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Belgrade Media Report 13 May

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LOCAL PRESS

Vucic and Partiarch Irinej express concern over Bishop’s arrest in Montenegro (B92/RTS)
Dacic: Opening borders is not a unilateral decision (RTS)
Entry into Serbia with negative PCR test or self-isolation (Tanjug/RTS/B92)
Martinovic ends hunger strike (Beta)
Obradovic: Police and prosecutors haven’t contacted me yet (Beta/N1)
Another 52 cases, 3,824 recovered (RTS)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina

Dodik: SNSD agrees CoM should approve funds for holding of local elections; Elections should be held (RTRS)
Sarovic expects local elections in B&H to be postponed for November (Glas Srpske)
Izetbegovic: Bosniaks will not make any more concessions in Mostar (N1/Dnevni list)
Kavazovic on announced mass for Bleiburg victims: Organizer of this event is parliament of Croatia (Hayat/VoA)
Radoncic: Huge voice of reason amid political cacophony (Dnevni avaz)
Dodik: Holy mass for Bleiburg in Sarajevo is unacceptable (ATV)
Tourist Organization of Bihac City films video at location of Garavice scaffold that sparks strong reactions in RS (RTRS)
Minister Bevanda meets UN Resident Coordinator in B&H Macdonald (Dnevni list)
Ambassador Nelson interview (EuroBlic)
B&H Covid-19 update: 24 new cases and 2 more deaths (N1)
Croatia

Plenkovic: Electoral Commission responsible for election (Hina)
Bandic says not likely to support dissolution of parliament without Law on Zagreb (Hina)
EU defense ministers discuss impact of COVID-19 (HRT)
Croatia COVID-19 update: 1,834 have recovered from the coronavirus (HRT)
Montenegro

Joanikije and other seven priests ordered to be detained for up to 72 hours (CDM)
Coronavirus recovery rates in Montenegro rising, no new infections reported today (CDM)
Republic of North Macedonia

Zaev: Party leaders discussed several election dates (MIA)
Mickoski: Election date to be set only after infectious diseases committee is consulted (MIA)
No elections without OSCE/ODIHR observation mission, says Sela (MIA)
Kasami: BESA will support every consensual decision regarding election (MIA)
Spasovski: Election deadlines to be reinstated once state of emergency is over (MIA)
President’s Office: Party leaders to meet again next week to discuss further steps (MIA)
Government unveils three-phase plan to ease coronavirus restrictions (MIA)
North Macedonia gets access to EU Solidarity Fund (MIA)
In North Macedonia 20 new COVID-19 cases, 24 patients recover, 3 die (MIA)
Albania

Edi Rama for N1: The best ideas for the future of Europe are in the Balkans (N1)
Albania and Kosovo to unify embassy and consulate offices (Radio Tirana)
Four new cases of COVID-19 in Albania (Radio Tirana)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

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

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Vucic and Partiarch Irinej express concern over Bishop’s arrest in Montenegro (B92/RTS)

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Serbian Patriarch Irinej showed great concern over the detention of Bishop Joanikije and the priest of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro.

They said that they hope that the people will act peacefully and calmly in these moments when no reasonable person wants any riots and conflicts. According to the joint statement, the Patriarch recalled that the culmination of the hostile attitude of the state of Montenegro towards the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) began with the adoption of the controversial Law on Freedom of Religion with gross disregard for the SPC’s demands for equal position in relation to all other churches and religious communities, including the protection of the rights that church has enjoyed for centuries. “The fact that the law was adopted with great indignation of our people at the end of last year and early this year, and that the bishop and priests are now being arrested and detained, just proves that the Montenegrin state is persecuting the Serbian Orthodox Church,” the statement added. Vucic gave full support to Serbian Patriarch Irinej and bishops of the Serbian Church in Montenegro in their efforts to solve all the problems they face through dialogue, in a peaceful manner, with full respect for the rights and freedoms of SPC followers. The President of Serbia said that he was convinced that Bishop Joanikije and the other arrested priests would be released as soon as possible.

 

Dacic: Opening borders is not a unilateral decision (RTS)

 

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic told Radio and Television of Serbia (RTS) that the opening of borders and travel outside the borders of the state are not unilateral decisions of one country, but standards that are imposed and demanded by other countries as well. Dacic said that it is not possible to only discuss Serbia’s measures, but that other countries must be taken into account, as well as their demands. He stressed that opening of borders for citizens of Serbia and for entry and exit from our country is one thing, while entry and exit of foreigners is another. “In our country, it is about negative tests not older than 72 hours. Foreigners who come to Serbia should have a negative test and confirmation from a government commission for entering the country,” he explained. He pointed out that from 1 June, Serbia’s borders with Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and North Macedonia can be crossed without any confirmation, as these are neighboring countries that are not members of the EU. As for EU member-states, Dacic said that the EU’s decision to close their borders at the EU level until 15 June remains in force, but, as he stated, our citizens from EU countries can return to Serbia even under such conditions – with certificates issued by the state authorities of Serbia. He recalled that the state no longer organizes humanitarian repatriation flights, because there are no more Serbian citizens stranded outside the borders of Serbia – but that Air Serbia continued to organize special flights where citizens pay for their tickets.

 

Entry into Serbia with negative PCR test or self-isolation (Tanjug/RTS/B92)

 

The Serbian government adopted on Tuesday a protocol for the entry of Serbian citizens and foreign nationals into Serbia, in accordance with the epidemiological situation and the protection of the population from infectious disease COVID-19. Serbian citizens can enter Serbia and move without restrictions with a negative PCR test for coronavirus not older than 72 hours. If they do not have the test with a negative result, all our citizens, without exception, will be obliged to self-isolate at home for 14 days. Foreign nationals can enter Serbia under two conditions – a negative PCR test for coronavirus not older than 72 hours and a permit issued by a commission consisting of representatives of the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of the Interior. This permit is issued by the Serbian embassy or consulate in the country from which a foreign national arrives. The COVID-19 Crisis Response Team recommended the government to fully open the borders for the persons coming from four neighboring countries – Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania, Montenegro and North Macedonia as of 1 June.

 

Martinovic ends hunger strike (Beta)

 

Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) MP Aleksandar Martinovic ended on 12 May a hunger strike after the First Basic Public Prosecutor’s Office in Belgrade reacted to the events in front of parliament on 8 May. Martinovic read the prosecution’s statement to reporters. The document states that the prosecutor’s office is collecting evidence with regard to four individuals to establish whether or not they are guilty of violent behavior at a public gathering and that the investigation will be swift. “As someone who was on a hunger strike for three days I am not pleased with this statement, I believe it should have been phrased more sharply and that it should have clearly defined what happened on 8 May, but this is still a first step in the direction of what we wanted to do and an appeal to the prosecution to react in accordance with the law to the beating of MP Marjan Risticevic,” Martinovic said. As for a gathering that was organized in front of parliament late on 11 May, Martinovic initially said that we took all measures for protection but quickly corrected himself and said that the citizens themselves took the measures, wore masks and gloves and were maximally protected. He also maintains that the gathering was spontaneous.

 

Obradovic: Police and prosecutors haven’t contacted me yet (Beta/N1)

 

Dveri movement leader Bosko Obradovic, who has been on a hunger strike for four days before the Serbian parliament building, has said that he is continuing with the strike and is not changing his demands that the electoral process be suspended and that the authorities and the opposition sit together at a negotiating table. “In a way, I am continuing Aleksandar Martinovic’s hunger strike, since he has ended it. I will also adopt the idea that the prosecutor’s office and police should act and prosecute all those from the top government circles involved in high corruption and crime scandals – from the Savamala case, the helicopter case, to Jovanjica and Krusik”, Obradovic told N1. According to him, so far no one from the prosecutor’s office or the police had contacted him to give a statement concerning a criminal report filed against him and another three persons over an incident in front of the parliament building on 8 May. “I have heard rumors that the police are gradually contacting the other three people involved in an alleged incident. We saw that no one touched Marijan Risticevic; he caused the incident by provoking the gathered people,” Obradovic said. He added that he feels fine.

 

Another 52 cases, 3,824 recovered (RTS)

 

Until 3pm there have been another 52 cases, in total 10,295 infected. There have been two more deaths, in total 222 deaths. There are 22 patients on respirators, and 3,824 people recovered.

 

REGIONAL PRESS

 

Dodik: SNSD agrees CoM should approve funds for holding of local elections; Elections should be held (RTRS)

 

Serb member of the Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Presidency and leader of SNSD Milorad Dodik said on Tuesday that SNSD agrees that the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) should approve funds for holding of the local elections in B&H and that now is not the moment for a discussion on whether the elections will be held or not. He explained that there is total confusion about the local elections in B&H and reminded that members of the B&H Central Election Commission (CEC) were illegally appointed and in his opinion, this institution lacks the legitimacy. According to Dodik, the elections in B&H should be held bearing in mind that elections will be held this year in Serbia and some other countries. Dodik said: “There is no reason that we now discuss whether the elections scheduled for October will be held or not. If the epidemic reaches the scale in September that may jeopardize the election process and the day of the elections, it is easy to meet and reach a decision on postponement. Discussing this now is exclusively related to some political speculations”.

 

Sarovic expects local elections in B&H to be postponed for November (Glas Srpske)

 

SDS leader Mirko Sarovic said on Tuesday that he expects local elections in B&H, scheduled for 4 October, to be postponed for November due to the lack of money and delays in the process of public procurements. Sarovic noted that a total of BAM five million need to be secured for holding of elections in B&H, and for that to happen, the 2020 budget of institutions of B&H has to be adopted. “If the budget is not adopted by the end of May, we will have a big problem and competent institutions will probably need to decide what to do next. If elections are to take place after all, I think that they cannot be organized before the beginning of November, because public procurements need to be carried out,” said Sarovic.

 

Izetbegovic: Bosniaks will not make any more concessions in Mostar (N1/Dnevni list)

 

SDA President Bakir Izetbegovic told N1 that he expects that the local elections will be held in Mostar. According to Izetbegovic, ‘we’ (SDA) are trying to get the positions closer, however HDZ B&H is keeping the bar high. “I am not an optimist. Even when it goes in their favor, they refused one good solution when we negotiated about implementation of the ‘Sejdic-Finci’ ruling. I do not think that in case of Mostar they will be ready to make a realistic and rational solution. If that does not happen, let the Constitutional Court and the CEC B&H do their job” said Izetbegovic. He went on to say that Mostar got destroyed and was not destroyed by the Bosniaks, that Bosniaks had three municipalities, a position that was undermined by the High Representative. In this context the SDA leader said that Bosniaks are now expected to make more concessions, which would guarantee that a Croat will always be the Mayor (of Mostar). “We will not do it” added Izetbegovic. He also commented on the announcement of religious service for Bleiburg victims in Sarajevo on 16 May by saying one should not be going to the protest rallies. “It is about an intentional provocation. Politicians dragged the Catholic Church into this situation. One should let them have the mass. The Catholic Church played a good role, they had principles, were ready to clean up their own backyard,” said Izetbegovic.

 

Kavazovic on announced mass for Bleiburg victims: Organizer of this event is parliament of Croatia (Hayat/VoA)

 

In a statement for Voice of America, Head of Islamic Community in B&H Husein Kavazovic commented announced mass for Bleiburg victims that should be held in Sacred Heart Cathedral in Sarajevo on 16 May. Among other things, Kavazovic stated that Catholic Church has right to pass decisions in autonomous manner and when it comes to prayer, no one has right to ban the Church to hold it. Kavazovic underlined that organizer of this event is the Parliament of Croatia. He added that there is political liability of Croatia, adding that it is easy to pin responsibility to the Church. He emphasized that Muslims should not be criticizing Cardinal Vinko Puljic and Catholic Church, and that there should not be protests. Kavazovic said that the announced protests should not take place and that dignity must be remained. He said that some people are trying to link this to the City of Sarajevo, but noted that Sarajevo is not marking anything. “The Catholic Church has a mass in Sarajevo, and this should remain within the Cathedral, nothing should take place outside of there. Somebody probably wants disagreements between Muslims and Catholics, or a third party, but we need to respect each other. These days we are marking the Day Against Fascism and the focus should be on the victims of fascists, especially Jewish victims who died in the holocaust. It is all of our responsibilities to mark the day of the triumph over fascism. There were people who carried out terrible crimes in Bleiburg, but there were probably also innocent people. One should not request religious communities determine facts which should have been determined by states, state courts and history. We failed to do that in time, and it is unfair to now deliver it all on one religious community,” Kavazovic said.

 

Radoncic: Huge voice of reason amid political cacophony (Dnevni avaz)

 

B&H Security Minister and SBB B&H leader Fahrudin Radoncic commented the statement of Head of Islamic Community in B&H, Reis Husein Kavazovic concerning the announced serving of mass for Bleiburg victims. “Statement of Reis Kavazovic about the situation which emerged because of the announced mass in Sarajevo is a huge voice of reason, religious and moral education and wisdom amid political cacophony. Please read his interview. It carries messages of historic importance and this interview can be a right political and moral literature for every good man,” said Radoncic.

 

Dodik: Holy mass for Bleiburg in Sarajevo is unacceptable (ATV)

 

Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik commented on the organization of the holy mass which will take place in the Sarajevo Cathedral on Saturday to honor the victims of Bleiburg. He said that the organization of a holy mass for victims of Bleiburg is unacceptable. “Holding a mass for this and giving those people significance offends our belief of these events. Bleiburg is for us the synonym for the suffering of Ustasha forces,” said Dodik. “The Church, a religious community, regardless of which, has a right to practice its rituals, but such pompous announcements that something is dedicated to an event in which, as far as us Serbs are concerned, those who carried out a several yearlong genocides over the Serb people deservedly suffered,” Dodik said.

 

Tourist Organization of Bihac City films video at location of Garavice scaffold that sparks strong reactions in RS (RTRS)

 

The fact that the Tourist Organization of the Bihac City filmed a promotional music video at the location of Garavice scaffold where around 12,000 Serbs civilians and a big number of children were killed during the WWII, has sparked strong reactions in the RS. However, the Tourist Organization of the Bihac City postponed promotion of the video announced for 22 May saying that they did not intend to insult anyone. According to RTRS, the public in the RS reacted by saying that this belittled the victims, the civilians and children killed by members of the Ustasha Movement in the WWII. The reporter noted that no one from the city administration in Bihac responded on their question on why the video was filmed at the location of scaffold of the Serbs.

SNSD MP Srdjan Mazalica commented on this issue and asked how would people feel if someone organizes a concert in the Srebrenica-Potocari Memorial Center, adding that this kind of authority should openly say that they are Ustashas. Professor Vladimir Lukic said that this is unbelievable and characterized this as another crime upon the crime. Serb member of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency and leader of SNSD Milorad Dodik condemned this act and reminded that members of the Ustasha Movement killed around 12,000 Serbs in the WWII. He added that local authorities in Bihac clearly know this fact, asking what kind of message they want to send with this act.

 

Minister Bevanda meets UN Resident Coordinator in B&H Macdonald (Dnevni list)

 

B&H Minister of Finance and Treasury Vjekoslav Bevanda held a meeting with United Nations Resident Coordinator in B&H Ingrid Macdonald. Main topic of the meeting was influence of the Coronavirus pandemic on the socio-economic situation in B&H. The two collocutors stressed that the whole world is suffering from difficult consequences of the pandemic, and that it is necessary to undertake urgent measures in order to overcome damaging effects in B&H. Minister Bevanda expressed satisfaction with long cooperation between B&H and the UN agencies, whose numerous projects are being implemented, whilst several are being planned for the future.

 

Ambassador Nelson interview (EuroBlic)

 

In an interview to the daily, US Ambassador Eric Nelson commented on political thesis on “outgoing and upcoming US Administration” and said that he thinks there is a slim difference between those administrations in the context of US policy in B&H and Western Balkans. “We are present in B&H and we are committed to this country and its prosperous future. That is the fact – it was like that in 2016 and it is like that now, in 2020. We are still firmly committed to assisting B&H on its Euro-Atlantic path. Our commitment is strong and unchangeable, the problem is not in this. The problem is in inexistence of internal consensus of key political players in the country to work in favor of B&H and its citizens,” Nelson said. Asked to comment on the perception in the RS that the US Embassy of B&H favors Bosniaks in B&H, Nelson replied by saying that this is a wrong perception which he has to deny. “The USA has been a reliable partner and friend of B&H citizens for the past 25 years”, Nelson noted and reminded that the example of what the USA is doing is its assistance during the coronavirus pandemic to citizens throughout B&H, including the RS. “USAID donated USD 1.2 million to B&H as assistance for its laboratory systems, activation of disease detection, support to experts, improvement of prevention and engagement in communities. Apart from that, over the past several weeks, NATO and US Army delivered key medical and disinfection equipment to the Ministry of Security of B&H, Armed Forces of B&H, ministries of interior of the Federation of B&H (FB&H) and RS, local civil protection units in Bijeljina, Tuzla and Brcko. This assistance is only a part of several donations that were delivered to B&H citizens by NATO allies, and which are of a direct benefit for citizens of both the RS and entire country,” Nelson explained. Asked to describe his political relations with Serb member of the Presidency of B&H Milorad Dodik, Nelson stated that the US Embassy of B&H respects the institution of the Presidency of B&H. “Mr. Dodik is a member of the Presidency of B&H and, in this capacity, we will cooperate with him just like we have been always cooperating with members of the Presidency”, Nelson added. Asked to state what he would do in a hypothetical situation if someone from Washington asked him for an opinion on revoking of US sanctions against Dodik, Nelson said that this is not the question he could answer as imposing or revoking of sanctions against someone comes as a result of consultations between various agencies of the US government which last for months and are never revoked easily. “Sanctions against Milorad Dodik were imposed because he opposed the Constitutional Court of B&H, violated rule of law and represented a significant threat to the implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA). Those sanctions were not imposed easily, there is no specific deadline by which those should be reconsidered nor any special preconditions that would result to revoking of them,” Nelson explained. Commenting on the most recent meetings of the Presidency of B&H with representatives of the Quint countries on the Program of Reforms, appointment of the Chair of the Council of Ministers of B&H and realization of 14 European priorities for B&H, Nelson said that while foreign diplomats express their support to B&H on its Euro-Atlantic path, domestic politicians should take the responsibility for the future of this country and start working on solving of problems and adoption of decisions which are necessary for making of progress. Nelson reminded that the conclusions of the Presidency of B&H were clearly welcomed when it comes to key priorities of the EU Opinion related to strengthening of democracy, improvement of functionality, rule of law, public administration reform and basic rights. “We also urge B&H authorities to continue with coordinated activities in fight against COVID-19 pandemic with the goal to save human lives and reduce public health risks”, Nelson noted and added that recovery will require time. The daily reminded that Dodik publicly claimed that Nelson promised that the Program of Reforms will not activate the Membership Action Plan (MAP) of NATO. Asked whether this is true, Nelson said that the path towards the membership in NATO is the goal which has the US’ support and he added: “However, this is a long-term goal and we are currently not focused on the issue of membership in NATO which would result in increase of political tensions in B&H. We are focused on the work with partners in order to strengthen defense and security of B&H and assist it in becoming a better partner of NATO and USA. The Program of Reforms is the key document which lists crucial reforms on which B&H must focus on its future path towards Euro-Atlantic integration, including defense reform”.

Finally, Nelson was asked to state which “unfinished business” US Special Representative for the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer has in B&H, to which Nelson replied by saying that fight against corruption and promotion of the rule of law remain the most important task for B&H, especially during the time of the coronavirus pandemic when corruption may result in loss of human lives. Nelson added that it is still of utmost importance for politicians to work on strengthening, and not on weakening, of institutions and laws important for fight against corruption and this requires independent judiciary in B&H. “Politicians have access to appointments to judicial positions and they also have connections with certain judges and prosecutors”, Nelson said and added that it is a shame that there is no system of check-up of property sheets of judges in B&H.

 

B&H Covid-19 update: 24 new cases and 2 more deaths (N1)

 

B&H health authorities reported 24 new cases of Covid-19 and 2 more virus-related fatalities over the past 24 hours. RS Health Ministry said they tested a total of 550 new samples and that 23 came back positive – nine patients are male and 14 female. According to the Health Ministry, this entity has so far confirmed 1,168 cases of Covid-19, from which 79 people have died and have 511 recovered. They added that 19,108 people have been tested for the new coronavirus since the beginning of the outbreak in the country. When it comes to FB&H, 653 samples were tested and only 1 came back positive. So far, this entity tested 24,668 people form the new coronavirus, the Health Ministry said. So far, 703 patients have recovered from the disease and 37 had died. Three more fatalities have been reported in the country – two are from the RS and one from the FB&H. The Banja Luka Clinical Centre said the two RS patients were in their 80 and suffered from pre-existing, chronic conditions. According to Bosnia’s Civil Affairs Ministry, a total of 2,181 cases have been confirmed to date in the country, of which 1,228 recovered and 120 had died. The Ministry added that the country’s health authorities have tested 44,380 people since the beginning of the pandemic.

 

Plenkovic: Electoral Commission responsible for election (Hina)

 

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said that when the parliamentary majority adopts a decision on the parliamentary election, the State Electoral Commission (DIP) will make its decisions and consult with the Institute of Public Health on possible recommendations. “We in the parliamentary majority will agree on that when we assess that the epidemiological circumstances are appropriate, which I think they are, and after that we can make a decision about that in the parliament. In any case, it is in DIP’s remit to organize the election and it will make its decisions on that. When a decision on the election is made, then I am certain that DIP will, logically, consult with the Croatian Institute of Public Health regarding any possible recommendations,” Plenkovic told reporters. He said that everything will be known once election slates are on the agenda, adding that Damir Krsticevic, who resigned as defense minister, was still a member of the ruling party’s presidency. “We are going into the election with solid achievements in this term. For three years now, we have been achieving what we promised. Now we have shown not only that we have consolidated the state and that it is much better off than when we won the election, but that we know how to manage both public health challenges and an enormous package of economic and social measures,” he underscored.

 

Bandic says not likely to support dissolution of parliament without Law on Zagreb (Hina)

 

Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic said on Tuesday that the parliamentary group of his Work and Solidarity Party was unanimous that it would not support the parliament’s dissolution if parliament did not previously vote in a law on the reconstruction of Zagreb. Bandic said he would be happy if the law was voted in by the current parliament, adding that even though this was difficult to expect, he had heard that the bill would receive first reading “as early as next week.” Bandic believes that the law on the post-quake reconstruction of the capital city could be adopted under fast-track procedure. “There is still time for those in charge at the state level to respond appropriately because this is a top priority,” said Bandic. Commenting on announcements that people in self-isolation would be allowed to go to the polls in the coming parliamentary elections, Bandic said that the precondition for holding elections “is a zero or close to zero rate of the coronavirus.” “Anything that would put citizens’ health at risk would constitute the scoring of cheap political points and timing elections to suit one’s own interests. I’m against that and we will be against that.”

 

EU defense ministers discuss impact of COVID-19 (HRT)

 

The central theme of Tuesday’s videoconference of EU defense ministers was the strategic implications of the COVID-19 pandemic in the field of security and defense, including existing defense initiatives and the implementation of EU missions and operations. The videoconference was chaired by the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, Josep Borrell. Also joining EU defense ministers were NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix, and the European Commission’s Crisis Management and Internal Market commissioners Janez Lenarcic and Thierry Breton respectively. Representing Croatia was State Secretary Zdravko Jakop, who filled in after Damir Krsticevic resigned his post as Defense Minister last week. The ministers exchanged views on the actions taken by the European Union in response to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as national experiences on the role of the armed forces in providing support to civilian institutions. They welcomed the establishment of a temporary working group within the European Union’s Military Staff, which allows Member States to exchange information and best practices on the contribution of the armed forces in dealing with a pandemic. Addressing this point, State Secretary Jakop pointed out that solidarity and the coordination of member states is one of the key criteria for successfully dealing with a pandemic and its consequences, and that the Croatian Army is ready to share its knowledge and experience. Jakop added that the coronavirus pandemic was a global challenge that has affected all aspects of society, including defense, and as such requires a comprehensive approach and cooperation with NATO and UN partner organizations. He went on to say that security risks did not disappear with the arrival of the pandemic, but that the pandemic will have long-term strategic implications for the defense sector. “In this context, and bearing in mind the contribution of the armed forces in supporting civilian institutions in combating these and potential new challenges, it is necessary to continue implementing EU defense initiatives such as the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), the European Defense Fund (EDF), the Strategic Compass and military mobility. These initiatives represent a good platform for improving cooperation, developing operational capabilities for a rapid and effective response to crises, and at the same time contributing to economic recovery through strengthening small and medium-sized enterprises,” Jakop said.

The State Secretary also pointed out the importance of keeping the focus of the European Union in Southeast Europe, where the pandemic could serve as another catalyst for instability.

 

Croatia COVID-19 update: 1,834 have recovered from the coronavirus (HRT)

 

According to the latest report from the National Civil Protection Headquarters 6 new coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Croatia over the past 24 hours. This brings the national total to 2,213. Presenting the latest figures at the press briefing Health Minister Vili Beros reported that 3 new coronavirus-related deaths had been recorded in Croatia since yesterday, bringing the national total of coronavirus related deaths at 94. Beros noted that all three were in their late 80’s and early 90’s with pre-existing chronic illnesses. Currently there are 150 people receiving treatment in hospital, of which 9 are on respirators. Beros added that more than 48,700 tests had been conducted since the beginning of the pandemic, with 1,257 coming in the past 24 hours. The positive return rate on testing in the past 24 hours was 4.54 percent. So far, 1,834 people have achieved a full recovery, which is 26 more than on Tuesday. This means that of the 2,213 cases of coronavirus registered since the beginning of the outbreak, only 379 are still battling the virus.

 

Joanikije and other seven priests ordered to be detained for up to 72 hours (CDM)

 

Bishop of Budimlje and Niksic. Mr Joanikije, and other seven Bishops, Danilo Zirojevic, Zeljko Rojevic, Ostoja Knezevic, Mirko Vukotic, Vasilije Brboric, Dragan Krsic and Nikola Marojevic, have been ordered detention of up to 72 hours after being interrogated in the Basic State Prosecutor’s Office in Niksic due to organizing religious processions and violating measure adopted by the National Coordination Body. The priests were summoned to the police last night and give testimony on the scent in question. Citizens took to the streets of Niksic again last night, despite the ban. “To go to the police peacefully – that’s alright. We don’t run away from the law, we adhered to the Constitution of Montenegro and other laws,” said Bishop Joanikije. The Serbian Orthodox Church in Niksic organized a liturgy on the day of Saint Basil of Ostrog where a great number of people gathered although mass gatherings are still banned.

The National Coordination Body has called on the State Prosecutor’s Office to react urgently and stated that Niksic “at epidemic risk”. Acting Supreme state prosecutor, Iviva Stankovic, reminded all believers that after some measures had been eased, religious rites “are allowed to be performed only with adherence to the recommendations of the NCB”. Stankovic said to everyone defying measures and orders of competent authorities that they risked provoking determined reaction of the State Prosecutor’s Office as “the law is equal for everyone”. Meanwhile, Dejan Stojovic as a chief of communal police Danilovgrad stated, that the believers respected measures both yesterday and the previous day. “During the liturgy on the occasion of the Day of St. Basil of Ostrog in Ostrog, everything was in order,” said Stojovic. “When warned citizens always follow our order,” adds Stojovic.

 

Coronavirus recovery rates in Montenegro rising, no new infections reported today (CDM)

 

No new coronavirus cases were detected today in Montenegro. The number of people recovering from the virus is increasing – 298, while there are 17 current active cases. “Labs of the Institute for Public Health analyzed 243 samples as of yesterday and found no new active cases,” they announced. Therefore, the number of infections since the beginning of the outbreak is still 324. There are 1.133 people under surveillance, while nine have died from Covid-19 so far.

 

Zaev: Party leaders discussed several election dates (MIA)

 

SDSM leader Zoran Zaev said the party leaders at Tuesday’s meeting, hosted by President Stevo Pendarovski, presented for consideration several dates when the 2020 parliamentary elections could be held. According to him, it depends on whether the state of emergency would be extended and for how long. “We all agreed that elections should be held 22 days after the state of emergency is lifted” Zaev told reporters. It was agreed, he said, the government to ask OSCE/ODIHR when it can deploy an observation mission. “Also, the government will ask the Committee for Infectious Diseases to draft conduct protocols having in mind that rallies won’t be held. The President should hold a meeting with State Election Commission members to discuss potential dates for election day,” the ruling party leader said. Putting people’s health first will be truly possible if all institutions are functional, Zaev insisted. According to him, the country needs functioning parliament and a political government to take responsibility. The opposition, Zaev said, today wasn’t prepared to discuss election dates. “It is buying time” he noted. “However, I believe early next week an agreement on a date for elections could be reached,” the ruling party leader stressed.

 

Mickoski: Election date to be set only after infectious diseases committee is consulted (MIA)

 

Standing up for people’s health, we should consult first with the Committee for Infectious Diseases before consulting the State Election Commission about when it’s best to hold fair and credible elections, VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski said Tuesday after the leaders’ meeting. “If loss of life is the price of VMRO-DPMNE winning the next parliamentary elections and me becoming prime minister, then I refuse to be part of such structure,” Mickoski stressed.

At the meeting, the opposition leader reiterated that public health ‘is above all, meaning that elections come second. Mickoski proposed a plan containing several steps as to when ‘is the most reasonable time to have parliamentary elections. “It’s necessary to have fair and credible elections and we must make sure that the measures taken during the process guarantee that people vote in fair and credible elections,” the opposition leader added. According to the plan he proposed, the State Election Commission must be consulted and the OSCE/ODIHR should be asked when an observation mission can be deployed. Once these requirements are met, Mickoski said, then we can discuss dates for elections to be held. “However, the leading principle is the protection of people’s health, not to risk exposing them to threats in order to have fair and credible election process,” he told reporters, saying the opposition’s plan had been accepted to a large extent. Mickoski said he also proposed the party leaders at the next meeting discuss ‘the issues we are having with our eastern neighbor,’ adding the proposal wasn’t met with a consensus.

 

No elections without OSCE/ODIHR observation mission, says Sela (MIA)

 

North Macedonia cannot afford to hold elections without observation mission of the OSCE/ODIHR, Zijadin Sela, leader of the Alliance for Albanians, told reporters. The leaders and the President, Sela said, extensively discussed the COVID-19 situation and agreed to set an election date after a consensus is reached. “The country will send a request to the international institution to learn when it is prepared to send an election observation mission. Also, we need to consult with the State Election Commission. We agreed to meet again early next week to finally agree a date to hold the elections” the party leader stated. In addition to public health, Sela noted, we also need to take into consideration the health of the country and of the society, too. “Parliamentary democracy is a must and elections have to take place.” Moreover, Afrim Gashi, Alternativa leader, said he echoed the same sentiment as Sela of the Alliance for Albanians. The two parties of the Albanian political bloc formed coalition ahead of the 2020 parliamentary elections. The people’s health is what matters the most, Gashi said, noting that elections must be held when ‘the best conditions are in place, minimizing the risk of people being exposed to threats.

 

Kasami: BESA will support every consensual decision regarding election (MIA)

 

The BESA Movement will support every decision regarding the parliamentary election reached by a consensus, BESA leader Bilal Kasami said Tuesday. “We leave a difficult period behind us, but challenging times lie ahead. Thus, we call on competent authorities to relax movement restrictions and reopen businesses, so people can psychologically prepare for a gradual return to normal life. We also call on citizens to adhere to social distancing measures,” Kasami said.

 

Spasovski: Election deadlines to be reinstated once state of emergency is over (MIA)

 

Once the state of emergency is over election deadlines should be reinstated, Prime Minister Oliver Spasovski told a news conference Tuesday. He underlined that leaders of ruling and opposition political parties discussed Tuesday at a meeting hosted by President Stevo Pendarovski several election dates, decided to continue talks next week, once necessary information has been obtained from relevant institutions. “The election decree is clear. In order to postpone the election, we had to suspend deadlines. Once the state of emergency is over deadlines should be reinstated,” the PM said in answer to a reporter’s question. Spasovski pointed out at the press conference that the State Election Commission (SEC) should conduct the election process within a clearly-defined time-frame. “The State Election Commission conducts the election process in line with decisions made by competent institutions, such as parliament. It is set to organize election within a clearly-defined time-frame,” he said. Spasovski reiterated during the press conference that the government had previously adopted a decree which poses that if deadlines are halted, the countdown should continue once the state of emergency is over and election must be held 60 days after parliament’s dissolution. “The decree adopted by the government clearly states that if election deadlines are suspended, election must be held 60 days after parliament dissolved, which means the period before the state of emergency was declared is observed and the countdown continues once the state of emergency is over,” Spasovski said.

 

President’s Office: Party leaders to meet again next week to discuss further steps (MIA)

 

The leaders’ meeting was concluded with a consensus that the health of the citizens remains a priority and that another meeting will be held early next week to discuss further steps after the Committee for Infectious Diseases, the State Election Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR office are consulted, the President’s Office said. “As regards further steps, the leaders agreed for the Committee for Infectious Diseases to be consulted involving measures and protocols that should be respected during election processes in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic,” it said in a press release. The State Election Commission, stated the press release, should present the timeframe it needs to organize the election process. “Also, the OSCE/ODIHR office will be asked about the deployment of observation mission,” the President’s office said, reiterating that a leaders’ meeting will be held again early next week to discuss further steps.

 

Government unveils three-phase plan to ease coronavirus restrictions (MIA)

 

The government has adopted a three-phase plan to relax the country’s restrictions introduced to stop the spread of the new coronavirus. Unveiling the three stages on Tuesday at a news conference, Prime Minister Oliver Spasovski said the first stage will involve allowing businesses to reopen during the state of emergency and in the midst of restrictions on movement nationwide, which gradually will be eased. The second – transitional – stage would allow some workplaces to reopen and they will be required to adhere to measures and strict work protocols to curb the outbreak of COVID-19. During the third stage, all workplaces will be allowed to reopen provided that they make sure personal hygiene and physical distancing are maintained. “Between each stage, the state of play will be assessed and analyzed before a decision is made on whether to continue to relax the measures and to move forward with the next stage,” Spasovski said.

All further steps in introducing a new normal, he explained, will depend on three criteria: “Is the pandemic under control, is the health system capable of handling a potential surge in cases and whether the healthcare institutions can identify and trace contacts,” Spasovski said. “Starting tomorrow, measures will be introduced with new work protocols in education and training centers, in organization of conferences, driver education centers, outdoor exercise of individual sports, betting houses, as well as closed shopping malls,” the PM said, adding that bars and restaurants in the shopping malls will not be permitted to reopen. Also, the government will allow selected office holders to take business trips abroad, but they will be required to adhere to social-distancing measures. Asked when bars and restaurants will be allowed to serve customers, Spasovski said the government next week will unveil a plan on their reopening. “However, everything depends on the epidemiological state and the adherence of measures,” he noted.

 

North Macedonia gets access to EU Solidarity Fund (MIA)

 

The government at a session Tuesday approved the use of EU Solidarity Fund to help the country tackle the financial consequences from COVID-19. “As part of the initiative for coronavirus investment response, the EU in April expanded the scope of the Solidarity Fund to include financing of activities related to COVID-19 health crises and provided 800 million Euros in financial support for crisis-affected countries, which will ease the burden caused by the urgent measures” the government said in a press release. EU member-states and EU candidate countries have been granted access to the fund. Also, the government said it approved the start of programming of IPA III for 2021-2027.

 

In North Macedonia 20 new COVID-19 cases, 24 patients recover, 3 die (MIA)

 

Twenty new COVID-19 cases have been registered in North Macedonia in the past 24 hours, while 24 patients have recovered and three passed away, the Ministry of Health said in a press release Wednesday. Of the recovered, in Skopje – 12, Prilep – 7, Tetovo – 3, Kavadarci – 1, Pehchevo – 1. Three coronavirus patients, aged 59, 76, and 68, have passed away. The first was from Prilep and was admitted for hospital treatment at the Skopje-based Clinic for Infectious Diseases on May 7. The second, was treated at the hospital in Veles since May 6, while the third was from Tetovo and passed away en-route to Skopje, the press release read. New coronavirus cases have been registered in Skopje – 10, Prilep – 5, Tetovo – 4, Veles – 1. This brings the tally of coronavirus patients in North Macedonia since the onset of the epidemic to 1,694. Of these 1,229 people have recovered, 95 passed away, while the number of active cases in the country is 370. Thus, of the 1,694 coronavirus patients in North Macedonia now, Skopje has 579 (of which 129 active), Kumanovo-410 (of which 46 active), Debar-51, Shtip-35 (of which 2 active), Prilep-184 (of which 56 active), Tetovo-121 (of which 58 active), Struga-67 (of which 4 active), Veles-109 (of which 50 active), Bitola-23 (of which 4 active), Ohrid-15, Kavadarci-5, Gostivar-19 (of which 4 active), Gevgelija-4, Strumica-2, Kriva Palanka-6 (of which 2 active), Radovish-4, Krushevo-3, Kochani-31 (of which 5 active), Probishtip-2, Kichevo-2, Negotino-9 (of which 5 active and 7 are residents of Demir Kapija), Demir Hisar-1, Makedonski Brod-2, Pehchevo-3 (of which 1 active), Delchevo-1, Valandovo-1 (active), Vinica-2, Kratovo-2 (active), Berovo-1 (active). Over the past 24 hours, 309 coronavirus tests have been carried out. Of these, 161 through the Institute for Public Health, 16 through the Veterinary Faculty, 13 through Avicena lab, 24 through Biotek lab, 40 through the Zhan Mitrev Clinic, 36 PCR tests through Sistina, 19 through the MANU lab. A total of 19,739 COVID-19 tests have been carried out so far in North Macedonia. According to the Ministry, four new patients were admitted at the Clinic for Infectious Diseases in the past 24 hours. A total of 38 patients are being treated for COVID-19 there at the time. One patient is on ventilators, while 20 need oxygen support. Five new patients have been admitted at the “8 September” hospital in Skopje. A total of 18 patients are being treated for COVID-19 there now. Three patients show severe symptoms and four others are put on ventilators. Two COVID-19 patients, are hospitalized in Bitola, while one is treated for the infection at home. In Shtip, six coronavirus patients are being treated at the hospital, and one other is being treated at home. A total of 47 patients, who have tested positive or show coronavirus symptoms, are being treated for COVID-19 at the infectious wards in the hospitals in Prilep, Veles, Kumanovo and Tetovo, the press release read.

 

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

 

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.

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 nor 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?

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.

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?

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.

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

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 to 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.

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?

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 any more, 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.

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?

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 EU for us is everything. So it’s better that we are not asked about this, because we risk to be misunderstood.

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?

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.

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 organised 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 President. Can you assure us that democracy is functioning in Albania?

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.

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.

Talking about the future, we need to have 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?

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. 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. 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, than 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 sand to deal with our disagreements kindly. 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.

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 emphasize 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?

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 materialize further. But I must say that so far, the signs are encouraging. When it comes to Albania, it’s a bit more easy 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 is it. But we never had difficulty to agree 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.

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.

 

Albania and Kosovo to unify embassy and consulate offices (Radio Tirana)

 

The Acting Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Gent Cakaj, stated that Tirana and Pristina are moving towards the unification of embassies and consulates. During an interview, he commented on the gradual merger of diplomatic missions between Albania and Kosovo. He also focused on Tirana’s commitment to stopping the phenomenon of withdrawing recognition from third countries in regarding the Republic of Kosovo.

Four new cases of COVID-19 in Albania (Radio Tirana)

 

Four new cases of coronavirus have been reported in the country today, where 2 cases are in Tirana and 2 in Berat, among them a pregnant woman. In total, the number of positive cases in Albania has reached 880. Meanwhile, the situation in hospitals has been stable for days, where 21 patients are hospitalized, 1 case in intensive care. Since the beginning of the epidemic, 11,578 tests have been performed in our country, of which 11,048 are molecular tests and 530 are serological tests. Despite the improved situation, the Ministry of Health and Social Protection emphasizes that it is very important for citizens to maintain physical distance and personal hygiene; the businesses implement security protocols to maintain the health of citizens.

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

 

Russia’s assistance was of great moral importance for Serbia, says politician (TASS, 13 May 2020)

 

BELGRADE. 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. The Serbian politician noted that solidarity between countries and peoples is of paramount importance amid a pandemic. “The assistance provided by everyone to those who need help most is of key importance, even if this assistance is symbolic. I believe this should become a principle of international relations in the period after the coronavirus,” he said. Serbia earlier requested Russia’s assistance in the fight against the epidemic. On April 3-4, the Russian Aerospace Forces’ planes transported to Serbia Russian military medics, including virologists, radiation, chemical and biological protection specialists, special medical equipment, protection gear and sixteen military vehicles. The Russian specialists provided assistance in the capital and a number of other regions. They disinfected hundreds of thousands of meters at the leading health centers and extended medical aid to patients across the country.

 

Attempts to distort history of World War II

Attempts to distort the history of World War II indicate an agony of the unipolar world and the neocolonialism, Marko Djuric said. “World War II was a time of defeat of the greatest evil in the history of mankind, but also a time of creation of a new world order, based on the UN Charter. After 1989, some attempted to form a new world order, based on unilateral world and neocolonial relations. Today we witness the agony of these projects that disappear from the historic stage at incredible pace. Attempts to revise and rewrite history by downplaying the role of the Soviet Union and the Russian people in the victory against Nazism are nothing else but the last convulsions of the disappearing order,” he stated. “The Soviet Union and the Russian people made, undoubtedly, the greatest contribution to the fight against Nazism and the victory over it. The sheer number of the deceased citizens of the Soviet Union, and the sheer number of the German soldiers and vehicles, eliminated by the Red Army, confirm this position unambiguously,” Djuric added. “The world would have been completely different now, had the forces of the aggressor not crashed against the steel defense of the Russian people under Moscow, Leningrad, Stalingrad and Kursk.” “The Serbian and Yugoslav patriots have also made a big contribution: they delayed the offensive on the Soviet Union and, throughout the war, kept significant German forces bogged down in the Balkans, facilitating to victory against the evil of Fascism and Nazism, at the cost of big sacrifices,” Djuric recalled. The politician added that the Yugoslav partisans and the Soviet warriors liberated Belgrade together. “The perished Soviet soldiers and Yugoslav partisans today lie together at the cemeteries across our country as eternal witnesses of horrible suffering and glorious victory,” he noted. During the liberation of Yugoslavia, about 8,000 Soviet soldiers and officers died, 4,350 of whom fell defending Belgrade. The Yugoslav partisans lost about 3,000 people during the fight for Belgrade. Overall, about 30% of the country’s population (up to 1.7 million, according to various estimations) died in the course of the occupation of Serbia. The Yugoslavian partisan movement played a huge role in the fight against Nazism, taking the blow of dozens of Wehrmacht divisions. The Serbians suffered heavy losses in the concentration camps: up to 700,000 were exterminated in the Jasenovac camp system.

 

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