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UNMIK Media Observer, Morning Edition, 13 July

By   /  13/07/2020  /  Comments Off on UNMIK Media Observer, Morning Edition, 13 July

• COVID-19: 216 new cases in last 24 hours (media)
• State of emergency not declared; stricter measures will be applied (media)
• Kosovo President Hashim Thaci’s interview to Top Channel
• EU Special Representative: The dialogue is back on track (media)
• Von der Leyen expresses support for Kosovo-Serbia dialogue (media)
• Hoti: I’ll meet Vucic in Brussels on Thursday; only mutual recognition (media)
• Hoti: U.S. and EU to complement each other in the dialogue (media)
• Vucic: Situation with Kosovo, almost hopeless (media)
• President Thaci urges people to strictly implement protective measures (media)
• Zemaj: Do not force us to declare a state of emergency (media)
• No total lockdown from state of emergency, sources say (Indeksonline)
• Association of Municipalities supports state of emergency (media)
• Association of Psychologists oppose state of emergency (media)
• Thaci and Borrell agree to extend EULEX mandate for another year (media)
• EULEX chief: We remain fully committed to our partnership (media)
• “France, Germany and Netherlands opposed visa liberalisation” (Lajmi)
• U.S. Embassy: People of Kosovo deserve better (media)
• Bajrami: Let’s focus on economic recovery, not personal attacks (media)
• Kosovo’s Thaci strongly denies committing any war crimes (AP)

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  • COVID-19: 216 new cases in last 24 hours (media)
  • State of emergency not declared; stricter measures will be applied (media)
  • Kosovo President Hashim Thaci’s interview to Top Channel
  • EU Special Representative: The dialogue is back on track (media)
  • Von der Leyen expresses support for Kosovo-Serbia dialogue (media)
  • Hoti: I’ll meet Vucic in Brussels on Thursday; only mutual recognition (media)
  • Hoti: U.S. and EU to complement each other in the dialogue (media)
  • Vucic: Situation with Kosovo, almost hopeless (media)
  • President Thaci urges people to strictly implement protective measures (media)
  • Zemaj: Do not force us to declare a state of emergency (media)
  • No total lockdown from state of emergency, sources say (Indeksonline)
  • Association of Municipalities supports state of emergency (media)
  • Association of Psychologists oppose state of emergency (media)
  • Thaci and Borrell agree to extend EULEX mandate for another year (media)
  • EULEX chief: We remain fully committed to our partnership (media)
  • “France, Germany and Netherlands opposed visa liberalisation” (Lajmi)
  • U.S. Embassy: People of Kosovo deserve better (media)
  • Bajrami: Let’s focus on economic recovery, not personal attacks (media)
  • Kosovo’s Thaci strongly denies committing any war crimes (AP)

Kosovo Media Highlights

COVID-19: 216 new cases in last 24 hours (media)

216 new cases of coronavirus were confirmed on Sunday evening by Kosovo’s National Institute for Public Health. 115 new cases are from the municipality of Prishtina. Seven patients have died from the virus over the weekend.

Some media reported on Sunday that 301 patients are hospitalised at Prishtina Hospital and in regional hospitals, and that 29 of them are in critical condition.

The total number of deaths from the coronavirus in Kosovo is 106.

The number of active coronavirus cases in Kosovo is  2,859.

State of emergency not declared; stricter measures will be applied (media)

Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti told reporters in Prishtina on Sunday that a state of emergency will not be declared but that instead the government will introduce new and stricter measures in the fight against COVID-19.

“As you have seen from the figures, the situation is getting worse. We are in the limits of our capacities. We are doing everything in our power to create additional capacities. In the last couple of weeks, we have decided to introduce new measures. We have discussed two scenarios: the first scenario is the strict implementation of the current measures and introducing new measures and the second scenario is to declare a state of emergency. We just concluded the meeting of the Security Council and we have decided to go with the first scenario. The government will adopt some of the measures,” Hoti said after the meeting of Kosovo’s Security Council.

Asked about the new measures that will be introduced, Hoti said: “They will be stricter compared to the measures we have taken so far. It is unacceptable that while the decisions are in place, weddings and parties are organised all over Kosovo. We are forced to completely ban religious gatherings and rites. For now we will proceed with stricter measures and a higher level of monitoring while at the same time leaving open the possibility of declaring a state of emergency”.

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci’s interview to Top Channel

All media covered Kosovo President Hashim Thaci’s interview to Tirana-based Top Channel, highlighting his remarks that he was travelling to The Hague “for the price of freedom” and that the decision of the Kosovo Assembly to form the Specialist Chambers “was difficult but strategically correct”.

Asked on the invitation by the Specialist Chambers, Thaci said: “I will act in full accordance with the circumstances and with my civic, constitutional and legal obligations. I know it was a historic injustice when the Specialist Chambers were formed but I want to say that it was a very difficult decision by the Assembly of the Republic of Kosovo, but a strategically correct decision, because regardless of our sacrifices, we must maintain our unwavering trust in the Western world and especially in our allies that have helped us win the freedom and independence of Kosovo – the U.S., NATO and the EU. We were faced with two options to stay with NATO, US and EU, or to be left in the hands of countries that have not recognised the independence of Kosovo and for the issue of the Specialist Chambers to be addressed by the United Nations Security Council. Therefore, allow me to reiterate that I understand the critical opinions about the formation of the Specialist Chambers, but I strongly believe and continue to support the fair decision of the Assembly of the Republic of Kosovo as a correct and strategic decision … No one can rewrite history. Kosovo is the victim. There was genocide and ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, but we are faced with these new circumstances to pay the price of freedom”.

Thaci said he has yet to decide on who will lead his defense team. “I will contribute to the truth, I believe in justice, and by contributing to the truth I will be contributing to justice too. Our fight was fair and derived from civic and armed movements which came from a peaceful movement that was one of the most successful in the world, because we fought against a genocidal apparatus of ethnic cleansing and against a regime that had already committed massacres and genocide such as the one in Srebrenica,” he said.

Thaci also said “the best defense is the fairness of our war and no one can deny this. I want to emphasise that Kosovo has won many battles. Other fellow comrades have full confidence in the truth and justice”.

“I have said this before: I might have made political mistakes. It is true that we have violated the laws of Slobodan Milosevic’s regime and for this I am very proud. I have under no circumstance violated any international law, but this is the price of freedom,” Thaci said. 

EU Special Representative: The dialogue is back on track (media)

All news outlets cover the virtual meeting between EU Special Representative Miroslav Lajcak and Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, which marks the resumption of the EU-facilitated dialogue between the two sides. Most of the media highlight Lajcak’s remarks that the dialogue is back on track after 20 months. 

Lajcak said in a video statement after the meeting:

We just concluded the virtual meeting with President Vucic and Prime Minister Hoti and I am glad to say that after the Paris Summit and today’s meeting the EU-facilitated dialogue on comprehensive normalisation of relations between Serbia and Kosovo is back on track after 20 months. As a result of today’s meeting, we agreed on the main elements of the process and we also agreed on the agenda of our next meeting that will take place this coming Thursday in Brussels in person. I want to thank our partners for their constructive engagement today.

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, said prior to the meeting:

I am glad that we are resuming now the Belgrade – Prishtina dialogue by video conference due to the circumstances and I welcome the commitment of both parties. Our aim is clear is to restart a serious and intense work on the normalisation of the relations between the two sides. Today I am accompanied by the European Union Special Representative Miroslav Lajcak and the European Union has been and it continues to be ready to support and facilitate the efforts to find a comprehensive final and legally-bidning normaisation agreement. An agreement that addresses all outstanding issues. Such an agreement is crucial for a better future of the people of Kosovo and Serbia. It is crucial for their European perspective and for the security and stability of the region. All of that is also crucial for the European Union. The absence of a solution is hampering the development of the two sides. We know that it is not an easy process, it has never been, but there is urgency to work towards peace and prosperity for the sake of a common future. This task will require political courage from both sides. It will require commitment and engagement. In this period of compromise and pragmatism it has never been easy to find solutions to problems that have been so lasting and so painful, but this is why we are here today, to try again.

Von der Leyen expresses support for Kosovo-Serbia dialogue (media)

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has expressed support for Kosovo-Serbia dialogue.

“I welcome the resumption of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue and I will provide my full support to the next steps in this process,” she tweeted.

Hoti: I’ll meet Vucic in Brussels on Thursday; only mutual recognition (media)

Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti commented on Sunday’s virtual meeting with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and EU Special Representative Miroslav Lajcak. He said the parties have agreed to meet in person in Brussels on Thursday.

“There is no alternative to the dialogue and only through dialogue we can resolve issues with Serbia. I have proposed the platform for the dialogue. We are going into this process only for mutual recognition and for the full normalisation of relations between the two countries,” Hoti said.

“We agreed in principle to hold the next meeting in Brussels on Thursday. This will be the first meeting after 20 months when the dialogue stopped”.

Hoti: U.S. and EU to complement each other in the dialogue (media)

Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti said in an interview to the Associated Press on Sunday that the United States of America and the European Union have to complement each other in the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia.

“As has happened in the past, in different phases of Kosovo’s statehood and the declaration of independence, only when there was close cooperation between the EU and the U.S., there were clear and concrete results and it shouldn’t be any different now,” he said.

Hoti said talks between Kosovo and Serbia must conclude with mutual recognition. “We are entering the final phase of the dialogue, with the objective of mutual recognition and the normalisation of relations between our countries,” he said.

Vucic: Situation with Kosovo, almost hopeless (media)

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic commented on the resumption of the EU-brokered dialogue in an interview with TV Pink on Sunday, saying that the situation with Kosovo is almost hopeless “but I am proud of the position we maintained in Paris”. Vucic is also quoted as saying that the Serbian people is in for a difficult battle.

President Thaci urges people to strictly implement protective measures (media)

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, in a Facebook post on Saturday, called on Kosovo’s citizens to strictly implement measures aimed at preventing the further spread of COVID-19.

“Last week we had a huge increase in the number of infected persons. The current situation is extremely worrying, and maximum care is required from everyone,” Thaci said. “I urge you to strictly implement the measures … and to comply with the recommendations of health institutions. By implementing measures and recommendations of health institutions, every citizen saves himself/herself, their relatives and the whole society.” 

Zemaj: Do not force us to declare a state of emergency (media)

Kosovo’s Minister of Health, Armend Zemaj, called on Kosovo citizens to respect the protective measures against the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It hurts me to see Kosovo in a lockdown … You are not respecting the anti-virus rules. As society, citizens, family members and individuals, you are responsible not to take the virus home. Do not force us to declare a state of emergency,” Zemaj said in a Facebook post.

No total lockdown from state of emergency, sources say (Indeksonline)

Citing unnamed sources, the news website reported that once a state of emergency is declared, wearing masks will be mandatory for Kosovo’s citizens. The same sources said that churches, mosques, fitness gyms, burial ceremonies, swimming pools and public weddings will not be allowed.

Bars and restaurants will reportedly not be closed but there will be severe fines for failing to keep the distance or failing to wear masks. One of the new measures will also be to reduce the number of clients in bars and restaurants. According to the sources, the new measures will not include movement restrictions. 

Association of Municipalities supports state of emergency (media)

The Association of Kosovo Municipalities said on Saturday that it supports the government’s measures against the coronavirus, including the eventual declaration of a state of emergency. The Association’s Executive Director, Sazan Ibrahimi, said in an interview with Klan Kosova that if a state of emergency is declared it would be done in full compliance with the Constitution and Western practices.

“The Association of Kosovo Municipalities supports the latest anti-COVID 19 measures. The AKM supports every measure that helps save the lives of the people of Kosovo, including the declaration of a state of emergency,” Ibrahimi said. “However, in our discussions today with Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti, the declaration of a state of emergency does not imply a total economic shutdown and the closing of institutions, but rather creating or supporting mechanisms and actions that help save people’s lives”.

Association of Psychologists oppose state of emergency (media)

The Association of Kosovo Psychologists said in a letter to the government on Saturday that it should introduce even stricter measures against the coronavirus but not declare a state of emergency. “You can shut down everything, because you are our government and we will respect this decision because in doing so we respect our state. But have you thought about what will happen with the mental health of the population? If the health system is now facing a collapse, have you considered that the mental health of the population will be a long-term challenge that will prove very difficult to overcome … We are already seeing the psychological consequences and after a while there will be a psychological collapse,” the letter notes.

Thaci and Borrell agree to extend EULEX mandate for another year (media)

Most news outlets reported on Saturday that Kosovo President Hashim Thaci has agreed to a one-year extension of the mandate of the EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) in a letter exchange with EU High Representative for Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell.

A press release issued by Thaci’s office said the technical extension was being made as the pandemic has rendered impossible negotiations for the future of the mission’s mandate.

Thaci expressed his support for the mission, confirming that Kosovo’s institutions would continue to fully support of the EU mission in line with the documents signed so far.

EULEX chief: We remain fully committed to our partnership (media)

The EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) Head Lars-Gunnar Wigemark welcomed the one-year extension of the mission’s mandate.

Wigemark tweeted: “Welcome that @HashimThaciRKS and @JosepBorrellF through an exchange of letters agreed a 1-year extension for the @EULEXKosovo rule of law mission due to Covid-19. We remain fully committed to our partnership for justice with all our Kosovo counterparts at a critical time.”

“France, Germany and Netherlands opposed visa liberalisation” (Lajmi)

The European Parliament’s Rapporteur for Kosovo, Viola von Cramon, told the news website on Saturday that France, Germany and the Netherlands were the main forces in the European Parliament that opposed visa liberalisation for Kosovo.

“Prime Minister Hoti and President Macron discussed it [visa liberalisation] at the bilateral meeting on Tuesday and this is an important sign because so far France, Germany and the Netherlands were the main forces that slowed down the process,” she said.

U.S. Embassy: People of Kosovo deserve better (media)

The United States Embassy in Prishtina commented in a Twitter post on Friday’s tensions at the Kosovo Assembly session.

“Two months ago, we called on all parties to lower the politicized rhetoric and to unite to solve the economic and health crises. The Assembly has wasted time on distractions and personal attacks instead of carrying out its responsibilities. The people of Kosovo deserve better,” the Embassy said.

Bajrami: Let’s focus on economic recovery, not personal attacks (media)

Kosovo’s Minister of Finance, Hikmete Bajrami, said in a Facebook post that she agrees with the reaction of the U.S. Embassy in Prishtina that the Kosovo Assembly should not be used for personal attacks. She said it is not up to her to intervene between MPs when they quarrel or get agitated.

“The only clash, the only concern, and my sole engagement in the Government of the Republic of Kosovo will be in the service of economic recovery and the well-being of the people. I fully agree with the reaction of the U.S. Embassy calling on all sides not to use the Assembly for personal attacks,” Bajrami said.

Kosovo’s Thaci strongly denies committing any war crimes (AP)

Kosovo’s president said Sunday he was going to The Hague to prove to prosecutors investigating war crimes allegedly committed during and after a 1998-1999 armed conflict in Kosovo between ethnic Albanian separatists and Serbia that he had broken no international laws during the war.

Hashim Thaci spoke to private television Top Channel at the Mother Teresa Tirana International Airport before leaving for The Hague to be questioned by prosecutors on Monday.

“It is true we violated the laws of Slobodan Milosevic’s regime and for that, I am proud as people and as an individual,” said Thaci. “But (I have violated) no international law under any circumstances.”

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