Albanian Language Media:
- Hoti’s office: Measures in the north in coordination with Kosovo institutions (Telegrafi)
- Osmani: SL’s call, unconstitutional and against Kosovo’s sovereignty (media)
- CDHRF calls on Hoti to dismiss Rakic following coronavirus measures (media)
- Oxygen supply problems reported in clinic treating Covid-19 patients (Koha/Klan)
- Roth: EU to deliver visa liberalisation to Kosovo, land swap dangerous (Telegrafi)
- French presidency gives details of Macron-Hoti meeting (RTK)
- Justice demanded for the murder of Bytyqi brothers 21 years ago (media)
- Thaci visits Veseli’s family home (media)
Serbian Language Media:
- Vucic to address the nation at 3pm (media)
- Pisonero: Restrictive measures must not affect fundamental rights, public order must be guaranteed (media)
- Vucic on negotiations with Pristina: “It will not be easy” (B92, Tanjug)
- Grenell: We never believed in a quick agreement between Kosovo and Serbia in the election year (Blic)
- Djuric: An attempt to destabilize Serbia will not pass on the eve of the key phase of the fight for Kosovo (Kosovo Online)
- “Reactions of people showed what they think about measures, to discuss it at Crisis Staff meeting” (N1)
- Serbian Health Minister says decision on lockdown in next two days (FoNet, N1)
- Four more coronavirus cases in central Kosovo (Radio Mitrovica North)
- Northern Kosovo under quarantine as of last night, curfew from 9 pm to 5 am (KoSSev)
- 53 new Covid-19 infection cases registered in Serb-populated areas yesterday (Radio KIM)
- Rakic and Jevtic: We will stand up for property of Visoki Decani and Serbian Orthodox Church (Radio KIM)
- Two voices on Kosovo (balcanicaucaso.org)
- China Has Overtaken Russia as Serbia’s Great Ally (Balkan Insight)
- Violent protests in Serbia as Vučić announces another lockdown after weeks of alleged pre-election cover-ups (EWB)
- Stalled Serbia-Kosovo Dialogue Set to Resume in July (Balkan Insight)
- Coronavirus: Airborne transmission cannot be ruled out, WHO says (BBC)
- Roma Inclusion in Balkans Depends on Governments Recognising Antigypsyism (Balkan Insight)
- Activists rejoice as water returns to Lumbardhi (Prishtina Insight)
- The Rise of Religious Radicalisation among Diaspora Albanians (Balkan Insight)
Albanian Language Media
Hoti’s office: Measures in the north in coordination with Kosovo institutions (Telegrafi)
Officials from Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti’s office have commented on the recent measures taken by four municipalities in the north as part of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic saying they are in full coordination with Kosovo institutions.
“This issue should not be politicised. Actions are jointly taken with institutions and the Government of the Republic of Kosovo,” PM Hoti’s office said.
Osmani: SL’s call, unconstitutional and against Kosovo’s sovereignty (media)
Kosovo Assembly Speaker Vjosa Osmani has reacted to a statement issued by the Serbian List pledging to respect epidemiological measures taken by authorities in Belgrade and to also support Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic “in the upcoming political and diplomatic fight for Kosovo and Metohija.”
Osmani wrote on Twitter: “Even if we leave the issue of covid19 measures aside, this call by LS (a partner in Kosovo Gov) to support Serbia’s position politically & diplomatically, is a call against Kosovo’s constitutional order & sovereignty.”
Meanwhile, on Facebook, Osmani called on all political parties in Kosovo to support the adoption of a resolution calling on the government to dismiss all its representatives who “joined Vucic in a political and diplomatic campaign against our country.”
CDHRF calls on Hoti to dismiss Rakic following coronavirus measures (media)
The Kosovo-based Council for Human Rights and Freedoms (CDHRF) has called on Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti to dismiss Deputy Prime Minister Goran Rakic following the reintroduction of movement restriction measures in four municipalities in the north of Kosovo.
CDHRF argued in a statement to the media that Serbian authorities reintroduced measures which also geographically affected a part of Kosovo through the Serbian List led by Rakic. “Goran Rakic, leader of SL and deputy prime minister in the Hoti government declared a state of emergency in Kosovo municipalities not based on a decision of Prime Minister Hoti and Health Minister Zemaj but according to a decision of Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic,” CDHRF said.
“Prime Minister Hoti should dismiss Goran Rakic for the fact that he, and the party he leads – the Serbian List, serve the interests of Serbia,” the statement reads.
Oxygen supply problems reported in clinic treating Covid-19 patients (Koha/Klan)
Koha reports that 15 Covid-19 patients receiving care in the sports medicine ward of the Clinical University Centre in Pristina had their therapy of medical oxygen cut off for a period of half an hour due to a defect in the supply.
A source told Koha that the doctors immediately reported the problem and the oxygen supply was stabilised. The news website also says that it is feared a similar defect resulted in the death of five Covid-19 patients on 5 July.
At the same time, the Hospital and University Clinical Service of Kosovo (SHSKUK) said the oxygen supply is stable and under constant monitoring, Klan Kosova reports.
SHSKUK called on the media to be cautious in their reporting and not create panic.
Roth: EU to deliver visa liberalisation to Kosovo, land swap dangerous (Telegrafi)
Michael Roth, Germany’s Minister of State for Europe, said that the Western Balkans is a priority for the German presidency of the EU and that peace and reconciliation in the region are a real test for the success of the European model.
Roth said that with regards to Kosovo, the EU needs to deliver on its promise for visa liberalisation and also warned against the territorial exchange idea as part of the Kosovo-Serbia agreement.
“We need to breathe new life into the normalization dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo. Because we need sustainable conflict solutions – not dangerous ‘deals’ that with border exchange fantasies risk opening up a particularly conflict prone Pandora’s box,” he said.
French presidency gives details of Macron-Hoti meeting (RTK)
The French Presidency has issued a statement following the meeting between President Emmanuel Macron with Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti saying that they discussed revival of the dialogue for normalisation of relations between Kosovo and Serbia as the “key element for the stability and the security of the Western Balkans and the respective prospects for accession to the European Union of the two countries.”
“On the initiative of the President of the Republic and the German Chancellor, a summit will be held on July 10 by videoconference to relaunch the dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo, interrupted 18 months ago, and allow the European Union to facilitate the solution of their disputes.”
The summit, said the French presidency, will follow that of Berlin on April 29, 2019. “It will be the result of the steps that France and Germany have taken together with Serbia and Kosovo, with the aim of consolidating stability in the Balkans and strengthening their ties with the European Union.”
Justice demanded for the murder of Bytyqi brothers 21 years ago (media)
The U.S. Embassy in Serbia has commemorated the anniversary of the murders of Albanian-American brothers – Ylli, Agron and Mehmet Bytyqi, who were detained in 1999 by Serbian forces in Kosovo and whose bodies were found two years later at a mass grave in Serbia.
“The United States will not forget their deaths, nor stop in our pursuit of justice. We repeat our call to Serbian authorities, who have promised to assist in this case over the years, for a resolution to this case. Obtaining justice for the family of the Bytyqi brothers remains a priority in our bilateral relationship with Serbia,” the Embassy said.
Kosovo leaders meanwhile paid respects to Bytyqi brothers who fought alongside the Kosovo Liberation Army.
President of Kosovo Hashim Thaci said that not only has Serbia failed to punish authors of the crime but has promoted them to senior posts. “All the monstrous crimes against the Albanian population were planned and executed by the state of Serbia,” Thaci said.
Leader of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) Ramush Haradinaj also demanded justice be served for the Bytyqi family saying the three brothers joined the liberation war in the most decisive moments and gave it a new dimension.
Thaci visits Veseli’s family home (media)
President of Kosovo Hashim Thaci visited the family of Kadri Veseli, leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK).
Captioning the picture of him and Veseli’s parents, Thaci said he visited “Kadri’s home, blood brother of the war.”
Serbian Language Media
Vucic to address the nation at 3pm (media)
Media reports that President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic will address the nation today, quoting the announcement of the Office for Media relations of the President of Serbia.
It is announced that Vucic will address the nation at 3 pm, in the building of the General Secretariat of the President of the Republic on the Andricev venac.
Recall that the President of Serbia also addressed the public on Tuesday, through a press conference, which started at 6 pm, where he announced that curfew would be reintroduced in Belgrade from Friday to Monday.
This allegedly triggered the citizens’ gathering in front of the Assembly of Serbia. Media reported that it started as a peaceful protest but turned into violence and conflicts with the police.
The director of the police today said that ”after half an hour it was clear in which direction the situation would go, especially when a group of hooligans blocked the passage of the ambulance”.
“I have no other words than hooligans,” Rebic said and pointed out that the police refrained from using force until the end.
Regional broadcaster N1 reported that several small groups of protesters clashed with police in riot gear who repeatedly fired tear gas but failed to chase the crowd away. Gendarmerie armored vehicles were seen arriving minutes after the first tear gas was fired. N1 covered the protest live unlike the state TV (RTS) and other pro-government stations.
The crowd of several hundred people tore down the metal barrier fence, lighting torches on the steps leading up to the entrance before a group managed to break into the building. Reporters at the site of the protest said that the police intervened and managed to push them out after about 15 minutes.
Groups of protesters withdrew into the park in front of the Serbian Presidency building across the street from parliament, resisting attempts to push them back. Live footage showed the police beating several people. Mounted police and officers in riot gear with dogs were also deployed to disperse the crowd, reported N1.
The crowd shouted insults against the Serbian president and blew whistles, a tradition at protests in Serbia since the 1990s. Some in the crowd said they came to Belgrade from Novi Sad, Zrenjanin and other places.
An N1 reporter was told by people in the crowd that they were provoked by the president’s announcement of more restrictive measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic. They said that they didn’t mind the curfew as much as the fact that the authorities lied to them and allowed the elections to go ahead as well as football matches with fans in the stadiums, parties and celebrations.
N1 reported that similar protests on a much smaller scale were staged in Novi Sad and Kragujevac with fresh protests scheduled for Wednesday.
Top Serbian officials condemned last night’s protests
A number of top Serbian state officials condemned what they said was an assault on parliament, adding that the state would use force to respond to force, reported regional broadcaster N1.
N1 reported that PM Ana Brnabic condemned what she said was vandalism organized by opposition politicians.
“I most sharply condemn the vandalism by the politicians who are behind the violent entry into the Serbian parliament at a moment when our state and health system are faced with the hardest strike of the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic,” the state TV (RTS) reported her as saying. The prime minister said that the state and its institutions will protect legal order just as every democratic country does.
Parliament Speaker Maja Gojkovic, who was hospitalized after testing positive for the novel coronavirus, condemned the “savagery” in Belgrade.
“The images of savagery we saw and the blocking of an ambulance when many of our citizens are fighting Covid-19 are impermissible and can in no way contribute to preserving the health of the citizens,” she is quoted as saying in a press release. As one of the people with Covid-19 I know how hard this disease is, she said adding that “while they are destroying Belgrade, doctors and nurses are fighting for lives”. Gojkovic blamed President Aleksandar Vucic’s opponents for the violence.
Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin said that Serbia must respond to force by force and punish all the politicians who called for violence. “Every politician who calls for violence and every bully who destroyed Belgrade last night must be found and punished or Serbia has no democracy. Serbia must respond to force with the force of the law,” Vulin is quoted as saying in a Defense Ministry press release. “The state of Serbia must prove that it is ruled by law not by bullies and politicians who can enter parliament only by force,” he said.
Deputy Prime Minister Zorana Mihajlovic called on the population to refrain from violence of any kind and abide by the measures introduced by the pandemic Crisis Staff. “I am calling all citizens not to resort to any kind of violence! Wearing masks, keeping distance and being responsible for our own health and that of others is the only way to fight this rampant corona epidemic,” a statement said. She said that any attempt at political abuse of the epidemic situation is a gamble with the health of the population. “Organizing any kind of political protest when our hospitals are full of infected people is the height of irresponsibility,” she said.
Pisonero: Restrictive measures must not affect fundamental rights, public order must be guaranteed (media)
European Commission spokeswoman Ana Pisonero told N1 on Tuesday that restrictive measures introduced to combat the coronavirus pandemic must not affect fundamental rights and freedoms, including the right to peaceful protests.
“Protecting people’s lives and health should be the first priority. It is for the government to determine the necessary measures to address COVID-19 risks, based on scientific and epidemiological data. However, restrictive measures must not disproportionately affect fundamental rights and freedoms and must be limited in time to what is strictly necessary. This also applies to the right to peaceful protest, a fundamental right in a democratic society,” she said.
Pisonero said that “at the same time, public order must also be guaranteed”. “The inviolability of democratic institutions must be respected and preserved at all times,” Pisonero added.
Vucic on negotiations with Pristina: “It will not be easy” (B92, Tanjug)
The President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic addressed the public yesterday late afternoon regarding the situation with the coronavirus in Serbia and worldwide.
“Today is the hardest day since the beginning of the epidemic, we have 13 dead. At the moment, we have more than 120 people on respirators. The situation in Belgrade is alarming. It is serious in four other cities in Serbia, but Belgrade is in a critical situation,” Vucic said.
As of today, gatherings of more than 5 people, both outdoors and indoors, were prohibited, and from Friday, curfew starts, ending on Monday morning.
More information will be available after the meeting of the Crisis Staff, President Vucic added.
Vucic said that 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 yesterday.
“We need unity, to be strong and rational, to understand our position in the world well, but also to be strong enough,” he said.
He stated that he will have an important conversation with Macron on Thursday, and would 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 July 15th. I expect the government to be formed by August 25, at the latest”, he explained.
When asked whether there will be non-party figures in the Government, he stated that he did not divide people into party and non-party.
“Will there be surprises – yes, definitely,” he added.
Grenell: We never believed in a quick agreement between Kosovo and Serbia in the election year (Blic)
In a statement for Belgrade based daily Blic, the special envoy of US President Donald Trump for the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, Richard Grenell, said that he was glad that the EU would organize meetings of representatives of Belgrade and Pristina, which the US fully support but also hoped that all previous arrangements would be established.
He also said that the US never believed in a quick agreement in the election year, which would be reached between Kosovo and Serbia.
– We are glad that the Europeans will organize meetings on July 10 and 12 for further talks with Kosovo and Serbia. We offer our full support and are grateful for their leadership. We hope that the important issue of visa liberalization for Kosovo will be completed at this meeting – Grenell said.
Since the postponement of the meeting in the White House, on June 27, Grenell has not announced, and now he told the daily that he hoped the EU would work on establishing agreements that have economic cooperation as the focus of the agreement.
– The United States has worked hard to emphasize the importance of normalizing economic relations between the two sides, because we believe that this is a crucial first step in this long-term political dispute. And we hope that the Europeans will implement the previously agreed agreements on air transport, railways and road transport as the main priority. We believe that these agreements are key to creating jobs and giving hope to young people in the region – Grenell pointed out.
One can often hear comments in the public that the United States is in a hurry to solve Kosovo’s rush before the presidential elections that will be held in the fall, but Grenell categorically denied that.
– We never believed in a quick agreement between Kosovo and Serbia in the election year. And we never thought that our only focus on economic normalization would be a quick solution. It will be easier to face difficult and long-term political issues if progress on economic issues is made first. The international community must continue to test new and creative ideas if we are to ever make progress. And the people of Kosovo and Serbia deserve the European full and constant attention – said Grenell to Blic daily.
Djuric: An attempt to destabilize Serbia will not pass on the eve of the key phase of the fight for Kosovo (Kosovo Online)
Director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija and Vice President of the SNS Marko Djuric assessed today, on the occasion of last night’s protests and riots in Belgrade, that Serbia wants progress and stability, as the elections showed, not aggression and destabilization, especially not when faced with an coronavirus epidemic and difficult challenges related to Kosovo.
“Fascism and violence will not win no matter how aggressive and violent those who, despite the fact that the people do not want them, try to enter the Serbian Parliament with saws and poles and destabilize Serbia on someone else’s account on the eve of the key phase of our struggle for Kosovo and Metohija,” stated Djuric in a statement, media quoted.
He said that the organizers of last night’s violent incursion into the Serbian Parliament and the attack on the police were “failed politicians and tycoons who were behind everything” and who endangered people’s health in a dangerous and irresponsible way and thus showed how little they care about Serbia and institutions, and their fellow citizens.
“It is clear that this group of people is not the face of Serbia, because Serbia wants progress and stability, as it showed in the elections, not aggression and destabilization, especially not at a time when we are facing a coronavirus epidemic and difficult challenges regarding Kosovo and Metohija,” stated Djuric.
“Reactions of people showed what they think about measures, to discuss it at Crisis Staff meeting” (N1)
Leading Serbian epidemiologist Predrag Kon and a member of the Crisis Staff told N1 broadcast “Novi dan” he has a feeling of deep sadness over events that took place last night in front of the Serbian Parliament. He added he has a strong understanding for desperation of people over the new measures, which are, as he said, possible. Kon also said there are indicators that the situation in Belgrade is improving.
According to him, the number of people who tested positive on Covid-19 in the Serbian capital had dropped over the past few days. “That is a strong indicator,” he noted.
Kon also said if another wave of the pandemic occurs, it could be more serious than the current one. “Since we already have issues with capacities, thinking that capacities for more serious situations are needed were normal”.
“We have to think about it. I am sure this is upsetting but I think that everything has to be made public, because when something like that happens not to have such despair as we saw it yesterday, which I fully understand and I am truly said over it….However, it is unlikely there would be such restrictive measures”, he said.
Kon said reactions of the citizens showed what they think about measures announced by President Aleksandar Vucic.
“What Vucic said publicly about his reflections is his own decision and perhaps I am grateful to him, but the reaction showed what people think of it. I think we will discuss this seriously in the Crisis Staff, reviewing that reaction. No one wants to mistreat anyone; the only goal at present is to have a permanently ready health system. That is currently the only goal, in addition to saving lives. We need day by day to monitor (the situation), there is no other way”, he said, N1 reported.
Asked if the new measures announced by Serbian President relate to Belgrade only or to the entire Serbia, Kon responded that “when he discussed with the President they spoke about Belgrade only”.
The situation is changing, he said, adding that we must prevent contacts, and it is the most efficiently achieved by the most severe measures. “Pre-election gatherings, sports events (…) that was irresponsible behavior. This overlapped with the proms celebrations and events at the stadiums. People saw all that, did the same, including the irresponsible behavior of individuals in power and that has led to the infection spreading”, Kon said.
Serbian Health Minister says decision on lockdown in next two days (FoNet, N1)
Serbian Health Minister Zlatibor Loncar said on Wednesday that the final decision on a weekend lockdown will be taken by the pandemic Crisis Staff in the next two days but did not specify whether it would cover the entire country or only parts of it, FoNet news agency reported.
Loncar said the intention is not to punish people who follow the recommended measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the minister, epidemiologists are reviewing the situation on the ground, including the number of people tested and infected and the speed at which the infection is spreading as well as the capacities of hospitals and possible measures.
See at: https://bit.ly/3fdPwbC
Four more coronavirus cases in central Kosovo (Radio Mitrovica North)
The epidemiological situation is worse than before in Serbian communities in central Kosovo, four new cases of coronavirus have been confirmed, said the director of Hospital in Gracanica, prof. Dr. Bratislav Lazic, reports Radio Mitrovica Sever.
“We have an increased number of patients who appear with symptoms that may indicate Covid 19 infection. Constant examinations are performed in Covid ambulances, and with expert consultation with infectologists of Clinic Hospital Center Gracanica, decisions are made on testing and further treatment with these patients,” said Lazic.
He pointed out that currently eight cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in central Kosovo, and that they are waiting for the results for more patients who have similar symptoms.
“Our assumption is that the number of patients will increase in the coming period. I must mention that the fight against this epidemic is not only the job of doctors and medical staff, but it is the job of the entire population, because bringing the epidemic to the very end largely depends on how the population will behave,” said Lazic.
Northern Kosovo under quarantine as of last night, curfew from 9 pm to 5 am (KoSSev)
Emergency team of four municipalities in the north of Kosovo decided last night to place the four Serb-majority municipalities under quarantine and introduce a curfew from 9 pm to 5 am for the next seven days, Goran Rakic announced at an extraordinary press conference on behalf of the emergency team, KoSSev portal reports.
The KoSSev portal said it was not invited to the press conference, but reported on details of the latest measures based on the information from the media that covered this event: Radio Kontakt plus, Kosovo online and Radio Kosovska Mitrovica.
Rakic announced that new measures are being introduced due to the deteriorating epidemiological situation and the increased number of cases of coronavirus infections.
Starting from today, for the next seven days, the movement of all persons is prohibited from 9 pm to 5 am, except for those persons who are engaged in fighting against the pandemic and maintaining public order and peace“, Rakic said.
Entering and leaving the territory of four municipalities in the north, except for persons with special permits, is strictly prohibited.
It was also announced that public institutions in the north of Kosovo will reduce the number of employees to a minimum. After the seven-day period, new measures will be adopted in accordance with the number of coronavirus cases.
See at: https://bit.ly/2ZNwO47
53 new Covid-19 infection cases registered in Serb-populated areas yesterday (Radio KIM)
Out of 61 samples taken from the patients in the Serb-populated areas in Kosovo, 53 persons have tested positive on Covid-19, epidemiologist Aleksandar Antonijevic told Radio KIM yesterday.
Radio Kosovska Mitrovica reported earlier that these samples were sent to the Veterinary Institute in Kraljevo for testing.
The results of 50 samples sent to the laboratory in Belgrade last Friday are being awaited for. At the same time 62 more persons have been tested yesterday and their results are also being awaited.
Rakic and Jevtic: We will stand up for property of Visoki Decani and Serbian Orthodox Church (Radio KIM)
Kosovo ministers Dalibor Jevtic and Goran Rakic visited Serbian Orthodox Church Visoki Decani Monastery yesterday and discussed with the Abbot of the Monastery, Father Sava Janjic construction of the Decani-Plav road, which passes through the UNESCO-protected zone of the monastery, Radio KIM reports.
Serbian List, which is part of the government, condemned earlier the ceremony after the Kosovo Prime Minister Avdulah Hoti officially opened the road, and pointed out that the construction of the section of this road is a “flagrant violation of the law on special protected zones and is unacceptable”.
On Tuesday, Jevtic and Rakic promised they would not allow violations of laws and court decisions as well as that they would “strongly advocate, wherever necessary, that the property of the Visoki Decani Monastery and the entire Serbian Orthodox Church be protected”.
“Holy shrines are places where Serbs gather and a pillar of stay and survival of the Serbian people, which is why the representatives of Serbian List will not agree to any compromises in their protection”, Rakic and Jevtic said during yesterday’s visit to the monastery.
They also urged representatives of international organizations to react more decisively and prevent such treatment of, as they pointed out, the pearl of Serbian and world cultural heritage.
According to the Ministry of Communities and Return statement, Father Sava said “the unity of Serbs is something which is the most important at the moment”.
The ministry reminded that during May 2016, after 16 years of dispute over the ownership of the monastery land, the Constitutional Court of Kosovo confirmed the previous decision of the Supreme Court on the confirmation of the ownership right of the monastery Visoki Decani over 24 hectares of the disputed land, but the local authorities in Decani have not implemented this decision for four years.
Meanwhile, Father Sava wrote on Twitter that the representatives of Serbian List, Kosovo Deputy Prime Minister Goran Rakic and Minister for Communities and Returns Dalibor Jevitc visited Visoki Decani Monastery, adding that he has informed his guests about the problems monastery is facing in the protection zone around the monastery.
Two voices on Kosovo (balcanicaucaso.org)
A real diplomatic race between the US and the EU has recently started on the Serbia-Kosovo negotiations. The opinion of Lulzim Peci of the Kosovar Institute for Political Research and Development and Sonja Biserko, founder and president of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia
The Belgrade-Prishtina dialogue, aimed at reaching the normalisation of relations between Serbia and Kosovo, was launched in 2011 with the mediation of the European Union. Over the years, the negotiations were marred by ups and downs. After a long suspension, lately both the EU and the US – with the appointments of Miroslav Lajčák and Richard Grenell as special envoys – have stepped up efforts to resume the dialogue on separate tracks, creating a bit of confusion in the region and an unnecessary diplomatic competition. We have asked two outstanding representatives of the civil societies of Kosovo and Serbia their opinions on the current political situation and the future of this dialogue.
Lulzim Peci is the Executive Director of the Kosovar Institute for Policy Research and Development (KIPRED).
Sonja Biserko is the founder and president of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia.
EU special envoy Miroslav Lajčák hopes to restart the Belgrade-Prishtina dialogue before the end of July. In your opinion, what went wrong in the EU-facilitated dialogue so far, and what should be changed in the format in order for it to make substantial progress?
- First of all, the Brussels dialogue has been led by the mantra of the “strategic ambiguity” by treating Kosovo in “neutral status” terms and Serbia as a full-fledged state, which at the same time was considering Kosovo as its part. This approach, regardless of the fact that it has brought a very fragile détente between Kosovo and Serbia, proved to be a strategic mistake, as it has not led to a comprehensive normalisation of relations between the two countries. In contrary, relations between them have remained tensed and hostile. Secondly, more than 30 agreements have been achieved between the two capitals, but there was not a verification mechanism in place by Brussels to impose the implementation of those agreements, which in essence discredited the format of EU dialogue. The dialogue that is expected to be led by EU Special Envoy Lajčák should move on from this barren “strategic ambiguity”. Instead, it should focus on explicit recognition of Kosovo by Serbia which, in my opinion, is a precondition for a comprehensive normalisation of relations between Prishtina and Belgrade.
- The dialogue went in the wrong direction when former EU High Representative Federica Mogherini allowed the change of format, i.e. the partition deal. The problem is that Serbia’s only option was always partition, and it is not surprising that Belgrade tried its best to convince the other side to become part of it. It would be interesting to know details of how Albanians, including Edi Rama, became Belgrade partners in the deal.
See at: https://bit.ly/3ecpioJ
China Has Overtaken Russia as Serbia’s Great Ally (Balkan Insight)
If Serbia now praises China to the heavens, it may be because Belgrade has judged that the West now takes China much more seriously than Russia.
The coronavirus epidemic might have spread from China thanks to the irresponsibility of its political elites and its cover-up of the whole case, but the health crisis has not prevented the rise of a new “steel” friendship between China and Serbia.
Belgrade was one of the first countries in Europe to receive Chinese aid and expertise over the pandemic, and this cooperation has continued to deepen.
See at: https://bit.ly/38D3guj
Violent protests in Serbia as Vučić announces another lockdown after weeks of alleged pre-election cover-ups (EWB)
BELGRADE – Thousands of citizens gathered in front of the National Assembly in Belgrade on Tuesday night following the announcement of President Aleksandar Vučić that the new weekend-long curfew will be imposed this week due to rise in COVID-19 cases. After a smaller group of protesters tried to enter the country’s parliament, clashes with the police ensued, resulting in a series of tear gas bombs and arrests, during which both the protesters and the policemen were reportedly hurt.
The protest was triggered by dramatic changes in Serbia’s policy on COVID-19 pandemic, with the government removing virtually all restrictions and sending messages that virus has weakened in the weeks prior to the 21 June election, followed by the proclamation that the situation is close to a calamity only two weeks later, as well as surfacing of reports by investigative journalists claiming that the true number of cases and deaths has been hidden from the public for weeks, if not months.
As of 2 a.m. on 8 July, the clashes have been going on for several hours. The police has used a large number of tear gas bombs on the protesters who continuously attempt to enter the parliament. The protests represent the most serious unrest in Serbia since the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) came to power in 2012.
See at: https://bit.ly/2ZRXUak
Stalled Serbia-Kosovo Dialogue Set to Resume in July (Balkan Insight)
Serbia-Kosovo talks are set to resume with a Franco-German-hosted virtual summit on July 10 followed by a meeting between Kosovo PM Avdullah Hoti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on July 12 in Brussels.
The EU-facilitated Kosovo-Serbia dialogue will restart in July with a virtual summit hosted by France and Germany and a meeting between Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti and Serbian President Alexandar Vucic in Brussels.
EU spokesperson Peter Stano confirmed the visit of Hoti and Vucic to Brussels on July 12 as a re-start of the stalled dialogue between Serbia and its former province, which declared its independence in 2008, Radio Free Europe, RFE, reported on Monday.
“The summit will be hosted by EU High Representative Josep Borrell in the presence of special envoy for dialogue Miroslav Lajcak,” RFE said, adding that the meeting will mark the re-launch of the dialogue on the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia during which “all open issues” will be discussed.
See at: https://bit.ly/2VXdLUa
Coronavirus: Airborne transmission cannot be ruled out, WHO says (BBC)
The World Health Organization has acknowledged there is emerging evidence that the coronavirus can be spread by tiny particles suspended in the air.
The airborne transmission could not be ruled out in crowded, closed or poorly ventilated settings, an official said.
If the evidence is confirmed, it may affect guidelines for indoor spaces.
An open letter from more than 200 scientists had accused the WHO of underestimating the possibility of airborne transmission.
The WHO has so far said that the virus is transmitted through droplets when people cough or sneeze.
“We wanted them to acknowledge the evidence,” Jose Jimenez, a chemist at the University of Colorado who signed the paper, told the Reuters news agency.
“This is definitely not an attack on the WHO. It’s a scientific debate, but we felt we needed to go public because they were refusing to hear the evidence after many conversations with them,” he said.
See at: https://bbc.in/2VX3NC2
Roma Inclusion in Balkans Depends on Governments Recognising Antigypsyism (Balkan Insight)
The failure of Western Balkan governments to recognise the phenomenon of antigypsyism helps explain why their strategies for inclusion of Roma have such limited impact.
The killing of unarmed African American George Floyd by police in the US has not only sparked protests in America and Western Europe but a debate about racism in the Western Balkans as well.
In this part of Europe, the targets of racism tend to be Roma communities.
Although surveys like the annual Balkan Barometer demonstrate the extent of rejection and racism towards Roma in the Western Balkans, the public discourse in the region, with few exceptions, has neglected the existence of antigypsyism – a specific form of racism towards Roma that constitutes the root cause of their discrimination and social exclusion.
This, while the phenomenon of antigypsyism exists in the Western Balkans, its governments have neither accepted the concept nor its existence.
See at: https://bit.ly/2CfiFEY
Activists rejoice as water returns to Lumbardhi (Prishtina Insight)
On Monday, water flow returned to small branches of the Lumbardhi river in Decan, many of which have remained dry since hydropower plants began siphoning water from the river over five years ago.
For as long as activist Shpresa Loshaj can remember, the branch of the Lumbardhi River in Decan that runs a few kilometres from the hydropower plant owned by Austrian company KelKos Energy, has been nothing but an empty pile of rocks. But that changed on Monday when she saw water running downstream for the first time in years.
Since Loshaj co-founded the environmental organization Pishtaret in March 2020, she and her fellow activists have been campaigning for the rehabilitation of rivers in Decan which have seen “overwhelming damage” since their water started to be used to produce hydroelectric power. The organisation blame KelKos’ hydropower plants for the degradation of the rivers in the region and accuse the company of operating illegally with expired environmental permits.
See at: https://bit.ly/31WtiXO
The Rise of Religious Radicalisation among Diaspora Albanians (Balkan Insight)
Since the onset of the conflict in Syria, thousands of people from different countries around the world have joined the conflict in response to worldwide calls to help opposition groups topple the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
One of them was ISIS, a new group that emerged out of Al-Qaeda’s former wing, Jabhat Al-Nusra, and which grew to rival other Islamist organisations in the Middle East by declaring a new ‘state’ in territories the group occupied in Syria and Iraq, under the banner of the Islamic State.
More than 1,000 citizens from the Western Balkans also joined this call, providing active combatants and their families in order to build a caliphate under Sharia law and the control of the Islamic State.
See at: https://bit.ly/3ebjoEc