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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, October 22, 2020

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Albanian Language Media:

• COVID-19: 159 new cases, no deaths (media)
• Hoti: Abusers of power have no place in public institutions (media)
• EU doesn’t know when Kosovo-Serbia dialogue will continue (RFE)
• Thaci, Veseli, Haradinaj meet in downtown Pristina (media)
• Kosovo FM Haradinaj-Stublla announces visit to Israel (media)
• Government to disburse €2mil to non-majority communities as part of economic recovery package (media)
• Osmani and two MPs propose amendment to economic recovery draft law (media)

Serbian Language Media:

• Continuation of the Belgrade Security Forum, Vucic, Várhelyi, Lajcak, Hoti among the participants (Kosovo Online, Danas)
• The UN SC permanent members welcomed the resumption of dialogue; differ on the future of UNMIK (media)
• Dacic: Serbia patiently advocates dialogue, implementation of agreements reached (media, GoS)
• Dacic: Pristina misused online format of UN SC session (Kosovo-online, Tanjug)
• UNMIK chief says recent meetings on Kosovo show potential for solution (media)
• Petkovic: Hoti by threatening will not force Belgrade make concessions (RTS)
• Stano: Lajcak on daily basis works on continuation of dialogue (Tanjug)
• Djuric on the announced protests against „Mirëdita, dobar dan“: Nationalism flourishes in both Serbia and Kosovo (KoSSev)
• DFC Office chief says solve political problems to normalize relations (N1, Nedeljnik)

Opinion:

• Letter to the EU From the Western Balkans (Balkan Insight)

International:

• Kosovo: Show solidarity in face of COVID, UN Mission chief urges (UN News)
• Russia Moves to Open Defense Ministry Office in Serbia (The Moscow Times)

Humanitarian/Development:

• Life of Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo: Can an application help neighbors understand each other (BBC, Kosovo Online, B92, Vesti.rs, KIM radio)
• Study on divided narratives in Serbia and Kosovo (Radio KIM)
• Serbian anti-epidemic Crisis Team: No new measures, WHO: Lockdown last resource (N1)
• Kosovo Albanian Actor’s Spirit Lives on at Belgrade Festival (Balkan Insight)
• Marcos and Soldado: Colombian Shootout Sheds Light on Balkan Drug Ties (Balkan Insight)

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Albanian Language Media:

  • COVID-19: 159 new cases, no deaths (media)
  • Hoti: Abusers of power have no place in public institutions (media)
  • EU doesn’t know when Kosovo-Serbia dialogue will continue (RFE)
  • Thaci, Veseli, Haradinaj meet in downtown Pristina (media)
  • Kosovo FM Haradinaj-Stublla announces visit to Israel (media)
  • Government to disburse €2mil to non-majority communities as part of economic recovery package (media)
  • Osmani and two MPs propose amendment to economic recovery draft law (media)

Serbian Language Media:

  • Continuation of the Belgrade Security Forum, Vucic, Várhelyi, Lajcak, Hoti among the participants (Kosovo Online, Danas)
  • The UN SC permanent members welcomed the resumption of dialogue; differ on the future of UNMIK (media)
  • Dacic: Serbia patiently advocates dialogue, implementation of agreements reached (media, GoS)
  • Dacic: Pristina misused online format of UN SC session (Kosovo-online, Tanjug)
  • UNMIK chief says recent meetings on Kosovo show potential for solution (media)
  • Petkovic: Hoti by threatening will not force Belgrade make concessions (RTS)
  • Stano: Lajcak on daily basis works on continuation of dialogue (Tanjug)
  • Djuric on the announced protests against „Mirëdita, dobar dan“: Nationalism flourishes in both Serbia and Kosovo (KoSSev)
  • DFC Office chief says solve political problems to normalize relations (N1, Nedeljnik)

Opinion:

  • Letter to the EU From the Western Balkans (Balkan Insight)

International:

  • Kosovo: Show solidarity in face of COVID, UN Mission chief urges (UN News)
  • Russia Moves to Open Defense Ministry Office in Serbia (The Moscow Times)

Humanitarian/Development:

  • Life of Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo: Can an application help neighbors understand each other (BBC, Kosovo Online, B92, Vesti.rs, KIM radio)
  • Study on divided narratives in Serbia and Kosovo (Radio KIM)
  • Serbian anti-epidemic Crisis Team: No new measures, WHO: Lockdown last resource (N1)
  • Kosovo Albanian Actor’s Spirit Lives on at Belgrade Festival (Balkan Insight)
  • Marcos and Soldado: Colombian Shootout Sheds Light on Balkan Drug Ties (Balkan Insight)

 

 

Albanian Language Media 

 

COVID-19: 159 new cases, no deaths (media)

Kosovo’s National Institute for Public Health announced in its daily update that 159 new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the last 24 hours of 1,245 samples tested for the virus.

At the same time, 58 recoveries and no deaths were recorded.

The highest number of new infections is in Prishtina (54).

Minister of Health Armend Zemaj said today that a new record has been set in the number of tests performed over a 24-hour period.

Hoti: Abusers of power have no place in public institutions (media)

Prime Minister of Kosovo Avdullah Hoti commented today on the illegal transfer of more than two million euros from the Kosovo treasury to a privately-owned company saying that those who abuse their positions have no place in public institutions and ‘will come out to the surface like mice.”

Hoti said the Finance Minister Hykmete Bajrami is leading efforts to ensure that judicial institutions are doing their work regarding the case that originated in her ministry. 

EU doesn’t know when Kosovo-Serbia dialogue will continue (RFE)

European Union still does not know when the meetings between Kosovo and Serbia delegations will resume in Brussels as part of the dialogue for normalisation of relations, Radio Free Europe reports.

EU foreign policy spokesperson Peter Stano was asked the question as he said that the work of the EU Special Representative Miroslav Lajcak and his team is continuing. “As soon as we have a date to announce for the upcoming meeting, we will do so,” he said.

Stano did not want to comment on yesterday’s meeting of the UN Security Council on Kosovo which also focused on the dialogue issue or whether Lajcak was invited to brief the members. “With regards to meetings, discussions, you need to address the issue to the Security Council for details. We had not announced anything and therefore cannot comment.”

RFE reports that there have been no meetings between the Kosovo and Serbia sides for more than one month and that the reason behind this is Kosovo’s refusal to discuss the Association of Serb-majority municipalities and Serbia’s insistence on tackling the issue.

Thaci, Veseli, Haradinaj meet in downtown Pristina (media)

The two media outlets reports that there was a meeting this morning in one of Pristina restaurants between Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) Kadri Veseli, and leader of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) Ramush Haradinaj.

While no statements were made about the meeting, Telegrafi quotes sources saying that the three leaders discussed recent developments in Kosovo as well as the Specialist Chambers. The news website also reports that the Specialist Chambers have two more days left to decide whether to confirm indictment against Thaci and Veseli.

PDK has confirmed the meeting. “PDK leader Mr. Veseli had breakfast with the President and Mr. Haradinaj but it was not about any political development or any other matter in Kosovo,” party spokesperson Avni Bytyci told Gazeta Express.

Kosovo FM Haradinaj-Stublla announces visit to Israel (media)

Kosovo’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Meliza Haradinaj-Stublla, said to the members of the Assembly Committee on European Integration that she is soon expected to pay a visit to Israel next year.

“I cannot give any further details but I know that I will soon visit Israel. We are waiting for finalisation of a joint draft document for establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries,” she said. 

On the visa liberalisation process, Haradinaj-Stublla said the majority of the countries in the EU support visa-free travel for Kosovo citizens while with regards to the suspension of applications for membership in international organisations, she said that without a detailed plan, Kosovo would not have ‘realistic chances’ of joining at this stage. “The Ministry is making preparations to use this year while the moratorium is in place to prepare for when the pandemic is over. Membership cannot be achieved virtually.”

Government to disburse €2mil to non-majority communities as part of economic recovery package (media)

Prime Minister of Kosovo Avdullah Hoti announced today that two million euros will be disbursed to the non-majority communities in Kosovo as part of the economic recovery package.

In a meeting with MPs from non-majority communities, Hoti said the funds will be used to provide basic supplies to the most vulnerable members of non-majority communities while the second part will be providing financial assistance to families who have been mostly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. “In particular, it will involve employment opportunities for the members of the non-majority communities,” Hoti said. He added that persons living alone, the sick, and the elderly will also benefit from the aid package.

Osmani and two MPs propose amendment to economic recovery draft law (media)

Kosovo Assembly Speaker Vjosa Osmani together with MPs, Mimoza Kusari-Lila and Donika Kadaj-Bujupi, proposed an amendment to the draft law on economic recovery whereby the government would give priority to locally-owned businesses in their expenditure activity.

In a Facebook post, Osmani said the proposal aims to provide support for local companies which have been badly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. “The current legislation apart from not foreseeing any advantages to local producing and service-based companies, it in fact discriminates against them at the start of the tendering process. Often, specifications are drafted in such a way so as to make it impossible for local producers and providers of services to compete in tendering processes,” she said. 

 

Serbian Language Media

 

Continuation of the Belgrade Security Forum, Vucic, Várhelyi, Lajcak, Hoti among the participants (Kosovo Online, Danas)

The tenth Belgrade Security Forum will continue today with a discussion on the challenges for the Western Balkans region and opportunities for cooperation and EU integration, the organizers announced, Serbian media reports quoting Beta news agency. 

EU Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi, Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček and German diplomatic official in charge of the Western Balkans Susanna Schick will take part in the morning part of the forum.

The afternoon session will discuss the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, the US presidential elections and the growth of populism. 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti, and EU Special Representative for Dialogue Miroslav Lajcak will speak about these topics. 

Under the motto “There is no peace without reconciliation”, the jubilee Belgrade Security Forum, which lasts throughout October, is being held online due to the coronary virus pandemic.

In addition to talks on the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, the future of the European Union and the European perspective of the Western Balkans and the US elections, the relationship between technology and privacy, anti-EU narratives in the Western Balkans, depopulation, crisis of democracy and solidarity will also be discussed.

Issues such as populism, extreme right-wing nationalism and organized crime, lack of trust and solidarity in international relations will also be discussed, organizers said.

In ten years, more than 230 discussions have been organized within the Belgrade Security Forum, bringing together over 4,000 participants and more than 900 panelists, including decision makers and policy makers, representatives of security institutions, civil society, the international and academic community from Serbia and the region, but also from other parts of Europe and the world.

The UN SC permanent members welcomed the resumption of dialogue; differ on the future of UNMIK (media)

The permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, at the video session on Kosovo, welcomed the resumption of the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina and presented previously known, opposing views on the future of the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), reported Kontakt plus radio. 

The US representative welcomed, as she said, the “historic agreement” between Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti in the White House. She said the US was “applauding the leaders of the two sides”  and that “they have shown extraordinary courage by signing a historic agreement that will bring economic growth and new jobs to both countries and contribute to the overall progress of the entire region,” she said. She added that Washington would “closely monitor” the implementation of the White House agreement, which she described as “a significant step forward and the greatest opportunity for real progress in many years.”

“We will continue to support efforts to reach an agreement on the complete normalization of relations. We strongly support the dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo under the auspices of the EU,” the American diplomat said.

She reiterated the US position that the role of UNMIK has been overcome and that the UN should reduce the role of the Mission in Kosovo and redirect resources where they are needed. 

The UK also requested a review of the role of UNMIK, stating that the situation today was incomparably different compared to 1999, when the UN Mission came to Kosovo. The representative of Great Britain to the UN welcomed the resumption of negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina after a 20-month standstill. He called on Serbian and Kosovo officials to refrain from rhetoric that could increase tensions.

Unlike the diplomats from the USA and Great Britain, the representative of France to the UN assessed that UNMIK has an important role and that it significantly helps Kosovo in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

“UNMIK must continue to work in coordination with other international actors, especially the EULEX mission,” the French representative said. She also welcomed the resumption of dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina after 20 months. 

“We are convinced that Serbia and Kosovo have a European perspective and we will continue to help them on their European path,” she added.

Reacting to the position of the USA and Great Britain on the reduction of the role of the UN Mission in Kosovo, the Russian Ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzya reiterated Moscow’s position that UNMIK is “a key international mission in Kosovo”.

“Pristina’s attempts to expel the UN mission from Kosovo and form the Kosovo Army are contrary to UN Security Council Resolution 1244 and undermine the stability of the region,” Nebenzya said. He added that Russia’s position is clear, that a mutually acceptable solution should be reached within the framework of Resolution 1244. Moscow hopes that the appointment of the EU Special Representative for Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue Miroslav Lajcak will contribute to real progress towards reaching an agreement, Nebenzya said, assessing that now “there has been little progress”. Nebenzya also said that Russia was worried about the events related to the court for KLA crimes, including “leaks of documents and silencing of witnesses”. He stated that there are no improvements in Kosovo regarding the security of non-Albanian communities and added that they are still the target of attacks.

China’s representative to the UN said that Beijing has not changed its policy towards the Kosovo issue and that it still respects the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Serbia. China welcomes the efforts of the two sides to reach a solution through negotiations and calls on them to implement the agreements reached, said the Chinese diplomat.

German Ambassador to the UN Christoph Heusgen expressed regret that in today’s address by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Serbia, Ivica Dacic, he did not hear anything about the crimes of the Serbian side against the Kosovo Albanians. “Minister Dacic’s address was a copy of his earlier speeches. We never hear anything about the crimes committed by the Serbian side in 1998 and 1999, about ethnic cleansing. I really regret that,” said Heusgen. He also stated that Dacic, who refers to UN Security Council Resolution 1244, “did not mention the important fact” that the International Court of Justice decided in 2010 that the declaration of Kosovo’s declaration of independence did not constitute a violation of international law. Heusgen said that he wanted to emphasize the importance of the court for KLA crimes and added that he had not heard that the head of Kosovo’s diplomacy, Meliza Haradinaj, spoke about it today. “It is an important part of building the rule of law and ending impunity,” Heusgen said. He stated that Germany welcomes the renewal of the dialogue and added that the unresolved relations between Serbia and Kosovo represent an obstacle to the progress of the entire region.

Dacic: Serbia patiently advocates dialogue, implementation of agreements reached (media, GoS)

First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivica Dacic said yesterday that Serbia is taking the dialogue with Pristina very seriously and with responsibility, but that Pristina has deceived not only Serbia but the European Union too by not implementing the agreement signed in Brussels on the formation of a Community of Serb-majority Municipalities, Serbian media reported.

Speaking at a session of the United Nations Security Council on the work of the UNMIK Mission in Kosovo, Dacic also said “that Pristina began to violate the agreement signed in Washington in the part that refers to the one-year moratorium on activities related to the recognition of so-called Kosovo”.

Despite an appeal to local authorities to react quickly to find the perpetrators of numerous attacks on Serbs and publicly discourage such acts, justice for Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija is slow and unattainable, and the number of incidents is not decreasing, Dacic pointed out.

The Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs also pointed to the Serbian cultural and religious heritage in Kosovo and Metohija, and the attempts by Pristina to rewrite history, denying that Serbian churches there are truly Serbian.

“Serbia has insisted for twenty years that the perpetrators of horrific crimes committed by the terrorist Kosovo Liberation Army against Serbs, Roma and Albanians in Kosovo and Metohija should be prosecuted”, Dacic said and assessed that an initiative to pass a law on the “preservation of values of the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army” at a time when indictments are being filed against its members for the most serious crimes is unheard of.

Dacic also said the presence of UNMIK in Kosovo is still necessary and that this mission is expected to continue with the active implementation of its mandate, that the presence of EULEX is equally important due to its activities on promoting the rule of law, as well as of KFOR, as the main security guarantor.

“The talks we continued in Brussels are not easy, because there are still significant differences between the positions of Belgrade and Pristina, but we sincerely believe that dialogue is the only possible way to solve our problems in the long run and ensure better relations, peace and stability in the region”, Dacic underlined.

See at: https://bit.ly/3m8KujS

Dacic: Pristina misused online format of UN SC session (Kosovo-online, Tanjug)

Outgoing Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivica Dacic said today Pristina misused the online format of the UN SC session on Kosovo, with Pristina representative appearing with Kosovo symbols, Tanjug news agency reports.

Dacic said the Chairman of the UN SC Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya was in an inconvenient situation and could not react because Kosovo Foreign Affairs Minister Meliza Haradinaj-Stubla sat in front of a panel bearing inscriptions “Republic of Kosovo” and Kosovo flag.

“Here we had a situation in an online session, something he could not influence, that one from Kosovo sits in front of a panel with inscriptions ‘Republic of Kosovo’ and Kosovo flag, something she would not be able to do if she were at UN SC”, Dacic said.

Russian Ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzya sharply warned Kosovo Foreign Minister Meliza Haradinaj-Stubla she would be excluded from the next session of UN SC if Kosovo symbols were displayed.

German Ambassador to the UN also earlier criticized retraction of recognitions

Asked to comment on the sharp words of the German Ambassador to the UN Christoph Heusgen who spoke about the need that Serbia recognizes Kosovo in order to move towards the EU, Dacic said Heusgen said that ahead of the beginning of the public UN SC session, that he was irritated by his words, but this was not the first time that he says such things.

“At the previous UN SC session he also criticized me over retractions of recognitions (of Kosovo). They criticized Serbia because we work on retracting recognitions, and he says we should go the other way round, that we ourselves should recognize so-called Kosovo and not work on retraction of recognitions”. Dacic said.

Dacic said the two of them got into the polemics prior to the public session over allegations of the German Ambassador that 116 states recognize Kosovo.

“Wait, how come 116 states (recognize Kosovo). Weren’t we requested to accept a moratorium, to stop (working on retraction of recognitions) and now you again talk about 116 states? I also pointed out to him that so-called Kosovo today would not be able to get more than 92 votes at the UN”, Dacic said.

This is the reason why Heusgen reacts that way, Dacic said, and they try to say that Serbia is fighting against destiny, that everything is solved and we should not “fidget” but simply move ahead.

“This is the policy that the new Minister of Foreign Affairs will also face, respectively our entire state”, Dacic concluded.

UNMIK chief says recent meetings on Kosovo show potential for solution (media)

UNMIK chief Zahir Tanin told the UN Security Council that the recent meetings between officials from Belgrade and Pristina showed potential to resolve serious issues, reported Beta news agency. 

He told the UN SC meeting by video link that the meetings in Brussels and Washington showed the potential for progress in resolving serious issues when international resources are joined with leadership on the ground.  

According to Tanin, the most important conditions that have to be met for the negotiations to succeed are political unity, strong commitment and good will among the leaders in Belgrade and Pristina along with consistent international support. He welcomes the engagement of both sides to find common ground to resolve disputed issues and reach a comprehensive agreement to normalize relations.

The UN Security Council debated the Secretary General’s report for the March 16-September 15 period.

Tanin said that the publication of indictments by the Specialist Prosecutor against leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) Kosovo President Hashim Thaci and former parliament Speaker Kadri Veseli met with accusations that the Specialist Chambers were politically motivated.

“Some public reactions about the publication of the indictments in June were worrying, including attempts to question the legitimacy of the Specialist Chambers and claims of political motives. Unfortunately, some political leaders did not help correct those false claims,” the UNMIK chief said, recalling that the Hague-based court was an integral part of the Kosovo judiciary whose mandate is crucial to rule of law and the future of Kosovo.

He said that Kosovo has faced multiple challenges over the past seven months, starting with the coronavirus pandemic. “The social and economic consequences of the pandemic are serious. Both of Kosovo’s economy sectors – formal and informal – suffered a serious negative shock which especially affected young people and their education, as well as women and sensitive communities,” Tanin said.

He said that Kosovo was not left to fight the pandemic on its own. “The international community came to its aid to strengthen the professional and institutional capacities and ease the social and economic consequences of the pandemic. In September, the European Commission approved a package of financial aid worth 138 million Euro, including 50 million to respond to the pandemic,” he said.

See at: https://bit.ly/35pwxqP

Petkovic: Hoti by threatening will not force Belgrade make concessions (RTS)

Serbian Government Office for Kosovo and Metohija Director Petar Petkovic said the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue can bore fruit and bring concrete solutions only by mutual readiness for compromise, RTS reports.  

“Let Avdullah Hoti not think he would force Belgrade to make concessions by threats, and let him not live in illusion that anyone is scared of his threats”, Petkovic said.  

“The threat of reintroducing anti-civilization tariffs on goods from central Serbia and other aggressive acts for which Pristina is using an euphemism “reciprocity” is in essential contradiction with spirit we needed in the dialogue, as well as attempts to affect the Washington agreement on economic normalization, given that “mini-Schengen” concept implies agreed rules, and not unilateral acts”, Petkovic added.

He pointed out that Belgrade would consistently continue to leave the room for reaching an agreement that would create conditions for better and safer life to all citizens in Kosovo, but the same willingness and commitment “Albanian political representatives should finally demonstrate as well”.

He added he expects “the international community to harshly reprimand Pristina over the latest series of provocations and language of threats and hatred that undermine the dialogue”. 

Stano: Lajcak on daily basis works on continuation of dialogue (Tanjug)

EU Spokesperson Peter Stano said that Special Envoy for Belgrade-Pristina dialogue Miroslav Lajcak, along with his team, on a daily basis works hard on the continuation of talks in Brussels, Tanjug news agency reports.

“The next meeting within the dialogue under the EU auspices would be announced when we have exact time, date and agenda”, Stano said.

The last round of Belgrade-Pristina dialogue in Brussels was held on September 17.

Since then, due to Pristina’s refusal to talk about establishment of the Serb-majority Municipalities, but also due to epidemiological situation, the meetings in Brussels did not take place.   

During the recent visit of Miroslav Lajcak to Belgrade and Pristina, both sides confirmed their readiness to continue the talks, Tanjug news agency recalled. 

Djuric on the announced protests against „Mirëdita, dobar dan“: Nationalism flourishes in both Serbia and Kosovo (KoSSev)

The 6th “Mirëdita, Dobar Dan“ festival will begin in Belgrade tomorrow. Although the organizers of the festival are presenting it as an attempt to bring closer and reconcile Kosovo and Serbian people, some of the Serbian right-wing groups are assessing it as anti-Serbian, while also announcing protests.

The “Zavetnici“ party announced this year as well that a protest will be held tomorrow at 6 pm – when the beginning of the festival was announced – in front of the Cultural Center, which the party described as a “Serb-hating stronghold“.

“They are striking at our sanctuary in the middle of Belgrade. If you consider yourself a patriot, a Serb, go out and loudly tell them out what you think about such a shameless event that insults anyone who loves this oppressed and tortured country,“ the call for protest against the two-day activities in Belgrade reads. The planned festival activities include the screening of the play “I am my own wife“ by Kushtrim Koliqi, a debate, and exhibition on “Kosovo – the legacy of memory“, screening of the film “Aga’s house,“ as well as a debate on the negotiation process between Belgrade and Pristina and Kosovo’s membership in UNESCO.

According to announcements, “Zavetnici“ party members will gather at 5:15 pm in front of the Temple of St. Sava and rally towards Bircaninova Street, where the festival is being organized and where they will “forever drive away those who humiliate us in our country.“

Ivan Djuric, the program director of the Youth Initiative for Human Rights, reacted to the accusations of the protest organizers, assessing that “nationalism is flourishing in both Serbia and Kosovo.“

He accused the protest organizers of “spreading lies about the festival“ – which sends a message of peace – and of “defending the shrines from Terazije by throwing smoke bombs at a cultural and artistic event“.

Djuric pointed out during his guest appearance on TV Prva that the ways to protect the monastery of Decani will be discussed at the festival because, according to the announcement of the Youth Initiative for Human Rights, “neither Serbia nor Kosovo is protecting it – NATO is.“

“We call mad those who say that Decani is Albanian. There are indeed lunatics, Zavetnici in Kosovo who say that Decani is Albanian and that is nonsense. We want to talk about it, not sow hatred,“ said Djuric.

He added that this year, in addition to theater, film, and books, the festival will host debates dealing with key issues of transitional justice and the beginning of the work of the Special Court for the KLA, its operating principles, and justice for non-Albanian victims.

See at: https://bit.ly/34jCbM5

DFC Office chief says solve political problems to normalize relations (N1, Nedeljnik)

The head of the US Development Finance Corporation (DFC) office in Belgrade told Nedeljnik weekly that political problems have to be resolved before relations between Kosovo and Serbia can be normalized.

“To us, and when I say us that means the US government which I represent, it’s clear that without resolving all political problems there will be no normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia but it should also be clear to everyone that time is passing. Young people are leaving. The region is missing opportunities. The long-term goal is to resolve the significant political problem between Belgrade and Pristina once and for all but that is not possible without cooperation at economic, business level. See that as building trust. You can’t just wake up and run a marathon, you have to prepare,” Jovanovic said.

He said that investing in infrastructure is the most important thing, adding that has driven down the road from the southern Serbian city of Nis to Kosovo. “Faster and better roads would allow the movement of people and business. There are trucks waiting at every crossing. I saw trucks on the border with Croatia as well and that does not have to be the case,” he said. Jovanovic said that he has met people in Belgrade and Pristina who are ready to cooperate regardless of the political risks.

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

 

 

 

Opinion

 

Letter to the EU From the Western Balkans (Balkan Insight)

Fourteen years on from Thessaloniki, we have realised you don’t really want us – and have started to behave accordingly.

Dear Aunty Europe,

I’m writing on behalf of your poor cousins from the Western Balkans: Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania. You know – the unruly ones.

It’s been a while. We should talk.

Fourteen years ago, in Thessaloniki, we were solemnly promised that one day, not too far in the future, we should all be allowed to move to your big house in Brussels and sit as equals at your table.

All we needed to do, you said, was to clean up our act: be nice to you, and each other, and to learn good manners in order not to embarrass you in front of the guests.

So we tried. We really did. We stopped fighting, kept our rooms clean as much as we could, we were nice to neighbors. We even shared our toys and stuff sometimes, even though we didn’t really want to, just to prove we can be good.

But the reward never came. A decade after Thessaloniki, only Croatia got the coveted invitation, and once gone, promptly severed all ties with us. She now goes around pretending to be of “South-Central European-Mediterranean” ancestry, and the word “Balkans” never crosses her lips.

As we came to realize that you don’t really want us to join, we slowly started letting go. You didn’t seem to notice.

Don’t get me wrong, I know you had, and still have, problems of your own, with the fiscal crisis, and the migrant crisis, and the terrorism crisis, and Britain sailing away on the high seas. We wanted to come in to offer help, but you kept us at arm’s length.

So we pretended to reform, and you pretended your invitation was still valid. It’s been like that for quite some time.

Eventually, we both grew tired of pretending. You said that there will be no more EU enlargement until 2020; then you started talking about 2025.

We got the message. You gave up on us, so we gave up on you – and on ourselves. We relapsed.

Look at us now: Serbia’s turning into a bully again; Kosovo, barely nine years old, is tired of toys, and demands real tanks and guns; Bosnia is tearing itself apart. Montenegro thinks it’s at the top of the world; Macedonia is suicidal; Albania just sits in the corner all day, sulking.

It’s a mess.

See at: https://bit.ly/3jt2vrz

 

 

International

 

Kosovo: Show solidarity in face of COVID, UN Mission chief urges (UN News)

The top UN official in Kosovo, briefing the Security Council on Wednesday, called for solidarity as its new Government grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic and a host of other challenges.

“For places such as Kosovo, still suffering the consequences of past conflict, cooperation, unity of political voice and vision, dialogue and preventing extreme polarization should be the highest order priorities”, Zahir Tanin, head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), told the 15-member organ.

Such solidarity, especially during the current pandemic, should focus intensively on attaining the difficult balance between public health, economic recovery and human rights – “a conundrum presently defying Governments the world over,” Mr. Tanin said.

See more at: https://bit.ly/31sMafZ

Russia Moves to Open Defense Ministry Office in Serbia (The Moscow Times)

Russia is moving toward opening a Defense Ministry office in Serbia to deepen military ties with its longtime ally, a move that risks straining relations with the West, Reuters reported Tuesday. 

Serbia, which claims military neutrality, is an EU candidate country that also maintains close ties with Moscow. Belgrade suspended its military drills with all partners for six months last month, pointing to pressure from the EU to drop out of joint military drills in Belarus with Russia.

See at: https://bit.ly/3dZf5h7

 

 

Humanitarian/Development

 

Life of Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo: Can an application help neighbors understand each other (BBC, Kosovo Online, B92, Vesti.rs, Danas)

Neighbors’ language now can be learned via computer or telephone, and the “VOCUP” application is available to anyone who would like to learn Serbian or Albanian. What school systems failed to do for almost three decades, an application on computers and telephones will try to change, writes the BBC, Serbian media quoted. 

“VOCUP” is a virtual professor that teaches Serbian and Albanian language.

It originated in Kosovo, where side by side live communities that speak almost no language of their neighbors. The platform is available to anyone who would like to learn one of these two languages.

Veljko Samardzic from the Center for Social Initiatives, the organization behind this project, spoke about the platform for the BBC in Serbian.

“We tried to create a ‘digital professor’ who supports you and helps you. You need to have a little good will and an average internet flow, everything else is simple, listening, writing, speaking and reading. It evaluates you, brings you back to those lessons that are not well learned.”

According to him, knowledge of the Albanian language is indisputable, regardless of the political attitude of any citizen, saying that you have a greater opportunity to get a job.

“There is a serious deficit of Serbs, I’m talking about other non-majority communities in Kosovo who do not know the language as well, which narrows their opportunities. On the other hand, young Albanians seem to be deprived of information that the language spoken by their Serb neighbor is spoken by almost 20 million in the environment,” stated Samardzic.

The application is available for iPhone and Android phones, as well as on the website.

Study on divided narratives in Serbia and Kosovo (Radio KIM)

Media in Serbia and Kosovo contribute to strengthening the feeling of “being different” among ethnic communities. This was the main conclusion of a study, published in June 2020, initiated by non-governmental organization Peaceful Change Initiative (PCI) as part of the ALVED project, created and implemented by IPSOS – Strategic Marketing organization, Radio KIM reports.

The study showed that narratives creating divisions exist in both, Serbian and Kosovo media. Media content analysis in both cases indicated that intensity of a phenomenon of “otherness“ was based on deepening polarization of the two entities and were characterized by emotionally charged narratives.

 The study also showed that the media both in Serbia and Kosovo contribute to the polarization of the entities by emphasizing differences and failing to promote similarities.

The results also showed that Serbian media have a tendency of resistance in their relations towards Kosovo which is reflected in the reporting, fake news, disinformation and emotionally charged unprofessional journalism.

Serbian public thinks that media are responsible for negative perception of the public opinion relating to Serbia and Kosovo relations, while Kosovo public, according to the conclusion of the study, responsibility attaches to the political establishment which creates the hate speech, stereotypes and prejudices.  

The study in English is available at: https://bit.ly/37sQGz6

Serbian anti-epidemic Crisis Team: No new measures, WHO: Lockdown last resource (N1)

Despite announcements that Serbian Crisis Team will bring some more stringent anti-coronavirus measures after the country has recorded 512 infected people, the highest number since the outbreak of the epidemic, it decides on Thursday to only “work on better implementation of the existing ones”, N1 reports.

“The focus is on the implementation of everything we have now… That means we won’t tolerate any violation of the measures. We’re working on a legal framework to enable sanctioning”, Srdja Jankovic, a member of the Crisis Team said after its extraordinary meeting.

He added that “the situation is worsening, and a lot depends on us.” He also said the Team decided to implement “the usage of fast tests where it’s possible.”

Earlier on Thursday, Marijan Ivanusa, the director of the World Health Organisation (WHO) office in Serbia, told N1 that the lockdown as it was implemented in the country in March should be the last measure. He added that specific measures in particularly hit places as Serbia did in July and August and what showed as a good move.

Ivanusa also said that 512 new cases of the coronavirus infections recorded in the country on Wednesday were a significant number and that possible new measures would have effects in two weeks.

See at: https://bit.ly/37x78hB

Kosovo Albanian Actor’s Spirit Lives on at Belgrade Festival (Balkan Insight)

Ten years after the death of celebrated Yugoslav-era actor Bekim Fehmiu, the Kosovo Albanian’s legacy continues to inspire an arts festival in Belgrade that seeks to promote tolerance and cross-border cooperation.

When the Miredita, Dobar Dan! festival opens on Thursday evening in the Serbian capital, it will be over a decade since its inspiration, the actor Bekim Fehmiu, died in Belgrade.

The festival, whose name means ‘Good day’ in Albanian and Serbian, showcases Kosovo films, plays and art for a Belgrade audience, but also holds debates on important contemporary issues.

Fehmiu remains a key figure for the festival – “a symbol of the complicated relations between Serbs and Albanians in recent decades, but also a link connecting two cultural spaces into a single whole”, said Fiona Jelici from the Youth Initiative for Human Rights Serbia, which is one of the organisers.

“Until the last hour, Bekim was and remained a Yugoslav actor in the best sense of the word. After his death, [his son] Uliks Fehmiu said that Bekim spent years going to Kosovo defending Serbs and defending Albanians in Serbia, which in a way we do today by organising the Miredita, Dobar Dan! festival in Belgrade and Pristina,” Jelici told BIRN.

See at:https://bit.ly/3mnNxF9

Marcos and Soldado: Colombian Shootout Sheds Light on Balkan Drug Ties (Balkan Insight)

BIRN pieces together a Serbian man’s final hours in the home of an alleged drug trafficker in Colombia, offering a rare glimpse into the deepening ties between Balkan drug gangs and the South American country.

Seventy-one days after Dejan Stanimirovic was found at a roadside in Colombia, bleeding from a gunshot wound to his face, the remains of the 45-year-old Serb were interred in Villavicencio’s crumbling Central Cemetery, where headstones sink into the ground and colonial-style architecture decays at the hands of the city’s tropical climate.

Stanimirovic did not die in a game of Russian roulette, as media reports first claimed.

See at: https://bit.ly/34hCarT

 

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