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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, August 12, 2020

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Albanian Language Media:

• COVID-19: 205 new cases, 11 deaths (media)
• ZDF: COVID-19 situation in Kosovo has spiralled out of control (Klan/Zeri)
• Committee calls for harmonised response to Serbian forces patrolling in Karaceva (Koha)
• Karaceva residents protest over patrolling of Serbian forces (media)
• AAK’s Tahiri: No coalition problems with LDK (Kosovapress)

Serbian Language Media:

• In Serb areas in Kosovo, five new cases, two cured and one deceased (Kontakt plus radio)
• Dacic: It is hypocritical to accuse Serbia and Vucic of recognizing Kosovo (Kosovo Online, Tanjug)
• Kosovo’s fmr official: Over 70 pct of medical material from Serbia in 2016-2019 (FoNet, Kosovo Online, N1)
• AP: NATO committed to stronger partnership with Serbia (AP, N1)
• Vucic denies Serbia purchases Chinese AA system, says thinks about it (Beta, N1)
• Is Belgrade thinking about buying Chinese AA system, or is it a done deal? (N1)

Opinion:

• Don’t Blame Balkan Citizens For the Latest COVID Surge (Balkan Insight)

International:

• Kosovo Divisions Risk Undermining EU Push for Deal with Serbia (Balkan Insight)
• EU financial assistance signed with Kosovo and North Macedonia, agreed with Albania and Montenegro (EWB)

Humanitarian/Development:

• Kon: The vaccine will not provide the safest protection; Masks for a longer period (B92, RTS)

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Albanian Language Media:

  • COVID-19: 205 new cases, 11 deaths (media)
  • ZDF: COVID-19 situation in Kosovo has spiralled out of control (Klan/Zeri)
  • Committee calls for harmonised response to Serbian forces patrolling in Karaceva (Koha)
  • Karaceva residents protest over patrolling of Serbian forces (media)
  • AAK’s Tahiri: No coalition problems with LDK (Kosovapress)

 Serbian Language Media:

  • In Serb areas in Kosovo, five new cases, two cured and one deceased (Kontakt plus radio)
  • Dacic: It is hypocritical to accuse Serbia and Vucic of recognizing Kosovo (Kosovo Online, Tanjug)
  • Kosovo’s fmr official: Over 70 pct of medical material from Serbia in 2016-2019 (FoNet, Kosovo Online, N1)
  • AP: NATO committed to stronger partnership with Serbia (AP, N1)
  • Vucic denies Serbia purchases Chinese AA system, says thinks about it (Beta, N1)
  • Is Belgrade thinking about buying Chinese AA system, or is it a done deal? (N1)

Opinion:

  • Don’t Blame Balkan Citizens For the Latest COVID Surge (Balkan Insight)

International:

  • Kosovo Divisions Risk Undermining EU Push for Deal with Serbia (Balkan Insight)
  • EU financial assistance signed with Kosovo and North Macedonia, agreed with Albania and Montenegro (EWB)

Humanitarian/Development:

  • Kon: The vaccine will not provide the safest protection; Masks for a longer period (B92, RTS)

 

Albanian Language Media

 

COVID-19: 205 new cases, 11 deaths (media)

205 new cases of coronavirus and 11 deaths have been recorded in Kosovo during the last 24 hours, Kosovo’s National Institute for Public Health said in its daily report.

Meanwhile, 163 recoveries were confirmed over the same time period.

Majority of the new cases are in Prishtina (45).

According to the National Institute for Public Health, the total number of COVID-19 in Kosovo is currently at 10,795 of which 6,411 have recovered. The total number of deaths stands at 365 while the active number of cases is 4,019.

ZDF: COVID-19 situation in Kosovo has spiralled out of control (Klan/Zeri)

German TV station, ZDF, broadcasted a report on how Kosovo is dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and said that the situation has spiralled out of control with 12 deaths being recorded daily.

“In Kosovo there are 12 coronavirus deaths every day for almost two million inhabitants. There are not enough ventilators, the intensive care beds are almost all occupied. After initially a strict curfew, the curfew was relaxed in June, and the number of infections has increased since then,” ZDF said in its report from Kosovo.

Committee calls for harmonised response to Serbian forces patrolling in Karaceva (Koha)

Kosovo Assembly’s Committee on Security and Defence Issues met today and in discussing the security situation called on all parliamentary parties to come up with a joint response to the Serbian forces patrolling in the village of Karaceva, Kamenica municipality last Friday.

MPs criticised Interior Minister Agim Veliu for not responding to invitations to report to the committee while the chairperson, Fatmire Mulhaxha-Kollcaku, said that a report from KFOR should be requested into the events in Karaceva and that this would then have to be followed by a motion at the Assembly where Minister Veliu would have to report. 

Karaceva residents protest over patrolling of Serbian forces (media)

A group of residents from the village of Karaceva protested today over the patrolling of Serbian Armed Forces in their village last week.

The residents, carrying placards “Serbian Gendarmerie Stop Provocations on Kosovo’s Land” and “Kosovo Has No Land to Give Away”, shortly blocked the entrance to the village. They demanded more support from the Kosovo institutions.

AAK’s Tahiri: No coalition problems with LDK (Kosovapress)

Deputy Prime Minister of Kosovo and member of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK), Besnik Tahiri, said the relations with their coalition partner – the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) – are not strained.

“Relations between LDK and AAK as two centre-right parties is not an issue. We have no problems, we have the parliamentary majority, programmes and objectives with regards to national topics like dialogue are determined from the aspect of a partner,” said Tahiri.

“We have excellent relations which I believe we will nurture because this coalition was built to be long term,” he added.

 

 

Serbian Language Media

 

In Serb areas in Kosovo, five new cases, two cured and one deceased (Kontakt plus radio)

Epidemiologist of the Institute of Public Health in North Mitrovica, Dr. Desanka Novakovic, announced at today’s press conference that five new cases of coronavirus have been registered in Serbian communities in Kosovo, two cured and one deceased (Zvecan), reports Kontakt plus radio.

In the north of Kosovo, based on 35 processed samples, four new cases of infection were recorded, and  one new case was recorded in Serbian areas south of the Ibar.

Northern Kosovo, newly infected: North Mitrovica (2), Zvecan (1) and Leposavic (1).

One positive case was recorded south of the Ibar, in Strpce.

According to the latest data, during the previous two days, in the north of Kosovo, two patients were cured, one person each from North Mitrovica and one from Leposavic.

According to Dr. Novaković, although a smaller number of new cases has been recorded, the epidemiological situation is still uncertain, which is why citizens are still being urged to continue to adhere to all prescribed epidemiological measures.

Dr. Novakovic further states that 405 patients are currently in home isolation, 63 are being treated at the Health Center in North Mitrovica, one patient is placed at the Clinical Hospital Center (KBC) “Dragisa Misovic” Belgrade, one at the Kragujevac Clinical Center and three at the Nis Clinical Center.

3,991 people have been tested since the beginning of the pandemic, of which 904 people have been confirmed to have the coronavirus.

In North Mitrovica 272, in Leposavic 170, in Zvecan 148, and in Zubin Potok 93.

A total of 221 patients were registered south of the Ibar.

Currently, 476 cases are active, while 393 people have been cured.

To date, 35 people have died in Serb areas in Kosovo.

Dacic: It is hypocritical to accuse Serbia and Vucic of recognizing Kosovo (Kosovo Online, Tanjug)

Foreign Minister and President of the Socialist Party of Serbia Ivica Dacic said that it was hypocritical to accuse Serbia and President Aleksandar Vucic that he will recognize Kosovo, and by those political forces during which time Kosovo declared independence, the recognition of 90 countries, and when Serbia experienced defeat before the International Court of Justice in The Hague, portal Kosovo Online quoted Tanjug’s report. 

“Just because of the activities of the Serbian leadership, primarily Vucic, the issue of Kosovo has been returned to the agenda, with Serbia’s incomparably better international position compared to the time of Tadic, Djilas, Jeremic and others,” Dacic pointed out.

He added that at the same time as one of the most powerful people in the Serbian opposition and gray eminence (of Dragan Djilas) Mladjan Djordjevic in the Russian media attacked President Vucic for Russophobia; in the American media there was  an attack on Vucic, because of Serbia bought Chinese weapons despite US warnings.

”This speaks of the attacks’ senselessness because Serbia pursues neither Russophobic nor Russophile policy, but the Serbian policy, taking into account only the interests of Serbia and the Serbian people. The same applies to relations with China, but also with the EU, USA, France, Germany or any other country in the world,” Dacic said in a statement for Tanjug.

He pointed out that relations with Russia have never been better, as well as with China, the United States, Germany, France and others, but that, above all, Serbian interests should be taken into account.

“I also indignantly reject the lie that I and the Socialist Party of Serbia are under Russian influence. We do not work for anyone else’s interests, exclusively for Serbia and the Serbian people. That is why I am proud of everything we did together with Vucic in defense of Serbia and its future,” Dacic emphasized.

Kosovo’s fmr official: Over 70 pct of medical material from Serbia in 2016-2019 (FoNet, Kosovo Online, N1)

Kosovo’s former secretary-general of the Health Ministry Naim Bardiqi said late on Tuesday that over 70 percent of medical equipment came to Pristina from Belgrade between 2016 and 2019, Belgrade based FoNet news agency reported.

“As far as the handsel of PCR tests from Serbia, the communications were led by the president of Kosovo’s United Medical Federation Vjosa Osmani. And regarding the medical equipment, the Health Ministry receives it once or twice a month,” Bardiqi told the Kosovo online website.

He added he believed the Health Ministry had a permit to accept a 1,000 coronavirus tests but asked if that was an illegal move, he said he did not know. 

See at: https://bit.ly/31JaQ3l

AP: NATO committed to stronger partnership with Serbia (AP, N1)

The Russian and Chinese arming of Serbia, as well as their growing political and economic influence in the Balkan state, is being watched with unease in the West and among Serbia’s neighbors, the AP reported on Tuesday, adding that a NATO official said that the Alliance is committed to strengthening its partnership with Serbia.

It recalled that Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic said that Belgrade is considering the purchase of a Chinese air defense missile system following a warning from the US that deals with Beijing could jeopardize the Balkan country’s proclaimed European Union membership goals.

Serbia, which has been beefing up its military mainly with Russian aircraft and armored vehicles, last month received six Chinese CH-92A attack and reconnaissance drones. That made Serbia the first European country to deploy the Chinese unmanned aerial vehicles, it said and added that tensions are growing in the Balkans, which went through a devastating civil war in the 1990s and a NATO intervention to stop a bloody Serb crackdown against Kosovo Albanian separatists in 1999.

“Serbia, which formally wants to join the EU, declared military neutrality in 2006 and joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace outreach program. Its populist leadership is against membership in the Western military alliance although most of Serbia’s neighbors are within NATO,” the AP said.

It quoted an unnamed NATO official who said that Serbia has the right to choose who to buy weapons from. The NATO official who spoke on customary condition of anonymity said “defense procurement is a national decision.” “Serbia has the right to freely choose its political and security arrangements. NATO and Serbia are close partners and we are committed to strengthening our partnership with Serbia, while fully respecting its policy of neutrality,” the official said.

See at:https://bit.ly/31NcelH

Vucic denies Serbia purchases Chinese AA system, says thinks about it (Beta, N1)

Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic denied on Tuesday media reports about Belgrade buying the Chinese FK-3 anti-aircraft batteries, but added the purchase was under consideration.

Commenting on the US warning over the announced purchase of Chinese anti-aircraft missile batteries, Vucic said that weapon was not on Washington’s list of banned arms.

“Every time we decide to buy something, someone is against it. We haven’t yet purchased FK-3; we’re thinking about it and we’ll see how much money we have,” Vucic said.

Some Russian media speculated on Monday that the move meant Belgrade gave up the purchase of their S-300.

See at:https://bit.ly/30Mdwhj

Is Belgrade thinking about buying Chinese AA system, or is it a done deal? (N1)

Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic has denied reports his country has already bought the China-made antiaircraft batteries FK-3 and added the purchase had been considered, but an expert has told N1 on Wednesday it has been a done deal.

Aleksandar Radic, a military analyst, said the buying of the Chinese weapons was agreed according to the reports from the SDPR, the leading state arms dealer, adding that if that was a mistake, the company should deny.

On Monday,  the US warned Serbia about the purchase and Vucic later said Belgarde was still considering it.

Radic added that “the new Chinese ambition is to enter the world market and sell a defence system to a European country.”

Song Jongping, a Chinese military expert, confirmed “the move opens channels to China to enter the European arms market,” adding Serbia would “soon” buy FK-3.

In an article for Global Times, a Chinese newspaper, Jongping recalled that Serbia introduced six Chinese CH-92A drones in its combat forces in early July and thus became the first European country to use the Chinese drones in its military.

Some Russian media reportssuggested Moscow was surprised with Belgrade decision to buy Chinese AA system instead of the Russian-made S-300, which was widely expected.

Commenting on those reports, Radic said that an atmosphere was created in Serbia’s public that S-300 would be bought and that it was not surprising that the Russians were disappointed.

“Russia and China are natural partners, and many technologies which Beijing buys from Moscow and sells to the third countries, hurts Russia a lot,” Radic added.

According to him, “China worries the EU and the Americans more than Russia, but that in Serbia’s Presidency, “where all decisions are obviously made,” the political concern is higher than the military one.

NATO’s reactions seem to be modest.

An unnamed Alliance’s official told the Voice of America (VOA) that Serbia had the right to choose its political and security arrangments freely. He said NATO and Serbia cooperated in many areas and “are close partners.”

Michael Carpenter, a US former official in the Defence Department, said Washington wouldn’t deal with that too intensively.

He recalled that Serbia had been balancing its foreign policy between Russia, China, the EU and US.

“President Vucic undoubtedly considers such an approach in relations with those four entities as the most secured for his regime, bearing in mind an uncertainty of the EU membership and a big obstacle in implementing the rule of law criteria which it has to overcome to join the bloc,” Carpenter said.

But, Frederick Ben Hodges, former commander of the US ground forces in Europe, warned Serbia to be aware of the risk in buying the Chinese weapons.

“Doing business with China usually ends in significant technology theft, employment of Chinese instead of local workers and huge debts,” Hodges, an associate with the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) said.

He added the motive for such military cooperation was Serbia’s authorities’ attempts to show its strength to the electorate at home and other countries in the Balkans.

On the other hand, the EU seems to take that cooperation a bit more seriously and said it expected Serbia to behave in line with the obligations it committed itself to.

“Serbia’s authorities say the EU integrations is the country’s strategic priority. We expect Belgrade to act accordingly… Serbia’s progress towards the EU means it has to adjust its policies to the Union’s foreign and security policy,” Peter Stano, the EU chief spokesperson for foreign and security affairs told VOA.

The US multimedia agency recalled that despite Vucic’s statement from last December that Serbia would focus on modernising its military and stop buying new weaponry, on February 2020, Belgrade bought the Russian-made ‘Armour S’ (Pancir S) rocket system.

The price Serbia paid for the six orders remained unknown. What is known is that a single such system costs between 13 and 14.6 million US Dollars, depending on its version.

VOA reported that the information published by Serbia’s Defence Ministry said the US was the biggest donor to the Army of Serbia from 2008 to 2019.

Between 2014 and 2019, it added, Serbia received some ten million Dollars aid in equipment and cash, while China was at the second place with 5.2 million Euro donation.

The Ministry’s report, which covers 2020 as well, showed donations’ contracts which did not mention Russia among 23 donors, while China appeared once with a donation estimated to over 4.3 million Dollars.  

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

 

 

Opinion

 

Don’t Blame Balkan Citizens For the Latest COVID Surge (Balkan Insight)

Western Balkan leaders are keen to blame irresponsible citizens for the recent upsurge in coronavirus cases – but the real problem in the region is a fundamental lack of trust between citizens and the state.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Europe, Western Balkan governments, together with many Central European countries, took strict measures and the number of victims remained low at first.

Whereas Italy, Spain, France, Belgium, and later the UK suffered the most in Europe, Eastern Europe at first fared better. The causes were probably a mix of factors, such as avoiding the early waves of infection and so learning lessons from countries more affected.

Furthermore, the more precarious state of their healthcare systems made these governments take drastic measures early on, while many governments in Western Europe hesitated to take restrictive measures.

This advantage appeared to play out until May or June. But since then, Western Balkan countries have moved from being the least affected countries to those with the highest number of cases in Europe.

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

 

 

International

 

Kosovo Divisions Risk Undermining EU Push for Deal with Serbia (Balkan Insight)

A lack of political consensus in Kosovo on its talks with Serbia is hurting prospects of a deal being reached that would settle relations between the two.

The long-awaited resumption of European Union-mediated talks between Serbia and its former Kosovo province have caught Kosovo unprepared, with little sign of political consensus on strategy, goals or even who should sit at the negotiating table.

After an almost two-year hiatus, talks between Belgrade and Pristina resumed in mid-July as the EU sought to seize the initiative from the United States to forge a deal to settle relations between the two more than two decades Kosovo broke away in war and 12 years after it declared independence with the backing of the major Western powers.

Analysts, however, say Kosovo’s chaotic approach risks undermining the prospects of a deal being struck.

There is a “lack of consensus that may put into question the ability of the government to reach an agreement, weakening its negotiation position vis-à-vis Serbia and as it stands it seems difficult that a two thirds majority will emerge to ratify the agreement in the Assembly of Kosovo,” said political analyst Blerim Vela.

Technical talks?

Kosovo’s government, which took office in early June, has not published its platform for the dialogue but says it is following three main principles: the inviolability of Kosovo’s territorial integrity; the inviolability of its constitutional arrangement; and that any agreement with Serbia must be in accordance with Kosovo’s constitution.

“Our position is very clear: the final agreement with Serbia means mutual recognition between the two countries, within existing borders. Otherwise, there is no agreement at all,” the office of Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti told BIRN.

Hoti’s approach, however, faces criticism not just from the opposition but from his own coalition partners.

Following talks between Hoti and Serbian President Alexandar Vucic on July 16, EU mediator Miroslav Lajcak said the dialogue would continue at an “expert level”.

Hoti, however, said this amounted to a “political dialogue for mutual recognition and normalisation of relations.”

Vela said Lajcak was pursuing the tactic of talks on “technical issues” in order to build trust between the parties before making a final push for full agreement.

However, he said, “Such an approach does not enjoy the support of the main political parties in power and opposition” in Kosovo.

Vela said that a majority of parties in Kosovo oppose the resumption of talks at a technical level, favouring the pursuit of an all-encompassing political deal. But their differences towards the negotiations “differ in their root cause,” he said.

Vetevendosje, the biggest opposition party in parliament, questions the legitimacy of the government and by extension its involvement in the negotiations, and is canvassing for support for a no-confidence motion.

The opposition Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, meanwhile, has criticised what it says is the lack of a written platform, political consensus, experience or expertise.

And aides to Hashim Thaci, who led the PDK until taking office as Kosovo president in 2016, have taken issue with Hoti’s decision to meet Vucic at the same time as Thaci was being interviewed in The Hague on potential war crimes charges.

An announcement in late June by prosecutors that they had filed an indictment against Thaci derailed planned talks in Washington between Thaci and Vucic under a parallel US diplomatic push.

LDK partners complain of exclusion

Another source of controversy has been Hoti’s July 21 appointment of former foreign minister Skender Hyseni as Kosovo’s ‘coordinator’ for the dialogue, apparently blindsiding his coalition partners in the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, AAK, and NISMA.

These two parties “object to the LDK’s monopoly over the negotiation process as they are left uninformed about the content of discussions and negotiations in Brussels,” said Vela.

AAK leader Ramush Haradinaj told local Kosovo broadcaster KTV that he is “not at all satisfied with the way the dialogue with Serbia is taking place”, saying his party should be represented at the negotiating table.

“Skender Hyseni cannot inform me about the dialogue. Nor can Avdullah Hoti, without my man being at the dialogue table,” Haradinaj, a former prime minister, said, and warned that the issue may bring down the coalition.

The opposition Vetevendosje party, which was briefly in government with Hoti’s Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK, before LDK brought down the alliance in March, said Hyseni was effectively “political representative”, taking on “all the tasks of the prime minister in terms of the dialogue.”

Hoti’s office told BIRN that Hyseni “coordinates the work of the working groups and reports regularly to the Prime Minister. So, he does not lead the dialogue.”

Some experts say the government is struggling to manage the process. In July it established a Council of Experts to draft analysis and advise the government on the dialogue, but James Ker-Lindsay, a professor at the London School of Economics and an expert on Southeast Europe, said such bodies “often complicate matters”.

“Kosovo needs a leader with a good team, good political, legal and economic advisors,” he told BIRN. “You will never reach an agreement if these councils determine the policies.”

https://bit.ly/3iwDhIp

EU financial assistance signed with Kosovo and North Macedonia, agreed with Albania and Montenegro (EWB)

BRUSSELS – As of today, the European Commission, on behalf of the EU, has agreed Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) on macro-financial assistance (MFA) programmes with eight partners, including four Western Balkan countries, the Commission announced.

The agreements are part of the €3 billion macro-financial assistance package for ten enlargement and neighbourhood partners, aimed to help them limit the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. It was first proposed by the Commission in April this year.

Memoranda of Understanding have already been agreed with Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro and North Macedonia, as well as other neighbouring countries. These documents have also been formally signed with Kosovo and North Macedonia, as well as Moldova and Ukraine. Negotiations of the MoUs with Bosnia and Herzegovina, together with Tunisia, are underway.

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

 

Humanitarian/Development

 

Kon: The vaccine will not provide the safest protection; Masks for a longer period (B92, RTS)

Epidemiologist Predrag Kon stated that there’s a quiet satisfaction with current epidemiological circumstances, but it’s far from being in a favorable situation  

Kon told RTS that the numbers still show that we have no “zero” situation anywhere.

He pointed out that the creation of collective immunity without vaccination would take several years, so much is expected from the vaccine.

“Miracle is expected from a vaccine, and miracles generally don’t happen”, Kon pointed out.

He added that the vaccine that is coming will not provide the safest protection, but that it is currently the best that the world can expect.

Deputy Director of the “Batut” Institute, Darija Kisić Tepavčević, stated that the situation is stabilizing on the territory of the entire country, and that improved numbers are the result of respecting preventive measures.

“There must be no relaxation, and we will wear masks for a longer period of time,” Kisic Tepavcevic told RTS.

See at:https://bit.ly/3fR0weu

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