Albanian Language Media:
- Thaci on EU-WB summit: I asked for visa liberalisation, recognition of Kosovo (media)
- Von der Leyen: Regional cooperation key for Western Balkans’ economic recovery (KP/Indeksonline)
- Veseli: EU-WB summit left a bleak enlargement perspective (media)
- Mustafa: Border change is in our hands, not in that of Grenell, Borrell or Lajcak (media)
- Beyer slams Borrell: Germany is against change of borders (express, media)
- Serwer: An agreement for exchange of territories and people is being prepared, Borrell is moving in that direction (Express)
Serbian Language Media:
- North Kosovo: No newly infected, two people cured (Kontakt plus radio)
- Vucic: Serbia confirmed determination to join EU at Zagreb summit (RTS, N1)
- “Serbia is part of the ‘Europe team'” (Tanjug, B92)
- EU confirms support for Western Balkans’ European perspective (N1)
- EBRD chief announces more finances for Western Balkans (Beta, N1)
- Vucic calls for lifting of trade barriers for Western Balkans (N1)
- The state of emergency in Serbia has been lifted (B92, Tanjug)
- Wreaths laid at Chinese Embassy old location in Belgrade in memory of 1999 bombing (BETA, N1)
- China’s Balkan Investments Are Paradoxically Speeding Region’s EU Integration (Balkan Insight)
- A constitutional battle with far-reaching political consequences (Prishtina Insight)
- Kosovo Albanian Woman Charged With Joining IS Terror Group (The New York Times)
- A Woman’s Work is Never Done (Kosovo 2.0)
Albanian Language Media
Thaci on EU-WB summit: I asked for visa liberalisation, recognition of Kosovo (media)
President of Kosovo said at a news conference following his participation at the EU-Western Balkans summit that took place yesterday that all leaders spoke about the importance of continuing the fight against the Covid-19 and that in his remarks he said that thanks to healthcare institutions, Kosovo has a low number of victims from the pandemic.
Thaci thanked Croatia, as the host of the summit, for providing the opportunity for Kosovo to be represented as an equal to the rest of the Western Balkans countries.
“I emphasized as president that Kosovo as the most pro-European country deserves a more swift and decisive treatment from the EU, especially concerning the need for liberalisation. This delay only weakens Kosovo’s trust. In my remarks, I called on EU member states to move forward more quickly and urgently on this matter,” Thaci said adding that he also called on five EU member states that have not recognised Kosovo to do so.
Thaci refused to comment on the statements of the EU High Representative Josep Borrell about the idea of border changes as part of the final Kosovo-Serbia agreement saying: “Kosovo is an independent and sovereign country recognised by the majority of EU states. Dialogue should continue between two sovereign countries and this reality cannot be changed by anyone. I am not here to comment on statements of this or that official.”
He was also asked by reporters to comment on the letter that the acting Prime Minister Albin Kurti sent to the U.S. Vice President Mike Pence where he is reported to have said that Thaci has been misinforming Richard Grenell, the U.S. presidential envoy for Kosovo-Serbia negotiations. Thaci said that Kurti can choose to write to anyone he wants but that the U.S. knows the reality in Kosovo.
Von der Leyen: Regional cooperation key for Western Balkans’ economic recovery (KP/Indeksonline)
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said at the EU-Western Balkans summit yesterday that regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations are key for the region’s economic recovery.
“The Western Balkans are our privileged partners given our unequivocal commitment to their European perspective,” she said.
Von der Leyen stressed that once the threat of the coronavirus pandemic is over, the EU will launch an economic and investment plan aimed at longer term recovery and that concrete reforms particularly in the area of the rule of law and the fight against corruption, on the functioning of the democratic institutions and public administration.
“The EU enlargement policy is one of the most successful EU policies that has spread peace, security and prosperity across the continent and will be to the benefit of the Western Balkans and the European Union,” von der Leyen said.
Veseli: EU-WB summit left a bleak enlargement perspective (media)
Leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) Kadri Veseli hailed yesterday’s EU-Western Balkans summit, hosted by Croatian presidency, thanking the EU for the ‘generous’ support for efforts in battling the coronavirus pandemic.
However, he said it was regrettable that Kosovo was paying a price because of five EU member states refusing to recognise its independence. “Our citizens have remained the only ones not able to travel without visas to the Schengen zone despite the fact that Kosovo has fulfilled all required criteria years ago,” Veseli wrote on Facebook.
“This summit also left a bleak enlargement perspective for the countries in the region but this should not discourage us from continuing European integration reforms because this, at the end of the day, is about achieving standards serving primarily to the interest of our citizens.”
Mustafa: Border change is in our hands, not in that of Grenell, Borrell or Lajcak (media)
Leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) Isa Mustafa said that no one can change Kosovo’s borders unless Kosovo wants to on its own accord.
“It is not Grenell or Borrell or even Lajcak that can change borders and exchange territories. It is therefore not right to justify our lack of courage to enter dialogue with the danger of Kosovo’s ‘butchering’. We need to have faith in the U.S. and the EU and to trust in Kosovo. This is the only approach to dialogue,” Mustafa wrote on Facebook.
He added: “Kosovo has declared independence in this territory and under these borders; this is also stated in the Declaration of Independence. Therefore, we have no reason to open this subject, because we would be opening the topic of our country’s independence which has been closed with the International Court of Justice’s opinion. At the same time, we should not fear dialogue. We should dialogue to make sure that Serbia recognises us under these borders and this territory, join the UN and be recognised by five EU states and gain NATO membership.”
Beyer slams Borrell: Germany is against change of borders (express, media)
The rapporteur for Kosovo at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Peter Beyer, said in an exclusive interview with gazetaexpress news portal that the borders between Kosovo and Serbia should not be touched. Beyer, who is a member of the German Bundestag from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU, said Germany’s position remains unchanged on the idea of changing borders.
The German MP also said that the only task on the negotiating table between Kosovo and Serbia remains a comprehensive, legally binding agreement for both sides. He further said that Germany in coordination with European partners should play a key role in the dialogue process.
Asked about the recent statement of the EU High Representative Josep Borrell that he is not against change of the border as long as Kosovo and Serbia agree on it, Beyer said ‘I am not aware of Mr. Borrell’s interview. In any situation, our position remains unchanged. No touching of the borders between Serbia and Kosovo, full stop. No one should live under the illusion that Germany can change position here. It will not happen. It is clear that publicly presenting such an idea is in contradiction with the interests of peace and stability throughout the Western Balkans region. It is also not helpful to occasionally throw old or new ideas into public debate. Focusing on the process of normalisation for the purpose of a legally binding, comprehensive agreement remains a task on the table. There is no news there.”
Asked how he sees the role of the U.S. Presidential Envoy on the talks between Kosovo and Serbia Richard Grenell, Beyer stressed that the United States of America is a close ally both to Germany and Kosovo. He also stressed that the U.S. and Germany are among the earliest recognisers of Kosovo as a sovereign and independent state.
“There is a frequent exchange of experiences, ideas and political approaches between the U.S. and Germany regarding the Western Balkans. The United States certainly understands that the integration and acceptance of the Western Balkan countries into the European Union is of paramount importance and a genuine European issue. Only the European Union can help overcome political and historical challenges and pave the way for membership in the European Union,” he said.
Beyer also called on Kosovo’s political leaders to manage the current political crisis and to be led by reason and responsibility. “Riots in the streets and at the Assembly seen in the past, should not happen.”
Asked if he considers the EU should liberalise visas for Kosovo people, Beyer said that visa liberalization is delayed and that he feels ashamed that the EU has not acted in this context.
Serwer An agreement for exchange of territories and people is being prepared, Borrell is moving in that direction (Express)
The U.S. expert on Western Balkans Daniel Serwer told Gazeta Express news portal that lack of exclusion of the idea for exchange of territories between Kosovo and Serbia by the EU High Representative Josep Borrell, is dangerous and insincere.
“Borell is adopting Grenell’s line, which is insincere and dangerous. Insincere, because he knows very well that President Thaci and Vucic are cooking an exchange of people and territories on ethnic grounds, which is unprecedented in the post-Cold War period and violates the basic principle on which most wars in the Balkans had started,” Serwer said.
He further said that such an approach by Borrell is dangerous because a possible border move would cause a domino effect and destabilization within Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and North Macedonia.
“It will also strengthen Putin’s position within Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. “Borrell needs to be more concerned about what it means for Catalonia to redraw borders to accommodate linguistic / ethnic differences,” Serwer said
“Fortunately, Germany has been clear and unanimous in its principled opposition to the exchange of territories and peoples based on ethnic lines. But Merkel is leaving, and no one knows who will follow her,” Serwer told Gazeta Express.
Serbian Language Media
North Kosovo: No newly infected, two people cured (Kontakt plus radio)
In the last 24 hours, no new cases of Covid-19 have been registered in the north of Kosovo, and two people have been cured, said today Dr. Aleksandar Antonijevic, an epidemiology specialist from the Institute of Public Health in North Mitrovica, reports Kontakt plus radio.
Two people who were cured of Covid-19 are from Zvecan.
“We are in a good situation, because according to the results that have been recorded in recent days, there are less and less persons infected with the coronavirus. Together, we overcame the most difficult and now we need to slowly start with the relaxation of the introduced measures,” said Dr. Antonijevic.
Danica Radomirovic, the head of the infectious department of the Clinical Hospital Center (KBC) in North Mitrovica, said that there were five patients with a mild and moderate clinical picture in that department.
So far, a total of 110 people have fallen ill with Covid-19 in Serb areas in Kosovo, nine have died and 76 have been cured.
By municipalities, in North Mitrovica there are 43 patients with Covid-19 (three died, 31 cured), in Zvecan 25 (one died, 20 cured), in Zubin Potok 21 (one died, 16 cured) and in Leposavic 21 (four died, nine cured).
The Student Center in Kosovska Mitrovica accommodates 19 patients with mild clinical imaging, while the Mitrovica KBC accommodates five patients with moderate clinical imaging.
One patient with Covid-19 is in Kragujevac Clinic.
Vucic: Serbia confirmed determination to join EU at Zagreb summit (RTS, N1)
President Aleksandar Vucic told public broadcaster RTS that Serbia has confirmed its determination to become a member of the European Union at the Zagreb summit.
“We want less talks on perspective and more about the expansion process. Serbia wants to be in the EU and we want to get a concrete answer,” Vucic said, adding that three issues dominated the video conference – economic recovery after the coronavirus pandemic, continuing reforms and the expansion process.
He also said that at the summit a coordinated and strong support was extended to the EU’s special envoy for Belgrade-Pristina dialogue Miroslav Lajcak.
“There was strong support expressed to Lajcak, and I underscored that we respect him and look forward to the continuation of dialogue, that we want a compromise solution. However, for us it is very difficult and we do not accept blackmails from Pristina that could be heard today – that the dialogue makes sense only if Serbia recognizes Kosovo. You enter the dialogue ‘bona fides’ with the best intention to talk, and you can’t say in advance what the content of it would be,” Vucic told RTS.
Vucic also noted that the German Chancellor Angela Merkel the vast part of her speech dedicated to Belgrade-Pristina relations.
Asked to comment on the statements that EU High Representative Josep Borrell made ahead of the summit, that he would not interfere and would not object to the correction of borders, if Belgrade and Pristina agree on that, Vucic responded that “he has no idea” what the solution would be.
“Serbia is part of the ‘Europe team'” (Tanjug, B92)
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen claims EU-WB Summit proves that the Western Balkans is an absolute EU priority and its “privileged partner”
She stated that Serbia was “part of the Europe team” which collected over 4 billion dollars for the fight against COVID-19.
“Western Balkans belong to the EU and no one in the EU questions this. I firmly believe that the EU has a special responsibility to help its partners in the region,” von der Leyen said.
After the video summit held with the leaders of the EU and the Western Balkans, Ursula von der Leyen emphasized that the EU showed clear solidarity with the region during the Covid-19 pandemic.
She also thanked the region for its assistance offered to the EU.
“At the global donor conference, we collected 8 billion dollars, of which more than 4 billion dollars came from the “Europe team”, of which Serbia was a part, with a donation of 2 million euros. It’s a strong and clear message”, von der Leyen said.
The President of the European Commission says that the EU has mobilized 3.3 billion euros to support the region in the health sector as well as in eliminating the socio-economic consequences of the pandemic and helping small and medium enterprises.
She adds that during the pandemic, the EU included the Western Balkans in initiatives intended only for member states, and assessed that this is proof that the Western Balkans is a “privileged partner” and that it has unequivocal EU support for its European perspective.
Ursula von der Leyen said the EU would come up with an economic investment plan after the pandemic aimed at long-term economic recovery, focusing on transport, energy infrastructure, green transformation of the economy and digital transition.
“Once we put behind us this immediate phase of the pandemic, the EU will present the investment plan later this year – it will focus on necessary transport and energy infrastructure, but also Green new deal and digitalization”, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen stated during the press conference.
“Regional cooperation and good neighborly relations are the key to the economic recovery of the region. We in Europe know this very well because our single market is our strength. We want the Western Balkans to move closer to the EU single market and to benefit from it,” von der Leyen said.
She called on the authorities in the region to continue with the reform processes, especially in the area of the rule of law, the fight against corruption, the functioning of democratic institutions and public administration.
“The EU wants to see clear evidence in the fight against corruption and organized crime”, von der Leyen said, adding that free press, which is the cornerstone of democracy, is of particular importance when it comes to EU values.
She emphasized that the new methodology of accession negotiations enables countries that show better results in reforms to move faster in accession negotiations.
“Enlargement policy is one of the most successful EU policies that has expanded peace, prosperity and stability on the continent. I am convinced that it will bring benefit both to the EU and the Western Balkans,” von der Leyen concluded.
EU confirms support for Western Balkans’ European perspective (N1)
The European Union confirmed its support for the European perspective of the Western Balkans in the declaration issued after the EU-Western Balkans Zagreb summit via video conference on Wednesday, N1 reports.
“The EU once again reaffirms its unequivocal support for the European perspective of the Western Balkans. The Western Balkans partners reiterated their commitment to the European perspective as their firm strategic choice,” the declaration said.
The EU also reiterated its “strong solidarity with our partners in the context of the coronavirus crisis … which calls for unity and solidarity” and recognized the valuable support that the Western Balkans provided to its neighbors during the pandemic.
The EU said that it is determined to intensify its engagement at all levels to support the region’s political, economic and social transformation and welcomed the commitment of the regional countries to uphold European values and principles and carry out necessary reforms thoroughly and vigorously. “Increased EU assistance will be linked to tangible progress in the rule of law and in socio-economic reforms,” it said.
“We have reaffirmed and reconfirmed the position of the European perspective for the Western Balkans. It is important to continue the reforms, the rule of law, the democratic values, the fight against corruption – they are essential”, European Council President Charles Michel told a news conference after the summit. “Once we put behind us this immediate phase of the pandemic, the EU will present an investment plan later this year,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen added.
The declaration said that greater effort will be invested against disinformation and other activities aimed at undermining the region’s European perspective. “Once we exit the immediate measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, a new phase of close cooperation to tackle the significant socio-economic impact of the crisis will follow,” it said and called the European Commission to come up with a robust economic and investment plan for the region to boost the economies while improving their competitiveness, to better connect them within the region and with the EU.
The declaration also pledged better cooperation on core security issues, including the development of regional cooperation instruments based on EU tools and frameworks, warned that attention has to be focus on countering terrorism and extremism, human trafficking, the illegal drug and arms trade and money laundering.
The EU will continue its support to the region in dealing with the migrant issue, including improving reception capacities and expects a further deepening of cooperation on Common Foreign and Security Policy, the declaration said and called for progress towards full alignment with EU foreign policy positions.
EBRD chief announces more finances for Western Balkans (Beta, N1)
European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) President Suma Chakrabarti said on Wednesday that the EBRD is planning to significantly increase its funding for the Western Balkans to help the region deal with the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking at the European Union – Western Balkans online summit, the EBRD chief said that the bank will combine its financial resources with grants from its EU partners and added that the finances for the Western Balkans are expected to rise to 1.7 billion Euro in 2020.
He said that the EBRD will focus on micro, small and medium-sized enterprises and the financing of trade, energy infrastructure, a bank press release said, adding that the EBRD will invest in growth and new jobs to help the recovery.
The EBRD will also focus on improving the efficiency and transparency of the public administration, developing competitive and inclusive economies, speeding up the transition to a green economy and promoting regional cooperation.
Vucic calls for lifting of trade barriers for Western Balkans (N1)
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told an online European People’s Party meeting on Wednesday that trade barriers, protective measures and quotas should be lifted for the entire Western Balkan region, a press release said.
He is quoted as thanking the European Union for its help during the coronavirus pandemic and calling the EPP member parties to show solidarity. Speaking about Serbia’s dissatisfaction with the lack of solidarity at the start of the pandemic, Vucic said that actions speak louder than words and added that “Serbia has demonstrated its affiliation to the EU by sending aid to member states and the countries of the region”.
The press release quoted EPP President Donald Tusk as saying that he understands the anger of some member states over the lack of EU solidarity during the pandemic, adding that there was a lot of misinformation aimed at dividing us.
The press release from Vucic’s cabinet said that European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen thanked the countries of the Western Balkans for their aid and engagement during the pandemic.
See at: https://bit.ly/2SIg1wQ
The state of emergency in Serbia has been lifted (B92, Tanjug)
Serbian Parliament adopted the proposal on the abolition of the state of emergency in Serbia yesterday.
155 MPs voted for the Government’s proposal on abolition. No MP was against the proposal, one MP abstained and one did not vote.
The proposal to lift the state of emergency was adopted after a full-day debate in parliament. MPs also adopted the Law on the Validity of the Regulation which the Government of Serbia, with the co-signature of the President of the Republic, passed during the state of emergency and which was confirmed by the National Assembly.
Eleven ordinances that were valid during the state of emergency were repealed, and they refer to the organization of work, part of tax measures, the forms of indebtedness, and participation in criminal proceedings.
On May 11, the competent election commissions will issue resolutions on the continuation of electoral activities.
Even after the abolition of the state of emergency, certain measures due to the coronavirus epidemic are still in force in the Republic of Serbia.
Just as a reminder, the state of emergency in Serbia was declared on March 15, and this was the second session of the Serbian Parliament since the state of emergency was introduced.
The Assembly of Serbia confirmed this decision on April 29, as well as the Law on Confirmation of Decrees, which the government, with the co-signature of the President, passed during the state of emergency. At that time, the decrees were confirmed, 12 of them that refer to the measures introduced during the state of emergency.
Wreaths laid at Chinese Embassy old location in Belgrade in memory of 1999 bombing (BETA, N1)
The Chinese Ambassador to Serbia Chen Bo and Serbian Labour Minister Zoran Djordjevic observed a minute of silence and laid wreaths at the old location of the Chinese Embassy where three Chinese reporters died when NATO bomb hit the building during the 1999 bombing of the-then Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SRJ), BETA news agency reports.
“We’ll come here every year to pay tribute and remind of what happened, hoping something like that won’t happen to anyone anywhere ever again,” Djordjevic said.
Ambassador Chen Bo thanked those present for coming every year to honor the killed journalists, adding China had condemned the “bombing of Serbia and the barbaric bombing of the Chinese embassy on May 7, 1999.”
At the time, it was said that NATO bombed the embassy by mistake.
In the meantime, the Association of Journalists of Serbia (UNS) suggested that an award was established carrying names of the killed Chinese journalists.
See at: https://bit.ly/2WzUSWz
China’s Balkan Investments Are Paradoxically Speeding Region’s EU Integration (Balkan Insight)
If the EU suddenly seems more interested than it was in integrating the Western Balkans, it is partly because the expansion into the region by large regional powers such as China has got Brussels worried.
It is unsurprising that the region of the Western Balkans, tucked away in the southeast corner of Europe, has become fertile ground for the expansion of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, BRI. China’s long-term political and economic strategy encompasses developing a series of intercontinental land and maritime routes around the globe, funding multiple infrastructure projects, and strengthening economic, political and cultural ties with more than 60 countries across Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
Many of the overland routes being integrated into the BRI framework are not dissimilar to those that were once part of the ancient “Silk Road” from centuries ago.
See at: https://bit.ly/2SLaLbH
A constitutional battle with far-reaching political consequences (Prishtina Insight)
The Constitutional Court is gearing up for a monumental decision over the legality of the president’s attempts to form a government, but its outcome could push Kosovo politics into binary choices and to a potential point of no return, Blerim Vela writes for Prishtina Insight.
An unprecedented political and institutional showdown is unfolding in Kosovo while the coronavirus crisis continues, and like any good political thriller in the Balkans, its plot is set to take a number of Machiavellian twists and turns before the year is out.
See at: https://bit.ly/2WyN1ZB
Kosovo Albanian Woman Charged With Joining IS Terror Group (The New York Times)
PRISTINA, Kosovo — Kosovo prosecutors on Wednesday filed terrorism charges against an ethnic Albanian woman who allegedly joined a terror group in Syria.
The special prosecutors’ office said the suspect, identified only as D.D., left Kosovo in October 2014 to go to a Syrian city after crossing through North Macedonia and Turkey.
There it said she joined her husband, a fighter with the Islamic State group, who trained her how to use a weapon and made her part of their logistics group.
See at: https://nyti.ms/3doJN1l
A Woman’s Work is Never Done (Kosovo 2.0)
Unpaid labor intensifies during COVID-19 response.
As the hands of the clock tick around to seven on the white wall clock, Aida Jamini abruptly opens her eyes. The rays of spring sunshine file in through her window and the alarm has already been snoozed multiple times to ensure the interruption of intensive dreaming.
Aida gets up quickly, with a small piece of paper listing items that she’s jotted down the night before, and heads straight out to the supermarket.
By 8:30 she’s back in her small apartment in the quiet Ulpiana neighborhood in the center of Prishtina with her shoulders and arms loaded with heavy bags. She cannot afford to be caught with bare shelves that now contain everything from groceries to face masks and hand sanitizer.
See at: https://bit.ly/35CjT7O