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Belgrade Media Report 20 May 2020

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United Nations Office in Belgrade

Daily Media Highlights

Wednesday 20 May 2020

LOCAL PRESS

Vucic with Patriarch Irinej: In Montenegro politics interfering in internal organization of church (RTS)
Joksimovic: Slovakia favors speeding up Serbia’s EU integrations (Beta)
Obradovic and Kostic end their hunger strike (RTS/B92)
EP tells N1 it receives invitation to monitor 21 June elections (N1)
Crisis Response Team recommends opening of administrative crossing; PCR test no longer mandatory when entering Serbia (Tanjug)
Freedom House stands by conclusions on Serbia (Beta/VoA)
Another 100 cases, 5,067 recovered (RTS)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina

With EU officials about pandemic (Dnevni avaz)
SDA warns public and international community not to underestimate reasons behind HDZ B&H’s blockade of distribution of IMF money (Dnevni list)
Elections related stories (Dnevni list/FTV/Dnevni avaz)
Prosecutor’s Office of B&H launches investigation in case of issuing of falsified visas for Pakistani citizens (Dnevni avaz)
New coronavirus cases reported in B&H, a total of 2,338 infected (N1)
Croatia

Milanovic calls elections for 5 July (N1)
Plenkovic, Pompeo exchange views about situation in B&H (Jutarnji list)
Borders open between Croatia and Slovenia (Hina)
Coronavirus – 2 newly infected in Croatia, 2234 in total (N1)
Montenegro

Joanikije and priests indicted for violating health regulations (Pobjeda)
Dialogue until solution to law on religious freedom is achieved (RTCG)
Savkovic: SPC and pro-Serbian opposition parties want to destabilize Montenegro (CDM)
DF warned Djukanovic “not to play with fire” (Dnevne novine)
Varhelyi: Peaceful solution needed in Montenegro (N1)
Coronavirus-free Montenegro: Announcement that sparked great interest of UAE (CDM)
First phase of the airport opening starts today (CDM)
Republic of North Macedonia

Filipche says Commission for Infectious Diseases not competent for elections (MIA)
Zaev: Election to be held according to laws if there’s no agreement (MIA)
Mickoski says ‘good luck’ if SDSM decides on June elections (MIA/Sitel TV)
If the elections are held in June, VMRO will not participate, Nikoloski tells Sekerinska (Republika)
PM Spasovski: Competent institutions awaiting election date to be set (MIA)
Filipche: Preparing for second COVID-19 autumn wave, launching big investment in health sector (MIA)
Varhelyi: Negotiating frameworks for North Macedonia and Albania to come in June (MIA)
COVID-19: 19 new confirmed cases in North Macedonia, 16 patients recovered, 4 died (MIA)
Albania

President Meta calls for int’l investigation into demolition of Theatre (Tirana Times)
Kim met with Pm Edi Rama (Radio Tirana)
In Albania 15 new COVID-19 cases, 79% recovered (Tirana Times)

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Vucic with Patriarch Irinej: In Montenegro politics interfering in internal organization of church (RTS)

 

Following this morning’s meeting with President Aleksandar Vucic, Serbian Patriarch Irinej has stated it is clear that Milo Djukanovic’s plan is not to have any longer the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) or the Serbian Orthodox people in Montenegro. “This hasn’t been during the Ottoman Empire and in the times of Communism who had more respect towards the Church,” said the Patriarch at the press conference. According to him, the goal is to apply the method that the Ustasha used to apply in Croatia to expel the Serb people and to destroy the SPC there. “I am asking myself and all others, does Djukanovic have in mind his people and the state-of-affairs that he has more-or-less created in Montenegro, the plan is not to have any longer either the SPC or the Orthodox people over there,” said Irinej. The Patriarch says that a new nation – Montenegrin, is being created that needs to push out everything that is called Serbian. “We respect Montenegro as a state. Unfortunately, the existence of the Serb people in Montenegro is not accepted, I am calling Djukanovic with pain in my soul to think what he is doing,” said Irinej. Vucic says that he had discussed with the Patriarch the situation in Montenegro, but also in the region. “We understand the SPC stand, but we need to be more careful, we will not do what they had been doing to us,” said Vucic. He recalled that the Montenegrin Minister said that Serbia was interfering in Montenegro’s internal affairs, forgetting that they had directly interfered by recognizing Kosovo and Metohija. “For us especially interesting is the fact that politics is interfering in church organization, just as we are not doing this, I consider that it is not good for this to be happening in Montenegro,” said Vucic. He thinks that it is unreasonable for politicians to found new churches and pointed out as interesting the fact that politics interferes with church organization and essentially spiritual things.  “They do not stop there, but try to confiscate property,” he said, adding that this is very hard for the Serbian people, that someone is trying to create a new church in Montenegro. “The goal is for the Serbian people to disappear from Montenegro in a decade,” he concluded in response to the Patriarch’s doubts about the expulsion of the Serbian people and added that there will be no new ‘Storms’.

 

Joksimovic: Slovakia favors speeding up Serbia’s EU integrations (Beta)

 

Serbian Minister for EU Integration Jadranka Joksimovic and Slovakia’s new Ambassador to Serbia Fedor Rosocha discussed Slovakia’s support for Serbia’s European road and active endorsement of a European outlook for the region of the Western Balkans. They agreed that there was room for strong and more comprehensive cooperation with the Visegrad Group which in addition to being known as a vocal advocate of enlargement, poses a good example of regional connectivity and cooperation, according to the Cabinet. Rosocha voiced his conviction that Slovakia, as a true friend and reliable partner to Serbia, would continue offering clear support for Serbia’s European road, while at the same time contributing to the credibility of the EU enlargement policy. He also said that he hoped that the announced postponement of a Progress Report would not slow down opening chapters with Serbia, the cabinet said in a statement. Joksimovic said that she expected Miroslav Lajcak’s appointment as EU special representative for dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina to help advance the dialogue, even though this was a complex issue.

 

Obradovic and Kostic end their hunger strike (RTS/B92)

 

The leader of the Dveri movement Bosko Obradovic decided that he and Ivan Kostic would end the hunger strike. Obradovic told reporters today that they believe that they did everything to draw the attention of the public, domestic and international, to their demands and the situation in Serbia. “After a full 11 days of hunger strike, as we say strict fasting, I think we should stop at this moment, with a clear message that we have done everything in our power to draw the attention of the domestic and international public to the problems in which Serbia finds itself with its undemocratic government “, stated Obradovic, who ended the strike after consultations with MPs Dr Dragan Vesovic and Marija Janjusevic. He reminded that he went on a hunger strike in solidarity with MP Miladin Sevarlic, with whom he was on the same electoral list four years ago, and who demanded that the parliament consider the topic of Kosovo and Metohija in order to respect the constitution and preserve it as part of Serbia, and on the basis of the UN Resolution 1244. “I thought that as a younger colleague, I could not pass by a man in his late years, who was ready to risk his life”, Obradovic said.

 

EP tells N1 it receives invitation to monitor 21 June elections (N1)

 

The European Parliament (EP) confirmed to N1 on Tuesday that it had received the invitation to take part in observing Serbia’s general elections due on 21 June. “It is important that conditions are put in place for an international observation mission led by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) to go ahead and to monitor the conditions, campaign and conduct of elections in Serbia,” the EP said. It added that “we note that ODIHR has already been invited by the Serbian authorities to observe the parliamentary elections, which were originally scheduled for April but have now been postponed to 21 June.”

 

Crisis Response Team recommends opening of administrative crossing; PCR test no longer mandatory when entering Serbia (Tanjug)

 

The Crisis Response Team for the Suppression of Infectious Disease COVID-19 in its meeting on Tuesday analyzed the current epidemiological situation and adjusted the measures to be applied. Starting on Friday, 22 May, a negative test or a special permit for both domestic and foreign citizens will not be required to enter the Republic of Serbia, it was recommended to the government of the Republic of Serbia. All persons entering the territory of the Republic of Serbia will be handed health warnings stating that they are entering the territory where the virus is still circulating, as well as instructions how to prevent the infection. This recommendation should be confirmed on Thursday, at the session of the government of Serbia. The Crisis Response Team for the Suppression of Infectious Disease COVID-19 made a recommendation to open an administrative crossing to Kosovo and Metohija. PCR tests for coronavirus, at the personal request of the citizens of Serbia and foreign citizens, will cost RSD 6,000 in the territory of the entire Republic of Serbia. The testing is still free for students and minors. Bearing in mind the current epidemiological situation, it was decided that certain health care institutions that were designated for COVID hospitals will gradually return to the normal work process. In such institutions, all medical workers will be tested for coronavirus and will start working only after a negative result. Given the numerous speculations that have been repeated in previous days, the Crisis Response Team for the Suppression of Infectious Disease COVID-19 emphasizes that it has never recommended sanctions for not wearing masks in the open and that the introduction of such measures is certainly not being planned. All members of the Crisis Response Team for the Suppression of Infectious Disease COVID-19, led by doctors, appeal to all citizens to behave responsibly towards themselves and others because the epidemic is not over yet.

 

Freedom House stands by conclusions on Serbia (Beta/VoA)

 

The US Freedom House NGO stands by its conclusions on Serbia in a report on “Countries in Transition,” which was published early in May, its president Mike Abramovic said in a written response on May 19 to the Voice of America. “Since 1995 the Countries in Transition reports have evaluated the state of democracy in 29 countries in Europe and Euroasia. The same methodology and analyses have been used since 2005. Each year, Freedom House cooperates with local analysts who work on the report” and give their opinion on each country, Mike Abramovic told the VOA. “At the end, the conclusions and performances of all 29 states are reviewed by an expert supervisory board charged with the Countries in Transition report which checks the accuracy of the document’s findings – which are edited by Freedom House before finally being released. The part of the report which applies to Serbia has passed through this rigorous process,” Mike Abramovic stressed. The Freedom House NGO said in its Countries in Transition 2020 report that Serbia and Montenegro were no longer partially consolidated democracies and that they were now “hybrid regimes.” This is the first time since 2003 that the two countries have not been rated as democratic.

 

Another 100 cases, 5,067 recovered (RTS)

 

Until 3pm there have been another 100 cases, in total 10,833 infected. There has been one more death, in total 235 deaths. There are 66 people in hospitals and 13 on respirators. The number of recovered patients is 5,067.

 

REGIONAL PRESS

 

With EU officials about pandemic (Dnevni avaz)

 

Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Foreign Minister, Bisera Turkovic participated in the videoconference meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Western Balkans countries and senior EU officials from certain EU member states. Focus of the conference was on measures of recovery and further prevention of spreading of Covid-19 pandemic, prospects of strengthening of regional cooperation and EU integration capacities of the Western Balkan countries in period after the pandemic.

 

SDA warns public and international community not to underestimate reasons behind HDZ B&H’s blockade of distribution of IMF money (Dnevni list)

 

SDA warned public and representatives of the international community in B&H not to underestimate reasons behind the blockade of distribution of funds of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) by HDZ B&H and Minister of Finance and Treasury of B&H Vjekoslav Bevanda (HDZ B&H) and urged them not to hold all political parties equally responsible for the blockade. SDA added that this is not about “inability to reach an agreement” because HDZ B&H intends to unconstitutionally connect cantons directly to the state level, while bypassing the Federation of B&H. “Respecting of the Constitution is an obligation and cannot be a subject to an agreement or someone’s good will”, SDA noted and called political factors in the country and representatives of countries which participate in the work of the Peace Implementation Council (PIC) to defend B&H Constitution, rule of law and respecting of adopted procedures. SDA warned that making of any kind of compromise just to solve the current political matter and remove blockades that were deliberately made would result in destabilization of B&H. Finally, SDA concluded that “the Constitution, laws, procedures and independent courts, especially the Constitutional Court whose decisions must be respected and implemented, are the only guarantors of survival of the country once it is left without the role of the High Representative and PIC”.

 

Elections related stories (Dnevni list/FTV/Dnevni avaz)

 

The B&H Central Election Commission (CEC) is scheduled to hold a session on Wednesday and discuss the issues with regard to holding of the 2020 local elections, which are called for 4 October. Dnevni list noted that earlier B&H CEC has underlined the issues created by the fact that the state budget has not been adopted yet and it was supposed to secure the funds for preparation and implementation of elections. Meanwhile, FTV reports that the legal timeframe within which funds need to be allocated to the B&H CEC for procurement necessary for holding of elections is running out, however, these funds have not been secured yet. This means that the B&H CEC cannot secure a timely public procurement. According to FTV, the elections will not be held in October this year. According to unofficial information, the B&H CEC will prolong holding of elections for 30 days. FTV reports that this will be done no matter if the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) adopts the 2020 budget and secures funding for holding of elections. Chairman of the B&H CoM Zoran Tegeltija said that the budget of joint institutions of B&H for 2020 can be harmonized by 31 May and sent into the parliamentary procedure for adoption. According to Tegeltija, there are no reasons for the budget not to be adopted, saying the budget framework will remain the same, and that an agreement has to be reached on how the funds will be spent. The CoM Chairman further said that he and Serb Ministers in the CoM voted against the previously proposed budget because the budget’s structure did not fit the then situation related to the Coronavirus pandemic. He went on to say that the local elections do not depend on adoption of the budget because the CoM can take a separate decision on financing of the elections, for which there are funds. In this context the CoM Chairman said that some are looking for an excuse not to have the elections or to postpone them for as long as possible.

Deputy speaker of the B&H HoR Borjana Kristo (HDZ B&H) said: “As political parties we are ready for elections. In order for elections to be held, at this time when we have a decision on calling of the local elections, there are still legislative presumptions in line with the BiH Election Law and procedures which have to be honored for the elections to be held. Actually, all else, in the end even the execution is a matter of the Parliamentary Assembly of BiH and its competencies,” Kristo said. Head of the SNSD Caucus in the B&H HoR Snjezana Novakovic-Bursac said: “We still think that this CEC – which I personally call half-legal, although some of our officials call it illegal – has in its composition two very, very disputable members. Everything that they do, and the statements they have been giving in the past period goes towards them diluting the situation related to the election cycle while looking for excuses which are nonexistent”. Deputy speaker of the B&H HoR Denis Zvizdic (SDA) commented the instance by saying that if funds are not secured within a certain timeframe, the B&H CEC can extend holding of elections for a maximum of 30 days.

 

Prosecutor’s Office of B&H launches investigation in case of issuing of falsified visas for Pakistani citizens (Dnevni avaz)

 

The B&H Prosecutor’s Office has formed a case and they are verifying all allegations, which refer to claims of Serb member of B&H Presidency and SNSD leader Milorad Dodik who said that “the B&H Ambassador to Pakistan falsified entrance visas for Pakistani citizens in B&H”. Daily reminded that couple of days ago Dodik spoke for RTRS and said that information about falsifying of visas was presented by the Security Ministry of B&H during the recent meeting in B&H Presidency. He stressed that Pakistani citizens, who entered B&H with falsified visas, pose a security issue. Dodik also stated that he supports the idea of deporting of Pakistani citizens back to Pakistan, because he deems, they can be a serious problem, but the deportation is obstructed “by certain policies in B&H who want to keep them”. Researching this information, daily contacted Prosecutor’s Office of B&H and asked if they are familiar with the claims of the Serb member of B&H Presidency regarding 3,000 Pakistani citizens who entered B&H with false visas. Spokesperson for the Prosecutor’s Office Boris Grubesic said that they have a case with the report of B&H Border Police concerning the irregularities with issuing of visas for Pakistani citizens and in this regard the Office has asked for certain investigations in B&H and abroad and asked for confiscating of certain documents. Grubesic noted that the Office is working on this case in cooperation with police agencies in B&H. The daily noted that three weeks ago, Security Minister Fahrudin Radoncic proposed the strategy for deporting of about 10,000 migrants, but he did not receive support “of individuals in Council of Ministers and Presidency of B&H”. Radoncic also announced on this occasion a possibility of declaring the Pakistani Ambassador persona non-grata due to his refusal to cooperate with Security Ministry.

 

New coronavirus cases reported in B&H, a total of 2,338 infected (N1)

 

Health authorities in B&H have reported that more than a dozen people tested positive for the coronavirus throughout the past 24 hours, bringing the total of those infected in the country to 2,338, according to official government data published on Wednesday. A total of 136 people has now died due to Covid-19 since the virus came to the country in March, while 1,557 have recovered. B&H authorities have been gradually lifting the measures introduced to combat the spread of the virus since the end of April, including restrictions on movement for citizens, as the coronavirus curve seems to be flattening. Authorities in the RS, are now discussing whether to lift the curfew while the FB&H, has already done so. There are currently 1.306 people infected in the RS, while that number in FB&H is 1.012. Another 20 are infected in the Brcko District. B&H has tested 55,624 of its citizens for the coronavirus so far.

 

Milanovic calls elections for 5 July (N1)

 

The President of the Republic of Croatia passed a Decision on calling elections for members of the Croatian Parliament for 5 July 2020. According to the Decision on calling elections for members of the Croatian parliament, elections at polling stations in the Republic of Croatia will be held on Sunday, 5 July 2020, and elections at polling stations at the headquarters of diplomatic and consular missions of the Republic of Croatia will be held on Saturday, 4 July and Sunday, 5 July 2020. The decision to call the elections for representatives in the Croatian Parliament shall enter into force on 2 June 2020, announced the Office of the President.

 

Plenkovic, Pompeo exchange views about situation in B&H (Jutarnji list)

 

The Croatian government issued a statement on Monday night, which read that Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic spoke on the phone with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The Secretary of State, among other issues, congratulated Croatia on efficient EU Presidency, including welcomed focusing on integrating the Western Balkans into the EU. The statement also reads that the collocutors exchanged views about the situation in B&H, and that the Croatian Prime Minister stressed that the Croat people in B&H supports the process of Euro-Atlantic integration of B&H.

 

Borders open between Croatia and Slovenia (Hina)

 

The Slovenian government has decided that Croatians are free to cross the border into Slovenia without having to undergo mandatory quarantine as the two neighbors have similar epidemiological situations. Slovenian news reported on Tuesday that Croatia was the first country placed on the list of countries whose nationals may enter Slovenia without limitations. Last Friday Slovenia declared the end of the COVID-19 pandemic and announced the reopening of borders for the European Union and citizens of the European Economic Area. Slovenian Economy Minister Zdravko Pocivalsek and Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto had earlier discussed plans for reopening the borders between EU member-states with similar epidemiological situations. Slovenia and Austria have launched similar talks in recent days.

 

Coronavirus – 2 newly infected in Croatia, 2234 in total (N1)

 

The National Civil Protection Headquarters announced today that in the last 24 hours, 2 new cases of coronavirus infection have been recorded in Croatia. Currently, 2234 people with coronavirus have been confirmed in Croatia. A total of 96 people have died and 1978 people recovered. Ten people are currently on respirators. A total of 57.021 people have been tested so far, of that 1.221 in last 24h. There are 3 fewer hospitalized, which means that 117 people are in the hospital. 8 patients are on the respiratory machines.

 

Joanikije and priests indicted for violating health regulations (Pobjeda)

 

Indictment against eight accused priests of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC) in Montenegro and Bishop Joanikije has been issued and submitted to the Niksic District court. On 12 May, the day of the Saint Basil of Ostrog, Serbian church in Niksic organized the so-called prayer walk, despite the ban on gatherings which is still in force. Previously during the liturgy in the Temple of the Saint Basil of Ostrog, bishop Joanikije said that “there won’t be religious processions”. However, several thousands of people gathered around 6 pm at Sako Petrovic Square, waiting for the prayer walk. As representatives of the Archdiocese of the SOC in Niksic said, they couldn’t ignore the expectations of the mass and they decided to organize the walk across the town. That same night, Mr Joanikije and eight priests were summoned to hearing and were ordered to remain in custody for 72 hours. That provoked revolt of the adherents of the SOC and several hundreds gathered in front of the police department in Niksic to support the priests. The protest continued the next day, when the mass tried to block the traffic near roundabout in Niksic.

Police said that protesters had attacked police officers who then used teargas, pepper spray, shock bombs and other coercion means. During the incident, 22 police officers were injured.

Bishop Joanikije and other priests were set free on 16 May. They were welcomed by great number of citizens. That night, Joanikije said “this is going to be a long fight”.

 

Dialogue until solution to law on religious freedom is achieved (RTCG)

 

Montenegrin Interior Minister Mevludin Nuhodzic and Serbian Ambassador to Podgorica

Vladimir Bozovic agreed that different views of the Law on Religious Freedom could be overcome through a dialogue and an agreement between all responsible stakeholders in the society. According to a release from the Montenegrin Interior Ministry, Nuhodzic received Bozovic on 19 May, saying that since the adoption of the Law on Religious Freedom “there have been certain disagreements, with a reminder of the crucial values built by Montenegro and cherished by all its citizens.” “Montenegro has clearly established itself as a civil

society and passes laws under which all are equal. I believe that the citizens of the multiethnic and multi-confessional Montenegro will continue to nurture peace, coexistence and tolerance. These represent our highest values, while the civil concept which our society is founded on is the only safe path for resolving all dilemmas,” Nuhodzic told Bozovic.

Savkovic: SPC and pro-Serbian opposition parties want to destabilize Montenegro (CDM)

 

DPS MP Nela Savkovic noted that the Serbian Orthodox Church, SPC, and pro-Serbian opposition parties wish to destabilize Montenegro and ruin its sovereignty. “It’s a real truth. It was the first matter of discussion of the Podgorica Assembly, when it was noted that Montenegro’s sovereignty must be destroyed. You and Metropolitan Amfilohije keep inviting people for the celebration of the Podgorica assembly,” emphasized Savkovic, primarily referring to one of the leaders of the Democratic Front, DF, Milan Knezevic. Knezevic, on the other hand, told that the Podgorica parliament was one of the most beautiful days in the history of Montenegro. “If it wasn’t for the Podgorica parliament, there wouldn’t be AVNOJ’s Yugoslavia. Please do not mention St Vasilije and the Petrovic family members, as they had their origins in Herzegovina,” he said.

 

DF warned Djukanovic “not to play with fire” (Dnevne novine)

 

Members of the Democratic Front (DF) have seized on yesterday’s parliament session to talk about the press conference of President Milo Djukanovic, some media, religious processions and Law on Freedom of Religion despite the fact that Proposal for the Law on Companies was on the agenda. DF accused Djukanovic of igniting the flames. DPS responded that Serbian Orthodox Church and pro-Serbian parties wanted to destabilize Montenegro and destroy its sovereignty. DF member, Marina Jocic, warned Djukanovic “not to play with fire”. “Bloody scene is in preparation,” Jocic said. DF member, Jovan Vucurovic, said that Djukanovic “is spreading hatred among believers instead of talking about companies”. “If Milo Djukanovic is determined to seize temples and keeps persecuting Serbian people, he will pay through the nose. Nobody thinks we will watch with arms crossed how the atmosphere of the Independent State of Croatia is being revived. This system of evil and injustice has to be destroyed” Vucurovic said. DF member, Budimir Aleksic, said that President “talks about churches, igniting fire and threatening”. “He doesn’t want stability. And if the first man of the country incites destabilization, how can I expect the Law on Companies to be implemented?” Aleksic said. Andrija Popovic, member of Liberal party, said that “there’s no anti-Serbian philosophy in Montenegro, only Great-Serbian demagogy”. “This government is the only defense against Great-Serbian policy,” said Popovic. DPS members, Nela Savkovic, said that Serbian Orthodox Church and pro-Serbian parties wanted to destabilize Montenegro and destroy its sovereignty. According to him, DPS and its coalition partners is the only defense against great Serbian policy.

 

Varhelyi: Peaceful solution needed in Montenegro (N1)

 

European Commissioner (EC) Oliver Varhelyi told the European Parliament Foreign Policy Committee on Tuesday that a peaceful, European solution needs to be found in Montenegro.

“A state cannot function without respect for freedom of confession and the important thing is to find a peaceful, European solution in Montenegro,” he said.  Varhelyi said the problem is not new. “This is the current problem, but it is also a problem that repeats itself. I was in Montenegro when the crisis escalated and I tried to mediate between the state and the church to find a solution acceptable for all sides,” he said. He said that the church held a religious service despite the measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic and the state-sanctioned that behavior by arresting the priests. He called the church to respect the measures and the authorities to secure freedom of confession during the crisis. Varhelyi said he would continue trying to calm the situation and help find a European solution for church-state relations in Montenegro.

 

Coronavirus-free Montenegro: Announcement that sparked great interest of UAE (CDM)

 

The announcement that Montenegro will soon be the coronavirus-free destination has aroused great interest in the United Arab Emirates, said the new UAE Ambassador, HE Abdulaziz Nasser Saeed Al Shamsi, during the meeting with Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, who received her credential letter, as well as the one from the newly appointed Ambassador of the Slovak Republic HE Boris Gandel. Following the reception of credential letters, the President received ambassadors and thanked for their understanding having in mind that the ceremony itself had to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. “I am pleased to have this ceremony held in the Old Royal Capital Cetinje, in line with the usual protocol, which is entirely proper when ambassadors of friendly Slovakia and the UAE, to which we are bound by many beautiful and important dates in the recent history of the Montenegrin state, come to Montenegro,” the President said in an introductory speech. Speaking with Gandel, President Djukanovic said that he has been satisfied with the overall relations between the two states, being additionally fostered and improved over the past decade. “Montenegro does not forget the role that Slovakia and its diplomacy had in the process of regaining its independence, NATO accession and the process of EU integration,” he said. Gandel congratulated the President on the forthcoming Independence Day, noting that Slovakia played its role in it as well. His mission will be to foster the existing relations between the two states even more. As for the meeting with the UAE Ambassador, Djukanovic stressed that he has been assured that running a mandate in a friendly country represents the special privilege just as it’s a privilege for Montenegro to have the UAE and its top officials as friends. “Friendship between our countries has been confirmed in the time of the coronavirus, with the donation from UAE to Montenegro following my conversation with Sheikh Mohammed, and we are deeply grateful to you,” the President said. HE Abdulaziz Nasser Saeed Al Shamsi noted that she was glad to be in Montenegro, pointing out to the extraordinary relations between the two governments. “Montenegro has made a remarkable progress,” said the Ambassador and congratulated Djukanovic on great achievements and the right path Montenegro has been following.

 

First phase of the airport opening starts today (CDM)

 

In the first phase, which starts today, the airports of Montenegro will open for general aviation flights, which can be of a private or business character, said the director of the Airport of Montenegro Danilo Orlandic. “This is an important message for all of us in Montenegro and beyond, because it shows the intention of the state to open up to foreign citizens in a serious, responsible and phased way to meet the tourist season,” Orlandic added. The National Coordination Body (NCB) made a decision on opening of the Airports of Montenegro soon for flights of general aviation to Montenegro and from Montenegro.

PM Spasovski: Competent institutions awaiting election date to be set (MIA)

 

The Committee for Infectious Diseases, the State Election Commission (SEC), and OSCE/ODIHR are waiting for an election date to be set in order to begin necessary preparations, caretaker Prime Minister Oliver Spasovski said on Wednesday. The infectious diseases committee, has submitted a report, a protocol on holding election, and coronavirus projections. Meanwhile, SEC has disclosed information on deadlines that need to be observed in conducting election activities, while a letter from OSCE/ODIHR announced that the office will, based on the election date, begin preparations to appoint an election observation mission, read the PM’s post on Facebook.

 

Filipche says Commission for Infectious Diseases not competent for elections (MIA)

 

The Commission for Infectious Diseases is not competent to say when to hold the elections, but to draft a health protocol regarding their administering, said Health Minister Venko Filipche on Tuesday. Minister Filipche told a press conference that the Commission has drafted the health protocol upon the request by President Stevo Pendarovski, adding that party leaders are the ones to decide about the date for the elections. “We were asked to draft the protocols and their implementation, but the elections also cover other aspects such as legal and economic implications, which need to be tackled by the party leaders. In this regard, our job is done,” Filipche told reporters. According to him, the outbreak is under control but the risk could increase in the following period. “Now we reap the positive effects of the quarantine, the closed schools and kindergartens, but also borders. There is an additional risk of new cases after borders, schools and kindergartens reopen somewhere in the fall, in parallel with the seasonal flu. The Commission’s job is to provide the health aspects, party leaders will decide on the timing,” said Filipche.

 

Zaev: Election to be held according to laws if there’s no agreement (MIA)

 

There’s room for talks with the opposition over a date for early parliamentary election before the state of emergency is declared over, in the coming week or so, SDSM leader Zoran Zaev said Tuesday. “But, if no solution is found until then, we will have to respect the constitutional provisions and the legal deadlines and to vote in election,” he told a news conference.

SDSM at leaders’ meeting, hosted by President Stevo Pendarovski, tabled June 21 as possible election date. “We want dialogue and we want an agreement, but if there’s no agreement, we cannot force anyone else to be part of the election” Zaev stated, noting that election should be held ‘because it is stipulated by the law, by the decree with the force of law and the Electoral Code.’ According to the leader of the ruling party, parties cannot boycott the election. “The lists of MP candidates were accepted and the State Election Commission had already held drawing lots,” Zaev said. We, Zaev said, don’t want to push the country into a new political crisis by delaying elections to be held in August and September, or even December. “VMRO-DPMNE and Hristijan Mickoski want to postpone the election because they are afraid of being defeated. They will lose because of their partisan policy and incompetent candidates,” the SDSM leader told the news conference outside the party’s main offices.

 

Mickoski says ‘good luck’ if SDSM decides on June elections (MIA/Sitel TV)

 

VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski wished SDSM good luck if the ruling party decided on elections in June. However, he did not specify if his party would take part at the elections. Mickoski told Sitel TV that the leaders’ meeting produced a number of dates for the elections – in late June, July, August or beginning of September. “We have 22 new cases and 2 people who have lost their lives while I am giving this interview and talking about dates. But my job is to be a politician and citizens will forgive me that I have to answer these questions. If SDSM decides to have June elections, good luck to them,” says Mickoski.

 

If the elections are held in June, VMRO will not participate, Nikoloski tells Sekerinska (Republika)

 

VMRO-DPMNE Vice President Aleksandar Nikoloski insisted that elections will not take place on 21 June, as the ruling SDSM party demands, because the coronavirus epidemic hasn’t been put under control yet. “With these numbers of infections and deaths, Zoran Zaev is pushing for elections. If they plan to hold the vote on 21 June, good luck to them. We are not participating,” Nikoloski said in a debate with SDSM deputy leader Radmila Sekerinska. According to Nikoloski, optimal conditions for elections would be after Macedonia has had two weeks with no deaths or new coronavirus infections. “But with these numbers, it’s impossible”, he said. Over the past week, the Healthcare Ministry registered several dozens of infections and between 1 and 3 deaths daily. SDSM demands elections in June or early July, apparently hoping that the low turnout will help the party. VMRO believes that more realistic dates would be in late August or September. “VMRO-DPMNE is absolutely in favor of early elections, and we aim to win, but we demand that the health of the citizens is protected in full. Unfortunately, that is currently not an option. Holding elections now will guarantee that people will get infected and die as a result of the voting. Having a high level of citizen participation in the elections is a pillar of democracy. Also, there is also no possibility to sufficiently inform the citizens about the policy positions. As things stand now voters won’t be able to even see the candidates, let alone hear them,” Nikoloski said. He accused the ruling SDSM party of managing the extent of testing, which in turn influences the number of positive tests, to suit its political needs. “We had between 600 and 800 tests conducted daily, but we are now down to 150 in some days, which clearly shows that the process is being managed. And even with less testing, the numbers still remain bad. This tells us that the realistic numbers are even worse. I kept warning about the spike in Prilep, and the response was to stop testing there. Patients have died waiting between five and seven days for the results. We saw what happened in Kumanovo, and the conflict with the Mayor. That is the truth about the testing,” Nikoloski said.

 

Filipche: Preparing for second COVID-19 autumn wave, launching big investment in health sector (MIA)

 

The coronavirus will most probably have a second wave, as shown by most studies and experiences from other outbreaks. We are preparing for it in consultation with other countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) but also considering individual cases in numerous countries. We are launching a big investment in the health sector, strengthening the intensive care departments across the country, said Health Minister Venko Filipche on Tuesday. Minister Filipche told a press conference that preparations are ongoing for a new wave in the autumn, when the country will be ready to protect the people’s health. According to him, all intensive care departments will have modern medical equipment, beds, ventilators, digital X-ray devices and other equipment required for proper health protection. “We have shown how to take people’s interests into consideration and how to act in a timely fashion during a crisis, and we will do this even better when faced again with the challenge of protecting public health and citizens,” added Filipche.

 

Varhelyi: Negotiating frameworks for North Macedonia and Albania to come in June (MIA)

 

European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi told Tuesday the European Parliament’s Committee on European Affairs that the annual progress reports for the countries of the Western Balkans have been delayed until September, but the negotiating frameworks for North Macedonia and Albania are due in June, MIA reports from Brussels.

“We are working day and night with COVID-19 and given the fact it is very difficult to predict what the economic situation will look like, it is also very difficult to see how the reforms will be delivered because the COVID-19 will hold back work. We want to come up with a substantial report, a good report that provides insight on the progress. My focus is now more on the negotiating frameworks for the two countries, North Macedonia and Albania. What I can tell you is that we are coming as planned in June, and this is now the crucial bit so that we can continue with the momentum that has been created,” Varhelyi told MEPs. Regarding the negotiating frameworks, he said they would be accompanied by an update of the reform progress. “We will come out very soon, in the autumn, hopefully in September, depending on the agenda of the College, with the usual package, the enlargement package. I also hope that we will come with the economic development and investment plan for the Western Balkans in September,” noted Varhelyi.

 

COVID-19: 19 new confirmed cases in North Macedonia, 16 patients recovered, 4 died (MIA)

 

Nineteen new COVID-19 cases registered the Institute for Public Health of North Macedonia in the past 24 hours after 512 tests were conducted. Of the new cases, 11 are in Skopje, 2 in Kumanovo, 1 in Prilep, 1 in Tetovo, 1 in Veles, 1 in Gostivar, 1 in Strumica and 1 in Vinica.

A 65-year-old woman from Skopje, treated at the 8 September General Hospital in Skopje since May 11, a 71-year-old man from Skopje, treated since May 16, a 73-year-old man from Tetovo hospitalized since May 11 and a 41-year-old man from Prilep, treated at the Clinic for Infectious Disease for more than 40 days, died in the past 24 hours, the Health Ministry said Wednesday.

16 patients have recovered from COVID-19 recently, including 7 in Skopje, 1 in Kumanovo, 3 in Tetovo, 1 in Veles, 1 in Kochani and 3 in Negotino. This brings the total tally of COVID-19 confirmed cases to 1,858 since the outbreak of the epidemic. 1,367 patients have recovered. Death toll has reached 110. Currently, the number of active cases in North Macedonia is 381. A total of 22,767 COVID-19 tests have been carried out so far in North Macedonia, press release reads.

 

President Meta calls for int’l investigation into demolition of Theatre (Tirana Times)

 

President Ilir Meta has called for an international investigation into what he called “the unconstitutional, illegal and the most anti-European way of destroying the National Theater.” He announced prior to Monday’s protest that he is ready to cooperate with the Alliance for the Protection of Theater, as well as any European and international institution for Culture. “Europe and the democratic world are even more clear about what is happening here” he wrote. Moreover, Meta urged protesters not to practice violence but believe instead that democracy can prevail “over ‘Talibanism’ and oligarchy.'” Civil society members, artists and citizens gathered yesterday to protest against the demolition of the National Theatre in Albania. Adriatik Lapaj, one of the many activists who spoke during the rally, emphasized that the battle is no longer just about the Theater, but it is about democracy, as there are no more courts where the people can turn to. “Yesterday, the arrogance of the government did not wait for the decision of the Constitutional Court, of SPAK, or that of the prosecution, to be investigated,” he said, adding that justice for the people is nowhere to be found. Prior to the demolition of the Theatre, President Meta filed a lawsuit in the Constitutional Court against the government’s decision to transfer ownership of the land upon which the Theatre stood, to the Municipality of Tirana. According to Meta, the action was unconstitutional and therefore should have been repealed. Shortly after his denunciation, the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (SPAK) launched an investigation into Tirana mayor Erion Veliaj and deputy mayor Arbjan Mazniku concerning the Tirana municipal council’s decision to demolish the National Theatre. However, the government went on with the decision which saw the demolishing of the Theatre on Sunday morning.

 

Distrust towards state institutions

Meta’s call for an international investigation served as yet another reflection of his continuous distrust towards the existing state institutions. Last year, the President raised concern over the ongoing justice reform as regards the Constitutional Court. “Had the reform been such a success, Albania would have spent no day without a Constitutional Court,” Meta emphasized. His address also included the approach of the reform, criticizing bluntly the meme like expressions of the need “to catch big fish”. He urged all sides to responsibility and focus on building resilient institutions rather than focusing on single individual names. Meta later addressed the Venice Commission with a lengthy request, in response to a move made by the majority to seek from this body of international experts an interpretation of the situation created on November of 2018 with appointments to the Constitutional Court.   “In the absence of a Constitutional Court for more than two years , in the absence of the High Court, in a crisis of representation sui generis where the government, parliament, all municipalities and municipal councils are in the hands of a single political force as well as the vast majority of the two independent bodies appointed by this political force, bringing about a complete imbalance of checks and balances, the country is at risk of total state capture,” he wrote at the time. The clash between the parties began after Meta decided not to appoint one of the candidates for the vacancy to be filled by the Head of State, arguing that he had already filled a vacancy and it was up to parliament to proceed with electing a candidate from the lists. Furthermore, in April this year, President Meta asked the HJC to end Dvoran’s term of office, who, being the incumbent President of the Supreme Court, refused to announce the end of his term. The HJC, on the other hand, claimed that it has no power to do so, while at the same time confirming that none of the recently appointed Supreme Court judges have replaced Dvorani. Currently, tensions continue as the justice reform is still in motion for a period of four years now, while international pressure for its acceleration remains.

 

Kim met with Pm Edi Rama (Radio Tirana)

 

The US Ambassador to Albania Yuri Kim was in the Prime Minister’s Office yesterday. There was a 60-minute meeting with Prime Minister Rama and Kim. The topic of the meeting was political situation in Albania. The US Embassy stressed that Ambassador Yuri Kim met with Rama to discuss the latest developments. According to the announcement, the Ambassador stressed the importance of inclusiveness and well-thought-out discussions in governance in line with Albania’s status as a member of NATO and a country aiming for EU membership. According to the US Embassy, Kim and Rama “agreed that it is essential for Albania to continue on its path towards reaching an agreement on electoral reform and other measures promised to the citizens of Albania.” Ambassador Kim will also meet with the leader of the Democratic Party, Lulzim Basha,” the announcement notes.

In Albania 15 new COVID-19 cases, 79% recovered (Tirana Times)

 

Fifteen new coronavirus cases were confirmed in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of infected patients to 964 in Albania. This is a significant increase compared to the past days, which saw the lowest number since the outbreak of the pandemic in the country. Thirteen of the new cases were identified in Durres, while only one case was confirmed in Tirana. So far, tests have been conducted on more than 12,500 people. A total of 15 patients are being treated at the Infectious Diseases Hospital, three of whom are in intensive care. So far, 79 percent of patients who tested positive for the coronavirus in Albania have now recovered. The death toll remains at 31 victims.

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