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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, May 20, 2020

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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, May 20, 2020

Albanian Language Media:

• “Governmental regulations against Covid-19 to be respected by all” (media)
• Thaci meets Quint members, urges respect for independent institutions (media)
• Constitutional Court receives “arguments” favoring Thaci (Koha)
• “Another political pressure on Constitutional Court” (Kosovapress/Koha)
• Authorities launch investigations into threats against Kurti (media)
• Osmani implies Assembly will convene on June 4 (media)
• Reka: Dialogue to lead in mutual recognition and no territorial changes (Telegrafi)
• Government allocates €20 million for subsidising public enterprises (Zeri)

Serbian Language Media:

• No new Covid-19 infection cases in Serb areas in Kosovo (Kosovo-online)
• Lajcak and Djuric on the continuation of the dialogue (media)
• Dacic: We are far from restoring dialogue (Blic, Kosovo-online)
• US, UK embassies call for implementation of court’s ruling on Visoki Decani Monastery’s land case, EU and OSCE join call (B92, Kosovo-online)
• Varhelyi to N1: EC report on EU candidate countries in autumn (N1)
• President Vucic on Serbian Orthodox Church, situation in Montenegro (B92)
• Freedom House stands by report conclusions on Serbia (N1, VoA)

Opinion:

• Confronting rape myths (Prishtina Insight)

International:

• Kosovo’s Political Rivals Lock Horns Ahead of Court Verdict (Balkan Insight)
• Kosovo Muslims Hold Protest Prayers in Pristina Square (Balkan Insight)
• Hague indictments give Kosovo’s war crime victims a voice after 20 years (The Times)

Humanitarian/Development:

• No tests or other requirements to enter Serbia, pandemic Crisis Committee says (N1)
• UNMIK donated humanitarian aid to Zubin Potok municipality (Kosovo-online)

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Albanian Language Media:

  • “Governmental regulations against Covid-19 to be respected by all” (media)
  • Thaci meets Quint members, urges respect for independent institutions (media)
  • Constitutional Court receives “arguments” favoring Thaci (Koha)
  • “Another political pressure on Constitutional Court” (Kosovapress/Koha)
  • Authorities launch investigations into threats against Kurti (media)
  • Osmani implies Assembly will convene on June 4 (media)
  • Reka: Dialogue to lead in mutual recognition and no territorial changes (Telegrafi)
  • Government allocates €20 million for subsidising public enterprises (Zeri)

Serbian Language Media:

  • No new Covid-19 infection cases in Serb areas in Kosovo (Kosovo-online)
  • Lajcak and Djuric on the continuation of the dialogue (media)
  • Dacic: We are far from restoring dialogue (Blic, Kosovo-online)
  • US, UK embassies call for implementation of court’s ruling on Visoki Decani Monastery’s land case, EU and OSCE join call (B92, Kosovo-online)
  • Varhelyi to N1: EC report on EU candidate countries in autumn (N1)
  • President Vucic on Serbian Orthodox Church, situation in Montenegro (B92)
  • Freedom House stands by report conclusions on Serbia (N1, VoA)

Opinion:

  • Confronting rape myths (Prishtina Insight)

International:

  • Kosovo’s Political Rivals Lock Horns Ahead of Court Verdict (Balkan Insight)
  • Kosovo Muslims Hold Protest Prayers in Pristina Square (Balkan Insight)
  • Hague indictments give Kosovo’s war crime victims a voice after 20 years (The Times)

Humanitarian/Development:

  • No tests or other requirements to enter Serbia, pandemic Crisis Committee says (N1)
  • UNMIK donated humanitarian aid to Zubin Potok municipality (Kosovo-online)

 

 

Albanian Language Media

 

“Governmental regulations against Covid-19 to be respected by all” (media)

The Head of the EU Office/EU Special Representative in Kosovo, Heads of EU Missions, Ambassadors of Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, Head of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development for Kosovo, and World Bank Country Manager issued a joint statement expressing support for the people of Kosovo in overcoming the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We appreciate the effective management of the Covid-19 crisis by the caretaker government and the people of Kosovo so far. It is now of utmost importance that governmental regulations to prevent the spread of the virus are respected by all,” they said.

“Moreover, we believe that at a time of great uncertainty, all actors need to set aside differences and work together for the good of the people. We welcome all opportunities for jointly discussing in the appropriate institutional venues the necessary measures to meet the Covid-19 challenge, including the ratification of negotiated financial arrangements with the EU, its Member States, other International Financial Institutions and national measures to address the health and economic crisis.”

The signatories also called on all parties to treat the health of the citizens as a priority and hailed international and regional cooperation to this end: “The regional free flow of medical supplies and personnel is key to the success of this effort.”

Thaci meets Quint members, urges respect for independent institutions (media)

President of Kosovo Hashim Thaci met ambassadors of Quint countries and the EU Special Representative and discussed economic recovery after the Covid-19 pandemic and strengthening of democratic institutions. 

“Respecting independent institutions, especially the Constitutional Court, is vital for democracy,” Thaci wrote on Twitter after the meeting.

Meanwhile, according to a statement issued by Thaci’s office which Kallxo quotes, Thaci also spoke in the meeting about the recent EU-Western Balkans summit and expressed disappointment that visa liberalisation was not in the agenda of discussions. 

“This is disappointing and demoralising for the citizens and politicians,” Thaci is quoted. 

Constitutional Court receives “arguments” favoring Thaci (Koha)

The Constitutional Court of Kosovo has received the opinions of at least four constitutional courts, which are members of the Venice Forum, for a case it is reviewing in relation to the Prime Minister candidate for forming the new government of Kosovo. The opinions favor a solution wanted by President Hashim Thaci, the paper reports on its front page.

Members of this Forum – an internal mechanism of the Venice Commission that offers services for member states and their courts, providing them with the experiences of different countries – were not asked by the Court about the constitutionality of President Thaci’s Decree Nr. 24/2020, which made the proposed candidate of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), Avdullah Hoti, as the Prime Minister candidate for forming the new government, despite the fact that this party [LDK] did not win the October elections last year.

The Constitutional Court had asked if Kosovo must go to elections after a no-confidence against the government, and if the Assembly can form a government with a majority that is different from that which came out of the elections.

An unnamed source in the Constitutional Court told the paper that the first replies arrived on Tuesday.

“There are four constitutional courts, members of the Venice Forum, which have provided their replies and all four of them have said ‘yes’. Namely, that [Kosovo] doesn’t have to go to elections after a no-confidence motion against the government, and that the Assembly can form a government with a majority that is different from that which came out of the elections,” the source said, refusing to disclose further details because of the confidentiality required at this time in the communication between the Constitutional Court and the Venice Forum. “They have attached examples from different countries to their replies”.

The paper notes that the questions have directed the replies, because commentators of the Constitution have always said that a new government can be formed after a no-confidence motion, and that whenever in the process of disbanding itself the Assembly can form a new government that reflects the relation of political forces in the Assembly. The paper reported at the end of last week that the questions direct the decision-making by the Constitutional Court toward rejecting the request of the Vetevendosje Movement.

The paper today sent questions to the Constitutional Court asking how many members of the Venice Forum have sent their replies and what is said in the replies. The Court has not replied to the paper’s inquiry and there is also no information if the replies of these members will be taken into consideration when the Court rules on the constitutionality of the President’s decree.

Following the no-confidence motion against the government led by Vetevendosje leader Albin Kurti, President Thaci relied on Article 95 of the Constitution to provide a solution to the issue. Unlike the previous two no-confidence motions when the people went to the ballots again, after the no-confidence motion against the Kurti government, the President said new elections must be avoided. The President asked the Vetevendosje leader to propose a new Prime Minister candidate, and at the same time held consultations with other political parties.

The article [Article 95] provides that the candidate for Prime Minister, not later than fifteen (15) days from appointment, presents the composition of the Government to the Assembly and asks for Assembly approval. However, the supreme legal document is silent about the time when the 15-day deadline starts expiring. This is why the Vetevendosje Movement did not propose a candidate to Thaci.

The President waited only 20 days for the Vetevendosje Movement. He then sidestepped this party and gave the Democratic League of Kosovo the opportunity to propose a Prime Minister candidate, under the assumption that the Vetevendosje Movement refused to propose a new Prime Minister candidate, although in his correspondence [with the President] Kurti never said this. The Vetevendosje Movement contested the President’s decree for a Prime Minister candidate, and the Court said it would treat the matter with urgency.

An unnamed source in the Constitutional Court earlier told the paper that the Court should send relevant questions to the Venice Forum that would provide clear answers on whether or not the President violated the Constitution with his decree on the Prime Minister candidate.

“The basic question is whether or not the decree is in line with the constitution. This means if the President could give the mandate to another party, which did not win the elections, by considering a non-response from the winner of the elections as refusal or renouncing their constitutional right to propose a Prime Minister candidate,” the source said. “In this regard, the question concerning the constitutionality of the decree is: can the President initiate consultations with other parties, at the same time with the winning party, and does this constitute efforts to form the political will of a different majority in the assembly that excludes the winner of the elections”.

The paper notes that following the no-confidence motion, the President and the acting Prime Minister engaged in a war of letters. This was seen as a constitutional war between the two. By mentioning “the refusal” to propose a Prime Minister candidate, the President tried to build an argument based on the ruling of the Constitutional Court referring to the formation of the government after the elections, Point 87 of which notes that “it is not ruled out” that the winning party “will refuse to assume the mandate”. Kurti however wrote in one of his letters to the President: “No, we don’t refuse your request”. 

“Another political pressure on Constitutional Court” (Kosovapress/Koha)

The Constitutional Court complained yesterday of facing political pressure but today another one was made towards it, writes Koha referring to a statement made by the leader of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK), Ramush Haradinaj.

Haradinaj is quoted by Kosovapress as saying that the possible ruling against President Hashim Thaci’s decree to give the mandate for forming the new government to Avdullah Hoti from the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) would undermine democracy in Kosovo.

“I see it as impossible to deny the second [party] the right to form a government when the first one does not. This would threaten our entire democracy,” Haradinaj said. 

Authorities launch investigations into threats against Kurti (media)

Kosovo Police and the Special Prosecution of Kosovo have launched an investigation into threats the acting Prime Minister Albin Kurti received by the so-called Albanian National Guard.

In a response to Klan Kosova and Telegrafi, the police said that they are at the information gathering stage. “All actions are being taken in cooperation and coordination with the Special Prosecution,” police’s response reads. 

Speaking to reporters today, Kurti said he doesn’t feel afraid and that the threats were not made against him but against the Constitutional Court. 

Osmani implies Assembly will convene on June 4 (media)

Kosovo Assembly President Vjosa Osmani, said in a meeting with the Norwegian Ambassador to Kosovo Jens Erik Grondahl today, that the parliamentary committees are working at full capacity and that the Assembly will follow the same pace and is expected to convene on June 4.

Reka: Dialogue to lead in mutual recognition and no territorial changes (Telegrafi)

Kosovo’s acting Minister of European Integration Blerim Reka took part in a debate hosted by the Columbia University on the future of Kosovo and remarked that the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia cannot take place as before through what he said were asymmetrical negotiations. 

Reka said Kosovo and Serbia can only negotiate as equals and the process should end in mutual recognition and without any territorial changes. “The future of Kosovo is being part of the Western civilisation, as a republic based on the rule of law, a country with constitutionally protected borders and good governance,” Reka said.

Government allocates €20 million for subsidising public enterprises (Zeri)

The government of Kosovo has allocated 20 million for subsidizing public enterprises struggling financially due to the Covid-19 health crisis. 

“These subsidies can be conditioned with the reduction of budget allocations to public enterprises for the current and upcoming years,” the government said in a press release.

 

 

Serbian Language Media

 

No new Covid-19 infection cases in Serb areas in Kosovo (Kosovo-online)

For the six days in a row, there is no new Covid-19 infection case registered in the Serb areas in Kosovo. Four patients are yet to recover from Covid-19 infection, Kosovo-online portal reports.

As the Crisis Committee of Mitrovica North announced over the last 24 hours there were neither new cases nor recoveries registered.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic a total of 116 persons have been infected with Covid-19. Out of this number 103 persons have been cured, while nine persons have passed away, the portal recalled

Lajcak and Djuric on the continuation of the dialogue (media)

Kontakt plus radio reports that the special representative of the European Union for the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, Miroslav Lajcak, and the director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija, Marko Djuric, talked yesterday about the continuation of the dialogue.

“Today, I talked with Marko Djuric about the need to renew the dialogue under the auspices of the EU, and in that context about practical issues, the continuation of good cooperation in the fight against COVID-19 and the implementation of the agreements reached,” Lajcak said on Twitter.

In a telephone conversation with Lajcak, Djuric emphasized the importance of using the authority of the international community in order to prevent further erosion of the Brussels Agreement.

The interlocutors discussed specific aspects of the implementation of the Brussels Agreement, with special reference to the issue of the Community of Serbian Municipalities, reads the announcement from the Office for Kosovo and Metohija.

Djuric wished Lajcak success in his work, emphasizing that Belgrade is consistently committed to a peaceful and agreed solution to all disputed issues in Kosovo, quoted the radio.

Dacic: We are far from restoring dialogue (Blic, Kosovo-online)

Serbian Foreign Affairs Minister Ivica Dacic told Blic daily that Belgrade and Pristina are far from restoring the dialogue. He added Serbia is ready to continue the dialogue and its condition is known, to revoke the tariffs and reciprocity measures Pristina introduced.

Dacic recalled that Pristina revoked the tariffs but introduced reciprocity measures, which according to him, is even worse.

“It means that all papers now should include the Republic of Kosovo, which was never part of the agreement. Kosovo was always referred to in a status neutral manner. The fact that Richard Grennel asks for revoking reciprocity measures witnesses what this act is about,” Dacic said.

He noted that we are far from restoring the dialogue, let alone the solution for the Kosovo issue, because of Pristina primarily.

Commenting on the statement of LDK vice-president Lutfi Haziri on exchange of territories, Dacic said that the other side should decide among themselves who will be Belgrade’s interlocutor.

“First, let them agree on who to talk to from Pristina”, Dacic underlined.

US, UK embassies call for implementation of court’s ruling on Visoki Decani Monastery’s land case, EU and OSCE join call (B92, Kosovo-online)

The USA and Great Britain embassies in Pristina urged the Kosovo institution to implement a decision of the Constitutional Court confirming the ownership of the Serbian Orthodox Church Visoki Decani Monastery over 24 hectares of land, B92 reports.

Four years ago, the Constitutional Court in Pristina concluded a 16-year long process and recognized the ownership of the Visoki Decani Monastery over 24 hectares of land, something that local authorities in this municipality oppose.

“Four years is too long. Respecting court decisions is not optional. Institutions should implement the decision on Decani Monastery’s land immediately,” US Ambassador Philip Kosnett wrote on Twitter.

“On the anniversary of the Constitutional Court decision of May 2016, confirming the Decani Monastery’s ownership of surrounding land, we call again on the authorities of Kosovo to implement this decision. Rule of law must be applied by all, regardless of their political or other affiliations,” the UK Embassy wrote on Twitter.

Meanwhile, the EU Office in Pristina and OSCE Mission in Kosovo also joined the call for the court’s ruling to be implemented.

“EU in Kosovo and OSCE in Kosovo as members of the Implementation and Monitoring Council urge the Kosovo authorities to implement the 19 May 2016 Constitutional Court ruling on the land dispute case in Decan/i and thus uphold the rule of law as one of the pillars of a democratic society,” OSCE Mission wrote on Twitter. 

Abbot of Visoki Decani Monastery Father Sava Janjic also wrote on Twitter that “four years have passed since #Kosovo Constitutional Court closed the 16ys long litigation & recognized 59 disputed acres of land as the Monastery ownership. The lack of implementation of the decision is a sad example of absence of the rule of law. We expect KS Gov’t to act promptly”.

Varhelyi to N1: EC report on EU candidate countries in autumn (N1)

European Commissioner for Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi confirmed to N1 that the European Commission (EC) annual report on candidate countries would be published in autumn instead in June as usual.

He said the report would be published later in the year to enable the EC to have better insight into the progress in reforms in the Western Balkans countries “which slowed down due to the need to answer the COVID-19 crisis.”

Varhelyi said the report should be presented in early September when, he added, the EC should also publish the investment plan for the region, but “that will depend on the EU budget in the next several years.”

Speaking to the European Parliament Foreign Policy Committee (AFET) the Commissioner added that the negotiating framework for Albania and North Macedonia would be presented in June.

“I want to continue the job and use the swing and consensus on the enlargement,” Varhelyi said.

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

President Vucic on Serbian Orthodox Church, situation in Montenegro (B92)

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic talked with Patriarch Irinej about the situation of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro and current circumstances there, B92 reports.

He added that he discussed with Patriarch Irinej the completion of works on the Church of St. Sava in Belgrade and announced the completion of construction works this year.

“As far as the situation in Montenegro is concerned, we understand the position of the Serbian Orthodox Church. We have to be more careful, because we do not want to do what they did to us,” he said, adding that he did not want to interfere in the country’s internal affairs, as Montenegro violated the territorial integrity of Serbia when it recognized the independence of  Kosovo.

See at: https://bit.ly/3cTRg96

Freedom House stands by report conclusions on Serbia (N1, VoA)

Freedom House President Mike Abramowitz told the Voice of America that the organization stands by the conclusions on Serbia in its Nations in Transit 2020 report, N1 reports.

A written statement quoted by the VOA said that the Nations in Transit report has been published since 1995, assessing the state of democracy in 29 individual countries. “Every year Freedom House cooperates with local analysts working on the report,” Abramowitz wrote, adding that the report is then handed to anonymous reviewers who provide more information and evaluate the progress made as presented by the report author. 

Finally, the conclusions on all 29 countries are reviewed by a board of experts who check the assessments in the document which is finally reviewed by Freedom House. “The section on Serbia went through that rigorous process,” the statement said.

Freedom house changed Serbia’s ranking from partly consolidated democracy to hybrid regime, the first time that it was not ranked among democratic countries since 2003. The new ranking means that Serbia’s authorities are classed as authoritarian as the consequence of incomplete democratic transition.

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

 

 

Opinion

 

Confronting rape myths (Prishtina Insight)

By Eurisa Rukovci

In order to eradicate sexual violence, Kosovo society needs to face its rape culture, and debunk the untruths that surround conceptions of sexual violence.

A series of sexual assaults occurred in Mitrovica and Gjilan this month which made headlines across Kosovo and garnered widespread societal condemnation. Although their denunciation should be welcomed, it is unfortunate that these crimes receive attention only when they happen so frequently, and in such a short space of time, that it becomes an anomaly.

According to Kosovo Police, 40 cases of sexual violence were reported between January to May 11 this year, in 35 instances they were reported by women, twice by men, and three times by people of unknown gender. Last year there were 166 recorded cases of sexual violence, 145 of which were reported by women, 17 by men and seven by people of unknown gender.

Sexual violence has been acknowledged as a public health and human rights problem for many years now, and the consequences it has on its victims are not only physical but mental.

See at: https://bit.ly/2ynd2TA

 

 

International

 

Kosovo’s Political Rivals Lock Horns Ahead of Court Verdict (Balkan Insight)

The battle between President Thaci and Prime Minister Kurti has become increasingly heated as both sides await a Constitutional Court ruling on the President’s appointment of a new PM.

Kosovo’s incumbent Prime Minister, Albin Kurti, on Tuesday night condemned a death threat he said he had received from a phantom organisation called the “Albanian Volunteers’ Guard”, as the country edges close to the Constitutional Court ruling on his request to annul President Hashim Thaci’s decree mandating Avdullah Hoti to form a new government.

Kurti, who wants fresh legislative elections following his government’s ousting in a no-confidence vote on March 25, published a statement from the organisation, which demanded that he and his Vetevendosje party abandon any plans for protests if the upcoming Constitutional Court verdict does not suit them.

See at: https://bit.ly/3cP0Fi2

Kosovo Muslims Hold Protest Prayers in Pristina Square (Balkan Insight)

To protest against the continued closure of Kosovo’s mosques because of the coronavirus pandemic, a group of Muslims held outdoor prayers in Pristina’s main Skanderbeg Square to mark the holy day of Laylat al-Qadr.

A group of Muslim believers who had unsuccessfully called on the authorities to reopen the country’s mosques gathered on Tuesday for an hour to pray publicly in Skanderbeg Square in Pristina to mark Laylat al-Qadr, the day on which the Koran was first revealed to Muhammad, according to Islamic teaching.

Mosques have been closed in Kosovo since March 14, a day after the first two cases of Covid-19 were registered in the country.

See at: https://bit.ly/2To3O0t

Hague indictments give Kosovo’s war crime victims a voice after 20 years (The Times)

Whenever he is the target of an assassination attempt Gani Geci fights to die hard. By his own count, the bullet-scarred former MP and Kosovan guerrilla fighter has survived three politically motivated hits in the past 22 years.

See at: https://bit.ly/3bO3Kxw

 

 

Humanitarian/Development

 

No tests or other requirements to enter Serbia, pandemic Crisis Committee says (N1)

The pandemic crisis committee recommended the lifting of requirements to enter the country for both Serbian and foreign nationals, N1 reports.

The Crisis Committee issued a statement saying that people entering the country will not require a negative coronavirus test or permission as of Friday, May 22. “Everyone entering the country will be given a health notice warning them that they are entering a territory which is still affected by the coronavirus and ways to prevent infection,” it said. 

The recommendation is due to be confirmed by the Serbian Government at a cabinet meeting on Thursday. 

The Crisis Committee also recommended the opening of administrative crossings with Kosovo. The statement said that PCR tests for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus which are performed at personal request will cost 6,000 RSD across the country and will be free of charge for students and minors. The Crisis Committee decided to return some of the medical facilities reserved for COVID-19 patients to normal operation with all medical and other staff tested. 

The Crisis Committee said that it never recommended sanctions for failure to wear face masks in the open, adding that nothing of the sort is being planned. 

“The activity of the virus has weakened greatly but we all need to continue abiding by basic epidemiological measures such as wearing masks, regular disinfection of hands and maintaining social distance in order to finish the battle against the coronavirus successfully,” the statement said. 

Some local health care institutions published price lists for coronavirus tests which range from 6,000 to 8,000 RSD.

See at: https://bit.ly/3e0rqjJ

UNMIK donated humanitarian aid to Zubin Potok municipality (Kosovo-online)

UNMIK representatives donated humanitarian aid yesterday to socially disadvantaged families in Zubin Potok municipality, Kosovo-online portal reports.

In cooperation with the Local Youth Action Council and Zubin Potok municipality, UNMIK representatives visited socially disadvantaged families and persons with disabilities in this municipality and handed over the aid, the portal added. 

 

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