivals to Go Ahead Despite COVID-19 (Balkan Insight)

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Albanian Language Media:

  • Thaci has telephone call with Croatian PM Plenkovic ahead of Zagreb summit (media)
  • Ahead of Zagreb summit, Thaci calls for visa liberalisation (Koha)
  • Varhelyi: Western Balkans, EU’s priority (DW, media)
  • AAK reacts against Borrell’s statement on border changes (Telegrafi)
  • LVV submits answers on the PM candidate to the Constitutional Court (RTK)
  • FH: Kosovo making continuous progress (RFE)

Serbian Language Media:

  • Kosovo North: One new case, two cured of coronavirus in the last 24h (Kontakt plus radio)
  • Borell concerned over political situation prior to Serbian elections (N1)
  • EU-Western Balkans video summit takes place today: Vucic represents Serbia (B92)
  • President Vucic thanked EU for help (SRNA, N1)
  • Fajon: Not wise to stage elections now (DW, N1)
  • Serbian opposition to discuss whether to boycott June elections (BETA, N1)
  • Lajcak: Slovakia’s experience can have an impact on WB countries joining EU (Tanjug, TASR, B92)
  • EBRD warns that Western Balkans can’t deal with pandemic fallout alone (N1)
  • Gashi received death threats during broadcast (Kosovo-online)
  • NAO: MLGA mostly allocated projects to Serbian municipalities without criteria (KoSSev)

Opinion: 

  • Against all odds, the COVID-19 pandemic cemented EU ties with the Western Balkans (media)
  • An opportunity to end Kosovo’s isolation in Europe (EurActiv)
  • Time for a new approach to the Western Balkans (EurActiv)

International: 

  • Freedom House: Serbia, Montenegro, Hungary ‘No Longer Democracies’ (Balkan Insight)
  • EU aims to counter Chinese, Russian influence at Balkan summit (Reuters)

Humanitarian/Development:

  • Minority media in Kosovo are important but financially vulnerable (KoSSev)
  • Women entrepreneurs feel the strain amid COVID-19 pandemic (Prishtina Insight)
  • Kosovo’s Museums in the Post-Corona World: an Opportunity for Change (Kosovo 2.0)
  • Kosovo Film Festivals to Go Ahead Despite COVID-19 (Balkan Insight)

 

 

Albanian Language Media

 

Thaci has telephone call with Croatian PM Plenkovic ahead of Zagreb summit (media)

President of Kosovo Hashim Thaci had a telephone conversation with Prime Minister of Croatia Andrej Plenkovic ahead of the EU-Western Balkans video conference today.

According to a press release issued by the Kosovo President’s Office, Thaci thanked Plenkovic for Croatia’s insistence to go ahead with the Zagreb summit despite the Covid-19 pandemic and “for keeping the Western Balkans high in the EU agenda.”

Thaci is further quoted to have said that Kosovo and Croatia are strategic partners.

Ahead of Zagreb summit, Thaci calls for visa liberalisation (Koha)

President of Kosovo Hashim Thaci had a telephone conversation with Charles Michel, President of the European Council, ahead of today’s EU-Western Balkans summit. 

According to a statement issued by Thaci’s office, the two interlocutors agreed that the EU needs to continue efforts on Western Balkans European integration perspective. 

“President Thaci requested EU member states to as soon as possible take the decision on visa liberalisation. The two leaders agreed that despite circumstances caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the efforts for strengthening of democracy in Kosovo and guaranteeing the work of independent institutions is crucial. Furthermore, the two parties underlined the importance of regional cooperation and coordination between the EU and member states as well as other actors that have a role in the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia,” the statement reads.

Varhelyi: Western Balkans, EU’s priority (DW, media)

The EU Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhleyi told Deutsche Welle that a clear signal that the EU seeks to invest strategically, despite the coronavirus crisis, should be sent during the EU-Western Balkans Summit.

“The Summit treats the entire Western Balkans region. You know that the Balkans is a region with diversion. We have two countries with which we are negotiating for membership. We have two other countries that are not even candidates. So enlargement is only one element. Of course it will be discussed. It concerns European perspective, which is another word for enlargement. But also about the strategic decisions that we should make on Western Balkans,” Varhelyi said. 

“I believe that the pandemic has strengthened our engagement in Western Balkans. If you look at what we are doing there, you will understand that we have started with concrete help in all the countries. From the very first day, we sought  contacts to help them during this crisis. The second significant element is of course the need to invest strategically in the region. This is valid both for policies and for the economy. We can and we should be doing more on the economic aspect. I hope that clear messages in this direction will come during the summit from the leaders of the states and governments.” 

Asked if he sees any chance for the solution of the conflict between Kosovo and Serbia,  Varhelyi said he believes there is possibility after the elections in Serbia. 

“I believe that we will have an opportunity after the elections in Serbia. I hope then we start working on a solution very soon. I have seen very positive signals during the Coronavirus pandemic. The “green lanes” that were set up throughout the Union for the free movement of goods and transport trucks have also been set up throughout the Western Balkans. This is a very promising, positive signal when it comes to solving the latest problems between Kosovo and Serbia.

Asked if the United States is a competition on resolving the Kosovo issue, Varheyi said this is not a matter of competition. “This problem is much more significant than the question who will receive at the end the laurel wreath for the success in negotiations. The important matter is to have a solution. We are strategic partners of the U.S. in this region and we should work together. As far as my contribution is concerned, I am more than ready to play a role on this. I will engage as much as it is possible,” he said. 

AAK reacts against Borrell’s statement on border changes (Telegrafi)

The Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) has reacted against the recent statement of the EU High Representative Josep Borrell on the idea of border changes as part of the Kosovo-Serbia agreement. 

AAK said Borrell’s statements are damaging to the peace and stability of the region and that such an approach is “destructive in relation to the role as facilitator in the dialogue led by America for reaching a final agreement for mutual recognition between Kosovo and Serbia under the existing borders”. 

“Any attempt to set us back to a unclear, timely unframed process, without dialouge principles will be counterproductive, and strongly rejected by Kosovo and its people as was the case in the past,” AAK said. 

LVV submits answers on the PM candidate to the Constitutional Court (RTK)

Arberie Nagavci, deputy speaker of the Assembly of Kosovo has submitted on May 5 to the Constitutional Court comments of the Vetevendosje Movement’s Parliamentary Group.

“They are responses to President Thaci’s comments, serious violation, consequently, his actions. The President, out of his mandate and function, called for non-compliance and non- implementation of the decisions of the government of the Republic of Kosovo, by threatening the law enforcement bodies with criminal sanctions, a right which belongs only to the judicial system of our country. The decisions of the government concerned protection of the lives of the citizens from COVID-19 pandemic, while President’s behavior by announcing that the decisions of the government have no judicial impact and his calls for non-implementation and civic disobedience, except for risking the public health, were serious violation of the Constitution from his side, a brutal interference, violation of the independence of powers, as well as endangerment of the human rights and freedoms.

On this occasion, the President has committed serious triple deliberate violations of the Constitution. He himself reconfirms this in the comments sent to the Constitutional Court, trying to justify his action and the serious constitutional violation. Through these comments, the President acknowledges his unconstitutional actions, although he tries to hide behind the functional immunity of the President’s position. But these serious violations cannot be justified or overcome in the name of functional immunity. As a result, we expect the Constitutional Court to assess and ascertain the unconstitutionality of the President’s actions of March 23, 2020 ,” LVV announced.

FH: Kosovo making continuous progress (RFE)

Kosovo is the only Western Balkans country that for the fifth year in a row has made progress in the Freedom House report “Nations in Transit” that assesses democratisation level in 29 countries of Europe and Eurasia, RFE reports.

In a table score of 1 to 7 with the 1 representing the lowest level of progress and 7 the highest, Kosovo scored 3.18 points, compared to 3.11 from last year. 

 

 

Serbian Language Media

 

Kosovo North: One new case, two cured of coronavirus in the last 24h (Kontakt plus radio)

The emergency headquarters of Mitrovica North municipality announced today that in the last 24 hours in the north of Kosovo, another person was infected with Covid-19 and two people were cured, Kontakt plus radio reports.

The newly infected person is from Leposavic, and the two cured persons are from Zubin Potok and Mitrovica North.

So far, a total of 110 people have fallen ill in Serb communities in Kosovo, nine have died and 74 patients have been cured.

In Mitrovica North, 43 were infected (three died, 31 were cured), in Zvecan 25 (one died, 19 were cured), in Zubin Potok 21 (one died, 16 were cured) and in Leposavic 20 (four died and nine cured).

The Mitrovica North Student Center accommodated 17 patients with mild clinical imaging, while the Mitrovica KBC, nine patients with moderate clinical imaging.

One patient with Covid-19 is hospitalized in Kragujevac Clinic.

Borell concerned over political situation prior to Serbian elections (N1)

The European Union’s top diplomat expressed concern on Monday over the political situation in Serbia and called for a lowering of tension prior to what he said are important elections.

“We are looking with special concern at political pluralization in Serbia and call to all political actors to reduce tensions and build constructive dialogue between our sides because these elections are especially important for Serbia,” EU High Representative Josep Borell told N1.  

Speaking about the opposition decision not to field candidates in the coming parliamentary elections, Borell said that he thinks a boycott is not a viable option. “We think it is not a viable option and we call all political actors to take part in elections and represent the interests of their constituents,” he said.  

“I think that especially in these circumstances it is important that the citizens and political actors have full confidence in the integrity of the electoral system… The role of the media, taking into account the circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic, is more important than ever. What we have to do is call on the Serbian authorities to fully implement the commitments taken at the inter-party dialogue,” Borell said and expressed the hope that the necessary conditions will be in place for the vote.  

The EU High Representatives said he did not know whether the Union would send an election monitoring mission to Serbia. “I don’t know if we have been asked to do so. At this moment I cannot answer this question because an election monitoring mission has to be by invitation of the country where the elections are being held,” he added.  

He said that the EU is “very much engaged in building democracies in our neighborhood”. “Full democracies will continue to be one of the most important conditions to fulfill to become a member of the EU. We are going to use the leverage of membership in order to bring a full and prosperous democracy to the Western Balkans,” Borell said.  

Speaking about the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue he said that it is “one of the most difficult political issues that we have to face”. Borell said that recent events don’t help the situation because a stalemate is in place in Pristina. “We are waiting for Kosovo to have a new government and now we are again in a difficult situation which can only be solved by the Kosovars themselves,” he said, adding that the EU will try to help get the dialogue restarted once “there are people on both sides who are ready to participate in the dialogue”.  

“We have to overcome the legacy of the past, not continue sticking to old quarrels,” he said. According to Borell, the dialogue requires the readiness of both sides and political stability in Kosovo. “We cannot expect the negotiations to start again if there is no government in full capacity in Kosovo,” he added.  

“It is not up to us to say to Serbs and Kosovars what they have to agree or not. We have to study a possible agreement because every agreement between Serbia and Kosovo will have consequences and collateral effects on the rest of the region,” he said.

See at: https://bit.ly/2A1C3E9

EU-Western Balkans video summit takes place today: Vucic represents Serbia (B92)

Video conference of the European Union – Western Balkans is taking place today, with the participation of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, B92 reports. The virtual summit, organized by the EU Presidency of Croatia and chaired by European Council President Charles Michel, will be held from 4.30 pm to 7.30 pm.

As previously reported from Zagreb, along with officials from 27 EU member states, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, BiH Presidency Chairman, Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, North Macedonian Prime Minister Oliver Spasovski and Kosovo President Hashim Thaci confirmed their participation in the meeting.

The rules were set according to which the participants of the video conference will sit in front of a neutral background, there will be no national signs, flags, coats of arms on the screen behind them, not even the names of the states, only the name and surname of the person speaking.

Referring to diplomatic sources, Croatian news agency HINA writes that the rule was introduced at the request of Spain, which does not want to attend meetings at which Kosovo* is mentioned as a state.

The video conference will also be attended by High Representative for Foreign Policy and Security Josep Borrell, President of the European Parliament David Sassoli, representatives of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the World Bank, the European Investment Bank and the Regional Cooperation Council.

After the meeting, a joint press conference is scheduled for Charles Michel, President of European Council, Commission President Ursula von der Layen and Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic.

The participants will accept the Zagreb Declaration, which will confirm the European perspective of the Western Balkan countries.

“The European Union reaffirms its unequivocal support for the Western Balkans’ European perspective. The Western Balkan partners reiterated their commitment to the European perspective as their firm strategic choice,” the Zagreb agency said.

More specifically, there is nothing in the text about enlargement, and several EU officials told the conference that enlargement was not a topic but an EU assistance package. Some countries, by the way, are rather skeptical of further enlargement, such as Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, France and, to a certain extent, Germany, HINA said.

See at: https://bit.ly/3b7QhAl

President Vucic thanked EU for help (SRNA, N1)

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and the President of European Council, Charles Michel agreed on Wednesday that the European Union and the Western Balkans relied on each other during the coronavirus pandemic, SRNA news agency reported.

In a phone conversation, Vucic thanked the EU for substantial aid to the people of Serbia, adding Belgrade continued with reforms in the process of joining the bloc. According to Vucic’s office press release, Michel praised Serbia’s solidarity in aid it sent to Italy and the Western Balkans.

The press release quoted Michel as saying that the EU was committed to the Western Balkans’ European perspective and further empowering of the political, economic and social reforms in the region. He recalled that the EU allocated EUR 3.3 billion in aid to the regional countries facing coronavirus pandemic.

Fajon: Not wise to stage elections now (DW, N1) 

Tanja Fajon MEP told Deutsche Welle on Monday that it would be wise not to organize elections in Serbia before the coronavirus pandemic ends because the situation is not suitable for quick elections.

Fajon, Chairwoman of the European Parliament Delegation to the EU-Serbia Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee, said that a decision on the elections is up to the Serbian authorities and warned of what she called a serious escalation of tension through the media. We see protests and a serious escalation on the streets and rooftops, she said.

“Society is very much divided. We should say clearly that politicians bear the responsibility to avoid using inflammatory language, oppose hate speech, avoid more social divisions and not deceive the public during and after the election campaign,” she said. According to the MEP, the first thing that has to be done is improve election conditions. “A radical step needs to be taken in regard to the media, the role of public broadcasters along with an urgent de-escalation of tension,” she said.

“We are still in the pandemic and the question is whether conditions can be created to build trust and have people believe that their health won’t be compromised. The Serbian people deserve to turn out for elections and vote freely for the parties that they believe will bring them and their children a better future,” Fajon said. She wondered if the Serbian authorities would agree to international election observers.

See at: https://bit.ly/3cdIHW8

Serbian opposition to discuss whether to boycott June elections (BETA, N1)

Serbian MP and deputy leader of the opposition Freedom and Justice Party (SSP), Marinika Tepic told reporters at the Serbian Parliament that the opposition parties would decide on Thursday whether to change its decision to boycott the forthcoming general, provincial and local elections in Serbia due on June 21, BETA news agency reports.

Tepic said the election conditions were not better, but even worse and that she didn’t see why the decision on boycott would change. “But, we’ll see on Thursday,” she added.

Tepic also mentioned the latest Freedom House report on Serbia, adding the country was not seen as democratic anymore.

See at: https://bit.ly/2SEtmpG

Lajcak: Slovakia’s experience can have an impact on WB countries joining EU (Tanjug, TASR, B92)

Slovakia can share its experience of joining the EU to the Western Balkans, EU Special Representative for the Western Balkans, Miroslav Lajcak said yesterday. 

Following an informal meeting of the Slovak Parliamentary European Affairs Committee, Lajcak said that Slovakia had successfully completed the path the Western Balkans decided to take, TASR reports.

The meeting was dedicated to the preparations for the EU-Western Balkans Summit, to be held on Wednesday in the form of a video conference.

At the same time, Lajcak announced that the EU would clearly back the region’s EU prospects at the Summit.

“Slovakia can share its experience firsthand and this can have an impact on these processes,” Lajcak said, noting that “Slovakia is a player whose opinions are heeded in Brussels”.

The EU-Western Balkans Summit was originally supposed to be held in Zagreb, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, it will take the form of a video conference.

See at: https://bit.ly/2YKR5s6

EBRD warns that Western Balkans can’t deal with pandemic fallout alone (N1)

The EBRD Regional Director for the Western Balkans Zsuzsanna Hargitai said on Monday that the region can’t deal with the cost of the coronavirus pandemic on its own.

Speaking ahead of the European Union-Western Balkans summit, Hargitai said that “the cost of bringing the coronavirus under control was high”. “The Western Balkans countries cannot shoulder this burden alone. They do not enjoy the benefits of EU or Eurozone membership – but they are not alone,” a press release quoted her as saying.  

She recalled that the EBRD, supporting Team Europe, “is at the forefront of supporting the countries of the region” and is planning investments of up to 1.7 billion Euro this year, following record investments of 1.3 billion in 2019. “One of the consequences of the crisis will be a redesign of global supply chains and this may open a historic window opportunity for the Western Balkans,” Hargitai said.

According to the EBRD press release, the pandemic is expected to result in a substantial drop in output. It added that “public health measures have severely affected domestic demand and domestic supply, likely resulting in the greatest disruption to global economic activity since the Second World War.”  

“Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia and Serbia, all of which have strong manufacturing bases, may be mostly hit through the disruption of global supply chains. Albania and Montenegro, which have a strong reliance on tourism, will be negatively affected by limitations of movement at home and in the main sending countries, while in Kosovo, (and to some extent in other Western Balkans countries), lower remittances will decrease domestic demand,” it added.  

See at: https://bit.ly/3c4IhkO

Gashi received death threats during broadcast (Kosovo-online)

Shkelzen Gashi, former political advisor to the acting Kosovo Prime Minister Albain Kurti, came to participate in a TV broadcast “Rubikon” escorted by the police, Kosovo-online portal reports, referring to the Pristina-based portal “Gazeta Sinjali”. Gashi came to the broadcast to clarify his earlier statements on war crimes and KLA, that subsequently led to his departure from Kurti’s office.

Kosovo-online portal reports that while his interview was streamed live on Facebook, death threats against Gashi were voiced. Some of the viewers objected to the fact he was invited to the show at all. According to the portal, there were direct death threats against Gashi, and also the comments such as “police will guard you for a month, and then who will take care of you,” and “this person deserves bullets, not an interview,” Kosovo-online portal reported.

NAO: MLGA mostly allocated projects to Serbian municipalities without criteria (KoSSev)

KoSSev portal reports that the Kosovo Ministry of Local Government Administration (MLGA) has mainly allocated almost € 600,000 for projects in “Serbian municipalities” over the past year solely based on the minister’s decision and without the defining criteria, and has paid off a portion of the debt for water to the municipality of Mitrovica North, contrary to the internal procedures and competencies of this ministry – these are some of the findings presented in the annual report (2019) of Kosovo Audit Office (NAO) for this ministry.

The Audit Office issued a report on MLGA’s work in April and the main conclusion about the work of this ministry is that “financial management and internal controls are generally appropriate and are being implemented effectively, but require further commitment in elimination of deficiencies” with the additional assessment that MLGA has “increased its dedication” in implementing earlier recommendations for improving financial management.

Of the improvements observed, the auditor pointed out that, in comparison to the 2018 report, when it was noted that there was no adequate documentation on the engagement of 18 ministry employees who were hired under the Brussels Agreement, this year, MLGA submitted documents showing that these “employees are currently starting to report weekly and sign in to the 2019 attendance records – recording their arrival and departure”.

The Office of Auditor however also noted that there were irregularities in advance payments, disbursements that are not in line with MLGA competences, granting grants to local governments without clear criteria, miscalculation of value, etc.

In the case of disbursements that are not within the jurisdiction of MLGA, the payment in the amount of 20,000 EUR was approved at the request of the municipality of Mitrovica North, and for the purpose of covering electricity costs to the Regional Company Regional Water Company (RWC) Mitrovica.

According to the auditor, MLGA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the mayor of Mitrovica North in June last year to cover electricity costs in the amount of € 20,000, which was not an obligation of this ministry and was also not done as agreed, since it was used eventually to pay the water bill, not the electricity.

The report also cites the explanation of then Minister Adrijana Hodzic, which stated that the “financial assistance” to RWC Mitrovica was aimed at supporting the citizens of the municipality to access drinking water as a guaranteed right.

The Office of the Kosovo Auditor also pointed out irregularities regarding the implementation of Law no. 06 / L-133 on budgetary allocations for 2019. The law stipulates that “for each financing or co-financing of projects at local level with regular municipal financing, central budget organizations must apply specific criteria in a clear,  fair and transparent manner” which was not the case with the allocation of 16 projects amounting to 596,225 € in “mainly Serbian municipalities”.

The projects were allocated to municipalities “only through ministerial decisions without setting any criteria”.

“The ministry justified this funding by the fact that the targeted municipalities did not benefit from the first two schemes, and the purpose of the ministry was for the municipalities to be financially supported by MLGA,” it was added in the report.

 

 

Opinion 

 

Against all odds, the COVID-19 pandemic cemented EU ties with the Western Balkans (media)

By Olivér Várhelyi, EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement

In May, the Croatian capital Zagreb was due to host the European Union – Western Balkans summit where the leaders were among others meant to endorse an economic and investment plan for the region. This plan is one of the three strands of the new approach the European Commission developed for the region, to complement the first two: the revised methodology for EU enlargement, which the Commission put forward in February to bring credibility back to one of the most important  EU policies , and the decision to open the accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia, endorsed by the EU leaders in March, together with the revised methodology.

COVID-19 pandemic did not throw this carefully laid out plan around:  it did not change our aim, ambition nor determination. This could have easily happened: the pandemic hit the European Union and the whole continent hard and caused an unthinkable loss of life. The Commission took extraordinary measures to support and assist the Member States in addressing the crisis, to save lives, protect health systems and mitigate the socio-economic impact. But at the same time the Commission was clear that the pandemic can only be defeated with global action and by working with partners.

See at: https://bit.ly/2W9JCBa

An opportunity to end Kosovo’s isolation in Europe (EurActiv)

The Covid-19 crisis with its overall ban on entry to the Schengen zone by non-EU residents and citizens may present a window of opportunity to allow visa free travel for Kosovars, writes Dr Bernard Nikaj, Kosovo’s Ambassador to the EU.

“While most in Europe are struggling to cope with isolation and not being able to travel as the new normal, unprecedented in their lifetime, this has been Kosovo’s reality since the early 90s. While Kosovo’s neighbours gained visa free travel in the Schengen zone 11 years ago, Kosovo has been in isolation all along.

“In June 2012, the Commission presented Kosovo with a Roadmap on Visa Liberalisation which included 95 criteria – about double the number given to its neighbours. The European Commission confirmed their fulfilment on 18 July 2018, and it recommended liberalizing visas for the citizens of Kosovo. The same recommendation was repeated in May 2019 in the Country Report for Kosovo as part of the Enlargement Package. In the meantime, Kosovo received numerous affirmative votes in the European Parliament – the EU institution that most directly represents the will of the people of the EU – several resolutions, and several letters written by MEPs to the European Council and Member States. Despite this, decision making in the Council has stalled.”

See at: https://bit.ly/35ziL4G

Time for a new approach to the Western Balkans (EurActiv)

The EU’s relationship with the Western Balkans appears to have turned a positive corner in recent months, with the decision to start the much-delayed accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia, and the provision of substantial COVID-19 related medical and financial support. Nonetheless, fundamental issues remain, writes Vladimir Krulj, a Fellow at the Institute of Economic Affairs in London and former Chief Economist for the Serbian EU Negotiating Team.

“Successfully addressing these issues will require honesty and real leadership at the upcoming EU-Western Balkans Summit on 6 May.

“Whilst the removal of the French veto and the opening of accession talks suggests progress on rule of law and media freedoms, the reality is quite different.

“Just as the EU has seen an erosion of democracy from within – look no further than Hungary and Poland – so is this trend being replicated in the Balkans. The COVID crisis is providing an opportunity for governments to accelerate this negative trend.”

See at: https://bit.ly/2W83zZd

 

 

International

 

Freedom House: Serbia, Montenegro, Hungary ‘No Longer Democracies’ (Balkan Insight)

A new report from watchdog organisation Freedom House describes Serbia, Montenegro and Hungary as ‘hybrid regimes’ rather than democracies because of declining standards in governance, justice, elections and media freedom.

Freedom House’s latest ‘Nations in Transit’ report, published on Wednesday, strongly criticises Serbia, Montenegro and Hungary for falling democratic standards and classifies all three countries for the first time as ‘hybrid regimes’.

See more at: https://bit.ly/3bf9DUk

Read full Freedom House report at: https://bit.ly/3cfpe7G

EU aims to counter Chinese, Russian influence at Balkan summit (Reuters)

BRUSSELS/BELGRADE (Reuters) – European Union (EU) leaders host a summit on Wednesday with their six Balkan counterparts whose praise for Chinese and Russian support during the coronavirus crisis has ruffled feathers in the bloc, officials and diplomats said.

The EU says it has not been given enough credit for the 3.3 billion euros ($3.6 billion) it is providing, which officials said outweigh medical supplies Beijing and Moscow sent to Serbia and Bosnia in the early phase of the epidemic.

The summit, planned for the Croatian capital Zagreb 20 years after the first ever EU-Balkan gathering, will take place via video from 1430 GMT, linking the heads of Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia and North Macedonia with the 27 EU leaders.

Still scarred by 1990s wars, all six countries aspire to join the EU, though the response to the COVID-19 disease is likely to dominate.

See more at: https://reut.rs/3bbJV2K

 

 

Humanitarian/Development

 

Minority media in Kosovo are important but financially vulnerable (KoSSev)

Local media hold particular importance for the communities in which they work. For these media outlets, local topics are more important than national ones, the editor of Radio Gorazdevac, Darko Dimitrijevic told KoSSev.

In the latest episode of an educational media literacy project “OpisMEDIJavanje”, the editor of Radio Gorazdevac, Darko Dimitrijevic spoke about work challenges and the role of local media in non-majority communities in Kosovo.

„Due to the current situation – the fight against COVID 19 – large media outlets have little space to deal with local stories. Actually, this is one of the great advantages of local media. In this way, we also contribute to this fight through truthful, timely and accurate reporting on all local activities, which are much more interesting to citizens than what is generally happening,“ he said.

According to Dimitrijevic, media outlets reporting from multi-ethnic areas should include stories and reports on events related to interethnic cooperation and present examples of „good practice“ in their news programs.

„Unfortunately, in some places, they aren’t any (cf. interethnic cooperation events and examples). However, in places where there are, they are certainly much more appealing to the local media than the sensational news that the media at a national level report about.“

Despite the importance and power to turn „small“ stories into big ones, local media in Kosovo reporting in the languages of minority communities face a lack of financial resources, which is why they are constantly battling for survival, Dimitrijevic warned.

See more at: https://bit.ly/3b9LwGq

Women entrepreneurs feel the strain amid COVID-19 pandemic (Prishtina Insight)

The few women led businesses in Kosovo have been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak in Kosovo, with some depending on government assistance to pay their employees, which for many is yet to come.

Like many women from the village of Krusha e Madhe, Fahrije Hoti has led a life characterised by a persistent struggle to survive. The Kosovo war left her in dire financial straits, and Hoti’s husband is one of the more than 1,600 persons still missing 21 years after it ended.

Hoti established ‘Kooperativa Krusha’ in 2005, which now employs more than 20 women in the village. The cooperative produces dozens of food products, including ajvar and pickled vegetables, selling most of its produce abroad.

See at: https://bit.ly/2SHd67p

Kosovo’s Museums in the Post-Corona World: an Opportunity for Change (Kosovo 2.0)

Creating a new, energized museum culture in Kosovo.

The Coronavirus outbreak has forced many cultural institutions to experiment with new, online solutions to continue to reach people. Between virtual tours and online exhibitions museums globally are reaching out to the public.

See at: https://bit.ly/2zi0AUZ

Kosovo Film Festivals to Go Ahead Despite COVID-19 (Balkan Insight)

The directors of the country’s three major international film festivals have decided to stage their festivals as planned over the summer, while also respecting COVID-19 prevention measures.

The three major international film festivals in Kosovo, the International Documentary and Short Film Festival – Dokufest, the International Film Festival in Prishtina – Prifilm Fest (PriFest), and the International Animation Festival – Anibar, will be held this summer as planned, on condition that organisers respect restrictions designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The decision to go ahead with the festivals was taken at a joint meeting of the three festival directors with the Kosovo Cinematographic Center, KCC. The Cinematographic Center said it would fully comply with government recommendations to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

See at: https://bit.ly/2YE8u60

 

 

 

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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, August 10, 2020

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