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Belgrade Media Report 6 May 2020

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United Nations Office in Belgrade

Daily Media Highlights

Wednesday 6 May 2020

LOCAL PRESS

Vucic spoke with Charles Michel (Tanjug/B92)
Gratitude to Georgia on non-recognition of Kosovo (Politika)
Brnabic: There are no longer grounds for state of emergency (Tanjug/RTS)
Dacic: Opening state borders complicated process (Tanjug)
Borell concerned over political situation prior to Serbian elections (N1)
Borrell: Belgrade, Pristina need to find their own solution to normalizing relations (Beta)
Lajcak: Slovakia can pass on its experience of joining EU to Western Balkan countries (Tanjug/TASR/B92)
Grubjesic: Zagreb Summit to confirm region’s EU integration, enlargement not on agenda (Beta/Euraktiv)
Increase in number of certifying officers for electoral rolls (Tanjug)
Another 114 cases, 1,971 recovered (RTS)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina

EP: Summit on Western Balkans is opportunity to deepen ties between the EU and the region (Dnevni list)
Dodik sends letter to EC, as well as to leaders of EU countries and leaders of the Western Balkans countries (RTRS)
Covic: EU will not have understanding for our divisions and conflicts (Vecernji list)
Sattler: B&H citizens want new beginning, not in 20 years but today and Summit in Zagreb is chance for B&H’s new beginning (Oslobodjenje)
Sattler says Covic was leader in process of preparation of B&H’s application for membership in EU but EU has been waiting for B&H authorities to respond to EC’s Opinion for long time (Dnevni list/RFE)
Djonlagic: Covic is promoter of Russian interests in B&H and that is now clear to everyone (Hayat)
Inzko talks to Guterres ahead of his semi-annual address to UN SC (Oslobodjenje)
Cvijanovic: It is hypocritical Inzko says policies could hurt DPA since HRs have ruined capacities for internal agreements (Srna)
New affair called ‘corona party’ in B&H (FTV)
EU approves 250 million Euros worth assistance to B&H (RTRS)
FB&H adopts long awaited ‘Corona law’ (Hayat)
FB&H prepared a plan of easing of restrictive measures (O kanal)
RS authorities decide to impose new movement restrictions on 6-7 May on occasion of Feast of Saint George, they announce easing of measures as of 11 May (BHT1)
Decision on prohibition of entrance of B&H citizens to Croatia remains in force (O kanal)
B&H sees another 41 Covid-19 cases, 6 more deaths (N1)
Croatia

Croatia’s FM: Zagreb summit to confirm European perspective of Western Balkans (Hina)
Croatian MEP calls for solidarity ahead of Western Balkan Summit (HRT/Avaz)
Grlic Radman: All those who want to return to Croatia are welcome! (HRT)
More than 1,600 people have recovered from the coronavirus in Croatia (HRT)
Montenegro

Djukanovic sent telegrams of condolences to Putin and Kovind (CDM)
Montenegro reports no new cases of coronavirus, number of recovered cases amounts to 261 (CDM)
Republic of North Macedonia

EU-Western Balkans Summit takes place today (MIA)
Dimitrov: EU draft-negotiating framework expected in early June (MIA)
Dimitrov: Impossible to build friendship if challenging neighbor’s identity (MIA/Telma TV)
Zaev: Elections in mid-June if possible (MIA)
Mickoski: Elections in mid-July at the earliest (MIA/TV 24)
Osmani: Start of accession negotiations in 2020 to put European integration in spotlight (MIA)
Macedonia continues to be considered a hybrid regime in transit, according to the latest Freedom House report (Republika)
In Macedonia 13 new COVID-19 cases, 44 patients recover, 2 died (Republika)
Albania

Rama: The justice reform brought the opening of accession negotiations with EU (Radio Tirana)
President deeply concerned by conclusions of ‘Freedom House’ Report (ADN)
Albania’s democracy in decline; Freedom House (ADN)
Latest update on COVID-19 situation in Albania (Radio Tirana)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

EU focuses on Western Balkans despite coronavirus pandemic (DW)

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Vucic spoke with Charles Michel (Tanjug/B92)

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic talked ahead of afternoon EU-Western Balkans videoconference, with European Council President Charles Michel. The interlocutors agreed that, in the context of a coronavirus pandemic, the EU and the Western Balkan countries were directed at each other. Vucic thanked for the significant EU assistance to Serbian residents, while Michel emphasized the solidarity Serbia showed by providing assistance to Italian residents and assisting in the Western Balkans region. A European official said that the European Union is committed to the European perspective of the Western Balkans and further strengthening and intensifying its support for political, economic and social reforms in the region. The European Union has allocated € 3.3 billion to help the region, given the consequences of COVID-19 on the Western Balkan economies, the President of the European Council said. The two interlocutors also discussed the next steps on Serbia’s European path. President Vucic said that Serbia is continuing the reform process with the aim of joining the European Union. President Vucic and President Michel also discussed the regional situation, emphasizing Serbia’s commitment to peace and co-operation policy in the Western Balkans.

 

Gratitude to Georgia on non-recognition of Kosovo (Politika)

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic spoke on Tuesday by telephone with the President of Georgia Salome Zourabichvili. Vucic expressed hope that Serbia and Georgia will soon tackle the coronavirus epidemic and return to regular life and economic flows, which would also enable intensification of cooperation between the two countries. Vucic expressed his satisfaction with the opening of the Georgian diplomatic office in Belgrade, as it enables direct communication between the two countries as well as agreements on various activities that contribute to the development of bilateral relations. He also announced that a diplomatic office of Serbia would be opened in Tbilisi soon for the same purpose. Vucic thanked Zourabichvili for Georgia’s principled position to respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Serbia, not recognizing the unilaterally declared independence of Kosovo and voting against the membership of so-called Kosovo in international organizations. At the same time, he emphasized the principled position of our country to respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of internationally recognized states.

 

Brnabic: There are no longer grounds for state of emergency (Tanjug/RTS/Beta)

 

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said today at a session of the Serbian parliament, at which MPs began the debate on the abolition of the state of emergency, which was introduced on 15 March, that there is no longer any reason for a state of emergency in Serbia. Brnabic pointed out that, in the opinion of the profession, all conditions for its termination are created, explaining that the condition was that for more than seven days we have less than 5% of those infected compared to the number tested for coronavirus. That condition is fulfilled, as of 28 April, we are below 5%, Brnabic said, urging MPs to lift the state of emergency. She explained that the crisis response teams will not be abolished but will continue to operate as citizens will continue to be tested to ensure full security for prevention of a possible second wave of the epidemic. She announced that the next session of the crisis response teams would clearly set out the measures under which citizens would enter Serbia from abroad in order to be quarantined. We will go out on Friday or Monday with a clear recommendation. We are considering either accepting the evidence of tests did by a person coming to Serbia in the country of origin or we will do the test, Brnabic said. During the session debating the proposal to abolish the state of emergency, an incident occurred involving Bosko Obradovic, leader of the Dveri Movement. Obradovic went to a place in front of where parliament speaker Maja Gojkovic sits and started blowing a whistle. He refused to leave the hall and was eventually dragged out by security guards. Outside the session hall Obradovic said that he entered the hall to convey what the people think about the authorities’ attitude during the state of emergency and their handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Dacic: Opening state borders complicated process (Tanjug)

 

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said today that our country can open its borders, but added that there is no free border crossing regime anywhere. Dacic explained at a session of the Serbian parliament that all states are seeking some kind of certificate or entry permit during the coronavirus pandemic. According to him, citizens who live in a small border area, which is about 50 km long and have land or work on the other side of the border, can cross without restrictions on self-isolation or isolation measures. He added that only Hungary has so far started implementing those measures, adding that an agreement with Bulgaria is underway and noted that he expects that implementation could start in the coming days. It was difficult to reach an agreement with Bosnia-Herzegovina. We expected it to be easier, a large number of people expect it from both the Serb and Bosnian sides, Dacic said.

 

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 Representative 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 to 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 that 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.

 

Borrell: Belgrade, Pristina need to find their own solution to normalizing relations (Beta)

 

EU High Representative Josep Borrell said that it was not the EU’s job to tell the Serbs and Kosovo Albanians what to agree on and that the final solution to normalizing relations needed to be found by Belgrade and Pristina. “Our role is to mediate and we must not become bigger Catholics than the pope,” Borrell told reporters of the Beta and several other media outlets from the Western Balkans. Borrell also said that he could not predict what the results of a EU-Western Balkans Summit on 6 May would be in terms of renewing the dialog between Belgrade and Pristina. Asked whether the EU’s and Washington’s plans for resolving relations between Belgrade and Pristina overlapped, especially with regard to changing borders, Borrell replied that “each agreement between Belgrade and Pristina could have lateral consequences for the region.”

“Changing borders is a very delicate question,” he said, adding that he understood the different views that some EU members harbored, but that special envoy Miroslav Lajcak‘s sole mission was to mediate and foster dialogue.

 

Lajcak: Slovakia can pass on its experience of joining EU to Western Balkan countries (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 today. “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. 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.

 

Grubjesic: Zagreb Summit to confirm region’s EU integration, enlargement not on agenda (Beta/Euraktiv)

 

The fact that the EU-Western Balkans Summit in Zagreb on 6 May has not been postponed or called off because of the coronavirus pandemic demonstrates the importance that the EU ascribes to relations in the region during the crisis, Suzana Grubjesic from the Center for Foreign Policy said. The EU-Western Balkan’s Summit, Grubjesic told Euraktiv and Beta, was supposed to be historical because this year is the 20th anniversary of the Zagreb Summit of November 2000, when the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was included in the stabilization and association and accession process. However, she said, the coronavirus pandemic has changed everything including the scope of the event in Zagreb and expectations. “The EU has demonstrated the capability for strategic geopolitical thinking and found a way to quickly aid the Western Balkans,  not just during the pandemic, by securing financial means and medical equipment, but also through its continuous support for overcoming the effects of the pandemic on society and the economies of the Western Balkans,” Grubjesic said. She added that the most important messages from the Summit would be released in a joint resolution and that the draft version of the resolution confirmed the region’s European outlook and the EU’s heightened engagement on all levels, while stressing the importance of regional cooperation in the joint fight for the economic recovery of the Western Balkans and managing security challenges. “Unfortunately, the joint resolution does not mention enlargement, membership or the region’s integration with the EU,” Grubjesic added.

 

Increase in number of certifying officers for electoral rolls (Tanjug)

 

At Tuesday’s session, the Serbian government adopted the Bill amending the Law on the Election of Members of Parliament, as well as the Bill amending the Law on Local Elections.

The proposed changes provide that, in all cities and municipalities, voter signatures supporting electoral lists for parliamentary and local elections, in addition to notaries, may be certified by city or municipal administrations. The proposed changes are justified by the need to increase the number of certified certification bodies for the conduct of the electoral process, which prevents the danger of larger gatherings of electoral actors and activists, as well as of too many persons on the premises and in front of the premises of the competent authorities. The amendments were adopted in order to protect the health of citizens, since even after the state of emergency is abolished, appropriate measures of physical distance should be taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

 

Another 114 cases, 1,971 recovered (RTS)

 

Until 3pm there have been another 114 cases, in total 9,791. There have been three more deaths, in total 203. There are 1,750 patients in hospitals, and 1,971 people have recovered.

 

REGIONAL PRESS

 

EP: Summit on Western Balkans is opportunity to deepen ties between the EU and the region (Dnevni list)

 

The European Parliament (EP) issued a statement on Tuesday, welcoming the virtual summit on the Western Balkans, saying it is an opportunity to confirm historic, political and financial commitment of the European Union (EU) to the region and an opportunity to deepen the ties between the EU and the region. The EP further said that the summit is an opportunity for the Western Balkans countries to confirm their dedication to the rule of law, democracy and continuation of reforms, adding that the EP will stand by its partners in the Western Balkans during these troubled times and is confirming its political, financial and medical assistance without precedent to the peoples in the region.

 

Dodik sends letter to EC, as well as to leaders of EU countries and leaders of the Western Balkans countries (RTRS)

 

Ahead of the Summit that will be held in Zagreb, member of B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik sent a letter to the European Commission, as well as to leaders of the EU countries and leaders of the Western Balkans countries. The letter reads that the EU integration is one of clearly emphasized foreign policy goals of the Western Balkans countries, including the RS and B&H. Dodik underlined that besides progress Serbia made on the EU path, they are encouraged with the fact an agreement on beginning of the EU accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania was achieved. Dodik deems that this is a positive signal for all the Western Balkans countries. He expressed hope B&H will get a status of the EU candidate country soon and will resume with progress on the EU path. Dodik stated that B&H has great expectations from upcoming Summit, in regards to complete revitalization of relations between the EU and the Western Balkans countries. Dodik also talked on Tuesday with Head of the OSCE Mission to B&H Kathleen Kavalec about the upcoming EU-Western Balkans Summit. Among other things, Dodik said on this occasion that he expects the EU will clearly confirm the EU membership perspective of B&H and other the Western Balkans countries at the Summit in Zagreb. He reiterated that the EU membership is one of most important priorities.

 

Covic: EU will not have understanding for our divisions and conflicts (Vecernji list)

 

Speaker of the B&H House of Peoples (HoP) and HDZ B&H President Dragan Covic asked what he expects from the EU-Western Balkans Summit, replied by saying he is glad the summit is taking place despite the Coronavirus pandemic, adding that “I believe that what we planned we will be able to present”. He went on to say that he will be talking about strengthening of our position when it comes to the European integration because there is a halt that is going on for four-five years. “What I am hoping for, and I will ask from all EU representatives, is to enable status of EU candidate for B&H as soon as possible, certainly this year,” said Covic. The HDZ B&H President also said that ‘we’ are expecting the EU’s assistance regarding the Coronavirus pandemic and access to the EU funds despite the fact B&H has no status of EU candidate, adding that B&H must thank the EU for what they have done for B&H in last two months. Asked to comment on the daily’s remark that representatives of B&H will not have harmonized positions during the Summit, Covic says it will have a negative impact on B&H, arguing that B&H was very close to getting the status of EU candidate after the 2018 elections, but did not get because it failed to reform its electoral legislation. Covic went on to say that in case B&H continues with its divisive rhetoric, he fears that the EU leaders’ attitude towards B&H will remain the same: “Because in the current situation, when everyone is consumed with own problems caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, it is difficult to expect somebody will have the understanding for our divisions and conflicts”.

 

Sattler: B&H citizens want new beginning, not in 20 years but today and Summit in Zagreb is chance for B&H’s new beginning (Oslobodjenje)

 

The EU Special Representative (EUSR) Johann Sattler noted that some things that seemed unthinkable, have become normal in last couple of weeks, such is physical distance, working from home and virtual holding of meetings and reaching of decisions, arguing that when this crisis is over things will change. EUSR noted that the EU quickly adapted to new situation and they found a way to provide urgent assistance to partners in the Western Balkans, showing “Solidarity in action”. Sattler noted that it was encouraging, in first weeks after the outbreak of the pandemic, to see how leaders in B&H put aside their differences in order to provide necessary assistance to citizens while citizens all over B&H did what they always do, they took initiative and contributed to finding of solutions, demonstrating solidarity and resilience. Sattler noted that B&H will “today” (Wednesday) take part in the EU- Western Balkans Summit, where countries from the region are expected to submit reports about strong progress and propose credible regional initiatives. Sattler reminded that Summit is hosted by Croatia and that the fact that it will take place “in virtual format” is another proof that things can dramatically change, very fast. “I believe that today’s event can and needs to ark new beginning for B&H,” noted Sattler, adding that it is important to prevent resurfacing of old obstacles, as the country gets out of the crisis, in order to enable faster progress towards the EU. Sattler reminded that last week the Presidency of B&H repeated their dedication to accelerating of the EU path, through engagement on solving of 14 priority sectors, established in the European Commission’s Opinion and launched an initiative, which stipulates inclusive process which includes Council of Ministers, parliaments and Coordination Mechanism, as well as civil society. “It is high time for leaders in this country to take steps forward especially having in mind that these priorities were presented almost a year ago without authorities doing much on solving them since then. Instead, postelections and other political disputes made the continuation of reforms more difficult,” noted Sattler. He noted that demonstrating of clear vision about road ahead is of the outmost importance, adding that last two months showed that B&H leaders are able to act fast and in constructive manner, for wellbeing of all citizens. “When stakes are high and problems and goals common, unity needs to be put before divisions. Pandemic once again proved how important it is for the country to have functional institutions,” noted Sattler. Sattler noted that things will change as the world emerges from the crisis and for B&H, Zagreb Summit can mark a new beginning. EUSR continues by noting that majority of B&H citizens are in favor of EU integration and the EU will continue to cooperate with B&H on solving of crisis caused by pandemic, as well as accelerating of the European integration path, arguing that all B&H citizens desire new beginning. “Not in twenty years, but today. Process has been relaunched and there is room at the table for everyone. We are stronger together! Together we are Europe,” ends Sattler.

 

Sattler says Covic was leader in process of preparation of B&H’s application for membership in EU but EU has been waiting for B&H authorities to respond to EC’s Opinion for long time (Dnevni list/RFE)

 

In an interview to Radio Free Europe, Head of the EU Delegation to B&H Johann Sattler commented on HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic’s refusal to attend the meeting of the Political Working Group for the EU on 4 May and he said that Covic was a leader in the process of preparation of B&H’s application for the membership in the EU. “The EU’s offer has been on a table for a year now. B&H applied for the membership and what I thought about Mr. Covic was that he was the leader in this process and in preparation of the application. This is why I said it. Then there was the Opinion of the European Commission (EC), which has been on the table since May 2019. Therefore, we have been waiting for a long time for B&H authorities to respond to the Opinion”, Sattler said. The daily reminded that the Presidency of B&H last Monday organized the first meeting of an ad hoc working group, comprised of members of the Presidency of B&H, Council of Ministers (CoM) of B&H and both Collegiums of the Parliament of B&H, with the goal to jointly develop a document that would contain the recommended opinion of the EC so that B&H CoM can propose an action plan. “We welcome the initiative of the Presidency of B&H and meeting that was held on Monday. The Presidency (of B&H) has its role and so do B&H CoM, Coordination Mechanism and parliaments of this country,” Sattler concluded. According to Covic, to form new ad hoc bodies when we have other bodies, which have not started working, is unnecessary. Covic argues that the ad hoc body was supposed to be “a compensation for the Coordination Mechanism”, adding that we worked on the Coordination Mechanism for four to five years. “And when we adopted it and submitted the request for status of candidate, we act as if we do not have the Mechanism”. In addition to this, Covic says that 14 priorities B&H has to work on are the matter for the Council of Ministers of B&H and that the parliament of B&H has a role in it, in case a law needs to be changed.

 

Djonlagic: Covic is promoter of Russian interests in B&H and that is now clear to everyone (Hayat)

 

Hayat stressed that the greatest declarative advocator of B&H’s European path – leader of HDZ B&H Dragan Covic – who a couple of years ago was optimistic, claiming that B&H will soon obtain EU candidate status, refused to take part in a meeting of an ad hoc body formed by the B&H Presidency which should draft an action plan in response to the European Commission’s (EC) Opinion. Hayat stressed that the goal of the ad hoc working group is to help in solving certain issues related to B&H’s European path and in achieving as broader consensus as possible. However, according to Hayat, it seems that this is not Covic’s goal. DF representatives claim that Covic and HDZ B&H are now main obstructionists of the EU integration in B&H. DF representative in the B&H House of Representatives (HoR) Dzenan Djonlagic stated that people who are a little better acquainted with the circumstances and Covic’s model of behavior know that masks have long fallen. “Even the attempts of (Head of the EU Delegation to B&H Johann) Ambassador Sattler to declare him a champion of the EU integration have failed. Dragan Covic is a promoter of Russian interests in B&H and that is now clear to everyone,” Djonlagic said. SDA representative in the B&H HoR Semsudin Mehmedovic deemed Covic’s failure to attend Monday’s meeting of the ad hoc working group as continuity of Covic’s obstructions towards the state of B&H. “This is actually complete laying bare of the truth as to what kind of policy he is pursuing. Allegedly advocating European values, with this move, he once again showed the compatibility of HDZ B&H’s policy with the policy of SNSD and that is a policy which prevents European and NATO integration of B&H,” Mehmedovic said, adding that attempt at cooperating with Russia represents continuous undermining of B&H’s statehood and undermining of B&H institutions. “This is another in a series of failures to respect legally elected member of the B&H Presidency, Mr. (Zeljko) Komsic, and absence of desire and will to cooperate with him” Mehmedovic said. Mehmedovic stressed that B&H, within its institutions, has the capacity and knowledge to do the job which Covic invited the Russian Armed Forces to do. “That is disinfection of the University Clinical Center of Mostar,” Mehmedovic said.

 

Inzko talks to Guterres ahead of his semi-annual address to UN SC (Oslobodjenje)

 

Ahead of his semi-annual address to the United Nations Security Council, High Representative Valentin Inzko spoke via video conference with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Welcoming the recommitment of the B&H Presidency to the EU integration, High Representative Inzko informed the Secretary-General about other current political developments in B&H, as well as the immediate challenges the country is facing in relation to combating the COVID-19 pandemic. The High Representative emphasized the need for swift adoption of the State budget to help mitigate the negative socioeconomic effects of the pandemic and to enable unhindered preparations for the October Municipal Elections.

 

Cvijanovic: It is hypocritical Inzko says policies could hurt DPA since HRs have ruined capacities for internal agreements (Srna)

 

RS President Zeljka Cvijanovic was asked by Srna agency to comment the most recent report submitted by High Representative (HR) Valentin Inzko to the Security Council. Cvijanovic said that Inzko is defending his position in his reports to the Security Council and is looking for a reason for the OHR to remain in place, more than he cares to portray the actual state of affairs in B&H. She said that attacks against SNSD and what the RS is doing is a usual thing, and said that it is hypocritical that that the HR says that somebody’s policies or rhetoric could undermine the implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords (DPA), since it was HRs that have ruined Dayton solutions and ruined capacities for internal agreements. The RS submitted the report to the UN Security Council, which reads – among other things – that OHR’s actions are far from the role stipulated by the DPA. The report also reads that the OHR did nothing to help B&H during the coronavirus epidemic in the country, but it even tried to undermine the efficiency of the entity governments which bear primary responsibility for response to the pandemic.

 

New affair called ‘corona party’ in B&H (FTV)

 

A so-called ‘corona party’ was held in premises of ‘Golf klub’ restaurant in Sarajevo on Monday evening. Citizens reported the mentioned party and the Sarajevo Canton (SC) police came to the scene. Upon arrival, the police officers saw a number of famous entertainers, several doctors and even one state minister amongst the attendees. Since coronavirus measures on social distancing are still in place, this birthday party was organized contrary to the stated rules and all participants will be fined upon conclusion of the investigation. ‘Golf klub’ was sealed by inspectors on Tuesday, as it was not supposed to be opened in the first place due to coronavirus restrictions.

The SC police confirms 19 people were present at this party. Organizer of this party was Jusuf Sabanovic, renowned surgeon, who celebrated his birthday. Management of the University Clinical Center (UKC) in Sarajevo made a decision to remove him from post of Chief of General and Abdominal Surgery and he was ordered to stay in self-isolation. The party was also attended by B&H Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations Stasa Kosarac. SNSD leader Milorad Dodik stated on Tuesday that with his presence at the “corona party” in Sarajevo B&H Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations Stasa Kosarac has written an end to his political path. In his reaction to Kosarac’s irresponsible behavior, Dodik said that Kosarac is done with SNSD. Dodik said that there is no longer room for Kosarac in SNSD but also that he will be removed from the post of the Minister. “This is not about personal, but rather political and social responsibility considering the fact he was appointed to most important post. I completely reject his behavior, I believe it is inappropriate and unacceptable. I think that in order to achieve small personal commodity, he brought into question policies he has been implementing successfully so far” underlined Dodik. The leader of SNSD emphasized that in the period of pandemic, not even smallest mistake can be tolerated. He wondered how it was possible Kosarac failed to attend the ceremony honoring soldiers killed in Dobrovoljacka Street in Sarajevo in 1992, but he attended a “bizarre” party. Dodik added that Kosarac cannot be his closest associate anymore, adding that he will act accordingly in the future. “We will conduct measures that are the best for the RS, because removals in B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) could deprive the RS of some positions,” stressed Dodik. RS Prime Minister and Vice President of SNSD Radovan Viskovic also condemned Kosarac’s behavior. “It is an unacceptable mistake to make such political omission in the period when measures to prevent spreading of Coronavirus have been conducted,” stated Viskovic. SDS leader Mirko Sarovic said that what Kosarac did during a time when the entire country and the RS are fighting against a dangerous virus, because of which state of emergency was introduced, is a bad message of one of the holders of the highest executive authorities in B&H. Sarovic stressed that the worst thing is that the celebration happened on the day of the massacre in Dobrovoljacka Street in 1992 (which Kosarac failed to attend). SDS’ Mladen Bosic stressed that there is no justification for such an event, adding that Kosarac in the worst way demonstrated all his arrogance, showing that he neither cares for the public health of citizens nor for the regulations in the fight against the epidemic. “I feel shame over the fact that Kosarac and the likes are representing the RS and the people I belong to.” DF issued a press release saying that “following the release of videos of a disgraceful and arrogant party at Sarajevo establishment ‘Golf’, there is the question of whether the same rules and measures that B&H citizens have been complying with for two months do not apply to the elite headed by Minister Kosarac.” Leader of PDP Branislav Borenovic submitted to Chairman of the B&H CoM Zoran Tegeltija and to the Collegium of the B&H House of Representatives on Tuesday an initiative for the removal of B&H Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations Stasa Kosarac due to his presence at the “corona party”. Borenovic said that he expected that Kosarac himself will resign, adding that obviously, there is no moral responsibility in the RS. “This type of behavior of the ruling officials deserves to be condemned in all ways as the ones who give themselves the right to do whatever they want; to act in an arrogant and a primitive way, to celebrate, to cheer with music in restaurants that are closed and in this way, they send the worst possible image to their own people”.

EU approves 250 million Euros worth assistance to B&H (RTRS)

 

B&H will receive assistance of the EU amounting to 250 million Euros to overcome economic and social consequences of Coronavirus pandemic. The EU Council approved on Tuesday financial assistance of total worth of 3.3 billion Euros for 10 countries. Meanwhile, B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) adopted at the session on Tuesday a decision to form a group for socio-economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The group will be led by B&H CoM Chairman Zoran Tegeltija and will have a task to coordinate activities of all levels of authority in B&H on defining the socio-economic measures, as well as to coordinate activities of all levels of authority in B&H in order to ensure financial funds for all levels through mobilization of local funds and foreign financial aid, including the assistance from the EU. The decision was not adopted at the last session of B&H CoM because B&H Minister of Foreign Affairs Bisera Turkovic and B&H Minister of Security Fahrudin Radoncic voted against.

 

FB&H adopts long awaited ‘Corona law’ (Hayat)

 

The long awaited, so-called ‘Corona law’ has been adopted in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FB&H). It took the FB&H government and the FB&H parliament almost two months to adopt a law that should help the economy which was almost completely shut down because of the crisis caused by coronavirus. The Law on Mitigation of Negative Economic Consequences of the Coronavirus Pandemic, among other things, stipulates subsidizing compulsory insurance contributions, suspension of calculation and payment of default interest on public revenues, abolishment of the obligation to pay income tax advance, as well as establishment of Guarantee Fund. Hayat recalled that BAM 500 million in the Fund for Stabilization of the Economy are planned for the application of the ‘Corona law’. Trade unionists and employers claim that the adopted Law on Mitigation of Negative Economic Consequences of the Coronavirus Pandemic is not bad, but that it is just the beginning.

 

FB&H prepared a plan of easing of restrictive measures (O kanal)

 

The FB&H Ministry of Healthcare Crisis HQ has prepared a plan of easing of restrictive measures in the FB&H in three phases. FB&H Minister of Healthcare Vjekoslav Mandic stressed that certain companies and small craft shops will be allowed to re-open, but that measures of keeping distance from each other and wearing of masks will remain in effect. “One can expect public transportation to again start working, but measures will be prescribed as to how participants of public transportation will have to behave,” Mandic said. Mandic noted that kindergartens in the FB&H will re-open soon, adding that they will be provided with strict recommendations on all procedures and protective measures.

 

RS authorities decide to impose new movement restrictions on 6-7 May on occasion of Feast of Saint George, they announce easing of measures as of 11 May (BHT1)

 

The RS Crisis Headquarters passed on Tuesday a decision to ban movement in the RS on 6-7 May on the occasion of the Feast of Saint George. RS Prime Minister Radovan Viskovic stated that the movement will be restricted between 3 pm Wednesday to 5 am Thursday and between 10 pm Thursday to 5 am Friday, adding that elderly people will be allowed to spend more time outside – between 7 am to 1 pm every day. He announced that pre-school institutions, hairdresser and cosmetic saloons, cafes, restaurants, private dental clinics, gyms and fitness centers in open and bet shops would be reopened as of 11 May, adding that the public transportation will be put in operation again as of 11 May as well. Viskovic said that the RS Crisis HQ still has not given approval for continuation of work of hotels, hostels, cinemas, theaters etc. The RS Crisis Headquarters also decided that wearing protective gloves in the public will no longer be mandatory as of Wednesday, but that the order on wearing face masks remains in effect as mandatory. The RS Crisis HQ also decided that student dormitory in Doboj will be turned into quarantine for accommodation of residents of Doboj region positive for Coronavirus and experiencing slight symptoms of COVID-19 due to increased number of infected ones in this region. Viskovic emphasized that preventive measures were liberalized despite to the fact increased number of COVID-19 cases was registered. He explained that this decision is grounded on analysis conducted by the RS Ministry of Healthcare. Abovementioned analysis showed that health institutions and nursing homes are at the highest risk from the infection. Viskovic stressed that this is why preventive triages have been conducted.

 

Decision on prohibition of entrance of B&H citizens to Croatia remains in force (O kanal)

 

During a video conference of border police officers of EU member states, B&H and Serbia held on Tuesday, Head of the Border Police Directorate of the Republic of Croatia Ivan Niceno stated that foreigners will not be able to enter Croatia even with a test that confirms they are negative for the Coronavirus. Representatives of the B&H Border Police asked whether citizens of countries that are not EU member states will be able to enter Croatia with passports and with a test that confirms they are negative for the Coronavirus, Niceno told them that the decision on the prohibition of entrance of B&H citizens to Croatia remains in force. This decision does not apply to those with permanent residence in Croatia or those with the Croatian citizenship or those who are in transit.

 

B&H sees another 41 Covid-19 cases, 6 more deaths (N1)

 

B&H has recorded another 41 coronavirus infections in over 1,000 tested samples, which brings the country’s total to 1,987, the healthcare authorities of the FB&H and the RS confirmed in their daily press conferences on Wednesday. With six more fatalities reported in RS, the country’s death toll now stands at 85. The FB&H authorities have tested 603 samples over the last 24 hours, with new cases registered in the western Una-Sana Canton and the central Zenica-Doboj Canton. To date, the FB&H healthcare authorities have performed 20,481 lab tests and Covid-119 was confirmed with 953 patients. The region currently counts 398 active cases, while 522 patients recovered and 33 died. Thirty-eight patients are hospitalized at the moment and three are connected to ventilators. The RS has recorded 30 new coronavirus infections and six fatalities over the last 24 hours. The patients who died were elderly suffering from other chronic diseases. Of 659 tested samples, 102 were performed at the University Clinical Centre in Banja Luka, the region’s administrative center, and all were negative. Dozens of tests were performed at other hospitals and nursing homes and they all were negative as well. So far, RS has recorded 1,015 Covid-19 patients with 391 recoveries and 48 deaths. The total of tested patients in this part of B&H is 15,479. Alen Seranic, the RS Health Minister, said the percentage of the infected patients today got back to approximately 5%, which equals to the average before the weekend when this region recorded an increase in the number of infections. The Brcko District has so far recorded 19 Covid-19 patients, three deaths and 15 recoveries.

 

Croatia’s FM: Zagreb summit to confirm European perspective of Western Balkans (Hina)

 

The European perspective, the commitment of the Western Balkan countries to the European Union and cooperation in the coronavirus crisis are the key elements of a declaration that will be adopted at the central event of the Croatian EU presidency in Zagreb on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic Radman said on Tuesday. “Cooperation in dealing with the pandemic, giving the Western Balkan countries the European perspective and these countries’ commitment to European values” are the key elements of the Zagreb Declaration, Grlic Radman told the press outside the government offices. He recalled that North Macedonia and Albania had been given the green light on their path to EU membership which he said was “a great Croatian success”. Zagreb will again host a summit on the European perspective of Southeast Europe, just as it did 20 years ago when Croatia was not yet a member of the EU. The next summit was held in Thessaloniki in 2003 and the last one took place two years ago in Sofia. The Croatian EU Presidency has proposed that summits on European integration be held every two years, Grlic Radman said. “Not all EU members are equally interested in enlargement. There is still talk of what the future will bring with new members, but Croatia has shown the initiative in this regard,” he said.

 

Croatian MEP calls for solidarity ahead of Western Balkan Summit (HRT/Avaz)

 

Croatian MEP Tonino Picula has warned that the coronavirus pandemic could push 100 million EU citizens into poverty, the Sarajevo daily Dnevni Avaz reported. Picula says the long-term economic and social impact of the pandemic is real and that it was impossible to predict the true scale of the crisis. “EU member states need a huge financial assistance package which must be paid for evenly and distributed fairly among each country. In my opinion, these funds should be gathered by member states through the issuing of joint bonds, which I have personally advocated for in European Parliament,” said Picula. With a projected fall in GDP of more than 7%, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) will certainly not be enough to finance an economic recovery and prevent people falling into poverty without EU-wide solidarity and burden sharing, Picula said. The much-anticipated videoconference of the EU-Western Balkans Summit will be a major test of solidarity for member states during the COVID-19 crisis. The conference is a key feature of Croatia’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union and is meant to lay the groundwork for further EU expansion by reaffirming the European perspective of the Western Balkans and the commitment of the Western Balkans partners to uphold European values and principles.The summit will provide an opportunity to highlight mutual solidarity and cooperation in the fight against the novel coronavirus. Partners in the region have contributed to help EU member states while the European Union has mobilized over 3.3 billion Euros to help Western Balkans deal with the crisis. EU leaders will exchange views on the new phase of close cooperation to tackle the significant socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis, the importance of regional cooperation, as well as how to best manage security challenges.

 

Grlic Radman: All those who want to return to Croatia are welcome! (HRT)

 

From the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, about 1900 Croats have been repatriated, of which more than 900 have been returned home from third countries. “Last weekend, 73 Croats from Dubai returned to Croatia to be repatriated. They landed at Zagreb Airport and among the 122 European citizens the biggest number was from Croatia,” said Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Gordan Grlic Radman, adding that the other passengers were citizens of Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Hungary. This week, a fifth convoy with 100 Croats from Northern Macedonia will arrive in Croatia, while 72 have already returned home from that country. Through coordination of the Croatian embassies in Berlin, Vienna and Ljubljana, the return of 55 more Croats was organized. The return of 38 Croatian nationals from Morocco was enabled, 23 from Tunisia, 11 from New Zealand, 10 from South Africa, 7 from the Russian Federation, 3 from Saudi Arabia, 2 from Senegal and 2 from Gabon. “All those who wish to return to Croatia are welcome,” said Minister Gordan Grlic Radman. From the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, about 1900 Croats have been repatriated, of which more than 900 have been returned home from third countries. In addition to repatriating its citizens, Croatia is also sending aid to the Western Balkan countries. Croatia has sent 1,200,000 kuna in aid to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania and Montenegro for humanitarian assistance to combat the coronavirus pandemic. “In this way, we strengthen friendship and cooperation” said the minister. “These countries of the Western Balkans will be sent protective masks, tents, blankets, bed pads and sleeping bags,” concluded Grlic Radman.

 

More than 1,600 people have recovered from the coronavirus in Croatia (HRT)

 

According to the latest report from the National Civil Protection Headquarters 7 new coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Croatia over the past 24 hours. This brings the national total to 2,119. Presenting the latest data at today’s press briefing, Health Minister Vili Beros noted that 2 coronavirus related deaths have been recorded in the past 24 hours, both males in their 90’s and with serious underlying health conditions. The total of coronavirus related deaths since the beginning of the outbreak is now 85. Minister Beros added that so far 41,053 tests have been conducted, of which 1,080 in the past 24 hours alone. 206 people are receiving treatment in hospital, of which 14 are on respirators. 18,689 people are currently in self-isolation. Since the start of the pandemic 1,601 people have achieved a full recovery, which means that of the 2,119 recorded coronavirus cases in Croatia, only 518 are currently battling the virus.

 

Djukanovic sent telegrams of condolences to Putin and Kovind (CDM)

 

President of Montenegro, Milo Djukanovic, sent telegrams of condolences to Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, and his Indian counterpart, Ram Nath Kovind, over the victims of the new coronavirus pandemic in those countries. “On behalf of the citizens of Montenegro and on my own behalf, I express my deepest condolences and sympathy with the families of the deceased and the friendly people of Russia,” it was said in a telegram sent to President Putin. The telegram sent to President Kovind says “that massive effects of the pandemic, including serious economic and social disruptions, call for an intensified international cooperation and the exchange of information and best practices in order to stop the spread of the infection and establish control.”

President Djukanovic conveyed presidents of Russia and India the best wishes for speedy recovery of the infected, expressing hope that all countries will be winners in this fight.

 

Montenegro reports no new cases of coronavirus, number of recovered cases amounts to 261 (CDM)

 

Laboratories of the Institute for Public Health have analyzed another 112 samples and found no new coronavirus cases. Number of recovered cases amounts to 261, and number of active cases is 55. Number of active cases in municipalities:

Podgorica: 29

Ulcinj: 10

Bar: 6

Gusinje: 3

Plav: 3

Tuzi: 1

Niksic: 1

Herceg Novi: 1

Bijelo Polje: 1

 

EU-Western Balkans Summit takes place today (MIA)

 

EU and Western Balkan leaders are set to hold a video conference today. Talks will focus on the support package to tackle the coronavirus crisis, MIA‘s Brussels correspondent reports. The summit in Zagreb won’t focus on enlargement to the region, EU officials said Tuesday, partly because of the sanitary crisis, and because the enlargement is discussed as part of the EU’s General Affairs Council. According to the EU Council, the EU is the most important partner of the Western Balkan region and this video conference will underline the importance of unique EU-Western Balkans relations. The EU has decided to help the region with 3.3 billion Euros solidarity support package to tackle the pandemic. The funds will be subject to very strict EU control. “I assure you that every tranche is subject to very strict audit and control mechanisms and on the slightest suspicion of misuse of funds, we’ll open an investigation that may lead to criminal prosecution. EU funds are tied to very strict conditions,” according to the EC. Even though the region was initially excluded from most funds and support mechanisms, the EU has since lifted restrictions, so as of the end of April, countries in the region are no longer required special permits to import medical equipment necessary in the fight against the coronavirus. The restrictions were largely criticized, especially in Serbia where President Aleksandar Vucic openly criticized the EU for providing less assistance to his country than China. “We’ve seen problems in communication, spread of false accusations about the friendship between the EU and the countries in the region. Leaders need to align on the messages they send and oppose the misconception of our relations,” said a high EU official ahead of Wednesday’s summit. The EU “has no doubt” that the Western Balkans are a “close partner,” and that neither China nor Russia are closer friends to the region. However, criticism also centered on the fact that the summit won’t focus on the enlargement, and the Zagreb declaration that leaders are to sign tomorrow bears no mention of enlargement, nor membership or negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania. The EU rejects such criticism. “The idea for tomorrow is to reaffirm the EU perspective of the region. We do this with our partners. The fact that a decision was reached for North Macedonia on 26 March clearly shows that the EU perspective is the main impetus for the reforms that benefit all citizens. We’ve shown that we deliver when our partners deliver. We’re not focusing on enlargement, partly because COVID-19 is the main topic, but this doesn’t mean that the process has been brought to a halt. The process will continue at the next meeting of the General Affairs Council in June, and it will see progress. We believe there’s a specific issue we need to focus on now,” said a high EU official.

 

Dimitrov: EU draft-negotiating framework expected in early June (MIA)

 

We expect the draft-negotiating framework early in June, and depending on the corona-crisis, its approval within a period of several months, followed by the first real step in the negotiating process – the intergovernmental conference, said Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov on Tuesday.

Dimitrov told an online-briefing “North Macedonia moves closer to the EU: Hard work makes history?”, organized by non-profit think-tank European Policy Centre, that he is in contact with European Commission officials, including Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi, who are working on the draft-negotiating framework. “The plan, although not carved in stone, is to produce two negotiating frameworks – for North Macedonia and Albania – together with the package of enlargement documents early in June. I believe we will then launch a political process at the level of member-states, including their views on the proposal. Depending on the pandemic circumstances, we expect that the negotiating framework is confirmed within several months, followed by the first real step in the negotiations – the intergovernmental conference,” said Dimitrov. According to him, the negotiating process is much more important for North Macedonia than the ultimate goal of EU membership, saying the country is prepared for the start of the talks that can be used as a tool for reforms towards becoming a fully functional and prosperous European democracy. “The idea is to make a real change of the system and the society. The issue of reversibility is a positive step if good reformers are acknowledged. The Government believes it is good that the reversibility mechanism is a strong tool in EU’s hands to evaluate countries that are failing to implement reforms. It is a tool for the EU to put pressure on regional governments to deliver reforms,” noted Dimitrov. He expects the new negotiating framework to differ from the one of Serbia and Montenegro, but without any major surprises. “It will incorporate clusters rather than chapters and broader areas of reforms. The first cluster will be the fundamentals with emphasis on the rule of law. I believe the Commission will invest efforts on having clearer objectives and criteria, along with clear and tangible evaluation. Member-states can be invited to nominate national experts who will help the Commission in the evaluation process. It is important for us to know that assessments on specific sections of the Council report are unconditional in our case too. I believe we will have a chance to launch the process in the coming months,” said Dimitrov. He added that the EU solidarity and assistance during the corona-crisis has shown the country is treated as if a member-state. “Judging from the statements by the European Commission President and other EU officials, I have the feeling there is a clear acknowledgment that the region will be a part of the EU and the virus cannot be beaten in the Union if the countries that are surrounded by member-states are not doing the same,” said Dimitrov. On the draft-declaration of the EU-Western Balkans Summit in Zagreb, he said it confirmed the region’s Euro-perspective. “Maybe it would have been better if it offered something more specific on the enlargement process. A clearer political language and signal would have been especially welcome for our region. Still, this will not be a demotivating factor, we will work on the reforms and it will be quite difficult for member-states not to recognize this progress,” underlined Dimitrov.

 

Dimitrov: Impossible to build friendship if challenging neighbor’s identity (MIA/Telma TV)

 

Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov says it is impossible to build friendship if you challenge the neighbor’s identity while commenting on Bulgaria’s request to omit the Macedonian language and the Macedonian minority from the EU negotiating framework. Dimitrov told Telma TV that language is not an issue of recognition by states and no one can deny the right to self-determination and self-expression in the 21st century, especially in Europe. “The 1999 political declaration – Macedonian language in accordance with the Constitution and Bulgarian language in accordance with the Constitution – is used as a language clause in all bilateral agreements. It is also part of the Friendship Treaty. Bulgaria refers to the language clause existing in bilateral relations and it is important to explain it is fully symmetrical and reciprocal. Both languages have the same position in communication,” says Dimitrov. He says the Macedonian identity and language cannot be negotiated, especially after the signing of the Prespa Agreement, but also because North Macedonia cannot give up on those two essential aspects. “We need both the Macedonian language and the Macedonian identity. They cannot be negotiated, especially after the Prespa Agreement that has closed the process of our UN accession. Our identity card in the UN incorporates, among other things, the Macedonian language. A language is not an issue of recognition by countries. In international law, states recognize other states and governments. But in 21st-century Europe one cannot deny the right of self-expression and self-determination. The Macedonian language is our business,” says Dimitrov. He also refers to the first intergovernmental conference, which requires Bulgaria’s consent as an EU member. “All EU-level political statements refer to the European values. It would be unthinkable if the process of European integration is some kind of an identity challenge for a country that is part of Europe. We have been a candidate for 15 years, we got the ‘green light’ on March 26, with the support of Bulgaria, which presented its viewpoints on the issue in the minutes of the meeting. Our task is now to come to an understanding that one cannot touch something sacred – language and identity – and to build a joint future. Moreover, the shared history should not divide us but bring us closer. It will be very hard, it will require a lot of work and wisdom. It is impossible to build friendship if you challenge the neighbor’s identity. If Bulgaria’s long-term objective is to be close with North Macedonia, this current challenge moves us further away,” underlines Dimitrov.

 

Zaev: Elections in mid-June if possible (MIA)

 

As responsible politicians we must have clear and precise positions based on arguments. We must be responsible to the state and grab the first chance for elections. The optimum date would be mid-June. There is sufficient time to complete the preparations after the state of emergency expires, if the coronavirus situation allows for this and health experts decide accordingly, says SDSM leader Zoran Zaev. Zaev said that the elections should take place at the earliest date also because of the possibility of a second COVID-19 peak, absence of a functional parliament, and a caretaker government instead of a political one. On the leaders’ meeting, he says it would be held in the period between 10-15 May, with SDSM reiterating its request – urgent elections. Zaev says opposition leader Mickoski should not run away from elections, which he would surely lose. Regarding Election Day, he says it would be administered in accordance with recommendation for protection – wearing of masks and using disinfectants when entering and leaving the polling stations. “We might have different positions, but the interest of the state comes first. Urgent elections is the best option for the country. There is sufficient time to present our programs and candidates. This is our task, and it is up to citizens to decide,” notes Zaev.

He says it is late to hold the elections in mid-July, as Mickoski claimed earlier in the same TV program, because of the health and economic crisis. The SDSM leader warns that the four-year term of the MPs expires on 11 December followed by a constitutional crisis that can be managed only through a state of war. “The term can be extended by the President, but only during a state of war. That is why we say that elections should be held as soon as possible. The election process has been frozen and can resume from there. The candidate lists have been submitted, the diaspora issue is closed, as are other procedures, while insight into the Voters List has been interrupted. About 30 days are needed according to the laws and the Constitution – 20 days for campaigning, five days for additional insight into the Voters List and subsequent complaints. ODIHR has also said it is prepared to send its observation mission,” underlined Zaev.

 

Mickoski: Elections in mid-July at the earliest (MIA/TV 24)

 

The leaders’ meeting hosted by President Stevo Pendarovski will take place on 12 May, VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski tells TV 24 and says now is not the time for elections but for mitigating the effects of the coronavirus pandemic both from a health and economic aspect. “I have no doubts that VMRO-DPMNE will convincingly beat SDSM whenever they take place, by a double-digit margin” says Mickoski. He adds that elections should not be held now because the country is in the midst of pandemic and “it is not right to have a campaign while counting new infections and possibly deaths.” According to him, another problem is Election Day, which could be a risk for a repeated rise in infections. In addition, a program drafted in January, i.e. prior to the pandemic, cannot be used for the elections. “The program was developed for the April elections, but economic trends have now changed and we need a new program incorporating new capital projects, investments,” notes Mickoski. The opposition leader says the elections could take place in mid-July at the earliest, since the State Election Commission needs 50-60 days to prepare for the polls even if the state of emergency is not extended beyond16  May. Mickoski expects the leaders’ meeting to focus primarily on the current developments related to the health and economic crisis, without excluding the issue of elections. VMRO-DPMNE remains on its position that reconvening the parliament would be unconstitutional, because “MPs have returned their mandate to the citizens”.

 

Osmani: Start of accession negotiations in 2020 to put European integration in spotlight (MIA)

 

The content of the negotiating framework and the European Commission Progress Report, and the EU-North Macedonia cooperation in managing the coronavirus pandemic and its consequences were in the focus of discussions during a video-call of Deputy PM for European Affairs Bujar Osmani with EC Director-General for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Christian Danielsson. “It is a great success for the Union and North Macedonia to ensure consensus for the start of accession negotiations during the peak of the coronavirus crisis. On behalf of the Government, let me extend my gratitude to the Directorate and you personally for the persistence and personal engagement in this regard,” said Osmani. He voiced satisfaction from the cooperation with the Union in the pandemic management efforts and North Macedonia’s involvement in all Union activities and policies in this regard. “We expect the Commission to produce the negotiating framework at the onset of June, which together with the Report, will represent an objective picture of the state of play in the country, as well as the country’s needs for achievement of essential progress towards EU membership,” added Osmani.

The Deputy PM noted that North Macedonia’s ambition is to hold the first intergovernmental conference and launch the bilateral screening this year, so that the country is fully committed to the Union negotiations, the Secretariat for European Affairs said in a press release.

Macedonia continues to be considered a hybrid regime in transit, according to the latest Freedom House report (Republika)

 

Despite little progress in the areas of independent media and the electoral process, the Macedonia remains considered a hybrid regime in transit, according to a recent Freedom House report entitled “Nations in Transit.” The report notes that democracy has declined across the region, and as stated in the report, there are fewer democracies today than at any point since the annual report was launched in 1995 – out of a total of 29 countries, 10 at the time were considered democracies, 10 hybrid regimes and 9 authoritarian regimes. And now, 25 years later, 6 countries are considered democracies (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia), 4 – semi-consolidated democracies (Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia), 10 are considered hybrid regimes (Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hungary, Serbia, Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo), one country is considered a semi-consolidated authoritarian regime (Armenia) and 8 countries are considered consolidated authoritarian regimes (Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan). According to the report, Kosovo and Macedonia are the only countries in the region that have made progress compared to last year’s report (Macedonia’s progress is 1 percent), but they still belong to the category of hybrid regimes. Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina fall into the same category, while Croatia is the only country in the region to be considered a semi-consolidated democracy.

In Macedonia 13 new COVID-19 cases, 44 patients recover, 2 died (Republika)

 

Thirteen new COVID-19 cases have been registered in Macedonia in the past 24 hours, 2 patients have died, while 44 recovered, the Ministry of Health said on Wednesday. Of the recovered, in Skopje – 5, Kumanovo – 12, Prilep – 9, Veles – 12, Bitola – 2, Kavadarci – 1, Krusevo – 1, and Negotino – 2. A 55-year-old patient from Prilep, hospitalized on April 22, who was on ventilator for 13 days, died at the “8 September” clinic. A patient hospitalized on May 4 as suspicious Covid-19 case, whose swab postmortem showed the presence of the virus, died at the hospital in Bitola. In the past 24 hours 292 tests were performed and 13 people tested positive for COVID-19. Of these in Kumanovo-1, Prilep-3, Tetovo-3, Veles-5 and Bitola-1. This brings the tally of coronavirus patients in Macedonia to 1,539. The total number of recovered patients is 1057. Fatalities now stand at 88, whereas the number of active cases in the country is 394.

 

Rama: The justice reform brought the opening of accession negotiations with EU (Radio Tirana)

 

Prime Minister Edi Rama stated today that the success of the justice reform brought the opening of negotiations with the European Union. Speaking about justice reform, Rama said that “we are in the process of continuing an operation of a rotten mechanism of the justice system.” “Precisely because justice reform has shone, at least so far as we speak, EU member states have decided to open negotiations with Albania,” Rama said. During the TV interview, the Prime Minister said that it does not turn out that the justice reform that was applied in Albania, will not be applied in other countries.

 

President deeply concerned by conclusions of ‘Freedom House’ Report (ADN)

 

President of the Republic, Ilir Meta has expressed deep concern in regard to the “Freedom House” report published this Wednesday. The deterioration of indicators for the level of democracy, the decline in governance and the electoral process requires a reflection and response from all, said President Meta. He added that it is high time for an immediate resurgence and for a new trajectory of democracy, in order to meet conditions, set by EU as soon as possible.

“The deterioration of indicators for the level of democracy, the decline in governance and the electoral process requires a reflection and response from all. The conclusion in the report that: ‘From Tirana to Tbilisi, those in power are not interested in making parliament the place for discussion’ is a strong alarm bell. It is high time for an immediate resurgence and for a new trajectory of democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights, in order to meet the conditions set by the European Union as soon as possible, in order to fully integrate the country without any further delay,” emphasized Meta.

 

Albania’s democracy in decline; Freedom House (ADN)

 

Albania’s democracy is in decline, according to the latest report of Freedom House where country is classified as partly free with a hybrid regime. When people dislike the direction, an institution is moving in, they have two choices, according to economist Albert Hirschman: they can voice their concerns, or they can leave. When people make the first choice over the second, Hirschman argues, it is because they feel a sense of loyalty to the institution. This paradigm helps explain why the institution of parliament functions, and when it does not. In a functioning parliament, the opposition may not like what the ruling majority is doing, but because it accepts that parliament is the right place to register its dislike, it continues to participate in debating and voting. However, this loyalty is not without limits. If the ruling majority refuses to engage with it, the opposition is no longer motivated to voice its concerns inside the parliament. So, it leaves” says the report. Increasingly, the second scenario is coming to pass in countries surveyed by Nations in Transit including Albania. In 2019, the opposition in 4 of the 29 countries (Albania, Bulgaria, Montenegro, and Serbia) surveyed, according to the report, boycotted parliament altogether, while a brief parliamentary boycott took place in a fifth country, Georgia, in early 2020. The underlying conditions for these walkouts can be observed more widely across the region, as ruling parties took steps to marginalize the opposition in Freedom House describes the situation of democracy in Albania as follows: “The opposition demanded fresh elections after an investigation revealed that the governing Socialist Party had enlisted the help of organized crime networks in the 2017 vote that brought it to power. Undeterred, the Socialists have put off electoral reforms while working to stifle the country’s media and proceeding with plans to oust the president.” The report then details how the Opposition boycotted local elections but the Socialist Party “pressed ahead with local elections…leaving voters with no meaningful choice.”

Dropping from 3.89 to 3.82 in 2019 Albania is considered a ‘hybrid regime’. It received particularly bad scores for its judicial framework and independence (3.25) and corruption (2.75). It also got less than satisfactory results for national democratic governance (3.25), and independent media (3.75). In terms of its position among its Western Balkan neighbors, it was surpassed by Croatia (4.25), Montenegro (3.86), and Serbia (3.96). Its overall score of 3.82 is the median for the region. The median score for Central Europe is 5.4, falling to 1.39 in Eurasia.

 

Latest update on COVID-19 situation in Albania (Radio Tirana)

 

During the last 24 hours, 12 new positive cases have been identified from the testing of 255 people suspected of being carriers of COVID-19.  Most of them are contacts of previously confirmed cases and found by epidemiological investigation. Today’s positive cases are distributed in Fier 3 people, 3 in Kruja, 3 in Kamza, 2 in Shkodra and 1 case in Tirana. With the increase of today’s cases, the number of people affected by Covid-19 goes to 832. The news is announced by the Ministry of Health and Social Protection in the daily update. Meanwhile, in two COVID hospitals, the infectious disease hospital and the “Shefqet Ndroqi” hospital, 36 patients are currently hospitalized and only 8 of them are in intensive care. The rest are being followed up by the family doctor or are asymptomatic. The Ministry of Health and Social Protection appeals to citizens to continue to respect the measures recommended by the health authorities, especially physical distancing as one of the most effective means of preventing infection. Open businesses must also strictly adhere to security protocols, protect public health and prevent the spread of infection.

 

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

 

EU focuses on Western Balkans despite coronavirus pandemic (DW, by Darko Janjevic, Bernd Riegert, 6 May 2020)

 

A high-profile summit between EU leaders and the heads of six west Balkan states has been moved online due to the pandemic. But the virus has only boosted the bloc’s ties to the region, the EU’s Oliver Varhelyi told DW.

The heads of all 27 EU nations are set to discuss EU expansion and the the bloc’s political and economical involvement in the western Balkans  with their counterparts from Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Albania, North Macedonia, Kosovo, and Montenegro on Wednesday. The leaders had been set to meet Croatia, the last country from the region to join the EU in 2013. The ongoing pandemic, however, canceled the high-profile summit in Zagreb and forced the politicians to communicate via a video-conference instead. Speaking to DW ahead of the talks, EU Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi said that the decision to hold the talks amid the pandemic was a signal that “we mean business” when it comes to the western Balkans. “We take the western Balkans as a European priority,” he said. The coronavirus pandemic “strengthened” the EU’s commitment to the region, he told DW’s Bernd Riegert. “If you look at what we have been doing and delivering in the Western Balkans what you will see is that we have provided help on the ground immediately to each and every single country,” Varhelyi added.

 

China delivers aid before the EU

Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Albania, North Macedonia, Kosovo, and Montenegro all aspire to join the bloc and their countries are economically and politically dependent on Brussels’ support. However, their leaders are also willing to publicly berate Brussels in order to score political points at home. In turn, the EU is keen to counter the influences of Russia, China, and Turkey in the region which it sees as its interest zone, but many of its politicians are less than enthusiastic about actually incorporating the impoverished and war-torn countries into the bloc. Notably, Serbian strongman Aleksandar Vucic slammed the EU in mid-March for the lack of aid, saying that “European solidarity doesn’t exist – it was a fairy tale [written] on paper.” Instead, he directly addressed China’s Xi Jinping, calling him “a friend and a brother” and asking for help from Beijing. China was happy to respond and beat the EU to the punch 1 the first pandemic-related aid to reach Serbia came from Chinese humanitarian Mammoth Foundation. Russia also sent out aid to its traditional ally in the early stages of the pandemic. Moscow and Beijing also delivered aid to Bosnia & Herzegovina. When asked about Vucic’s criticism, EU’s Varhelyi noted that the Serbian president has since clearly acknowledged the EU’s contribution.

“I think that that is all behind us,” he said. “And help is help — even if it is criticized, help is there.”

 

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