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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, July 2, 2020

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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, July 02, 2020

Albanian Language Media:

• Veliu meets Lajcak’s adviser, discuss dialogue with Serbia (RTK)
• Grenell to set a date for the meeting at White House soon (Koha, Express)
• Hoti talks to Kurz: Austria will support Kosovo’s EU integration (RTK)
• UK Embassy signs Memorandum of Understanding with Kosovo institutions (media)
• KLA war associations and former political prisoners to protest on 9 July (Koha)

Serbian Language Media:

• Ten new Covid-19 infection cases registered in Serb-areas in Kosovo yesterday (Radio KIM)
• Kesic: A more serious dialogue only after the American elections (Kosovo Online)
• Bieber: Vucic party’s victory proves Serbia is undemocratic country (FoNet, N1)
• Djuric: Citizens choose Vucic’s policy so Serbia can be strong (TV Most)
• Alliance for Serbia says opposition front to be formed (BETA, N1)

Opinion:

• An unexpected pole position: The EU in the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue (EURACTIV)
• The US and EU Have Both Failed Kosovo (Balkan Insight)
• Winston Churchill of the Balkans? (Weltwoche.ch)
• Media should focus on COVID-19, not political drama (Prishtina Insight)

International:

• Kosovo Ex-Guerrillas Vow Protests Against President Thaci’s Indictment (Balkan Insight)
• Biden Compared Indicted War Criminal to “George Washington” (counterpunch.com)

Humanitarian/Development:

• Kosovo Court Angers Unions by Blocking Salaries Law (Balkan Insight)
• Coronavirus: Austria issues travel warning for six Balkan states (BBC)

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Albanian Language Media:

  • Veliu meets Lajcak’s adviser, discuss dialogue with Serbia (RTK)
  • Grenell to set a date for the meeting at White House soon (Koha, Express)
  • Hoti talks to Kurz: Austria will support Kosovo’s EU integration (RTK)
  • UK Embassy signs Memorandum of Understanding with Kosovo institutions (media)
  • KLA war associations and former political prisoners to protest on 9 July (Koha)

Serbian Language Media:

  • Ten new Covid-19 infection cases registered in Serb-areas in Kosovo yesterday (Radio KIM)
  • Kesic: A more serious dialogue only after the American elections (Kosovo Online)
  • Bieber: Vucic party’s victory proves Serbia is undemocratic country (FoNet, N1)
  • Djuric: Citizens choose Vucic’s policy so Serbia can be strong (TV Most)
  • Alliance for Serbia says opposition front to be formed (BETA, N1)

Opinion:

  • An unexpected pole position: The EU in the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue (EURACTIV)
  • The US and EU Have Both Failed Kosovo (Balkan Insight)
  • Winston Churchill of the Balkans? (Weltwoche.ch)
  • Media should focus on COVID-19, not political drama (Prishtina Insight)

International:

  • Kosovo Ex-Guerrillas Vow Protests Against President Thaci’s Indictment (Balkan Insight)
  • Biden Compared Indicted War Criminal to “George Washington” (counterpunch.com)

Humanitarian/Development: 

  • Kosovo Court Angers Unions by Blocking Salaries Law (Balkan Insight)
  • Coronavirus: Austria issues travel warning for six Balkan states (BBC)

 

 

Albanian Language Media

 

Veliu meets Lajcak’s adviser, discuss dialogue with Serbia (RTK)

Kosovo’s Minister for Internal Affairs Agim Veliu, hosted a meeting with Umerr Arthur Al-Khatib, political adviser and head of the office of the EU’s Special Representative for the Prishtina-Belgrade dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak.

The main subject of this meeting was dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, with a special focus on the agreements that could be related to the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Minister Veliu pledged that Kosovo is committed to dialogue and that all the issues that are  related to this Ministry will be pushed forward and advanced with an extraordinary commitment, given the importance of rounding up this important process for Kosovo.

Grenell to set a date for the meeting at White House soon (Koha, Express)

The United States administration will not stop its efforts on reaching an agreement between Kosovo and Serbia even without the President of Kosovo Hashim Thaci.

Citing its sources, Koha Ditore reports that the U.S. President Donald Trump’s Special Envoy for this dialogue Richard Grenell, will soon set a date for the White House meeting after his failure on June 27.

According to the newspaper, the change of negotiators and Thaci’s absence do not represent a problem for the Americans.

But, as the newspaper learned, if an agreement fails in July, Trump’s administration may lose enthusiasm for other attempts, also because the presidential election will be held in November.

“It is up to the people of Kosovo to nominate the leaders who should take part in the dialogue. Special Presidential Envoy Grenell will try to bring the parties to an agreement,” the source said.

However, Grenell’s spokesman Dick Custin,  stated that they do not currently have a date for the meeting between the parties.

The publication of the indictment against President Thaci failed the meeting scheduled to take place at the White House on 27 June.

After President Thaci, who informed the American emissary Richard Grenell that he would not be part of the meeting, Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti also cancelled his participation with the explanation that he should manage the situation in the country after the announcement that the first accused may be Hashim Thaçi and Kadri Veseli.

Hoti was planning to travel to the United States after his first official visit to Brussels.

Hoti talks to Kurz: Austria will support Kosovo’s EU integration (RTK)

The Prime Minister of Kosovo Avdullah Hoti held a telephone conversation with  the Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.

We talked about many issues related to economic recovery and integration into the European Union, which are of great importance for Kosovars and other peoples in the Western Balkans.

“Despite the ongoing challenges with Covid-19, we will continue to deepen cooperation between the two countries, while Austria will continue to support us on our path to EU integration,” Hoti informed. 

UK Embassy signs Memorandum of Understanding with Kosovo institutions (media)

Nicholas Abbott, Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Kosovo signed today a Memoranda of Understanding with the Assembly Speaker Vjosa Osmani and with the Prime Minister of Kosovo Avdullah Hoti. This Memorandum is a continuation of the recruitment project promoting transparent and meritocratic public sector recruitment in Kosovo.

“It’s important for Kosovo’s institutions to have the right people, selected transparently and on merit, in key positions. So I was happy to sign a Memorandum of Understanding today with Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti, for the continuation of our recruitment project,” Abbott wrote on his Twitter account. 

KLA war associations and former political prisoners to protest on 9 July (Koha)

KLA war veterans and former political prisoners stated at their meeting held on 30 June, that the publication of the unconfirmed indictment against President Hashim Thaci and PDK leader Kadri Veseli and the moment in which announcement of the indictment took place, shows that the Special Court is politically influenced, which makes the entire process illegal. 

Organizations emerging from the KLA war and the Association of Former Political Prisoners of Kosovo consider that the indictment was made with a specific purpose, to hinder the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue process, so they demand from the Assembly of Kosovo to change the law for the Special Court, as all crimes and genocide committed by Serbia in Kosovo must be tried.

On this occasion, they announced that a nationwide protest with the motto: “In defense of the Liberation War,” will be held on 9 July.

 

 

Serbian Language Media

 

Ten new Covid-19 infection cases registered in Serb-areas in Kosovo yesterday (Radio KIM)

Ten more Covid-19 infection cases were registered in Serb-populated areas in Kosovo yesterday, bringing the total number of active cases at 25, Radio KIM reports.

Out of 30 samples sent for testing three days ago, nine tested positive. Also, out of 16 samples sent earlier one person from Zvecan tested positive. This in addition to 15 reported cases on Monday makes the total number of active cases in the Serb-populated areas in Kosovo at 25. Out of this number 23 cases are in the north.

All newly confirmed cases experience mild symptoms.

Epidemiologist Desanka Novakovic said yesterday they will send 41 samples more today for the testing to the laboratory in Belgrade.

According to her, although the number of newly infected cases increased the situation is stable. As per the latest recommendations persons with mild or moderate symptoms are staying in house isolation, while self-isolation measures also apply for contacts who were not tested, since they lacked the symptoms.

If the person has the symptoms it is advised to report to the Covid-ambulance in respective health houses. Novakovic also said given that the infection can take unpredictable turns no symptom should be neglected.

Kesic: A more serious dialogue only after the American elections (Kosovo Online)

Director of the Republika Srpska representation in Washington and analyst Obrad Kesic for portal Kosovo Online says that when it comes to the continuation of the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, the key issue is related to the political situation in Pristina.

After the postponement of the meeting of representatives of Belgrade and Pristina in Washington due to the indictment against Hashim Thaci, Kesic states that it is difficult to predict when the next meeting will be organized by Ambassador Grenell.

“The current government has a very thin majority and this emerging crisis over war crimes indictments could very easily lead to the fall of the government. Ambassador Grenell will probably try to maintain communication between Belgrade and Pristina and when a clearer political situation in Pristina arises, the next round of negotiations could be organized. It is realistic that nothing serious can happen in these negotiations until after the US presidential election and until a government is formed in Pristina that has greater legitimacy and greater stability, so that the main negotiator, whoever would be, could not only reach an agreement with Belgrade but also guarantee that the agreement will be respected in Pristina,” Kesic said.

He also says that he does not believe that the indictment against Thaci appeared by chance now, a few days before the announced negotiations in Washington.

“I think that was the response of the EU, especially Germany, to President Trump’s decision to reduce the number of American soldiers in Germany. That decision provoked a stormy reaction and condemnation of American partners in the European Union,” Kesic explained. 

He also said that it was no secret that relations between EU members and the United States had been bad since Trump became president, just as it was no secret that Angela Merkel and most German politicians were not happy with Grenell’s election as ambassador.

“I think that this relationship with Grenell also influenced the motivation to sabotage the negotiations he is leading and which he said in advance would produce a very important success. In the end, I would just add that there are other motives for sabotaging these negotiations, some EU countries, especially Germany, were not happy that they were no longer involved in those negotiations, and it should be added that they were also angry that the President Trump administration imposed sanctions on prosecutors and investigators of the Hague International Criminal Court. I am convinced that the decision to file charges is also part of the latest fierce attacks on President Trump. I think there is coordination between all his opponents and that they feel he is now very vulnerable and need to play on ‘all or nothing’ to weaken him enough to lose the November election,” believes Kesic.

Bieber: Vucic party’s victory proves Serbia is undemocratic country (FoNet, N1)

The absolute victory of President Aleksandar Vucic’s Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) “offered a good insight into Serbia as an undemocratic country,” Florian Bieber, the director of the South-Eastern Europe Studies at the Graz University said, BETA news agency reported on Thursday.

“I think that Aleksandar Vucic, a man who has always tried to preserve a façade of democracy, and who has attempted to favour some parties, has failed to do that and hasn’t got what he wanted – to win, and at the same time has a loyal opposition which he could shift responsibility to,” Bieber told the Belgrade weekly magazine “Vreme”.

He added that a new parliament would not have “an extreme rightist party which was useful regarding the Kosovo issue in the past. He (Vucic) now has no excuse.”

Commenting on the media in Serbia, Bieber said that “Vucic has his pro-European media, his anti-European media, loyal pro-Western NGOs and pro-Russian NGOs.”

“He covers a whole specter and that makes substantial changes in society difficult”, Bieber said.

According to him, it’s clear that the currently dominated political project has no perspective and that the “economic, political and social situations will worsen.”

“An answer to the question of when will it be better is, perhaps, that it first has to be worse before improving,” Bieber said. 

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

Djuric: Citizens choose Vucic’s policy so Serbia can be strong (TV Most)

Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) Vice President and Director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija, Marko Djuric assessed today that political analyst Florian Bieber became one of the most quoted personalities over the last couple of days in the opposition media, not because he deserves such a thing “with his unordinary wisdom,” but rather because he gives “pseudo-scientific tone” to the hatred towards Serbia, TV Most reports.  

In a written statement Djuric said that Bieber at the Serbian parliamentary elections did not get what he wanted – an obedient Serbia tailored as per measures of his order-givers, adding Bieber would never get that no matter what noise “he and his Twitter flock were making.”

Djuric further said that Bieber’s “fabrications” on some sort of authoritarianism in Serbia were “an academic type of Serbophobia and conception that Serbs were politically inferior and do not deserve that Europe treats them differently than in a tutorial and neo-colonial manner”.  

Djuric also said that Serbian citizens “in a democratic election by large, historic majority elected policy of the President Aleksandar Vucic and Serbian Progressive Party in order for our state to become strong, so finally it does not have to crawl in front of Bieber or his order-givers”. 

Alliance for Serbia says opposition front to be formed (BETA, N1)

The Alliance for Serbia (SzS) said on Wednesday that a wide opposition front would be formed by all the parties that boycotted the June 21 elections at all levels, BETA news agency reports.

“Following the false elections, we are in a highly undemocratic situation with no opposition at any level from parliament to the provincial assembly and local level. At the same time we are concerned over the alarming state of the new wave of the infection spreading across Serbia because of the irresponsible behavior of the authorities and the falsifying of the number of new infections and deaths in order to forcibly organize the elections,” a press release said. 

It added that the responsible act to do would be to form an interim expert government to deal with the health hazards and deterioration of the economy as well as a new pandemic Crisis Staff as the only way to resolve the political crisis and prepare free and fair elections.

See at: https://bit.ly/2BW5vMQ

 

 

Opinion

 

An unexpected pole position: The EU in the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue (EURACTIV)

To almost everybody’s surprise, the EU just regained the pole position in the dialogue between Prishtina and Belgrade. But is the bloc sufficiently prepared for the race, asks Andreas Wittkowsky.

Andreas Wittkowsky is the head of Project Peace and Security at the Center for International Peace Operations (ZIF).

With its announcement that it intends to file a war crimes indictment against Kosovo’s president Hashim Thaci, the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office for Kosovo, established in The Hague, caused a major political earthquake.

Its first casualty was a meeting between Kosovo and Serbia scheduled for 27 June in the White House. Both countries were expected to seal a deal that the US Special Envoy, Richard Grenell, had been working on.

His initiative filled the gap that had been left behind by the EU-led dialogue, which had lain dormant since 2018. But now, shortly before crossing the finishing line, Grenell‘s process broke down. Thaci cancelled his trip after the prosecution went public, and Kosovo’s Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti followed suit.

In the dispute about who should lead the dialogue between Belgrade and Prishtina, the EU surprisingly finds itself in the pole position.

The content of the imminent Washington deal has not been published so far. Lately announced by Grenell as an economic package, it has been subject to plenty of speculation. In particular, rumours persisted that it would encompass a territorial exchange in order to increase Serbia’s willingness to recognize Kosovo’s sovereignty.

But changing borders in the Balkans, most observers feared, would create a precedent with the potential to undermine stability in other parts of the region.

See at: https://bit.ly/2NLL87R

The US and EU Have Both Failed Kosovo (Balkan Insight)

The only ones benefiting from the failures of Brussels and Washington in Kosovo are the autocrat Vucic and his friends in Moscow and Beijing.

It is hard to know where to begin in attempting to make sense of recent developments in the Kosovo-Serbia “dialogue”. To begin with, there is no dialogue, actually. There is, instead, an attempt by both the US and the EU to restart the long dormant talks between the two sides – but not in coordination with each other.

Judging by last week’s events, Brussels and Washington are, if anything, trying to undermine each other’s diplomatic forays in the region.

That is as much a reflection of the cavernous gap that exists between Prishtina and Belgrade, as of the fading bond between the US and the EU and the broader architecture of the Atlantic order.

As such, this is a good moment to take stock of some structural realities that have definitely come into view.

See at: https://bit.ly/3gkIqT2

Winston Churchill of the Balkans? (Weltwoche.ch)

Opinion piece by Tim Judah, a British journalist (BBC, Times, Economist) and expert on the Balkans. He has published several books on Serbia and Kosovo.

Hashim Thaci belongs to the charismatics of European politics. Some people praise him in the highest terms. Others want to see him behind bars as a war criminal. His way leads via Zurich to the top of the young state of Kosovo. Who is the controversial Kosovar President?

Hashim Thaci, the president of Kosovo, erstwhile resident of Dietikon, is relaxed and friendly. It is 2018 and I have just interviewed him about whether Kosovo and Serbia, from which it declared independence in 2008, might exchange territories. Allegations that Mr Thaci, is a mafia-kingpin and murderer, which have ebbed and flowed over the years, are not on the agenda today. As I get up to go, he asks: “Have you seen Aleksandar?”

Aleksandar? I am confused. Then he clarifies. He is talking about Aleksandar Vucic, the president of Serbia. When Hashim was in the hills fighting for independence for Albanian-majority Kosovo from Serbia in 1999, Aleksandar was Serbia’s minister for information. Now, it appears that Hashim and Aleks play it cool and unsmiling for the cameras when they are together but are on first name terms otherwise.

As the smoke cleared in the wake of NATO’s 78-day bombing of Serbia in 1999, the idea that Hashim and not Aleksandar would one day be charged with war crimes and murder would have seemed absurd. Vucic had, after all, played a key role in a Serbian extreme nationalist party whose men had already murdered and pillaged their way across Bosnia and Croatia. So, times have changed, but the charges made by the special Kosovo tribunal and revealed on June 24, have been in the works for more than twenty years.

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

Media should focus on COVID-19, not political drama (Prishtina Insight)

Despite the devastating repercussions that the coronavirus outbreak has had on people’s lives, the Kosovo media continues to focus on political games instead of discussions about how to salvage the economy.

A public survey published in June shows that the main response among people in the Balkans to the impact of COVID-19 is fear and uncertainty.

The results reveal that 90% of citizens see coronavirus as a threat to their national economy, while 70% see it as a threat to them personally. Meanwhile, 81% of businesses across the six economies say they have been affected by the spread of the coronavirus, and 68% of citizens see COVID-19 as a threat to their job.

These results also reflect the sentiments of Kosovo citizens, but in recent weeks the country’s media have focused on stories with little connection to the pandemic. 

The strategy of the new Kosovo Government to spread optimism was somehow understood as signaling the end of the deadly disease. However, the removal of restrictions on movement and the reopening of the economy does not guarantee a return to the pre-pandemic situation.

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

 

 

International

 

Kosovo Ex-Guerrillas Vow Protests Against President Thaci’s Indictment (Balkan Insight)

Former Kosovo Liberation Army fighters say they will demonstrate against the pending war crimes indictment of President Hashim Thaci and other former guerrilla chiefs, calling the charges an insult to their struggle for independence.

For more than two decades since the conflict in Kosovo ended in 1999, war veteran Xhevdet Qeriqi has been leading demonstrations to demand the rights and benefits that he says his former Kosovo Liberation Army comrades deserve.

Qeriqi said he is now ready to take to the streets again after the announcement last month that war crimes prosecutors have filed a ten-count indictment to the Hague-based Kosovo Specialist Chambers asking for the court to confirm charges against Kosovo President Hashim Thaci and nine other KLA ex-guerrillas including former parliament speaker Kadri Veseli.

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

Biden Compared Indicted War Criminal to “George Washington” (counterpunch.com)

In 2010, current Democratic Party presidential hopeful Joe Biden Jr. referred to Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) leader Hashim Thaci as the “George Washington of Kosovo.”

On June 24th, it was reported that Thaci had to cancel a trip to Washington because of his indictment by the Hague for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

These crimes ranged from murder, enforced disappearances and torture. The KLA stands accused furthermore of being criminally responsible for nearly 100 murders, whose victims included Serbs, Kosovars, Albanians and other political opponents.

Previous reports had linked Thaci to organized crime and to a human organ smuggling operation involving the selling of Serb organs that were extracted during violent interrogations.

From his perch on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden in March 1999 co-sponsored a resolution authorizing air strikes over Kosovo in support of Thaci and the KLA.

See at: https://bit.ly/2Zv3v6f

 

 

Humanitarian/Development

 

Kosovo Court Angers Unions by Blocking Salaries Law (Balkan Insight)

Public-sector unions in Kosovo voiced outrage on Tuesday over a Constitutional Court ruling that repealed the 2019 Law on Salaries, which would have increased their pay.

Unions in Kosovo on Tuesday condemned the Constitutional Court after it annulled the Law on Salaries, acting on a complaint of the Ombudsman. Under the ruling, public officials will not receive the expected salary increased in line with the law on salaries adopted in 2019.

The same law also regulated the admission of civil servants, public service employees and administrative-technical and supportive employees, based on the principles of equal opportunity, merit and integrity, non-discrimination and fair and proportionate gender and community representation.

The head of the Firefighters Union, Muharrem Beka, described the ruling as “shocking” on Facebook. Beka said firefighters had hoped for the discrimination against them to end, claiming firefighters had the lowest salary coefficient in the country.

“For the first time something positive was done for firefighters – the Law on Salaries,” Beka wrote, adding that “firefighters were once again discriminated against and harmed, but we will be persistent in fair and law-based demands”.

Similarly, the Health Trade Union Federation said at a press conference on Tuesday that the decision harmed the health workers and was an “anti-state law”.

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

Coronavirus: Austria issues travel warning for six Balkan states (BBC)

Austria has issued travel warnings for the whole of the Western Balkans, on the day the European Union added two of the six states in the region to a safe list.

Several Balkan states are seeing a spike in cases, but the 27-member EU agreed that borders could be reopened to Serbia and Montenegro.

Austria said its highest travel warning was now in place for the region.

It includes Bosnia-Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo.

The category-six warning affects all travel to the Western Balkans and recommends that Austrians return from the countries involved immediately. Those coming back will either face a 14-day quarantine or must show proof of a negative Covid-19 test.

The UK, Portugal, Sweden and Turkey are also subject to Austria’s highest warning level in Europe.

See at: https://bbc.in/2Bwo8XJ

 

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