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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, June 19, 2020

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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, June 19, 2020

Albanian Language Media:

• Kosovo PM Hoti: Thaci knows I will lead the dialogue (Gazeta Express)
• Grenell: Land swap was Bolton’s idea, not Trump’s (Fox News, RTK)
• Von Cramon hopes visa liberalization for Kosovo during Germany’s presidency (Klan)
• Pompeo congratulates Hoti for peaceful government formation (media)
• Osmani demands visa liberalization from the EU (media)
• Number of hospitalized with COVID-19 increases, 65 today (Koha)

Serbian Language Media:

• Vucic: Talks on Kosovo as “chess game”, we are ready for compromise (RTV)
• “Without rule of law, any agreement is dead letter on paper” (Radio KIM)
• Dacic thanks Lavrov for Russia’s support on Kosovo issue (N1)
• European Parliament to debate report on Western Balkans (N1)
• Lajcak to visit Belgrade on June 22 and 23 (FoNet)
• REC adopted election instruction for Sunday elections in KiM (TV Most)
• OSCE will implement practice established and applied in past during these elections (RTK2)
• US Embassy in Pristina: We will not observe elections on Sunday (Kosovo-online, RTV KIM)
• “If exchanging territories is the way…” (Kosovo-online, B92)
• Vucic urged citizens to vote on Sunday’s elections (B92)
• Pre-election silence in Serbia starts at midnight until Sunday evening (N1, FoNet)

Opinion:

• Race for Serbia-Kosovo Deal Betrays America’s Best Principles (Balkan Insight)
• Five mounting challenges for China in the Western Balkans (ECFR)

International:

• Moscow’s Approval Necessary For Any Deal Between Serbia, Kosovo, Lavrov Says (RFE)
• Serbia ready to sacrifice EU membership over Kosovo deal (Reuters)

Humanitarian/Development:

• Balkan Countries Relax Guard Despite COVID-19’s Second Wave (Balkan Insight)
• Media Literacy Project: Beware of hybrid objective journalism (KoSSev)

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Albanian Language Media:

  • Kosovo PM Hoti: Thaci knows I will lead the dialogue (Gazeta Express)
  • Grenell: Land swap was Bolton’s idea, not Trump’s (Fox News, RTK)
  • Von Cramon hopes visa liberalization for Kosovo during Germany’s presidency (Klan)
  • Pompeo congratulates Hoti for peaceful government formation (media)
  • Osmani demands visa liberalization from the EU (media)
  • Number of hospitalized with COVID-19 increases, 65 today (Koha)

Serbian Language Media:

  • Vucic: Talks on Kosovo as “chess game”, we are ready for compromise (RTV)
  • “Without rule of law, any agreement is dead letter on paper” (Radio KIM)
  • Dacic thanks Lavrov for Russia’s support on Kosovo issue (N1)
  • European Parliament to debate report on Western Balkans (N1)
  • Lajcak to visit Belgrade on June 22 and 23 (FoNet)
  • REC adopted election instruction for Sunday elections in KiM (TV Most)
  • OSCE will implement practice established and applied in past during these elections (RTK2)
  • US Embassy in Pristina: We will not observe elections on Sunday (Kosovo-online, RTV KIM)
  • “If exchanging territories is the way…” (Kosovo-online, B92)
  • Vucic urged citizens to vote on Sunday’s elections (B92)
  • Pre-election silence in Serbia starts at midnight until Sunday evening (N1, FoNet)

Opinion:

  • Race for Serbia-Kosovo Deal Betrays America’s Best Principles (Balkan Insight)
  • Five mounting challenges for China in the Western Balkans (ECFR)

International:

  • Moscow’s Approval Necessary For Any Deal Between Serbia, Kosovo, Lavrov Says (RFE)
  • Serbia ready to sacrifice EU membership over Kosovo deal (Reuters)

Humanitarian/Development: 

  • Balkan Countries Relax Guard Despite COVID-19’s Second Wave (Balkan Insight)
  • Media Literacy Project: Beware of hybrid objective journalism (KoSSev)

 

 

Albanian Language Media

 

Kosovo PM Hoti: Thaci knows I will lead the dialogue (Gazeta Express)

Prime minister Avdullah Hoti in an interview with T7 show Pressing said that he will lead the Kosovo team in dialogue with Serbia adding that President Hashim Thaci, who so far was in charge of negotiations, knows this.

Hoti said the Constitution clearly states the prime minister leads the dialogue, and even stated that he will not transfer these competencies to anyone. “If you read the Constitution is clear on who should be leading the dialogue process, the President knows this. I will fully exercise my competencies, and I will not transfer them to anyone,” Hoti said. “The President knows exactly who should lead the dialogue,” Hoti stressed.  

Grenell: Land swap was Bolton’s idea, not Trump’s (Fox News, RTK)

The U.S. Presidential envoy for Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue Richard Grenell, said in an interview in Fox News broadcasted that the idea for territorial exchange between Kosovo and Serbia, came from the former U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton. 

“When it comes to Kosovo and Serbia,” said Grenell, “We’re having both of those two together at the White House next Saturday to talk about a historic movement and agreement. And yet I’m fighting constantly about this rumor about land swaps between the two.

“And that’s not Trump’s policy,” he added, “but when you dig deep, both sides say, ‘Well, that’s what John Bolton said.’

“And so I’m fighting all of the rumors that that persisted because Bolton was pursuing his own policy rather than President Trump’s policy,” Grennell added.

Von Cramon hopes visa liberalization for Kosovo during Germany’s presidency (Klan)

Federal Republic of Germany will take over presiding of the Council of the European Union. EU MP and Rapporteur for Kosovo, Viola von Cramon hopes this might help Kosovo to come out of isolation.

“The visa liberalization process for Kosovo is unfortunate. I have lobbied a lot on this issue. There is much hesitation as to whether the criteria have been met in many reputable issues such as organized crime in Kosovo. It is not a technical issue, but there is no clear reason why the visa regime is still not being lifted,” Cramon told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Southeast European Cooperation Process (SEECP), which was held online.

“I hope that with the taking of the Presidency by Germany, visas will be lifted for Kosovars. It is discrimination and we cannot promise what we cannot do. This frustration is also felt by many of my colleagues in Parliament, particularly in Berlin, but also in many other capitals. “I am quite optimistic that the German presidency will accept this situation,” Von Cramon reportedly said. 

Pompeo congratulates Hoti for peaceful government formation (media)

The Prime Minister of Kosovo Avdullah Hoti has received the congratulating telegram from the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. 

“US @StateDept @SecPompeo has congratulated me today for the democratic and a peaceful government formation process. We are committed to working closely together and very thankful for the exceptional support on normalization of relations with Srb, centered on mutual recognition,” Hoti wrote on his Twitter account. 

Osmani demands visa liberalization from the EU (media)

Kosovo’s Assembly Speaker Vjosa Osmani said at the works of the seventh Plenary Session of South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) that Kosovo’s aim is integration in the EU. 

“This conference today is very specific. It will treat three different issues and all of them have extraordinary impact in daily lives of the citizens of our region. EU integration is among the main goals of the foreign policy of majority, if not all the countries of the region,” Osmani said. 

“The new approach to becoming a member of the EU has raised doubts among some who are claiming that the process has become more complicated. However, this was not really the primary tendency of the Commission and the member states,” Osmani said. 

She spoke at this panel also about the environment and pollution problem. 

Number of hospitalized with COVID-19 increases, 65 today (Koha)

65 people infected with COVID-19 were hospitalized today at the Clinic for Infectious Diseases in Pristina. According to the report of the Clinic, five of them are in stable condition and will be released to self-isolate, 30 cases are being treated with oxygen therapy and intensive care. The Clinic further informs that five people are in a serious condition and are being treated at the intensive care unit.

The clinic is waiting for the results of 14 additional tests.

58 cases with COVID-19 were treated at the hospital on Thursday. 

 

 

Serbian Language Media

 

Vucic: Talks on Kosovo as “chess game”, we are ready for compromise (RTV)

Recognition of Kosovo and recognition of its membership in the UN won’t happen, and we shall see what we would talk about on June 27 in Washington, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said. This way Vucic responded to earlier statements of Kosovo President Hashim Thaci on the topics of Washington’s meeting.

Vucic also added that talks on Kosovo resemble “a chess game” in which he does not want to show Serbia is against the talks and “it does not wish to act as Hoti and Thaci”.

Talking for “Pravi ugao” broadcast on Radio-Television of Vojvodina (RTV) Vucic said that Thaci and Hoti repeat the principles of the US and Germany, and it is independent Kosovo.

“They said it in 2013 prior to the Brussels agreement. Also after that. Every year they repeat it one hundred thousand times. I said nothing. I just did my best for our people in Kosovo and Metohija. We mostly remained silent and won economically, strengthening our areas in Kosovo and Metohija,” Vucic said.   

We have good faith in the talks, we are ready for compromise, Vucic said, adding it is of crucial importance that no one could tell Serbia refused to talk. At the same time we are ready to say what we have rejected, he continued, noting that he does not know why Thaci deceives the public, adding his response was they should have no hope that Serbia would recognize Kosovo.

“We go there on eve of Vidovdan, when one is able to see the clearest,” Vucic said, adding that his principle or red line would be protection of national interests and that he is ready to pay the highest political price for Serbia’s interests.

Talking about delineation, he said it is not on the table, and that he does not know what would be on the table, because nobody talks to us, and Lajcak is visiting Belgrade on Monday.

He recalled that US Special Envoy Richard Grenel said the economy would be in the focus of the Washington meeting, and not what Thaci talks about, adding he has not heard of Americans yet what would be the agenda of the meeting, however, he expects to know that prior to the departure to the US. Vucic also said Serbia would make a decision on who will represent it there, once it knows the composition of the Albanian delegation.

“Without rule of law, any agreement is dead letter on paper” (Radio KIM)

Serbian Orthodox Church Raska-Prizren Eparchy Bishop Teodosije and Abbot of Visoki Decani Monastery Sava Janjic met yesterday with the EU Special Envoy for Belgrade-Pristina dialogue Miroslav Lajcak and discussed “position of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC) in Kosovo and Meothija, examples of violations of the law in special protection zones (in particular around Visoki Decani Monastery) as well as about the cases of ethnic discrimination,” RTV KIM reports.

Bishop Teodosije and Abbot Janjic also presented stances of the Serbian Orthodox Church regarding Belgrade-Pristina dialogue.

“We emphasized in particular the concern how is it possible to make any sort of a just agreement in a situation where one side does not even respect its own laws and decisions of the highest courts. All this should be taken into consideration during further dialogue. Without the rule of law and the laws there is no implementation and any agreement would be a dead letter on paper to the major detriment of vulnerable communities, in particular the Serbs and the Serbian Orthodox Church,” Abbot Janjic said. 

Dacic thanks Lavrov for Russia’s support on Kosovo issue (N1)

Serbian Foreign Affairs Minister Ivica Dacic expressed gratitude on Thursday for Moscow’s support to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Serbia, N1 reports.

Speaking after a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, Dacic said that Russia wants the Kosovo issue resolved through a dialogue with no blackmail or favoritism. 

He added that no one can decide who Belgrade will be friends with despite the fact that some people do not like the fact that Serbia is developing relations with Russia and China.

Lavrov told the media that Moscow will continue supporting every initiative which will help Belgrade and Pristina reach a mutually acceptable solution based on UN Security Council resolution 1244. He said that Kosovo is an unresolved problem and added that the European Union must not isolate itself from its obligations under its mandate from the UN General Assembly.

According to the Russian Foreign Minister, any solution must in line with international law and have the approval of the UN Security Council.

Later on, Lavrov met with Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC) Patriarch Irinej to discuss Moscow’s support on the Kosovo issue and Russian donations to complete the St Sava temple in Belgrade. SOC’s statement said that Lavrov expressed support to the SOC in Montenegro.

Lavrov also visited a Defense Ministry exhibit on the 1999 NATO bombing of the-then Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SRJ) where he wrote in the guest book “we will not forget the NATO aggression against Yugoslavia. We bow to the victims of that crime. Russia and Serbia continue to fight against interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states, the illegal use of force and for strict adherence to the UN Charter and international humanitarian law”.

Earlier, Lavrov and Dacic laid wreaths at a monument to Red Army troops killed during the WWII liberation of Belgrade.

European Parliament to debate report on Western Balkans (N1)

The European Parliament is set to debate a report on the Western Balkans which calls for the start of pre-accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia and faster closing of negotiations’ chapters with Serbia and Montenegro, N1 reports.

The report by a rapporteur Tonino Picula MEP was adopted by the EP Committee on Foreign Affairs two months ago. It was used in preparing the online Zagreb Summit in May. 

According to Picula, the European Union is committed to expanding to include the Western Balkan countries but expects them to continue reforms on the path to membership. He said that the document sends the EP’s strong message of support to the expansion process and states that membership in the EU is the final goal which is in everyone’s interest. 

The report calls EU institutions to engage more in the region, especially in helping combat corruption, promote reconciliation and the gradual integration of those countries but warns that expansion depends on reforms and results. 

The part of the report covering the media says that smear campaigns, threats and the intimidation of journalists and media outlets must be condemned, investigated and processed in court and adds that journalists must have safe working conditions.

Read more at: https://bit.ly/2Nhezhz

Lajcak to visit Belgrade on June 22 and 23 (FoNet)

European Union Special Envoy for Belgrade – Pristina dialogue Miroslav Lajcak will pay a two-day visit to Belgrade after Serbia’s general elections on Sunday 21, FoNet news agency reports Thursday.

Lajcak would visit Belgrade on June 22 and 23, and meet Serbia’s top officials to discuss further steps and modalities for the resumption of the talks that had been on hold since November 2018.

The EU envoy paid a three-day visit to Kosovo, where he met both the Albanian the Serb representatives.  

REC adopted election instruction for Sunday elections in KiM (TV Most)

Serbian Republic Election Commission (REC) adopted by majority of votes the Instruction for the voting process in the elections for members of the Assembly of Serbia, in the territory of Kosovo and Metohija, on Sunday, June 21, TV Most reports.

REC President Vladimir Dimitrijevi  said that the content of the instruction was ready, identical to the Serbian Presidential  elections in 2017. According to him, one of the new things is that during the counting of the votes – determining the poll results in Raška and Vranje, members of the working body will be present, whose members will be proposed by all entities which submitted their lists, and who would perform control as an extended composition of the polling board.

REC member Zeljka Radeta opined that certain provisions of the proposed instruction are unconstitutional and illegal, and that the essence is that elections must be held in Kosovo and Metohija according to the law, as in the rest of Serbia. Commission member Marko Pusica asked when REC would conduct the elections in Kosovo and Metohija, and not the voting, which, according to him, is conducted only abroad.

“Everyone who will vote for this act should think carefully about what they are participating in. Let’s return the elections in Kosovo and Metohija to the constitutional and legal framework”, Pusica stated.

OSCE will implement practice established and applied in past during these elections (RTK2)

New head of the OSCE Office for Political Affairs and Communications, Jeffrey Bieley, when asked by RTK2 if there was any new information on the organization of the Serbian parliamentary elections in Kosovo, said that the OSCE Mission in Kosovo would conduct a vote-collection operation, in accordance with the practices and modalities of 2017.

“The OSCE Mission in Kosovo will conduct a vote-collection operation on June 21 in regard to the Serbian parliamentary elections. This operation follows the previously established practice, and the modalities applied in 2017”, he said.

Parliamentary elections in Serbia are due on June 21.

The Serbian presidential elections in 2017 in Kosovo were held in the same way. After the polls were closed, ballots from Kosovo were sent to the cities outside of Kosovo that were tens of kilometers away. The Constitutional Court of Serbia assessed this model, which was harmonized with the OSCE, as unconstitutional, RTK recalled. 

US Embassy in Pristina: We will not observe elections on Sunday (Kosovo-online, RTV KIM)

The US Embassy in Pristina said its staff members will not observe the Serbian parliamentary elections in Kosovo on Sunday, RTV KIM reports.

In a brief written response to RTV KIM inquiry “if somebody from the US Embassy would monitor Republic of Serbia parliamentary elections (in Kosovo) due on Sunday, 21 June”, the Embassy said that “although we usually monitor elections, due to Covid-19 we decided it is not worth risking. The OSCE leads the Kosovo part and we will as per need coordinate with them,” Kosovo-online reports. 

“If exchanging territories is the way…” (Kosovo-online, B92)

“It’ll be strange to organize such a big meeting, as the meeting of the Belgrade-Pristina delegations on June 27, and yet to return home without any agreement”, Charles Kupchan, a member of the US Council on Foreign Relations and a Professor at Georgetown University told Radio Free Europe.

Although the gathering is taking place at a time when US-EU relations may be at their lowest level since World War II, Kupcan believes Europe must join the process, “because the Balkans are part of it and aspire to EU membership as the ultimate goal”. Therefore, the EU must be part of this equation”.

Speaking about the idea of ​​correcting the borders, that is, the exchange of territories, Kupchan stated that he knew that this had been discussed for some time.

According to him, that was a very controversial issue until the Trump administration started rejecting it. In case of realization, that would be a very controversial issue in Kosovo and to a certain extent in Serbia, he believes.

“I guess that idea is still in the game, because Thaci and Vucic have considered it in the past. I think it should be on the table – not because I think that negotiations should go in that direction and I am not a supporter of that option. However, if the exchange of territories is the only way for the two countries to reach an agreement, ensuring lasting peace – then let it be part of the talks”, Kuphcan said in an interview with RFE/RL.

In his opinion, several things in combination led to the organization of this meeting. One is the change of the Government of Kosovo. Former Prime Minister Albin Kurti was reserved about dialogue and the abolition of the tax on goods from Serbia.

Read more at: https://bit.ly/2UYZHci

Vucic urged citizens to vote on Sunday’s elections (B92)

Leader of the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) and President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, called on all citizens to go to the polls, because, as he said, it is important for us to be united, B92 reports.

Vucic thanked the citizens of Serbia for showing discipline and responsibility, and asked them to go to the polls.

He reiterated that he does not want the party he leads to become like some other parties that have turned it into a personal business, adding he believes in the strength and energy of the SNS youth and told them that the most important thing is to fight.

“That is why we can achieve results united, it is important for us to unite before important talks on Kosovo. We want to increase salaries and pensions, we can only do that if we are united and go to the polls,” he said.

Read more at: https://bit.ly/3fDIhcT

Pre-election silence in Serbia starts at midnight until Sunday evening (N1, FoNet)

The pre-election silence in Serbia starts at midnight ahead of the general elections due on June 21 and will last until Sunday at 8 pm, when the polling stations close, FoNet news agency reported on Thursday.

In that period, any campaign, public gatherings and publishing estimated results are banned. Also, it is banned to show political parties’ insignia and other promotional material 50 meters away from the polling stations. In case of violation, an electoral board will be dismissed, and the voting will be repeated.

There are 6,739,441 registered voters in Serbia. They would choose among 21 electoral lists, and the Republic Electoral Commission is obliged to publish the official results on June 25 at 8 pm latest.  

 

 

Opinion

 

Race for Serbia-Kosovo Deal Betrays America’s Best Principles (Balkan Insight)

In its impatience for a quick foreign policy success on Kosovo, the Trump administration is serving its own short-term interests – not those of the US, or the Balkan region.

The upcoming “peace talks” between Kosovo and Serbia, which are supposed to take place on June 27 under White House auspices, seem driven more by the short-term interests of Donald Trump than by true US or Balkan interests.

Envoy Richard Grenell’s hasty efforts to hammer together an  agreement to fix a decades-long burning problem at a time when the Trump administration is facing a global pandemic, deep political divisions partly of its own making, infrastructural racism and a contracting economy is ill-timed and diplomatically fraught

The current US Administration has lacked the capacity (and will) to unify the country – and this deficit has carried over into its policies with its European allies and in the Balkans.

Read more at: https://bit.ly/2YRKP07

Five mounting challenges for China in the Western Balkans (ECFR)

China has not embedded itself in the Western Balkans as much as it might have done – and may even be looking back on the 2010s as a wasted decade, writes Vladimir Shopov, visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. 

“China’s activities in recent years have shown that it is laying the groundwork for a long-term, multi-faceted, and ever-deeper presence in the Western Balkans. Its bilateral interactions with states in the region have been intensifying, and are gradually – from an admittedly low base – expanding beyond questions of infrastructure and energy and into academia, culture, civil society, and even politics. However, a series of shifts in the wider context of US and European relations with China; the aftermath of the covid-19 pandemic; and the dynamics of renewed geopolitical competition between Western and non-Western actors in the region are all starting to impact on Beijing’s plan, approach, and odds of success. China is now facing five particular mounting challenges to its ambitions for the Western Balkans.”

Read more at: https://bit.ly/2YSstMu

 

 

International

 

Moscow’s Approval Necessary For Any Deal Between Serbia, Kosovo, Lavrov Says (RFE)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Russia’s approval would be required for any solution reached in peace talks between Kosovo and Serbia, whose leaders are scheduled to meet in the White House next week.

Speaking in Belgrade on June 18, Lavrov said the Kremlin would only support solutions to the Kosovo question acceptable to Belgrade and approved by the UN Security Council.

Read more at: https://bit.ly/2zOyT76

Serbia ready to sacrifice EU membership over Kosovo deal (Reuters)

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on Thursday he would reject European Union membership if Belgrade does not receive concessions in return for recognising Kosovo and dropping attempts to stop it joining the United Nations.

After meeting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Vucic said no resolution of Serbia’s future relationship with its former province would be possible without Moscow’s consent.

Read more at: https://reut.rs/2NdBKJW

 

 

Humanitarian/Development

 

Balkan Countries Relax Guard Despite COVID-19’s Second Wave (Balkan Insight)

Governments in the region seem determined to maintain ‘business as usual’ and not restore restrictions, even though the number of COVID-19 infections is on the rise again.

With Serbia and North Macedonia preoccupied with elections, and other countries focusing on opening borders, restarting the economy and salvaging tourism, the worrying resurgence of COVID-19 infections seems like an afterthought.

In contrast to the start of the health crisis in March, when most countries in the region rushed to impose severe movement restrictions, despite a second rise in infections and fatalities authorities and citizens alike now seem more relaxed.

The warnings of medical professionals, that the crisis is not over, and that they are almost exhausted in trying to prevent even greater disasters, seem largely lost amid the cacophony of political bickering and official assurances that everything is under control.

Read more at: https://bit.ly/3fxTnA6

Media Literacy Project: Beware of hybrid objective journalism (KoSSev)

”Just as it is important for a journalist to be at the top of their game and to show respect to the public exclusively through their professional results, it is important for consumers of media content to take responsibility for themselves,” the editor of the KoSSev portal, Tatjana Lazarevic said.

According to Lazarevic, personal media hygiene will keep readers safe from biased, tendentious, and propaganda based journalism. She also warned about the emergence of hybrid objective journalism – or covert propaganda.

In the latest episode of the media literacy campaign “OpisMEDIJavanje,” Lazarevic spoke about the meaning of objective journalism, the responsibility of readers/viewers, how to recognize biased reporting and why it is important for journalists to be objective and impartial.

When using the word „objective“ before the word journalism, we could say that we have used a pleonasm because journalism should contain the characteristic of impartial reporting on WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED; not on something that we like or don’t like, what we approve of or what makes us angry, or something we would like to report about or something we don’t want to report about. “THAT’S HOW IT IS“ could be another term for journalism.

Read more at: https://bit.ly/3eicPR5

 

 

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