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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, 27 May 2020

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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, May 27, 2020

Albanian Language Media:

• EU rapporteur reacts to Thaci’s statement on Lajcak (media)
• “President doesn’t talk to Lajcak as he is openly against land swap” (Telegrafi)
• Haradinaj believes court will give right to other parties to form govt (Telegrafi)
• Miftaraj: President cannot play role of whistleblower (Koha)
• Borg Oliver: Not president’s role to form new govt (Kallxo/Prishtina Insight)
• Acting government considers Association/Community to be invalidated (Koha)

Serbian Language Media:

• One new case of Covid-19 infection in Serb areas in Kosovo (Kosovo-online)
• Serb returnee in Klina physically assaulted and injured (Kosovo-online)
• House of returnee in Ljubozda village stoned (Kosovo-online)
• Vucic: Pressure on Serbs will not stop, constant campaign of Albanian media (Tanjug)
• Djuric: Serbs in Kosovo most persecuted ethnic group in Europe (Kosovo-online)
• OSCE Mission condemns incident in Drenovcic village (Kosovo-online)
• Grenell’s ready: “Serious dialogue” between Belgrade and Pristina is expected (B92, Kosovo-online, Vecernje Novosti)

Opinions:

• Milacic: Why Serbia’s President chose Grenell over Merkel (Euractiv/Koha)

International:

• Grenell to join Trump campaign (Politico)
• Little love, as Berlin bids ‘auf Wiedersehen’ to Trumpism (EUobserver)

Humanitarian/Development:

• Kosovo: 92-year old woman alone in abandoned village (Al Jazeera, KoSSev)
• World Bank approves $100 mil loans to Serbia for curbing pandemic (BETA, N1)
• OpisMEDIJavanje: Think about where the media get their money from (KoSSev)

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Albanian Language Media:

  • EU rapporteur reacts to Thaci’s statement on Lajcak (media)
  • “President doesn’t talk to Lajcak as he is openly against land swap” (Telegrafi)
  • Haradinaj believes court will give right to other parties to form govt (Telegrafi)
  • Miftaraj: President cannot play role of whistleblower (Koha)
  • Borg Oliver: Not president’s role to form new govt (Kallxo/Prishtina Insight)
  • Acting government considers Association/Community to be invalidated (Koha)

Serbian Language Media:

  • One new case of Covid-19 infection in Serb areas in Kosovo (Kosovo-online)
  • Serb returnee in Klina physically assaulted and injured (Kosovo-online)
  • House of returnee in Ljubozda village stoned (Kosovo-online)
  • Vucic: Pressure on Serbs will not stop, constant campaign of Albanian media (Tanjug)
  • Djuric: Serbs in Kosovo most persecuted ethnic group in Europe (Kosovo-online)
  • OSCE Mission condemns incident in Drenovcic village (Kosovo-online)
  • Grenell’s ready: “Serious dialogue” between Belgrade and Pristina is expected (B92, Kosovo-online, Vecernje Novosti)

Opinions:

  • Milacic: Why Serbia’s President chose Grenell over Merkel (Euractiv/Koha)

International:

  • Grenell to join Trump campaign (Politico)
  • Little love, as Berlin bids ‘auf Wiedersehen’ to Trumpism (EUobserver)

Humanitarian/Development:

  • Kosovo: 92-year old woman alone in abandoned village (Al Jazeera, KoSSev)
  • World Bank approves $100 mil loans to Serbia for curbing pandemic (BETA, N1)
  • OpisMEDIJavanje: Think about where the media get their money from (KoSSev)

 

 

Albanian Language Media

 

EU rapporteur reacts to Thaci’s statement on Lajcak (media)

European Parliament rapporteur for Kosovo, Viola von Cramon, has reacted to the statement made by President of Kosovo Hashim Thaci that he would not be taking part in the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue led by the EU Special Representative Miroslav Lajcak. 

Von Cramon commented on Twitter: “A responsible leader must talk to international negotiators, it’s not a personal choice. @MiroslavLajcak has proved that he is working for output oriented negotiations. what’s more important for @HashimThaciRKS?”

“President doesn’t talk to Lajcak as he is openly against land swap” (Telegrafi)

Elvis Hoxha, political advisor to Kosovo acting Prime Minister Albin Kurti, took to Facebook today to comment on President Hashim Thaci’s recent remarks that he is not willing to take part in negotiations led by EU Special Representative for the Kosovo – Serbia Dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak.  

According to Hoxha, Thaci does not talk with Lajcak, not because the latter is from a non-recognising country but because he is openly against a territorial exchange between Kosovo and Serbia. “The President needed Mogherini [former EU High Representative], because although her country had recognised Kosovo she was in favor of territorial exchange,” Hoxha opines.

Hoxha also argued that LDK leader Isa Mustafa and PM candidate Avdullah Hoti favor President Thaci, “because they are people that easily sign any agreement that is detrimental to Kosovo’s territorial sovereignty”. 

Haradinaj believes court will give right to other parties to form government (Telegrafi)

Leader of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) Ramush Haradinaj said today he believed the Constitutional Court will give the right to parties other than Vetevendosje to form the new government.

Speaking from Peja where he visited the regional hospital, Haradinaj said that they will respect any decision the Constitutional Court takes: “We have no choice but to respect the decision of the Court. Even in the past there were decisions which we did not like but we respected them. If the court opines that the second party is eligible to form the government, we should waste no time in doing so.”

Miftaraj: President cannot play role of whistleblower (Koha)

Ehat Miftaraj, Executive Director of the Kosovo Judicial Institute, commented today in an interview to the news website on President Thaci’s remarks against acting PM Albin Kurti and three government ministers that come from his party. Thaci had said that they constitute a criminal group and that they have to face justice. 

Miftaraj said the Constitution provides that the President represents the unity of the people and must guarantee the democratic functioning of institutions. He also said that while performing constitutional and legal functions, the President must make sure to convey trust, impartiality and integrity toward other tiers of government. Miftaraj also said the President must have respect for every political party because they represent the will of the people of Kosovo that voted in the 2019 October general elections.

“The President must not and should not under any circumstance polarise the political landscape in Kosovo or create divisions among the people by making statements that are not in the scope of his functions … It does not suit and is not up to the President of the State to pretend to play the role of a whistleblower on the most voted party in the country,” Miftaraj said.

Borg Oliver: Not president’s role to form new government (Kallxo/Prishtina Insight)

Alexander Borg Olivier, former head of UNMIK Legal Office and former advisor to President of Kosovo Hashim Thaci, said in an interview with BIRN that the decree to nominate Advullah Hoti from the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) to form the new government is unconstitutional. 

Borg Olivier said he was, as part of UNMIK, involved in setting up the Constitutional Framework for Provisional Self-Government in Kosovo in 2001 which set out the basic elements for the state, all the stepping stones needed for Kosovo’s statehood. 

“I was not involved in the actual drafting of the constitution, but I was regularly consulted and I drafted everything else that followed the parameters of the Ahtisaari settlement plan. After independence I was asked by Hashim Thaci, who was then prime minister, to stay on as his special advisor between 2008 and 2010,” he said.

Asked by Jeta Xharra to comment on the fact that no government since Kosovo declared independence completed a full mandate and in all cases the Constitutional Court becomes the key to finding the solution to the situation, Borg Olivier said that the problem in Kosovo is that there is a deficiency of political culture. 

“I come from Malta, a country which has had established major parties for hundreds of years. Here, it is not clear what political parties stand for, I don’t see a strong political culture that distinguishes political parties from each other, or what they are fighting for.”

He said that the Constitution of Kosovo does not give supreme powers to the president: “This constitution is based on the will of the people. It is clear that the government emerges from the will of the people expressed by the vote of the people in an election.”

He added that according to the Kosovo Constitution, the prime minister’s position is considered vacant only when he resigns, dies, loses the capacity to exercise his function or is convicted of a crime, which then makes it impossible for him to carry out his functions. “In such a situation, the president may invite the governing coalition to nominate a new Prime Minister. This is emphatically not the situation in which the Republic of Kosovo finds itself in at this moment,” he remarked.

“The Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo does not recognise any role for the President of Kosovo or the Kosovo Assembly’s right to elect a new government after such a motion. It recognises only the right of the president to dissolve the Assembly in accordance with Article 82.2 of the constitution.”

Borg Olivier said that whilst in a public health emergency, the prolongation of the caretaker government of Prime Minister Albin Kurti and delay of new elections would be the appropriate and responsible course of action in the national interest.

“We are in the situation where we have had a successful motion of no confidence to bring down the government. In this case, the president’s role is very passive, it is not his role to form a new government. Because this government’s mandate has now ended, the president’s role is to call an election. It makes no sense to dissolve the parliament until it is the right time to proceed with the election. The president’s role is to wait for a time when the pandemic allows for the dissolution of the parliament and call an election,” he underlined.  

See the full interview: https://bit.ly/2ZFY7PB

Incumbent government considers Association/Community to be invalidated (Koha)

The incumbent government considers the Association of Serb-majority Municipalities to be invalidated, although this mechanism is mentioned in the National Program for the Implementation of the Stabilization and Association Agreement 2020-2024. The Prime Minister’s Office bases this on the Judgment of the Constitutional Court, published on December 23, 2015.

Part of the SAA’s obligations is to normalize relations with Serbia, including the implementation of signed agreements, respect for the principles of regional cooperation and effective cooperation with the mission of Foreign Policy, Security and Defense. As for the point that refers to the Association, it is said that it will act in accordance with the highest legal act and the decision of the Constitutional Court.

Government spokesman, Përparim Kryeziu, said that nowhere in this document have they foreseen any short-term measures or medium-term priorities that provide for any action to implement this agreement, writes KOHA.

He quoted part of the program as saying, “it is essential that Kosovo continue to implement in good faith all the agreements reached so far between Kosovo and Serbia.”

“In December 2015, the Constitutional Court issued a judgment regarding the Agreement on the Association of Serb-majority Municipalities. The Government of Kosovo will always act in full compliance with the Constitution of Kosovo and the decision of the Constitutional Court “, is the next paragraph which Kryeziu mentioned in response.

“So, the Judgment of the Constitutional Court, no. KO 130/15, published on 23 December 2015, which has practically devalued the project of the Association of Serb-majority municipalities. This means that since the decision of the Constitutional Court is mentioned, it shows that the position of the Government is that we have the political will to implement all agreements, including this, in good faith and in accordance with the Constitution and the legal order. Furthermore, nowhere in this document have we foreseen any short-term measure or medium-term priority that foresees any action for the implementation of this agreement “, Kryeziu said for KOHA.

“In this context, as is evident in the Government’s Program – which on page 42 provides as follows: ‘A full review of the agreements reached so far, in order to analyze the extent of their implementation by Serbia and, in cooperation with the EU, to put these issues on the table of dialogue’ – and from the constant public statements of Prime Minister Kurti regarding these agreements, the Government will not take any decision or take any action before the completion of such a review. Any possible decisions and actions that will be taken after this review in any case will be only in full compliance with the spirit and content of the Constitution and the legal order of the Republic of Kosovo “, he added.

But even though the Constitutional Court found violations in all seven chapters of the agreement, it did not overturn it, saying the violations should be avoided when drafting the statute. The agreement of April 19, 2013, which in its six points speaks about the establishment of the Association, continues to be valid for the Constitution.

“To conclude that the Association/Community of Serb-majority municipalities will be formed as foreseen by the First Agreement ratified by the Assembly of the Republic of Kosovo and announced by the President of the Republic of Kosovo,” the ruling of the 2015 notes.

The agreement which derived from the first agreement for the normalisation of relations between Kosovo and Serbia was addressed on several occasions since 2013. The principle agreement on the Association/Community signed in 2015 during Isa Mustafa’s governance was declared anti-constitutional. 

The coalition agreement and the government program of the Vetevendosje Movement and LDK did not address the formation of the Association/Community. The Vetevendosje Movement, when it was in opposition, organised protests together with other political parties opposing the agreement.

Government officials said all agreements would be reviewed before further decisions are made.

After the paper reported on the SAA, the issue was raised at the meeting of the parliamentary committee on European integration on Tuesday. But a member of this committee, Blerta Deliu – Kodra, said they were not informed about the program. She added that the government cannot dodge responsibilities deriving from the contractual agreement, including those it criticised repeatedly, such as the Association/Community. “The government has adopted the National Plan, but it is an obligation to bring it to the Assembly and our committee needs to address it. I have raised this request today, because this is our obligation as the Assembly, especially because of the fact that the government has a different standpoint vis-à-vis the dialogue. For the first time, the SAA focuses on the Association and also mentions the full implementation of the agreement, this is why I believe that it is important for the Assembly to address this matter. We have included it in the agenda and when we receive it in the Assembly, our committee will address it,” Deliu – Kodra said.

The Program notes that there has been certain progress in reaching agreements between Kosovo and Serbia, however the findings of the latest report of the government (2019) show a low progress in the overall implementation of agreements with Serbia. 

“Considering the individual agreements, the report identifies different levels of progress in several areas and lack of progress in most areas, and this is why the dialogue is expected to enter into a new phase.”

Kryeziu said the program does not mention the next phase of the dialogue with Serbia, therefore the official policy of the government remains as foreseen in the government program. He also gave an explanation on why reciprocity was not included in the program. 

“The objective of the program is the implementation of obligations agreed with the EU, in the respective documents. As the issue of reciprocity is a principle of bilateral relations and in this case with Serbia, what the government program says on this suffices and this remains the government’s official position in these relations,” Kryeziu said.

The Program also notes the agreements that have not been implemented in practice for years now. It mentions the agreement on the Ibar bridge, the agreement on energy, cadasters and university diplomas.

 

 

Serbian Language Media

 

One new case of Covid-19 infection in Serb areas in Kosovo (Kosovo-online)

One new case of Covid-19 infection was registered in Serb-populated areas in Kosovo over the last 24 hours, while one patient has been cured, Crisis Committee of Mitrovica North announced, Kosovo-online portal reports.

Thus far, a total of 117 persons were infected with Covid-29. Out of this number 106 persons have been cured, while ten persons have passed away.

44 cases were registered in Mitrovica North, out of this number 40 persons have been cured and three persons passed away. In Zvecan a total of 25 persons were infected, out of this number 24 persons have been cured and one person passed away.

In Zubin Potok 24 persons have been infected, 22 persons have been cured and two persons passed away, In Leposavic 24 persons have been infected, 20 patients have been cured and four persons have passed away.

The remaining active case of Covid-19 infection is staying at Clinical-Hospital Center in Mitrovica North, Kosovo-online portal reports.

Serb returnee in Klina municipality physically assaulted and injured (Kosovo-online)

A Serb returnee Miodrag Stasic, 86-year old was injured this morning in the village of Drenovac, Klina municipality. President of Interim Municipal Council Bozidar Sarkovic told Kosovo-online that Stasic was assaulted by an Albanian who was grazing cattle on his property.

“The old man suffered head injuries. He was medically treated. The incident took place after Stasic tried to move the cattle outside of his orchard and property,” Sarkovic explained.

The case has been reported to the Kosovo police, and this is the second incident in this municipality over the last two days.

Stasic lives in the village of Drenovac with his son and daughter in law.

Sarkovic said that this incident caused additional distress among the Serb returnees in this municipality.

“Returnees who have properties are targeted. People started to cultivate their land, to earn for living but security of the returnees remains the main problem.” Sarkovic said.

There are around 15 Serb returnees living in the village of Drenovac.

House of returnee in Ljubozda village stoned (Kosovo-online)

Unknown persons have stoned the house of Zarko Zaric, Serb returnee in the village of Ljubozda, Istok municipality, chief of Pec district, Milo Stevanovic told Kosovo-online.

Stefanovic also said that a minor material damage was inflicted to the house, adding one window was broken. The attack took place last night around midnight. The case was reported to the Kosovo police that came to the spot and conducted an investigation.

Stefanovic condemned this attack saying that “continuous attacks on the returnees and their properties create a feeling of fear and uncertainty among the Serb community, given that such cases remain unresolved.”

Zarko Zaric was the target of the attack last year as well, when unknown perpetrators burglarized his house.

In February this year, Kosovo police brought in Zaric and after giving statement to the public prosecutor, as a witness he said, he was released,

Zaric returned to the village of Ljubozda in 2017.  

Vucic: Pressure on Serbs will not stop, constant campaign of Albanian media (Tanjug)

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told Tanjug news agency today that the pressure on Serbs, in particular in Metohija, is constant and will not yield, because as he said, a constant campaign is run in the Albanian media against the return on Serbs, in particular to the places in Metohija.

“We shall not receive Serbs, because major crimes against Albanians were committed there, and Serbs have nothing to do here, that is what they say. And whichever Serb gets back, they first threaten him, then stone the house, then burn it down, then destroy the tractor,” Vucic said, adding that such a position of our people is not easy.

He also said the situation in the north of Kosovo is incomparably better, and in some other larger Serb settlements from Gracanica to Zupa Valley is slightly easier, because of the larger number of Serb living there.

Commenting on a joint letter of German and French foreign affairs ministers calling for restoring the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, Vucic said he has carefully analyzed it. He said he would have much to tell in this regard, but prefer to say that in person (to the ministers).

Vucic further opined the maneuvering space of Serbia when it comes to Kosovo is rather small because of all what had happened in the past, adding he expected pressure on Serbia in this regard to continue.

“Will there be pressure and do I expect it? Certainly it would be. But I also expect that someone tells us, which is of crucial importance, and I think that everybody in the international community understands that, someone to tell us how they perceive it, something that should be an agreement on normalization in the future, as they call it. Do they mean by that recognition, or not, what is what they want, and if they mean it, how they think to achieve it and so on,” Vucic said.

Djuric: Serbs in Kosovo most persecuted ethnic group in Europe (Kosovo-online)

Serbian Government Office for Kosovo and Metohija Director, Marko Djuric requested today international missions in Kosovo to urgently undertake necessary measures and end the latest wave of ethnically motivated violence against the Serbs there, Kosovo-online portal reports.

“I request international missions in Kosovo and Metohija to urgently undertake measures and actions within their authority and mandate stipulated by UN SC Resolution 1244 and by acting directly and through provisional institutions of the self-government in Pristina end the latest wave of ethnically motivated violence against the Serbs,” Djuric said in a press statement.

Djuric assessed the attacks over the last couple of days indicate that the “Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija in the security aspect are the most persecuted ethnic group in Europe today. He added Pristina institutions were either unable or did not want to resolve this problem.

OSCE Mission condemns incident in Drenovcic village (Kosovo-online)

The OSCE Mission in Kosovo condemned the threats directed against the Serb returnee in the village of Drenovcic, Klina municipality, Kosovo-online portal reports.

“The OSCE Mission in Kosovo condemns the threats directed against a 67-year-old Kosovo Serb returnee in the village of Dranashiq/Drenovcic, Kline/Klina municipality. These incidents cause serious concerns among the small returnee community in the region and require full attention of responsible institutions. We note that Kosovo Police has initiated investigation and hope for its swift resolution,” the Mission wrote on Twitter.

Kosovo-online portal recalled that a Serb returnee Djordjija Djorovic was attacked with an axe on his property, when two Albanians warned him that the cemetery in the village is a line he must not cross. After that in the evening hours they came to the house in a nearby village where Djorovic lives and again threaten to murder him. Djorovic is the only Serb in the village of Drenovcic and awaits reconstruction of his house in this village. 

Grenell’s ready: “Serious dialogue” between Belgrade and Pristina is expected (B92, Kosovo-online, Vecernje Novosti)

With stepping down as the US Ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell will have much more time to deal with the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, B92 reports.

In addition to the position of US ambassador, Grenell left the duties of the director of the National Intelligence Service to John Ratcliffe. After leaving important positions, the envoy of the President of the United States can dedicate himself to the issue of Kosovo, Kosovo online reports.

This diplomat, who was appointed Special Envoy by US President Donald Trump in October, announced last month that a “serious dialogue” would begin when the reciprocity measures introduced by Albin Kurti’s government were lifted.

Since Washington expects a new cabinet to be formed in Pristina very soon, which will annul Kurti’s decision, Grenell may already be sketching his “work plan”. According to Belgrade-based Vecernje Novosti daily Grenell, in his short mandate as an envoy, reached an agreement between Belgrade and Pristina on the renewal of the airline, and a statement of intent was signed on the renewal of railway traffic and the completion of the highway between the two cities.

Professor of the Faculty of Political Sciences Dragan Djukanovic told Kosovo-online portal that he expects Grenell to move from the economic field to the political domain very soon.

“Now we are waiting for the establishment of a new government in Pristina, as well as for the elections for the Serbian parliament to be completed, so that the dialogue will gain momentum in the summer.”

“Grenell could direct the story towards the status of Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija and the issues of the ZSO, as well as the protection of the Serbian cultural heritage, but also all other agreements whose parts have not been implemented so far,” Djukanovic pointed out.

If the American diplomat takes it upon himself to complete the work started by Brussels, the question arises as to what Miroslav Lajcak, the EU representative for dialogue between the two sides, will do.

Djukanovic says that there are no excessive expectations from Lajcak, because the EU does not have pressure mechanisms to encourage dialogue, and at this moment, the United States cares more about reaching a solution.

Former head of the Serbian Mission to the Council of Europe, Zoran Milivojevic, also says that, regardless of the letter from the foreign ministers of Germany and France, Heiko Mass and Jean-Yves Le Drian, in which they emphasize that it is high time to renew the dialogue, America will have primacy in the coming period. At least, until the US election in November.

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

 

 

Opinions

 

Milacic: Why Serbia’s President chose Grenell over Merkel (Euractiv/Koha)

Opinion piece by Filip Milacic, a national adviser on political affairs at the OSCE Mission in Montenegro, originally published in Euractiv and republished in Koha.

Although EU membership is Serbia’s official foreign policy goal, Russia and China – and perhaps the USA in the future – are providing something that is much more valuable for the Serbian leaders: a hope that the drawing of the national borders will be possible again, writes Filip Milacic.

The last several weeks in Europe were marked by the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic. Accordingly, the stories of the pandemic’s effect on the health, economy and politics have been dominating the news, which is why one important development slipped past under the radar.

In the midst of the pandemic, Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti lost the vote of confidence in the parliament.

According to the media, he paid a price for objecting to a secret deal between Serbia’s and Kosovo’s Presidents, Aleksandar Vucic and Hashim Thaci, which was brokered by US special envoy for Serbia and Kosovo Richard Grenell and which allegedly includes the land swap.

President Vucic, who has always been bragging about his good relationship with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, decided this time to go against the wishes of the EU and Chancellor Merkel thereby jeopardizing his country’s European integration.

Yet this was a completely expected move. Even though the EU membership is Serbia’s official foreign policy goal, for the following two reasons Serbia’s European integration is doomed to fail:

Firstly, the EU membership is not in President Vucic’s political interest. His recent bizarre press conference, in which he strongly criticized the EU and praised China, prompted many to regard the coronavirus pandemic as a critical juncture in which Serbia will decide its future path.

However, unrelated to the coronavirus pandemic, Serbia under President Vucic has already embarked on the path of autocratization and by praising China and its system he is strengthening his own political legitimacy.

In addition to it, by portraying the EU as selfish, President Vucic is also trying to lower EU’s popularity within the Serbian electorate and, thus, weaken the impact of EU’s inevitable critic of his authoritarian practices.

Secondly, even if President Vucic would be ousted from power there still remains a key obstacle to Serbia’s European integration– Serbian national question. On the Serbian political scene, there is a widespread notion that the national question is still to be resolved (the national boundaries are to be drawn again).

On that matter there is a bipartisan agreement, i.e., there is no difference between the stances of the ruling parties and the majority of the opposition parties. This is hampering Serbia’s European path because the obligations of a potential EU membership are in a collision with Serbia’s aim to resolve the national question.

Serbia must make a deal with Kosovo, which would most probably imply its direct or indirect recognition. This is very unlikely to happen as the recognition of Kosovo – in any form – is extremely unpopular within the Serbian electorate.

Many surveys have shown that the prioritising of the national question is not only a choice of the political elite as the majority of Serbian citizens share that view too.

Moreover, Serbia’s constant interference in the inner affairs of neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro and pretensions toward those two countries are against one of the pillars of the EU integration– good neighbourly policy.

In the spirit of the 1990s the Serbian political leaders are behaving like they are the representatives of all Serbs in the region, and not only the Serbian citizens.

In other words, in Serbia, the national question trumps European integration. High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, recently lamented the lack of “Thanks to the EU for the help it has been providing us” billboards on the streets of Belgrade.  So far this ‘honour’ has only been reserved for China and Russia.

The EU could double its financial assistance, but it would still not ‘deserve’ the gratitude billboard on the streets of Belgrade because Russia and China – and perhaps the USA in the future – are providing something that is much more valuable for the Serbian leaders: a hope that the drawing of the national borders will be possible again.

This explains why President Vucic risks alienating German Chancellor Merkel and Brussels by making a secret deal with Kosovo’s President Thaci under the sponsorship of Grenell.

Serbia’s Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic repeated on several occasions that the current American administration is more receptive to Serbia’s vision of Balkan’s future than any previous one and Serbia should seize this opportunity.

Serbian priorities lie there, and not in the reforms that would bring it closer to the EU membership. It is time for the EU to acknowledge it.

 

 

International

 

Grenell to join Trump campaign (Politico)

Trump’s former acting intel chief, who still serves as U.S. ambassador to Germany, is expected to take a senior role on the 2020 team focused on fundraising and strategy.

U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell is set to join President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign amid a broader shakeup that saw the promotion of two other campaign officials on Tuesday, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The addition of Grenell, a trusted Trump ally who recently stepped down as acting director of national intelligence, would come as the president faces sliding poll numbers nationally and in a handful of key battleground states. A Fox News survey conducted before the holiday weekend found presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden defeating Trump 48 percent to 40 percent five months out from Election Day.

See at: https://politi.co/36CYBHx

Little love, as Berlin bids ‘auf Wiedersehen’ to Trumpism (EUobserver)

He provoked lively debate about Russia, Iran, and Nato spending.

He might still clash with Germany on the Western Balkans, on which he remains a US special envoy.

But Richard Grenell, the outgoing US ambassador to Berlin, might well be remembered in Europe mostly for his “Trumpian” style, which did not help an already rocky transatlantic relationship.

See at: https://bit.ly/2XwVRYh

 

 

Humanitarian/Development

 

Kosovo: 92-year old woman alone in abandoned village (Al Jazeera, KoSSev)

Vladica Dicic, an ethnic Serb, has befriended an Albanian who visits regularly, describing him as her ‘third son’. For a long time, the path leading to the abandoned village of Vagnes in eastern Kosovo has only been used by Fadil Rama.

Twice a week, he travels by car from his nearby village of Strezovce, two kilometers away, to support Vladica Dicic, a vulnerable 92-year-old woman and the only resident of Vagnes.

The gesture symbolizes cohesion – Rama is an Albanian and Dicic is a Serb. Inter-ethnic tensions and prejudice have not prevented their relationship from growing.

“I’m going to an old Serb woman named Vladica to give her food,“ Rama tells Al Jazeera, as he drives down the dirt path to her home.

Vagnes village, where a picturesque Orthodox church remains, has been deserted since the early 2000s; there is overgrown grass on rural roads. Even when the village was populated, it was a quiet place, with about 20 people.

Rama’s last visit was three days ago. Each time he approaches her house, he fears the worst and hopes for the best.

See at: https://bit.ly/3gun4Dp

World Bank approves $ 100 million loans to Serbia for curbing pandemic (BETA, N1)

The World Bank said on Tuesday it approved 100 million Dollars credit to Serbia to help it suppress the coronavirus pandemic, BETA news agency reports.

The loan will be used for “12 fast testing points for people coming to Serbia.” Two will be at the Belgrade and Nis airports, while the remaining ten at other border crossings.

Besides, the money will help to raise the testing capacity in the country to 9,000 instead of the current 7,000 daily after two regional laboratories are built in the northern city of Novi Sad and the central city of Kragujevac, which will test 1,000 samples daily, or some 130 tests per 100,000 people.

The World Bank will also help Serbia secure additional protective gear, to link the testing labs with an electronic system and strengthen diagnostic, hospitals’ IRs and isolation wards.

“Serbia has managed to flatten the epidemic curve in the first COVID-19 wave, but that doesn’t mean it could relax, but should work to improve the readiness for the next waves,” Stephen Ndegwa, the World Bank Country Manager for Serbia said. 

See at: https://bit.ly/36z8Yfr

OpisMEDIJavanje: Think about where the media get their money from (KoSSev)

Two-thirds of the money received by the media in Serbia, especially local ones, comes from the state. Although this should not be the case, this means that the media do not criticize the government. For the state or local self-government institutions, this is especially important in the pre-election period, which is why this year’s competitions for the media were announced earlier, Branko Cecen warned.

In the latest episode of the media literacy campaign ”OpisMEDIJavanje”, the director of the Center for Investigative Journalism of Serbia (CINS), Branko Cecen spoke about the reason why citizens need to know who finances the media they follow, how much donors influence the editorial policy and how to obtain finances that will not affect the independence of the media.

Whether the local media outlets report about a hole in the main square or not, unfortunately, it depends on the source of funding of that media, Cecen said, adding that the media should criticize the authorities because, in that way, citizens are provided with conditions for a normal life. The government, however, is rarely criticized by the state-funded media – which represents the majority of media outlets.

See more at: https://bit.ly/2B4yGwJ

 

 

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