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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, May 8, 2020

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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, May 8, 2020

Albanian Language Media:

• EU: Kosovo remains a condition for Serbia’s membership (Arberesh.info)
• The quarantine at students’ center will last seven instead of 14 days (Klan)
• Patient succumbs to coronavirus at Prishtina Hospital (media)
• UNDP and Luxembourg donate 5,000 Covid-19 test kits (media)
• Orlando: We hope visa liberalization for Kosovo will soon be a reality (Klan)
• LDK addresses the Constitutional Court (RTK)

Serbian Language Media:

• Two new cases of Covid-19 infection in north, three persons cured (Kosovo-online)
• Varhelyi on the dialogue: Exchange of territories in the second plan, it is important to continue the dialogue (RTS, Tanjug)
• Várhelyi: European Commission monitors situation in Serbia (N1, EWB)
• Vucic says he won’t run for SNS head again, perhaps not for head of state either (media)
• Opposition Alliance for Serbia (SzS) says decision to boycott elections is final (N1, B92)
• Kozarev: Disturbing attacks on returnees (TV Most)

Opinion:

• Surroi: No more than the Pope (Koha)
• ‘Coronavirus Diplomacy’ Won’t Change Serbia’s Path (usnews.com)

International:

• ‘Accountability’ should be the priority of the dialogue, not ‘amnesty’ (Prishtina Insight)
• Democracy digest: Frustration Looms Over Western Balkans (Balkan Insight)
• Global Europe Brief: Elephants in the Balkan Room (Euractiv.com)
• Balkans media during COVID-19: Reporting on corruption became even harder (EWB)

Humanitarian/Development:

• UN SG: Tsunami of hatred and xenophobia sparked by COVID-19 (Tanjug, B92)

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Albanian Language Media:

  • EU: Kosovo remains a condition for Serbia’s membership (Arberesh.info)
  • The quarantine at students’ center will last seven instead of 14 days (Klan)
  • Patient succumbs to coronavirus at Prishtina Hospital (media)
  • UNDP and Luxembourg donate 5,000 Covid-19 test kits (media)
  • Orlando: We hope visa liberalization for Kosovo will soon be a reality (Klan)
  • LDK addresses the Constitutional Court (RTK)

Serbian Language Media:

  • Two new cases of Covid-19 infection in north, three persons cured (Kosovo-online)
  • Varhelyi on the dialogue: Exchange of territories in the second plan, it is important to continue the dialogue (RTS, Tanjug)
  • Várhelyi: European Commission monitors situation in Serbia (N1, EWB)
  • Vucic says he won’t run for SNS head again, perhaps not for head of state either (media)
  • Opposition Alliance for Serbia (SzS) says decision to boycott elections is final (N1, B92)
  • Kozarev: Disturbing attacks on returnees (TV Most)

Opinion: 

  • Surroi: No more than the Pope (Koha)
  • ‘Coronavirus Diplomacy’ Won’t Change Serbia’s Path (usnews.com)

International: 

  • ‘Accountability’ should be the priority of the dialogue, not ‘amnesty’ (Prishtina Insight)
  • Democracy digest: Frustration Looms Over Western Balkans (Balkan Insight) 
  • Global Europe Brief: Elephants in the Balkan Room (Euractiv.com)
  • Balkans media during COVID-19: Reporting on corruption became even harder (EWB)

Humanitarian/Development:

  • UN SG: Tsunami of hatred and xenophobia sparked by COVID-19 (Tanjug, B92)

 

 

Albanian Language Media

 

EU: Kosovo remains a condition for Serbia’s membership (Arberesh.info)

The European Union has rejected voices claiming that its approach towards Serbia’s membership has changed.

Ana Pisonero, spokeswoman at the EU, for Neighborhood and Enlargement, Cooperation and International Development, told the news portal that nothing from chapter 35 has changed.

“Normalisation of the relations between Belgrade and Pristina is treated in Chapter 35, in the discussions for membership, which opened in 2015. Within this context, Serbia is expected to fulfill a number of standards. This has not changed,” she wrote.

Local expert on international relations Demush Shasha also said that reporting that EU has removed improvement of the relations with Kosovo from the conditions for Serbia’s EU membership, must be a misunderstanding.  

“Serbia’s progress in EU membership negotiations will be guided by Serbia’s progress in preparations for accession, which will be measured in particular by Serbia’s commitment to significantly and sustainably improve relations with Kosovo,” is stressed in chapter 35, on the point of normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia.

The quarantine at students’ center will last seven instead of 14 days (Klan)

Passengers  arriving from abroad to Kosovo, will not be staying at the Students’ dormitories in Pristina for 14 days. The Spokesperson of the Ministry of Health Faik Hoti informed that from now on, they will be staying there for seven days. “The quarantine at the Students’ Center will last seven days. After this, they will be released to go to their homes and self-isolate for 14 more days,” Hoti said.

Patient succumbs to coronavirus at Prishtina Hospital (media)

All news websites report that a 77-year-old from Rahovec municipality has succumbed to the coronavirus this morning at Prishtina Hospital. The deceased was reportedly suffering from other serious underlying conditions. There have been 28 fatalities from COVID – 19 in Kosovo so far.

UNDP and Luxembourg donate 5,000 Covid-19 test kits (media)

The UNDP and the Government of Luxembourg donated 5,000 Covid-19 testing kits to the Kosovo’s National Institute for Public Health, media report.

UNDP Resident Representative, Maria Suokko, thanked the Government of Luxembourg for the donation. “We are cooperating closely with the Ministry of Health and other institutions in Kosovo to support them in meeting immediate needs and effectively managing the crisis,” she said. 

Acting Minister of Health, Arben Vitia, underlined the importance of partnership in this difficult times. He said the donation will have an impact on increasing testing capacities in Kosovo. “I would like to use this opportunity to thank the UNDP and Luxembourg and express my appreciation for the assistance provided in this public health emergency period,” Vitia noted.

Orlando: We hope visa liberalization for Kosovo will soon be a reality (Klan)

Nicola Orlando, Italy’s Ambassador to Kosovo, spoke about the Zagreb Summit held on Wednesday, where COVID-19 pandemic and EU’s help for Western Balkans countries to face the crisis were discussed.

“We hope visa liberalization for Kosovan citizens will soon be a reality,” Orlando wrote on Twitter.

“At Zagreb summit #Italy PM @GiuseppeConteIT recalled “European vision that must drive political leaderships” in Western Balkans & #Kosovo-#Serbia dialogue facilitated by EUSR @MiroslavLajcak,” he also noted. 

LDK addresses the Constitutional Court (RTK)

The Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) has submitted today to the Constitutional Court the comments regarding the premature measure taken by this court with regards to President Hashim Thaci’s decree for the mandate of Avdullah Hoti for Prime Minister.

LDK caucus Arben Gashi said he believes the Constitutional Court will give in its final decision the possibility of the development of democracy in Kosovo.

“Together with colleagues Driton Selmanaj and Shkemb Manaj, we submitted the comments on behalf of LDK’s Parliamentary Group. Also, some of our MP colleagues have submitted individual comments with regards to the premature measure that was undertaken by the Court on President’s decree,” Gashi said.

“We believe that we will have a fair verdict and we believe that the Court will enable the development of democracy,” Gashi said.  

He added that they are in the final phase of the governing plan and economic package expected to be approved by the new coalition government. “These two main issues are expected to conclude these days,” Gashi said. 

 

 

Serbian Language Media

 

Two new cases of Covid-19 infection in north, three persons cured (Kosovo-online)

Two new cases of Covid-19 infection were registered in northern Kosovo over the last 24 hours. The cases are registered in Leposavic and Zubin Potok municipalities, Kosovo-online portal reports. This brings the total number of infected persons in the north to 112.

Meanwhile, three persons have been cured, two from Mitrovica North and one from Zvecan.

79 persons in total are cured from Covid-19 in the Serb-populated areas in Kosovo, while since the outbreak of the pandemic nine persons have passed away.

Varhelyi on the dialogue: Exchange of territories in the second plan, it is important to continue the dialogue (RTS, Tanjug)

European Commissioner for Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi estimates that in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, it is necessary to reach an agreement that is “mutually acceptable” and which “does not pose a risk to other countries in the region,” reported Radio Television of Serbia (RTS). 

Varhelyi said that “the exchange of territories is in the second plan, what is primary is that we have two sides at the table ready to talk and reach a solution.”

Answering the questions of the members of the Foreign Policy Committee about the statement of the head of EU diplomacy Josep Borrell, who in an interview for regional media allegedly did not rule out the exchange of territories as a solution to the Kosovo issue, Varhelyi  said that the position of the European Commission was clear from the beginning.

“It is crucial that the two sides agree on a solution that is mutually acceptable and that does not pose a risk to other countries in the region. When we get to that point, then we can consider various elements of the solution,” Varhelyi pointed out.

The Commissioner for Enlargement adds that he expects a great contribution from the EU special representative Miroslav Lajcak in initiating the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, as well as in reaching an agreement.

“His experience in the region and knowledge will mean a lot to us. We are working together to reach a solution between Belgrade and Pristina as soon as possible,” Varhelyi said.

Regarding the statement of the head of EU diplomacy that “the EU cannot be a bigger Catholic than the Pope” when it comes to the agreement between Belgrade and Pristina, Josep Borrell’s office told Tanjug news agency that the statement that the High Representative supported the idea of exchanging borders was a “journalistic interpretation” of Borrell’s answers.

Commissioner Varhelyi is satisfied with the quick reaction of the Serbian authorities, which withdrew the measures of centralizing public information during the pandemic and closed the case of journalist Ana Lalic.

Answering the question of the head of the EP Delegation for Serbia, Tanja Fajon, about the state of democracy and freedom of the media in Serbia, Commissioner Varhelyi emphasizes that the European Commission is monitoring the situation in Serbia, which will continue in the coming period.

“The commission reacted immediately to the case of journalist Ana Lalic. We expressed concern, and the government immediately responded and withdrew all measures, and the case was closed,” Varhelyi said.

When asked about the Freedom House report, which talks about the decline of democracies in Serbia and Montenegro, he said that the Commission will give its position on the progress of all Western Balkan countries in June in a regular annual report.

“We will look at the Freedom House report and analyze it. However, ‘Freedom House’ is not pursuing a policy of EU enlargement, but the Commission, which has its own report,” Varhelyi emphasized in his address to the EP Foreign Policy Committee.

The Enlargement Commissioner concludes that the process of accession negotiations with Serbia continues, and that the speed of that process depends on the implementation of reforms in the area of the rule of law, while freedom of the media is always crucial.

Várhelyi: European Commission monitors situation in Serbia (N1, EWB)

The European Union Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi said on Thursday the next report on the development of the situation in Serbia would be published by the end of June and would refer to the MEP’s letter in which they said they were worried about the respect of the constitutional and human rights in Serbia during the state of emergency, declared on March 15 and lifted on Wednesday, the European Western Balkans (EWB) reported.

In his answer to the letter, which is a form of control of the European Parliament (EP) over the EC, and which the EWB had access to, Várhelyi said the Commission was carefully monitoring the situation in Serbia, adding the current priority was the fight against the pandemic, and that the EC was informed about the lifting of the state of emergency.

“Regarding your remark about media freedom, we welcomed Serbia’s Government decision to annul the measures to centralize information about COVID-10 pandemic. The media freedom is essential at any time,” Várhelyi said, adding the EU accession process with Serbia continued.

“Bearing that in mind, we continue to oversee the situation in Serbia and assess its progress. The conditions for the EU membership haven’t changed. As you are aware, the overall speed of Serbia’s process in negotiations with the EU depends on the implementation of reforms in the key area of the rule of law. We’ll assess the situation in the light of the latest development in our annual reports to be published in June,” Várhelyi said.

At the beginning of his reply, Várhelyi reiterated his earlier comments about broad measures introduced in many countries to protect the population health ‘in those unprecedented times.’

He also reminded the MEPs about the aid the EU sent to the Western Balkans.

See at: https://bit.ly/2L7dF6u  

Vucic says he won’t run for SNS head again, perhaps not for head of state either (media)

Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic reiterated late on Thursday he would stand down as the head of his ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) this year and hoped he would not run for the second presidential term in 2022, the news agencies reported.

Speaking to the Belgrade Happy TV, Vucic said the corona pandemic postponed some decisions, including the choice of his successor at the SNS helm.

“We will finish that this year,” he said about his withdrawal from the post of the head of his party which had announced earlier.

“Presidential elections are in a year and a half. We will come out with our candidate, and I believe I’ll take part in choosing one who can win. I hope I won’t be that candidate and that we will find a better one,” Vucic said.

He was elected president on May 31, 2017, for the first five-year mandate. The Constitution allows him to run for the second consecutive term.

That is not the first time that Vucic says he won’t run for office. In November 2016, he told the Zagreb Globus weekly he would not be a candidate for Serbia’s President.

In 2008, he announced the withdrawal from the post of the Secretary-General of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) and politics in general for an unspecified period following clashes within SRS highest ranks.

Soon afterwards, he and some other SRS members formed the Serbian Progressive Party.

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

Opposition Alliance for Serbia (SzS) says decision to boycott elections is final (N1, B92)

The opposition Alliance for Serbia (SzS) told Belgrade-based N1 late on Thursday that the organization’s decision to boycott the coming elections in Serbia is final.

“We have decided at a SzS Presidency meeting three days ago to remain firm in the boycott because the conditions have not changed and are much worse than in April,” SzS chair Janko Veselinovic said, adding that another important reason not to change the decision was because of the ongoing pandemic. 

“Everyone from the authorities and opposition who calls voters to turn out for the June 21 elections is consciously risking their health,” he said. 

Asked about the possibility of the opposition Movement of Free Citizens (PSG) changing its decision to boycott the elections, Veselinovic responded that “if their decision to run in the elections is final, it benefits the Vucic’s regime and will certainly not help overcome the crisis which the world and the European Union have recognized.”

Opposition leaders met in Belgrade on Thursday to discuss their decision to boycott the elections. The SzS invited the PSG and other parties and civic movements to the meeting.

Meanwhile, B92 reported that president of the Movement of Free Citizens, Sergej Trifunovic said today they have decided to take part in the upcoming elections. 

Kozarev: Disturbing attacks on returnees (TV Most)

Deputy Director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Dusan Kozarev participated in a video conference on Thursday with representatives of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), OSCE Mission in Kosovo (OMIK) and OSCE Mission to Serbia (OMIS), TV Most reports, citing a statement from Kozarev’s office.  

During the conference interlocutors from Belgrade, Pristina, Zurich and other parts of Europe and the world stated that health crises, such as the current pandemic, has hit very hard the most vulnerable groups in society, such as internally displaced persons.

“The Republic of Serbia has systematically responded to these challenges in a timely and adequate manner, when it comes to health care and basic living needs of all citizens of Kosovo and Metohija, regardless of their religion and nationality,” Kozarev said.

According to him it was very disturbing that during the fight to save human lives from a new, unknown disease, Albanian extremists were primarily targeting the returnee communities, who were exposed to physical attacks, burning of properties, writing of threatening graffiti on schools and desecration of religious buildings. He added that despite the mentioned problems, Belgrade remains optimistic about the return of displaced persons, in particular when it comes to the Sunny Valley project.

 The meeting was held in the context of the “Skopje Initiative”, which is a regional framework for finding a lasting solution for displaced persons from Kosovo, TV Most recalled. 

 

 

Opinion 

 

Surroi: No more than the Pope (Koha)

Publicist and political commentator Veton Surroi argues in an opinion piece that EU High Representative Josep Borrell should think twice when making the analogy “more catholic than the Pope” when talking about an agreement of trafficking people and territories.

Surroi writes: “European diplomacy chief Josep Borrell repeated the words of John Bolton, former US National Security Advisor and a person fond of Europe or Kosovo, when asked what would the EU position be toward an agreement between Kosovo and Serbia, brokered by the EU, which would include the exchange of territories and peoples. Bolton’s position in 2018 was that the US could not be against if the presidents of Serbia and Kosovo were to reach such an agreement. Borrell’s position was that the EU cannot be more catholic than the Pope. In other words, if Thaci and Vucic believe that this is the best way to resolve problems between Kosovo and Serbia, the EU would not be an obstacle to their mutual trust. In doing so, the European diplomat, and the US diplomat before him, managed to describe the intellectual shallowdness of their political engagement.”

‘Coronavirus Diplomacy’ Won’t Change Serbia’s Path (usnews.com)

By Aleksandar Vucic

Despite accepting aid from China to fight the coronavirus, the president of Serbia writes that his country is committed to a pro-Western foreign policy.

SINCE THE CORONAVIRUS pandemic was declared, China, Europe, and the United States have provided assistance to many countries around the world as part of their “coronavirus diplomacy.” But some of these countries, such as Serbia, have been unfairly questioned over their willingness to request and receive support from a variety of partners.

In mid-March, the European Union abruptly put in place obstacles to the export of certain medical equipment to non-EU countries. As a formal candidate for EU accession, but not yet a full member, Serbia would now find it harder to work with its European neighbors to access supplies essential for saving the lives of its citizens.

At the same time, China began to offer Serbia these critical supplies and other forms of coronavirus assistance. China’s capacity to provide the aid was logical, since it was emerging from the crisis just as the spread of coronavirus was intensifying across Europe and the United States. As the rate of infection slowed in China, this freed up surplus equipment and medical expertise that could now be deployed elsewhere around the world. Indeed, Serbia welcomed this support.

See more at: https://bit.ly/2Wd1qvg

 

 

International

 

‘Accountability’ should be the priority of the dialogue, not ‘amnesty’ (Prishtina Insight)

BIRN’s latest episode of Jeta ne Kosove looked deeper into the criticisms, consequences and alternatives to the idea of a mutual amnesty for war crimes being part of Kosovo’s final agreement with Serbia.

Last week, BIRN journalists took to the streets of Prishtina to gauge the reaction of Kosovo citizens to commentator Baton Haxhiu’s proposition that an amnesty for crimes committed in the Kosovo war be included in a final agreement between Kosovo and Serbia as well as dissolvement of the Special Court which he claimed on 24 April during a debate program.

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

Democracy digest: Frustration Looms Over Western Balkans (Balkan Insight) 

As millions across Southeast Europe find their lives turned upside-down by the pandemic, the future looks vexed, to say the least. What are the big pressure points?

This week’s Democracy Digest rounds up major uncertainties facing countries in Southeast Europe as the coronavirus crisis upends normal life and highlights the fragility of the region’s democracies.

A Western Balkans-wide recession seems all but unavoidable in 2020. According to a World Bank report released in late April, the region as a whole is projected to experience negative growth of between three and 5.6 per cent.

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

Global Europe Brief: Elephants in the Balkan Room (Euractiv.com)

AN AWKWARD ENCOUNTER

EU leaders confirmed their “unequivocal support for the European perspective” of their Western Balkans counterparts during the EU-Western Balkans e-meet this week. However, the final declaration did not make reference to enlargement, instead focusing on the cooperation in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the need for continued reforms, especially on rule of law, the fight against corruption and media freedom.

Leaders were asked to appear against neutral backgrounds to avoid insignia that one EU official said “would make the video conference difficult” as lingering diplomatic tensions mean nationalist symbols could cause offence.

See more at: https://bit.ly/2WII1lg

Western Balkans media during COVID-19: Reporting on corruption became even harder (EWB)

Media freedom represents a crucial element of a democracy and it has an even bigger role during extraordinary circumstances, one of them being the COVID-19 pandemic. As more power is given to the executive branch, especially in the countries where a state of emergency was declared, it is necessary for the media to fulfill their role as the ones who oversee and monitor the authorities.

Due to public attention turned to coronavirus-related statistics and measures, there is a window open for cases of corruption to go unnoticed and this is why the role of the media as democratic procedure “watchdog” is even more important during the crisis.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) state that there is a clear correlation between suppression of media freedom in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and a country’s ranking in the World Press Freedom Index. Considering the Western Balkan countries’ rankings – Bosnia and Herzegovina (58), Kosovo (70), Albania (84), North Macedonia (92), Serbia (93), and Montenegro (105) out of 180 countries, can this correlation be observed in the region and can we see differences in how did the media inform citizens during the pandemic?

See more at: https://bit.ly/3fuRy7M

 

 

Humanitarian/Development

 

UN SG: Tsunami of hatred and xenophobia sparked by COVID-19 (Tanjug, B92)

“The pandemic continues to unleash a tsunami of hate and xenophobia, scapegoating and scaremongering,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called Friday for an “all-out effort” to end the “tsunami of hate and xenophobia” sparked by the novel coronavirus pandemic, without naming specific countries, BBC reports.

He added that migrants and refugees were particularly affected, who, as he stated, have been “vilified as a source of the virus and then denied access to medical treatment.”

Guterres also called on “the media, especially social media, to do much more to remove racist, misogynist and other harmful content”, encouraging educational institutions to help teach “digital literacy” to young people at a time when the spread of fake news on the Internet continues.

See at: https://bit.ly/35GMSr3

 

 

 

 

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