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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, June 22, 2020

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Albanian Language Media:

• Presidents Thaci, Vucic to lead delegations in Washington (Indeksonline)
• Collaku: Economy and other issues that may arise to be discussed at White House (RFE)
• Hoti’s cabinet: Mainly economic issues to be discussed in Washington (Klan)
• Kosovo-Serbia final agreement to go through four stops (Klan Kosova)
• Competition between EU and U.S. on Kosovo-Serbia agreement (Koha)
• Weber: Kosovo and Serbia could get closer to final agreement by end of year (media)
• Serbian man sentenced to 22 years in prison for war crimes (media)
• One more coronavirus-related death reported in Kosovo (media)
• Ministry of Health denies contact tracing will not be pursued anymore (media)

Serbian Language Media:

• Kommersant: Vucic now must make a choice (Danas)
• New REC data: 62.73 percent of electorate processed, 3 lists passed threshold (B92)
• Vucic’s SNS scores landslide victory in Serbia’s general elections (media)
• What kind of proposal does Lajcak bring to Belgrade today? (B92, Tanjug)
• President Vucic: Let’s not be arrogant in forming government; experts say turnout 49 pct (N1)
• OSCE: Final turnout in Kosovo was 55.178, respectively 57.88 percent of registered voters (Kosovo-online)
• SzS: Fake elections have not succeeded, boycott did, turnout less than 50 percent (N1, BETA, FoNet)
• Director of Factor Plus: Turnout expected, boycott failed (Prva TV, B92)
• Varhelyi: “Important day for Serbia” (RTS, B92)
• N. Macedonian President: Kosovo issue could lead to domino effect (RFE, N1, FoNet)
• Newsmax TV founder: Trump is man who can bring peace to Balkans (Newsmax, N1)

Opinion:

• Serbia elections: Who’s left besides Vucic? (DW)
• Wanted: EU-US cooperation on Kosovo (EUobserver)
• ”Trump and the Kremlin know very well who they are dealing with” (KoSSev)
• Kosovar politics needs rebellious women (Prishtina Insight)

International:

• Serbia President’s Party Scores Landslide in Election Boycotted by Opposition (Balkan insight)
• Ruling Conservatives Set to Win Serbian Parliamentary Vote (VoA)
• Serbian parliament left without clear opposition as the ruling party wins partially boycotted elections (EWB)

Humanitarian/Development:

• BIRN Videos Tell Emotional Stories of Missing Fathers (Balkan Insight)
• 22 years since kidnapping of Belacevac miners (TV Most)

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Albanian Language Media:

  • Presidents Thaci, Vucic to lead delegations in Washington (Indeksonline)
  • Collaku: Economy and other issues that may arise to be discussed at White House (RFE)
  • Hoti’s cabinet: Mainly economic issues to be discussed in Washington (Klan)
  • Kosovo-Serbia final agreement to go through four stops (Klan Kosova)
  • Competition between EU and U.S. on Kosovo-Serbia agreement (Koha)
  • Weber: Kosovo and Serbia could get closer to final agreement by end of year (media)
  • Serbian man sentenced to 22 years in prison for war crimes (media)
  • One more coronavirus-related death reported in Kosovo (media)
  • Ministry of Health denies contact tracing will not be pursued anymore (media)

Serbian Language Media:

  • Kommersant: Vucic now must make a choice (Danas) 
  • New REC data: 62.73 percent of electorate processed, 3 lists passed threshold (B92)
  • Vucic’s SNS scores landslide victory in Serbia’s general elections (media)
  • What kind of proposal does Lajcak bring to Belgrade today? (B92, Tanjug)
  • President Vucic: Let’s not be arrogant in forming government; experts say turnout 49 pct (N1)
  • OSCE: Final turnout in Kosovo was 55.178, respectively 57.88 percent of registered voters (Kosovo-online)
  • SzS: Fake elections have not succeeded, boycott did, turnout less than 50 percent (N1, BETA, FoNet)
  • Director of Factor Plus: Turnout expected, boycott failed (Prva TV, B92)
  • Varhelyi: “Important day for Serbia” (RTS, B92)
  • N. Macedonian President: Kosovo issue could lead to domino effect (RFE, N1, FoNet)
  • Newsmax TV founder: Trump is man who can bring peace to Balkans (Newsmax, N1)

Opinion:

  • Serbia elections: Who’s left besides Vucic? (DW)
  • Wanted: EU-US cooperation on Kosovo (EUobserver)
  • ”Trump and the Kremlin know very well who they are dealing with” (KoSSev) 
  • Kosovar politics needs rebellious women (Prishtina Insight)

International:

  • Serbia President’s Party Scores Landslide in Election Boycotted by Opposition (Balkan insight)
  • Ruling Conservatives Set to Win Serbian Parliamentary Vote (VoA)
  • Serbian parliament left without clear opposition as the ruling party wins partially boycotted elections (EWB)

Humanitarian/Development: 

  • BIRN Videos Tell Emotional Stories of Missing Fathers (Balkan Insight)
  • 22 years since kidnapping of Belacevac miners (TV Most)

 

 

Albanian Language Media

 

Presidents Thaci, Vucic to lead delegations in Washington (Indeksonline)

Citing unnamed diplomatic sources, the news website reports that Kosovo and Serbia Presidents,  Hashim Thaci and Aleksandar Vucic, will lead their respective delegations at the upcoming meeting in Washington on June 27. The Kosovo delegation will include President Thaci, his chief of staff Bekim Collaku, Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti and one of his deputy prime ministers. The Serbian delegation will be led by Vucic and will also include Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, Marko Djuric, and an advisor to Vucic. 

Collaku: Economy and other issues that may arise to be discussed at White House (RFE)

Bekim Collaku, chief of staff to Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, spoke to Radio Free Europe about the upcoming Kosovo-Serbia meeting in Washington saying that the Kosovo delegation is well prepared to discuss not only economy but also other issues that may be raised at the meeting.

Collaku said that the meeting is an extraordinary opportunity for parties to go back to negotiations and address all open issues. 

“The main positive news is that the dialogue is resuming in Washington after an almost two-year break. Therefore, this meeting is a success in itself regardless of the concrete result,” he said. 

Collaku agreed that the EU’s role in the process of dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia is “irreplaceable”, as is that of the United States. “The USA-EU binome was, is and will be the key to any agreement in the Western Balkans, particularly in the aspect of the achievement of a possible final agreement between Kosovo and Serbia.”

Hoti’s cabinet: Mainly economic issues to be discussed in Washington (Klan Kosova)

Officials from Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti’s cabinet said mainly economic issues will be discussed in the forthcoming meeting between representatives of Kosovo and Serbia set to take place on June 27 in Washington D.C.

Hoti’s cabinet officials further noted that it is not yet determined who will accompany the prime minister to the trip but that it is expected his closest associates will be travelling “and not a large staff”. 

Kosovo-Serbia final agreement to go through four stops (Klan Kosova)

The news website reported that the final agreement between Kosovo and Serbia could be achieved in four steps, with the first being the upcoming meeting in Washington mediated by the U.S. presidential envoy Richard Grenell. 

The parties could sign in Washington an agreement paving way for economic benefits but that in order to achieve a final settlement, representatives of Kosovo and Serbia will also need to follow three other stops. 

On 24 march 2020, the German and French foreign ministers spoke about a plan by Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Emmanuel Macron to host a summit in Paris which sources say will take place on July 17. 

Sources further added that this could be followed up by a meeting in Berlin in August, then in Brussels and finally in Washington where the parties would sign the final agreement. If all goes to plan, the signing ceremony would be attended by President Macron, Chancellor Merkel and President Trump.

Competition between EU and U.S. on Kosovo-Serbia agreement (Koha)

Koha reported that there is a fierce competition underway between the U.S. administration and the EUropean Union on who will take credits about a possible final agreement between Kosovo and Serbia.

While the U.S. has already set out the date for the next meeting, June 27, the EU has yet to come out with a date although leaders in France and Germany have signalled an increased role in the process.

However, apart from France and Germany, Russia could also try to get involved and experts warn that this could disrupt the Western efforts when it comes to modalities to be applied to the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue.

Several sources however have told the paper that mutual recognition is not expected to be part of the meeting in Washington and that economic issues will be at the forefront as will the achievement of a type of a mini-Schengen agreement that would focus on the free movement of persons and goods.

Balkans expert, Daniel Serwer, said economy could help in effort to reach a final solution but said he doubted this could be achieved by Richard Grenell’s facilitation.

Serwer said he did not see Russia trying to get involved in the matter if there is no self-interest. He said that Kosovo’s membership to the UN would have to go through the Security Council without Russia or China vetoing it. “But Putin will ask for a high price for this: possible U.S. recognition of ‘independence’ of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as well as annexation of Crimea by Russia,” Serwer said. 

Weber: Kosovo and Serbia could get closer to final agreement by end of year (media)

Several media outlets carry an interview that Bodo Weber, Senior Associate of the Democratization Policy Council concentrating on the Western Balkans, gave to Kosovapress where he said that in the best case scenario, by the end of 2020, Kosovo and Serbia could be closer to a final agreement.

Weber also spoke about the upcoming meeting in Washington between Kosovo and Serbia delegations noting that “in essence we know nothing about the June 27 meeting”. He said there have been contradictory statements about the agenda of the meeting. 

Weber said that the only conclusion that can be made is that the meeting is aimed at serving the interests of the U.S. presidential envoy Richard Grenell and the Trump administration. “This makes it seem that the only goal is for any kind of agreement being signed.”

Weber however admitted that the United States have always played an important role in the dialogue process “but cannot lead it – as they have nothing close to offer to Kosovo and Serbia than what the EU should offer – starting from economic support and cooperation up to EU membership.”

Commenting on the EU Special Representative Miroslav Lajcak efforts to facilitate the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, Weber said: “Lajcak seems to have understood that he represents the position of the majority of EU member states which is against land swap, instead of privatising his negotiating role as Mogherini had done. It seems he is working for a serious resumption of negotiations based on what the EU side should have done three years ago.”

Serbian man sentenced to 22 years in prison for war crimes (media)

The Basic Court in Prizren has sentenced Darko Tasic, former member of Serbian forces, to 22 years in prison for war crimes against Albanian civilian population in the village of Krusha e Vogel.

Tasic has been found guilty on two charges of the indictment, for desecration of bodies and for participating in unlawful confiscation of wealth, looting, and destruction of property.

The trial against Tasic began two years ago and he has denied charges by opting to remain silent.

Ahead of the court verdict, a group of family members of the victims tried to enter the courtroom but were prevented by the police.

One more coronavirus-related death reported in Kosovo (media)

The Infectious Clinic in Pristina announced that one person died last night of Covid-19.

The most recent Covid-19 victim is a 70-year-old man from Vushtrri who is reported to have been suffering from other medical conditions and had been admitted to the hospital since 13 June. 

Media also report that 93 coronavirus patients are currently being treated at the Infectious Clinic in Pristina and that five of them are in critical condition.

Ministry of Health denies contact tracing will not be pursued anymore (media)

Kosovo’s Ministry of Health issued a statement denying reports that it has recommended health institutions not to carry out testing for coronavirus to contacts of persons infected and that it will instead only test those showing symptoms of the disease. 

The Ministry said there is no such decision in place and that those that will not be tested are the asymptomatic persons who will be instructed to self-isolate for 14 days. 

 

 

Serbian Language Media

 

Kommersant: Vucic now must make a choice (Danas) 

The Serbian Progressive Party of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic won an absolute majority that will enable implementation of any decision, including on Kosovo, reports Belgrade based daily Danas, quoting Russian daily Kommersant.  

Kommersant states that experts believe that the obligatory condition for the normalization of Belgrade’s relations with Kosovo, which the West insists on, will be the amendment of the Constitution and the removal of the preamble on the status of Kosovo. It adds that this and any other change are in the hands of the presidential majority.

Kommersant writes that now the only question is how Vucic will use the parliamentary majority, that the perspective of Serbia’s membership in the EU and the financial influence of the West on the Serbian economy depend on his choice. 

“Vucic’s choice is also awaited by Russia, which is against the normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina, which will open the way to Kosovo and Serbia to the EU and NATO. Preserving the current status will enable Moscow to continue to realistically influence the course of the Balkan political game,” the daily said in a comment.

The paper estimates that Vucic found himself in the position that every decision he makes leads to a worsening of his position.

“If he accepts Russia’s position – he will get into a quarrel with the USA and the EU. If he succumbs to Washington’s persuasions and pressures, he will lose his partnership with Moscow. Unambiguous opposition to the EU will cause serious disappointment in the United States and Russia,” the paper writes.

The daily estimates that the importance of the upcoming Vucic’s choice is not only in the risk of quarreling with one or more world players in the Balkans.

Kommersant states that Vucic strengthened his positions by playing both the European and Russian cards and that he rejected warnings that sitting on two chairs is risky for him, and that he even pulled a Chinese chair.

“And now the Kosovo choice threatens to destroy Vucic’s construction. If that happens, it will not be easy for him to stay in the chair of the President of Serbia,” concludes Kommersant.

New REC data: 62.73 percent of electorate processed, 3 lists passed threshold (B92)

The Republic Election Commission (REC) processed 62.73 percent of the votes, B92 reports. Preliminary results show that the Serbian Progressive Party won 61.39 percent of the votes, the SPS-JS coalition 10.39 and SPAS – Serbian Patriotic Alliance, Aleksandar Sapic – 3.71 percent of the votes, the REC told Tanjug.

The REC inspected more than 69.54 percent of polling stations by 10:15 a.m. today, which presents 62.73 percent of the electorate.

The first three lists, which were the only ones to pass the census, are followed by the Movement for the Renewal of the Kingdom of Serbia with 2.68 percent, the Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians with 2.48 percent and the Sovereignists with 2.24 percent of the vote.

According to the REC data, the Broom 2020 movement won 2.16 percent, Serbian Radical Party 2.08 percent of the votes, and the other lists won below two percent of the votes.

The republican parliament includes three lists that have passed the threshold and the parties of national minorities, and according to preliminary projections, SNS will have 189 deputies, the SPS-JS coalition 32 deputies, and the SPAS list 12 deputies.

Final results of the elections will be announced no later than Thursday at 8 p.m.

Read more at: https://bit.ly/2V7PwSv

Vucic’s SNS scores landslide victory in Serbia’s general elections (media)

The ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) is likely to have 189 deputies in the 250-seat country’s parliament, after winning over 63 percent of votes, and will be joined by two other parties and those of the minorities, N1 reported.

Besides SNS, its current key coalition partner, the Socialist Party of Serbia (SNS), and the first-time runner in the general election, the Serbian Patriotic Alliance SPAS passed the three percent threshold, reduced from five percent amid the opposition boycott campaign.

Several minorities’ parties will also have deputies based on the natural threshold.

The official results will be published by Wednesday. Still, the SNS leader and country’s President Aleksandar Vucic declared a landslide victory in the Sunday’s parliamentary, provincial and local elections tarnished by a boycott from the leading opposition group Alliance for Serbia (SzS), who accused the leader of burgeoning authoritarianism.

Vucic did not run for office himself but solely led the SNS campaign under the ‘Aleksandar Vucic – for Our Children’ slogan.

The campaign had two parts – before the state emergency due to the coronavirus epidemic and after it was lifted.

“I am grateful to the people for this historical support,” Vucic, the 50-year-old who had been in power since 2012, said at the SNS headquarters.

Read more at: https://bit.ly/2NkBE3i

What kind of proposal does Lajcak bring to Belgrade today? (B92, Tanjug)

President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, will meet today in Belgrade with the EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue

As it was announced from the Media Service of the President of the Republic, Vucic and Miroslav Lajcák will meet in Villa Mir at 6 pm, and after the meeting, a public address is planned.

The impatience, which he showed by arriving only a day after the elections in Serbia, speaks of Brussels’ haste to start the dialogue from the deadlock and achieve some result that would go to the EU’s advantage, Tanjug agency reports.

Judging by Lajcak’s statements, this diplomat, whose experience is praised in Europe, has bigger ambitions – to bring this dialogue to an end.

“My mandate is very clear, to help reach a legally binding agreement between Kosovo and Serbia, which will normalize relations and solve all problems and which will be acceptable to the countries within the region and EU member states,” Lajcak said in Pristina, where he was last week. 

For such a great result, the European Envoy and a good connoisseur of the circumstances in the region will certainly not have enough ambition and diplomatic experience, if he has nothing to offer as an acceptable solution, primarily for Belgrade.

According to President Vucic’s expectations, Brussels’ offer is that Serbia does not oppose Kosovo’s entry into the UN in exchange for Serbia’s uncertain EU membership. President Vucic has already given the answer to such a proposal – “It will not be possible”.

As for the topic of today’s conversation, Lajcak announced that after the talks in Pristina and Belgrade, he would define the issues that the two sides would discuss, and Vucic expects that technical-methodological-formal proposals and implementation of already signed agreements will be discussed again, without any substantive proposal.

However, it is unlikely that today’s conversation will be limited to these, already worn out, topics.

Namely, Lajcak is coming to the negotiating mission in Belgrade at the moment when his colleague, US Envoy Richard Grenell, scheduled a meeting with the leaders of Belgrade and Pristina in the White House on June 27, and before him, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov brought some information to Belgrade, which made Vucic, as he himself said, additionally worried about the pressures that Serbia can expect regarding the solution of the Kosovo problem.

So, the conversation will certainly be much more concrete than it is officially announced, and it will certainly be about issues related to the intentions of Brussels when it comes to Kosovo and Metohija.

The fact that Lajcak states that the EU and the USA are working closely when it comes to the Kosovo problem and that they expect close cooperation in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, although it is known that Washington did not even inform Brussels about the meeting announced for June 27, which is a result of misunderstanding between Trump administration and the EU on some issues, and above all Germany, this is not of crucial importance for Serbia.

Both Brussels and Washington want the result, and both centers will use all the means of pressure available to them to achieve that result.

Serbian President should deal with these pressures and try to find the most favorable solution for Serbia.

Strengthened by the support that his party gained in yesterday’s elections for the policy he leads, he will try to get the best for Serbia in the coming talks, today with Lajcak in Belgrade, tomorrow in Moscow, and on June 27 in the White House.

Read more at: https://bit.ly/2YV2LqZ

President Vucic: Let’s not be arrogant in forming government; experts say turnout 49 pct (N1) 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) won some two million votes on Sunday and added that no one ever had that result in the country, N1 reported.

After declaring the victory, he said a new government will be formed with people from the lists that did not pass the three percent threshold.

Asked by an N1 reporter if the new parliament is without opposition, the one he wanted, he said he was only interested in the list he headed.

Vucic denied that Serbian Socialist Party (SNS) hid behind his name. “I’m the least respectable and the most attacked man whose family members are criminals, as people at your television (N1) had been saying. But, people did not trust you.”

“We won everywhere where we were losing, in every place, abroad, overwhelmingly, in Republika Srpska (a Serb-dominated entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina) we won 90 percent of the votes,” Vucic told reporters in the SNS headquarter, receiving loud applause from the party officials.

SNS officials celebrated the victory with trumpet music and Serbia’s national dance.

Vucic added that Serbia would have to work “faster, more powerfully and stronger” on its way to the European Union.

“We have to continue with reforms, but not by fawning to those who fuss about everything. We will safeguard the friends who were with us when it was difficult during the coronavirus epidemic,” Vucic said in an apparent reference to the West and China and Russia respectively.

In the meantime, independent observers said the turnout was 49 percent, while SNS said it was 50.2 percent.  

Read more at: https://bit.ly/37OdMhC

OSCE: Final turnout in Kosovo was 55.178, respectively 57.88 percent of registered voters (Kosovo-online)

55.178 voters exercised their right to cast the ballot at Serbian parliamentary elections in Kosovo, respectively 57.88 percent of registered voters, the OSCE Mission in Kosovo announced, Kosovo-online portal reports.

According to preliminary results the turnout was almost 15 percent higher than in 2016 Serbian elections when 45.656 voters casted the ballots, respectively 43.03 percent of registered voters.

Around 500 OSCE representatives facilitated the elections, and apart from standard issues related to non updated voters’ lists, there were no major irregularities.

After the closure of voting centers, the ballot boxes were sealed and transported to Raska and Vranje towns and handed over to the members of the Serbian Republic Election Commission.

SzS: Fake elections have not succeeded, boycott did, turnout less than 50 percent (N1, BETA, FoNet)

Chairperson of the opposition Alliance for Serbia (SzS) Dragan Djilas said that “those fake elections by Aleksandar Vucic have not succeeded” given that the turnout was less than 50 percent, BETA news agency reports.

Speaking in a press conference of the opposition which boycotted the elections, Djilas said that according to their data the turnout was 42 percent, while in Belgrade 36 percent.

He added that Election Day exposed how the regime in Serbian looks like. “’Bulgarian trains’ pressure, threats, bringing voters to vote, phone calls and all that was not enough to have the turnout higher than 50 percent as per their official records,” Djilas said.

He recalled that according to SzS figures the turnout could not be higher than 42 percent, adding that foreign media assessed if half of registered voters do not turnout, the authorities would have no legitimacy.

Given that the new government would have no legitimacy, according to Djilas, there are two possibilities ahead – one is that the regime continues to work as it did up to now and take the country to the new tensions, while the other one is that under the EU’s auspices we come to the situation able to have, as he said, fair and honest elections.

Meanwhile, Belgrade opposition official from Peoples’ Party (NS) which boycotted the Sunday’s elections at all levels, Nikola Jovanovic told Belgrade-based TV N1 that the boycott in the capital was massive and that the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) led City’s authorities lost legitimacy.

Jovanovic said he believed that no more than 42 percent of people voted in Serbia, while in Belgrade the turnout was some 35 percent. According to him, people’s message was that they “do not want to be like Belarus and that the system must change.”

Jovanovic said his People’s Party would discuss with other SzS members the next steps in their political activities. 

Director of Factor Plus: Turnout expected, boycott failed (Prva TV, B92)

Director of the Factor Plus agency, Vladimir Pejic told Belgrade-based Prva TV that the turnout at Serbian parliamentary elections was in line with expectations, B92 reports.

He said that the absolute winner, according to the research of that agency, will be the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), while Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) will have double-digit support.

According to him, SPAS, the Serbian Radical Party and the Movement of Free Citizens should enter the parliament.

“We have no dilemma regarding the winner. The turnout is still at an enviable and expected level,” he said. Pejic added it is difficult to be creative in politics, and that more work was done on the emotions of voters.

“The boycott failed. The numbers are the best evidence,” he noted, adding that the results show that.

“Prior to the election, the opposition had to say which threshold it considers a success or a failure”, Pejic concluded.

Varhelyi: “Important day for Serbia” (RTS, B92)

EU Commissioner for Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi, in the first reaction after the parliamentary elections, said he would work with the new government on reforms

“Important day for #Serbia with parliamentary and local elections. Looking forward to working with the new government on EU related matters”, Olivér Várhelyi posted on Twitter.

EU Commissioner added that he will be committed to help Serbia move forward quickly towards EU accession and “to support economic recovery in the wake of #COVID-19 crisis”,Várhelyi concluded.

Read more at: https://bit.ly/2NkZ1cU

N.Macedonian President: Kosovo issue could lead to domino effect (RFE, N1, FoNet)

Any changes to borders, regarding the Kosovo issue, must not lead to the domino effect in the region, Macedonian President Stevo Pendarovski told Radio Free Europe.

“Kosovo, with its unresolved international status, has been at our border for many years. A restart of talks regarding its status is announced for June 27,” Pendarovski said in an interview.

He noted that the entire region would feel either a good or bad effect of the solution to the Kosovo issue.

“I’m not saying that border-changes can’t be the solution to the Kosovo issue, but that solution mustn’t lead to the domino effect in the region and it mustn’t threaten our borders,” Pendarovski said.

Should such a solution be acceptable to both Belgrade and Pristina, the North Macedonian President said they are asking the international community for guarantees that borders of other countries would not be questioned.

In his opinion, it is very important that the conflict is not frozen but resolved so that the entire region could continue its path towards the EU, where it also belongs institutionally wise.

Pendarovski added he had some reservations regarding the timeframe for the solution, because the US as the key player, is entering the pre-election period.

Read more at: https://bit.ly/37Nj8tJ

Newsmax TV founder: Trump is man who can bring peace to Balkans (Newsmax, N1)

Christopher Ruddy, the CEO of Newsmax Media, which publishes Newsmax.com and broadcasts the Newsmax TV network, says his Newsmax Adria television which starts on Monday in the Balkans, is an American brand, but that it is present in the world market as well, Newsmax Adria has reported.

In an exclusive interview with Slobodan Georgiev, the TV’s news and programme director, Ruddy, a personal friend and supporter of the US President, said Donald Trump was a great negotiator and a man who could bring peace to the Western Balkans.

Ruddy said he was “honoured that the United Group has taken an interest in the Newsmax. And we are in the venture together.”

Commenting on media reports which often say the region is unstable, Ruddy said the US textbooks referred to the Balkans as the crossroad of Europe, the transit point between the East and West, and that the Western Balkans is an important region.

“It’s actually a collusion point where you have Christian world and Islam world meet,” as well as the interests of Russia and the West.

“And I guess wherever you have those points you have a diversity in interests and cultural interests, but you also have confrontations and you have problems,” Ruddy said, adding that he believed that “the American people see the Balkans, its countries and Serbia as allies of the United States, as countries that we want to be close with.”

He emphasises that Trump was his friend for over 20 years and that the US President sees the significance of all regional countries on top of his personal relations since his wife Melanija comes from Slovenia.

“He (Trump) is very interested in that region, and he knows it’s very important. And we have a lot of Americans that came here as immigrants from those countries, and you just have to go to New York or Chicago and meet people for Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, or Bosnia,” Ruddy said.

He added that Balkans’ places “are very important to us, and I’m very glad that Newsmax brand and journalism will be a part of the culture and society there.”

Asked about the meeting between Serbia’s and Kosovo’s presidents Aleksandr Vucic and Hashim Thaci respectively at the White House organised by Trump’s special envoy Richard Grenell, Ruddy said that Grenell “is the most important person in Trumps’ foreign policy after the (State) Secretary (Mike) Pompeo. He was not only the ambassador to the most important country in Europe – Germany, he was then made special envoy to deal with the Serbian situation, Bosnia… “

He added that the very fact that “the president is taking this meeting “since he doesn’t meet with many leaders of the countries all over the world… it’s a sign of importance.”

Ruddy said Genell was also his close friend and that before joining Trump’s administration, he was an advisor to Newsmax.

Speaking about Trump, Ruddy said he was “a very good negotiator and a man who could bring peace to the region.

“A: he has personal interests through his family; b: he knows the area well, and he assigns one of his top people there. And I think there is a great interest there and I hope something good will come out of it,” Ruddy said.

Asked if Trump will meet with Vucic and  Thaci at the White House, Ruddy said he was not familiar with all the details, but that meeting with Grenell in Washington was a good sign.

According to Ruddy, a majority of big conflicts in the world was resolved with the US intervention, and added Trump saw “great interest there since he put Grenell in charge.”

He couldn’t promise that Newsmax Adria would have a chance to host Grenell and Trump but said he would do his best.

“I can’t promise (that) because they are government officials, but we’ll do our best. President Trump had a half an hour interview with us last week. His (Trump’s) former press secretary Sean Spicer is one of our TV anchors in the US. President invited him to the White House, and they had a lengthy conversation on a number of issues, and of course, Rick Grenell has been on Newsmax many, many times. So, you will be a part of our news organisation … and we very much looking forward to this partnership,” Ruddy told Georgiev.

He told Serbia’s audience that the American democracy achieved big successes thanks to the Constitution and freedoms and that the first freedom in the US Constitution refers to the freedom of the press.

“It is the foundation of all other freedoms. An informed people, an informed citizenry, and an informed democracy is a very powerful democracy. We are not only perfect, we make mistakes, but when we see information, news that is telling us we’re doing something wrong, we can correct our course… Democracy is too important to be left to a government only. It’s important to us to play a role in reporting the facts,” “Ruddy said.

N1 is a part of the United Media which launches Newsmax Adria TV in cooperation with Newsmax. It will broadcast its ‘The Review of the Day’ programme every night at 8 pm on Nova S TV throughout the year.

https://bit.ly/314ogIz

 

 

Opinion

 

Serbia elections: Who’s left besides Vucic? (DW)

As Serbians went to the polls, one thing was certain — the election was dominated by populist leader Aleksandar Vucic, who has been setting the rules of the game for years. But many of his rivals refused to play.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic wasn’t running for a seat in the Serbian parliament, but that hardly mattered — Sunday’s election was still all about him. Just like every election in more than six years has been about him. As Serbia’s dominant politician, Vucic seems to be omnipresent and involved in everything, the be-all and end-all of political life in the Balkan country.

The ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) campaigned under the slogan “Aleksandar Vucic — for our children.” The president personally spearheaded the party’s effort, when he wasn’t saturating the news cycle in his official role. His opponents also focused on him when trying to whip up the ever-shrinking liberal public in Serbia into political action.

At the parliamentary polls this Sunday, however, many of his rivals were conspicuously absent — a large group of opposition parties decided to boycott the race. They accused the SNS of rigging the game in favor of the pro-Vucic camp.

Bots, jobs and votes

One of the opposition leaders to boycott the vote is Borko Stefanovic. The left-leaning politician was brutally beaten in late 2018 in an incident that sparked months of anti-government protests. The suspected attackers have been caught but have yet to be convicted with the trial restarting earlier this year.

See more at: https://bit.ly/2Njjsa7

Wanted: EU-US cooperation on Kosovo (EUobserver)

“The US fights; the UN negotiates; and the EU pays,” according to a UN official. International burden-sharing worked in Kosovo until the Trump administration announced it would bring the presidents of Kosovo and Serbia to the White House for talks on June 27, writes David Phillips, director of the program on peace-building and human rights at Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights. 

“The announcement left Miroslav Lajcak, the EU special envoy for the Western Balkans, in the dark. Not only does the US initiative have little chance for success. It risks further damaging transatlantic relations.

Since Nato’s action in March 1999, Kosovo has been a laboratory for international cooperation.”

Read more at: https://bit.ly/2ZbiVg7

”Trump and the Kremlin know very well who they are dealing with” (KoSSev) 

The Trump administration and the Kremlin have a mutual understanding on the issue of Kosovo and other world issues. No step will be taken in Washington on June 27th which could lead towards the separation of Kosovo from Serbia, a research associate at the Belgrade Institute for European Studies, Stevan Gajic, who holds a Ph.D. in Political Science, told the Novorusija news agency.

According to Gajic, after Sergey Lavrov’s Belgrade visit, Vucic can no longer continue his agreement with NATO on Kosovo. If Russia does not agree with changes to the UNSC Resolution 1244, then any attempt of Vucic to agree with NATO or Hashim Thaci on surrendering Kosovo will not pass, claimed Gajic.

He recalled that earlier this week, at a joint press conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Vucic said that Belgrade would not recognize Kosovo’s independence in exchange for membership of the EU, adding that, only a day earlier, the Serbian President allowed the possibility of a compromise on Kosovo which the Serb government would allegedly be forced to accept under pressure from the EU and the US.

Gajic stated that Vucic could not say anything else to Lavrov, because ”if Vucic had openly said something against Russia, in the face of Russia even, he would lose his voters and his party would fall apart ”.

”The fact that Vucic said one thing yesterday and is now saying something else perfectly corresponds to his manner of behavior. There is nothing unusual going on here. Lately, he has been frequently saying that very difficult days will come. Yes, hard days are coming – not for Serbs but him, Vucic can no longer meet the expectations of those forces thanks to how he came to power, ” Gajic added.

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

Kosovar politics needs rebellious women (Prishtina Insight)

Vjosa Osmani’s dismissal as deputy leader of LDK is part of a longer history of Kosovo women being muted within political parties and demonstrates the need for ‘disobedient’ women in politics, those who refuse to adjust to male dominated party structures, writes Shqipe Gjocaj.

“Vjosa Osmani is no longer part of LDK’s leadership. With 70 votes in favour, she was dismissed from her position as deputy leader and as a member of the party chairmanship at the proposal of the party’s leader Isa Mustafa.

Mustafa had previously issued warnings that Osmani would face consequences if she continued to publicly criticise the party’s actions, and her dismissal became all but inevitable due to her ongoing disobedience. 

In recent months, Osmani has refused to support the vote of no confidence against the Kurti Government, did not vote for the newly formed government led by her party colleague Avdullah Hoti, and has publicly called out LDK for not standing by its election promises.”

Read more: https://bit.ly/3hPs2vk

 

 

 International

 

Serbia President’s Party Scores Landslide in Election Boycotted by Opposition (Balkan insight)

Aleksandar Vucic’s party romped home in Serbia’s general elections on Sunday, winning about two-thirds of the votes, early results show – although opposition parties boycotting the polls said less than half the electorate turned out.

The coalition gathered around the ruling Serbian Progressive Party won an overwhelming victory in parliamentary elections on Sunday, winning 63.5 percent of votes cast.

Only two other electoral lists crossed the 3-per-cent threshold needed to take seats in the Serbian parliament, Ipsos and CeSID announced, based on 73.4 percent of a processed sample of votes.

The elections in Serbia were the first national elections held in Europe since the coronavirus pandemic erupted, and were dominated by the Progressive Party leader, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, whose name was on the ballot, although he was not a candidate in the elections.

The junior partner in the outgoing government, the Socialist Party-United Serbia coalition, came second with 10.7 percent of votes cast. Third place went to the opposition Serbian Patriotic Alliance, SPAS, led by a former water polo player, Aleksandar Sapic, which won 4 per cent.

Read more at: https://bit.ly/3do0h9u

Ruling Conservatives Set to Win Serbian Parliamentary Vote (VoA)

BELGRADE – Serbia’s ruling conservative party led by President Aleksandar Vucic is set for a landslide win in Sunday’s parliamentary election, results projected by Ipsos and CeSID pollsters showed.

The projection shows the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) on track to win 62.5% of the votes, while the Socialist party, a junior coalition partner in the outgoing government, is seen coming in second with 10.7% of the votes.

The center-right Serbian Patriotic Alliance led by former water polo player Aleksandar Sapic is seen in third place with 4% of the votes.

A brass band orchestra at the SNS headquarters was playing traditional Serbian music before Vucic proclaimed victory.

Dozens of smiling people crammed into a small room, hugged each other and few had their faces covered with masks, despite doctors warning to be cautious to avoid spreading the coronavirus.

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

Serbian parliament left without clear opposition as the ruling party wins partially boycotted elections (EWB)

Ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) has won the parliamentary election in the country with 62,6% of the vote, according to the projections. The largest opposition coalition, the Alliance for Serbia, boycotted the election, citing lack of conditions for their free and fair conduct, leading to the lowest turnout ever in the elections for Serbian parliament. Junior coalition partner in the government, Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), won 10,9% of the vote, while the threshold of 3% was crossed only by Serbian Patriotic Alliance (SPAS) of Novi Beograd mayor Aleksandar Šapić, who won 4,2% of the vote.

See more at: https://bit.ly/311iU0J

 

 

Humanitarian/Development

 

BIRN Videos Tell Emotional Stories of Missing Fathers (Balkan Insight)

Six children of men from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Serbia who disappeared during the 1990s wars have spoken to BIRN ahead of Father’s Day on Sunday about their fathers who are still listed as missing.

The videos are part of a BIRN campaign entitled ‘If You Were Here’, which aims to raise awareness about people who lost family members in the Yugoslav wars and are still waiting for information about their whereabouts, over two decades later.

The first part of the campaign was published on Valentine’s Day, telling the stories of spouses of missing persons, and more stories will follow throughout the year.

Read more at: https://bit.ly/37MMRmy

22 years since kidnapping of Belacevac miners (TV Most)

Today marks the twenty second anniversary since the kidnapping of eight Electricity Distribution Company of Serbia (EPS) workers at Belacevac mine, TV Most reports. On this occasion representatives of the Association of Kidnapped and Missing Persons from Kosovo would lay wreaths at the Monument of Truth at midday in Mitrovica North, TV Most reports.

The kidnapping took place on 22 June 1998 in the mine compound. Their destiny, same as the destinies of other 527 Serbs and non-Albanians still remain unknown, and they are listed as missing persons.

For this case, same as for other numerous cases of kidnapping and murdering of Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija no perpetrator was justly convicted as per personal or commanding responsibility. Only a few cases were prosecuted, however, despite evidence and testimonies, the perpetrators were either acquitted, symbolically punished or received suspended sentences, TV Most recalled.

 

 

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