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Belgrade Media Report 28 May

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LOCAL PRESS

Vucic: No announcements at launching dialogue, no deadlines either (RTV/Tanjug)
Dacic: Kosovo and Metohija issue of highest national interest and biggest political-security challenge (RTS)
Borrell: EU facilitation of Belgrade – Pristina dialogue has no alternative (FoNet)
Russian Ambassador calls for respect of UN SC resolution 1244 on Kosovo (Sputnik/N1)
Another 25 cases, 6,438 recovered (RTS)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina

OSCE Mission to B&H: Adopt budget of B&H or adopt special decision on financing of the elections (Dnevni list)
Source claims Dodik’s announcement on upcoming cooperation of parties in local elections caused discontent in some municipalities and towns (EuroBlic)
Registration of military property (ATV)
SIPA temporarily seizes mobile phone of FB&H PM Novalic within investigation on affair ‘Respirators’ (N1)
EU and US Embassy in B&H: IMF funds should be immediately unblocked (N1)
Issue of IMF funds (Hayat/Glas Srpske/BHT1)
B&H’s Tesanj cluster grows as authorities record 28 new Covid-19 cases (N1)
Croatia

Plenkovic: No way anyone monitors journalists’ correspondence (Hina)
In Croatia, one new case of infection, a total of 2245, one person died (N1)
Montenegro

Prime Minister: Our decision concerning borders is not political, it’s based on epidemic standards (CDM)
Markovic: I didn’t order arrest of Joanikije and other priests (CDM)
Republic of North Macedonia

Mickoski: Parties engage in talks, still no consensus on election date (MIA)
Milevski: LDP backs 5 July as election date (MIA)
Covid-19: 38 new cases in North Macedonia, 16 patients recover, 3 die (MIA)
Albania

DP Leader pledges to conclude electoral reform by 31 May (ADN)
Borchardt urges all parties to find constructive compromises and finalize electoral reform (Radio Tirana)
Electoral reform/Intensive meetings of Ambassador Kim with Speaker Ruci and the Political Council members (Radio Tirana)
Covid-19 cases surge in Tirana (Radio Tirana)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

Lukashenko thanks Serbian ambassador for efforts to develop cooperation with Belarus (BelTA)
Montenegro and Serbia set to begin Frontex cooperation amid deepening border row (Emerging Europe)

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Vucic: No announcements at launching dialogue, no deadlines either (RTV/Tanjug)

 

Asked whether media allegations that Richard Grenell is in a hurry and whether he wants to reach an agreement as soon as possible, and when is it realistic to expect the dialogue to resume, President Vucic said that the US envoy himself denied and said that there were no deadlines for reaching an agreement between Belgrade and Pristina, said Vucic, adding that the story that this would happen in November was made up. “I don’t know with whom to talk in Pristina. I don’t know who is toppling whom over there, who is former, who is future, who is in power, I don’t understand anything, some strange system,” said Vucic. He reminded that now we have also talks with the EU, under Miroslav Lajcak’s auspices, with whom the Albanians say they will not talk. “I have been listening to these stories on Septembers, Decembers for eight years now. I am a traitor every year, but for whom people from Kosovo and Metohija strangely vote the most,” said Vucic. “Our job is to be responsible, keep the peace and stability of our people in Kosovo and Metohija, to provide everything that is necessary for normal life in Serb areas, while I’ve been hearing these stories so many times that it would be stupid of me to comment,” he said.

 

Dacic: Kosovo and Metohija issue of highest national interest and biggest political-security challenge (RTS)

 

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic addressed in the Serbian Foreign Ministry future military attaches in the US, Russian Federation, France, Germany and Bulgaria. “Our national and state interests are in first place and you should always be firm and determined in their defense,” Dacic is quoted as saying in a Ministry press release. “The priorities of the Serbian foreign policy are inseparable from protecting our country’s national security and are very clearly defined. Primarily the defense of territorial integrity, with the issue of Kosovo and Metohija being of special importance,” he said. According to him, the survival and protection of Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija are an important long-term goal and one of the main motives for the dialogue with Pristina. Dacic said that Serbia builds inter-state relations and partnerships on the principles of dialogue, mutual respect and respect of international obligations. “As a country which has always been devoted to freedom and justice despite historic challenges, Serbia is trying to be a responsible, predictable and credible partner in international relations,” he said. Dacic said that Serbia’s priority is to successfully complete the process of EU accession. “Our state devotes great attention to the development of regional cooperation with the aim of maintaining peace and security in the Western Balkans as the main condition for the progress of each individual country and the region as a whole,” he said. He said that both civilian and military diplomats will intensify their activities in the future.

 

Borrell: EU facilitation of Belgrade – Pristina dialogue has no alternative (FoNet)

 

The EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Josep Borrell said on Wednesday that the bloc’s facilitation of Belgrade – Pristina dialogue on the normalization of relations had no alternative, alluding on Kosovo President Hashim Thaci‘s statement that he would not take part in the talks if they were led by the EU envoy Miroslav Lajcak.

 

Russian Ambassador calls for respect of UN SC resolution 1244 on Kosovo (Sputnik/N1)

 

Russia’s Ambassador in Belgrade Alexander Botsan-Harchenko told the Sputnik portal that Moscow is not calling for a new resolution on Kosovo but wants everyone involved in resolving the issue to stick to UN Security Council Resolution 1244, adding that a lasting solution can only be found through the dialogue in line with the resolution in the interest of both Serbia and the region. “When and if a solution is found only by the two sides, Belgrade and Pristina with no outside interference can the UN Security Council confirm that decision in a resolution which is the customary procedure,” the Ambassador said, adding that once Belgrade and Pristina reach a stable solution, some parts of UN Security Council Resolution 1244 can be changed but that it’s too soon to discuss details. He said that Moscow’s views are almost identical to Belgrade’s and that there is agreement on key issues about Kosovo. According to Botsan-Harchenko, Russia does not believe that KFOR and EULEX or other international missions should remain in Kosovo permanently. “Before any decision is taken about Russia’s role in the dialogue we have to know its essence, agenda, that all earlier agreements are being implemented since some key points have not been. Also, the court in The Hague should get to work and not just collect information, creating a semblance of operating,” the Russian Ambassador said.

 

Another 25 cases, 6,438 recovered (RTS)

 

Until 3pm there have been another 25 cases, in total 11,300 infected. There have been one more death, in total 241 deaths. There are 558 people in hospitals and nine on respirators. The number of recovered is 6,438.

 

REGIONAL PRESS

 

OSCE Mission to B&H: Adopt budget of B&H or adopt special decision on financing of the elections (Dnevni list)

 

The OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) said that it is essential, especially during times of crisis, to have efficient democratic institutions and to make sure the authorities and elected officials are responsible to the citizens. The OSCE Mission to B&H earlier stated it believes it is crucial to continue with preparations for the (local) elections and that it will be possible to organize the elections in October if there are not bigger changes in terms of the epidemic. The OSCE Mission to B&H also said that the Central Election Commission (CEC) of B&H is currently no capable of preparing the local elections due to lack of funds. “We appeal to the responsibly institutions to adopt the budget of B&H as soon as possible, or to adopt a special decision on financing of the local elections” stated the OSCE Mission to B&H.

 

Source claims Dodik’s announcement on upcoming cooperation of parties in local elections caused discontent in some municipalities and towns (EuroBlic)

 

Following the announcement of SNSD leader Milorad Dodik that no coalition of ruling parties with opposition will be tolerated at the local level, the daily wondered if this can be implemented at the local level having in mind that ruling and opposition parties from the republic level were unable to find a common language in some municipalities and towns. The daily reminded that this is especially noticeable in Prijedor, where “SNSD turned its back on DNS and formed a coalition with PDP, SDA, DF and some other local representatives, because of which DNS lost the majority in the Town Assembly”. According to some information, Dodik’s announcement caused discontent in some municipal and town boards of both SNSD and other ruling parties. A source from the top of DNS told the daily that members of this party in many municipalities too expressed their dissatisfaction because of which Acting President of DNS Nenad Nesic had to react and promise members that DNS will finally focus on itself and interests of those who vote for this party after years of functioning in “shadow of its larger coalition partner”. The source also reminded that DNS Presidency recently held a session and decided that local boards of DNS will have the freedom to decide on forming of coalitions at the local level. However, neither DNS nor other parties of the ruling coalition in Republika Srpska (RS) wanted to comment on Dodik’s announcement on Wednesday. Former representative of SP RS in Teslic Assembly and candidate of this party for the Head of Teslic Municipality Dragutin Skrebic said that there will be no problems when it comes to implementation of what Dodik stated in his letter in spite of certain disagreements between SNSD and SP RS at the local level.

 

Registration of military property (ATV)

 

Deputy B&H Minister of Defense Mirko Okolic told Srna on Wednesday that the prospective military property is not being registered as B&H property as this goes against the Dayton Peace Accords (DPA). He explained that the DPA defines that all property located in the RS belongs to the RS, regardless of whether it is prospective military property or not. This was an answer to the statement of B&H Minister of Defense Sifet Podzic, who said that the Banja Luka barracks ‘Kozara’ and the airport ‘Mahovljani’ are prospective military locations and they have not been registered as B&H property yet. He added that legal procedures for this are ongoing because there are certain technical, political and other issues at other locations. Podzic said that the Reform Program, which was submitted to NATO, defines the registration of property as one of the necessary continuous activities. Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik said that there is no registering of property, it is not on the agenda and this will not happen. Dodik categorically stated that the RS does not allow confiscation of its military property and that there is no reason to change that position. “Therefore, there will be no registration of property nor this is on the agenda… And ultimately, if it is being registered in the RS, then it is being registered in the RS Administration for Geodetic and Property Affairs. It is very easy to check that there are no attempts surrounding that,” Dodik said, adding that absolutely no decision in this regard was adopted.

 

SIPA temporarily seizes mobile phone of FB&H PM Novalic within investigation on affair ‘Respirators’ (N1)

 

Media published on Wednesday information that SIPA seized he mobile phone of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FB&H) Prime Minister Fadil NovalicN1 recalled that as part of the investigation in ‘Respirators’ case, mobile phones of other officials of the FB&H government were seized all with the purpose of getting to the bottom of the controversial procurement of one hundred respirators from China worth BAM 10.5 million. Head of the interim investigative commission of the B&H parliament Damir Arnaut said that the statement of Novalic that he learned about ‘Srebrena Malina’ being the importer of the respirators from the media seems unlikely. Arnaut reminded that Novalic took the credit for the respirators when they were imported in April and said that the FB&H Government worked on the successful procurement of the machines. B&H Chief Prosecutor Gordana Tadic stated: “B&H Prosecutor’s Office has devotedly worked on the cases related to health and lives of people, and has been particularly rigorous in cases where money of B&H citizens was used. SIPA representatives confirmed to the daily that they confiscated Novalic’s phone three days ago, acting upon the order of Prosecutor’s Office of B&H. Daily learns that the phone was confiscated so the police agencies could establish the communication link between Novalic, former Advisor Hasan Ganibegovic, Secretary Edita Kalajdzic, and FUCZ Director Fahrudin Solak. Daily noted that messages that Solak was sending are considered to be crucial. Also, the phone is taken to establish if Novalic truly called ‘Privredna Banka’ asking for accelerating of payment.

 

EU and US Embassy in B&H: IMF funds should be immediately unblocked (N1)

 

Bosnian politicians should immediately unblock the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) funds so they can be used for the good of the citizens and the government should issue the second decision authorizing the disbursement according to the agreement captured in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), without embellishment, the EU and US Embassy in Bosnia said in a joint statement on Thursday. The EU and US Embassy the country recalled that they hosted a meeting with political representatives to remove political blockages and focus their minds on dealing with the socio-economic impact of the Covid-19 crisis, adding that just when they thought they succeeded they realized that the €330 million Bosnia received from the IMF’s Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI) sits idle in the Central Bank while citizens suffer. “Now we see otherwise,” the statement said. “On 23 April the Council of Ministers (CoM) issued a decision authorizing a promissory note that unlocked the transfer of the 330-million-Euro from the IMF to Bosnia. This same decision, however, required a second special decision to allocate the funds in accordance with the Letter of Intent sent from Bosnia to the IMF. The CoM has yet to issue this second decision and the funds sit idle in the Central Bank,” the statement said, warning that “this is incomprehensible to Bosnian citizens, but also to international partners.” They recalled that the IMF agreement was with Bosnia’s two entities, Federation of B&H (FB&H) and the Republika Srpska (RS) entity, as well as with District Brcko. The distribution of funds to Cantons is a decision made at the entity level, the statement said, and this was accomplished when the Federation entity passed its budget rebalance. “The international community has reacted swiftly and decisively to provide medical support and designing programs for economic support. The world economy faces a slump and so does Bosnia. The effects are being felt by countless citizens and businesses. Bosnian authorities must take decisive and timely actions to preserve jobs, offer social assistance to those affected the most, and to support economic growth and the development this country desperately needs. This includes agreement on using the 330-million-Euro in assistance from the IMF,” the EU and US Embassy said. Acting decisively now will send a sign to the outside world that Bosnian politicians are responsible partners to their citizens in dealing with the challenges the country will face, they concluded.

 

Issue of IMF funds (Hayat/Glas Srpske/BHT1)

 

The Office of the High Representative (OHR) remained silent about blockade of IMF’s money. The OHR briefly responded by saying only that the issue was mentioned during the recent High Representative’s address to the UN Security Council. Representatives of the OHR also said that the entire text of HR’s address can be found on the OHR’s official website. Serb member of the B&H Presidency and SNSD leader Milorad Dodik announced that the RS government will discuss on Thursday if a lawsuit against the Central Bank (CB) of B&H’s Governor, Senad Softic will be submitted. This is the first step, announced by RS President Zeljka Cvijanovic on Tuesday evening, which will be made due to failure to distribute funds that the IMF allocated to B&H. Dodik stressed that the RS has to pay the first installment of interest on the basis of the approved IMF loan, but that it is yet to receive the money from the IMF loan.

 

B&H’s Tesanj cluster grows as authorities record 28 new Covid-19 cases (N1)

 

B&H health authorities reported 28 new Covid-19 cases and two virus-related fatalities over the past 24 hours. Most cases are from the FB&H Tesanj cluster (18) and 1 from Sarajevo, while the RS recorded 9 new cases. After testing 479 samples, the RS health authorities confirmed nine new cases of Covid-19 – 6 men and 3 women. They also reported 2 fatalities related to Covid-19. These were a middle-aged man and woman who suffered from chronic diseases. The FB&H authorities said they tested 551 samples of which 19 were positive. Tesanj is B&H’s latest coronavirus hotspot and since 21 May when the first case was discovered, the number of infected people has climbed to 28. According to B&H’s Civil Affairs Ministry, the country now has 2,462 confirmed cases, of which 1781 recovered and 153 had died.

 

Plenkovic: No way anyone monitors journalists’ correspondence (Hina)

 

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic on Tuesday rejected claims that reporters’ correspondence was being monitored, underscoring that there is no way that that could even be thought of.

“I deny that in the strongest terms,” Plenkovic said when asked to comment on a statement by Environment Minister Tomislav Coric at a press conference earlier in the day related to a memorandum between INA and JANAF, when Coric called out N1 TV reporter Hrvoje Kresic for his writing in a reporters’ social network group. Coric said that from Kresic’s work and messages in the group, it was evident that he was not happy with the appointment of INA’s management board. “No one in the government or anyone else can or must have any insight into anyone’s correspondence, especially between journalists,” said Plenkovic.

Plenkovic described the memorandum of understanding between INA and JANAF as protecting the government’s national interests in INA. “INA is one of our largest companies. It is also very important for energy independence and generally for the economy. It is key that consultants will present their preliminary estimates and evaluation around 10 June and after that we can decide further,” he said. Commenting on a statement by Social Democratic Party leader Davor Bernardic that the memorandum was a “betrayal of national interests,” Plenkovic said that Bernardic is an immature politician who, with his conduct, disqualifies himself for any serious position in state institutions. Plenkovic added that the government was aware that Janaf and INA had signed the memorandum and that Minister Coric informed the public in detail about that today. Asked by reporters about the newly appointed chief state prosecutor, Prime Minister Plenkovic said that she (Zlata Hrvoj Sipek) was appointed in the parliament following a public call for applications that was advertised by the State Prosecutorial Council. “We interviewed all six candidates. Based on the programme she presented and her experience, she has worked in the State Prosecutor’s Office for more than 25 years, has enormous professional experience, knows the system well, she knows what needs to be done in accordance with the Constitution and the law, and I expect that, in line with that, she will continue the work of that important institution,” he said and added that he considers her to be the right choice considering the other candidates.

Plenkovic reacted to claims by President Milanovic that she was the prime minister’s choice for the chief state prosecutor. “She was the choice of the government’ and the parliamentary majority” Plenkovic underlined. “Seeing that this is not someone who has come from outside the state prosecution system, I think that it is bad that the president, who said that he might not vote in the parliamentary election, is now degrading yet another important institution, and that is the State Prosecutor’s Office,” Plenkovic concluded.

 

In Croatia, one new case of infection, a total of 2245, one person died (N1)

 

Currently, 2,245 people infected with coronavirus have been confirmed in Croatia. 102 people died and 2,051 people recovered. The number of new cases in the Republic of Croatia in the 24 – hour period is 1, which means that the total number of patients with coronavirus is 2245. The newly infected person is from Brod-Posavina County. So far, 65094 people have been tested, of which 828 in the last 24 hours. There are 33 people in hospital. Out of that, 5 patients are on the respirator. The total number of recovered is 2051. The total number of dead is 102. In the Split-Dalmatia County, a male, born in 1950, died in a hospital on a respirator.

 

Prime Minister: Our decision concerning borders is not political, it’s based on epidemic standards (CDM)

 

Montenegro’s decision on opening its borders with some countries, among which there’s no Serbia, is not political but just related to the epidemic situation, said Montenegro’s Prime Minister Dusko Markovic after the Prime Minister’s Hour. Montenegro’s decision to keep its border with Serbia closed provoked sharp reactions of some Serbian officials. Markovic said that Montenegro wanted to act responsibly. “There’s no rational explanation for reactions from Belgrade. Serbia was the first one to close border with Montenegro. It banned export of medical equipment to Montenegro, export of wheat as well. We never reacted to that, we thought such decisions were in the interest of their citizens,” he reminded. Commenting on Serbia’s decision to ban flights of MA on Nikola Tesla Airport, Markovic said that he would look for the alternatives. “We think that decision is not logical. We are going to look for the alternatives, just like for wheat. We are not going to ask for the explanation,” Markovic said. He pointed out that telephones “are in function and Serbian authorities can always call and ask anything regarding our decisions”. He pointed out that negotiations between expert teams of the state and Metropolitanate should be resumed in friendly atmosphere without blackmails. “I received Mr Amfilohije’s letter. We should resume talks but in friendly atmosphere and trust,” Markovic said.

 

Markovic: I didn’t order arrest of Joanikije and other priests (CDM)

 

Montenegro’s Prime Minister Dusko Markovic, said in the parliament that he hadn’t ordered arrest of Bishop Joanikije and other priests on 12 May in Niksic and that he had found out about that the following day. Goran Danilovic asked Markovic what attack he had referred to at the extraordinary conference when he said that Montenegro “was exposed to brutal attack that might have terrible consequences on citizens’ health”. “Did you, in that context, arrange arrest of bishop Joanikije and eight other priests and order their transport in a police car,” Danilovic asked. “You should know that president of the government is not in charge of issuing orders about who should be arrested and in what car. That falls within the competence of the prosecutor’s office. I was informed about the arrest the next morning. Where did you get that information from? That’s not true. Provide facts. Before and after the arrest I was in contact with metropolitan. It’s not true it was my order and I don’t expect you to believe me. Unlawful gatherings across Montenegro on 12 May could have had terrible consequences for health,” he said. PM said that Mr Danilovic “decided to launch a campaign on this subject”. “It happens often that you start talking and then you stop. Nothing finishes with silence in Montenegro, but with dialogue. You boycott and then you are here again, you walk in protest and then you don’t. I must admit I thought your approach to politics was serious. I am wondering where you have been to help your citizens in fight against the disease. But you were in the first line to approve violation of measures. Is there any difference in violation of rules among a shop assistant, chauffeur or a priest? Government’s task is to make sure freedoms and rights are not compromised by irresponsible ones,” he said. Danilovic replied he believed Markovic and that Mr Veselin Veljovic, Director of Police Department had received order from someone to transport Mr Joanikije in a police car. Any attempt of destabilization will be sanctioned in accordance with the Constitution and law. Montenegro today is resistant to aggression and deniers of its independence, Markovic said. Mr Dragutin Papovic, DPS member, asked PM what government’s response was to frequent attempts aimed at jeopardizing peace, stability, democracy and civil society of Montenegro. “All such attempts will be in vain. Or attacks sound better because attempt is too mild a word to describe everything we were faced with” Markovic answered. Government’s message goes as follows: “Any destruction and destabilization attempt will be sanctioned. With determination and efficiency, because Montenegro is not what it was 10 years ago. It is not alone,” Markovic said.

 

Mickoski: Parties engage in talks, still no consensus on election date (MIA)

 

VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski underlined Wednesday that a decision on the election should be reached by consensus. He added that 5 July is a potential election date political parties could agree on, adding that communication channels between parties exist. Mickoski also reiterated his party’s position that public health is top priority and the election should be held once it is no longer in danger. “Our position on the early parliamentary election,” he added, “is well known. Reaching a compromise is in the best interest of the country, but should not endanger public health.” “Communication channels [between political parties] exist. We’ll notify the public once an agreement is reached,” Mickoski told a press conference Wednesday. The election date, he underlined, should be set by consensus between political stakeholders. The opposition leader added that if common ground isn’t found and the election is scheduled for 21 June, his party won’t take part in the process. “Our position on this is clear. There must be a consensus. However, if they wish to manage the country thus, good luck to them,” Mickoski said.

 

Milevski: LDP backs 5 July as election date (MIA)

 

Minister of Local Self-Government and Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leader Goran Milevski said Wednesday that LDP backed DUI’s proposal for election to be held on 5 July. “We support DUI’s initiative for parliamentary election to be held on July 5. We believe it’s high time to set an election date because, as we can see, the crisis is subsiding but it’s far from over soon. We can’t afford to wait until there are no more coronavirus cases because we don’t know when this would happen,” Milevski said. “We must hold election, as projects are suspended,” he added. “We must unblock the process, so that reforms in the country can continue.” The Minister noted that LDP was in favor of 5 July if it was a date of compromise. “Major political parties need to resolve this issue to prevent creating an artificial political crisis,” Milevski pointed out. “We need to take care, stick to the measures of the Commission on Infectious Diseases, adopt election protocol to protect people’s health.”

 

Covid-19: 38 new cases in North Macedonia, 16 patients recover, 3 die (MIA)

 

38 new Covid-19 cases have been registered in North Macedonia in the past 24 hours, while 16 patients have recovered and three have passed away, the Ministry of Health said in a press release Thursday. Of the recovered, in Skopje – 1, Kumanovo – 1, Prilep – 4, Veles – 9, Bitola – 1. New coronavirus cases have been registered in Skopje – 24, Kumanovo – 4, Shtip – 4, Tetovo – 3, Bitola – 1, Negotino – 2. Three coronavirus patients, aged 74, 57, and 53 have passed away. The first patient was from Tetovo, hospitalized at the Diseases Clinic since 21 May. The second, also from Tetovo, was treated at the “8 September” hospital in Skopje since 23 May, while the third was hospitalized at the “Remedika” hospital in Skopje and tested positive for Covid-19 postmortem. The total number of coronavirus patients since the onset of the epidemic is 2,077. Of these 1,486 people have recovered, 122 passed away, while the number of active cases in the country is 469. Over the past 24 hours, 560 coronavirus tests have been carried out, of which 168 within the screening process of kindergartens and gerontology institutes across the country.

Five COVID-19 patients are hospitalized in Bitola, while three are treated for the infection at home. In Shtip, nine coronavirus patients are being treated at the hospital and seven at home. A total of 38 patients, who have tested positive or show coronavirus symptoms, are being treated for COVID-19 at the infectious wards in the hospitals in Veles, Kumanovo, Prilep and Ohrid, reads the press release.

 

DP Leader pledges to conclude electoral reform by 31 May (ADN)

 

DP leader Lulzim Basha has pledged to conclude the Electoral Reform by 31 May, after a meeting held with Ambassador Yuri Kim. Basha announced that the opposition will do everything to complete the reform within the deadline, while he said that the opposition wants to go to the polls as soon as possible. “Organizing free and fair elections is an absolute priority. Elections have to be carried out as soon as possible, unaffected by the gangs, by the vote buying, the corruption money. We are determined for this battle and we are determined to complete Electoral Reform by 31 May, in order for this crisis to be resolved so that Albanians can choose the parliament and the government they want. We want to pave the way for European integration, which is also a commitment of the opposition,” said Basha.

Borchardt urges all parties to find constructive compromises and finalize electoral reform (Radio Tirana)

 

The President of the OSCE Presence in Albania, Ambassador Bernd Borchardt, gave the statement before today’s meeting of the Political Council for Electoral Reform. Ambassador Borchardt emphasizes that he is following with particular interest the efforts of the parties to compromise on important issues, which the OSCE has assessed as problematic for many years. “I urge all parties in the Political Council for Electoral Reform to continue to walk the path of finding constructive compromises and finalize electoral reform, for the good of Albania and its aspirations for integration,” he said.

Electoral reform/Intensive meetings of Ambassador Kim with Speaker Ruci and the Political Council members (Radio Tirana)

 

After successive meetings with opposition leaders and members of the Political Council of Electoral Reform, the US Ambassador to Tirana, Yuri Kim, had a meeting today with the Speaker of the Assembly, Gramoz Ruçi. The interlocutors discussed about the progress of the Electoral Reform, Justice Reform and Albania’s European Integration process, following the decision to open negotiations by the EU. Earlier, Ambassador Yuri Kim had also a meeting with the Chairman of the Law Commission, Ulsi Manja, as well as with the members of the Political Council, focusing on the Electoral Reform. Ambassador Kim met with the co-chairs of the table, Damian Gjiknur and Rudina Hajdari, as well as the representative of the Democratic Party, Bylykbashi, while she is expected to meet today with the representative of the SMI, Petrit Vasili.

Covid-19 cases surge in Tirana (Radio Tirana)

 

26 new cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in Tirana, bringing the total number of people affected by coronavirus in Albania to 1076. Tirana continues to be the main hotspot in the country with a high number of positively confirmed daily cases with Covid-19. During the last 24 hours, 225 citizens were tested as suspects affected by Covid-19 and 26 positive cases were confirmed, all in Tirana. From the in-depth epidemiological investigation, 73 health personnel were tested, of which 12 tested positive at QSUT, all without symptoms. In total there are 20 health personnel and patients infected in QSUT. The majority of the new cases were identified in Tirana at the Mother Theresa Hospital after a nurse infected 20 patients and medical staff members. Cases have increased significantly in the past three days, following a “dormant” period. The infectious disease hospital is currently treating 24 patients, 3 of whom are in intensive care. In the last 24 hours, 11 citizens have been recovered, bringing the number to 823 since the beginning of the epidemic. There are currently 220 active people in our country with COVID-19, mainly in Tirana, Durrës and Kruja.

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

 

Lukashenko thanks Serbian ambassador for efforts to develop cooperation with Belarus (BelTA, 28 May 2020)

 

MINSK – Outgoing Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Serbia to Belarus Veljko Kovacevic has made a big contribution to the development of bilateral cooperation with Belarus, President Aleksandr Lukashenko said as he met with the ambassador on 28 May, BelTA informs.

“As far as I understand, you are going back to Serbia, unfortunately. But service is service, I understand,” the head of state remarked. “I want to ask you as a friend to tell the president that we hope that the next ambassador will as good as you. We are not against if the next ambassador will be even better.” Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “More and more ambassadors become our friends.” The president also expressed his opinion about the participation of Ambassador of Slovakia to Belarus Jozef Migas in the Victory Day celebrations in Minsk on 9 May which had ambiguous consequences for the diplomat. “Probably, you know what the ambassador of Slovakia did. It was a truly worthy gesture. Frankly speaking, I do not fully understand the position of the official Slovak leadership which allegedly criticized his action, dismissed the ambassador or are considering his resignation,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. The head of state recalled that the ambassador of Slovakia was raised in a family of a patriot, his father fought against the Nazis, was a partisan, and the diplomat spoke about it many times. “How can you criticize this person?” the Belarusian leader wondered. In his opinion, it is inadmissible to punish a person for such things. “We are close people. How can it be? We fought against Nazism together. And today we are absolutely against it,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. The head of state explained: “That is why we are paying so much attention to the appointment of ambassadors, we want them to be our friends. We understand that any ambassador will watch over the interests of their country first. The ambassador working in Belarus should glue the relations with Belarus.”

According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, Belarus is interested in maintaining good relations with Serbia, and the ambassador should do his best to help establish such relations. “Therefore, I want you to tell my friend, the president of Serbia, that he needs to find an ambassador who will be as good as you were,” the head of state concluded.

 

Montenegro and Serbia set to begin Frontex cooperation amid deepening border row (Emerging Europe, by Nikola Đorđević, 28 May 2020)

 

Serbia and Montenegro will from now on be able to cooperate and collaborate with the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) on matters of border security, following a decision this week by the European Council. However, the Council’s decision comes at a time when a new border row is brewing between two countries, after Montenegro announced Serbian citizens will not be able to enter the country after it opens up its borders to tourists on June 1. Under the terms of the agreement, Frontex will be able to assist the two countries in border management and carry out joint operations, and also opens the possibility of Frontex personnel being deployed in areas where Montenegro and Serbia border the European Union. “Close cooperation with our Western Balkan partners is essential if we are to address the shared migratory challenges which we face,” said said Davor Božinović, Croatia’s interior minister. “These cooperation agreements with Montenegro and Serbia are an important part of our overall strategy on border management.” New efforts will be aimed at clamping down on illegal immigration, which was been a major issue for the European Union since 2015 when the current migrant crisis began. Montenegro and Serbia are part of the so-called Balkan Route by which migrants, fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, try to get to EU countries where they can seek asylum. While the situation on Montenegro’s borders has been described as not critical, there has been an uptick in illegal border crossings since 2018. Serbia, on the other hand, is a hotspot for migratory flows as it offers access to Hungary – a EU member state. As for Montenegro’s decision to keep its borders with Serbia closed when it begins to once again welcome tourists, officials in the country have stressed that the decision was made solely on the basis of epidemiology – as only tourists from countries where there are less than 25 cases per 100,000 people will be allowed to travel to the country. Serbia, however, has called the decision political. Prime Minister Ana Brnabić said that while Serbia will not impose reciprocal measures, “the actions of the Montenegro prime minister send a clear message.” “I would ask our citizens to stay in our Serbia for a longer time and that if they have to go somewhere – they don’t go to a place where our citizens are unwanted,” she added. Serbia’s tabloids have taken an even stronger stance, accusing the president of Montenegro Milo Đukanović of being a “racist” and a “Serb-hater.” However, in an interview with Serbian daily Blic, Montenegro’s ambassador to Serbia, Tarzan Milošević, said that “everything will be sorted out in 10 days” and added that the decision on opening the borders is still not final. These latest tensions between the two countries come after months of protests organised by the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro against a controversial law on religion passed in December 2019 that the church claims could see it stripped it of its property, including medieval monasteries and churches. Most protests have been halted of late due to social distancing and lockdown measures, but several high-ranking members of the Serbian Orthodox clergy were arrested on May 12 after leading thousands of people in protest in Nikšić, a city in northern Montenegro. They were released 72 hours later. Both Serbia and Montenegro are EU enlargement hopefuls, with Montenegro significantly ahead of its large neighbour and currently awaiting the opening of the last chapter in the negation process. Their bilateral relationship however has been deteriorating for months, with a rise in nationalist and populist rhetoric from politicians in both countries.

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