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UNMIK Media Observer, Morning Edition, October 5, 2020

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• COVID – 19: 56 new cases, no deaths (media)
• Kosovo FM reacts over remarks by Serbian government ministers (media)
• Albanian PM Rama ‘disgusted’ by Serbian minister’s remarks (media)
• Serbian officials violate Washington agreement (Koha)
• White House thanks Thaci for decorating President Trump (media)
• Vucic: The West does not guarantee EU membership if we recognise Kosovo (RTK)
• Weber: Brussels negotiations undermined by Grenell and his colleagues (Koha)
• Kosovo included in UN Security Council October agenda (DW/media)
• Specialist Prosecutor to hold a press conference on Salih Mustafa today (media)
• Von Cramon: Were it up to EP, Kosovo would have visa liberalisation (media)
• Ombudsperson calls for suspension of Tienmu Ma’s expulsion (Prishtina Insight)
• Adoption of Istanbul convention, important step but implementation a challenge (KP)
• Serbian media give ethnic character to incident in Kosovo village (Kallxo)

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  • COVID – 19: 56 new cases, no deaths (media)
  • Kosovo FM reacts over remarks by Serbian government ministers (media)
  • Albanian PM Rama ‘disgusted’ by Serbian minister’s remarks (media)
  • Serbian officials violate Washington agreement (Koha)
  • White House thanks Thaci for decorating President Trump (media)
  • Vucic: The West does not guarantee EU membership if we recognise Kosovo (RTK)
  • Weber: Brussels negotiations undermined by Grenell and his colleagues (Koha)
  • Kosovo included in UN Security Council October agenda (DW/media)
  • Specialist Prosecutor to hold a press conference on Salih Mustafa today (media)
  • Von Cramon: Were it up to EP, Kosovo would have visa liberalisation (media)
  • Ombudsperson calls for suspension of Tienmu Ma’s expulsion (Prishtina Insight)
  • Adoption of Istanbul convention, important step but implementation a challenge (KP)
  • Serbian media give ethnic character to incident in Kosovo village (Kallxo)

 COVID – 19: 56 new cases, no deaths (media)

Kosovo’s National Institute for Public Health said in a statement on Sunday that 56 new cases of COVID – 19 were recorded in the last 24 hours.

The highest number of new cases is from the municipality of Prishtina (16).

69 patients recovered from the virus in the last 24 hours.

There are currently 1,564 active coronavirus cases in Kosovo. 

Kosovo FM reacts over remarks by Serbian government ministers (media)

Kosovo’s Foreign Minister Meliza Haradinaj – Stublla sent a public letter to Ambassadors of the Quint Group over what she called shameful language by ministers of the Serbian government against the victims and their family members of the last war in Kosovo.

Parts of the letter note:

“Ivica Dacic’s footage of threatening Serbs who showing places where the mortal remains of Kosovo Albanian victims are hidden, has caused enormous grief and pain for the people of Kosovo, and especially for the families of victims and those who still result missing 21 years after the war. Moreover, Vulin’s xenophobic calling of Albanians … deserves your strong condemnation for the Government of Serbia’s disgraceful and chauvinistic acts.”

“While we highly respect and admire your vibrant diplomatic activity in all aspects of our mutual interest and daily lives – which also has a transformative impact for Kosovo and its institutions, we also expect the same standards of agility to be applied when our tragic past is gravely undermined and attacked again by the same people who committed it”.

“The aggressor and the victim will be standing on equal ground and treatment when justice is served for all the atrocities and wrongdoings of the past. Without this premise – the asymmetrical treatment is unfortunately – always favourable to the aggressor.”

“I invite you to strongly condemn the extremely offensive language of the Serbian Government, building on the great foundation of peace and security you have continuously provided for both Kosovo and Serbia”. 

Albanian PM Rama ‘disgusted’ by Serbian minister’s remarks (media)

Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama has slammed the statement of the Serbia’s Defence Minister Aleksandar Vulin, who referred to Albanians in derogatory terms, saying he was ‘disgusted’ by them.

Vulin also accused Rama of “continuing to work on creating Greater Albania by saying that the Albanian port of Durres will belong to Kosovo.”

“I was disgusted when I realised his statement was no meme. It is unbelievable to be making such a statement,” Rama said adding that he has asked the President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic to clarify his minister’s remarks. He also said that Albania also wants to see no border existing with Serbia which Albanian extremists don’t like. “Second, the port of Durres will no doubt be of Kosovo but of Serbia as well in the sense of movement of goods,” Top Channel quoted Rama as saying.

Rama also commented on the Kosovo Liberation Army saying there is no doubt its fighters were liberators in Kosovo while perpetrators ‘were and are’ in Serbia. 

Serbian officials violate Washington agreement (Koha)

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic’s threatening remarks against Serbs that reveal locations of bodies of Albanians killed during the war in Kosovo, are in opposition with the pledge of his Prime Minister, Aleksandar Vucic, at the White House on September 4.

The news website notes that point 12 of the Washington Agreement provides that Kosovo and Serbia will intensify efforts to locate and identify the remains of missing persons. Kosovo and Serbia are also obliged to set up a point of contact to coordinate their actions.

Koha contacted the office of U.S. Special Envoy Richard Grenell, who mediated the agreement, but they were not available for comment.

Political commentators in Prishtina meanwhile argue that rushing into the agreement and the lack of a monitoring mechanism makes it hardly implementable by the two sides. “The agreement will run into numerous difficulties and the case of the Serbian minister who said that he doesn’t know which Serbs are cooperating with Albanians to identify the locations of victims, best shows that Serbia does not intend to implement the agreement. Kosovo too does not have much interest to implement the agreement because it is apparent that what was signed was for President Trump’s campaign. Nevertheless, I think some points of the agreement will be implemented,” Krenar Shala, political analyst, said.

White House thanks Thaci for decorating President Trump (media)

All news websites reported on a letter signed by Robert C. O’Brien, Assistant to the U.S. President for National Security Affairs, thanking Kosovo President Hashim Thaci “for recognizing President Trump’s deep commitment to the people of Kosovo”.

The letter notes:

Dear Mr. President, thank you for recognizing President Trump’s deep commitment to the people of Kosovo with your Medal of the Order of Freedom. President Trump has been a steadfast supporter of Kosovo, and strongly believes historic economic normalization measures achieved at the White House on September 4, 2020, will facilitate lasting peace and stability in the Balkans.

In addition, thank you for awarding Ambassador Grenell and me with Kosovo with Kosovo’s Presidential Medal of Merits. It is a great honor to stand with the people of Kosovo, and we appreciate your strong support for implementing economic normalization with Serbia.

Vucic: The West does not guarantee EU membership if we recognise Kosovo (RTK)

The President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic told Austrian daily Kleine Zeitung that no one offers anything for Kosovo but humiliation.

Asked why is not Serbia ready to recognize Kosovo, Vucic said “what everyone is offering us is nothing.”

“They tell us to recognize independence of Kosovo and then the road to the EU will be easier – it is a major ‘nothing’. No one can guarantee us EU membership. No one tells us what does Serbia gain in return for recognition of Kosovo, not even the Association of Serb-majority Municipalities or something else. This includes the status of our churches and monasteries,” he said.

He said he cannot speak about what they are discussing, as in that case, negotiations would not have a meaning. He stressed that no one will be able to force Serbia to recognize Kosovo without gaining something.

“We certainly have to live together. We need a compromise and we need to think about the future. I am against some frozen conflict, because this leaves our children with the same problem,” Vucic said.

Asked about the Washington Agreement, Vucic said that it was a good agreement.

“I think that the U.S. President Donald Trump and above all, his associates, understand well that better economic relations in the future lead to better political relations. Thus is a good premise,” he said.

He added that until recently, the United States were until recently the most unpopular country in Serbia, however this has now changed.

Weber: Brussels negotiations undermined by Grenell and his colleagues (Koha)

Bodo Weber from the Council for Democratisation think tank based in Berlin and Brussels said that talks between Kosovo and Serbia underway in Brussels cannot be considered more than ‘pre-negotiations’. He said this is because the unilateral actions of the U.S. envoy Richard Grenell and his colleagues in the Trump administration who, Weber said, have undermined the process.

Weber said that for as long as the U.S. administration does not leave the EU sufficient space, there can be no meaningful negotiations or a comprehensive agreement between the sides. He argued that this ‘pre-negotiation’ period could be used by the EU to make Pristina and Belgrade put at the table their initial positions on all issues they consider should be part of a comprehensive agreement.

“This would be a major step forward as none of the parties have demonstrated in the last three years readiness to define and put on paper their respective platforms,” Weber noted.

Kosovo included in UN Security Council October agenda (DW/media)

The UN Security Council is scheduled to discuss situation in Kosovo on 21 October, Deutsche Welle in Albanian reports. This will be the second such meeting this year after that of 24 April.

DW also highlights that Russia is currently presiding over the Security Council and that it is not yet clear whether the Kosovo session will be held virtually or through physical presence of representatives.

Special Representative and UNMIK chief Zahir Tanin is expected to brief the Security Council on the latest developments in Kosovo and by 9 October, SC members will have received the quarterly report of the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Specialist Prosecutor to hold a press conference on Salih Mustafa today (media)

Kosovo’s Specialist Prosecutor’s Office in The Hague will hold today a press conference on the flow of the Salih Mustafa’s case, arrested recently under suspicion of war crimes.

The Office informs that Prosecutor Jack Smith will address the media at 15:00 hours.

Mustafa, 48, was arrested on September 24 in Prishtina by the Specialized Prosecutor’s Office on the basis of an arrest warrant, transfer order and a confirmed indictment issued by a Kosovo Specialized Pre-Trial Chamber judge.

Von Cramon: Were it up to EP, Kosovo would have visa liberalisation (media)

European Parliament rapportuer for Kosovo Viola von Cramon reacted to a Twitter post of a map of Europe covered in blue with Kosovo as a red spot showing it as the only country whose citizens cannot freely travel to EU.

“Unfortunately, it isn’t up to me to decide on this. Believe me if we in the @Europarl_EN had the last word Kosovo would have the same travel opportunity as all the other Europ states. But it’s the @EUCouncil @eucopresident who takes the decision,” she commented.

Ombudsperson calls for suspension of Tienmu Ma’s expulsion (Prishtina Insight)

Naim Qelaj, the newly elected Ombudsperson, told BIRN on Thursday that his first decision since taking office was to ask Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti and the Minister of Internal Affairs, Agim Veliu, to suspend the decision expelling Tienmu Ma from the country.

He said that this was largely due to the interior ministry’s decision to suspend the entire procedure for obtaining residency permits due to the COVID-19 crisis. “As far as I know, that decision is still in force,” Qelaj said.

The Department of Citizenship, Asylum and Migration rejected an application to extend Ma’s residence permit on September 6.

Ma submitted a complaint over the decision through his lawyer. However, this complaint was also rejected on September 21, the decision including a request for Ma to leave the country.

According to documents obtained by BIRN, the decision to reject Ma’s complaint cited a failure to provide a translation of his diploma into Albanian and evidence of an annual income of 5,000 euros. However, BIRN has seen evidence of both a translation of his diploma and a series of bank statements proving an income of more than 5,000 euros per year.

Before being hired by Kurti in February, Ma served as a lawyer providing human rights expertise to the Parliamentary Commission Investigating the Deportation of Six Turkish Citizens.

Earlier on Thursday, a letter to Hoti from James Silk, a Human Rights professor at Yale University, was made public. In the letter, Silk stated that Kosovo could be the subject of an investigation by the UN Special Rapporteur over the refusal of Ma’s residency permit.

“This conduct, which can only be seen as an attempt to retaliate against a human rights lawyer simply for doing his appropriate and important work, not only undermines Kosovo’s progress towards democracy and the establishment of rule of law, but also clearly violates the UN Declaration of Human Rights Defenders,” the letter states.

Adoption of Istanbul convention, important step but implementation a challenge (KP)

Kosovapress reported that the adoption of the Istanbul Convention on prevention of violence against women and domestic violence is an important step forward but that its implementation will not be free of challenges.

Adelina Berisha from the Kosovo Women Network said the incorporation of the Convention to the Constitution of Kosovo is good news. “We hope this document will oblige our country to treat the violence against women seriously,” she said adding that merely the act of inclusion the document as part of the Constitution will not be enough to fight gender-based violence. “The convention itself carries certain requirements that the countries need to fulfill so that it is adequately implemented.”

Similarly, Luljeta Demolli from the Kosovo Centre for Gender Studies hailed the adoption of the Istanbul Convention notng that it represents a positive step. “The biggest problem in Kosovo, not only in the field of gender-based violence, but in general is implementation of legislation.” Demolli also said that the fact Kosovo is not member of the Council of Europe, which initiated the Convention, could be a challenge in the implementation process.

Serbian media give ethnic character to incident in Kosovo village (Kallxo)

Serbian media reported of an incident that happened over the weekend in the village of Bernice e Poshtme, Pristina municipality, when unidentified persons fired in the direction of several Serb community children at a school compound. According to the Serbian language media outlet, Kossev, the attackers spoke Albanian.

Meanwhile, in its daily report, Kosovo Police said two witnesses reported that after a confrontation between two unidentified suspects, one of them fired upon departing. “Police units went to the site and located and seized one cartridge case. The investigation is ongoing,” the police said.

Head of the Serbian Government’s Office for Kosovo Marko Djuric has called for urgent identification and arrest of authors while Minister of Defence Aleksandar Vulin said the incident showed “the birth of a new generation of Albanians that want to eradicate remaining Serbs in Kosovo.”

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