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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, May 13, 2020

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Albanian Language Media:

• Kurti: Government remains in duty until new elections (Klan)
• Government dismisses civil aviation director (media)
• Berisha was not discharged for signing Pristina-Belgrade airline agreement (RTK)
• Lajcak discusses resumption of dialogue with Osmani (Express)
• Kurti vows to turn old Pristina airport into a customs terminals (media)
• Kurti gives three minutes time to Ministers reporting on 100 days of government (RTK)
• Haxhiu makes the first step towards establishment of a War Crimes Institute (Koha)
• PDK presents “100 failures during the 100 days of Kurti’s government” (RTK)
• Gjilan receives food and hygiene packages from UN mission (Media)
• NATO report: Kosovo according to Russian Sputnik in Serbia (RTK)

Serbian Language Media:

• No new cases, six cured in the last 24 hours in northern Kosovo (Kontakt plus)
• Ministry for Returns and KFOR: It is necessary that entire society condemns incidents (RTS)
• Belgrade and Pristina will talk about territory swap, media say (N1, RTK2)
• Edi Rama to N1: The best ideas for the future of Europe are in the Balkans
• Serbia opens borders with four countries on June 1st (media)
• Djuric: ”A campaign of hatred is being waged against Serbian health workers” (RTS, TV Most)
• UNS and its branch in Kosovo: Albanian media not to call for lynching of RTK2 journalist (Radio kontakt plus)

Opinion:

• Restoring civil liberties after COVID-19 (Prishtina Insight)
• The Western Balkans between the EU, NATO, Russia and China (ETHZurich)

International:

• Russia’s assistance was of great moral importance for Serbia, says politician (TASS)

Humanitarian/Development:

• Central, Eastern European Countries Maintain Tough Travel Restrictions (Balkan Insight)
• Chinese lab boosts Serbia’s coronavirus testing capacity (Reuters)
• UNMIK donation for most vulnerable people in Novo Brdo municipality (Kosovo-online portal)
• When Home Is Not The Safest Place (Halotrust)

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Albanian Language Media:

  • Kurti: Government remains in duty until new elections (Klan)
  • Government dismisses civil aviation director (media)
  • Berisha was not discharged for signing Pristina-Belgrade airline agreement (RTK)
  • Lajcak discusses resumption of dialogue with Osmani (Express)
  • Kurti vows to turn old Pristina airport into a customs terminals (media)
  • Kurti gives three minutes time to Ministers reporting on 100 days of government (RTK)
  • Haxhiu makes the first step towards establishment of a War Crimes Institute (Koha)
  • PDK presents “100 failures during the 100 days of Kurti’s government” (RTK)
  • Gjilan receives food and hygiene packages from UN mission (Media)
  • NATO report: Kosovo according to Russian Sputnik in Serbia (RTK)

Serbian Language Media:

  • No new cases, six cured in the last 24 hours in northern Kosovo (Kontakt plus)
  • Ministry for Returns and KFOR: It is necessary that entire society condemns incidents (RTS)
  • Belgrade and Pristina will talk about territory swap, media say (N1, RTK2)
  • Edi Rama to N1: The best ideas for the future of Europe are in the Balkans 
  • Serbia opens borders with four countries on June 1st (media)
  • Djuric: ”A campaign of hatred is being waged against Serbian health workers” (RTS, TV Most)
  • UNS and its branch in Kosovo: Albanian media not to call for lynching of RTK2 journalist (Radio kontakt plus)

Opinion:

  • Restoring civil liberties after COVID-19 (Prishtina Insight)
  • The Western Balkans between the EU, NATO, Russia and China (ETHZurich)

International:

  • Russia’s assistance was of great moral importance for Serbia, says politician (TASS)

Humanitarian/Development:

  • Central, Eastern European Countries Maintain Tough Travel Restrictions (Balkan Insight)
  • Chinese lab boosts Serbia’s coronavirus testing capacity (Reuters)
  • UNMIK donation for most vulnerable people in Novo Brdo municipality (Kosovo-online portal)
  • When Home Is Not The Safest Place (Halotrust)

 

 

Albanian Language Media

 

Kurti: Government remains in duty until new elections (Klan)

Acting Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti said during his reporting on the 100 days of his governing that the state lost the most from the attacks on him.

 At the meeting of the government, Kurti said that he is for new elections and that he will lead the government until then.

 “The treatment of the government and the Prime Minister by the President and the old regime, is unfortunate and shameful. From them, I have lost the least, and the state the most,” Kurti said adding that those who give the state away, have lost.

Kurti also said that the government will remain in the duty until the new elections.

“The government was brought down, but the whole nation stood up. I am more hopeful than ever. What gives me hope is the spirit of smart citizens. The trust they have in themselves and their government,” Kurti said. 

Government dismisses civil aviation director (media)

The acting government of Kosovo has decided to dismiss the general director of the Kosovo Civil Aviation Authority, Eset Berisha, citing breach of professional duties.

The government said Berisha demoted management staff without performance evaluations, kept several paying jobs simultaneously and also endangered the government of Kosovo with facing a case at arbitration.

The government also said that Berisha was appointed to the post unlawfully since the start and media report that Berisha was previously advisor to the former minister of infrastructure, AAK’s Pal Lekaj, and that he signed in Berlin agreement for establishing direct flights between Pristina and Belgrade.

Berisha rejected allegations made against him calling his dismissal political and tying it to the signing of the air route agreement.  

Berisha was not discharged for signing Pristina-Belgrade airline agreement (RTK)

Acting Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti visited today the international airport “Adem Jashari”. Kurti did not comment on the dismissal of the Director of Kosovo Civil Aviation Authority Esat Berisha, on Tuesday evening. Asked if Berisha was dismissed for signing the airline agreement between Kosovo and Serbia, Kurti said “His dismissal happened last night. On the reasons for his dismissal, read the decision, I have nothing to add to it.”

“Pursuant to the competencies of the Government, respectively Article 20, paragraph 4, point a) of Law No. 03/L-051 on Civil Aviation, the acting Government of the Republic of Kosovo, discharged today the General Director of the Civil Aviation Authority, Mr Eset Berisha due to violations of his professional duties. Mr Berisha has drafted and signed the internal Regulation of the CAA in violation of the law, has degraded the management staff without performance appraisal, has held other paid duties simultaneously, and has endangered the Government of the Republic of Kosovo in sending to arbitration. The appointment of Mr Eset Berisha as a General Director of CAA has been in conflict with the law since the beginning, therefore, the Government of the Republic of Kosovo, having in its interest the full implementation of the law and the public interest as a priority, has taken a decision to discharge Mr Berisha, and the appointment of Mr Arianit Islami, as the Acting General Director of the CAA, until receiving the recommendation of the Minister of Infrastructure and Environment for the appointment of the new director, according to the legislation in force,” the Office of the Prime Minister informed. 

Lajcak discusses resumption of Pristina-Belgrade dialogue with Osmani (Express)

The European Union Special Representative for the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia had today a telephone conversation with the Speaker of the Assembly of Kosovo Vjosa Osmani. They discussed the political situation in Kosovo and preparations for resumption of the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, mediated by the EU.

“Very insightful & useful Telephone conversation with the Speaker of Kosovo’s Parliament @VjosaOsmaniMP. Discussed current political situation in Kosovo & preparations for resuming EU-facilitated Dialogue asap. Agreed on the importance to bring EU-perspective closer to the people of Kosovo & Serbia,” Lajcak wrote on his Twitter account. 

Kurti vows to turn old Pristina airport into a customs terminals (media)

Acting Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti presented a plan to transform the building of the old Pristina airport into a customs terminal. 

In a visit to Pristina Airport today, Kurti said the terminal would serve the Pristina region. “We will begin with this customs terminal here in Pristina which is geographically at the centre of Kosovo and continue then with that in Mitrovica and Vermica. The Government of the Republic of Kosovo, me as acting prime minister, the minister of finances, express our intent to functionalise this building as soon as possible. The building has electricity supply and will function as our state’s customs terminal.”

Kallxo reports that there are ten private customs terminals in Kosovo, most of which in the ownership of the Devolli family. One terminal is also owned by the family of the former PDK MP, Margarita Kadriu. 

Kurti gives three minutes time to Ministers to report on 100 days of government (RTK)

Acting government of Kosovo will meet today at 14:00 hours to report on the 100 days of governing.

However, Acting Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti has requested from the ministers to report about their achievements not longer than three minutes.

“Ministers are required to be ready to report on their achievements for no longer than three minutes each,” informs a communique of the government. 

Haxhiu makes the first step towards establishment of a War Crimes Institute (Koha)

Kosovo’s Acting Minister of Justice has signed a decree on the establishment of a working team, which will prepare the analysis for the establishment of the Institute for Crimes committed during the war in Kosovo. Haxhiu announced the signing of this decision through a Facebook status.

She has indicated that the task of the team will be to compile a reasoned study for the establishment of the mechanism, which will deal with the investigation of crimes committed during the war in Kosovo. In addition, as Haxhiu pointed out, this team will identify “comparable good practices and reflect the elements and specifics that may be involved in the case of Kosovo.”

PDK presents “100 failures during the 100 days of Kurti’s government” (RTK)

The Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) presented through a performance at Pristina main square “the 100 failures in 100 days of Kurti’s government. 

Kosovo Assembly MP from this political entity Florete Zejnullahu, said failures of this government are major, and they are ranked starting from breach of the relation with the U.S.; overthrowing of the government by coalition partners themselves in the beginning of the pandemic; closing towards Albania while opening and deferring towards Serbia, up to a range of coordinated statements against Kosovo Liberation Army. 

“This government deserted as a consequence of its inability to manage the pandemics, and economy of the country. It did not dare to deal with sensitive matters of the country such as dialogue with Serbia. Above all, Kurti’s government for 100 days, endangered our sacred friendship with the U.S and it will remain the last one to threaten this historic relation. PM Kurti is the first state official that harshly accused the U.S. for interference to bring down the government, however his Foreign Minister Glauk Konjufca did not agree on this,” she said.

Zejnullahu also mentioned endorsement of the budget assessing that “it was commenced in a clandestine manner, on behalf of the pandemic. 

According to PDK, this government will also be remembered for violations of the Constitution, violence of sovereignty and employment of its militants at public boards. 

Gjilan receives food and hygiene packages from UN mission (Media)

The municipality of Gjilan has received a contingent with food packages and hygiene products from the Un mission in Kosovo, in order to manage the emergent situation of dealing with COVID-19. 

Haziri said this virus does not recognize religion, ethnicity or community, while according to him the return of new cases, shows how unmerciful and unknown this virus is, both to the scientists and the citizens. “I thank the UN mission in Kosovo, which through its representative in Kosovo Zahir Tanin, brought to Gjilan 93 food packages and 40 packages of hygienic products, for the families in need. Thus is a continuation of the support of the municipality by this mission, as we also received two vehicles and other projects from it,” Haziri said after receiving the donation. 

NATO report: Kosovo according to Russian Sputnik in Serbia (RTK)

Based on the NATO report “Russia’s Footprint in the Western Balkan Information Environment”, the news portal informs that in the period that NATO has analyzed the Russian media based in Belgrade, it has encountered 1,918 articles looking for the word / name “Kosovo”. Among them, NATO analyzed the narrative of 1,450 articles – of which 1,293 were articles including 834 statements / attitudes and 456 reports.

Russian Sputnik has taken care to make 115 comments / views on Kosovo, 36 analyzes and five interviews, reports RTK.

“Western Balkan countries are weak, they are corrupt. The Kosovo Army poses a threat to regional security. Serbs in Kosovo are threatened. NATO is aggressive. The European Union is hegemonic. ” NATO’s analysis of hundreds of thousands of Belgrade-based Russian Sputnik articles has drawn these conclusions. The 77-page NATO report, in its section on Kosovo, analyzes the narrative of over 1,000 articles in this medium paid for by the official Kremlin, which has a large reach in the Western Balkans, including Kosovo,” was stressed in the report.  

Below find the link to the complete report:

https://stratcomcoe.org/russias-footprint-western-balkan-information-environment

 

Serbian Language Media

 

No new cases, six cured in the last 24 hours in northern Kosovo (Kontakt plus)

In the last 24 hours, no new cases of coronavirus infection have been recorded in the north of Kosovo, and six people have been cured of Covid-19, the Emergency Situations Headquarters of the Municipality of Kosovska Mitrovica announced, reports Kontakt plus radio.

Of the six recovered, three are from North Mitrovica, two are from Leposavic, and one is from Zvecan.

So far, a total of 115 people have fallen ill with Covid-19 in Serb areas in Kosovo, nine have died and 96 have been cured.

By municipalities, in North Mitrovica there are 43 patients with Covid-19 (three died, 40 cured), in Zvecan 25 (one died, 23 cured), in Zubin Potok 24 (one died, 20 cured) and in Leposavic 23 (four died, 13 cured).

The Student Center in North Mitrovica accommodates four patients with a mild clinical picture, while the Mitrovica hospital has five patients with a moderate clinical picture.

One patient with Covid-19 is in the Kragujevac Clinical Center.

Ministry for Returns and KFOR: It is necessary that entire society condemns incidents (RTS)

A series of incidents over the last two months targeting the properties of Serbs, Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians as well as building the trust between non-majority communities and responsible rule of law bodies in Kosovo were the topics of a meeting between the representatives of the Ministry for Communities and Returns and KFOR main headquarters, RTS reports.

A feeling of impunity is created if perpetrators of criminal acts remain free, and when criminal acts target returnees and non-majority communities it is necessary that the entire society condemns it as well as to have reactions of all institutions, the interlocutors agreed.

During the meeting, a major concern of Minister Dalibor Jevtic was conveyed to KFOR regarding the fact there was no public reaction and reactions of the representatives of the institutions to the sufficient extent on 15 incidents that targeted non-majority communities and returnees in Kosovo over the last two months.

The perpetrators of these criminal acts must be found and prosecuted in line with the law as this is the only way to restore the trust in institutions, the Ministry for Communities and Returns said in a statement.

Representatives of KFOR main headquarters said KFRO would cooperate with all those who wish to give contribution in building a safe and secure environment, the statement added.

Belgrade and Pristina will talk about territory swap, media say (N1, RTK2)

Once resumed, the Belgrade – Pristina dialogue on the normalization of relations, will include the disputable issue of the territory swap, the analysts say, adding the final agreement may be based on borders change, the Pristina RTK2 reported on Tuesday.

Misel Zubenica, the Executive Director of the Executive director of the Centre for International Public Policy, said the communication between the two capital hadn’t stopped even after Kosovo introduced the 100 percent import tariffs on goods from Serbia in November 2018.

He added that the agreements on air and railroad transport proved that. Zubenica expects the dialogue to resume soon.

“I think that the talks will formally continue very soon. They will be public, as they have been in Brussels before the taxes. That will happen soon after the elections in Serbia and the formation of a new government,” Zubenica said.

“I believe we will have negotiations by mid-summer. We see that those political processes are slowly speeding up,” he added.

Behluj Beqaj, a political scientist, said the outcome might be an agreement within the existing borders which would satisfy Berlin, or a solution could be found in territory swap, what Washington had not excluded.

The problem is, he says, in the US’ increasing influence over Europe.

Zubenica also believes the exchange of territories can be one of the options because some of Serbia’s officials, as well as some White House representatives, have indirectly confirmed it.

He added that “an agreement could envisage that some parts (of Kosovo) with the Serb population are granted a broad autonomy and that (the entire) Mt. Kopaonik belongs to Serbia. At the same time, some municipalities (in Serbia) with an Albanian majority might strengthen relations with Pristina, maybe even join Kosovo as an entity, but without Belgrade’s formal recognition.”

https://bit.ly/3dGVyAt

Edi Rama to N1: The best ideas for the future of Europe are in the Balkans

Last week, an online summit was held in Zagreb attended by leaders of European Union member states and Western Balkan countries. N1 Television’s foreign affairs editor, Ivana Dragicevic, talked to Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama, about his impressions of the summit and the European perspective of the region.

N1: The summit that was supposed to be the crown of the Croatian presidency of the Council of the European Union was instead held in the shadow of the corona crisis, and it was held online. And we saw the text of the declaration adopted, in which there was no mention of EU enlargement, of either Albania or North Macedonia. And that happened after the EU had given a green light in March for both countries to start membership negotiations. What’s your reaction to this?

PM Rama: First of all, I want to say, not for the sake of formality but because it deserves mentioning, that Croatian presidency has been really very, very good. And I can say that because I can compare it to previous presidencies. This presidency was the one that highlighted the best the Western Balkans and the need to address a common perspective of the EU and the Western Balkans.

Secondly, the word “enlargement” is quite a difficult word, the biggest and richest in the EU, but more than that I would not really cry about it because in the end these are documents that belong to archives, they are not for the real work.

N1: Talking about real work – we now have this new methodology. You mentioned the big ones and rich ones, and we know about the debate over this that has been going on, but basically enlargement is the strategic policy of the EU. Do you think that this new methodology also kind of gives ownership over this process to member states? Does it instill confidence on both sides? Because we know that there was lack of confidence because of internal political situations in various EU countries. Can now the Netherlands, or Denmark, or any other country, just say that you didn’t do something that you basically did do? So how do you see this whole process?

PM Rama: Of course, they can. But they always could. The new methodology was first of all a way out from an impasse. Secondly, when you go through it – it depends really, on how one will use it. And we learned from experience that for us, and in general for countries that are small and aren’t rich, it’s always about rules, rules, rules. For others, bigger and rich countries, there’s always a way. So, if they want to see something in a certain way, they will see it in a certain way. If they would like to see it to the contrary, they will see it to the contrary.

This is how it is, and in the end, it can’t be any different. They founded the EU, they are powerful, they have their right to exercise their power, and anyone would do that. I would not complain about it. I would just say that there are some good things in the new methodology, and if they get transformed into good stuff in real life, that would be great. If not, then not. So that’s nothing to be surprised about.

N1: Correct me if I’m wrong, but you sound a little bit disappointed.

PM Rama: No, I’m not disappointed, I’m just realistic. I think this is how it is, and we can’t change it. The Croatian presidency did a lot, and I really think that we owe the Croatian presidency and your prime minister gratitude, because he was very, very good in playing through this labyrinth, which is not easy, and coming out in the end with something concrete.

Of course, he had backing him the political will of Germany and others, and France somehow changed its course. So finally, things came together, and we succeeded in opening these negotiations.

Now of course, from the declaration of opening, to the real opening, and on to the real process of membership – it’s a long way. We know this, and we live with it.

N1: In terms of the context and this plan which will follow, do you think that by the end of this year during the German presidency will get a green light, or a date basically, to start the inter-governmental conference?

PM Rama: I never answer these kinds of questions, when it comes to thinking about what will happen when the EU has to make a decision. You never know. The EU is not predictable anymore, and if you do predict, it’s better to play it safe and just say ‘No.’

But with the German presidency there is room for home that they will keep going in this direction, because Germany has always had a very clear position on Western Balkans. The German Chancellor has a very clear vision on where we come from – maybe because of her past, as she grew up in a communist regime – and also for where we have to go.

Now, will this happen? I don’t know. It’s better not to bet on the EU in the sense of predicting these things. Yeah, maybe it will happen.

N1: How much confidence can Albania or other countries of the Western Balkans in this process can have towards the EU when we know there are a lot of internal issues that need to be solved within the EU? How much trust is there among the citizens in the process, and how much power can anyone governing these states can have in order to make it more functional?

PM Rama: First of all, just a piece of advice – never ask Albanians about it because they have unconditional love for the EU, and it has nothing to do with the mess that the EU is in today, or whatever the EU represents as we speak, in terms of uncertainty, lack of strategy, and so on.

It has to do with our past. We grew up in an environment in which Yugoslavia, where you were born, was like the Moon. So, for us Yugoslavia represented freedom, it represented a lot of things. Because Yugoslav TV was the only window, we had within the walls of our bunker in which we were isolated from everyone. We were North Korea of Europe. And watching Yugoslav TV, with all these stripes of signal coming and going, in a language we barely understood, was like being in a NASA station and watching the Moon.

So, all this shaped how we see the EU, and Europe, and the world, and that’s something that will never change. At least for my generation – maybe my son will think about it differently – but for our generation it’s not about Brussels or anything else. It’s about being part of a space that we have freely chosen to be in, and where we can be free.

We never could choose. We lived under the Ottoman Empire, we lived under fascism, under communism, we had a kingdom that was self-made, the last kingdom in Europe created by a former interior minister. So, the EU for us is everything. So, it’s better that we are not asked about this, because we risk being misunderstood.

N1: As prime minister, you worked on reforming the judiciary, implementing rule of law, all these reforms that are required by the EU. But you were also up against a bit of resistance and stereotypes about Albania in the EU. Do you think this relationship can change in the future?

PM Rama: I would say that the past is a very important reason why we are so unconditionally in love with the EU, if I may say so, and why we insist to “marry” into it. Although on the other side they insist that they want to “marry” but they never look like they want to. But we will keep insisting until we marry.

But talking about the future, let me say that as other countries can witness, in terms of facts, not opinions or public sentiment, that the EU membership process is very beneficial to a country. It’s not something done to please people in Brussels or the Hague or Berlin. It’s for building a state based on principles of independent powers, functioning institutions, and so on, which otherwise we would not be able to build because we don’t have such a tradition, as I said earlier.

So, what we are missing in terms of tradition we are compensating with this process. Like, we are building an independent judiciary in Albania, where we never had an independent judiciary and where we are all cousins – I think it’s the same with Croats, but I won’t go there… So, it’s not easy.

Without the EU without this roadmap, this push, and this attraction, I doubt we would be able to do it. So, it’s a unique tool to build a state.

N1: All these things are mentioned in the Zagreb Declaration, along with things we still all have in common, regardless if we are in the EU or not – like tackling corruption, rule of law, fighting organized crime… We know the Balkans is perceived the way it is, and it is what it is. But in your country, you had strong resistance from the opposition, you had last year street protests, a clash with the President. Can you assure us that democracy is functioning in Albania?

PM Rama: As I said already, when you are judged by others, and you happen to be small and you aren’t rich, you have to suffer judgments that can be extreme. This applies to Albania but also for the entire Western Balkans.

Yes, organized crime is a problem, but compared to Europe’s organized crime, the Western Balkans organized crime is junior. But being junior, that’s also something that can be very explicit and sometimes very disturbing for the neighborhood. And that’s why they are right to complain about the noise.

At the same time, we have to deal with all of these things. We have to look at ourselves and not put blame for that elsewhere because in the end it’s beneficial for us. On other hand, yes, we have our troubles, our litigations, we have our way to litigate these things. And it’s you know, Balkans, Mediterranean, people have strong emotions – but it’s also about growing in a democratic space.

We were born and we grew, we matured, in a space where the other did not exist, opponents did not exist, where thinking differently was not allowed. Now we have to grow. In this sense, it’s a junior democracy, it’s still a teen democracy. We have to get more mature, it’s not easy, but we’ll get there.

N1: But you can basically assure us that you are on that path? Because seeing those pictures from this perspective was not something very nice. I’m referring to last year’s protests in Tirana.

If you saw the same pictures in Paris, you’d say this is democracy. But when you see it from Tirana, you say “These guys are nuts.” And we are really somewhere in the middle. Sometimes it’s a nuts democracy – but it’s a democracy. It is what it is. We have to grow on and mature ourselves.

N1: Talking about the future, we need to have a sustainable future in terms of economy. We saw this huge economic package that was delivered at the Zagreb Summit, which is connected to containing the Covid-19 crisis but also for the socio-economic recovery in the autumn. Do you think that the socio-economic crisis might lead to some political disturbance? We know Albania had a terrible earthquake in November, and now there’s this coronavirus crisis. How will you manage, after all this?

PM Rama: When we had the earthquake, we thought this was it. But it wasn’t, because then Covid-19 came. We have to do what we have to do. I think it’s good that Europe is moving in this direction, for us for the Balkans, it’s good that it was somehow engaged to include us in this package. Let’s see what this will be about. It’s good that they have also been open about our idea about engaging with the European Central Bank, as non-EU countries – that’s also good.

So overall Europe is a force for good. And we should never forget this. Because sometimes it’s too easy to put the blame on Europe, but at the same time without Europe we would not be where we are – and I’m referring to all of us.

With the earthquake, we witnessed a lot of solidarity. By the way, as I had not talked to the Croatian media since then, I want to take this opportunity to thank again the Croatian government and the Croatian people for having been there for us.

From sending an incredible team of rescuers to rescue people from the rubble, to Croatia’s pledge that it would build a school here, and then through the Croatian EU presidency. It feels very very good. We really appreciate with all our heart the fact that we are so good friends with Croatia, and that such a good friend is also in such a position to be helpful.

N1: In terms of economy, since Albania is a neighbor of the EU, or surrounded by EU countries who are its neighbors, there have been many ideas to improve cooperation. One of these is the so-called “mini Schengen.” So, what’s your position on that, and on the idea that sounds almost abstract, usually referred to as “regional cooperation.”? Considering we still have a lot of bilateral issues in the region between states that have not been resolved, like the issue of Kosovo and Serbia, the internal dynamics in Bosnia and Herzegovina, not to mention your other neighbor, North Macedonia.

PM Rama: I strongly believe that the quality of life, when we live together, whether it’s in a family, in a sports team, a community, in an organization, a business, a state, region, the world – it does not really depend on how much we agree with each other but in which way we disagree. If we disagree in a kind way, it’s good, it’s a good life. If we disagree in a less kind way, then life is bad.

So, we had a lot of bad life in the Balkans because of disagreements that were going on in a very unkind way. And for living together, for enjoying life together, for going forward together, we don’t need to agree on everything. We simply need to find a way to work together and to deal with our disagreements. And to try and solve them kindly.

So regional cooperation for us is crucial. You, in Croatia, you are part of the EU – we are not. And until we are there, I don’t see why we couldn’t be able to move freely within our region. To have freedom of movement of people, of goods, of capital of services – which are the four freedoms of the EU itself.

So, implementing these four freedoms is what someone had the bad idea to call “mini Schengen.” I hate that term because I’m too tall to accept mini things. Schengen is used as a point of reference, and it refers to these four freedoms within the Western Balkans.

So yes, there is lots of disagreement between Serbia and Kosovo – but this should not be an impediment to cooperate. And the more we cooperate, the more we talk, the more people get to know each other, at their level, in life, in business, in human exchanges, cultural exchanges, and many other things, it will be easier to understand each other and to sort things out.

Otherwise, if we wait to solve everything before we start to cooperate, we will never be able to neither cooperate nor solve everything.

N1: You mentioned several interesting things, but I’d like to go back to the Zagreb Declaration. It was very interesting for me how the EU wanted to emphasise very clearly that they are the ones investing the most in the Western Balkans, rather than others, because the discussion of Western Balkans is still dominated by geopolitics. What’s your opinion about that, because we hear much talk about Russia’s influence, energy politics, various strategic influences…? Is that story real or is that talk just something based on fears inside the EU?

PM Rama: You know, there are some powers that are in a better position today than Europe. What I mean by that is that these powers can plan for the next ten, twenty, or a hundred years, while Europe only plans for the next elections. And it has many elections to plan, and everyone has their own elections, and all these things matter, they matter a lot.

We have seen that in our own experience, we felt this on our own skin. Whatever they say, we know this. If there’s an election somewhere, and this country is important, and they have a bigger say, then we have to wait. Then there’s another election somewhere and we have to wait again, and so on.

But talking about influences, I think it’s good that the new Commission, and the new president of the Commission came into a situation in which people more or less understand that it can’t go on like this. It can’t be just technocracy and bureaucracy, it should be more political, more geopolitical. So, let’s hope that this will materialise further. But I must say that so far, the signs are encouraging.

When it comes to Albania, it’s a bit easier because we know some of these guys from before, and we came to know them the hard way. So, we are not tempted. The only direction for us is Europe and the only way for us is Europe.

In this country where we find it hard to agree on colors – if I say something is purple, the opposition will say it’s blue; or if they say it’s yellow, I’ll say it’s orange. We have difficulties in agreeing on weather, on what time it is. But we never had difficulty agreeing on where the country should look and which direction we should go.

We were North Korea of Europe, we had the most brutal and insane communist regime, the most dictatorial communist party – we are I think the only country that never had a new communist party since the regime had changed. So, in that respect, this is very clear. There are no other powers which could transform Albania into a stronghold that would look towards a different direction.

As one of our Renaissance poets said, “We live in a country where the sun rises where it sets.” So, it’s West.

N1: The upcoming Future of Europe conference might give us some answers on how Europe would transform itself. Do you think that there are ideas in the Western Balkans for the future of Europe, and if countries of the Western Balkans should be involved in that in some format?

I think the best ideas for the future of Europe are in the Balkans, there is no doubt. Because they are genuine, and frankly, not influenced by any vested interest. There is only one vested interest in the Balkans, which is to be part of this family and to give everything to this family.

Maybe once we get there we will no longer have such good ideas on how the EU should look like, but yes – the best ideas for the future of Europe are in the Balkans, but that’s why they are not feasible.

https://bit.ly/35Vy0VO

Serbia opens borders with four countries on June 1st (media)

Serbia will open its borders allowing free flow of people completely from June 1, but with four surrounding countries, with compulsory PCR test

Free movement between North Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro will be fully liberalized.

The Crisis Staff for the Protection of the Health of the Population from the infectious disease COVID-19, recommended to the Government of Serbia to fully open the borders for citizens of four neighboring countries – Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Montenegro and North Macedonia, the Government announced.

This decision was made because none of these countries was a hotspot of coronavirus, “Blic” and “Kurir” writing.

It is added that the decision was made primarily because of the students from Republika Srpska and Montenegro, who will circulate between the three countries.

Serbia’s borders for road, rail and river traffic have been closed since March 20th.

When it comes to coming to Serbia, the Government of Serbia has decided that PCR test will be compulsory. The foreigners can enter the country if they have a negative PCR test and a certificate issued by a commission made of the representatives of Serbia’s Health, Transport, Foreign and Interior ministries. If the passenger returning to the country has not been tested, he will have to be immediately sent to home isolation for 14 days.

https://bit.ly/3brDjgZ

Djuric: ”A campaign of hatred is being waged against Serbian health workers” (RTS, TV Most)

”Kadri Veseli and a number of Pristina politicians have been leading a hate campaign against Serbian doctors and medical workers who have been working in institutions in Serb-majority areas in Kosovo and Metohija for decades,” according to the director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija, Marko Djuric. 

Djuric states that Serbian health workers help people of all nationalities.

“Although these health workers, almost all of them were born and spent their entire lives in Kosovo and Metohija, because of him and others like him, they were forced to live and work between Central Serbia and Kosovo and Metohija, and they were helping people of all nationalities,” says Djuric. 

He added that in that way, some Pristina politicians show their true face.

“Some corrupt Pristina politicians with bloody hands, who have no other policy than hatred, are once again showing their true inhuman face,” the director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija wrote. 

He says that humanity and cooperation must overcome hatred.

“We will make sure that the information about this quickly reaches the most important addresses in the world! Humanity and cooperation must overcome the hatred of those who have been overtaken by time,” said Djuric.

UNS and its branch in Kosovo: Albanian media not to call for lynching of RTK2 journalist (Radio kontakt plus)

The Association of Journalists of Serbia (UNS) and its branch in Kosovo (DNKiM) condemned the inappropriate campaign of the Albanian media against the RTK2 in Serbian language journalist, Aleksandra Dogandzic, calling for measures to be undertaken against her because she used the term Kosovo and Metohija in the news reporting, Radio kontakt plus reports.

Majority of Pristina-based media reported yesterday that Dogandzic in an evening news on May 4 used the term Kosovo and Metohija, assessing it was impermissible that “a journalist paid with the taxpayers money serves discriminatory politics of Slobodan Milosevic and Serbia,” the UNS said in a statement.

As UNS further stated, Dogandzic told them it was an unintentional mistake, an omission, but it should not be a reason for her lynching in the media.

“Because of the reports on this news, publishing my photo and horrifying comments on social media, that I should be expelled from Kosovo, I am afraid,” she said.

Dogandzic said in December 2018 she used the same term, but she was not the news editor at that time, so it could not be considered as her mistake.

UNS and its branch in Kosovo strongly oppose that Dogandzic is punished because of the term she used, adding the RTK2 staff members should interrupt their work if she is sanctioned over that.

They also urged Albanian media to refrain from the attacks against their colleagues, that could have as a consequence endangerment of their security, the associations concluded in a statement.

 

Opinion

 

Restoring civil liberties after COVID-19 (Prishtina Insight)

The coronavirus pandemic has exposed the levels of trust between states and their citizens in the Western Balkans and beyond, and as governments tackle a new phase of the crisis, tensions between political freedoms and authoritarian tendencies will continue, writes Florian Bieber, professor at the University of Graz and coordinator of the Balkans in Europe Policy Advisory Group (BiEPAG).

“As states of emergency have been declared formally or informally around the world, civil liberties and democratic rules have been suspended in both liberal democracies and outright dictatorships. At the same time, surveys across the world gave a boost to ruling governments and presidents, even when they bungled the response badly, like US President Donald Trump. 

Certainly, the world is not giving up on democracy. However, in moments of crisis, calls for ‘whatever it takes’ and the idea that ‘saving lives is more important than the rules’ are convincing. As understandable as this reflex might be, it has led to restrictions of democracy and human rights around the world that are not only unprecedented, but also often disproportional and counterproductive.

While countries across Europe, including the Western Balkans, have been taking the first steps to lift the more restrictive measures, there will be a long period of what some politicians call the ‘new normality.’ Of course, there is nothing normal about this normality, as restrictions will remain in place and citizens will have a long period in which life will not be as it was before March 2020.”

https://bit.ly/2YXCycQ

The Western Balkans between the EU, NATO, Russia and China (ETHZurich)

Henrik Larsen writes that Russia appears to have embraced the role of a spoiler against Western interests in the Western Balkans, viewing obstacles to NATO and EU integration in the region as opportunities ready for exploitation. China is also making inroads in the Western Balkans, creating new financial and economic dependencies that complicate the EU accession processes. Indeed, Larsen suggests that EU-​China competition for the region is emerging in some respects as more important than the more static NATO-​Russia rivalry.

See the full analyses at:https://bit.ly/2WuXJl3

 

 

  International

 

Russia’s assistance was of great moral importance for Serbia, says politician (TASS)

The Serbian politician noted that solidarity between countries and peoples is of paramount importance amid a pandemic

BELGRADE, May 13. /TASS/. The assistance provided by Russian military specialists had great moral significance for the Serbian people, Director of the Government Office for Kosovo and Metohija and President Aleksandar Vucic’s deputy in the ruling Serbian Progressive Party, Marko Djuric said in an interview with TASS.

“At the time of challenges, states and peoples should demonstrate to each other by concrete acts of solidarity that they are not alone in trouble. This is especially true for countries with traditionally friendly and fraternal relations. I am certain that the presence of Russian military specialists, in addition to contributing to military cooperation between our countries, had, first and foremost, a moral influence on the Serbian people’s readiness to withstand the difficult weeks and months of the fight against an invisible and largely unknown enemy. The assistance provided by Russian brothers, no doubt, will be remembered and appreciated in Serbia for a long time, because a friend in need is a friend indeed,” he said.

See more at:https://bit.ly/2T2bKV8

 

Humanitarian/Development

 

Central, Eastern European Countries Maintain Tough Travel Restrictions (Balkan Insight)

Border controls remain firmly in place in most Balkan, Eastern and Central European states, although Serbia, Croatia and Hungary have issued new rules allowing business people and some other categories to enter for urgent reasons.

Tight restrictions on foreign travel and on entry to countries remain in place in Eastern, Central and Southeastern Europe.  Serbia, Croatia and Hungary are the only countries that have announced specific measures for foreign travelers entering their countries.

Serbia on Monday said it will allow in foreigners who can show a PCR test not older than 72 hours. “Those who come to Serbia will have to have a [negative result on a] PCR test not older than 72 hours; if they do not have it, they will have to go into self-isolation if it is our citizen, or isolation with health supervision for a foreign citizen,” epidemiologist Predrag Kon, a member of Serbia’s Crisis Staff, told media on Monday.

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

Chinese lab boosts Serbia’s coronavirus testing capacity (Reuters)

A Chinese-built state-of-the-art laboratory is helping to nearly double Serbia’s testing capacity for COVID-19, the lung disease caused by the new coronavirus, in the latest example of close ties between Belgrade and Beijing.

The Huo-Yan National Laboratory for Molecular Detection of Infectious Agents in Belgrade is the first that the Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) has helped to build in Europe and has the capacity to carry out more than 2,000 tests a day.

The laboratory’s 40 employees were all trained by Chinese colleagues who previously set up COVID-19 testing laboratories in Wuhan, where the new coronavirus first emerged, and 10 other Chinese cities.

See more at: https://reut.rs/2WuhARf

UNMIK donation for most vulnerable people in Novo Brdo municipality (Kosovo-online portal)

Mayor of Novo Brdo, Svetislav Ivanovic and municipal officials received today donation form UNMIK, including 50 food packages and 40 hygienic packages, dedicated to the most vulnerable people in this municipality, Kosovo-online reports, citing the statement of Novo Brdo municipality posted on social media.

As the municipality stated, volunteers and members of the local authorities will distribute the aid to those in need.

Novo Brdo mayor Svetislav Ivanovic thanked UNMIK for the donation and expressed hope that a mutual and successful cooperation will continue.

He recalled that since the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic and introduction of state of emergency, municipality regularly delivers the aid to the elderly persons and socially vulnerable groups of population, adding it would continue until the situation becomes normalized.

When Home Is Not The Safest Place (Halotrust)

‘Lockdown stress and anxiety has led to a sharp spike in the number of women reporting incidents of domestic abuse.’ Dr Hans Kluge, Europe Director, World Health Organisation

Across the UK and Europe, millions of families have been asked to stay at home to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

But what do you do if you have no safe place to stay?

For vulnerable groups, including asylum seekers, refugees and victims of domestic violence, sheltering at home is often not an option. In Kosovo, our team recognised the urgent need to protect these communities during the COVID-19 pandemic and quickly mobilised in support.

Supporting Safe House

Kosovo’s police force has seen a 36 per cent increase in domestic violence reports since quarantine measures were introduced in March, putting pressure on already stretched resources. HALO has therefore partnered with Safe House — a national charity that provides shelter for victims of domestic violence. Thanks to support from our donors, we have been able to purchase bedding and clothes for women and children who would otherwise be trapped in violent relationships during the Coronavirus pandemic.

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

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