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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, October 29, 2020

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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, October 29, 2020

Albanian Language Media:

• COVID-19 report: One death, 284 new cases (media)
• Thaci condemns attack in France: terrorists will never win (RTK)
• Borrell: Dialogue in Brussels is essential for Kosovo’s European road ( media)
• Kosovo-Serbia dialogue resumes today in Brussels (Express)
• Hoti: Police Task Force was unconstitutional (Telegrafi)
• Haradinaj-Stublla demands visa liberalization from EU Presidency (RTK)
• Kosovo and Northern Macedonia soon with common border point (RTK)
• Only one candidate for Mitrovica North mayor so far (RTK)

Serbian Language Media:

21 new cases of Covid-19 in Serbian communities in Kosovo (Kontakt plus radio)
Vucic: Terrorism will never win (B92)
Petkovic and Lajcak met in Brussels (Tanjug)
Carpenter: Biden’s goal would be to strengthen Serbia in European and Euro-Atlantic structures (Danas, TV Prva)
Jevtic: Return of displaced persons at unsatisfactory level (Radio KIM)
Shaip Kamberi – a speech that marked yesterday’s Serbian National Assembly session (KoSSev)
German FM: Belgrade – Pristina agreement would have positive impact on region (N1, BETA)
Serwer: Vucic will not recognize Kosovo (B92, Kosovo Online)
Party of Kosovo Serbs letter to Central Election Commission (RTK)

Opinion:

• How Trump Lost the Balkans (foreignpolicy.com)
• Trump Has a Fix for Kosovo. He’s Ignoring It. (Foreign Policy, Koha)

International:

• London Calling: Albanians Count Cost of UK Illegality (Balkan Insight)
• Kommersant: Serbia’s new government shifts towards West (tass.com)

Humanitarian/Development:

• Balkan Brain Drain ‘Won’t Stop Without Economic, Democratic Progress’ (Balkan Insight)

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Albanian Language Media:

  • COVID-19 report: One death, 284 new cases (media)
  • Thaci condemns attack in France: terrorists will never win (RTK)
  • Borrell: Dialogue in Brussels is essential for Kosovo’s European road ( media)
  • Kosovo-Serbia dialogue resumes today in Brussels (Express)
  • Hoti: Police Task Force was unconstitutional (Telegrafi)
  • Haradinaj-Stublla demands visa liberalization from EU Presidency (RTK)
  • Kosovo and Northern Macedonia soon with common border point (RTK)
  • Only one candidate for Mitrovica North mayor so far (RTK)

Serbian Language Media:

  • 21 new cases of Covid-19 in Serbian communities in Kosovo (Kontakt plus radio)
  • Vucic: Terrorism will never win (B92)
  • Petkovic and Lajcak met in Brussels (Tanjug)
  • Carpenter: Biden’s goal would be to strengthen Serbia in European and Euro-Atlantic structures (Danas, TV Prva)
  • Jevtic: Return of displaced persons at unsatisfactory level (Radio KIM)
  • Shaip Kamberi – a speech that marked yesterday’s Serbian National Assembly session (KoSSev)
  • German FM: Belgrade – Pristina agreement would have positive impact on region (N1, BETA)
  • Serwer: Vucic will not recognize Kosovo (B92, Kosovo Online)
  • Party of Kosovo Serbs letter to Central Election Commission (RTK)

Opinion:

  • How Trump Lost the Balkans (foreignpolicy.com)
  • Trump Has a Fix for Kosovo. He’s Ignoring It. (Foreign Policy, Koha)

International:

  • London Calling: Albanians Count Cost of UK Illegality (Balkan Insight)
  • Kommersant: Serbia’s new government shifts towards West (tass.com)

Humanitarian/Development:

  • Balkan Brain Drain ‘Won’t Stop Without Economic, Democratic Progress’ (Balkan Insight)

 

 

Albanian Language Media 

 

COVID-19 report: One death, 284 new cases (media) 

Kosovo’s National Institute for Public Health said in a statement today that one death and a record-setting 284 new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the last 24 hours. 

72 patients have recovered from the virus during this time. The highest number of new cases is from the municipality of Prishtina (117).

Currently, there are 2,869 active cases in Kosovo.

Thaci condemns attack in France: terrorists will never win (RTK)

The President of Kosovo Hashim Thaci condemned this morning’s attack in Nice, France, suspected to have terrorist motives, where three people lost their lives, and several got injured.

“Strongly condemn the terrorist attack in Nice. Kosovo stands by the people and Government of France in this difficult moment, as our thoughts are with the families of victims and the injured. Terrorists will never win,” Thaci wrote.

Kosovo’s Ambassador to France Qendrim Gashi, also condemned the attack.

Borrell: Dialogue in Brussels is essential for Kosovo’s European road ( media)

The EU foreign policy chief said that officials from Serbia and Kosovo stressed that they give the highest priority to European integration and dialogue.

Josep Borrell answered a question from a member of the European Parliament on the relationship between the policies of the European Union and the United States. 

The chief European diplomat said parts of the document, signed by representatives of Serbia and Kosovo in Washington in early September, “are based on previous commitments made by both sides in the dialogue” and could make a “useful contribution” to achieving a comprehensive, legally binding agreement ”. 

Answering a written question from EU MPs on EU-U.S. political relations, the Serbia-Kosovo dialogue, but also on the “independence of the EU voice in the Balkans”, Borrell stressed that both the Serbian president and the prime minister of Kosovo in recent visits to Brussels have stressed that they give priority to European integration and EU-mediated dialogue, writes Aljazeera Balkans. 

“EU-sponsored dialogue is a key element of their European path,” he said.

In response to a parliamentary question, Borrell added that the leaders of Kosovo and Serbia have pledged to redouble their efforts to ensure further harmonization with the EU in line with commitments.

Kosovo-Serbia dialogue resumes today in Brussels (Express) 

The EU-facilitated dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia is set to resume today in Brussels after a several weeks long hiatus, Gazeta Express reports.  

At the invitation of the EU Special Representative on Dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak, Kosovo’s delegation led by State Coordinator, Skender Hyseni, has travelled Wednesday to Brussels. The Government of Kosovo in a statement on Wednesday said that during experts’ level meeting parties will discuss settlement of financial claims and property issues.

The dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia was blocked in September after Serbia’s persistence to renegotiate the Agreement on establishment of the Association of Serb-majority Municipalities. After the Kosovo side refused to renegotiate the Agreement already reached in 2013, the EU facilitator of dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak paid a visit to both Pristina and Belgrade last week in an effort to convince them to return to the negotiations table, reports this news portal. 

Hoti: Police Task Force was unconstitutional (Telegrafi)

Kosovo’s Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti spoke today at the Assembly about the decision of the government to dismiss the Task Force within the Kosovo Police, saying that its work will continue unhindered in all issues that it was considering. 

He said that every lawyer knows that the 2010 decision for the Task Force within the Kosovo Police was unconstitutional.

“Even the organogram of the Police must be prepared according to the law. The existing organizational chart is not in accordance with the law. It was approved in 2019, but not according to the procedures required by law. Legality must be restored and all structures must be foreseen within the organogram,” Hoti said.

According to him, the functioning of this Task Force has been in the air and undefined.

“Thirdly, during these days, letters will be exchanged with the Special Prosecution to ensure that the work of this Task Force continues unhindered until the new police organization chart is prepared, under the strict supervision of international partners.

“This is the truth and any other interpretation is incorrect and is done for other purposes. There are a lot of people who criticize, probably in the absence of information, but there are still people, various officials who criticize this despite knowing exactly where the government’s decision and our orientation to establish legality lead to,” Hoti said.

Haradinaj-Stublla demands visa liberalization from EU and German Presidency (RTK)

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kosovo, Meliza Haradinaj-Stublla announced through a Facebook post that last night she was a participant in the ministerial panel of Foreign Ministers of the Western Balkans, from where she asked the EU for visa liberalization for Kosovars.

Full post:

“Last night I had the pleasure to participate in the Ministerial Panel of Foreign Ministers of the Western Balkans on “Youth, Migration and Demographic Challenges in the Western Balkans”, at the invitation of the Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany Mr. Heiko Maas, moderated by German Minister of State for Europe Mr. Michael Roth. 

In my speech I shared with the participants the reality of Kosovo as the youngest country and the youngest population in Europe, and invited them to use together the high potential of Kosovo and its wonderful youth, joining in our initiative to establish in Prizren a Regional Center for Start-up and Innovation. 

I also stressed that the Western Balkans should initially know the reality within itself, before seeking further integration into European integration structures. Only on the principle of equality will we be able to build a common future. 

In the end, I had no choice but to stress the lack of visa liberalization for the citizens of Kosovo, asking the German Presidency and the EU for strategic action and commitment to embrace the extraordinary Kosovar youth,” Haradinaj-Stublla wrote.

Kosovo and Northern Macedonia soon with common border point (RTK)

Kosovo and Northern Macedonia will soon reach an agreement on the establishment of a joint border crossing that will facilitate the movement of goods and citizens between the two countries said the Minister of Infrastructure, Arban Abrashi, after the meeting with the Minister of Transport of Northern Macedonia, Blagoj Bocvarski.

Until 2022, the construction of the highway in the remaining part of Northern Macedonia that connects with Kosovo will be completed.

Minister Abarashi said that the topic of discussion with his counterpart was the construction of road infrastructure between Kosovo and Northern Macedonia.

Abrashi said that several agreements will be reached, including the creation of a joint border point in the joint meeting of governments of Kosovo and Northern Macedonia to be held. 

Only one candidate for Mitrovica North mayor so far (RTK)

Friday is the deadline for applying for mayor of North Mitrovica and so far, only the Serbian List has submitted the application to be certified for the extraordinary elections to be held on November 29.

According to the Central Election Commission (CEC) the Serbian List submitted the application today and appointed Milan Radojevic as a candidate.

“Until today, Thursday, October 29, the CEC has received an application from the Serbian List political entity, so, an application to be certified to participate in the extraordinary elections for mayor of North Mitrovica,” CEC spokesman Valmir Elezi said.

North Mitrovica was left without a mayor after Goran Rakic resigned to become deputy prime minister and minister of administration and local government in the Hoti government.

 

 

Serbian Language Media

 

21 new cases of Covid-19 in Serbian communities in Kosovo (Kontakt plus radio)

The North Mitrovica Crisis Staff announced today that 21 new cases of coronavirus infection have been recorded, reported Kontakt plus radio. 

Ten people have been cured. 

The radio reported that out of the 97 samples processed (one pending), 17 positive cases were recorded in municipalities in northern Kosovo and four in areas south of the Ibar River.

Zvecan (7), North Mitrovica (6), Zubin Potok (4), Kamenica (2), Gracanica (1), Gnjilane (1).

Out of 10 people recovered – six are in Gnjilane, three in Strpce and one in North Mitrovica.

Currently, 10 people are hospitalized and are being treated at the Health Center in Mitrovica North. 

83 people are in house isolation and there are currently 93 active cases.

Since the beginning of the epidemic, a total of 5,691 people have been tested, of which 1,092 people have been diagnosed with the coronavirus.

Total number of patients by municipalities: North Mitrovica 320, Leposavic 180, Zvecan 183 and Zubin Potok 116.

A total of 314 patients have been registered in Serbian areas south of the Ibar so far.

A total of 980 people recovered.

Since the beginning of the epidemic, 38 people have died in Serbian communities in Kosovo.

Vucic: Terrorism will never win (B92)

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that terrorism will never win over moral and human values, sending condolences to the families of those killed in Nice, France, B92 reports.

He said this reacting to the two terrorist attacks that took place in France, in Nice and Avignon.

“All our thoughts are with the relatives of those murdered in the terrorist attack in Nice, the people of France and President Emmanuel Macron. Terrorism will never win over the moral and human values we share”, Vucic wrote on Twitter. 

Petkovic and Lajcak met in Brussels (Tanjug)

Serbian Government Office for Kosovo and Metohija Director and head of the Belgrade delegation in dialogue with Pristina Petar Petkovic met today with EU Special Envoy Miroslav Lajcak in Brussels, Tanjug news agency reports.

Following bilateral meetings of the both delegations with EU mediators, a new round of Belgrade-Pristina dialogue at level of experts would commence.

It was agreed to discuss two topics – mutual financial clams and property.

Ahead of this round of dialogue, Serbian side said it would restart the issue of non-implementation of the Agreement of the Serb-majority Municipalities. 

Carpenter: Biden’s goal would be to strengthen Serbia in European and Euro-Atlantic structures (Danas, TV Prva)

The director of the American Penn Biden Center, Michael Carpenter, stated that the administration of the former vice president of the USA, Joseph Biden, in case of his victory in the upcoming elections, would strive to improve relations with Serbia and strengthen its orientation towards the EU and Euro-Atlantic structures, reported daily Danas.

“There are chances to use the connections that were established in previous years. The goals are to strengthen Serbia as a strategic country in the Western Balkans and Eastern Europe and to strengthen in European and Euro-Atlantic structures,” Carpenter told Belgrade based TV Prva. 

Carpenter, an adviser at the election headquarters of the Democratic presidential candidate, said that the focus of Biden’s strategy for Serbia was its entry into the EU, support for further reforms in the field of rule of law, better human relations between the US and Serbia, in terms of travel and investment by American companies, as well as strengthening military relations between the two countries. 

He stated that Biden knows Serbia and the Western Balkans very well and that he has a good relationship and cooperation with the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic. 

“They have met several times, and Prime Minister Ana Brnabic is also a very interesting and experienced politician, and I hope that the Biden administration will cooperate with her,” added Carpenter, a former Pentagon official.

Regarding the agreement on the normalization of economic relations that Serbia and Kosovo reached in the White House on September 4, Carpenter said that it was “positive in many elements”, in terms of economic ties and communications.

“I think it’s all great. My main objection to that agreement is not its content, but the fact that it is completely separate from the European dialogue. I hope that American and European initiatives could be synchronized and that the United States and the EU will lead a dialogue together towards an end, that we can have Serbia in the EU and raise Serbian-American relations to a higher level,” Carpenter said, adding that he “dreams about it”, if Biden becomes the president of the United States from January 20.

Carpenter said that the ultimate goal of the dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo was “mutual recognition”.

“I would expect the Biden administration to participate much more actively with the EU, to sit together at the table, to have no two processes but a unified dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo, along with the EU and the United States. I think that will most likely lead to the greatest success in the future,” he said.

He said he “cannot speak” about his role in the Biden administration, saying “there are a lot of people involved in the process around the Western Balkans”.

“The United States plays an active role in supporting the region’s European integration, supporting better trade and investment and better ties,” Carpenter said.

He added that he was “very optimistic that Biden will convincingly win the elections” on November 3, in which his rival is US President Donald Trump.

Polls six days before the election predict Biden’s victory in the election, reported daily Danas.

Read more at: https://bit.ly/2TBJngd

Jevtic: Return of displaced persons at unsatisfactory level (Radio KIM)

Kosovo Minister for Communities and Returns (MCR) Dalibor Jevtic attended yesterday’s meeting of a Commission for Interests and Rights of Communities and Return at Kosovo Assembly, and presented the report on the work of the Ministry he leads, in 2020. 

The Commission consists of 18 MPs from the ranks of 12 political parties that represent the interests of ethnic communities at Kosovo Assembly, Radio KIM reports, citing the statement of the MCR.  

Statement further said Jevtic informed members of the commission on numerous challenges relating to the return of displaced persons, adding that he “Is not pleased with the percentage of returned people”.

“Return and integration of displaced persons, resolving security issues and property-legal disputes, initiating courts’ proceedings are mutually interlinked issues and that is why this is the topic for all institutions, and not only the Ministry for Communities and Returns. Crucial precondition in this regard should in no way be political willingness but rather the rule of law”, he said.

Speaking about results of this year, Jevtic noted successful start of reconstruction of 91 houses and intention of the ministry to  complete 101 housing units for returnees and displaced persons by the end of the year, completion of five buildings in Strpce municipality for the current residents of five collective centers located in this municipality, renovation of a collective center “Bergen” in Gracanica, equipping 65 newly reconstructed houses for the returnees, and allocation of 100 grants for starting the businesses and income generation for non-majority communities as well as providing temporary accommodation for 51 families of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities – returnees from North Macedonia and Montenegro as well as delivery of food and hygienic packages to 872 vulnerable families. 

Shaip Kamberi – a speech that marked yesterday’s Serbian National Assembly session (KoSSev)

The new government of Serbia was voted in yesterday. However, it was the speech of the United Valley MP, Shaip Kamberi at the session of the Serbian National Assembly that left the biggest impression on social networks, part of the public and media. Speaking in Serbian, Kamberi presented his blistering assessment of Serbia under the management of “one man”, as well as an overview of the state of Serbia in the previous years.

In a series of remarks, quotes and references to famous Serb writers and cultural envoys, Kamberi accused the regime of Aleksandar Vucic of abolishing democracy. He underlined that even Slobodan Milosevic failed to do so.

He said that there is no Republic of the State of Serbia, but the Republic of Aleksandar Vucic, while also using the famous French saying L’etat c’est moi.

The United Valley MP assessed the fact that the only opposition parties in the parliament are minority parties as tragic, adding that there is no real opposition.

Although Kamberi’s speech was highly criticized both inside and outside the parliament, it was also met with comments of approval and positive reactions on social networks and in certain media outlets.

Milenko Jovanov, Vladimir Djukanovic, Dragan Markovic, Ana Brnabic, and many others responded to Kamberi’s speech in the parliament. He was accused of disrespecting the dignity of the National Assembly, and of being displeased with the fact that his coalition did not get a ministerial position. Furthermore, the MP from Bujanovac was also criticized for the moves made by the authorities in Pristina. Outside the parliament, during the conference on the situation regarding the COVID-19 outbreak, President Vucic also reacted on the occasion. Vucic noted that Kamberi’s speech was proof of democracy in Serbia. He said that it is proof that it was a good thing that the United Valley was only offered the position of deputy minister because “someone knew quite well what they really think about Serbia“.

The Pristina media also reported on Kamberi’s speech, the majority of which shared the speech in its entirety.

Two-thirds of MPs in the Serbian parliament come from the ranks of the ruling SNS, with the exception of the representatives of the minorities, the other MPs are also part of the government.

Kamberi is the head of the 6-member parliamentary group United Valley – SDA Sandzak.

See at: https://bit.ly/35N4yl4

German FM: Belgrade – Pristina agreement would have positive impact on region (N1, BETA)

German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass said on Wednesday the agreement between Serbia and Kosovo would have a positive impact on the path of the entire Western Balkans towards the European Union’s membership.

Opening the international online conference “Youth, Migration and the Demographic Challenge in the Western Balkans”, Mass added that there was no alternative to a comprehensive legally binding agreement between Belgrade and Pristina and that such a step required strong political leadership.

“I am convinced the leaders in Belgrade and Pristina will prove it and open the door to a new era. That would significantly contribute to the stability of the entire region”, Mass said.

He praised the work of the EU Special Representative for the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, Miroslav Lajcak, during whose mandate negotiations resumed after a 20-month standstill.

During the conference’s first panel attended by the foreign ministers of the Western Balkans or their deputies, European Commissioner for Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi reiterated the EU remained committed to the Western Balkans.

He said the new EU economic and investment plan for the Western Balkans should provide economic growth, new jobs, better opportunities for young people and make the region more attractive for investments.

See at: https://bit.ly/2Jli2xf

Serwer: Vucic will not recognize Kosovo, I believe him (B92, Kosovo Online)

Daniel Serwer, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, said that he believes President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic when he says that he will not recognize ‘’the independence of Kosovo’’.

“He (Vucic) says he will not, and I believe him. I think that Serbia would rather have a new president than it would recognize Kosovo,” Serwer said in an interview with Belgrade’s weekly Vreme. 

There was no political illusion that Kosovo was still Serbia, Serwer believed. 

“All politicians in Serbia understand that they will never rule over Kosovo again and that they will have to recognize its sovereignty and independence as a condition for joining the European Union,” Serwer said, portal Kosovo Online reported. 

He added that politicians in Serbia “only use the Kosovo issue to gain some political points at home and divert attention from the bad economic situation”.

To the statement that a huge number of people in Serbia claim that ‘’Kosovo is the heart of Serbia’’, with the mantra ‘’Serbian holy land and spiritual cradle”, Serwer replied, ‘’if they do, they should go and visit Kosovo and almost no one does’’.

Serwer compared the Washington agreement to a ‘’thin soup’’.

“I think it’s all a thin soup. If you really want true normalization, you would need to add a lot of meat,” Server emphasized, adding that the agreement from Washington was just a tool in Trump’s campaign.

“That agreement will not be worth the paper on which it is printed, unless its implementation is accompanied by huge support. So far, there has been almost nothing, or very little, except statements from chambers of commerce. That’s the only value,” Serwer said.

Serwer agreed with the statement that the Washington agreement still enables the strengthening of economic cooperation between Serbia and Kosovo, which was important for both sides.

“Of course, start removing customs barriers immediately and accept Kosovo as an independent and sovereign state in regional and international organizations, even if there is no mutual recognition,” Serwer said.

He assessed that the plan for the exchange of territories was not buried.

“It’s not. It’s a zombie wandering the earth waiting for the next fool to revive it,” Serwer said.

Asked if he thinks that the Balkans is really a battlefield for Russia, which was trying to stop the expansion of NATO and the EU, Serwer said that he thinks that was Russia’s goal.

“Yes, that is Russia’s goal, including endangering the rule of democracy in Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Kosovo. However, Moscow does not spend too much resources in these efforts. All this is done cheaply and by outdated methods. The Balkans are not more important to Moscow than to Washington. That’s why Brussels would have to focus much more on that region,” Serwer concluded.

Party of Kosovo Serbs letter to Central Election Commission (RTK)

The Party of Kosovo Serbs (PKS), led by Aleksandar Jablanovic sent an official letter to the Central Election Commission (CEC), asking Kosovo institutions to provide security for the participation in the mayoral elections in Mitrovica North, RTK reported.

This party requested a written guarantee from the CEC that the procedure would be regular and physically safe, stating the fact that during the previous elections processes in this municipality two mayoral candidates, Oliver Ivanovic and Dimitrijevic (Dimitrije Janicijevic), were physically liquidated, RTK added.

The PKS said in a letter they are “interested in this election process, but also concerned about its regularity and the safety of candidates and members of the election commission. As we have witnessed in several cases, the Kosovo Central Election Commission and the Kosovo Police have failed to fully ensure an equal and secure election process in northern Kosovo”.

The party also asked their reasons to be taken seriously and problems on the ground addressed. “Otherwise, we will boycott the mentioned elections, consider them irregular and unsafe, and we will not accept and respect the election results”, PKS said in a letter. 

 

 

Opinion

 

How Trump Lost the Balkans (foreignpolicy.com)

The administration’s see-no-evil diplomacy has produced a dangerous unraveling across the region.

In the Balkans, the voice of a superpower counts for a lot. U.S. Secretary of State James Baker’s cavalier words in June 1991—“We don’t have a dog in that fight”—helped set off the violent dissolution of Yugoslavia. A similar dynamic is underway today.

The see-no-evil economic agenda of the Trump administration has contributed to the sharpest deterioration in relations since the region’s wars ended two decades ago. The administration brags that President Donald Trump has accomplished “flipping the script” in the Balkans with his focus on economics and disdain for political engagement—and he has. No fewer than six mostly quiescent countries—Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, and North Macedonia—are now experiencing dangerous levels of interethnic toxicity, all on the Trump administration’s watch.

In the latest graphic example, senior U.S. officials this month unwittingly encouraged one NATO ally, Bulgaria, to threaten military intervention against another, North Macedonia. On Oct. 6, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper met with his Bulgarian counterpart, Krasimir Karakachanov, a strident nationalist with a long record of bombast against neighboring North Macedonia. Last month, amid escalating pressure from his government, Karakachanov reiterated Sofia’s threat to block Skopje’s long-postponed negotiations for European Union membership—a pillar in the trans-Atlantic strategy to stabilize the Balkans.

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

Trump Has a Fix for Kosovo. He’s Ignoring It. (Foreign Policy, Koha)

The White House is hosting another summit on the Balkans—while failing to apply its most promising model for solving the conflict.

The White House is hosting the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo this week for what is billed as a major negotiation. The outcome, however, is likely to be underwhelming. Even if the Trump administration manages to broker a deal on mutual investment and economic cooperation, the heavy burden of convincing Serbia to normalize relations with its bitterly departed former province is left to the EU. The current negotiation is essentially posturing: Serbia pretends to engage in earnest and Kosovo pretends to have an avenue toward recognition.  Much-needed economic growth, if it comes, will not alter that.

Without a course correction, the talks will ultimately devolve to the same question of “compensating” Belgrade for the loss of Kosovo that led to the destabilizing land swap the administration backed until last year. Fortunately, a completely new approach is available, inspired by the recent UAE-Israel breakthrough.

 

 

International

 

London Calling: Albanians Count Cost of UK Illegality (Balkan Insight)

BIRN pieces together the paths taken and prices paid by Albanians seeking better lives in the UK but who, in many cases, face years of illegality and exploitation.

By the time he was 14 years old, nine of Besi Handroj’s classmates had left their homes in the northern Albanian region of Puka for the United Kingdom.

In 2014, aged 15, Handroj decided to join them, dreaming of a ride on the London Eye and a career that would help him subsidise his unemployed parents and get his sisters a decent education.

For his first attempt, Handroj’s family paid 1,500 euros for a fake ID from European Union member Romania in the name of ‘Nikolas’. Handroj left for Italy where he planned to board a plane to London but Italian border police turned him back.

For the second attempt, a week later, Handroj took the bus to neighbouring Greece and then headed to France by train. There, with the help of “the guys” who provided his fake ID, Handroj joined an Albanian woman and her child on a ferry to Britain. But when the child started screaming in Albanian, police on the boat checked their papers and, again, sent them back to France.

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

Kommersant: Serbia’s new government shifts towards West (tass.com)

The new Serbian government was appointed on Wednesday, four months after the parliamentary elections in late June. The pro-Russian Socialist Party lost its key seats. Many Serbian experts view this ministerial reshuffle as a signal that Serbia’s foreign policy is shifting towards the West.

For the first time in the past 12 years, the party’s leader Ivica Dacic, who served as the foreign minister for many years, won’t have a government post. The new top diplomat will be Nikola Selakovic, who is considered to be President Aleksandar Vucic’s right hand man. Vucic views Serbia’s EU membership as his priority and lately he has been actively promoting the idea of rapprochement with the United States, Kommersant writes. Serbian Energy Minister Aleksandar Antic, who had close ties with Moscow, was replaced by Zorana Mihajlovic, a pro-Western politician. Serbia will also have a new defense minister. Aleksandar Vulin, the leader of the Movement of Socialists, who was honored by Russia’s FSB chief for his contribution to military and technical cooperation, will be succeeded by Nebojsa Stefanovic, who enjoys US support.

“Obviously, Moscow’s influence in the new government is weakening,” said Director of Belgrade-based think-tank CeSID Bojan Klacar. “The new cabinet lost Ivica Dacic, a strong pro-Russian player. Moscow won’t be happy about that,” said political analyst Cvijetin Milivojevic.

“The change in key seats in the Serbian government, namely in the Energy Ministry, and that they were not given to pro-Russian politicians says a lot,” a Belgrade source close to the power structures told the paper. “Relations between Serbia and Russia are not the same as a couple of years ago.”

In particular, in early September, the Serbian president inked a deal in Washington on Kosovo’s economic normalization. Its implementation, according to Balkan experts, could trigger serious geopolitical consequences, loosening Serbia’s dependence on Russian gas.

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

 

 

Humanitarian/Development

 

Balkan Brain Drain ‘Won’t Stop Without Economic, Democratic Progress’ (Balkan Insight)

Emigration from Balkan countries will continue to be a problem until the economic and democratic conditions in the region improve, EU and Balkan politicians and experts told an online conference.

The ‘brain drain’ will continue to be a significant challenge for Balkan countries as long as their economies struggle and their democratic deficits persist, an online conference entitled ‘Young People, Migration and the Demographic Challenges in the Western Balkans’ was told on Wednesday.

“The goal of this conference is not stopping the migration. Whoever worked on it failed and mobility is part of the EU. However, we cannot close our eyes to the brain drain in the Balkans,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in his opening speech.

Maas told the conference, which was attended by EU and Balkan politicians, youth representatives and experts, that Bosnia and Herzegovina’s population will decrease by one-third by 2050 and there will be similar decreases in Albania and Serbia.

“The economy is not the only reason. Merit-based appointment and corruption are the main issues. Rule of law and good governance is a top priority,” Maas added.

See at: https://bit.ly/3e6wG6E

 

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