Vucic and Putin discuss bilateral relations, region, coronavirus epidemic (Beta/RTS)
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic talked with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin over the phone, late on 14 May, about relations between the two countries, the situation in the Western Balkans and the fight against the novel coronavirus. Vucic thanked Putin for confirming the excellent strategic relations between Serbia and Russia by caring for Serbia and sending medical aid, said the office of the Serbian President. “Serbia is privileged to have a sincere friend like Russia, just like I am honored by our personal relationship of mutual respect and trust,” Vucic told Putin. According to the office, Vucic informed Putin about all that is happening in the region, from the situation in Kosovo to the persecution of Serbian Orthodox Church priests in Montenegro. They also talked about the internal decoration of the Church of St. Sava in Belgrade and agreed that joint work needed to resume soon so that the Orthodox shrine could be completed according to plan, with Russia’s help, reads the statement. The two leaders voiced the expectation that the circumstances would soon allow for an exchange of top-level visits and the continuation of interstate contacts planned earlier, adds the statement.
Freedom House report unfounded and unsubstantiated (Tanjug)
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic sent a letter on 13 May to President of Freedom House Michael J. Abramowitz and submitted an analysis of their report “Nations in Transit 2020”, in which the Serbian government has tried to critically evaluate the validity of their conclusions, their credibility and relevance, while at the same time respecting the right of Freedom House to use its own parameters for “measuring” the development of certain segments of democracy in a society and its institutions. She also expressed her wish to start constructive dialogue and cooperation with Freedom House, which has already been confirmed to the Serbian Ambassador to Washington from their side. The focus of the analysis elaborated by the Office of the Prime Minister are the most significant claims from the Freedom House report.
Djuric: Yet another dangerous diversion by Pristina, charging again taxes on goods from Serbia proper (RTS)
The Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Djuric has pointed out that Pristina has once again started to apply taxes for four and building blocks from Serbia proper, whereby it has made yet another dangerous diversion. He underlines that Pristina’s policy ‘one step forward – two steps backward’ has been replaced by the policy straight backwards all the way to Enver Hoxha. He assesses that this latest move of self-will and Pristina’s gallop into the past requires the most resolute response by the international community, because, as he points out, if there is not one this time either, then things will only get worse. “We appeal with the international institutions and representatives in Kosovo and Metohija to take Pristina’s behavior seriously and as a dramatic warning in what way the Western Balkans can be directed if radical political elements in love with the war past do not come to their senses,” says Djuric. Commenting the debate in the German Bundestag, Djuric says that Kosovo and Metohija is not anyone’s colony, as it was assessed during the discussion in the German parliament, but an inalienable part of territory of the Republic of Serbia. He underlines that we fully accept the stand of German officials that we should consider the issue of exchange of territories, because entire Kosovo and Metohija is an integral part of the Serbian state territory according to Resolution 1244 and the Serbian Constitution, while talks on resolving problems in our southern province can be conducted only with respecting this fact.
Now they have finally confirmed that Kosovo is a NATO project (Tanjug/B92)
The representative of the German left “Die Linke”, Zaklin Nastic, stated that the ruling CDU recognized that Kosovo is a NATO project. This happened during the debate in the Bundestag on the extension of the mandate of German soldiers at KFOR. “At the debate in the German Bundestag, MPs from the ruling parties allowed themselves to be led to revealing and scandalous confessions. Thus, the CDU MP in charge of foreign policy, Gisela Manderla, called Kosovo a “transatlantic project”, i.e. a NATO project,” Nastic wrote on her Facebook profile. She stated that other MPs characterized Kosovo as “their child”. “Thus, the advocates of the military mission in Kosovo confirmed that Kosovo is not a sovereign state,” Nastic underlined.
The MP from the left emphasized that Kosovo is an illegally separated province and a protectorate of the West. The assaults on the former Yugoslavia in 1999 were criminal and present a violation of international law, and the fact that the Bundeswehr (German Federal Defense Forces) remains after 21 years in Kosovo is a shame, Nastic concluded.
Borell: EU shares regional agenda with US (N1)
EU High Representative Josep Borell said on Friday that the EU supports everything that helps improve communication between Serbia and Kosovo, adding that it is working closely with Washington on a shared agenda for the region. Borell said in a written reply to questions from MEPs said that “the EU supports in principle all measures and actions that contribute to easing movement and communication between the people in Serbia and Kosovo … as one of the ways towards normalisation of relations and advancing regional cooperation”. “Serbia and Kosovo need more of these steps, more agreements, more normalization and this objective is of course not contradictory with necessary temporary restrictions of movements decided as part of the response COVID 19 crisis,” he said. “Now with the appointment of EU Special Representative (Slovak diplomat) Miroslav Lajcak for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue and other Western Balkan regional issues, the EU continues to lead the Dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina and to work very closely with the United States. The EU has a shared agenda with the United States for the region,” Borell said. Borell recalled that the EU welcomed the decision by the Kosovo authorities to lift the 100 percent tariffs on goods from Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina as a positive development for regional cooperation which can contribute to the resumption of the EU-mediate Belgrade-Pristina dialogue to normalize relations.
Europeans against independence of Kosovo (Politika, by Jelena Cerovina)
The petition of the Italian Committee for Preservation of Cultural Heritage from Bologna, which demands from the government in Rome to withdraw recognition of independence of Kosovo, has bene receiving more and more signatories over the past days. More than 42,000 signatories have signed the online petition until noon Thursday, while around three thousand people signed the paper one, and it has already been sent to the Italian parliament. The Committee, whose founders are consuls, professors and journalists from Italy, launched the petition for re-examining Kosovo’s independence at the initiative of the Association of Serbs of Italy. In the elaboration of the petition the Italians noted that official Rome passed the decision on recognizing Kosovo’s independence without prior parliamentary debate and without the participation of both the majority and the opposition. As Dejan Kusalo, the ombudsman for humanitarian issues in the Association of Serbs, the idea is for Italy to once again examine its decision, because, according to the law, recognition of Kosovo as a state had to pass through parliament, but instead of this, the decision was passed by the Council of Ministers. The petition recalls that recognition of Kosovo occurred on 20 February 2008 via the letter sent to Pristina by former foreign minister Massimo D’Alema, without any previous parliamentary debate and inclusion of political forces in it.
Another 64 cases, 4,301 recovered (RTS)
Until 3pm, there have been another 64 cases, in total 10,438. There has been one more death, in total 225 deaths. The number of recovered patients is 4,301. There are 837 patients in hospitals and 20 on respirators.
Proposal for removal of foreign judges in B&H CC does not receive support (BHT1)
The Constitutional Legal Affairs Commission of the Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) House of Representatives (CLAC) on Thursday failed to adopt the proposal of Law on the Appointment of Judges of the Constitutional Court (CC) of B&H which stipulates that exclusively B&H nationals can be appointed judges of the B&H CC. Proposal of the Law on the Appointment of Judges of the B&H CC was put forward by representatives of SNSD and HDZ B&H. Four members of CLAC voted against the removal of foreign judges from the B&H CC, four members of CLAC were for the removal of foreign judges from the B&H CC, while one member of CLAC abstained from voting on the proposed Law on the Appointment of Judges of the B&H CC. In accordance with the procedure, the B&H HoR will declare itself on the negative opinion of CLAC. Member of CLAC Borjana Kristo (HDZ B&H) said that the abovementioned law has constitutional basis. “It is time for B&H to take over responsibility when it comes to the appointment of judges in the CC which, as a corrective factor of the legislative authorities, primarily decides on the Constitution,” Kristo underlined. Member of CLAC Dragan Mektic (SDS) recalled that there are conclusions of the Republika Srpska (RS) parliament, “which SNSD insisted on”, on non-adoption of any kind of decisions at the level of B&H institutions. CLAC Chair Alma Colo (SDA) said that she voted against the proposal of the Law on the Appointment of Judges of the B&H CC because she believes that “three judges appointed by the President of the European Court of Human Rights is something defined by the Constitution of B&H.” Legal expert Nedim Ademovic believes that this issue opens both a legal and a political problem. Ademovic stressed that one is leading B&H towards the opening of a topic that offers contradictions, noting that it will have an impact on the B&H citizens and that one is unable to come up with a concrete solution. “There is misunderstanding and disagreement as to whether replacement of foreign judges is possible with a simple intervention and adoption of a new law. The second option is that the very Constitution of B&H has to be changed and supplemented which means a different procedure,” Ademovic said.
B&H Ministry of Finance and Treasury informs B&H CEC it rejects CEC’s request to finance 2020 local elections from current reserves (FTV)
B&H Ministry of Finance and Treasury informed the Central Election Commission (CEC) of B&H on Thursday that it rejects CEC’s request to allocate funds from the current reserves to finance the 2020 local elections. The Ministry said that the budget reserve in the amount of BAM 3.5 million is lot lower compared to the amount requested by B&H CEC. FTV reminds that B&H CEC requested funds since the 2020 budget of B&H institutions that stipulates funds for the elections has not been adopted yet, concluding that B&H CEC obviously depends on mercy of its financiers and their policies. Delegate in B&H House of Peoples (HoP) Dusanka Majkic (SNSD) said that she is not sure how B&H CEC will overcome its problems and noted that legitimacy of B&H CEC has already been brought in question because mandate of one of B&H CEC members has expired. Representative in B&H House of Representatives (HoR) Mira Pekic (PDP) noted that the appointment of a new member of B&H CEC was not included in the agenda of Friday’s session of B&H HoR but this does not mean it will not be added to the agenda upon a request of representatives. “As far as the story on legitimacy is concerned, we have done our part of the job and it is up to B&H CEC members to continue working solely in line with laws,” Pekic said. Deputy Chair of DF Caucus in B&H HoR Zlatan Begic stated that DF is only about to discuss the resignation of a member of B&H CEC and manner in which a new member should be appointed but he noted that the problem of B&H CEC and members whose mandates expired has been inherited from past and concluded by saying: “Those problems should not have appeared before this convocation of the Parliament of B&H in the first place”.
B&H lifts ban on movement for minors and seniors (N1)
Minors and seniors can freely move across B&H again as of Friday after both of the country’s semi-autonomous regions lifted the ban on their movement on Thursday, which was introduced as a response to the coronavirus pandemic. Both of B&H entities, the FB&H and RS, had in March completely banned movement for those under the age of 18 and above the age of 65 since they are considered vulnerable categories. The bans were part of the numerous measures B&H authorities introduced as the virus began spreading across the country, which also included curfews and closing all non-essential businesses and services. The measures are now being lifted gradually, as the coronavirus situation seems to be calming down.
RS government adopts proposal of decision to abolish state of emergency in RS and forwards it to RS parliament (ATV)
The Republika Srpska (RS) government defined on Thursday a proposal of a decision on abolition of a state of emergency for the territory of the RS. According to the RS government, conditions for abolition of the state of emergency are met and the RS government sent the document to the RS parliament for further consideration. The RS parliament already received the proposal and it is supposed to reach the final word about this issue at a special session. The RS government explained that the RS Ministry of Health and Social Protection informed the RS government that – due to consistent implementation of measures of the WHO and preconditions created for further activities on control of spreading of the Coronavirus – epidemiological situation that led to introduction of the state of emergency, has been put under control.
B&H confirms 22 new Covid-19 cases and no deaths over the past 24 hours (N1)
B&H health authorities reported 22 new cases of Covid-19 over the past 24 hours, 16 in the RS and 6 in the FB&H. The RS Health Minister Alen Seranic said that after testing 333 samples, 16 tests turned out positive. Six of the 16 newly-confirmed patients were male, while 10 were female, he said. Seranic recalled that since the outbreak of the pandemic in B&H, the RS entity confirmed 1,217 cases of Covid-19. Of this number, 543 patients have recovered and 86 had died in this entity. He noted that a total of 20,335 people have been tested so far. The FB&H entity’s Health Ministry said 873 samples have been tested over the past 24 hours, of which 6 proved to be positive. The Ministry said that after testing 26,191 samples in this entity since the beginning of the pandemic, 999 were positive, of which 777 recovered and 37 had died. Currently this entity has 185 active cases of Covid-19, the Ministry said. There were no deaths over the past 24 hours. B&H’s Civil Affairs Ministry said that the total count of positive cases in the country now stands at 2,236, of which 1,336 recovered and 128 died.
Plenkovic: Parliamentary elections between 21 June and 12 July (HRT)
The HDZ leader announced on Thursday that the 9th assembly of Croatian parliament will be dissolved on Monday 18 May. Speaking to reporters after a meeting of the leaders of the political parties that are part, of his coalition government, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said that they had agreed to propose the dissolution of this session of Croatian parliament on 18 May. Plenkovic added that the constitutional deadline leaves President Zoran Milanovic the possibility of calling the parliamentary elections on 21, 28 June, 5 or 12 July. Plenkovic expressed his belief that he would regain the trust of the citizens, adding that the HDZ plans on running alone and is confident in another election victory. He said that the HDZ will talk with potential coalition partners after the elections. Commenting on his coalition partners during this mandate, Plenkovic thanked all of them for their trust and cooperation. If they are re-elected and want to cooperate with us again, to form a parliamentary majority, we will be ready for that, Plenkovic said.
Jandrokovic formally proposes dissolution of Croatian Parliament (HRT)
Croatian parliament speaker Gordan Jandrokovic formally sent a decision to representatives and chairmen of committees on the dissolution of parliament, which was submitted to him by six clubs of the governing majority. The decision by which parliament will be dissolved on Monday, 18 May, was formally proposed by the clubs of the HDZ, HNS, HDS/HSLS/HDSSB, national minorities, SDSS and the Labor and Solidarity Party. When it takes effect, the decision to call parliamentary elections is made by the president. Elections for parliament shall be held no later than 60 days from the expiration of the mandate or the dissolution of the parliament, and representatives are elected for a term of four years. The current 9th parliamentary convocation was constituted on 14 October 2016, when Bozo Petrov from the Most party was elected as its speaker and filled the position until May 2017, when, after the split between the Most and HDZ parties, Gordan Jandrokovic was elected speaker.
Prime Minister lays wreath and lights candle in Macelj (HRT)
Ahead of the 75th anniversary of the Bleiburg tragedy, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic laid a wreath and lit a candle at the mass grave and monument in Macelj. Thus he paid respects to the victims of death marches. This is a message of respect, piety, a message of humanity, compassion for the tragedy of the Croatian people that occurred in postwar World War II. Here at Macelj is the largest execution site of the Croatian people in that postwar period at that tragic time in our history. The Government of the Republic of Croatia continues with exhumations here, it is assumed that more than 10 thousand people were executed in these forests. The families of the victims are searching for the truth. That truth can only set us free. Anti-fascist struggle in the war is one thing, while the crimes of the totalitarian regime are another,” pointed out Croatian Democratic Union MP Zarko Tusek. Parliament paid respects to victims of the communist regime killed without trial. On Friday, Croatian Parliament observed a minute of silence in honor of all victims of the communist regime who were killed without trial at Bleiburg and on subsequent death marches. “May the soil under which their bones rest be light on them, wherever it may be,” said the Vice President of Croatian Parliament, Zeljko Reiner, calling on MPs to remember the victims with reverence. “I urge you to remember with reverence all the victims killed by the communist regime, without trial, after the end of World War II at Bleiburg and all other places and on death marches,” said Reiner, recalling that Parliament sponsors the commemoration of the Bleiburg tragedy. Due to the coronavirus epidemic, the central commemoration for the victims at the Bleiburg Field in Austria was canceled this year. The Honorary Bleiburg Platoon has decided to hold a commemoration on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the Bleiburg tragedy and the death marches of the Croatian people in May 1945 on Saturday, 16 May at three locations – the Bleiburg Field, Zagreb’s Mirogoj Cemetery and with Mass of Remembrance at the Sarajevo Cathedral. At the end of World War II numerous Croats fled to Bleiburg, Austra, in hopes of surrendering to Allied forces but were forced in the end to surrender to Yugoslav partisan forces. Tito’s partisans subsequently killed tens of thousands, including women and children, without trial, on forced death marches back to the area of the former Yugoslavia, leaving a trail of graves across Slovenia.
Croatia to open its borders to tourists (HRT)
The favorable epidemiological situation will allow Croatia to become the first European country to open its doors to tourists, said Maja Grba Bujevic, head of the crisis management team at the Ministry of Health. “In the beginning, the only people who will be allowed to enter Croatia will be those who own real estate, a boat, or some who have other economic interests,” said Grba Bujevic on Friday. She then repeated the idea that experts and politicians have been saying for weeks: “why not open [Croatia] to countries that have a good epidemiological situation, such as Slovenia?” She added that everyone who wants to come to Croatia must file a formal request which will then be evaluated by experts. And upon crossing the border they will be informed of exactly what is expected of them. “We want people to come to our seaside. We just have to get used to the ‘new normal’. There’s no need for added drama. It’s up to the Civil Protection Directorate to monitor the epidemiological situation,” she said. Of course, she added, it was possible for a new infection hotspot to break out somewhere, but, in that case, the main concern would be to avoid local transmission. At the same time, Grba Bujevic repeated several times that it was important to adhere to the current safety measures and maintain proper social distancing. She also expressed disappointment that not enough people were wearing masks on public transport and in closed spaces. “Wearing masks indoors is absolutely necessary. When you see someone wearing a mask, it should act as a warning that the virus is still present. And wear gloves too. This pandemic has shown us to be very conscientious, but it’s always good to be reminded. It’s not over yet, but I have no doubt that this story will end,” she concluded.
In Croatia, only 1new case of infection, a total of 2,222; 1 person died (N1)
Today it was confirmed that in Croatia a total of 2,222 people have been infected with the coronavirus, and that 1,850 people have recovered so far. Eight new cases were confirmed yesterday, and only one new case was recorded today. One person died, a protégée of a home in Makarska. A total of 95 people died, the National Crisis Staff announced at a regular press conference.
Markovic: Montenegro is exposed to brutal attack, you don’t have to love Montenegro, but you must respect it (CDM)
Montenegro’s Prime Minister, Dusko Markovic, said that “Montenegro is exposed to brutal attack due to mass gatherings that could have terrible consequences”. His message was clear – you don’t have to love Montenegro, but you must respect it. “Our country is exposed to brutal attack that could have terrible and far-reaching health consequences. Orders of competent authorities are being defied. Several towns witnessed mass defiance. Everything we have achieved for three months has now been brought into question. There’s no reasonable explanation or justification for such behavior! There are fears that in ten days we could be in the situation we were in two months ago”, PM pointed out. Markovic pointed out that we were witnessing rude political destruction of the state and its institution. “Such actions endanger public health, under the cloak of religious rights and freedoms. In times of unprecedented economic and health crisis, when the state is doing its best to preserve what matters most – human health,” Markovic said. He said that government respected religious rights. “We have proven that with decision of the NCB. We respected everything which was agreed n direct conversation I had with Amfilohije,” Markovic stressed. PM reminded that many young people had cancelled their wedding ceremonies and other childbirth celebrations. “And so many citizens buried their relatives without proper memorial service. Do these people have their needs and freedom just like those who claim to have religious rights?” Markovic said. Markovic says that the country has put all its potential and institutions into the function of citizens’ protection, their material safety and civil dignity. “Today and every other day, the law applies equally to all. We are obliged to serve this country. That’s the duty of every state authority and every institution. That’s constitutional duty of this Government and we are going to discharge it” PM pointed out. May long live Montenegro! – Markovic concluded.
Cavor: Threatening stability as part of the opposition’s election campaign (Pobjeda)
Everything going on in Montenegro right now is actually the beginning of the election campaign of the opposition, which is abusing citizens and jeopardizing peace and stability in Montenegro, Branko Cavor, president of the Defense and Security Committee, has said. “We have seen many opposition representatives in the recordings of conflicts. It’s sad that the disobeyed even Episcopal Council and Metropolitan Amfilohije who asked not to take people to the streets and to refrain from provoking riots in the present situation. Given the fact that this is very important issue, we are planning to hold session where we will discuss all those issues,” Cavor said. He said that security forces had acted in accordance with the Constitution and laws. “Police tried to maintain public peace and order in a professional and adequate manner, with minimum use of means of coercion and demonstrated once again its professionalism and commitment to work,” Cavor said. He called on the citizens to contribute to safeguarding peace, security and public health. “I call on citizens who have demonstrated high level of maturity and responsibility in fight against coronavirus to make their contribution to protecting peace, security and public health in Montenegro by acting wisely and complying with epidemic measures,” Cavor said. He praised actions of all security services.
26 policemen injured, 32 people detained in Niksic (RTCG)
A total of 26 members of the Police Directorate were injured in the riots in Pljevlja and Niksic, one of whom was kept in hospital for a treatment. By rules of office, acting professionally and efficiently, the police established order and peace in these two cities in short term. Persons who are responsible for organizing gatherings and participants in the incidents will be identified, located and brought to justice, the police said. “Yesterday during the day and in the evening, persons who gathered contrary to the orders of the Ministry of Health and caused riots in several cities were prosecuted. There were incidents in Pljevlja and Niksic where the gathered citizens brutally attacked the police officers without reasons, throwing stones, bottles, pyrotechnics and other subjects on them. A total of 26 members of the Police Directorate were injured in these riots, one of whom was kept in hospital for a treatment. By rules of office, acting professionally and efficiently, the police established order and peace in these two cities in short term,” the Police Directorate said. During the control of the protesters police also found a cold weapon – an ax and a knife, it is said in the police statement. Persons who are responsible for organizing gatherings and participants in the incidents will be identified, located and brought to justice, the police said.
Constitutional Court lifts movement restriction for senior citizens, teenagers (MIA)
The Constitutional Court at a session on Thursday decided to lift restrictions on movement of young people under 18 and people over 67. Thus, they will now be allowed to move as the rest of the citizens, between 5 am and 7 pm. Until now, senior citizens were only allowed to go out between 5 am and noon, whereas young people under 18 were allowed to go out between 1 pm and 7 pm. The government had adopted such a decision in order to separate these two groups of citizens.
Mickoski: Infectious diseases committee to say if conditions are right for election (MIA/Telma TV)
VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski says the Committee for Infectious Diseases should say whether conditions are right for running an election campaign, as people’s health comes first. Mickoski told Telma TV on Thursday that he believed in the Committee for Infectious Diseases, the capacity of the caretaker government and institutions. “If they say people’s health is not at risk and if we all have the possibility to run an election campaign without putting people’s health at risk, then I’ll be waiting on their final say. I know that these people have taken an oath and no matter how close they are to any political party, they do care about people’s health,” Mickoski said. According to him, it was astonishing that at the latest leaders’ meeting hosted by President Stevo Pendarovski everyone was talking about people’s health, whereas SDSM leader Zoran Zaev was mentioning election dates. Mickoski noted that a fair and democratic election required the opinion of both the State Election Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR mission.
The VMRO-DPMNE leader pointed out that if the price of victory was losing even a single life, then he refused to be the next prime minister.
The state of emergency in North Macedonia to be declared for the third time (Fokus)
The state of emergency will be extended for the third time, Fokus has learned unofficially from well-informed sources. “Our sources say that the state of emergency may not be for the period of 30 days, but for a shorter period of time. The decision will be officially announced today, after a session of the Security Council. Minister Venko Filipce announced yesterday that the extension of the state of emergency will be requested, but did not specify whether new 30 days or less will be required.
All citizens of North Macedonia allowed to move freely between 5 am and 7 pm (MIA)
All citizens of North Macedonia are now allowed to move freely between 5 am and 7 pm, the government said in a press release Friday. Until now, senior citizens were only allowed to go out between 5 am and noon, whereas young people under 18 were allowed to go out between 1 pm and 7 pm. The government adopted the amendments to this measure after the Constitutional Court at a session on Thursday decided to lift restrictions on movement of young people under 18 and people over 67. The government also decided at its Thursday session to increase the number of people tasked with overseeing the implementation of the personal coronavirus protective measure, i.e. compulsory wearing of protective equipment (face mask, scarf, etc.).
In North Macedonia 17 new COVID-19 cases, 16 patients recover, 2 die (MIA)
Seventeen new COVID-19 cases have been registered in North Macedonia in the past 24 hours, while 16 patients have recovered and two passed away, the Ministry of Health said in a press release Friday. Of the recovered, in Skopje – 7, Kumanovo – 6, Prilep – 2, Veles – 1. Two coronavirus patients, aged 89 and 72 have passed away. The first was from Skopje and was admitted for hospital treatment at the Skopje-based Clinic for Infectious Diseases on May 4. The second patient from Veles, was treated at the “8 September” hospital since 6 April, and died on 13 May, the press release read. Over the past 24 hours, 460 coronavirus tests have been carried out. New coronavirus cases have been registered in Skopje – 3, Kumanovo – 2, Prilep – 3, Tetovo – 6, Veles – 2, Bitola – 1. This brings the tally of coronavirus patients in North Macedonia since the onset of the epidemic to 1,740. Of these 1,251 people have recovered, 97 passed away, while the number of active cases in the country is 392. Thus, of the 1,740 coronavirus patients in North Macedonia now, Skopje has 592 (of which 134 active), Kumanovo-413 (of which 43 active), Debar-51, Shtip-35 (of which 1 active), Prilep-193 (of which 63 active), Tetovo-131 (of which 68 active), Struga-69 (of which 6 active), Veles-113 (of which 49 active), Bitola-26 (of which 7 active), Ohrid-17, (of which 2 active), Kavadarci-5, Gostivar-19 (of which 3 active), Gevgelija-4, Strumica-2, Kriva Palanka-6 (of which 2 active), Radovish-4, Krushevo-3, Kochani-31 (of which 4 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 (of which 2 active), Berovo-1 (active).
Gerberich: ‘A mistake’ to ruin negotiations achievement by politicizing history (MIA)
The European Council should have approved the start of negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia a long time ago. It is in the EU’s interest, but most importantly, it’s in the interest of the EU’s neighboring countries in the region. It would be a mistake to ruin this achievement by politicizing history, German Ambassador Thomas Gerberich says in an interview with MIA, commenting on Bulgaria’s demands. Read Gerberich’s full interview below:
Germany is a strong and loyal supporter of North Macedonia and of its strategic Euro-Atlantic goals. In fact, during your three-year term in the country as ambassador of Germany one of the goals was finally met – NATO membership. Also, in March in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the EU leaders approved the start of accession negotiations with North Macedonia. But, Bulgaria’s remark was included in the summit’s minutes as an opinion by a member-state. It wasn’t added in the summit conclusions. According to the authorities here, it doesn’t constitute an opinion shared by all EU members on the matter. What’s your comment on some views in the country that after having solved the name issue with Greece recently, it might look like an introduction into a new veto for Skopje due to Bulgaria’s demands involving history and language?
During my term as German ambassador, since the summer of 2017 until today, I had the chance to witness the government of the Republic of North Macedonia solving the name issue with Greece and incorporating the new name ‘Republic of North Macedonia’ into the Constitution. In March 2020, the country joined NATO, and also in March 2020, the European Council decided to approve an unconditional opening of accession talks. These three events can be rightfully called historic. The European Council should have approved the start of negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia a long time ago. It is in the EU’s interest, but most importantly, it’s in the interest of the EU’s neighboring countries in the region. It would be a mistake to ruin this achievement by politicizing history. Historical issues must be discussed, despite some controversy. But, they do not belong to the political processes that solve problems of present times and they must be focused on the future.
The online Zagreb Summit focused on the COVID-19 emergency response instead on the enlargement, even though the EU perspective of the countries in the region was endorsed. Could accession negotiations be postponed due to the coronavirus crisis after European Commission President Ursula Von der Layen has said that the enlargement process might be delayed by the pandemic?
We all have to face the global challenge stemming from the new coronavirus. All Western Balkan countries, including North Macedonia, took swift and resolute measures and has managed to reduce the infection rate and maintain low mortality rate. Germany, but also many other countries – both politics and the society – have started considering exit and recovery strategies. This is also the priority of the whole of EU and its partners. But, Western Balkans is high up on EU’s agenda – these are not empty words, it’s reality. I want to underscore here once again for the EU and Germany, Western Balkan countries are of top priority. The EU’s extensive support for the Western Balkan countries to tackle the coronavirus pandemic is a clear proof – EU granted North Macedonia alone EUR 66 million to cover immediate needs in the health sector, as well as EUR 160 million as micro-financing assistance. It has allowed the Summit to send a strong sign of solidarity. At the same time, the perspective for accession of the six Western Balkan countries was confirmed, encouraging them to keep pursuing EU reforms.
After the March decision, the European Commission was tasked with preparing a negotiating framework. Country officials have said they expect the framework to be presented in early June and the intergovernmental conference to take place during Germany’s EU presidency in the second half of 2020. Are these expectations realistic?
EU will do its best to align the negotiating framework. Preparations on the negotiating framework will begin in June. No one can predict when they will be wrapped up, because the new enlargement methodology must be concluded all the while the corona crisis is stalling processes in Brussels. Working on the negotiating framework will be a priority in the enlargement dossier also during Germany’s presidency of the EU. However, it is important the North Macedonia government continues implementing reforms.
When will Germany present its presidency priorities? Where is the enlargement process included in Berlin’s six-month agenda and can new initiatives to accelerate the process be expected?
The Germany’s EU presidency program will be revisited once again considering the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. On the enlargement issue, I’m able to say that North Macedonia’s negotiating framework will surely be included in the enlargement dossier. Understandably, reform implementation will have a key role, mainly reforms in rule of law, responsible governance and democracy. We plan during the presidency to tackle the issue of youth and immigration in Western Balkan countries. A high-level conference in Berlin in late October is in the pipeline in order to open a dialogue and look into the reasons behind immigration and to develop strategies to address the issue that will be beneficial for both sides. Germany continues to be engaged in supporting regional cooperation. The corona crisis has made it very clear that regional cooperation among the six Western Balkan countries is key in addressing existing challenges. The Berlin Process keeps on having a key role and we look forward to the joint Bulgaria-North Macedonia summit in the autumn. At the forum, we aim to make progress in the digital agenda, especially in the sphere of regional economic cooperation.
We marked Europe Day (May 9) amid myriad challenges for the EU – coping with the coronavirus crisis and its consequences on the economy, Brexit, migration crisis, EU’s defense system and the Union’s strengthening. These are some of the issues for which answers are sought at the Conference on the Future of Europe, which should serve as a platform in the next two years of the European citizens, the civil society and the European institutions on what kind of Union they want. What are Germany’s views on the future of Europe? Do the Western Balkan countries need a voice as future members of the bloc?
The corona crisis has made it clear that European and international solidarity is of primary importance for the countries. At the same time, the EU and Germany pay special attention to the Western Balkans and to the countries in the eastern neighborhood. We all have to face the global challenges, which do not only involve the new coronavirus, but also some key issues such as climate change, global migration movements or the settlement of local conflicts. North Macedonia together with all the other countries in the Western Balkans took swift and resolute steps and have managed to curb the corona crisis. Now, they are mulling exit and recovery strategies. We could use these strategies to cope other important regional and global challenges.
As you are nearing the end of your term in the country, what is your message in terms of North Macedonia’s EU integration and its future perspectives?
I’ll be very clear – consistent resumption on the EU integration road based on what has been achieved so far. Implementing ongoing reforms in order to create a democratic society founded on the principles of rule of law that offers safe future to everyone in North Macedonia, first and foremost to the children and young people, in peace and freedom.
Steady growth in number of daily cases disturbs Albania (ADN)
Ministry of Health has reported 18 new coronavirus cases in past 24 hours for the second day in a row, bringing the total number of infected in Albania to 916. The 18 cases are distributed as follows: 7 new cases in a textile manufacturer factory in Durresi, 5 new cases in Berati, 4 new cases in Tirana and 2 in Kruja. This is a steady increase compared to the figures reported previously, as Ministry used to announce only 4 cases per day for three consecutive days, implying that the numbers were going towards zero. But now, double figure cases in 24 hours have returned once again, that’s why the Ministry appeals to citizens not to reduce their vigilance but to continue respecting social distancing measures and maintaining personal hygiene. In addition, there is good news as there are only 180 active cases and only 19 out of this number are hospitalized (4 of them being in intensive care), while there have been no deaths in the last two weeks. “In the last 24 hours, 219 citizens suspected of being affected by Covid-19 have been tested and 18 citizens have resulted positive. Most of them are contacts of previous cases, while epidemiological investigation continues. These data show us that it is very important to apply the rules by all citizens and not to reduce vigilance. The care of the citizens must continue, in order to respect the established measures, in order to minimize as much as possible the spread of the virus to family contacts or beyond. Businesses themselves must adhere to established protocols to protect citizens and employees,” underlined Silva Bino, Head of the Department of Infectious Diseases at Institute of Public Health. The geographical distribution of active cases is as follows:
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
Bulgaria and Serbia Partially Opened Border Crossings for their Citizens (Novinite, 15 May 2020)
Bulgaria and Serbia have partially opened their border crossings for citizens living in the border areas. These people will be able to work in the other country without being placed under mandatory quarantine, the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced. Nearly 600 Bulgarians citizens living in the Western Outlands and working on the territory of Bulgaria will benefit from this measure. These people were not able to work in Bulgaria until now, because they had to be placed under 14-day quarantine. The proposal was made by Bulgaria’s Deputy Premier and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ekaterina Zaharieva and was approved at a sitting of the Serbian cabinet.