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Belgrade Media Report 8 July 2020

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United Nations Office in Belgrade

Daily Media Highlights

Wednesday 8 July 2020

LOCAL PRESS

Brnabic: State will protect legal order (RTS)
Vucic: Negotiations with Pristina: “It will not be easy” (RTS/B92/Tanjug)
Grenell: New ideas needed to make progress on Kosovo (N1)
Dacic: Serbia will not be apologizing to anyone for convicting those who were killing Serbs (Tanjug/RTV/RTS)
Serbian Justice Ministry responds to B&H’s protest note (RTV/Tanjug)
Rebic: Police were highly restrained during protest (RTS)
Obligatory self-isolation for Montenegrin citizens entering Serbia (Tanjug)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina

SDA, HDZ B&H, SNSD leaders meet and reach agreement (BHT1)
B&H HoR adopts proposal of amendments to Election Law regarding City of Mostar (BHT1)
Diplomatic war between Belgrade and Sarajevo (O kanal)
Dodik: Only Serbia’s enemies benefit from protests (Srna)
Croatia

Minority MPs and HSLS pledge their support to HDZ (HRT)
Montenegro

CDM finds out what happened at the meeting of opposition groups (CDM)
Brajovic: Instead of making divisions, let’s unite (CDM)
Boskovic: The 2016 scenario planned again hiding under the cloak of religion (Pobjeda)
Epidemic declared in several municipalities in the north (CDM)
Republic of North Macedonia

Election Day declared state holiday in North Macedonia (MIA)
Ahmeti promotes ‘Albanian PM’ idea at Struga rally (MIA)
Albania

Electoral Reform/Second meeting with Rama did not produce any agreement with the opposition (Radio Tirana)
Electoral system change/OSCE Representative: No recommendation, sovereign decision of any state (Radio Tirana)
President urges shedding light on murder of Bytyci brothers (ADN)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

In Serbia, protests erupt as country reimposes restrictions to prevent spread of Covid-19 (Emerging Europe)

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Brnabic: State will protect legal order (RTS)

 

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said last night that she strongly condemns the vandalism of politicians who are behind the violent intrusion into the Serbian parliament at a time when the state and health system are facing the heaviest coronavirus attack since the start of the pandemic.

Since they could not enter the Parliament at the elections, they again showed their true violent face, trying to gain political points during the biggest crisis on the planet since the Second World War, Brnabic said in a written statement. She pointed out that the number of newly infected people in the world is growing every day, which is why it is important for everyone to be united and provide the necessary support to health workers who are dedicated to fighting for every life in Serbia. The Prime Minister said that the state and all its institutions will protect the legal order, as it is done in every democratically organized country.

 

Vucic: Negotiations with Pristina: “It will not be easy” (RTS/B92/Tanjug)

 

A difficult summer and autumn await us when it comes to negotiations with Pristina.

“Nobody wants to offer or give anything, but to pressure us to lose,” said President Aleksandar Vucic at a press conference. “We need unity, to be strong and rational, to understand our position in the world well, but also to be strong enough,” he says. He states that he has an important conversation with Macron on Thursday, and will ask for the EU to play a more significant role. “On Friday, we have a virtual summit that I will attend in Paris, including the presence of Angela Merkel. It will not be easy,” he added. The dialogue will continue on Sunday, and he has been announcing talks with the parties since the 15th of July on the occasion of forming the government. “What is important information is that I will start accepting minority parties first on the issue of forming the government from 15 July. I expect the government to be formed by 25 August, at the latest”, he explains. When asked whether there will be non-party figures in the government, he states that he does not divide people into party and non-party. “Will there be surprises – yes, definitely,” he added.

 

On easing the restrictions: “If someone is to blame for that – it’s me”

“Relaxing the measures was our decision, but your request,” he says, adding that many mistakes were made, that we all thought it was over and believed that it would be easier over the summer.

“We are all individually to blame for that, I am ready to accept all responsibility. Especially since the army in Novi Pazar was not engaged on time, we did not ban entry to mosques and it cost us dearly. If someone is to blame for that – I am”, he added. “Responsibility is my middle name, I don’t run away from it.”

 

Grenell: New ideas needed to make progress on Kosovo (N1)

 

The US President’s envoy for the dialogue on Kosovo, Ambassador Richard Grenell on Wednesday expressed satisfaction with the coming meeting between officials from Belgrade and Pristina and added that new and creative ideas have to be tried in order to make progress. “We are pleased to see the Europeans will convene a meeting on July 10 for further discussions with Kosovo and Serbia. We offer our total support and are grateful for their leadership. We hope the important issue of visa liberalization will be completed at this meeting,” he wrote on his Twitter account.  The ambassador added that “the US has worked hard to emphasize economic normalization between the parties because we believe it is the crucial first step for this long term political dispute”. “We hope the Europeans will make implementing the air, rail and motor agreements previously agreed upon a top priority. We believe these agreements are key to creating jobs and giving hope to young people. We have never believed in a quick election year deal between Kosovo and Serbia,” he tweeted. Grenell said that the US also “never thought our sole focus on economic normalization would be a quick fix”. “The difficult and long term political issues will be easier to confront once progress is made on the economic issues first. The international community must keep trying new and creative ideas if we are ever going to make progress. And the people of Kosovo and Serbia deserve the European’s full and constant attention,” the Twitter post said.

 

Dacic: Serbia will not be apologizing to anyone for convicting those who were killing Serbs (Tanjug/RTV/RTS)

 

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said that it is unacceptable and contrary to any kind of diplomatic practice that Monday’s protest note of the B&H Foreign Ministry was first published in the media and then sent to Belgrade. He added that the protest note was sent via email. Dacic also stressed that Serbia will not be apologizing to anyone for convicting those who were killing Serbs. “Since the Serbian Foreign Ministry was informed by Ambassador Aida Smajic that she had been invited to consultations in Sarajevo, as a reaction to such a procedure, I invited the Ambassador of Serbia to B&H Aleksandar Djordjevic for urgent consultations in Belgrade.

Therefore, he will not be able to respond to the invitation for the meeting with Sefik Dzaferovic and will return to Sarajevo only after the B&H Ambassador returns to Belgrade,” Dacic told Tanjug. Dacic assessed that the diplomatic note from B&H represents interference in work of Serbian judicial authorities, which he finds unacceptable, especially in the case of war crimes.

“I am posing the question whether crimes committed against the Serbs are less important and whether they should remain unpunished? The fight against the impunity of crimes is one of the fundamental principles of the modern legal order and the rule of law. Why has B&H, if it says that the issue is within their competence, not prosecuted Mujanovic, so far, for crimes committed over Serbs in Sarajevo, who was the camp warden in Hrasnica, who unlawfully imprisoned 30 Serb civilians, which were brutally tortured and several of them were killed?”, asked Dacic

 

Serbian Justice Ministry responds to B&H’s protest note (RTV/Tanjug)

 

The Serbian Justice Ministry responded to B&H’s protest note that according to the Serbian Constitution, public prosecutions and courts are independent in their work and proceed in line with laws, confirmed international contracts and generally acceptable rules of international law.

“Serbia is indubitably committed to the fight against impunity for the most brutal crimes against humanity”. The statement reads that judicial authorities of Serbia showed readiness to equally prosecute all persons, regardless of their nationality or ethnic affiliation. Taking this into consideration, the protest sent by B&H is an attempt to politicize the fight against war crimes, which in Serbia is in the hands of the judiciary, not in the hands of daily politics, reads the statement.

 

Rebic: Police were highly restrained during protest (RTS)

 

Police Director Vladimir Rebic told the morning news of Radio and Television of Serbia (RTS) that the police reaction was “highly restrained” during the overnight protests which turned violent. “I think the police was restrained to the extreme. We used physical force only when it was used against us, we were highly restrained using chemicals (teargas) at around 11:00 pm and finally the cavalry had to intervene. We managed to disperse them and we’ll use video recordings to identify the perpetrators of violence,” he said. He said that 23 protesters had been arrested, five police vehicles were set ablaze and three police horses were injured. According to Rebic, the outcome of the unrest is “extremely serious”. “We have 43 injured police personnel, the number is probably higher because the ones with light injuries did not report them. We have information that 17 protesters have been injured,” he said, adding that 23 people, who he called hooligans, had been arrested.  Rebic said that former Dveri Movement MP Srdjan Nogo and Damnjan Knezevic, one of the founders of the nationalist anti-migrant patrols, were responsible for the protesters breaking into parliament. He said the police would investigate to discover who organized the protests. Rebic said he was surprised that the police were stoned and added that the gathering was spontaneous with police reinforcements brought in when the crowd became aggressive.   He said there were some 200 police officers dealing with the protest.

 

Obligatory self-isolation for Montenegrin citizens entering Serbia (Tanjug)

 

On the basis of evaluation of the current epidemiological situation in the region, the Serbian government made a decision to impose a mandatory self-isolation in the duration of 14 days for all citizens of Montenegro entering Serbia. These persons are required to report upon entering Serbia an address where they will be staying in next two weeks so that the authorities could monitor whether the measure of obligatory self-isolation is respected. The Serbian government will continue to monitor with the utmost care the development of the epidemiological situation caused by the coronavirus both in the country and the region. The government appeals once again to all citizens to respect the measures and be responsible towards themselves and others.

During the afternoon, two planes from China landed at Belgrade Nikola Tesla airport, bringing medical supplies and protective equipment. One plane arrived from Shanghai and the other from Tianjin, near Beijing.

 

REGIONAL PRESS

 

SDA, HDZ B&H, SNSD leaders meet and reach agreement (BHT1)

 

SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic, HDZ Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) leader Dragan Covic and SNSD leader Milorad Dodik held a meeting in Istocno Sarajevo on Tuesday, at which they announced that the budget of B&H for 2020 will be adopted until 21 July, while amendments to the Election Law of B&H with regard to Mostar will be adopted on Wednesday respecting the interests of Serbs. Other issues such as the appointments of directors of the state institutions remained unresolved. This time, SDA and HDZ B&H disagree about the appointment of Director of the B&H Indirect Taxation Authority (ITA) because both parties are interested in this post. Izetbegovic stated: “Agreement was reached about Mostar, about the budget and about the appointments, except for the B&H ITA. Mr. (Selmo) Cikotic will be nominated by Chairman of the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) (Zoran) Tegeltija on Thursday and then the process of appointments will start.” He added that he will try to reach an agreement with the Croat side so that the Bosniak side gets the post of the B&H ITA Director after all. Covic said that they did not reach an agreement about anything, but “we are basically keeping the current situation when it comes to all those posts that we marked as special, say 36 plus six of them.” Covic stressed that it is unacceptable for HDZ B&H “to share the B&H ITA with anyone”. “It is for Croats and it will be for Croats until we agree otherwise,” he said. Dodik said that Tegeltija is now expected to put on the agenda all the appointments for which the procedure has been already completed. “We are interested in the B&H Intelligence and Security Agency (OSA), the State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA),” he said. SDA and SNSD reached an agreement that they will not block each other’s appointments, but HDZ B&H stated that it will not support the appointment of SDA’s candidate Selmo Cikotic to the post of B&H Minister of Security. According to Dodik, the elections in B&H may be held in December due to disputable appointments at leading posts in state institutions and agencies. Addressing the media following the meeting, Izetbegovic said that progress was achieved after all. He added that there is a problem on the Croat side that is irritated by appointments in the B&H Central Election Commission (CEC).

 

B&H HoR adopts proposal of amendments to Election Law regarding City of Mostar (BHT1)

 

Late on Tuesday night the B&H House of Representatives adopted in urgent procedure the proposal of amendments to the Election Law of B&H with regard to City Mostar. The B&H House of Peoples is expected to discuss the proposal on Wednesday. The harmonized model of changes to the election rules for Mostar implies the election of 22 councilors from six constituencies – two councilors from the north, five from the Old Town, two from the southeast, two from the south, seven from the southwest and four from the west. Another 13 councilors will be elected from the city list. Out of the 35 MPs who attended the session, 20 voted for adoption, nine voted against adoption and six abstained from voting. MPs from SDA and HDZ B&H filed a request for changing of the B&H Election Law, while SDP B&H MPs criticized this agreement and sent their proposal of changes to the B&H Election Law. Head of the SDP B&H Caucus Sasa Magazinovic said during the discussion that MPs actually discussed a request for urgent procedure related to the election law regarding Mostar which SDA and HDZ B&H agreed. He stated that the proponent should explain why MPs were not allowed to discuss this and why the urgent procedure was applied. SDP B&H MP Nermin Niksic said during the discussion that this party finds ignoring institutions of B&H in a way that negotiations were carried out only with two parties who are the cause and not the solution of the problem for 20 years, unacceptable.

NS MP Damir Arnaut said that this proposal is missing something and that is how and when the local elections in Mostar will be held. He reminded that the B&H Central Election Commission (CEC) already called the local elections and that the CEC already defined deadlines and that “now, there is no a legal option, i.e. this proposal does not give the CEC a legal option to define other deadlines for the purpose of local elections in Mostar this year”. Head of SDS-PDP Caucus Mirko Sarovic said that they support adoption of this kind of a law after so many years, adding that “this solution is not good, especially for representatives of the Serb community in Mostar”.

Deputy speaker of the B&H HoR Borjana Kristo said that the goal to implement a decision of the B&H CC for the city of Mostar rendered in 2010 is the reason for adoption of the law. She reminded that the CC defined provisions that are discriminatory in relation to the International Covenant of Civic and Political Rights. Kristo said that after the B&H Parliament failed to meet its obligation in terms of realization of their decision, the CC put the aforementioned provisions – that are not in line with the B&H Constitution – out of force in 2012. Head of the DF Caucus Dzenan Djonlagic said that the proposal of the law did not define special deadlines for holding of the local elections in Mostar. SDA MP Alma Colo said that as a responsible MP, she wants to enable people in Mostar to vote in elections. Colo reminded that the elections in Mostar were not held since 2008, adding that “she is guilty, (SDA’s) Halid Genjac is guilty, (HDZ B&H’s) Nikola Lovrinovic is guilty and not the wrong system that created all this”. Colo added that they want to fix this and enable the right to vote in the City of Mostar.

 

Diplomatic war between Belgrade and Sarajevo (O kanal)

 

Diplomatic war between Belgrade and Sarajevo broke out on Tuesday, following the convicting verdict of the Higher Court in Belgrade to wartime commander of the “RB&H” Army Husein Mujanovic. B&H Minister of Foreign Affairs Bisera Turkovic sent a protest note to Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs after Mujanovic was sentenced to 10 years in prison for alleged war crimes committed in B&H in Belgrade on Monday. Turkovic also sent a letter to EU Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Oliver Varhelyi and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, expressing dissatisfaction over disrespect Serbia shows through violation of the previously signed agreements dealing with the issue of war crime court processes. Turkovic warned that such a policy of Serbia is opposite to the EU Charter and asked Serbia to consider investing efforts to stop the previous practice of war crime criminal proceedings against B&H citizens before Serbian courts. Commenting on the reaction of Croat member of B&H Presidency Zeljko Komsic to the verdict rendered by the Higher Court in Belgrade to Mujanovic on Monday, Serb member of B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik stated that it is high time that Komsic stops teaching Serbia a lesson, because he has no right to do that and he only problematizes relations between B&H with Serbia instead of contributing to good-neighborly relations. According to Dodik, interfering with judiciary of a sovereign country such as Serbia can only have negative and destabilizing effect on good-neighborly relations. Turkovic has invited B&H Ambassador to Serbia Aida Smajic for urgent consultations on the occasion of the first-instant verdict of the Higher Court in Belgrade in the case of Mujanovic. Chairman of the B&H Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic also invited Serbian Ambassador to B&H Aleksandar Djordjevic for an urgent meeting on this occasion. However, the meeting was cancelled because Djordjevic was also invited for urgent consultations in Belgrade.

 

Dodik: Only Serbia’s enemies benefit from protests (Srna)

 

Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik has said that protests in Serbia are directed at destabilizing Serbia and its regional and international positions and that only enemies of Serbia and the Serbian people benefit from them. Dodik called on all participants of last night’s protests to come to their senses, saying that the street is not a place where any problems can be solved, says a press release from the office of the Serb member of the B&H Presidency. “All problems, if there are any, should be resolved in institutions, by democratic means, and not by violence and destruction of one’s own city and property. No one likes violence and this is something Serbia needs the least at the moment,” Dodik said. He has said that all political forces in Serbia should gather and fight the coronavirus pandemic together, and every protest in the streets reduces this possibility and jeopardizes Serbia’s position, its strength and power, particularly in the upcoming negotiations with Pristina. The Serb B&H Presidency member says that the coronavirus pandemic hit the whole world, and not only Serbia, and that all countries introduce certain measures depending on the epidemiological situation. “Serbia did not introduce measures out of a whim but only with one goal in mind – to curb the spread of the coronavirus and protect the health of citizens. Hence, this is not and cannot be a cause for any disorders. State institutions are a place to present and resolve all problems,” Dodik said.

 

Minority MPs and HSLS pledge their support to HDZ (HRT)

 

Minority MPs also announced plans to talk with the HDZ about the possibility of assuming one of the ministerial positions in the new government. Eight minority representatives in the new, tenth parliamentary assembly, met in the parliament building, where they agreed to support the HDZ and Andrej Plenkovic in forming a new government. The representative for the Czech and Slovak minorities Vladimir Bilek: “Following comprehensive talks we decided to give our support the election winners, and in that way, once the official election results are published, provide Andrej Plenkovic the signatures needed to be able to request from the President a mandate for forming the new government.” Meanwhile, the head of the Social-Liberal Party, Dario Hrebak, met with Plenkovic in the government building today, pledging his party’s two seats in parliament in support of the future HDZ-led coalition government. As opposed to the minority MPs the HSLS feels that two seats in parliament do not constitute enough leverage to demand a ministerial post in the new government. Negotiations on who will be named to head up which ministry, meaning who will stay on from the last government and who will be let go, are ongoing. However, one thing has become clear, and that is that there will be less ministries than before.

 

CDM finds out what happened at the meeting of opposition groups (CDM)

 

Things got heated again at the meeting of the parliamentary opposition groups yesterday. They tried to agree on running on a joint slate in the forthcoming parliamentary elections, but as the agreement failed to happen, they will give it another try today. The Democratic Front, DF, proposed today a single list for the elections in August, while the Democrats proposed a boycott, CDM learns from a well-informed source. However, as everybody was against the boycott of the elections, the Democrats decided to give it up and accept a single list, requiring that it [the list] must not include MPs with three mandates in the parliament, as the problem is not in the list but in people on it. Representatives of the DF then reacted strongly, noting that it was not an acceptable solution for them as it excluded its leaders, but were ready to discuss other models.

The proposal of the Democrats was backed by the Social People’s Party, SNP, and the United Montenegro. “Then, in one moment, all parties accepted to have a single list, i.e. the DF, SNP, the Democrats, the United Montenegro and even Demos.” But representatives of URA had something to say – they could not accept it, as they didn’t want to go hand in hand with the DF. Their proposal was to have the opposition on one list and URA to boycott the elections. URA then faced fierce criticism of all the parties that were at the meeting, and was told that either they would negotiate running on a joint slate in the elections or none of them would take part.

 

Brajovic: Instead of making divisions, let’s unite (CDM)

 

The position of Social Democrats is clear: a clear policy leads to the development of a civic society in which we at least can agree that we do not agree on certain matters in the most challenging times. And therefore: instead of just talking – let’s do something, instead of making division – let’s unite, instead of fighting – let’s talk in a decent and convenient way, the leader of Social Democrats, Ivan Brajovic, noted. He reflected on their independent running for the parliamentary elections in August, stressing that the support of people to his party, according to all available data, was going to double this time. “It will happen as an outcome of our achievements in almost all areas managed by us. In fact, according to results of the local elections held over the past four years, Social Democrats now have full support of citizens almost twice the one we had in the last 2016 parliamentary elections,” Brajovic added.

 

Boskovic: The 2016 scenario planned again hiding under the cloak of religion (Pobjeda)

 

What’s happening these days and the way in which some structures wish to subdue Montenegro to the Belgrade’s and Moscow’s regime is just a perfidious game played under the cloak of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Defense Minister Predrag Boskovic said in the parliament. “All their attempts from 2006 to this day, with the same matrix, a little bit different logistics and usage of different proxies in Montenegro, primarily the political parties, proved to be miserable and condemned as a disaster,” underlined Boskovic during the debate on the proposal for the law on military intelligence and security affairs. Before his statement, the Democratic Front MP, Jovan Vucurovic, told that some structures were rushing to pass the law thus aiming to “set up another structure of state security service close to the Democratic Party of Socialists” ahead of some significant events in Montenegro. Reacting on these assessments, Boskovic noted that the 2016 scenario has been repeating just under somewhat different circumstances, adding that the citizens of Montenegro have been well aware of it. “On 30 August, they [citizens] will vote for what is best for themselves and their families and what leads them to a civilized society,” said the Minister, adding that the debate represented mostly a political campaign, whereas the proposal for the law was least tackled.

 

Epidemic declared in several municipalities in the north (CDM)

 

Due to a constant rise in the number of coronavirus infections, the National Coordination Body has decided today the epidemic in several municipalities in the Northern region. The work of cafes, except those in the coast, from now on is limited until 10 pm. Hospitality venues on the coast will work until midnight, announced the National Coordination Body. “The continuous increase in the number of new coronavirus cases across the entire country, with particularly endangered Northern and Central region, and the fact that an increasing number of patients fail to reliably identify the source of infection, points out to a widespread local transmission of the virus in certain areas. That is why the National Coordination Body gave consent to the Ministry of Health to declare an epidemic of infectious disease on the territory of the following municipalities: Bijelo Polje, Berane, Petnjica, Rozaje and Gusinje.”

 

Countries on the ‘green list’

Upon the proposal of the Public Health Institute, NCB has decided to allow British residents to enter Montenegro without any additional requirements, i.e. to include the United Kingdom on the “green list” of countries which also includes the EU Member States. “Respecting the economic needs of Montenegro and following the consultations with the competent state epidemiological services and reached agreement on the established measures to control passengers during boarding and disembarkation, NCB has decided to allow entry in Montenegro to residents of Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Ukraine and Belarus, who do not show symptoms and signs of coronavirus infection and meet other requirements prescribed by the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism,” they concluded.

 

Election Day declared state holiday in North Macedonia (MIA)

 

The government at a session on Tuesday passed a conclusion declaring Election Day (July 15) a state holiday to allow election-related processes as part of the early parliamentary elections to be conducted appropriately, it said in a press release. Employees will not be required to work extra hours as a result. Also, the government adopted the protocol for daycare centers for children and people with disabilities on how they should operate amid the Covid-19 epidemic. Ministers also adopted changes to the protocol envisaging conditions for the organization of events exclusively outdoors. Furthermore, the government verified a text of a memorandum of understanding and technical agreements for service support between the Republic of North Macedonia, represented by the Defence Ministry, and the NATO Communications and Information Organization, represented by Communications and Information Agency of the Alliance. The memorandum and the technical agreement cover consultation services, command, control, communications, intelligence and surveillance, stated the press release.

 

Ahmeti promotes ‘Albanian PM’ idea at Struga rally (MIA)

 

Red lines have been drawn for everyone trying to annul or deny the Ohrid Accord, the Prespa Agreement and the Friendship Treaty with Bulgaria, DUI leader Ali Ahmeti told an election rally in Struga on Tuesday evening. In his speech, Ahmeti said there were people who were skeptical of DUI’s ideas and people who didn’t believe they could have achievements. “You all know that the Albanians had been dreaming of Skanderbeg being in a small portion of this country. If you had asked anybody 30 years ago whether a monument of our national hero could be erected in downtown Skopje, they would have told you that you had lost your mind” Ahmeti said, also mentioning the monuments of Isa Boletini and Hasan Prishtina in Skopje. “Albanian PM is not possible? Why not? No one can seem to know how to answer it, but they are terrified of the idea,” the DUI leader told the rally.

 

Electoral Reform/ The second meeting with PM Rama did not produce any agreement with the opposition (Radio Tirana)

 

The meeting between Prime Minister Edi Rama and the parliamentary opposition lasted about 60 minutes. The focus has been on the application of open lists in the upcoming parliamentary elections. But the meeting did not produce any agreement. Parliamentary opposition MP Rudin Hajdari said after the meeting that she had strongly insisted on this point. “Rama would do it for the country if he accepted the open lists” said Ms. Hajdari. According to her, this is required by 75 percent of Albanians. For his part, Prime Minister Edi Rama said that the Socialist Party has made concessions in the implementation of electoral reform and that the parties should be taught to make concessions as they request. He stated that the basis of electoral reform is the agreement between the SP and the PD and the SMI. “We do not have an agreement on the constitutional package. I want to give a clear message. It is true that the vast majority of citizens want to have more influence in the process. So also, express preferences for the candidates, not only for the party leaders. Current opposition lawmakers need to get used to the idea that they must overcome this obstacle. We have made a big concession to the DP so far.” – said Rama. He has previously stated that he does not support open lists or even coalitions. “Rama has the agreement with the out of -parliament opposition,” said MP Murrizi, who stated his group’s decision not to make concessions to vote on the reform.

 

Electoral system change/OSCE Representative: No recommendation, sovereign decision of any state (Radio Tirana)

 

The OSCE Representative on Albania, Electoral Reform Adviser Florian Hobdar, present at the joint meeting of the Legislative Council and the Committee on Legal Affairs, Public Administration and Human Rights stated that the OSCE has no position or preference over the selection of the system by a participating state. This is why ODIHR does not issue recommendations regarding system change or modification. The selection of the electoral system is a sovereign decision of each state, provided that the system is in line with OSCE commitments and other international standards – guaranteeing, in particular, respect for the basic principles of the OSCE, such as: universal suffrage “Equal, free and secret.” “If an OSCE participating State decides to change the electoral system, we can provide support for the process through. According to all the best international practices this process should start at least one year before the next elections and should be comprehensive and transparent,” he said. “From the point of view of legal review, the Assembly is more than welcome to send to ODIHR an official written request for comments on the draft law – of course, taking into account the time it would take ODIHR to provide opinion (this can fluctuate from a few days to a week after receiving the request),” he added. “The OSCE Presence in Albania, in close cooperation with the ODIHR office in Warsaw, continues to be ready to provide technical expertise on all election-related topics, as well as to assist local authorities in implementing decisions they choose to make,” Hobdar concluded.

 

President urges shedding light on murder of Bytyci brothers (ADN)

 

Albanian President Ilir Meta has urged shedding light on the murder of three brothers Bytyci, the martyrs of “Atlantiku” Battalion. This call of President Meta for brothers Bytyci, the honor of the glorious history of Kosovo Liberation Army, came this Wednesday, July 8, which marks 21th anniversary of their murder. “Every 8 July, Albanian nation honors with respect and gratitude the memory, work and sublime sacrifice of the Martyrs of the “Atlantiku” Battalion, brothers Agron, Mehmet and Ylli Bytyci, the honor of the glorious history of the Kosovo Liberation Army and the pride of the Albanian-American community. Although 21 years have passed since their treacherous murder, unfortunately there is still no progress in shedding light on this monstrous crime! Bringing justice without hindrance and procrastination will not only alleviate the great pain of the beloved Bytyci family, but will make a valuable contribution for more peace, security and democracy in our region. The Bytyci brothers, with the extraordinary example of the most sublime sacrifice in the name of patriotism and the highest human ideals, who brought a free and independent Kosovo, will always inspire and educate the new generations. Because freedom and independence are not given once and for all. Gratitude to our Diaspora in the US for the excellent contribution given to the liberation of Kosovo and the Albanian cause over the decades, building bridges of cooperation between our two peoples and countries, preserving traditions and developing strong ties between Americans and Albanians. Eternal glory be to the Martyrs of the heroic war of the people of Kosovo, as well as to our entire nation!” Meta stressed.

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

In Serbia, protests erupt as country reimposes restrictions to prevent spread of Covid-19 (Emerging Europe, by Nikola Đorđević, 8 July 2020)

 

An alarming rise in the number of new Covid-19 infections has forced Serbia to reintroduce restrictive measures to try and halt the spread of the virus, but many ordinary people in the country are unhappy at once again foregoing their personal freedoms, and at what many believe was a government cover up to hide the real number of cases in order to hold a parliamentary election. On the evening of July 7, clashes erupted in the capital Belgrade between protesters and the police, as thousands gathered to show their disapproval with the Serb authorities ahead of a new curfew in the city this weekend. The protesters stormed Serbia’s parliament building around 10pm before being pushed back by the police some 15 minutes later. According to reports from local media, a large quantity of tear gas was used, and a video has emerged of police violently beating protesters doing nothing more than sitting on a bench. Government officials however have condemned the protests as irresponsible. “Organising any kind of political protest during a time when our hospitals are overflowing with infected would be the height of irresponsibility. Those who are calling for demonstrations and protests will have accept responsibility for the health of the citizens they are gathering,” said Deputy Prime Minister Zorana Mihajlović.

President Aleksndar Vučić had announced the new restrictions during a televised address earlier in the day. About the curfew, he expressed his support for a nationwide lockdown, but stated that the final decision will rest with health experts. When coronavirus first appeared in the country in March, Serbia was quick to introduce what were some of the most restrictive measures in the region in order to the control the spread of the virus. In May, most restrictions were lifted, and life returned almost to normal ahead of a parliamentary election, held on June 21 and won, by a wide margin, by Mr Vučić’s Serbian Progressive party. Soon after the election was over, however, the number of new cases and a rise in deaths prompted the government to begin reintroducing some restrictive measures. July 7 was a particularly bad day, with 299 new cases and 13 deaths, the highest number of fatalities recorded on a single day since the virus was first detected in Serbia on March 6. To handle the influx of new patients, a field hospital has been opened in the Belgrade Arena. Gatherings of more than five people have once again been banned in the city, both outdoors and indoors. Many opposition politicians have criticised the government for lifting the initial restrictions too soon, accusing them of doing so in order to ensure that the election could be held. During that time, masks were recommended, but not mandatory. Coffee shops and restaurants, as well as night clubs, operated normally. A derby match between the Belgrade football clubs Partizan and Crvena Zvezda was held with thousands of people in attendance. According to reports from the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN), the total number of Covid-19 cases and deaths has been suppressed, although government representatives have denied this. However, according to BIRN, there could be as many as 388 more deaths than those officially reported. Many Serbs therefore believe that they were lied too by the government, and much of the anger that caused the Belgrade protests can be attributed to the high amount of distrust that Serbs have in the authorities, and their inability to deal with the pandemic. “My father died of Covid-19 because there was no adequate medical equipment in Serbia’s hospitals to treat him,” said one protester. The new uptick in infections and deaths has also hit areas outside of the capital, including the city of Novi Pazar. Hospitals have reported an overflow of patients, and a video has surfaced from the general hospital in the city showing overcrowded conditions with some patients receiving treatment in hallways.

According to local media reports, there are 363 patients in the Novi Pazar general hospital, and eight people are on ventilators. Prime Minister Ana Brnabić and Health Minister Zlatibor Lončar visited the city on June 30, but were met with protests from some medical staff who symbolically turned their backs on the pair. The worrying rise in new Covid-19 cases is not restricted to Serbia. Across the Western Balkan, most countries have seen spikes, notably Kosovo, which has reimposed local lockdowns, and North Macedonia. Even Montenegro, which declared itself “free” of the coronavirus in June, now has 570 active cases. In Romania, Covid-19 is also once again getting out of control, with 550 new cases reported on July 8, and 31 deaths: the most for any day since the pandemic began. On July 6, two MPs from Romania’s opposition Social Democratic party were fined for refusing to wear masks in a fast-food restaurant. Masks remain mandatory in all public indoor spaces in the country.

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