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UNMIK Media Observer, Morning Edition, 16 July

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• Four more people die from COVID-19 on Wednesday (media)
• Kosovo – Serbia dialogue to continue Thursday (media)
• In Brussels, PM Hoti meets Commissioner Varhelyi (media)
• Thaci interviewed for third day by Specialist Prosecutor’s Office (media)
• Beqaj: Specialist court will lead to the ‘cleaning’ of political spectrum (Koha)
• Koci: Thaci should’ve been more transparent about interview (media)
• Former Dutch Ambassador: KLA fought an honorable war (RTK)
• Klinaku: MPs can change law on Specialist Chambers (Telegrafi)
• “German EU Presidency no magic wand for the Balkans” (Balkan Insight)
• North Macedonia Election Returns No Clear Winner (NYT)

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  • Four more people die from COVID-19 on Wednesday (media)
  • Kosovo – Serbia dialogue to continue Thursday (media)
  • In Brussels, PM Hoti meets Commissioner Varhelyi (media)
  • Thaci interviewed for third day by Specialist Prosecutor’s Office (media)
  • Beqaj: Specialist court will lead to the ‘cleaning’ of political spectrum (Koha)
  • Koci: Thaci should’ve been more transparent about interview (media)
  • Former Dutch Ambassador: KLA fought an honorable war (RTK)
  • Klinaku: MPs can change law on Specialist Chambers (Telegrafi)
  • “German EU Presidency no magic wand for the Balkans” (Balkan Insight)
  • North Macedonia Election Returns No Clear Winner (NYT)

Kosovo Media Highlights

Four more people die from COVID-19 on Wednesday (media)

Most news outlets reported that four more people have died from COVID-19 on Wednesday.

More than 300 patients are being treated in Kosovo’s health facilities, with 13 of them reported to be in critical condition.

Media quote a chart presented by the European Stability Initiative based on the figures from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control which put Kosovo at the top of the list for having recorded the most new cases of COVID-19 in the last 14-day period. 

Kosovo – Serbia dialogue to continue Thursday (media)

All media report that the EU-brokered dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia delegations will continue in Brussels today. The European Union External Action Service issued the following statement on Wednesday:

Following the virtual resumption of the Belgrade – Pristina Dialogue facilitated by the European Union on Sunday 12 July, a second high-level meeting will take place in Brussels on Thursday 16 July.

The in-person Dialogue meeting with President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic and Prime Minister of Kosovo Avdullah Hoti will be hosted by High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission Josep Borrell accompanied by EU Special representative for the Dialogue and other Western Balkan regional issues Miroslav Lajcak.

The Dialogue is scheduled to start at 16:00.

The High Representative will give a press statement before the start of the dialogue meeting and EUSR Lajcakat the end of the meeting. 

In Brussels, PM Hoti meets Commissioner Varhelyi (media)

Prime Minister of Kosovo Avdullah Hoti met yesterday in Brussels the European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi and discussed with him the political developments in Kosovo as well as the economic recovery plans after the Covid-19 pandemic.

A statement issued by the Government of Kosovo states that the main topic of discussion was visa liberalisation with Hoti emphasising the urgent need for the process to be concluded. “Kosovo and its citizens are committed in their Euro-Atlantic orientation therefore Prime Minister Hoti assessed that it is also important for the European Union to take the necessary steps to ensure free movement for the citizens of Kosovo,” the statement reads.

Thaci interviewed for third day by Specialist Prosecutor’s Office (media)

All media report that Kosovo President Hashim Thaci was interviewed for the third day by the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office at The Hague. Thaci did not talk to reporters after the six-hour interview.

Media report that the interview will continue Thursday.

Beqaj: Specialist court will lead to the ‘cleaning’ of political spectrum (Koha)

Political commentator Belul Beqaj said in an interview with KTV that he believed the Specialist Chambers will have an impact on the Kosovo’s political landscape.

“It will create consequences in the political spectrum which will be cleaned and the citizens will not be in the position as before to vote for those who have potentially gone to the Specialist Chambers,” Beqaj said adding that this could in turn lead to a ‘healthier’ political landscape.

Beqaj however noted that no Kosovo citizens in their sane mind should rejoice to the fact that Kosovo leaders are being accused of war crimes but at the same time criticised President Hashim Thaci for what he called ‘two-sided cunningness’.

“If Hashim Thaci is truly the one presenting himself today, why did he not visit Adem Jashari’s grave the day he pressured MPs into passing the law on specialist chambers. If he is the same president as the one identifying himself with the KLA, then why didn’t he put the KLA emblem on Facebook the day he put pressure for adoption of the Law. Two-sided cunningness,” Beqaj said.

Koci: Thaci should’ve been more transparent about interview (media)

Prishtina-based attorney Arianit Koci said in an interview with T7 on Thursday that the several-day interviewing of Kosovo President Hashim Thaci by the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office is standard procedure.

He also said that Thaci should have been more transparent about the invitation because of his position. “Because he was summoned in the capacity of President, he should have been more transparent. If he were an ordinary citizen, it would not have been as important. But as President, he should have been more transparent,” Koci added.

Former Dutch Ambassador: KLA fought an honorable war (RTK)

Robert Bosch, former Dutch Ambassador to Kosovo, said in an interview with the TV station on Wednesday that “the Kosovo Liberation Army fought an honorable war, nothing less and nothing more than survival”. “The KLA was an organisation that emerged in the late 1990s, because Rugova’s peaceful activities were not giving results and some young people, including now President Thaci, said they need to pick up arms otherwise their country would be destroyed,” he said.

Bosch said the Marty report was published in the time when he was serving as ambassador in Kosovo. “I was very surprised because it was not written well and if you read the report what is surprising is that judges say to look for crimes committed by the KLA but not crimes committed by the Serbs,” he added.

Bosch also said that “the main point of the charges is the organs trafficking, and in 2014 the U.S. prosecutor Williamson said that there is nothing suspicious about organs trafficking”.

“At the time I was ambassador … and I certainly defended it [the Specialist Chambers] because I was an ambassador and you must follow orders from above,” Bosch added.

Klinaku: MPs can change law on Specialist Chambers (Telegrafi)

Faton Klinaku, Secretary of the War Veterans of the former Kosovo Liberation Army, said in a debate on TV Dukagjini on Tuesday that Kosovo Assembly members can and should review the law on the Specialist Chambers.

“Members of the Kosovo Assembly must know that for us the Specialist Chambers were always a political court and proof of this is the way that this court is making public the indictments, which is in opposition with the rules of every court. Regardless of our initiative, it would be good for MPs to review the issue of the Specialist Chambers. This is a political and biased court that tries only the KLA. We have asked for Kosovo to have a local court that would try all crimes that happened in Kosovo,” he said.

“They [MPs] should amend the law, so that all crimes committed in Kosovo are tried, because no one is trying the crimes committed by Serbia. The MPs can become aware, and if they don’t history will judge them for the evil they have brought upon Kosovo,” Klinaku added.

“German EU Presidency no magic wand for the Balkans” (Balkan Insight)

Opinion piece by Vesko Garcevic, former Montenegrin ambassador to NATO, the OSCE and other international organisations, for Balkan Insight.

It is foolhardy to think Germany’s presidency of the EU or the bloc’s revival of Belgrade-Pristina talks signal a radical shift in enthusiasm for enlargement to the Western Balkans. Balkan states themselves must make concrete plans if they are to deepen relations with the bloc.

The Balkans has a problem with the management of expectations. Often, we expect that things will go a certain way whether we do something or not. Just take a look at how authorities are handling the resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

What all countries of the region have in common is a belief that the situation will somehow be under control by the middle of August, if not before. In the meantime, people’s behavior, the lack of coherent policy, or, for example, political protests in Serbia [without calling into question the justified motive behind the protests] make improbable the assumption that normality will return by then.

Something similar is happening with regional expectations for Germany’s presidency of the European Union that began this month. Despite the discouraging circumstances – COVID-19 and forecasts of a 4.7 per cent contraction in the EU economy – many in the region believe that Germany’s six-month presidency may revive dwindling EU enthusiasm for the Western Balkans.

Their expectations are rooted in the premise that not only is Germany interested in keeping enlargement alive but, more importantly, it is capable of revitalising the process.

It is true to say that, at a time when several EU members would rather have a contractual relationship with the region, a type of enhanced association, Berlin’s support for the EU perspective is of critical importance.

Those who wish to believe in the EU’s stronger political engagement in the region point to the renewed Belgrade-Pristina dialogue at the outset of the German presidency as supporting evidence. As positive as this is, however, the revived dialogue, which is supposed to pave the way for the normalisation of relations between Serbia and Kosovo, will be a long and perplexing endeavour.

Yet, the EU’s sudden need to resurrect the negotiations should be seen in the context of the rivalry between the EU and the United States over the process. It has taken two years to get the leaders of two countries at the negotiating table, and it happened only when the US took the lead, providing oxygen to a dying dialogue.

Read full piece at: https://bit.ly/3fygLxX

North Macedonia Election Returns No Clear Winner (NYT)

The first general election in North Macedonia since the country changed its name and resolved a longstanding dispute with neighboring Greece has ended with no clear winner, leaving the country’s future diplomatic trajectory in the balance.

The center-left Social Democrats emerged as the strongest party, taking 36.3 percent of the vote with nearly 90 percent of ballots counted. That leaves the party several seats short of the 61 it needs to form a majority in the 120-seat Parliament, and facing several days of tense coalition talks with smaller parties.

The Social Democrats’ closest rival, the nationalist VMRO-DPMNE, won about 34.9 percent, meaning that it could still gain power with the support of smaller parties representing the country’s ethnic Albanian minority.

Read more: https://nyti.ms/2OqjwFE

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