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UNMIK Media Observer, Morning Edition, May 20

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• Only one new case with coronavirus in last 24 hours (media)
• Kosovo institutions can’t say when borders will be opened (media)
• PM Kurti receives threat from so-called “Albanian Volunteers Guard” (media)
• Constitutional Court condemns interference by the heads of state (media)
• Nagavci: We will respect Court’s decision on PM candidate (Klan Kosova)
• Grenell doesn’t rule out Russia’s involvement in dialogue (Lajmi)
• Konjufca attends Thessaloniki Ministerial Forum through video link (media)
• Regional foreign ministers adopt joint statement on Covid-19 (media)
• EC to postpone progress reports for Western Balkans (Kallxo/Telegrafi)
• Serwer: Kosovo’s decisive summer (Peacefare.net/Koha)
• China on sideline as Japan plays bigger role in Kosovo (The Diplomat/Koha)

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  • Only one new case with coronavirus in last 24 hours (media)
  • Kosovo institutions can’t say when borders will be opened (media)
  • PM Kurti receives threat from so-called “Albanian Volunteers Guard” (media)
  • Constitutional Court condemns interference by the heads of state (media)
  • Nagavci: We will respect Court’s decision on PM candidate (Klan Kosova)
  • Grenell doesn’t rule out Russia’s involvement in dialogue (Lajmi)
  • Konjufca attends Thessaloniki Ministerial Forum through video link (media)
  • Regional foreign ministers adopt joint statement on Covid-19 (media)
  • EC to postpone progress reports for Western Balkans (Kallxo/Telegrafi)
  • Serwer: Kosovo’s decisive summer (net/Koha)
  • China on sideline as Japan plays bigger role in Kosovo (The Diplomat/Koha)

Kosovo Media Highlights

Only one new case with coronavirus in last 24 hours (media)

Kosovo’s National Institute for Public Health said in a statement on Tuesday that only one new case with coronavirus has been confirmed in the last 24 hours.

The new case is from the municipality of Rahovec.

Meanwhile, 15 recoveries were confirmed yesterday by health authorities.

Media report that the Infectious Clinic in Pristina is currently treating the lowest number of Covid-19 cases since the outbreak of the pandemic in mid March. Seven patients are being treated for coronavirus in the clinic, three of whom are under intensive care.

The total number of COVID-19 cases in Kosovo stands at 990, of which 152 are active cases.

Kosovo institutions can’t say when borders will be opened (media)

Koha reports that Kosovo officials have not given a timeline of when they plan to open the borders despite the statement of Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama that he expects Kosovo-Albania border to open during May.

Kosovo’s Ministry of Internal Affairs said all their actions will be in line with recommendations from the National Institute for Public Health. Similarly, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said they are waiting for recommendations from health authorities before taking future steps.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Diaspora still has no official notification as to when the borders will open or when regular flights to and from the Republic of Kosovo will resume. Since we are still facing a pandemic, with restriction movement measures like majority of the world countries, further actions will have to wait for the recommendations from the National Institute for Public Health and the Health Ministry,” the Ministry said in a response to Koha.

At the same time, citing unnamed sources, Indeksonline reported on Tuesday evening that Serbia has opened its border with Kosovo.

PM Kurti receives threat from so-called “Albanian Volunteers Guard” (media)

Kosovo’s acting Prime Minister Albin Kurti published a threat he received on Tuesday from the so-called “The Albanian Volunteers Guard”. Kurti took to Facebook to publish the communiqué of the phantom organisation, adding that the threat is in fact a threat against the work of the Constitutional Court on the case of the President’s decree to nominate the LDK’s candidate to form a new government.

Kurti wrote in his post: “The threat against me by the so-called ‘Albanian Volunteers Guard’ in fact is not a threat against me. This is a threat against the Constitutional Court, in particular, against the President of the Court, Arta Rama – Hajrizi, and reporting judge on the case KO 72/20, Nexhmi Rexhepi. There is no other explanation.”

“The old regime knows there is no hope for it. After they forgot how long ago they abandoned the people, now the people reminds them every day that they too have abandoned them. They are afraid and they want to intimidate the Constitutional Court and not only. They want to intimidate the Quint ambassadors too with instability if the head of Pronto, the President of the Republic, loses this case.”

“The President’s decree is not a constitutional amendment. The President cannot speak about something that the Constitution does not. He must respect the Constitution and he cannot write it.”

“We are closely following the developments while waiting for the ruling of the Constitutional Court.”

“In the next elections, we will increase our advantage as no other leading party has done in post-war Kosovo.”

The Albanian Volunteers Guard said in its communique that they have information that different groups of the Vetevendosje Movement are planning to organise a protest in Prishtina. “We want to let the leaders of this criminal organisation know that we the members of the Guard will not stand aside and watch you from afar … Albin Kurti and all leaders of the Vetevendosje Movement that help in organising this protest, now have reasons to be concerned about their safety and the safety of their families from the units of the Guard,” the Albanian Volunteers Guard said in its communique.

Kosovo Police General Director Rashit Qalaj told Kallxo on Tuesday: “we have received the case today. We are addressing it and seeing what we can do. We are also in contact with Facebook because the threat was made through this social network”.

Constitutional Court condemns interference by the heads of state (media)

The Constitutional Court of Kosovo issued a public reaction on Tuesday saying it is concerned with the threatening public discourse in the last couple of days by the President and the acting Prime Minister and other institutional and political actors.

The reaction noted that Thaci and Kurti by exchanging accusations for pressure against the Constitutional Court are in fact trying to influence or preempt the decision-making process at the Constitutional Court on the President’s decree to give the mandate to a candidate to form the new government.

The Court said it harshly condemns the intervention to its institutional independence and also the efforts of political and institutional actors to involve the Constitutional Court in daily political debates.

“The Constitutional Court also strongly condemns the mentioning of individual judges as persons that have authorisations or individuals decision-making responsibilities on the matter. The Constitutional Court notes that it acts as a whole based on the constitutional and legal provisions that govern its decision-making process.”

The Court also said it assures the public that it will not yield to such pressure and threats and that it needs no political or public protection from anyone, “because the Constitution and the laws provide all the necessary guarantees to act in independent and unbiased fashion”.

In conclusion the Court called on all parties in the procedure to refrain from comments and actions that attempt to influence or preempt the decision-making process of the Constitutional Court on this or any other matter.

 Nagavci: We will respect Court’s decision on PM candidate (Klan Kosova)

Vetevendosje senior member and Vice President of the Kosovo Assembly, Arberie Nagavci, said in a debate in Klan Kosova on Tuesday that her party will respect the Constitutional Court’s future decision on President Thaci’s decree nominating LDK’s Avdullah Hoti as PM candidate to form a new government.

“We hope the judges [of the Constitutional Court] will have integrity and that they will not face pressure in their decision-making. Vetevendosje was critical in the past too but it always respected the decisions of the Court. I hope the judges will make a fair decision … The Kurti government has restored the dignity of Kosovo’s institutions. Vetevendosje will respect the decision of the Constitutional Court; this is why I say that I hope there will be a fair decision,” Nagavci said.

Grenell doesn’t rule out Russia’s involvement in dialogue (Lajmi)

The news website reported on Tuesday evening that the office of US Presidential Envoy for the Kosovo – Serbia Dialogue, Richard Grenell, is not against Russia’s eventual involvement in the dialogue.

Asked if Russia’s involvement could result in clashes in the process, a spokesman for the US envoy said: “Everyone is welcomed to contribute with ideas that can bring peace, stability and prosperity for Serbia and Kosovo”.

The news website also asked Grenell’s office to comment on Kosovo acting Prime Minister Kurti’s claim that Grenell wants a deal between Kosovo and Serbia by September, but they said they have no comment on the matter.

Konjufca attends Thessaloniki Ministerial Forum through video link (media)

Kosovo’s acting Foreign Minister, Glauk Konjufca, took part in the second Thessaloniki 2020 Ministerial Forum through video conference.

In his remarks, Konjufca thanked the European Union for its ‘generous’ support during the Covid-19 pandemic as well as regional governments “with whom we had excellent communication and cooperation” during this time.

He reiterated the calls for visa liberalisation for Kosovo saying that this would be the best guarantee that the inclusion of the Western Balkans is not just a phrase but a purpose.

“As contribution to good neighbourly relations and regional cooperation, the Government of the Republic of Kosovo took a decision to replace the 10% tariff with gradual reciprocity measures thus bringing about a new stage of dialogue between two countries: Kosovo and Serbia. We hope the measures will be seen as such by our counterparts in Belgrade,” Konjufca said.

Konjufca also called for the removal of the footnote next to Kosovo’s name in the Forum’s joint statement recalling that the International Court of Justice in its 2010 ruling concluded that declaration of Kosovo’s independence does not underline international law.

Regional foreign ministers adopt joint statement on Covid-19 (media)

Foreign Ministers of Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia and the Western Balkans partners, in the presence of the Republic of Croatia, as current EU Presidency, the Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement and representatives of the European External Action Service and the Directorate General for Migration and Home Affairs adopted a joint statement on Covid-19 pandemic at the end of the 2nd Thessaloniki 202 Ministerial Forum.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted, in the most essential terms, the importance of a coordinated approach, cooperation and solidarity to effectively address global challenges and threats. Regional cooperation and cooperation between EU and Western Balkans is a crucial element during these times in order to jointly handle the challenges posed by the current public health crisis,” the statement reads.

Participants of the Forum pledged to continue deepening cooperation in order to mitigate  the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, and lay the groundwork for the region’s recovery. They identified a range of actions necessary to make this happen.

See the full statement: https://bit.ly/2yffIlY

EC to postpone progress reports for Western Balkans (Kallxo/Telegrafi)

European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Oliver Varhelyi, told members of the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee that the progress reports for the Western Balkans countries will be presented in September intead of June as originally planned.

Varhelyi said several reasons led to the postponement of the publication, including the coronavirus pandemic.

Serwer: Kosovo’s decisive summer (Peacefare.net/Koha)

Koha published on Tuesday U.S. Balkans analyst Daniel Serwer’s remarks to a Columbia University panel on “The Future of Kosovo”.

The key thing to understand is that the Americans have abandoned their well-established policy on the Balkans and on Kosovo in particular.

That well-established Balkans policy, part of the broader 1990s effort to establish “Europe whole and free,” had three pillars:

  • Protection of Kosovo’s population and sympathy for Kosovo’s independence aspirations as well as commitment to Bosnian sovereignty.
  • Support for liberal democracy throughout the Balkans.
  • Commitment to acting in tandem with the Europeans, especially with Germany and the United Kingdom.

My message is just this: things have changed. The Trump Administration has equivocated on all three of these pillars. Let me take them in reverse order.

I see no real effort in this Administration to cooperate with Europe. It has put the Kosovo/Serbia dialogue in the hands of an American Ambassador in Berlin who has offended the German government and spoken against the EU. Professional diplomats who know the Balkans well are now sidelined.

Washington now favors border changes to accommodate ethnic differences, even though they would signify inability to treat all people equally, which is the liberal democratic ideal. Regrettably, Europe’s High Representative Borell has gone along, as did his predecessor.

Finally, it is all too clear that Belgrade, not Sarajevo or Pristina, is today Washington’s preferred Balkan partner.

These changes signify a major shift in U.S. policy. How did it happen?

The Trump Administration is ethnic nationalist. It sympathizes when it hears from Serbia’s government and lobbyists that Serbs should govern Serbs and Albanians should govern Albanians. President Trump is trying to appeal almost exclusively to whites and to limit minority voting. Why wouldn’t it listen to Balkan ethnic nationalists?

Moreover, Republicans know that Serb Americans in a potential swing state like Ohio are an electoral bonanza far more valuable than the Albanian Americans in New York, which is a lock for the Democrats.

The Trump Administration has failed so far in all its major foreign policy initiatives. Ric Grenell is trying to give the President a good headline before November 3. All the better if it is one that kills two Clinton achievements, Bosnia and Kosovo.

So U.S. government support for Kosovo’s aspirations has weakened: you see it in the cut off of funding and the threat to withdraw U.S. troops. These are irresponsible moves.

You see the weakening of U.S. support also in the lack of concern in the Administration about the impact of a Kosovo land swap on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

So, you may ask, what is to be done? I’ll leave it to the panel participants to address the issues. My views on some of them are well-known: I support reciprocity between Pristina and Belgrade, I oppose partition, and I think a deal on tariffs and non-tariff barriers is doable.

Three further options for Kosovo need to be considered. I’ll call them the 3Ds:

  • Diversify
  • Deter
  • Delay

Let me take each of these in turn.

How can Kosovo diversify its support beyond the U.S.? Germany first and foremost: Kosovo needs to ensure that opposition to land swaps is sustained not only in the Chancellor’s office but also in the Bundestag. Berlin must continue to make it clear that it will not accept changes in borders to accommodate ethnic differences. It needs to reign in Borrell.

Switzerland, the UK, and Ukraine are other countries that have their own powerful reasons for opposing land swaps. Even for non-recognizing Spain, the idea should be anathema.

How can Kosovo deter land swaps? The key here is reciprocity.

In all future discussions, Kosovo should seek the equivalent of whatever Serbia seeks: the same acreage, the same powers for an Albanian municipal association in Serbia as for a Serb one in Kosovo, the same representation in Belgrade for Albanians that Serbia has in Pristina, equivalent removal of non-tariff barriers in exchange for removal of tariffs.

And above all, mutual recognition and exchange of ambassadorial-level representatives, with an unequivocal and verifiable commitment not to block Kosovo entry into the UN or other international organizations.

Sadly, deterrence is unlikely to work perfectly, because of the strong American lean towards Belgrade. Delay is also vital.

Vucic has made it clear he will wait until after the Serbian election and government formation in late June for any deal with Pristina. The Trump Administration will then press for land swaps before the fall. So July and August, when Europe is asleep, may be crucial months.

A Kosovo Constitutional Court decision to disallow formation of a new government without new elections could cause a further, welcome delay.

By October 1, Kosovo will be safe from partition if it hasn’t been done yet.

What, you will ask, about the American elections?

If I were a Kosovo patriot, I wouldn’t bank on a Biden victory in November, but I would hope for one. Joe Biden knows the Balkans well and would return to the well-established policy of support for Kosovo and Bosnia and cooperation with Europe. A Biden Administration should close the door on land swaps, loudly.

If Trump wins a second term, the electoral pressure for a quick deal will fade but I would still expect Grenell and others to pursue land swaps, if only to feather their nests for their next jobs.

And the President himself will feel completely uninhibited: expect wild moves, not only in the Balkans.

So the next few months are vital for Kosovo’s future. I am hoping to hear from the other panelists how they think its statehood, territorial integrity, and sovereignty can be ensured. 

China on sideline as Japan plays bigger role in Kosovo (The Diplomat/Koha)

Advertisements for Huawei are ubiquitous in Europe. In Skopje, the capitol of North Macedonia, a massive electronic sign for Huawei towers above the central square. A similarly large Coca-Cola sign looms over a statue of what any local will tell you is Alexander the Great that dominates the square. Officially the figure is known as “Warrior on a Horse” in order not to inflame Greek sensibilities.

Yet, the streets of another capital city in the western Balkans just a little over an hour’s drive to the north is entirely devoid of Chinese products.

Over lunch, in a traditional Kosovar restaurant, a senior government official reflects on China’s role in the country.

“China doesn’t play a big role here. There are some Chinese individuals just involved in textiles and some individual merchants,” says Nebi Halil, who heads legal affairs for Kosovo’s penitentiary system, over lunch in Pristina. Halil has held a variety of roles in Kosovo’s bureaucracy. He is joined at lunch by a United Nations bureaucrat who nods in agreement regarding China’s minimal influence.

Read full article at: https://bit.ly/36eAHlp

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