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UNMIK Media Observer, Morning Edition, 15 July

By   /  15/07/2020  /  Comments Off on UNMIK Media Observer, Morning Edition, 15 July

• Four more dead from coronavirus on Tuesday (media)
• Assembly lacks votes to pass law on pandemic (Koha)
• Hoti in Brussels with his office and associates, Weber calls for unity (Koha)
• President Thaci ends second day of interviewing at The Hague (media)
• Were prosecutors right to publicise charges against Thaci? (Balkan Insight)
• Haradinaj: Charges against Thaci, a blow to Kosovo’s freedom (Klan Kosova)
• War veterans’ leader: Specialist Chambers are attacking KLA directly (T7)
• Serwer: Be prepared (media)
• Presevo Valley Albanians ask to lead a ministry in Serbian government (Koha)
• Government defends decisions to appoint minister to extra post (media)

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  • Four more dead from coronavirus on Tuesday (media)
  • Assembly lacks votes to pass law on pandemic (Koha)
  • Hoti in Brussels with his office and associates, Weber calls for unity (Koha)
  • President Thaci ends second day of interviewing at The Hague (media)
  • Were prosecutors right to publicise charges against Thaci? (Balkan Insight)
  • Haradinaj: Charges against Thaci, a blow to Kosovo’s freedom (Klan Kosova)
  • War veterans’ leader: Specialist Chambers are attacking KLA directly (T7)
  • Serwer: Be prepared (media)
  • Presevo Valley Albanians ask to lead a ministry in Serbian government (Koha)
  • Government defends decisions to appoint minister to extra post (media)

Kosovo Media Highlights

Four more dead from coronavirus on Tuesday (media)

All news outlets reported on Tuesday that four more patients have died from the coronavirus.

306 coronavirus patients are being treated at Prishtina Hospital and in regional hospitals, 217 out of them are on oxygen therapy.

Several media report that the results of around 400 samples that were taken on Tuesday will be announced on Wednesday at 15:00.

Assembly lacks votes to pass law on pandemic (Koha)

The news website reported on Tuesday that after hours of heated debates between the MPs, the Assembly failed the required number of votes to pass the draft law on the pandemic.

Two different resolutions, proposed by the Vetevendosje Movement and the Democratic Party of Kosovo, aimed at speeding up procedures for adopting the bill, were not adopted due to lack of quorum.

Assembly President Vjosa Osmani, who sponsored the bill, asked the two parties to harmonise their documents into a single resolution.

The news website notes that the four-hour debate on the management of the pandemic turned into a clash between MPs from the ruling coalition and the opposition on who was tested for the coronavirus and who is privileged in the testing process. There were also heated discussions on which government better managed the coronavirus situation.

Hoti in Brussels with his office and associates, Weber calls for unity (Koha)

Kosovo will return to the table of talks with Serbia after 20 months and in the absence of a broad-based delegation for the dialogue, Kosovo will be represented on Thursday in Brussels by members of the government cabinet led by Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti.

Hoti’s office said in a statement to Koha: “The Prime Minister of the Republic of Kosovo, Avdullah Hoti, will be accompanied at the meeting by members of the government cabinet and his associates. This will be a state delegation representing the Republic of Kosovo in Brussels”.

It also noted that the European Union, as the mediator of the process, will set the agenda, format and topics of discussion between the two sides. Kosovo’s delegation goes to Brussels with a clear platform and demands. Kosovo wants to speed up the process of Euro-Atlantic integration and at the meeting will reiterate the need to reach an agreement with Serbia within a clear timeframe because experience has shown that delays in the dialogue is not good for the region. At this meeting and in other eventual meetings at a later phase, Kosovo will ask for the fate of missing persons and other victims of violence to be resolved, the trial and punishment of those responsible for the killing of thousands of civilians in Kosovo, war damages, and so on. “There can be no normalisation if justice is not served. We expect this meeting to push forward the process of normalisation of relations between the two countries, with the aim of reaching a permanent agreement that will bring sustainable peace and a European future for both countries. The final result of the agreement must be mutual recognition and Kosovo’s full membership in international organisations,” the statement added.

The news website further notes that German analyst on the Balkans, Bodo Weber, has criticised the lack of unity in Kosovo on the dialogue with Serbia. “Serbia has tried to undermine Kosovo’s statehood as an independent country in the last three years and when you see the performance of Kosovo’s politicians, this makes things even more difficult. I think the politicians in Kosovo should think well about what needs to be achieved. Kosovo needs the unity that guarantees that any agreement will not fail because it would not get 2/3 of votes in the Assembly. The politicians in Kosovo must unite for the sake of country and peace in the region,” he said.

Weber also said that talks with Serbia must include issues such as the integration of Serbs and the fate of missing persons. “Serbia must accept the reality that Kosovo is not part of it, and it must work on this if it wants to integrate in Europe. This is precisely why the status of Kosovo cannot be part of the negotiations.

President Thaci ends second day of interviewing at The Hague (media)

All media reported on Tuesday on the second day of Kosovo President Hashim Thaci’s interview at The Hague by the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office.

After a six-hour interview, Thaci did not give a statement to the media. The interviewing process will continue Wednesday.

Were prosecutors right to publicise charges against Thaci? (Balkan Insight)

The website carried an op-ed on Tuesday by Judge Dean B. Pineles, a graduate of Brown University, Boston University Law School and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, who served as an international judge with EULEX from 2011-13. In addition to Kosovo, Pineles has extensive rule of law experience in Russia, Kazakhstan and Georgia.

On June 24, the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office in The Hague issued a bombshell press release that has reverberated throughout the Western Balkans, the European Union and the United States.

Was the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office authorised to do so? And what was the purpose?

The press release stated that on April 24 of this year, the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office filed a ten-count indictment with the Kosovo Specialist Chambers charging Hashim Thaci, Kadri Veseli and unnamed others with a series of horrific crimes: crimes against humanity and war crimes, including nearly 100 murders, enforced disappearances, persecution and torture, all of which involved hundreds of known victims.

The release mentioned that the indictment is only an accusation, but nevertheless reflected the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office’s determination that it can prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.  A pre-trial judge is currently reviewing the indictment to decide whether to confirm the charges (and has six months to render a decision).

The text then offered the rationale for this extraordinary and unprecedented prosecutorial manoeuvre.

“The Specialist Prosecutor has deemed it necessary to issue this public notice of charges because of repeated efforts by Hashim Thaci and Kadri Veseli to obstruct and undermine the work of the KSC,” it said.

“Mr. Thaci and Mr. Veseli are believed to have carried out a secret campaign to overturn the law creating the court and otherwise obstruct the work of the court in an attempt to ensure that they do not face justice. By taking these actions, Mr. Thaci and Mr. Veseli have put their personal interests ahead of the victims of their crimes, the rule of law, and all people of Kosovo.”

Thaci, of course, is the current president of Kosovo, and Veseli is a prominent political figure and former speaker of the Kosovo Assembly. Both are former high-ranking commanders in the Kosovo Liberation Army who have been on the war crimes radar for at least a decade, but they have repeatedly denied any criminal responsibility, as Thaci did again before his interview with the prosecutors began in The Hague on Monday.

Unfortunately, the press release raises more questions than it answers, and lends itself to rampant speculation.

Read full at: https://bit.ly/3evpUWwa

Haradinaj: Charges against Thaci, a blow to Kosovo’s freedom (Klan Kosova)

Daut Haradinaj, deputy leader of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) and a former commander in the Kosovo Liberation Army, said in an interview to Klan Kosova on Tuesday that the charges against President Hashim Thaci and PDK leader Kadri Veseli are a blow to Kosovo’s freedom.

Haradinaj said the KLA and Thaci never committed crimes. “These are not any blows against individuals. I don’t believe Thaci was involved in the crimes mentioned by the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office. Anyone who knows Kosovo well, and Kosovo’s fight, knows that it is absurd to say that Thaci is responsible for 100 murders. This is why Albanians must stand united because this is a permanent threat against Kosovo. One can also notice the Russian and the Serbian influence in Dick Marty’s report and in other procedures,” he added.

Haradinaj argued that the Specialist Chambers because they only try Albanians. He said that if someone would initiate the abolition of the Specialist Chambers, he would vote in favor.

War veterans’ leader: Specialist Chambers are attacking KLA directly (T7)

Hysni Gucati, head of the War Veterans of the Kosovo Liberation Army, told T7 on Tuesday that the Specialist Chambers are attacking the KLA directly and not only President Hashim Thaci and PDK leader Kadri Veseli.

“We have gone through a lot of similar courts, such as those by UNMIK, EULEX and the ICTY. Now through the Specialist Chambers they are attacking the KLA directly, and not individuals, because Thaci and Veseli are the head of the KLA,” Gucati said.

Gucati also claimed that indictments raised by the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office are based on evidence submitted by witnesses that want to leave Kosovo and live in the West. “Charges are raised by false witnesses,” he said.

Gucati said that the Specialist Chambers have so far summoned 273 KLA war veterans.

Serwer: Be prepared (media)

Several media cover an opinion piece by US analyst on the Balkans, Daniel Serwer, originally published in peacefare.net.

After the calamitous failure of the Trump Administration’s attempt to take over the economic aspects of dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade, the European Union reasserted its primacy in a flurry of meetings last week between Serbian President Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Hoti with French President Macron, German Chancellor Merkel, and EU High Representative Borrell. Special Representative Miroslav Lajcak is putting the dialogue, which aims at achieving in months rather than years comprehensive normalization between Serbia and Kosovo, back on track within the European context, which is where it belongs. The Europeans are open to working in tandem with the US, which is necessary for success.

But haste can make waste. Preparation for negotiation is often more important than what is said at the negotiating table. I see lack of preparation in all four major capitals: Pristina, Belgrade, Brussels, and Washington.

Pristina

With President Thaci sidelined by a pending indictment, the Prime Minister will lead Kosovo’s negotiating team. His government has a razor-thin majority in parliament. It needs to strengthen that to more than two-thirds, and preferably 75%–before engaging seriously with Serbia. That would ensure that whatever he agrees in Brussels can be implemented in Pristina. It will also blunt the role of the Serb representatives, who are controlled by Belgrade, and enable election of a new President, if the indictment is confirmed and Thaci resigns.

Hoti has laid out a reasonable platform for his opening position, but I haven’t seen signs yet of serious preparation on the many issues that will be on the agenda, including major political items: will Kosovo aim for bilateral recognition by Serbia, or will it be content with UN membership? How can that be achieved? Will Kosovo allow formation of an Association of Serb Municipalities in accordance with the Constitutional Court’s requirements? How will disputes over property issues be settled in the aftermath of normalization? How will Serbs, Serb religious sites and other property in Kosovo be protected?

Belgrade

President Vucic has what Hoti lacks: more than two-thirds support in parliament, thanks to an election boycott by most of his opposition. He dominates the media and the courts in ways that any autocrat would admire. He also has an enviable best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA): he can live with the status quo, at least until the EU decides to make it painful for him or presents a more attractive alternative.

But he is trapped in that comfortable position. While most Serbs care far more about jobs and Covid-19 than Kosovo, Vucic has done nothing to prepare his citizens for acceptance that Kosovo is lost. He has instead repeatedly suggested that he would only give up Kosovo, which is no longer his, if he gets something in return. There isn’t much to be given. When former Finnish President Ahtisaari wrote the plan that led to Kosovo’s independence declaration, he gave Serbia everything it really wanted, because he thought Belgrade would recognize the new state.

Vucic, or some future leader of Serbia, needs to set out to convince its citizens that they would gain more from good, normalized, neighborly relations with Kosovo than from the current situation. Belgrade’s current stance–that Kosovo may not be under its control but that is no reason to give it up–is counter-productive for the Serbian economy and Serbia’s EU ambitions.

Brussels

Brussels has helped to kill the idea of a land and people swap between Belgrade and Pristina, which is what Vucic was hoping for. Now it needs to think about what it can offer as either carrots or sticks to get Vucic out of his comfortable stance. The carrots could include Covid-19 recovery aid, Green Deal funding, and a regional reconciliation fund. I can also imagine sticks: Serbia’s progress in accession talks with Brussels should be strictly conditional on its performance in the dialogue with Pristina, including implementation of existing agreements, renewal of prosecutions of war criminals, and willingness to accept essential elements of normalization like cooperation with the Kosovo army and intelligence services.

On the Pristina side of the equation, Brussels also has a lot of work to do:

  • Resolve member state objections to admitting Kosovo into the EU’s visa waiver program, the conditions for which Pristina long ago satisfied.
  • Invent a serious mechanism, if possible jointly with the US, to monitor and ensure implementation of existing and future agreements emerging from the dialogue.
  • Convince the five EU members that have not recognized Kosovo to pledge to do so not on accession, which is far in the future, but rather on achieving candidate status.
  • These moves would give Brussels the kind of credibility it needs, and currently lacks, in Kosovo. Of course it would lose that credibility quickly if any carrots offered to Belgrade are not also provided to Pristina.

Washington

Richard Grenell, still President Trump’s special envoy for the Belgrade/Pristina dialogue, is not a credible interlocutor for either Europe, which he has gone out of his way to offend on numerous occasions, or Kosovo, whose territory he would have happily traded away. He may continue his parallel, mostly uncoordinated effort to achieve economic agreements between Belgrade and Pristina, but the odds are long for anything substantial. He is already refocusing his attention on the election campaign, which all along was one of his motives in pursuing a diplomatic spectacular with Pristina and Belgrade.

Vice President Biden has made clear that he would return the United States to its normal posture in the Balkans: support for democracy, the rule of law, Kosovo’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and normalization between Pristina and Belgrade. While Biden is far ahead in current polling, there are still more than three months left before the election, and six before inauguration day. It is hard for me to picture anything good coming from official Washington before Trump is out of office, though participation in an implementation monitoring mechanism should be feasible. Brussels, Belgrade, and Pristina should all be trying to ensure that if Biden is elected, they will be ready to welcome more serious American engagement.

Presevo Valley Albanians ask to lead a ministry in Serbian government (Koha)

Albanian representatives from the Presevo Valley presented their demands to the Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in exchange for agreeing to join the new government in Belgrade.

Albanians have requested they lead one ministry in the new government. Presevo Mayor Shqiprim Arifi said: “We made it clear to President Vucic the positions of Albanians of Presevo Valley. If he wants to show the world how European they are as people, this is the right time to demonstrate this with actions. Not with words anymore.”

Government defends decisions to appoint minister to extra post (media)

The Government of Kosovo has issued a statement justifying its decision to appoint Interior Minister Agim Veliu to an additional government post, that of national coordinator against terrorism.

The government said Veliu would not be receiving extra payment for the new functions. “This appointment does not in any way imply that a new position has been created. In the function of coordinator, he will not have any new staff or receive additional payment,” the government said.

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