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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, August 14, 2020

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Albanian Language Media:

• COVID-19: 142 new cases, eight deaths (media)
• Ministry of Health aims to increase COVID-19 testing capacities (Kallxo)
• Thaci welcomes announcement of Washington meeting (media)
• Kurti: Grenell wants a foreign policy success in final hours (media)
• EU welcomes any initiative in support of Kosovo-Serbia dialogue it facilitates (Koha)
• KLA associations to submit request for amending law on Specialist Chambers (media)

Serbian Language Media:

• 17 new cases of Covid-19 in Serbian municipalities in Kosovo (Kontakt plus radio)
• Djuric: Hoti’s provocative messages, a cheap attempt to create a bad political climate (Kosovo Online)
• Possible parliamentary elections in a year and a half? (media)
• Vucic: Serbia not in a position to refuse talks (B92)
• Diocese warns: Construction of the Decani-Plav road within the protective zone of the monastery Visoki Decani continues (KoSSev)
• Djuric reaction on stopping Bishop Teodosije at Jarinje crossing, ”an arrogant act of arbitrariness” (media)
• Bishop Teodosije turned back from Jarinje (KoSSev)

International:

• Week in Review: Hope Versus Fatalism (Balkan Insight)
• Trump White House Will Host Talks for Leaders of Serbia, Kosovo (Bloomberg)

Humanitarian/Development:

• SEE Digital Rights Network Established (Balkan Insight)

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Albanian Language Media:

  • COVID-19: 142 new cases, eight deaths (media)
  • Ministry of Health aims to increase COVID-19 testing capacities (Kallxo)
  • Thaci welcomes announcement of Washington meeting (media)
  • Kurti: Grenell wants a foreign policy success in final hours (media)
  • EU welcomes any initiative in support of Kosovo-Serbia dialogue it facilitates (Koha)
  • KLA associations to submit request for amending law on Specialist Chambers (media)

 Serbian Language Media:

  • 17 new cases of Covid-19 in Serbian municipalities in Kosovo (Kontakt plus radio)
  • Djuric: Hoti’s provocative messages, a cheap attempt to create a bad political climate (Kosovo Online)
  • Possible parliamentary elections in a year and a half? (media)
  • Vucic: Serbia not in a position to refuse talks (B92) 
  • Diocese warns: Construction of the Decani-Plav road within the protective zone of the monastery Visoki Decani continues (KoSSev)
  • Djuric reaction on stopping Bishop Teodosije at Jarinje crossing, ”an arrogant act of arbitrariness” (media)
  • Bishop Teodosije turned back from Jarinje (KoSSev)

International:

  • Week in Review: Hope Versus Fatalism (Balkan Insight)
  • Trump White House Will Host Talks for Leaders of Serbia, Kosovo (Bloomberg)

Humanitarian/Development:

  • SEE Digital Rights Network Established (Balkan Insight)

 

 

Albanian Language Media

 

COVID-19: 142 new cases, eight deaths (media)

Kosovo’s National Institute for Public Health announced that 142 new cases of coronavirus have been recorded in Kosovo and eight deaths over the last 24 hours.

Meanwhile, 201 recoveries were confirmed for the same time period.

Ministry of Health aims to increase COVID-19 testing capacities (Kallxo)

Kosovo’s Minister of Health Armend Zemaj told members of the Assembly’s committee on health that their goal is to have up to 3,500 tests carried out daily for coronavirus.

He also said that testing capacities will be increased as of next week by having COVID-19 tests be carried out in six regions of Kosovo. “We will also secure additional more than 100,000 tests at this stage,” Zemaj said.

Thaci welcomes announcement of Washington meeting (media)

President of Kosovo Hashim Thaci has welcomed the announcement that leaders of Kosovo and Serbia will meet in Washington on 2 September.

“I welcome the announced meeting at the White House on negotiations between Kosovo and Serbia. We are greatful [sic.] to the US for the tremendous dedication to peace & stability in the region,” Thaci wrote on Twitter.

Koha highlights that Thaci’s post does not make it clear who on Kosovo’s part would be travelling to the U.S. to take part in the meeting. 

Earlier, Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti also confirmed the Washington meeting saying it will focus on economic projects.

Kurti: Grenell wants a foreign policy success in final hours (media)

Leader of the Vetevendosje Movement (LVV), Albin Kurti, commented on the meeting between Kosovo and Serbia officials expected to take place in Washington on 2 September saying that the host of the meeting, special envoy Richard Grenell, wants a success in the field of foreign policy in the final hours. 

“There are about 80 days left until new elections in the U.S. where President Donald Trump faces Democratic candidate Joe Biden. The campaign there is intensifying without even officially beginning. In this context should the 2 September meeting be seen,” Kurti said.

“In his announcement, Grenell no longer speaks about dialogue but about negotiations. And negotiations imply compromise. The Constitution of Kosovo incorporates the painful compromise of the Ahtisaari package while the Constitution of Serbia continues Milosevic’s goals by stating in its second sentence that Kosovo is an integral part of Serbia. There can be neither justice nor gain from such an approach,” Kurti wrote on Facebook. 

Kurti said that those who will speak on Kosovo’s behalf in Washington have “no legitimacy, no credibility, authority or competency. As a result, their agreements are unimplementable and not worth the paper they are written in.”

EU welcomes any initiative in support of Kosovo-Serbia dialogue it facilitates (Koha)

European Union considers that any effort from a third party aimed at helping Kosovo and Serbia normalise relations goes to support the dialogue which the EU facilitates since 2011, Koha reports.

In response to a question about the announced meeting in Washington between Kosovo and Serbia, the EU said: “With regards to the inclusion of third parties in efforts to help Kosovo and Serbia agree to a comprehensive normalisation of their relations, we welcome initiatives that support the dialogue facilitated by the EU. In this regard, we have taken note of the announcement of Ambassador Grenell.”

KLA associations to submit request for amending law on Specialist Chambers (media)

Kosovo Liberation Army War Veterans’ Associations are expected to submit today to the Assembly request for amendment of the law establishing Specialist Chambers. 

Online media recall that KLA war veterans have accused the Specialist Chambers of pursuing a discriminatory approach towards Albanians. 

 

 

Serbian Language Media

 

17 new cases of Covid-19 in Serbian areas in Kosovo (Kontakt plus radio)

According to the latest data, 17 positive cases have been registered in Serbian communities in Kosovo, while 33 people have been cured, said Dr. Desanka Novakovic, an epidemiologist at the Public Health Institute in Kosovska Mitrovica, at today’s press conference.

In the north of Kosovo, during the past 24 hours, based on 89 processed samples, 10 new cases of infection were recorded. 

In North Mitrovica six, Zubin Potok two, Zvecan one, and in Leposavic one. 

Seven cases were recorded in Serb areas south of the Ibar River, in Gracanica two, Priluzje two, one each in Strpce, Gnjilane and Pec.

Djuric: Hoti’s provocative messages, a cheap attempt to create a bad political climate (Kosovo Online)

Director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Djuric believes that the provocative messages of the Kosovo’s Prime Minister Hoti about the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, as a dialogue between two independent states, are another cheap attempt to create a bad political climate for talks, reported portal Kosovo Online. 

The portal quotes the statement, in which Djuric warned that ”this way Hoti belittles the hosts of the meeting in Washington, who, as he said, despite the official position of the USA on the issue of Kosovo’s self-proclaimed independence, are certainly aware that the territory is de facto and de jure a light year away from true independence.”

Djuric noted that the dialogue on how to enable ordinary people in Kosovo to live a normal life, regardless of the controversial and undefined international status of that territory, must be conducted in good faith in order to have any chance of success and added that Hoti with ”his meaningless phrases does not contributes to that”. 

The KiM Office Director also assessed that Hoti and Pristina do not want agreed solutions, because they live in a hope that, if they manage to buy enough time, there will be a moment when someone will force Serbia to give up part of its territory – and that will not happen, reported portal Kosovo Online. 

“That is why every calculation and message of Pristina that the dialogue with Belgrade will in some way strengthen ‘Kosovo statehood’ is wrong and unfounded. I appeal once again to Pristina’s representatives to come to their senses and start acting credible in the interest of the people of Kosovo and Metohija , as a constructive participant in an important dialogue, although it will not make self-proclaimed Kosovo a state, much less lead Serbia to give up its southern province,” Djuric concluded in his statement, reported the portal.

Possible parliamentary elections in a year and a half? (media)

President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic mentioned two possible models of forming a government, reported Serbian media. 

“I would suggest two concepts. One is a simple coalition with one political party, I wouldn’t say which. The other is, given that we are threatened by the wave of coronavirus in the fall and the situation concerning Kosovo, that in a year and a half we will go to parliamentary elections. So, a kind of a concentration government will be formed. If you ask me, I am closer to the first concept,” he says.

He added that he makes “calculations”, not mathematical, but political one, that is, he considers what is happening in the world, in Europe, in order to bring the best solution for the country and the citizens.

As he further states, his proposal can be expected soon.

“Accordingly, you can expect my proposal. We will come out with it, soon,” Vucic concluded.

Vucic: Serbia not in a position to refuse talks (B92, TV Pink, RTS) 

‘’Serbia is not in a position to reject talks,’’ Aleksandar Vucic told Belgrade based TV Pink on the occasion of Grenell’s announcement that the meeting will be held on September 2.

“Serbia is not in a position, but it would not be good if it was in a position to reject the talks. Why Grenell used the term ‘negotiations’, it is a question for him. We participate in the talks, the topics are economic, it is important for us and they are good topics,” Vucic said. 

“The other day, they said that they support the negotiations under the auspices of the EU. But I should not go into their relations. We are too small to be able to afford that,” Vucic said.

From the point of view of the Americans, two independent states are participating in the negotiations, Vucic said, and that was how Brussels viewed it also.  

“Our position is difficult, for the United States and most of the EU, Kosovo is an independent state,” said Vucic, but also pointed out that Belgrade will never treat Kosovo as an independent state, neither in the negotiations in Washington nor in Brussels.

“They (Kosovo Albanians) come to the negotiations for several reasons, and the first is to get the opportunity to present themselves as an independent state. We will not treat them like that in Washington or Brussels,” Vucic explained, adding that he would say prior to the meeting and not after. He stated that he also warned Avdulah Hoti about that, reported Radio television Serbia (RTS). 

According to B92 portal, he said that the Pristina side was not coming to the negotiations prepared, while Serbia’s delegation was preparing for days and weeks.

When it comes to the EU, he emphasized that we must not lose sight of the fact that when we talk about the EU, we should think of Germany first, because it was much stronger than all the others. Vucic emphasized that such supremacy in the EU has never existed in European and world history, as was the case now with Germany.

“Negotiations on Kosovo are being conducted under the auspices of Brussels, but Germany is the most influential in the EU,” he reminded.

Vucic warned of the possibility of Kosovo Albanians provoking on the ground, such was the incursion into the property of the Decani monastery again. 

“They came there with machines to build the highway, despite the verdict of their own courts. They do not care about the monastery and the verdicts. These are things that bring extra restlessness and anxiety. We will fight against that in every place,” he underlined.

He pointed out that Pristina’s goal was not the freedom of flow of capital, goods and services, but only a final solution without negotiations, and that was the recognition of independence.

Vucic said that he had no doubt that there would be more provocation on their part on the ground, reported portal B92. 

Vucic said that Serbia wants to achieve peace by arming itself. 

Asked how he commented on the fact that the Albanians also procured drones like the ones in the USA, Vucic said as a guest on TV Pink that they were not exactly similar to the ones procured by Serbia because theirs were reconnaissance and our combat – reconnaissance. 

“And what are we going to provide by the end of 2022 … People don’t need to worry. But we are not arming ourselves to attack at any time and to be at war with anyone, but to preserve the peace and stability and tranquility of our people,” Vucic stated.

He pointed out that Serbia was not preparing to attack someone, but to prevent aggression against the country, because it will be much harder for someone to assault Serbia if it is well armed.

Diocese warns: Construction of the Decani-Plav road within the protective zone of the monastery Visoki Decani continues (KoSSev)

Despite the ban on building highways and transit roads through special protective zones in Kosovo, works on the main road Decani-Plav near the monastery of Visoki Decani have continued, the Diocese of Raska and Prizren announced on Thursday night. According to the Diocese, the construction works are being carried out by the local Kosovo authorities in Decani, together with the support of the Pristina authorities, within the monastery’s protective zone, reported portal KoSSev. .

“At present, heavy machinery (excavators, backhoe loaders, and road compactors) are operating within the Monastery’s Protective Zone, the previously existing retaining wall has been removed, and the road is being significantly widened. Freight trucks belonging to a construction firm named Lika are presently bringing in coarse gravel, which excavators then distribute over the road, and road compactors then flatten down. The road is being widened by several meters from its previous width, thus becoming essentially a category one highway. Wide drainage pipes have been installed in multiple places,” the Diocese underlined.

They state that due to the shaking of the ground caused by the large number of heavy construction vehicles passing by each day, damage to the 14th century church itself and monastery buildings is already possible.

“So far, there have been many attempts to destroy the Protective Zone’s integrity with various illegal activities, but now, intensive construction work has been shamelessly undertaken without any attempt at hiding what is going on, with the purpose of building the illegal road and thus endangering the Visoki Decani Monastery in a lasting, long-term way,” they also warned.

The Diocese reminded that the construction of highways and transit roads is prohibited by the Law on Special Protective Zones, noting that neither the Commission for Protective Zones, nor international representatives, nor the Visoki Decani Monastery itself were informed of the resumption of construction work on the road.

The Diocese of Raska-Prizren and Visoki Decani Monastery, in whose protective zone this international highway is being built, condemn this flagrant and audacious violation of the law, which damages one of the most important UNESCO sites in this region of the Balkans.

According to the Diocese, this sort of behavior on the part of Kosovo institutions clearly shows not only the lack of readiness on the part of Pristina institutions to protect this world heritage cultural site, but also represents a “flagrant violation of existing Kosovo laws which harms the Monastery’s  already endangered natural surroundings, which will have incalculable consequences.”

They also recalled that this is not the only instance of laws and court decisions of Kosovo being violated to the Monastery’s detriment, pointing out that, for four years now, the municipal authorities have refused to implement the Constitutional Court in Pristina’s decision which confirmed the Monastery’s property rights over 24 hectares of land.

“Such blatant hostile behavior and the destruction of the Monastery’s natural surroundings on the part of Kosovo institutions is a sure indicator of the extreme danger in which Serbian religious and cultural heritage in this region finds itself,” the Diocese of Raska and Prizren underlined.

The Diocese pointed out that the position of international institutions and the Implementation Council for Special Protective Zones is that the already-begun bypass road which avoids passing through the protective zone should be completed, such that the damage to the Monastery currently taking place would be prevented.

The Diocese of Raska-Prizren will again contact all relevant international representatives in Pristina and abroad with the request that work on the road be immediately ceased, and that the damage already inflicted would be repaired by returning the road to its original width and that the Monastery would be protected from any further “aggressive” behavior on the part of Kosovo authorities.

A section of this road was ceremoniously opened in June this year. The ceremony was attended by Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti and former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, who was actually born in Decani. Haradinaj was the prime minister when the first attempt was made to build the road in 2018, within – as the monks of Visoki Decani claimed even at that time – the Special Protective Zone. This move was opposed by the Visoki Decani monks and representatives of the international community in Kosovo and Serb CSOs. The road construction began in 2014, and all attempts by the Diocese to halt the works while alerting of violation of the Law and the SPZ were rejected by the authorities in Decani, who accused Visoki Decani of „preventing economic development“ of the municipality of Decani.

Decisions on construction can be made only with the consent of the multi-member Commission for Protective Zones, whose members are representatives of the EU Office in Kosovo, the OSCE Mission, Kosovo’s Ministers of Spatial Planning and Culture, and the Bishop of Raska and Prizren. In the case of the main road Decani-Plav, the Commission did not give consent for the construction of the road, instead a bypass route around the SPZ has been agreed.

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

Djuric reaction on stopping Bishop Teodosije at Jarinje crossing, ”an arrogant act of arbitrariness” (media)

Director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Djuric reacted to the stopping of Bishop Teodosije of Raska and Prizren, emphasizing that it was “an arrogant act of arbitrariness that insults the entire Serbian people and the Serbian Orthodox Church, telling them their inviolable rights can be violated by any Pristina’s administrative worker,” said the Djuric’s statement.

“Preventing our church dignitary from moving freely within his eparchy is the most flagrant violation of religious freedoms and a slap in the face to all Orthodox believers in Kosovo and Metohija. The fact that Bishop Teodosije, after being turned back from the administrative crossing and being verbally harassed, allegedly because of two buckets of honey, was finally enabled to enter Kosovo and Metohija, does not make this incident any less terrible. “

Djuric in his statement also demand from the international community in Kosovo to “warn Pristina that such behaviour is inadmissible and to finally understand that any attack on the Serbian Orthodox Church is in fact an attack on the Christian character of our southern province and on European culture as a whole, and to act accordingly”. 

Bishop Teodosije turned back from Jarinje (KoSSev)

Portal KoSSev reported that Bishop of Raska and Prizren Teodosije was turned back at the Kosovo side of the Jarinje crossing while traveling from Raska towards Gracanica. 

The Bishop was traveling alone, and he was not allowed to cross because he was transporting two buckets of honey as a gift for the Gracanica monastery. Bishop Teodosije said that this was the first time in twenty years he was turned back at the crossing and the first time he was subjected to unpleasant behavior of customs officers. He also said that the person who identified himself as the customs supervisor communicated with him without respecting pandemic safety measures – with no mask or physical distance.

The Bishop himself confirmed the information for the KoSSev portal. He is currently staying in North Mitrovica, after returning to Raska where he left the gift, after which he passed the crossing.

He was searched both times. According to the Bishop, he was subjected to unpleasant behavior by the customs chief on duty, an ethnic Albanian, at the Jarinje crossing tonight.

”This was the first time in 20 years that someone has turned me back at the crossing. I did not expect that. I was alone in the car. I was traveling from central Serbia to the Gracanica monastery, and I was bringing two buckets in the car as a gift for the sisterhood,” Bishop Teodosije told KoSSev tonight.

He added that the situation was very unpleasant when they pulled him over and started searching the car, at the indignation of the travelers who happened to be at the crossing at the time.

The Bishop said that the situation turned even more unpleasant when they told him to stand aside and wait for, as he was told, the shift supervisor to arrive.

”The shift supervisor told me I had to go back even though the value of the goods in my car did not exceed €150, even without the possibility of paying taxes. I replied – ‘Sir, you are turning me back, but why are you talking to me at a distance of half a meter without a mask and while jeopardizing my health?”

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

 

 

International

 

Week in Review: Hope Versus Fatalism (Balkan Insight)

Balkan societies seem forever to be torn between hope and fatalism. But the lesson from our selection of Premium articles this week could be that hard work and concrete action is the best escape from the hope-and-fatalism rollercoaster.

Back in Focus?

As Berlin takes over the EU’s six month rotating presidency, BIRN brings an interview with Susanne Schutz, the Western Balkans Director at the German Federal Foreign Office to discover what the region can expect. With Germany one of the key EU member states with a keen interest in enlargement, there are hopes in the region that accession processes might receive a boost.

See at: https://bit.ly/340mQ3o

Trump White House Will Host Talks for Leaders of Serbia, Kosovo (Bloomberg)

The leaders of Serbia and Kosovo will try to resolve their longstanding dispute at the White House next month, a Trump administration official said on Thursday night.

Richard Grenell, the special envoy for the two countries and a former ambassador to Germany, made the announcement on Twitter. He said that the negotiations would begin on Sept. 2.

The Trump administration tried to play the role of mediator in the conflict earlier this year. Plans for a White House meeting between Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovar President Hashim Thaci fell through when prosecutors at the Kosovo Special Prosecutor’s Office in The Hague accused Thaci of involvement in nearly 100 murders and other atrocities.

See at:https://bloom.bg/3kGy6Yq

 

 

Humanitarian/Development

 

SEE Digital Rights Network Established (Balkan Insight)

Facing a rise in digital rights violations, more than a dozen rights organisations have agreed to work together to protect individuals and societies in Southeast Europe.

Nineteen organisations from Southeast Europe have joined forces in a newly-established network that aims to advance the protection of digital rights and address the growing challenges posed by the widespread use of advanced technologies in society.

Initiated by Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN, and SHARE Foundation, the SEE Digital Rights Network is the first network of its kind focused on the digital environment and challenges to digital rights in Southeast Europe.

The network brings together 19 member organisations – from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia – dedicated to the protection and promotion of human rights, both online and offline.

Each is committed to advancing their work on issues of digital rights abuses, lack of transparency, expanded use of invasive tech solutions and breaches of privacy.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Central and Southeast Europe has seen a dramatic rise in the rate of digital rights violations, in countries where democratic values are already imperiled.

“This endeavour comes at a moment when we are seeing greater interference by state and commercial actors that contribute to the already shrinking space for debate while the exercise of basic human rights is continuously being limited,” said BIRN regional director Marija Ristic.

“The Internet has strong potential to serve the needs of the people and internet access has proved to be indispensable in times of crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Our societies are becoming more digital, which presents a powerful incentive to increase the capacity of organisations dealing with digital developments and regulations in our region.”

See at: https://bit.ly/2Y2JkNb

 

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