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UNMIK Media Observer, Morning Edition, 17 July

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• EU High Representative Borrell’s remarks prior to high-level meeting (media)
• Hoti: A difficult meeting on two topics – missing persons and economy (media)
• Hoti: Mutual recognition and normalisation of relations, final objective (media)
• Lajcak: Next high-level meeting in September (media)
• Vucic: The meeting was not easy (media)
• Serbia accuses Kosovo of ‘blackmail’ after talks in Brussels (DW)
• EU diplomat: Three stages of talks between Kosovo and Serbia (Klan Kosova)
• Tahiri: Hoti has constitutional obligation to go to Brussels (media)
• President Thaci concludes interview with Specialist Chambers (media)
• Kosovo FM reacts to book displayed at Serbian mission in Brussels (Telegrafi)
• “WHO does not recommend serology testing for diagnosis purposes” (Koha)
• Kuci: 56 percent of businesses risk bankruptcy (Koha)
• Pandemic reveals ‘systemic’ issues faced by Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities (Prishtina Insight)
• A land swap won’t solve Serbia – Kosovo conundrum (Balkan Insight)

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  • EU High Representative Borrell’s remarks prior to high-level meeting (media)
  • Hoti: A difficult meeting on two topics – missing persons and economy (media)
  • Hoti: Mutual recognition and normalisation of relations, final objective (media)
  • Lajcak: Next high-level meeting in September (media)
  • Vucic: The meeting was not easy (media)
  • Serbia accuses Kosovo of ‘blackmail’ after talks in Brussels (DW)
  • EU diplomat: Three stages of talks between Kosovo and Serbia (Klan Kosova)
  • Tahiri: Hoti has constitutional obligation to go to Brussels (media)
  • President Thaci concludes interview with Specialist Chambers (media)
  • Kosovo FM reacts to book displayed at Serbian mission in Brussels (Telegrafi)
  • “WHO does not recommend serology testing for diagnosis purposes” (Koha)
  • Kuci: 56 percent of businesses risk bankruptcy (Koha)
  • Pandemic reveals ‘systemic’ issues faced by Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities (Prishtina Insight)
  • A land swap won’t solve Serbia – Kosovo conundrum (Balkan Insight)

 Kosovo Media Highlights

EU High Representative Borrell’s remarks prior to high-level meeting (media)

The European Union High Representative Josep Borrell made the following statement prior to the high-level meeting in Brussels with Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.

I am very happy to address you only four days after our first high-level meeting of the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue.

Sunday’s meeting was the first one after a break of 20 months. A long time. I am glad to see that the European Union is back in the driver’s seat of the process.

The President of Serbia [Aleksandar Vučić] and the Prime Minister of Kosovo [Avdullah Hoti] are today with us here in Brussels for the first in-person meeting.

By meeting for the second time in a week, the two leaders show their firm commitment to the EU-facilitated Dialogue among them. And I [have to] welcome that very much.

Today, I expect a constructive discussion on the first elements of our talks, which will contribute to the comprehensive normalisation of the relations between Kosovo and Serbia.

I encourage both sides to approach today’s talks in the spirit of compromise and pragmatism and with the European future for the people in Kosovo and Serbia in mind.

Hoti: A difficult meeting on two topics – missing persons and economy (media)

Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti said after meeting Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Brussels on Thursday that there has been process in the EU-facilitated dialogue.

“It was a difficult meeting. I presented our position at the meeting and I will never move from this position. This the final phase of resolving outstanding issues with Serbia,” Hoti said. He added that the process could take weeks or months, but not longer.

“We are in the final phase of concluding the final agreement with Serbia,” he said. 

Hoti: Mutual recognition and normalisation of relations, final objective (media)

Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti said in a Facebook post on Thursday that mutual recognition and the normalisation of relations between Kosovo and Serbia are the basic principles and the final objective of the process.

“Upon our request, the two topics of the first meeting were missing persons and economic issues. For us, the economic issues also include war damages reparations, succession, state debt, pensions, bank savings, the lost salaries of workers fired from their jobs, damages to private property and other issues that will be discussed in upcoming meetings. We are determined to conclude the issue of missing persons as soon as possible, because we feel morally obliged to their families,” Hoti said.

“Kosovo’s destination is Euro-Atlantic integration. The dialogue has no alternative. With the support of our friends we will achieve our objective, because it is in the interest of Kosovo and Serbia, in the interest of peace, stability and prosperity in the region, as well as in the interest of the EU and the U.S.”

“During this difficult process, we have full faith in our international friends, the same way we had in the past when they supported the liberation and independence of Kosovo”.

Lajcak: Next high-level meeting in September (media)

The European Union Special Representative for the Kosovo – Serbia Dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak, issued the following statement after today’s meeting with Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.

Today, we held the second high-level meeting of the EU-facilitated Dialogue after resumption, in person, in Brussels.

I thank both parties for coming to Brussels and for their engagement today.

Today’s discussions focused on two elements:

The first element discussed was missing persons and displaced persons.

On the first one, this is a very symbolic issue in the context of reconciliation, and it is a very real issue for the families who live with uncertainty for decades.

It is key to work with the ICRC to solve the remaining cases and bring closure to the file.

As for the second topic, this is an important issue as well… and it is also about ensuring sustainable living conditions for those who already returned.

The second issue discussed was economic cooperation. It is one of the backbones of the European Union. Intensified economic cooperation means making use of the full economic potential of Kosovo and Serbia, and it means creating jobs and improving living standards for the people.

I am glad that after today’s initial exchange of positions, both leaders agreed to continue to work intensively at expert level already next week.

And it was agreed that the next high-level meeting will take place in Brussels in early September.

Vucic: The meeting was not easy (media)

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told reporters in Brussels after meeting Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti that the meeting was not easy and that it focused on missing persons, the IDPs and the economy. “Talks on missing persons and IDPs will continue next Wednesday at the technical level,” he said.

Vucic said that the Kosovo delegation asked for the archives of Serbian police and army to be opened, and that he asked the same for the archives of the Kosovo Liberation Army.

“We are ready to respond to any request coming from the Albanians. Wherever they may think that they can point to the map and a location where they think a grave of Albanians may be located, we are ready to go there and check together with them and with the presence of European officials. But we asked the same for us. Because so far we did not have access to Llapushnik, Gjakova, Koshare and in some other locations,” Vucic said.

Serbia accuses Kosovo of ‘blackmail’ after talks in Brussels (DW)

The respective leaders of the Balkan neighbors have met in Brussels for face-to-face talks. The EU is hoping for frosty relations to thaw but discussions got off to an inauspicious start, Deutsche Welle reports.

EU officials brokered a videoconference last Sunday between Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo’s new Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti. And on Thursday the pair went a step further by meeting in person in Brussels in an effort to thaw frosty relations.

However, after the summit in the Belgian capital Vucic accused Hoti of coming not to talk, but to try to “blackmail” Serbia.

“Is it pleasant to sit on the other end from Hoti and listen to the gibberish, saying that they are the only victims and we are the only villains? No,” Vucic said.

Read more: https://bit.ly/2OzrRXC

EU diplomat: Three stages of talks between Kosovo and Serbia (Klan Kosova)

A European diplomat, reportedly close to the latest developments in the Kosovo – Serbia dialogue, told Klan Kosova about the new methodology of the talks designed by the Germans and the French. The process of talks will reportedly be divided into three stages.

The first stage will focus on the missing persons and IDPs from the war. A sub-topic of this phase will be economic cooperation, including the exchange of goods and services. The first stage will also tackle the agreements signed earlier in the process and their implementation, most notably the Agreement on the Association/Community of Serb-majority Municipalities.

The second phase of talks will include what the news website calls heated political issues. “This includes the status of the Serb Orthodox Church in Kosovo, not excluding extra-territoriality for at least four monuments that are under the UNESCO World Heritage sites: the Peja Patriarchy, the Decan Monastery, the Gracanica Monastery and the Saint Friday Church in Prizren,” the diplomatic source said.

The EU diplomat also said that if the Kosovo side agrees to this, the EU will view this as Prishtina’s capital compromise toward the finale.

The third, and most important phase, is the drafting of the final legally-binding agreement on mutual recognition. This request comes from Germany and it has made it clear to Serbia that without recognising Kosovo it cannot join the European Union.

Tahiri: Hoti has constitutional obligation to go to Brussels (media)

Kosovo’s Deputy Prime Minister Besnik Tahiri said on Thursday that Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti has a constitutional obligation to take part in the EU-brokered talks in Brussels. Tahiri’s remarks were a reaction to a statement by an advisor to President Thaci who criticised Hoti for going to Brussels.

Tahiri said “every Albanian that breathes and speaks Albanian is with President Thaci at The Hague, because the fight of the Kosovo Liberation Army was fair, and it is clear who was the victim and who was the aggressor. Avdullah Hoti did not go to Brussels for fun, but because has a duty and obligation deriving from the Constitution of Kosovo and also from Kosovo’s commitment to the dialogue”.

Tahiri also said that “any tendency to weaken, Thaci at The Hague and Hoti in Brussels, is directly damaging to the interests of the Republic of Kosovo”.

President Thaci concludes interview with Specialist Chambers (media)

All news outlets report that Kosovo President Hashim Thaci has concluded his interview with the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office at The Hague. “I just finished my testimony. I am glad that for four days in a row I was able to give my explanations about all issued related to my activity during the war and my efforts for peace and progress,” Thaci said after the interview. “I tried to explain information about my role during the war, the period covered by the mandate of the Specialist Chambers. I was accompanied by Ambassador Prosper in his capacity as lawyer. My testimony lasted for long, but I believe we had productive sessions”.

Thaci also said “it is now up to the prosecutor and the judge to assess with impartiality. If they assess honorable, they can easily conclude that I have not committed any crime or alleged violation”.

Asked by a reporter if he was interviewed about allegations in Dick Marty’s report, Thaci said: “Tonight I am not allowed to reveal any information about my testimony for the last four days. But regarding your question, I can confirm that I was never asked about Dick Marty’s allegations”.

Kosovo FM reacts to book displayed at Serbian mission in Brussels (Telegrafi)

Kosovo’s Foreign Minister Meliza Haradinaj-Stublla has reacted following a picture from the meeting between the Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi at Serbia’s mission residence in Brussels which featured in the background a book titled “The Christian Heritage of Kosovo and Metohija”. Haradinaj-Stublla said the book presents a provocation.

“It goes beyond a diplomatic scandal and much more than a provocation and bias,” she wrote saying the ‘chauvinist’ book was intentionally placed at the meeting venue.

“WHO does not recommend serology testing for diagnosis purposes” (Koha)

The head of the World Health Organisation for Bulgaria, Skender Syla, said they do not recommend serology testing for diagnosing COVID-19 and that such tests are only used for studies.

“At the present epidemiological situation, there needs to be a significant increase of RT PCR tests which determine the acute/present infection. WHO does not recommend serology testing for any other purposes except for epidemiological and immunity studies,” Syla said.

Yesterday, the Municipality of Pristina said it would begin serology testing for COVID-19 after it purchased over 10,000 testing kits. Deputy Mayor Selim Pacolli said that the results of such tests will be ready in 30 minutes and that they are aimed at determining the presence of antibodies not of the virus itself.

Kuci: 56 percent of businesses risk bankruptcy (Koha)

Kosovo’s Minister for Economy and Environment, Blerim Kuci, said in an interview to KTV on Thursday that a study conducted in May showed that 56 percent of businesses in Kosovo face the risk of bankruptcy as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We must act in line with two measures: how to protect the people’s health but also how to protect the health of the economy. The government has undertaken several actions. The government has voted on a draft law for managing this situation and it will be sent to the Assembly. I hope MPs will realise the urgency of adopting the law, because without it we cannot move forward with the economic revival plan,” Kuci said.

Pandemic reveals ‘systemic’ issues faced by Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities (Prishtina Insight)

A lack of access to data on coronavirus testing among the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities and the low participation of children in minority social groups in online distance learning programmes are two of the main findings of a report detailing the difficulties faced by these three communities in Kosovo during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report, which was published on Thursday by Admovere, an education and transitional justice NGO, explores the effects of the decisions that were made to contain the spread of the virus and to provide financial support to citizens in the municipalities of Ferizaj, Fushe Kosove and Lipjan, areas where the majority of members of these three communities reside.

Read more: https://bit.ly/30n9xXj

A land swap won’t solve Serbia – Kosovo conundrum (Balkan Insight)

Opinion piece by Ian Bancroft, the author of ‘Dragon’s Teeth: Tales from North Kosovo’.

It was supposed to be a triumph for the Trump administration, a welcome foreign policy boost ahead of this November’s presidential elections.

Alas, a planned White House meeting between the presidents of Serbia and Kosovo, Aleksandar Vucic and Hashim Thaci, was stymied by an announcement by the Kosovo Specialist Prosecutor’s Office that the latter could face trial for war crimes.

US mediation in the Kosovo-Serbia dispute arguably became a victim of its own success; the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office being so aghast by the prospect that Thaci might negotiate an amnesty for himself that it took the unprecedented step of publicising an indictment that is yet to be confirmed by a judge.

The European Union has since jumped at the opportunity to re-engage with a process which it initiated and presided over for almost a decade ago.

Dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina under the auspices of the EU had remained stalled since the introduction of a tariff regime by Kosovo back in 2018.

It was a move ostensibly motivated by Serbia’s campaign to encourage countries to suspend or reverse their recognition of Kosovo’s independence; a campaign which bore a healthier harvest than it might have expected.

Resuscitating negotiations required US chest compressions, and a hijacking of the EU’s connectivity agenda. A highly symbolic deal on resuming flights between Belgrade and Pristina (which seems unlikely to get off the ground), alongside a commitment to revitalise rail and road links, created renewed momentum. The US special envoy for Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, Richard Grenell, also hinted at further progress on the economic front.

Yet many suspected that this process – which has been blamed for causing the downfall of Prime Minister Albin Kurti and his Vetëvendosje-led government in June – was conspiring to bring about a historic land-swap deal. Namely, part of the predominantly Serb-populated north of Kosovo would be exchanged for part of the predominantly ethnic Albanian-populated south of Serbia.

Read full piece at: https://bit.ly/3j6K4Kh

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