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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, August 05, 2020

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Albanian Language Media:

• COVID-19 report: 218 new cases, 15 deaths (media)
• Hoti urges MPs to endorse economic recovery package (media)
• OSCE prepares COVID-19 manual for the visually impaired (Kallxo)
• Mustafa plans to meet Haradinaj and discuss coalition concerns (Indeksonline)
• Despite U.S. objections, PDK pushes for law on KLA war values (Koha)

Serbian Language Media:

• No data on newly COVID-19 infected in Serb areas in Kosovo (Kontakt plus radio)
• Vucic and Botsan-Kharchenko: Important implementation of the agreement on the Community of Serbian Municipalities (N1)
• Spahiu: The question is the price that Kosovo will pay for the recognition, it is a matter of an agreement between the Americans and Vucic (Kosovo Online)
• Jevtic on Twitter: A returnee house shot at from a moving vehicle (N1)
• Fila: Kosovo Assembly can pass any law; the question is whether it will be applicable in practice (Kosovo Online)
• Dveri movement will not join United Opposition of Serbia because of Kosovo (FoNet, N1)

Humanitarian/Development:

• Understaffed Kosovo Health System Close to Collapse, Doctors Warn (Balkan Insight)
• WHO: Most likely – bats; “Surprises are possible” (B92, Tanjug)

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Albanian Language Media:

  • COVID-19 report: 218 new cases, 15 deaths (media)
  • Hoti urges MPs to endorse economic recovery package (media)
  • OSCE prepares COVID-19 manual for the visually impaired (Kallxo)
  • Mustafa plans to meet Haradinaj and discuss coalition concerns (Indeksonline)
  • Despite U.S. objections, PDK pushes for law on KLA war values (Koha)

 Serbian Language Media:

  • No data on newly COVID-19 infected in Serb areas in Kosovo (Kontakt plus radio) 
  • Vucic and Botsan-Kharchenko: Important implementation of the agreement on the Community of Serbian Municipalities (N1)
  • Spahiu: The question is the price that Kosovo will pay for the recognition, it is a matter of an agreement between the Americans and Vucic (Kosovo Online) 
  • Jevtic on Twitter: A returnee house shot at from a moving vehicle (N1)
  • Fila: Kosovo Assembly can pass any law; the question is whether it will be applicable in practice (Kosovo Online)
  • Dveri movement will not join United Opposition of Serbia because of Kosovo (FoNet, N1)

Humanitarian/Development:

  • Understaffed Kosovo Health System Close to Collapse, Doctors Warn (Balkan Insight)
  • WHO: Most likely – bats; “Surprises are possible” (B92, Tanjug)

 

 

Albanian Language Media

 

COVID-19 report: 218 new cases, 15 deaths (media)

Kosovo has recorded 218 new cases of coronavirus over the last 24 hours and 15 deaths, the National Institute for Public Health said. 

Meanwhile, 156 recoveries were confirmed over the same time period. 

Majority of the new cases are in Prishtina municipality (70). 

According to the National Institute for Public Health figures, there are currently 3,862 active cases of COVID-19 in Kosovo.

Hoti urges MPs to endorse economic recovery package (media)

Prime Minister of Kosovo Avdullah Hoti has urged legislators to support the draft law on economic recovery after it was approved by the budget and finance committee. 

Hoti thanked the members of the committee for supporting the draft law which enables the Assembly to vote on it before summer recess. 

“We are on a good path to mobilise the amount of €1.2 billion for economic recovery,” Hoti said.

OSCE prepares COVID-19 manual for the visually impaired (Kallxo)

The OSCE Mission in Kosovo has supported the Ministry of Health’s request to prepare alongside the Kosovo Association of the Blind a specialized version of the Kosovo Government Manual for COVID-19 Prevention and Control for the visually impaired.

The document has been printed in Braille in the Albanian and Serbian languages, and has been distributed through the Association’s wide network to recipients Kosovo-wide.

The Head of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo, Ambassador Jan Braathu said: “Access to information is a basic human right. During this pandemic, it is crucial that everyone is informed about how to avoid becoming infected with the coronavirus.”

Mustafa plans to meet Haradinaj and discuss coalition concerns (Indeksonline)

Leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) Isa Mustafa said he plans to meet the leader of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo Ramush Haradinaj to discuss concerns he recently expressed over the functioning of the coalition government.

“I was fighting Covid until a few days ago. As soon as I fully recover I will meet Mr. Haradinaj. We will discuss all issues being opened in the media. The coalition is built on the basis of mutual trust and we will invest in this trust being fostered,” Mustafa said. 

In an interview with the public broadcaster RTK, Haradinaj accused Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti for what he called ‘privatisation of dialogue’ with Serbia. He said he would not support the EU-facilitated talks if his party is not included. “The dialogue with Serbia must not be privatised; there needs to be broad-based consensus on the process,” he added.

Despite U.S. objections, PDK pushes for law on KLA war values (Koha)

The Assembly of Kosovo is expected  to review on Friday the draft law which obliges institutions and citizens to defend the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) values. The draft law has been initiated by the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) which does not plan to back down despite the U.S. Ambassador Philip Kosnett having expressed objections to it. 

“The proposed KLA Values Law is the wrong way to show respect for KLA. It criminalizes free speech, intimidates citizens, and is costly. It distracts from practical efforts to understand and teach Kosovo’s history,” Kosnett said last week.

Initiator of the legislation, Gazmend Bytyqi from PDK, said there is no reason why the draft law should be recalled. “We have respected and continue to respect the assessment and advice of the U.S. Ambassador Kosnett,” he said. “The law is on its legal procedure path and we see no reason to take it back,” Bytyqi added. He also said there is broad political consensus to adopt the law. 

However, MP from Vetevendosje Movement Arberie Nagavci said the legislation in question needs to undergo interventions before it can be supported by her party while Arben Gashi from the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) said they will come out with a position on the law as soon as they review it.

 

 

Serbian Language Media

 

No data on newly COVID-19 infected in Serb areas in Kosovo (Kontakt plus radio)

Kontakt plus radio reports that today the Crisis Committee of North Mitrovica municipality, scheduled for today at 11 hours, has been cancelled since results of the last samples haven’t arrived yet. 

The radio reports that the conference will be held tomorrow at 11 am, when the results should be known. 

The radio recalls the last known data, from Monday, 3 August, whereby since the start of pandemic 3 525 have been tested, 825 people got infected with Covid-19, three persons died in Serb areas in Kosovo.  

In central Kosovo 189 cases have been registered. 

Total number of active cases is 521. 

Vucic and Botsan-Kharchenko: Implementation of the agreement on the Community of Serbian Municipalities is important (Beta, N1)

The President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic and the Ambassador of Russia Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko discussed the course of the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina and assessed that it would be essential to implement and previously reached agreements between Belgrade and Pristina, especially those concerning the Community of Serbian Municipalities, quotes Belgrade based agency Beta. 

Vucic and Botsan-Kharchenko talked especially about missing and internally displaced persons in the context of the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, as well as about the economy, the press service of the President of Serbia announced.

As stated, the talks focused on current issues of Serbian-Russian relations and bilateral cooperation, especially on the implementation of specific agreements and joint projects.

The two interlocutors expressed hope that the circumstances will soon allow both countries to fully commit to the realization of joint plans for cooperation in various fields.

They also expressed the expectation that they would enable more frequent interstate contacts and exchange of high-level visits, so that the announced visit of President Putin would be prepared in the best way, added the announcement.

Spahiu: The question is the price that Kosovo will pay for the recognition, it is a matter of an agreement between the Americans and Vucic (Kosovo Online) 

In a statement for portal for Kosovo Online, political analyst Nexhmedin Spahiu estimates that now is the best time to reach a final agreement between Kosovo and Serbia, since, as he adds, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, in addition to absolute support in parliament, has the support of America and Russia, which might be disrupted if no final agreement is reached.

“If Vucic does not formally reach an agreement with Kosovo, there is a possibility that he will lose the support of Russia or America, and that would mean a fall from power, and that is why the best solution for him is to reach a solution,” says Spahiu.

According to Spahiu, the success of the dialogue depends more on the Americans and Belgrade than on Kosovo. He points out that negotiations will continue in Brussels with the aim of improving relations and creating an atmosphere for a final agreement.

“There is no other solution, there is the recognition of Kosovo by Serbia and the price of which Kosovo will pay for that recognition. That price is a matter of the agreement that the Americans will reach with Vucic. I don’t know what this will be. I think the exchange of territories has been eliminated, although It can still be one of the options. It is known that there will be the Community of Serbian Municipalities but to what extent, it will be a matter of negotiations, that is, the price that Kosovo will pay for recognition from Serbia,” Spahiu said.

Commenting on Prime Minister Avdulah Hoti’s statements that he will continue lobbying for Kosovo’s admission to international organizations, as well as Serbia’s moves on the campaign to withdraw Kosovo’s independence, Spahiu says that any non-compliance with the agreement is detrimental to both sides.

“Why, then, is negotiation, everyone should contribute with their performance in order to move forward, and that is in the interest of everyone, both Kosovo and Serbia, and the region that is suffering because of the bad relations between Belgrade and Pristina,” Spahiu said.

Spahiu assesses the current political situation in Kosovo as very fragile, but despite that, he does not expect the ruling coalition to disintegrate, because the situation is clear that the new elections will bring victory to Albin Kurti.

“In this situation, I do not believe that the government will fall, especially when there is a danger of Kurti’s victory and when several actors from the Kosovo political scene are going to The Hague. I do not believe that Haradinaj will decide to overthrow the government, so it is certain that it will continue until the election of the President of Kosovo,” concludes Spahiu.

Jevtic on Twitter: A returnee house shot at from a moving vehicle (N1)

Kosovo’s Minister for Communities and Return Dalibor Jevtic said on Tuesday that unknown perpetrators fired shots on the house of Zoran Kostic, a returnee in the north-western village of Vidanje.

He and his wife were not injured.

Jevtic wrote on his Twitter account the incident was reported to the police and that they launched a probe into the shooting.

Commenting on the incident, Marko Djuric, the head of Serbia’s Government Office for Kosovo said it was “a confirmation that in Kosovo and Metohija still exist people which want to change the ethnic picture on the ground by force.”  

Fila: Kosovo Assembly can pass any law; the question is whether it will be applicable in practice (Kosovo Online)

Belgrade lawyer Toma Fila told portal Kosovo Online that the draft law on KLA values, which will be discussed by members of the Kosovo Assembly on Friday, is actually an idea of individuals that the KLA cannot be criticized, which prevents the basic human right to freedom of speech.

Fila also notes that “if the law passes the parliamentary procedure, it will not be applicable.”

“The Kosovo Assembly can vote whatever it wants, any law can pass, but it is unlikely that this law will be implemented in practice, that is the essence,” notes Fila.

He adds that he is sure that Serbs from Kosovo will not respect that decision.

“No one will be able to do anything there. We have had already similar examples in history, as was the case in communism and with the chetniks. No one can forbid a person to have the right to his opinion on something,” Fila points out.

According to him, the Law on the Values of the KLA will also not be an area of interest for the Special Court in The Hague.

“This decision has nothing to do with the Special Court. The Hague will certainly not deal with any internal laws, nor will it deal with whether the KLA was correct or not. What the Special Court will be interested in are the crimes of individuals and their indictments. That is the official position of the court in The Hague,” says Fila. 

He adds that it is completely understandable that the American ambassador to Kosovo, Philip Kosnett also believes that the proposed law is the wrong way to show respect for the KLA.

“Although Kosovo is an American child, I am not surprised by Kosnett’s position. If he had had a different opinion, then the question would have been asked why freedom of speech is not banned in the United States as well. Some basic human rights cannot be denied,” Fila concludes.

On Friday, August 7, members of the Kosovo Assembly will discuss the draft law on protection of the former KLA’s war values, despite the assessments of foreign diplomats and Serb representatives that it will endanger freedom of speech and increase the existing fear among all non-Albanian ethnic communities in Kosovo, reports portal Kosovo Online.

Dveri movement will not join United Opposition of Serbia because of Kosovo (FoNet, N1)

A senior official of the Serbian opposition Dveri Movement said that his party will not join the United Opposition of Serbia unless that new political group makes Kosovo a top priority, reported Belgrade based agency FoNet.

A press release quoted Dveri deputy leader Ivan Kostic as saying that the movement joined the Alliance for Serbia (SzS) because it included several Dveri program priorities in its own program, including two which “insisted on respect for the constitution and UN Security Council resolution 1244, not recognizing the false state of Kosovo and a referendum on the issue”.

Kostic added that the SzS ceased to exist with the forming of the United Opposition of Serbia which led the Dveri Presidency to decide not to join the new opposition group and continue its political activities independently but is prepared to work with the rest of the opposition to fight for free media and democratic elections. 

“Cooperation among the opposition is needed to topple the current authorities but that does not mean we should melt into a new opposition platform which has no clearly defined views on key national and state issues. Defending Kosovo as part of Serbia and cooperating with everyone who shares our view as well as the defense of holy shrines, the Serbian people and the church in Montenegro is our priority at this time,” the deputy leader of the conservative right-wing party said.

 

 

Humanitarian/Development

 

Understaffed Kosovo Health System Close to Collapse, Doctors Warn (Balkan Insight)

In Kosovo, COVID-19 comes on top of years of brain drain that has left the health system dangerously exposed.

At 7.30 every morning, since the first two confirmed cases of COVID-19 were registered in Kosovo on March 13, infectious diseases specialist Dr. Arben Vishaj holds a meeting with the staff of Department E at the Pristina university hospital’s infectious diseases clinic.

Vishaj’s team includes a nurse, a pediatrician and two residents being trained under Vishaj. The pediatrician, he said, “is an expert in her field, but in order for her to treat COVID-19 patients I have to constantly prescribe the treatment for every patient.”

The team is “very prepared,” said Vishaj, “but not for infectious diseases,” since there aren’t enough infectious diseases doctors to go round.

Most of the doctors, meanwhile, are on call 24-hours at least twice a week. And it’s taking a toll.

Starved of numbers and expertise by a dramatic exodus of medical professionals for better-paid jobs in Germany and elsewhere in western Europe, not to mention those infected with COVID-19 or self-isolating, Kosovo’s health system is buckling under the strain of a pandemic that is on the rise again.

“The infectious [diseases] clinic is overcrowded with patients and the number of infectious diseases specialists is small,” said Dr. Veli Rexha, an infectious diseases specialist at the university hospital. “The staff of the infectious diseases clinic is really tired because since the beginning of the pandemic we have worked tirelessly for the health system.”

Blerim Delija, deputy head of the Federation of Health Trade Unions of Kosovo, went further, telling BIRN: “I estimate that the huge disruption from the large number of patients with COVID-19 may lead to the collapse of the health system due to [the demand on] human resources.”

Doctors constantly covering for self-isolating colleagues

As of August 3, 256  people with COVID-19 have died in Kosovo. Some 9,049  people have tested positive since testing began in February, with 4,060  cases currently active. A total of 414 were being treated in hospital as of July 28, 224 of whom in the university hospital where Vishaj and Rexha work.

According to official estimates some 140 doctors have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, including Fadil Zuka from the town of Viti/Vitina in southeastern Kosovo, who last week became the first doctor to die, according to the Chamber of Kosovo Doctors. Since then four other doctors have died due to complications after being infected with COVID-19.

Delija told BIRN that some 500 health workers have been infected. Besides those forced to take time off by sickness, the health system is already grappling with a ‘brain drain’ that, as BIRN reported in December last year, sees one Kosovar doctor emigrate every other day. Nurses are heading for the exits at a rate of two per day.

Besides his daily workload at the university hospital, Rexha is also a consultant for other clinics where, he says, he must “do all the consultations in those clinics that need an infectious diseases specialist.”

In the Family Medical Centre in Podujeve/Podujevo, northeastern Kosovo, Dr. Flamur Lahu said doctors were constantly having to switch fields of expertise to cover for those having to self-isolate. They include Dr. Besarta Shala, who told BIRN that she worked on COVID-19-related cases twice, each time for 24 hours to cover for the lack of medical staff.

With health workers accounting for nine per cent of the overall number of infections, Lahu said, “health workers are 15 times more at risk”.

Lahu, who also moderates a medical advice group on Facebook with more than 160,000 members, said clinics in places like Podujeve/Podujevo also have to carry out home visits to families which have cases of COVID-19. Doctors monitor the patients, prescribe treatment and, in severe cases, call an ambulance to transfer them to hospital.

“This process continues and is repeated every day,” said Lahu. “When new cases are reported, the team together with the disinfection service visits the families. Disinfection is performed and medical visits are carried out at home.”

BIRN contacted Kosovo’s health ministry and the acting head of the university hospital for comment on this story but received no reply.

Meanwhile, volunteers are helping to fill the gaps.

“Despite the many cases, I still think the situation is manageable,” said Dr. Nita Ymeraga, who began volunteering at the university hospital in April in gathering clinical data before joining the likes of Vishaj and Rexha on the frontlines of the infectious diseases clinic due to the lack of doctors.

“This has happened due to the decentralisation of how patients are hospitalised,” she said. “But if the numbers continue to grow at the same pace, this too leaves a lot to be desired.”

See at: https://bit.ly/2Pt204a

WHO: Most likely – bats; “Surprises are possible” (B92, Tanjug)

A team from the World Health Organization, which is investigating the origin of COVID-19 in China, said that the virus most likely originated from bats.

There was probably another host animal as a mediator.

Scientists and governments around the world are eagerly awaiting the results of the WHO investigation, Reuters reports.

“The team had extensive talks with Chinese colleagues and received information on epidemiological studies, biological and genetic analyzes and veterinary research,” WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said.

He added that video interviews were conducted with virologists and scientists from Wuhan.

WHO official Mike Ryan said yesterday that surprises are possible.

“The fact that the alarm went off in Wuhan does not mean that the infection passed from animal to human,” he said.

See at: https://bit.ly/2DxBBPY

 

 

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