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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, October 23, 2020

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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, October 23, 2020

Albanian Language Media:

• COVID-19: 169 new cases, two deaths (media)
• Szunyog: Kosovo and Serbia should make constitutional amendments (media)
• Selimi: European Union, Kosovo’s priority and strategic goal (media)
• Haradinaj withdraws slightly from the issue of future president (Express)
• CEC decides on five day election campaign in Podujeva (RTK)
• The government requests from the thieves return of 2.1 million euros (media)
• Suspect pleads not guilty for abuse of Kosovo’s treasury (Telegrafi)

Serbian Language Media:

• Specialist Chambers: The indictment against Thaci and Veseli remains confidential (Kosovo Online)
• Borell and EULEX to submit opinion on Thaci’s proposal to change the mandate of the Specialist Chambers by November 2 (KoSSev)
• Serbian Parliament Speaker: UNMIK to continue implementing its mandate (BETA, N1)
• Borrell: WB leaders should refrain from statements that add political divisions (Tanjug, Kosovo Online, N1)
• Vucic: Things more complicated than how Pristina imagines them (RTS)
• “Gone are the days when everything was decided by Russia and the United States” (B92, Tanjug)
• Lavrov canceled visit to Zagreb, but not Belgrade (B92)
• Grubjesic: Stance of German Ambassador Heusgen can’t be stance of EU (Vecernje Novosti, Kosovo-online)
• Mihajlovic: Albanian politicians should not hinder the projects from the Washington agreement (Kontakt plus radio, Kosovo Online)
• Invitations to Belgrade and Pristina to join PTEC as observers (Kontakt plus radio)
• Stano: Serbia expected ‘to progressively align its policies with EU’ (N1)
• US Energy Department delegation visits Belgrade (N1, Kosovo-online)

International:

• Kosovo Minister Under Pressure Over Cash Stolen from Budget (Balkan Insight)
• BSF: Stability, security and prosperity of the WB closely linked to the EU (EWB)

Humanitarian/Development:

• In Montenegro, Hopes Fade for News of the Wartime Missing (Balkan Insight)
• UN chief says G20 leaders must coordinate to fight COVID-19 (AP)

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Albanian Language Media:

  • COVID-19: 169 new cases, two deaths (media)
  • Szunyog: Kosovo and Serbia should make constitutional amendments (media)
  • Selimi: European Union, Kosovo’s priority and strategic goal (media)
  • Haradinaj withdraws slightly from the issue of future president (Express)
  • CEC decides on five day election campaign in Podujeva (RTK)
  • The government requests from the thieves return of 2.1 million euros (media)
  • Suspect pleads not guilty for abuse of Kosovo’s treasury (Telegrafi)

Serbian Language Media:

  • Specialist Chambers: The indictment against Thaci and Veseli remains confidential (Kosovo Online)
  • Borell and EULEX to submit opinion on Thaci’s proposal to change the mandate of the Specialist Chambers by November 2 (KoSSev)
  • Serbian Parliament Speaker: UNMIK to continue implementing its mandate (BETA, N1)
  • Borrell: WB leaders should refrain from statements that add political divisions (Tanjug, Kosovo Online, N1)
  • Vucic: Things more complicated than how Pristina imagines them (RTS)
  • “Gone are the days when everything was decided by Russia and the United States” (B92, Tanjug)
  • Lavrov canceled visit to Zagreb, but not Belgrade (B92)
  • Grubjesic: Stance of German Ambassador Heusgen can’t be stance of EU (Vecernje Novosti, Kosovo-online)
  • Mihajlovic: Albanian politicians should not hinder the projects from the Washington agreement (Kontakt plus radio, Kosovo Online)
  • Invitations to Belgrade and Pristina to join PTEC as observers (Kontakt plus radio)
  • Stano: Serbia expected ‘to progressively align its policies with EU’ (N1)
  • US Energy Department delegation visits Belgrade (N1, Kosovo-online)

International:

  • Kosovo Minister Under Pressure Over Cash Stolen from Budget (Balkan Insight)
  • BSF: Stability, security and prosperity of the WB closely linked to the EU (EWB)

Humanitarian/Development:

  • In Montenegro, Hopes Fade for News of the Wartime Missing (Balkan Insight)
  • UN chief says G20 leaders must coordinate to fight COVID-19 (AP)

 

 

Albanian Language Media 

 

COVID-19: 169 new cases, two deaths (media)

Kosovo’s National Institute for Public Health announced in its daily update that 169 new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the last 24 hours of 1,119 samples tested for the virus.

At the same time, 85 recoveries and two deaths were recorded. The highest number of new infections is in Prishtina (71).

There are currently 1,953 active cases of COVID-19 in Kosovo.

Szunyog: Kosovo and Serbia should make constitutional amendments (media)

After the EU’s representative for Kosovo-Serbia dialogue Miroslav Lajcak, head of the EU’s Office to Kosovo Tomas Szunyog, also spoke about constitutional changes in order to open the way to signing of the peace agreement.

He said that it belongs to Kosovo to establish the Association of Serb-majority Municipalities, and that both Serbia and Kosovo should undergo constitutional changes in the future, due to the agreement that they signed.

He stressed that the decision of the Constitutional Court in no manner prevents establishment of the Association.

Szunyog made these comments during his reporting at the Commission for European Integration.

“As far as the Association is concerned, I am very much aware that there is an agreement since 2013, while the other agreement dates in 2015, and a Constitutional decision which in no way prevents creation of the Association. It only sets some borders which concern the 2015 agreement. The end of the decision says that the status of the Association should be sent again to the Constitutional Court. On this occasion, my question is which is the status?,” Szunyog said.

He stressed further that international agreements are legally binding.

“Progress report says that there was no progress on this field, when the Association is concerned. It belongs to you to do this, you have signed and ratified these agreements with 2/3 of the Assembly. So, it is not only an international obligation, it belongs to you, and no one is forcing you to do something,” he reportedly said.

He added that he does not see the statement of the EU Representative Lajcak for changes of Constitution as problematic.

“It is an indisputable fact that both countries should make constitutional changes due to the international agreements that they have signed. Because, international agreements become legally binding,” Szunyog said. 

Selimi: European Union, Kosovo’s priority and strategic goal (media)

The Minister of Justice, Selim Selimi received today in a meeting the Head of the EU Office / EU Special Representative in Pristina, Tomas Szunyog.

In this meeting, Minister Selimi praised the close cooperation that the Ministry of Justice has with the Office of the European Union, which has provided continuous support through projects that have brought quality, expertise and infrastructure to the justice system. 

“The meeting also exchanged views on the results of the Judicial Reform, especially the process of Functional Review of the Rule of Law and the accountability process, including Vetting as part of the reform, which aims to increase accountability, efficiency and professionalism in the judicial and prosecutorial system,” it is said in the communique of the Ministry of Justice.

The statement further said that in addition to the legislative agenda, Minister Selimi and the Head of the EU Office Szunyog also discussed the visa liberalization process, as well as the tasks that await Kosovo on the path to European integration. On this occasion, Minister Selimi reiterated that the European Union remains the strategic goal of the government of Kosovo therefore the country’s institutions are committed to advancing the integration agenda.

Haradinaj withdraws slightly from the issue of future president (Express)

The leader of AAK, Ramush Haradinaj spoke to the media after his meeting at the Assembly of Kosovo with the leaders of the coalition. 

Haradinaj said that together with his partners they talked about several topics. 

“What we are concerned about is the economic issue, because the situation is deteriorating even more,” he said.

Haradinaj also spoke about the Specialist Chambers’ decision on indictment of Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaci and leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) Kadri Veseli, which is expected to be made these days.

“Kosovo has always been with justice, we believe in justice and justice has proved the just fight of the KLA in all situations. We are not saying there will be confirmation. Kosovo must continue to strongly assist the citizens of Kosovo who can be accused, not against justice but for justice,” he said.

“Kosovo is with justice, we all know that the KLA war was fair,” added the AAK leader.

Gazeta Express reports that Haradinaj appeared to be a little withdrawn on the issue of the position of the president. He reportedly said that these situations are not easy and a joint solution will be found.

“We are at work in these situations that may not be so easy and we believe that we will find an answer together. I have no answer for this topic at the moment, in the future we will talk about how these processes will flow,” Haradinaj said.

CEC decides on five day election campaign in Podujeva (RTK) 

Although the election campaign for Podujeva mayor concluded in March, the Central Election Commission (CEC) has decided today to hold a new five-day election campaign. 

All candidates of the political parties who aim to lead with the municipality, will have the possibility “to knock on the doors of the citizens” from 23 to 27 November to ensure their votes for Sunday, 29 November.

However, this decision of the CEC was objected to by the Vetevendosje Movement who considers that a longer election campaign is required.

On the other hand, no political entity has so far submitted an application for Mitrovica North mayoral elections at the CEC.

The government requests from the thieves return of 2.1 million euros (media)

Through an e-mail request addressed to the two suspects, who are believed to have fled abroad, the Government of Kosovo has asked them to return the two million and 77 thousand euros transferred to their account, within a period of five days.

“We request that within five days you return the amount of 2,077,995.90 Euros to the Budget account of the Republic of Kosovo in the Central Bank of Kosovo, as an unauthorized payment,” it is stated in the request published by the Insajderi.

“You as an economic operator have received the payment in your account and have not notified or returned the funds you have received from the Kosovo budget,” it is stressed further in the request of the Treasury Department for the two owners of “LDA Group”. 

The request of the government for cooperation with the owners of the company based in Drenas, is based on the Law on Budget Appropriations for 2020 for the budget of Kosovo.

According to this law, in case an individual or entity receives any payment from the Kosovo Fund as a result of an error, those funds are returned to the Kosovo Fund within 5 days from the receipt of the written notification from the General Director of the Treasury, which notifies the receiving party that the payment has been erroneously made.

Through the processing of four transactions, at 12:41 on Friday, October 9, two million euros were transferred to the account of the company based in the village of Llapushnik in Drenas. 

Kosovo Police announced on Wednesday through a 24-hour report that the blocking of accounts where funds are suspected to have been transferred from the Treasury has been requested.

Suspect pleads not guilty for abuse of Kosovo’s treasury (Telegrafi) 

The suspect for illegal transaction of more than two million euros from Kosovo’s treasury Labinot Gruda, said at the court that he pleaded not guilty and that the claims for the amount of money has nothing to do with him.

“I have always fulfilled my duties as described in my job description and never exceeded them,” Gruda said at the hearing session  held on Thursday at the Basic Court of Prishtina.

The Treasury employee, Gruda, stated that it is impossible to have completed the transaction from 12:11 to 12:19, respectively for 8 minutes.

“If we take the real way of executing a transaction, it must go through the hands of at least five officials, get all the necessary signatures or approvals, such transaction cannot be completed in eight minutes time,” he said.

Based on the request of the prosecutor, the Court however decided on one month detention for Labinot Gruda. According to the Court, he is suspected of committing a criminal act of “abuse of official position or authority.”

 

 

Serbian Language Media

 

Specialist Chambers: The indictment against Thaci and Veseli remains confidential (Kosovo Online)

Asked whether the Specialist Chambers would reject or confirm the indictment against Kosovo President Hashim Thaci and DPK leader Kadri Veseli, Specialist Chambers’ spokeswoman Angela Griep told portal Kosovo Online that if the indictment was confirmed, it would be published no later than the indictee’s first appearance before the court.

“If the indictment is not published, it remains confidential, along with the proceedings related to its review. The Rules of Procedure and Evidence stipulate that, if confirmed, the indictment will be published no later than the first appearance of the accused before the Court,” stated Angela Griep.

Spokeswoman Griep added: “Since the indictment remains confidential, together with the proceedings related to its review, we cannot comment further.”

The Hague-based Specialized Prosecutor’s Office filed an indictment with the Specialized Chamber on April 24, accusing Kosovo President Hashim Thaci and former Parliament Speaker and current Democratic Party of Kosovo MP Kadri Veseli, as well as “others”, of a number of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder, disappearance, persecution and torture.

The indictment alleges that Thaci, Veseli, and other suspects in the indictment are criminally responsible for nearly 100 murders.

It was only on June 24 that the Special Prosecutor’s Office publicly announced that the indictments had been submitted for questioning, and the six-month deadline by which the Hague Tribunal should rule expires tomorrow, wrote portal Kosovo Online.

Borell and EULEX to submit opinion on Thaci’s proposal to change the mandate of the Specialist Chambers by November 2 (KoSSev)

Portal KoSSev reports today that the Specialized Chambers of the Constitutional Court in The Hague has approved the request of the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell and the Head of the EULEX Mission, Lars-Gunnar Wigemark to extend the deadline for parties to the proceeding on the admissibility or jurisdiction of Kosovo Hashim Thaci’s proposed constitutional amendment on the mandate of the Specialized Chambers.

KoSSev further states that in practice, this could mean that the EU could be expected to submit its opinion on Hashim Thaci’s attempt to limit the work of the Specialized Prosecutor’s Office in the coming period, which is strongly criticized by international representatives.

The decision, signed by Judge Vidar Stensland on Tuesday, stated that the previous deadline given to the parties in the procedure to submit an opinion on the case – October 19, was extended until November 2, and the parties were invited to limit the submissions to 10 pages, reported the portal.

KoSSev recalls that after Kosovo President Hashim Thaci proposed in late August an amendment to Article 162 of the Kosovo Constitution governing the establishment of Specialized Chambers and the Specialized Prosecutor’s Office of Kosovo, the President of the Kosovo Assembly, Vjosa Osmani, forwarded the proposal to the Specialized Chambers of the Constitutional Court to assess whether the proposed changes violate the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the constitution. 

The Specialized Prosecutor’s Office has previously responded to the invitation of the Trial Chamber to the parties in the procedure to submit an opinion on the case.

They again accused Thaci of “trying to annul this prosecution body in any way.”

“The aim of the proposed changes is to re-present or reformulate the mandate. Also, at the time of submission of these submissions, there is no official drafting history. However, the fact that the amendments are proposed by the President who is the subject of the SPO indictment in relation to war crimes and crimes against humanity, assessing them with special observation, Mr. Thaci is not a neutral party and there is good reason to believe that the proposed amendments are part of a broader strategy of harming the court. Indeed, the essential context for understanding and interpreting the proposed changes is provided by the public statements of Mr. Thaci from August 24, 2020, on the day when he decided to forward the proposed amendment,” it was stated in the opinion of the Special Prosecutor’s Office.

On the other hand, Thaci stated that he asked for an amendment to Article 162 in order to “clarify the ambiguities about the length of the mandate”, reported KoSSev.

Serbian Parliament Speaker: UNMIK to continue implementing its mandate (BETA, N1)

On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the UN, Ivica Dacic, Serbian Parliament Speaker, said on Friday that Belgrade expects UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) to continue implementing its mandate, adding his country remains “strongly committed to the goals and principles of the UN, which were more relevant today than ever”, BETA news agency reports.

Recalling that former Yugoslavia, of which Serbia is one of the successors, is one of the UN founders and one of the first 50 signatories to the UN Charter signed on June 26, 1945, in San Francisco, and entered into force on October 24, 1945. Dacic also said Serbia has attached special importance to the top world organization in preserving Serbia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

“We always stress that UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which reaffirms Serbia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, remains in force. UNMIK’s neutral status presence continues to be essential for stability and the creation of conditions that should lead to lasting and a sustainable solution to the issue of Kosovo, and we expect the Mission to continue with the implementation of its mandate”, Dacic said.

Full Dacic’s address is available at: https://bit.ly/3jn3NnG

Borrell: WB leaders should refrain from statements that add political divisions (Tanjug, Kosovo Online, N1)

The EU supports Bosnia’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence and political leaders in the Western Balkans should refrain from making any statements that could add political divisions and negatively impact relations with neighbouring countries, EU High Representative, Josep Borrell, said in a statement on behalf of the European Commission.

Borrell’s statement came as a response to a question posed by European Parliament member Dominique Bilde regarding statements of the Serb member of Bosnia’s tripartite Presidency, Milorad Dodik, made in July.

Dodik was speaking about Kosovo and argued that Bosnia’s Serb-majority entity, Republika Srpska (RS), should be treated the same.

“We believe that Kosovo cannot be an internationally recognized state in the way some countries in the world accept it. The RS should have the right to be treated in the same way because the circumstances in the way this issue is being discussed are nearly identical,” he said.

Bilde asked whether “the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy consider it appropriate for the status of Republika Srpska to be discussed as well,” given that the EU has been conducting facilitated dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo since 2011.

Borrell’s full statement follows:

“The EU-facilitated Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue aims for the parties to achieve a comprehensive, legally binding agreement to normalise their relations, dealing with all outstanding issues. This will contribute to stability in the Western Balkans region as a whole. The EU expects all political leaders in the Western Balkans to actively support the process, including by refraining from any statements which could add to political divisions and negatively affect good neighbourly relations.

Regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations are an essential part of every candidate country and potential candidate’s progress on the path towards EU integration. As regards Bosnia and Herzegovina specifically, our line has always been clear: the EU supports the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of the country. Bosnia and Herzegovina’s path towards EU accession is based on the 14 key priorities from the Commission’s Opinion on its EU membership application1, as endorsed by the Council in December 20192. The Commission monitors the progress in meeting these key priorities, including in the context of the yearly enlargement package.”

See at: https://bit.ly/3kpa9nR

Vucic: Things more complicated than how Pristina imagines them (RTS)

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told a special online panel at the Belgrade Security Form Pristina must change its attitude that the only solution is Serbia to recognize the so-called independence of Kosovo and realize it is necessary to implement all signed agreements.

He added only this way a compromise solution could be found, and there is no alternative to the compromise.

Vucic also noted the situation regarding Kosovo is not easy for Serbia, given that 22 out of 27 EU member states recognized Kosovo, but pointed out that in accordance with UN and UN SC Resolution 1244, everything what some major world powers say is contrary to it.

“We are neither in an easy nor simple situation and we would like to see that two sides achieve compromise”, Vucic said.

He expressed hope the EU would fight, along with two sides, to reach a compromise, since as he noted, compromise has no alternative.

“Will it be easy, are we ready for compromise? You would always hear from Pristina that Serbia should only recognize Kosovo, they would do the same, and everything would be solved. However, things are more complicated than that”.

Vucic stressed the need to change the settings and implement all that had been signed, starting with the Brussels agreement from 2014. He also pointed out it is necessary to talk about economic relations.

According to Vucic, the two sides are far from reconciliation, and there should be work on it, as well as to stop considering one another as enemies and opponents but rather explore possibilities for cooperation.  

“Gone are the days when everything was decided by Russia and the United States” (B92, Tanjug)

Russian President Vladimir Putin stated today that the time when Russia and the United States decided on everything is a thing of the past.

He expressed readiness to discuss global problems with other countries, if the need arises.

Putin pointed out that China and Germany are moving towards the status of superpowers in terms of their political and economic influence, the Russian news agency Interfax wrote, Reuters reported.

Ahead of the November 3 US presidential election, Putin said he hoped the new administration would be ready for a dialogue on security and control of nuclear weapons.

Putin warned that there is no future without an arms control system and added that Russia’s security without an arms control agreement would not suffer.

Also, the Russian president called on the United States to help Russia reach a solution to the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, where, according to Putin, about 5.000 people died.

“There are a lot of victims, more than 2.000 on each side,” Putin said.

See at: https://bit.ly/37CD3NN

Lavrov canceled visit to Zagreb, but not Belgrade (B92)

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov, canceled his visit to Zagreb, but he will come to Serbia on October 28 and 29.

Lavrov will visit the Saint Sava Temple and meet with Patriarch Irinej, Vecernje Novosti daily reported.

As it is interpreted in diplomatic and political circles, the visit of the Russian foreign minister is a clear answer of the Kremlin that the relations between Serbia and Russia were not disturbed after the signing of the agreement in Washington, as some domestic and Western media speculated, the paper said.

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

Grubjesic: Stance of German Ambassador Heusgen can’t be stance of EU (Vecernje Novosti, Kosovo-online)

Belgrade-based daily Vecernje Novosti writes today on “ultimatum message” German Ambassador to the UN Christoph Heusgen sent to Serbia it should recognize Kosovo first if it wants to join the EU. The ambassador made these remarks at an online session of the UN SC dedicated to Kosovo, Kosovo-online portal recalled.  

“By campaign to retract recognitions of Kosovo, our Serbian friends are shooting themselves in the foot, because if they truly want to join the EU they should work on recognition of Kosovo and recognize it themselves as well”, Heusgen said.

Current German Ambassador to the UN was a foreign policy advisor to the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, while Pristina-based media reported earlier this year he was a candidate for EU Special Envoy for Belgrade-Pristina dialogue. Slovak diplomat Miroslav Lajcak was later appointed to this post.

Gordana Grubjesic from the Center for Foreign Policy said the stance expressed by Ambassador Heusgen cannot be the stance of the EU, because five of its member states do not recognize Kosovo either.

“Negotiation Chapter 35 says we should normalize relations with Pristina by the time of joining the EU and it does not stay that normalization means recognition. What we heard from Heusgen is a stance of Berlin and many others within the EU. But since the EU functions on principle of consensus, as long as there are five states that do not recognize Kosovo, even one or two, this will not be the EU’s condition”, she said.

Slobodan Zecevic from the Institute for European Studies said the stance of the German diplomat is “a nonsense” and the recommendation that Serbia should lobby for new recognitions of Kosovo was “absurd”.

“What negotiations on legally binding agreement then serve for? Let it be said – you will not join the EU without recognition of Kosovo and full stop. This is a stance of a German Ambassador who seems not to understand why negotiations on comprehensive agreement are being held, and they are held because the agreement has not been defined”, Zecevic said.

He added Germany has had such a stance for a long time, but the lack of unity within the EU (regarding Kosovo) has caused a different approach. He also assessed that “Germany takes a stance against compromise solutions and approves only a solution that suits Albanians”.   

Mihajlovic: Albanian politicians should not hinder the projects from the Washington agreement (Kontakt plus radio, Kosovo Online)

Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Zorana Mihajlovic said today that Albanian politicians from Pristina who were against the economic agreement from Washington are working against the interests of both Serbs and Albanians, because the agreed projects concern a better life for all people in the region, regardless of nationality, Serbian media reported.

“Roads connect people, economies, facilitate the movement of goods and people, and to be against it means to work openly against a better life, both for Serbs and Albanians. It is not the first time that Albanian politicians try to obstruct something, harming everyone, as they did when they introduced taxes on goods from central Serbia,” Mihajlovic said in a statement.

”However, there is only one way that leads the region forward, and that is why it is high time for politicians from Pristina to show responsibility and turn to cooperation and projects that will bring faster development to the region,” Mihajlovic said.

Invitations to Belgrade and Pristina to join PTEC as observers (Kontakt plus radio)

A delegation from the US Department of Energy, on behalf of US Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, called on Belgrade and Pristina to join the Transatlantic Energy Cooperation Partnership (PTEC) as observers.

“This week, the US State Department sent an invitation to Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti and Serbian Minister Aleksandar Antic to join the Transatlantic Energy Cooperation Partnership (PTEC) as observer countries,” Brouillette wrote on his Twitter account, reported Kontakt plus radio.

The Department of Energy is excited to work on both sides to improve their energy security, it was added.

“PTEC is an American initiative to help achieve the goals of the ‘Three Seas Initiative’. Global energy security is stronger when we work together,” the tweet said.

Stano: Serbia expected ‘to progressively align its policies with EU’ (N1)

EU Spokesperson Peter Stano said the bloc had noticed reports about the intent of the Ministry of Defense of Russia to open an office in Belgrade to strengthen its military ties with Serbia, adding Belgrade had said it was committed to joining the EU, N1 reports.

“Serbia has identified EU integration as its strategic priority and is expected to progressively align its policies in accordance with the policies and positions adopted by the European Union”, Stano said.

He added that “in terms of military cooperation between European countries, this should be in accordance with international agreements.”

The media in Serbia reported on Tuesday that the Russian Defense Ministry announced the opening of its office in Belgrade. Serbian Defense Ministry confirmed the legal procedure was launched about the opening of the office “following an agreement between Serbian and Russian governments”.

“The aim of the Russian Defense Ministry office presence in Serbia is to offer support and to speed up the process of military-technical cooperation in line with the two country’s agreement on that”, the Ministry said in its statement.

Military analyst Aleksandar Radic said on Thursday that the opening of Russian MOD office in Belgrade “is necessary because of the key phase of modernization of the MiG-29 aircraft”. He did not expect problems with NATO, but voices of dissatisfaction from the EU since the bloc “expects the candidate country to harmonize its defense and foreign policy with that of the Union”.

An unnamed NATO official told the Voice of America that the Alliance welcomes its partnership with Serbia and fully respects its decision on military neutrality but refused to comment on the reported opening of a Russian Defense Ministry office in Serbia.

See at: https://bit.ly/3jjSIE5

US Energy Department delegation visits Belgrade (N1, Kosovo-online)

A delegation of the US Department of Energy met with Serbian officials and visited energy companies, N1 was told at the US Embassy in Belgrade.

The delegation of scientists, engineers and department officials is visiting Belgrade following a visit to Pristina and Gazivode lake in northern Kosovo. One of the delegation members said that the visit to the Western Balkans shows the US government’s commitment to help Serbia and Kosovo implement the Washington Agreement. Embassy sources said that the key message for both sides is energy diversification and sustainable energy supplies based on long-term economic development and prosperity.

The Kosovo-online portal said the delegation met with Kosovo officials before coming to Belgrade where, the embassy said, focus will be on cross-border cooperation in water and energy resource management to attract new investments and bring long-term economic benefits to both sides.

 

 

International

 

Kosovo Minister Under Pressure Over Cash Stolen from Budget (Balkan Insight)

The government faces tough questions over revelations that Finance Ministry officials siphoned 2 million euros from the state budget – with the ruling parties pledging to resolve the case and the opposition demanding resignations.

Opposition parties in Kosovo have demanded the resignation of the Minister of Finance following the shock discovery that unknown ministry officials had criminally removed 2 million euros from its budget.

Finance Minister Hykmete Bajrami on Thursday told a meeting of the Commission for Supervision of Public Finances that her ministry had acted promptly, and reported the case to the police “three minutes after being informed” of the theft.

“This was an economic cybercrime, as the passwords were broken and users created without any signature,” Bajrami added.

Trying to steady nerves, Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti told a press conference on Thursday that there was no place for “fraudsters and abusers within the public system and its institutions.

“Minister Bajrami, is in charge of activity to ensure that systems are protected. Law enforcement agencies are doing their job,” he insisted.

However, the opposition Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, said Bajrami needed to resign, “to give space for independent investigations and avoid political interference”.

See at: https://bit.ly/37zUz5u

BSF: Stability, security and prosperity of the WB closely linked to the EU (EWB)

BELGRADE – Stability, security and prosperity of the Western Balkans is closely linked to the EU, therefore, we have worked on a renewed partnership with the region from the first day of this Commission, said EU Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi during the Belgrade Security Forum 2020.

He reiterated that the Western Balkans has been a priority for this European Commission since the beginning of its mandate.

“First, we have adopted a new enlargement methodology based on the principles of increased credibility, transparency, predictability and political steer. Second, on the basis of the new methodology we proposed the opening of accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia, which was endorsed by European Council in March. Third, on 6 October we have adopted a major Economic and Investment Plan for the whole region, together with the annual reports on enlargement”, Várhelyi told.

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

 

 

Humanitarian/Development

 

In Montenegro, Hopes Fade for News of the Wartime Missing (Balkan Insight)

Over 50 Montenegrins who disappeared in the wars in the former Yugoslavia are still listed as missing – and experts say the authorities must improve cooperation with the country’s neighbours if their graves are to be found.

Zoran Petrovic from Kosovo has been waiting to find out what happened to his brother Slobodan since 1999.

In June that year, just after the Kosovo war officially ended, Petrovic saw his brother for the last time at their family house in the town of Djakovica/Gjakova.

When Yugoslav forces withdrew to Serbia after Slobodan Milosevic capitulated to NATO’s bombing campaign, Serbs and other non-ethnic Albanian residents of Kosovo feared revenge attacks from the fighters of the Kosovo Liberation Army and decided to leave. But Petrovic’s brother insisted on staying.

“Even though I told him we were not safe from Albanian paramilitary troops, Slobodan decided to stay at home. He wasn’t involved in the Kosovo war, not even mobilised, so he believed that everything would go back to normal in Djakovica,” Petrovic told BIRN.

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

UN chief says G20 leaders must coordinate to fight COVID-19 (AP)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. chief finds it “very frustrating” that leaders of the 20 major industrialized nations didn’t come together in March and establish a coordinated response to suppress the coronavirus in all countries as he proposed.

Instead, they went their own ways as infections moved “every way, everywhere,” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said. The result is that every country is taking its own sometimes “contradictory” actions, and the virus is moving “from east to west, north to south,” with second waves of COVID-19 now affecting many nations.

With a Group of 20 summit coming next month, Guterres said in an interview with the Associated Press that he hopes the international community now understands “they need to be much more coordinated in fighting the virus.”

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