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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, December 4, 2020

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Albanian Language Media:

• COVID – 19: 478 new cases, 11 deaths (media)
• “Kosovo and Albania, stability factor in the region” (RTK)
• Kosovo-Serbia dialogue in Brussels planned to continue next week (RFE, media)
• Kosovo Assembly adopts draft law on economic recovery (media)
• Increased focus on Balkans under Biden’s administration (VoA, RTK)
• Simmons to report to the Legislation Committee on 18 January (RTK)

Serbian Language Media:

• Covid-19 in Serbian communities: 77 new cases, 18 cures (Kontakt plus radio)
• Stano: Belgrade and Pristina negotiators on Thursday in Brussels (RTS, Tanjug)
• Vucic on coronavirus measures, vaccines (B92)
• Kon: Situation extremely difficult, but system has not collapsed (B92, RTS)
• Will KOSTT take over energy supply management in the north as of December 14th? (KoSSev)
• Office for KiM: Disinformation campaign, electricity supply in north from EPS system will not be endangered (Kosovo-online)
• EU’s sources: Serbia stands no chance of opening accession chapter in 2020 (Beta, N1)
• Merkel to Vucic: Kosovo dialogue, rule of law of crucial importance (N1)
• Preparatory hearing in Ivanovic’s murder case interrupted, new hearing in seven days (KoSSev)
• Lawyer Vasic: I am angry as never before, the trial was postponed for no reason, while people are in detention for two years (Kosovo Online)
• “Recent incidents show how sensitive situation is” (Kontakt plus radio, RTK2)
• “In last two decades, Serbian religious and cultural heritage in Kosovo and Metohija has often been target of destructive attacks” (Office for KIM, media)

Opinion:

• Why is Kosovo cautious about joining the ‘mini-Schengen’? (Daily Sabah)

International:

• Albania’s Parliament to Probe Allegations of KLA Crimes (Balkan Insight)
• UN Chief: Global COVID-19 Recovery Will Take Years (VoA)

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Albanian Language Media:

  • COVID – 19: 478 new cases, 11 deaths (media) 
  • “Kosovo and Albania, stability factor in the region” (RTK)
  • Kosovo-Serbia dialogue in Brussels planned to continue next week (RFE, media)
  • Kosovo Assembly adopts draft law on economic recovery (media)
  • Increased focus on Balkans under Biden’s administration (VoA, RTK)
  • Simmons to report to the Legislation Committee on 18 January (RTK)

Serbian Language Media:

  • Covid-19 in Serbian communities:  77 new cases, 18 cures (Kontakt plus radio) 
  • Stano: Belgrade and Pristina negotiators on Thursday in Brussels (RTS, Tanjug)
  • Vucic on coronavirus measures, vaccines (B92)
  • Kon: Situation extremely difficult, but system has not collapsed (B92, RTS)
  • Will KOSTT take over energy supply management in the north as of December 14th? (KoSSev)
  • Office for KiM: Disinformation campaign, electricity supply in north from EPS system will not be endangered (Kosovo-online)
  • EU’s sources: Serbia stands no chance of opening accession chapter in 2020 (Beta, N1)
  • Merkel to Vucic: Kosovo dialogue, rule of law of crucial importance (N1)
  • Preparatory hearing in Ivanovic’s murder case interrupted, new hearing in seven days (KoSSev)
  • Lawyer Vasic: I am angry as never before, the trial was postponed for no reason, while people are in detention for two years (Kosovo Online)
  • “Recent incidents show how sensitive situation is” (Kontakt plus radio, RTK2)
  • “In last two decades, Serbian religious and cultural heritage in Kosovo and Metohija has often been target of destructive attacks” (Office for KIM, media)

Opinion:

  • Why is Kosovo cautious about joining the ‘mini-Schengen’? (Daily Sabah)

International:

  • Albania’s Parliament to Probe Allegations of KLA Crimes (Balkan Insight)
  • UN Chief: Global COVID-19 Recovery Will Take Years (VoA)

 

 

Albanian Language Media 

 

COVID – 19: 478 new cases, 11 deaths (media) 

478 new cases of COVID – 19 and 11 deaths from the virus were recorded in the last 24 hours in Kosovo. 690 patients have recovered from the virus during this time. There are 13,561 active cases of COVID – 19 in Kosovo.

 “Kosovo and Albania, stability factor in the region” (RTK)

The Office of the Prime Minister of Kosovo issued today a press release to inform that the Prime Minister of Kosovo Avdullah Hoti, hosted today a meeting with Albania’s Acting Foreign Minister Gent Cakaj.

They discussed the current political situation in Kosovo, Albania and the region, Kosovo-Serbia dialogue process, and other issues of mutual interest.

The interlocutors agreed that dialogue is the only way to the solution of all open issues between Kosovo and Serbia. PM Hoti highlighted that there cannot be a partial agreement in this process, but only a final comprehensive agreement with mutual recognition under the existing borders.

“PM Hoti and Minister Cakaj also discussed the issue of Albanians in Presevo Valley and Montenegro and stressed the need to respect the principles of the Council of Europe on human and national rights. They reconfirmed the commitment of the two countries to be factors of peace and stability in the region,” reads the press release. 

Kosovo-Serbia dialogue in Brussels planned to continue next week (RFE, media)

Media report that a meeting between the heads of the delegations for Kosovo and Serbia dialogue mediated by the European Union is expected to take place next week, respectively on 10 December.

The news was confirmed on Friday by the EU Spokesperson for Foreign Policy and Security, Peter Stano.

“I can confirm that the idea for a meeting next week at the level of chief negotiators in Brussels, exists, Stano said, not wanting to give further details about the meeting and the eventual issues that would be discussed. “It is not a practice to make the agenda public many days ahead of the meeting,” he said.

Almost three months have passed since the last high level meeting between Kosovo and Serbia, while the last meeting of the chiefs of the delegations took place on 29 November in Brussels, where the parties discussed financial and property claims among them. 

The EU continues to claim that the aim of the dialogue is to reach a comprehensive agreement, through which all open issues between the parties would be resolved. According to the EU Special Envoy for Dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak, all agreements on specific topics will be part of the comprehensive agreement.

Although Lajcak and EU High Representative Josep Borrel have stated that the dialogue is going well, EU diplomats acknowledge that it has slowed significantly and see the internal political situation in Kosovo as the main reason for this.

Kosovo Assembly adopts draft law on economic recovery (media)

The Assembly of Kosovo has approved in the second reading the Draft Law on Economic Recovery – COVID-19 during the extraordinary session held today. This draft law was approved with 72 votes in favor, no votes against and no abstentions. The votes for the government to pass this draft law were provided by the MPs of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK,) who proposed four additional amendments.

The draft law foresees, among other things, the withdrawal of 10 percent of the pension savings in the Kosovo Pension Savings Fund – Trust. The law in question had been processed by the government since the summer, while in the first reading it managed to be approved after six attempts. However, the second reading, failed to be approved on November 11, due to the lack of a quorum.

“I am grateful and thankful to all the MPs of the Assembly of the Republic of Kosovo, who believed and supported the Law on Economic Recovery of the Government of Kosovo,” said Kosovo’s Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti.

He added that citizens and businesses will feel the direct support of the government, in order to jointly overcome the consequences caused by COVID19.

Increased focus on Balkans under Biden’s administration (VoA, RTK)

Voice of America in Albanian interviewed two political analysts in Washington with regards to the eventual changes of relations of the new U.S. administration towards Europe.  

Charles Kupchan, Director of the European studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and professor of international affairs at Georgetown University, who worked for a long time with Mr. Biden and often accompanied him in his visits to Europe, said different from Trump, who in essence withdrew from European integration, Biden himself spent a great deal of his carrier focused on European security  and NATO. “Therefore, there is no doubt that all in Europe are relieved. Perhaps not all, as a part held good relations with President Trump, but they are an exclusion.”

He further said that he expects an understanding that the U.S. have returned to their traditional role as NATO leader, and said he believes Mr. Biden will annul President Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Germany.

Janusz Bugjaski, Senior Fellow at the Jamestown Foundation in Washington DC, said he expects the Biden administration to have more commitment and continuity to transatlantic relations. “It is good to show the younger generation, the young people who do not understand the importance of NATO or transatlantic relations, that America cannot act alone. “The spread of viruses, the misinformation of cyber warfare, all these threats to international security require a strong alliance,” Bugajski said. 

Kupchan said that there should be an understanding that at least during the first year, Mr. Biden will be quite focused on internal matters, such as pandemics and opening of the economy. “However, I think that it is also important for Europe to make concessions in relation to Mr. Biden, showing readiness to do more, for instance by spending more on defense,” he said. 

Asked how important will Western Balkans be in policies of the U.S. future administration, Kupchan said that different from many other politicians that do not know where Balkans is, Joe Biden always finds time for Balkans. “When I worked at the White House, he was always ready to go there and had continuous telephone conversations with the leaders of the region.”

According to Kupchan Balkans had the attention of the Trump administration, partly because Ambassador Richard Grenell engaged excessively on the improvement of the relations between Belgrade and Prishtina. “So, it is not that the region was left aside, but I think that we will see a sustainable focus of the Department of State and to an extent the White House, on the Balkans, because there are many unconcluded issues,” Kupchan said.

According to Bugajski, it belongs to the Western Balkans countries to complete their internal reforms, but U.S. encouragement of these countries is of great importance.

Kupchan considers that in a way, there was some kind of rivalry between the Trump administration and the European Union on Western Balkans especially when dialogue between Belgrade and Prishtina was concerned. “You will see that Washington will work very closely with Brussels and European capitals to bring more sustainability in the Balkans,” he said.

Mr. Kupchan believes that there is going to be a return to the situation when the U.S. will use personal diplomacy and diplomatic weight to move the region towards the right direction.

Simmons to report to the Legislation Committee on 18 January (RTK)

Former President of the Assembly of EULEX Judges Malcom Simmons, has responded to the Kosovo Assembly’s Legislation Committee regarding the dates when he can report to this committee on his allegations of serious violations in the EULEX mission.

In his response, Simmons said that he can appear in front of the committee during this month or during the beginning of 2021, through a Zoom platform, due to the created situation with Covid-19.

The Legislation Committee is expected to decide today on the date of Simmon’s appearance. The latter, also promised to appear physically to testify if the Assembly of Kosovo establishes an investigation committee, and expressed hope that the situation with the pandemic will undergo positive changes.

Kosovo Assembly MPs decided today that the session should start on January 18, 2021, in order for all MPs of the Committee on Legislation to be present at the session.

 

 

 

Serbian Language Media

 

Covid-19 in Serbian communities:  77 new cases, 18 cures (Kontakt plus radio) 

The North Mitrovica Crisis Staff announced today that in Serbian communities in Kosovo, according to the latest data, one person died as a result of Covid-19, while 77 new cases of infection and 18 cures were recorded, reported Kontakt plus radio. 

Out of 172 processed samples, positive cases were recorded in the municipalities: North Mitrovica (20), Zvecan (19), Leposavic (15), Zubin Potok (9), Priluzje (8), Gracanica (5) and Kosovska Kamenica (1).

71 people were hospitalized in North Mitrovica Health Center, and two patients are in the Nis Health Center. 

58 people died of Covid-19 in the Serb areas.

Stano: Belgrade and Pristina negotiators on Thursday in Brussels (RTS, Tanjug)

EU spokesman Peter Stano confirmed the announcement of the President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic that talks between the delegations of Belgrade and Pristina at the technical level will continue on December 10 in Brussels, reported Radio Television of Serbia (RTS). 

“The idea is for the main negotiators to meet live in Brussels next Thursday,” Peter Stano said.

When asked by the Tanjug agency about the details and agenda of the meeting, Stano said that the agenda of the meeting will be announced a few days before the meeting.

Stano did not answer the question of what the EU, as the main mediator in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, did in order to return Pristina to the talks on the implementation of the agreement on the Community of Serbian Municipalities.

EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue Miroslav Lajcak said that mutual financial claims and property are currently being discussed.

He assessed that there is a “long and crooked road” before the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.

Last night, the President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic, as a guest on RTS, announced the continuation of the technical dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina on December 10, and said that they would discuss property and financial requirements.

Vucic on coronavirus measures, vaccines (B92)

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said last night he was absolutely convinced of the victory against the coronavirus, despite the terrible days behind us, B92 reports.

“Despite the terrible days behind us and no less difficult, at least for the next few days and weeks, we will win this battle”, he told RTS.

He said that he sees optimism in our discipline, responsibility, fighting spirit, desire to defeat a vicious disease, and in vaccines that are slowly getting necessary permits.

“Serbia is coping and will manage, I believe that we will not be in the other half of the countries that will provide that vaccine”, he said.

As he said, he is proud of the construction of the COVID hospital in Batajnica.

“Don’t forget, we laid the foundation stone on the first of August. It will be opened on December 3”. he said.

Serbia hospitalizes largest number of people

Vucic also said that Serbia has one of the highest estimates of hospitalization of COVID patients in the whole of Europe, and that only the Czech Republic can compare with us.

He noted that Serbia has much fewer deaths than countries of the region and Europe, if we look in proportion to the number of inhabitants, and that our medical workers are most responsible for that. The percentage of hospitalization is very small in the strongest western countries, because hospital treatment is expensive there, he stated. He says that in Germany, that percentage of hospitalization is between 1 and 4 percent, in Croatia and Slovenia between 5 and 10 percent, while in our country it is between 12.5 and even 38 percent.

350.000 Pfizer vaccines by end of February

As he said, it is important for us to try to provide vaccines in the coming period.

“Let people take whatever vaccine they want. Each of the vaccines is good, we will take care to get it”, he said. He added that the Russian vaccine had arrived and would be tested in “Torlak” in the coming days and weeks. He announced the first quantity of Pfizer vaccines by the end of the year, and 350.000 doses by the end of February in Serbia.

“All vaccines will be free”, he said, adding that Pfizer vaccines are arriving in powder form.

See at: https://bit.ly/3lDZrd1

Kon: Situation extremely difficult, but system has not collapsed (B92, RTS)

Serbian Epidemiologist Predrag Kon told public broadcaster RTS he expects a smaller number of new cases in Belgrade next week, but that will not go evenly throughout the country because the virus has spread differently.

“For the holidays, the situation will be difficult because the pressure on hospitals will continue to grow. The measures will be in force as long as it is needed, I personally think that they could be even sharper”, Kon said. According to him, everything should be done to deter our citizens abroad from coming to the country, because if the same number comes as for Easter, we will not be able to endure it.

“We still have a disastrous situation. The health care system is overstretched. The system did not break, but it is true that it is catastrophic and an extremely difficult situation, completely inappropriate for the 21st century”, Kon added.

Will KOSTT take over energy supply management in the north as of December 14th? (KoSSev)

KOSTT is set to take over the energy supply management in the north of Kosovo as of December 14th – according to the KoSSev portal’s findings. Based on an official document obtained by KoSSev, the exchange of electricity supply between JP EPS and KOSTT, through which the energy supply needs of the residents of the north were met so far, will end on December 14th.

The news was initially announced earlier this summer, following the approval of the agreement between KOSTT, ENTSO-E and Albanian Transmission System Operator – OST. The implementation of this agreement was scheduled to start in the fall.

In other words, KOSTT will now begin independent operational work, that is, from December 14th, KOSTT will function independently from the Serbian transmission system operator – Elektromreza Srbije (EMS).

According to an earlier agreement, in addition to independence, KOSTT received permission to act as a regulatory zone within the Kosovo-Albanian regulatory bloc.

The Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic objected to the agreement, warning of arbitration if the agreement is implemented.

”I warned them about the injustice of their decisions. We will complain wherever we can. We will first seek provisional measures within 14 days, and when they make a decision, we will not apply it. When you want to create this kind of energy chaos, you will have Serbia’s answer, because we will not let you trample over our country and our people –nor our people in the north of Kosovo, nor our people as a whole, nor our country,” Vucic emphasized at the time.

”If someone thinks that the time has come for someone to physically take over Valac, I beg them not to do it,” he added.

Elektrosever remains unlicensed  

On the other hand, the company Elektrosever has yet to be licensed by the Kosovo Energy Regulatory Office (ERO). According to announcements from July, Elektrosever was supposed to have been issued a license within 30 days.

Since the 2015 energy agreement, one of the main stumbling blocks between Belgrade and Pristina has been their varying interpretation of the role of Elektrosever. It specifically concerns the part of the agreement which stipulates that the new company will perform certain distribution roles, in addition to supply. While the Serbian side insists that Elektrosever should provide supply and distribution services, Pristina is against it, alleging that the new company can only deal with supply, invoicing and billing services.

According to KoSSev’s source close to Elektrokosmet, a request to carry out distribution services has been submitted to ERO several times. Also, Elektrosever has been refusing to apply for a supply-only license.

Elektrosever’s licensing does not affect KOSTT’s ability to take full control of the system and infrastructure in the north. Over a month ago the workers at the main power station in Valac were allegedly asked to declare for whom they work for – KEDS or EMS, KoSSev also learns. If Elektrosever fails to obtain a supply license, KESCO will thus automatically become the supplier.

In that case, KESCO will also take over the electricity delivery billing. Experts however assessed that it is unlikely that it will be billed retroactively.

No information from the spokespersons

KoSSev was unable to obtain confirmation on whether the information that KOSTT will begin operating independently in the north of Kosovo on December 14th from official spokespersons on both the Kosovo and Serbian side. Both, the Serbian Ministry of Mining and Energy, as well as KOSTT, insisted that the request for information must be submitted in writing, while Kosovo government spokeswoman Antigona Baxhaku had no knowledge of the matter.

Baxhaku told KoSSev, however, that KOSTT, as an independent body, answers to the Assembly – not the government.

Even the spokesman of the Ministry of Economic Development, Environment and Energy, Uran Haxha had no knowledge of this issue. He, however, promised that he would give us an answer as soon as he obtains more information on the matter.

KoSSev learns from sources close to the Kosovo government that prior to implementing any such agreement, preparatory work must be done, like is the coordination activities with mayors. The same source also refused to specify the possible date for the implementation of the agreement, noting only that it would certainly come to pass.

See at: https://bit.ly/36C1HNJ

Office for KiM: Disinformation campaign, electricity supply in north from EPS system will not be endangered (Kosovo-online)

The news published in some media yesterday that KOSTT plans to take over management of the electricity supply in the north as of December 14, has caused disturbance among the local population in the north, Kosovo-online portal reports.

As it was stated, it was reportedly planned that the exchange of electricity between Public Enterprise EPS and KOSTT would stop on this date which has existed so far due to the need to supply consumers in the north of Kosovo, that is, that KOSTT from this date would operate independently of the Serbian transmission system operator “Elektromreža Srbije” (EMS).

Commenting on these allegations, Office for Kosovo and Metohija told Kosovo-online portal that “the Office wishes to inform the public regarding disinformation campaign relating to the energy issue in the north of Kosovo and Metohija, that until the registration of the EPS daughter company, Elektrokosmet would continue unimpeded to supply electricity to the citizens”.

“When and if the EPS daughter company, whose founders are EPS and Community of Serb-Majority Municipalities (ZSO) were registered in line with the reached agreement on energy, they would continue unimpeded supply,” the Office further said.

“One should not succumb to politically motivated spins that aim to bring insecurity among the citizens of Kosovo and Metohija. All threats relating to the endangerment of electricity supply and politicization of this topic are threats to the stability and peace, and neither Serbia nor the international community we are convinced would allow such a scenario. Serbia has fulfilled its part of the obligations from the energy agreement, but Pristina has not, and no one should provoke new conflicts. The electricity supply in the north of Kosovo and Metohija will not be endangered in any way”, the Office added.

EU’s sources: Serbia stands no chance of opening accession chapter in 2020 (Beta, N1)

The European Union won’t open any chapter in the accession negotiations with Serbia because some EU member states say the Belgrade authorities haven’t progressed in reforms of the rule of law, judiciary independence and freedom of expression, despite promises given, the sources from the bloc told the Beta news agency in Brussels on Thursday.

The sources from the European Commission and the Council of Ministers told Beta that the latest discussions ahead of the Ministerial meeting and the EU’s leaders conference showed “there was no chance for a decision to open a single new chapter, despite that looked possible earlier.”

Olivér Várhelyi, the European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement, has recently said, the EU could open chapter 8 on competitiveness with Serbia. Still, the new analysis, according to some EU countries, showed it was difficult because the reforms in Serbia were at a halt.

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

Merkel to Vucic: Kosovo dialogue, rule of law of crucial importance (N1)

Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic and German Chancellor Angela Merkel held an online conference on Thursday focused on Belgrade’s European path, dialogue on the normalisation of relations with Pristina, the economy and the rule of law.

That will probably be their last meeting in Germany’s presidency of the Council of the EU, which ends this year, with Portugal taking over.

Merkel, who welcomed Serbia’s progress in the economy, and efforts in the European integration, but added the dialogue with Pristina and the rule of law were crucial, according to a statement from Vucic’s cabinet.

Vucic thanked her for what he said was Germany’s continuous support for Serbia’s European integration. He also said the reforms in the rule of law were essential for Serbia’s aim to join the bloc, adding the cooperation with Germany and EU institutions was a right way for the improvement in that area.

Serbia’s President reiterated the need for a clear plan for EU enlargement and a time framework for the membership. Vucic added the process of Western Balkans European integration was essential for peace and stability in the region.

Regarding the continuation of Kosovo talks, the two agreed the talks dialogue was, as well as that the preservation of peace was equally important for both sides.

Vucic said that he would take all necessary steps to successfully continue the dialogue and create a constructive and open atmosphere for negotiations.

Merkel welcomed Serbia’s readiness for further work on keeping the region safe and reiterated Germany would remain Serbia’s reliable partner in the European integration.

“The economy is a strong link between our two countries,” she said.

Vucic recalled that German companies operating in Serbia employed over 67,000 workers and that they significantly contributed to the country’s economic development, as well as to Serbia’s reputation as a good place for investments.

“We are grateful for Germany’s support of Serbia’s economy. Germany is our largest trading partner, even during the global crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. There is a growing interest of German companies to invest in our country, and I am proud to say that Serbia will have the highest growth in Europe this year, despite all the current challenges,” Vucic said.

See at: https://bit.ly/36CMs71

Preparatory hearing in Ivanovic’s murder case interrupted, new hearing in seven days (KoSSev)

New preparatory hearing in the case of Oliver Ivanovic’s murder was interrupted today due to procedural reasons relating to the change of defence lawyers of one of the defendants. The new hearing has been scheduled on December 11, KoSSev portal reports.

Those accused of murdering Oliver Ivanovic have received neither this one, the third indictment in the Serbian language, however, despite this they agreed with the hearing to continue, and the indictment to be read in the Albanian language.

Almost three years after the murder of Oliver Ivanovic, the preparatory hearing took place as per new, third indictment, that Special Prosecution filed on November 11, and defense lawyers assessed it same as prevous ones – unfounded, incomplete and unsubstantiated.

Only defendants and media representatives took part at the hearing, while members of the families of those accused, and of Oliver Ivanovic were not present at the courtroom.

During the previous proceedings only one hearing took place on February 11, when defendants pleaded not guilty. 

Lawyer Vasic: I am angry as never before, the trial was postponed for no reason, while people are in detention for two years (Kosovo Online)

Lawyer Dejan Vasic, who represents police officer Dragisa Markovic in the case of Oliver Ivanović’s murder, was visibly dissatisfied with the postponement of the preparatory hearing for December 11 in the Pristina court today, reported portal Kosovo Online.

”It’s rare for me to be so angry as at today’s trial. In such an important and complex case where three people have been in detention for two years, I can freely say because of a stupid technical problem, we are postponing the hearing today. I really can’t come to terms with that. Each of us is smart and a thousand flaws can be found in this indictment, but why postpone the hearing today, because of one totally unimportant thing, I don’t know what to say anymore,” Vasic told Kosovo Online. 

Kosovo Online reported that the judge postponed the preparatory hearing on the intervention of lawyer Tom Gashi, who represents the accused Rade Basara. Gashi demanded the court to decide whether he could take over the case from lawyer Faruk Korenica in the previous trial. 

Portal Kosovo online also reported that at the very beginning of the trial it was pointed out that the indictment was not translated from Albanian into Serbian, to which the defendants’ lawyers reacted and indicated that it was a gross violation of the rules. The accused stated that they consent to having the indictment in Albanian read to them, and that they would receive a translation later, reported the portal.

Silvana Arsovic’s lawyer, Jovana Filipovic told portal Kosovo Online that the hearing was postponed for the reason “in order to resolve the previous issue regarding whether the lawyer Faruk Korenica defended the accused Rade Basara in this case in the pre-criminal procedure”.

“This issue should have been resolved even before the first hearing, before December 30 last year, because the action in question was taken more than a year ago,” said Filipovic. 

“It is not serious on the part of the court and the prosecution that they did not take all necessary measures and did not inspect the case files to ensure that today’s hearing was held. The indictment in this case was not officially presented to the defense attorneys in Serbian language, nor to the defendants, although they all are of Serbian nationality, which is another mistake of the prosecution and the court.”

“Recent incidents show how sensitive situation is” (Kontakt plus radio, RTK2)

Recent incidents in Kisnica and Gracanica show how sensitive the security situation in Kosovo is, Head of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo, Ambassador Jan Braathu said, Kontakt plus radio reports.

He added that following certain tensions over placing and burning down the billboard “Freedom has a name” the situation is calm now, while the OSCE along with the local public safety council works on finding the solution and calming the situation.

“The residents do not want problems, and this is a good thing”, Braathu said in a broadcast “Razgovori” on RTK2.

He didn’t wish to comment on the information that a criminal report was filed against Gracanica Mayor Srdjan Popovic over his statements regarding the billboard, but said he was surprised.

“First we will see if the prosecutor would accept the report and initiate the case, and if this happens, then we would closely monitor the entire process”, he said.

Talking about Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, OSCE Head said the Mission provided necessary support to the both sides when it comes to displaced persons and property that were discussed at the latest meetings of the two delegations. He also said the talks should continue.

Commenting on the Washington agreement, Braathu said both sides said they gained something by this agreement and this was a positive attitude.

“They have not only reached the agreement, but they also committed themselves to implement it, because there are two documents slightly different. When we talk about change in the administration, I think that the new administration would look at what the American, not Trump’s administration, did and this is a common thing in all states. I think we can expect continuation of the American engagement in this process, and this would only additionally contribute to the stability”, Braathu said.

Braathu further said it is of crucial importance for the stability that the governments in the region implement and carry out their obligations on human rights.

“In Kosovo there is a legal framework which is outstanding, I think, it can’t be better, but its implementation is a problem. Its implementation when we talk about human rights is very important and it is a starting point for peace and stability”, Braathu said.

People must resolve the issues from the past and must face it, in particular young people, Braathu noted, and underlined that building the trust is yet another very important item in creating a safe and stable environment for all, Kontakt plus radio reported.  

“In last two decades, Serbian religious and cultural heritage in Kosovo and Metohija has often been target of destructive attacks” (Office for KIM, media)

“In the past two decades, the Serbian religious and cultural heritage in Kosovo and Metohija has often been the target of destructive attacks, and in that period dozens of churches were burned, looted and destroyed, and some are still under the armed protection of international forces, which by defending the Serbian heritage are also defending their own European and Christian identity”, Office for Kosovo and Metohija has stated in the press release issued on Thursday. 

The reaction came as a response to the claims published by “Peja News” portal that Serbian Orthodox Church Pec Patriarchate Monastery is an Orthodox Albanian Church.

“However, in parallel with the outpourings of extremist hatred and Islamist religious radicalism, we are continuously faced with a more malignant and perhaps even more dangerous trend, and that is the effort to “Albanianize” Serbian culture and history, and to appropriate it using propaganda and pseudo-historical arguments, in order to prove, in the field of spiritual and material culture, the improvable and essentially fascist thesis that the areas in Kosovo and Metohija have always been Albanian and only Albanian”, the Office further said.

“It is an organized and synchronized action inspired and led by ultranationalist Greater Albanian circles, and meaningless claims and provocations such as the latest that the Peć Patriarchate is the Orthodox Albanian Church belong to the same ideological matrix, which birthed the insane claims that Visoki Dečani were constructed by Albanians or that Nemanjićs are actually the Nimani dynasty”.

The Office further warned the international community that this is a well-organized movement which is obviously getting stronger and finding more and more followers.

It further added that “the Albanian people have a rich history and culture to be proud of. Albanians have often helped and protected Serbian holy shrines in history, and that is why this trend of hijacking someone else’s culture and falsification of history is, in essence, betrayal of Albanian traditional values”.

At the end the Office urged all moderate Albanians in Kosovo to, “in the name of peace and coexistence, oppose the insult and humiliation of Serbian culture and history”.

 

 

 

Opinion

 

Why is Kosovo cautious about joining the ‘mini-Schengen’? (Daily Sabah)

On Oct. 10, 2019 in Novi Sad, Serbia a declaration of intent was signed to establish the free movement of people, goods, services and capital between Albania, North Macedonia and Serbia. The parties announced their new concept of a “mini-Schengen,” which, of course, resembles numerous other cooperation attempts, but the important thing is that the countries came to the decision to cooperate on their own.

The leaders of the three countries affirmed that the initiative is open to Western Balkan countries who wish to participate, inviting Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro and Kosovo to join as soon as possible.

The remaining countries are still mulling over the invitation despite Kosovo agreeing to join the initiative on Sept. 4, 2020, when it signed agreements with Serbia in Washington under the auspices of incumbent U.S. President Donald Trump.

Later, a mini-Schengen meeting was held on Nov. 9, which Kosovo did not attend despite its promises to the Trump administration, due to both internal and external issues.

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci resigned from his post to face war crimes charges in The Hague as Trump lost the U.S. presidential election. Beyond these developments, there are three main reasons why Kosovo still has yet to participate in the initiative – the reasons being political, psychological and economic.

The political reason

Firstly, Kosovo believed the initiative was trying to create a mini-Yugoslavia from the way that it was put forward when proposed by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, a concept welcomed by Europe.

Embroiled in its own internal crises, the EU welcomes initiatives that ease its burden in the region. The name of the project was changed due to the reaction to the word Yugoslavia, which still reminds many of bloodshed and war.

The Berlin Process, a diplomatic initiative to boost regional cooperation among Western Balkan countries and their European counterparts, suggested the term “Berlin Schengen,” inspiring the initiative’s current form. Shortly after it became apparent that the project needed more participation from the Balkan region to accelerate its growth and sphere of cooperation.

Although the project is backed by the Berlin Process, Kosovo has expressed hesitance to join as it conflicts with their desire to join the EU and NATO. Kosovo’s vision is to not participate in regional activities beyond the EU.

Kosovo rightfully argues that joining any regional initiative under the auspices of Serbia, who does not recognize Kosovo, would harm Kosovo’s political interests.

Serbia must first recognize Kosovo in order for regional cooperation to be achieved in a fair and stable environment.

The initiative does not have adequate mechanisms to address the status of Kosovo and the two nations’ dispute should be settled through a legally binding agreement that regulates their relations before other initiatives can be joined.

See more at: https://bit.ly/36ChYCm

 

 

International

 

Albania’s Parliament to Probe Allegations of KLA Crimes (Balkan Insight)

Amid mud-slinging over whether Albanian politicians helped tarnish the image of the Kosovo Liberation Army, parliament has resolved to investigate whether the KLA committed war crimes in the country.

Albania’s parliament voted on Thursday to set up an investigative committee to collect information on other investigations conducted by local and international bodies into alleged crimes committed by the Kosovo Liberation Army in Albania in the war in Kosovo two decades ago.

The parliament will then present a resolution based on the findings.

It also aims to find out to what extent Albanian institutions and political leaders contributed to Dick Marty’s highly critical Council of Europe 2011 report.

This accused former leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, of carrying out gross human rights violations in both Kosovo and north Albania, where the KLA had bases.

The investigative committee follows Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama’s attempt to boost his nationalist credentials by accusing opposition Democratic Party chief Lulzim Basha of betraying his nation by helping the UN to investigate alleged KLA crimes.

See at: https://bit.ly/3qCFS8O

UN Chief: Global COVID-19 Recovery Will Take Years (VoA)

NEW YORK – The U.N. secretary-general said Thursday that the damage COVID-19 has done globally will not be undone by a vaccine alone, and that a full recovery will take years, possibly decades.

“The social and economic impact of the pandemic is enormous, and growing,” Antonio Guterres told a high-level special session of the General Assembly intended to take stock of the current global response to the illness caused by the coronavirus.

A U.N. report released Thursday said that as many as 32 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty this year by the pandemic. The world body has tried to address the fallout, extending humanitarian assistance to millions more people. The U.N. chief also has pressed for a stimulus package worth at least 10% of global GDP and for debt relief for all countries that need it.

Nearly 80 heads of state and government are addressing the two-day summit by video, which will also include presentations from scientists, experts and the heads of several U.N. agencies, including the director-general of the World Health Organization.

See more at: https://bit.ly/36H7FNr

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