Albanian Language Media:
- COVID – 19: 331 new cases, 9 deaths (media)
- “Healthcare workers, people with chronic illnesses to get first vaccines” (media)
- Mustafa: Court’s ruling was unjust and unprofessional (media)
- Vetevendosje’s Haxhiu: We don’t plan to talk about coalitions (media)
- PDK’s Haliti does not rule out coalition with Vetevendosje (media)
- Serwer: Fall of Hoti-led government doesn’t produce political instability (Koha)
- Pause in the Kosovo – Serbia dialogue (Radio Free Europe)
Serbian Language Media:
- 22 new cases of Covid-19, three deaths registered in Serbian areas in Kosovo (KoSSev)
- Brnabic first European PM vaccinated against coronavirus (KoSSev, N1)
- Vasic: I expect verdict of acquittal in Arsic’s case (Radio KIM)
- Dusan Janjic: I would not exclude possibility of Serb being Kosovo Prime Minister (Kosovo-online)
- Viola von Cramon: Vučić’s statement on independence of Kosovo is not his final say (Kosovo-online)
- Petković reacts to latest statement of von Cramon (Radio Mitrovica sever)
- Majority of Serbian citizens support EU membership (N1)
- Kosovo can’t allow the dialogue to continue in this form (Prishtina Insight)
- Kosovo pins U.N. membership hopes on Biden presidency (Reuters)
- Switzerland, Serbia set to vaccinate before EU (Politico)
- Kosovo Opera and Ballet Law Dances Around Hall Issue (Balkan Insight)
Albanian Language Media
COVID – 19: 331 new cases, 9 deaths (media)
331 new cases of COVID – 19 and nine deaths from the virus have been recorded in the last 24 hours in Kosovo. 681 patients have recovered from the virus during this time. There are 11,448 active cases of COVID – 19 in Kosovo.
“Healthcare workers, people with chronic illnesses to get first vaccines” (media)
Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti said during a visit to the Kosovo University and Clinical Service that the situation with COVID – 19 is expected to end in the next three-four months. He said Kosovo’s authorities are trying their best to make sure that the country is among the first to get supplies of vaccines against the coronavirus.
“We are now faced with a new situation when we are waiting for the vaccine to be distributed. We have tried our best to make sure we are among the first countries to get the vaccine. There is a plan in place for the vaccination of different groups, starting with the healthcare workers and people with chronic illnesses,” Hoti said.
Hoti thanked the healthcare workers for their work during the coronavirus pandemic. “You have done an outstanding job this year. We cannot thank you enough,” he said. “The way you have managed the situation since March is a model. You have done an amazing job which was seen as a model when faced with limited resources”.
Mustafa: Court’s ruling was unjust and unprofessional (media)
Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) leader Isa Mustafa said in an interview with Ekonomia Online today that the Constitutional Court’s ruling on the constitutionality of MP Etem Arifi’s vote for the Hoti-led government was unjust and unprofessional. He argued that Arifi also voted for the previous government led by Vetevendosje’s Albin Kurti and for the Assembly Presidency but that no one addressed these cases. Mustafa nevertheless said the LDK will respect the court’s decision, although they deem it detrimental for the country.
According to Mustafa, the Constitutional Court is not entitled to announce elections and that whenever it is asked to rule on an issue it is writing parts of the Constitution which is not in its competency.
Mustafa said that the Assembly must adopt the 2021 budget and ratify international agreements before Kosovo goes to early parliamentary elections. “I think there is a great threat if the budget is not adopted. I call on all political parties to mobilise and call a session of the Assembly before new elections are announced,” he added.
Vetevendosje’s Haxhiu: We don’t plan to talk about coalitions (media)
Vetevendosje Movement (VV) senior member Albulena Haxhiu told Gazeta Blic today that this party does not plan to discuss coalitions with other political parties for the upcoming parliamentary elections. “For us, parties like the PDK, LDK and others are the same. They are responsible for capturing the state and the degradation of the country and we have no interest in cooperating with them. Our only interest is to cooperate with Vjosa Osmani, and we have yet to decide on the form of cooperation. I believe this will be clarified and determined soon,” Haxhiu said. She also said that the Vetevendosje Movement will have 50 seats in the new assembly after the elections.
PDK’s Haliti does not rule out coalition with Vetevendosje (media)
Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) senior member Xhavit Haliti said in an interview with Periskopi that he does not rule out a coalition with the Vetevendosje Movement after the early parliamentary elections next year.
Haliti said political parties should not have red lines for cooperation so that Kosovo can have a stable government that will serve out its mandate. “In my opinion, a stable government for Kosovo would be a big, strong and responsible coalition that builds state policies … I don’t think we can form a pre-election coalition with Vetevendosje, but I believe in the responsibility of people that love the country and want to take it forward and not to have the stagnation we have had in the last 5 – 6 years. This means that there should not be any red lines,” he said.
Serwer: Fall of Hoti-led government doesn’t produce political instability (Koha)
U.S. expert on the Balkans, Daniel Serwer, said in a statement to the news website that the fall of the Hoti-led government in his opinion does not produce political instability. “This is more of a proper functioning of institutions in my opinion. Kosovo can emerge from this situation by holding a good election process that should produce a strong majority in parliament,” he said.
Serwer said he hopes that the early elections will be free, fair and peaceful and with a definite result.
According to Serwer, the change of governments will further slow down the dialogue with Serbia but that the political situation in Kosovo does not impact its position in the process of dialogue. “This will not weaken Kosovo’s position in the dialogue with Serbia. It will certainly slow down the process of dialogue, because Prishtina needs a new government before it can continue. But if the government has a strong majority … this would mean an easier implementation of everything that is agreed upon. The only power of Hoti’s government was its weakness. He could really tell Brussels and Belgrade that he can agree only on something that is in Kosovo’s favor so that his government would not fall,” Serwer added.
Pause in the Kosovo – Serbia dialogue (Radio Free Europe)
The news website reports that Kosovo’s outgoing government has yet to decide whether or not it will continue the dialogue with Serbia in Brussels, while Kosovo is heading toward early parliamentary elections. The European Union meanwhile cannot say if the early elections will impact the course of the dialogue. Political commentators in Prishtina argue that Kosovo should continue the dialogue only after the elections and the formation of the new assembly and government.
Political analyst, Imer Mushkolaj, told the news website that it would be impossible to continue the dialogue in this phase although Belgrade could be willing to do so. He said that Kosovo is expected to face delays in the formation of new institutions after the early parliamentary elections and that he doesn’t expect dialogue to resume before the middle of next year.
“Any attempt by the outgoing government or anyone else to create the impression that the dialogue is continuing … would be wrong and should not happen. The best scenario would be for the current government to make it clear to the facilitator, in this case the EU, that given the new circumstances it is not able to continue the dialogue and that there are far more pressing issues to be resolved,” Mushkolaj said.
Political commentator Armend Muja said that until the formation of new institutions, the election of a new prime minister and president, Kosovo should focus on its own matters rather than on the dialogue with Serbia.
“As far as the dialogue is concerned, in this phase I don’t see preconditions either at the international level or at the level between countries or the respective societies. I think that first we need to see the reconsolidation of the Biden administration, the unification of positions between the United States and the European Union, which are very important, and that only then can we hope that the positions of the two countries will come closer,” Muja said.
Serbian Language Media
22 new cases of Covid-19, three deaths registered in Serbian areas in Kosovo (KoSSev)
Out of 106 tested samples, 22 were positive on Covid-19, and three persons passed away in the Serb-populated areas in Kosovo, Crisis Committee of Mitrovica North announced, KoSSev portal reports.
Out of 22 new cases, 16 were registered in the north, and six in central Kosovo.
The breakdown of the cases is as follows: six in Zvecan, five in Mitrovica North, four in Leposavic, two each in Gracanica and Gnjilane, and one each in Zubin Potok, Prizren and Priluzje.
Deceased persons were two from Priluzje, and one from Zubin Potok, bringing the total number of Covid-19 related deaths in the Serbian areas in Kosovo at 85.
Meanwhile, 135 people have completed a two-week isolation period.
The number of active cases in the Serb-populated areas in Kosovo is 807.
Brnabic first European PM vaccinated against coronavirus (KoSSev, N1)
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic was vaccinated at the Torlak Institute in Belgrade on Thursday, officially launching the coronavirus vaccinations in the country, N1 reports. KoSSev portal said she was the first European Prime Minister to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
“This was my obligation, my honor to do it for my country and be the first one to open that path to all citizens of the Republic of Serbia”, Brnabic said, adding that President Aleksandar Vucic would get a vaccine of some other origin, most probably Chinese one. She also announced that the Chinese vaccine Sinovac, as well as the Russian vaccine Sputnik V were expected to arrive. Until January additional 16.000 doses of Pfizer vaccines were also expected.
By the end of January, Serbia hopes it will get 1.000.000 doses of vaccines, KoSsev portal reports.
Dr Darija Kisic-Tepavcevic, former deputy director of the Batut Public Health Institute and now Minister of Labor, Employment, Social and Veterans’ Affairs, was also vaccinated along with epidemiologist Dr Predrag Kon of the government pandemic Crisis Staff and several others. They received the Pfizer vaccine, a shipment of which arrived in Belgrade earlier this week.
Minister Kisic-Tepacevic said she is proud Serbia secured the vaccine among the first countries in Europe, adding that the vaccine is free of charge and on a voluntary basis.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said earlier that top state officials should be vaccinated first to show that the vaccine was good.
According to the plan adopted this morning, 10 percent of the population would be vaccinated in the first phase, starting from health workers, depending on the institutions they work at, then employees at the elderly care facilities and beneficiaries of those facilities older than 65, after which a second and third phase of the vaccination of general population would follow.
Vasic: I expect verdict of acquittal in Arsic’s case (Radio KIM)
A verdict in the case of Nenad Arsic from Caglavica, accused of committing a criminal act of war crimes against civilian population would be publicly announced today at the special department of the Basic Court in Pristina, lawyer Dejan A. Vasic told RTV KIM.
Arsic was charged with inhuman treatment of two Kosovo Albanians, from the Shala family, at Pristina’s settlement Emsir, by allegedly beating them up, mistreating them, forcing them to drink alcohol and sing Serbian patriotic songs.
Vasic added that prosecution didn’t manage to prove the indictment beyond reasonable doubts, and that line with the principle “in dubio pro reo” (when in doubt, in favor of a defendant) they would announce a verdict of acquittal today.
Dusan Janjic: I would not exclude possibility of Serb being Kosovo Prime Minister (Kosovo-online)
Following decision of the Kosovo Constitutional Court to call for new parliamentary elections, situation on the Kosovo political scene is rather complicated, political parties are quarreling, therefore, according to Dusan Janjic of the Forum for Interethnic Relations one should not exclude almost unthinkable solution after the elections, Voice of America reports.
“And now it can be a very paradoxical situation – it turns out that the strength of Serbian List and its 10 votes that Aleksandar Vucic will certainly enable is so strong that they can demand a post of a prime minister. And this is something I would not rule out, because the situation is such that Albanian corpse is shattered (…), they will not be able to reconcile with each other. So let’s wait to see that miracle – a Serb Prime Minister,” Janjic told Voice of America.
Commenting on reactions of Kosovo political parties to the Constitutional Court decision Janjic said it reveals one more thing.
“The fact that the government accepted the problematic decision of the Kosovo court means there was a readiness among it to go for elections, respectively there was no political consent and agreement on the election of the president. It is a very clear indicator that upcoming elections would be much more dynamic, more uncertain than the previous ones”, Janjic said.
He also said that snap elections in Kosovo would certainly have as a consequence postponement of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue. Given that afterwards a pre-election campaign in Serbia for presidential, parliamentary and mayoral elections in Belgrade was announced means that the dialogue was put aside. Janjic opined that such a course of events seems to suit Brussels as well.
“In fact if we talk about the dialogue, there won’t be any by 2022 – if European Union would act the way it acts. The EU just issued one statement in which it says regardless of elections, it hopes that both sides e.g. opposition and position (in Kosovo) would respect decisions or obligations authorities undertook in the dialogue. This is not a vocabulary that should be used in addressing one. Therefore, it is obvious it suits the EU that nothing happens here, and to tell you honestly, I see no reason why Washington would be in a hurry then”.
Commenting on the EU’s Special Envoy Miroslav Lajcak involvement in the dialogue, Janjic said “it represents continuation of Mogherini’s policy and there would be no results out of it.”
He added “concentrated political talks and accountability of involved leaders, meaning undisputed mandates” were needed; however there are no leaders as such in Kosovo at the moment.
Viola von Cramon: Vučić’s statement on independence of Kosovo is not his final say (Kosovo-online)
German MEP of European Parliament Viola von Cramon opined that Kosovo was facing great challenges in the coming year and that the upcoming elections would bring political stability and start of work on a longer list of reforms, RTK reports.
“The Constitutional Court in Kosovo declared the election of Hoti’s government invalid, which means new elections. Let’s summarize the country’s multiple crisis – two governments in pandemic times, the president resigned, failure to adopt necessary laws because the government did not have a majority in parliament, stagnation of integration, long stagnation of dialogue, deep economic problems, not forgetting unresolved political issues” she told Deutsche Welle.
Q: Is Kosovo moving towards becoming a failed state?
“I would not say so. Of course, what you listed stands, and the factual situation remains a challenge, but let’s start from the beginning. I believe that it was a big mistake that the government was overthrown on March 25. Many in the West commented like this at the time, and we all criticized that it was not a good idea to overthrow the government in a pandemic that had worked well until then, and many people were satisfied. From the beginning, it seemed difficult to find a majority to change the government or elect a new Prime Minister. The Constitutional Court confirmed what many people had said from the beginning, that the elections were not constitutional, even under the circumstances that allowed convicted individuals to vote. I have not given a statement before, because it is good that the courts have their own opinion. It is unfortunate that it took the Constitutional Court so long to do so”.
Q: Everyone expected the government to fall?
“It’s a problem and it will not help anyone that the decision was postponed for six months. On the other hand, holding elections during a pandemic is certainly not an easy thing. Now the decision has been made, but I have not yet talked to Vjosa Osmani and I have not seen a press release about when the elections will be held. So, we need a date for the parliamentary elections, and of course, before the end of April, the president must be elected. It is not easy to do all this during the pandemic, at a time when the economic situation is difficult and when everyone expects results from Kosovo in terms of dialogue, from a political point of view, that is clear”.
Q: These are currently the most difficult weeks for Kosovo, both in terms of the pandemic and due to political events, what can the EU specifically offer so that the situation does not worsen?
“Kosovo has received great support regarding the effects of the pandemic, but of course the question remains, has the government taken all necessary measures so that infection rates would no longer increase. We have heard that intubation machines have arrived, but it is difficult to find specialist doctors, nurses or medical staff who would use them, so the machines on their own are not enough. Of course, the EU will hold in the economic direction, also in terms of organizing the elections. This time it will be the same, the EU will help, but how and in what form it will be determined soon”.
Q: What do you expect from the early elections?
“I hope that these elections will bring so much stability, that we will not have new elections every year, and that the long-awaited reforms will begin; electoral law reforms, judicial reforms, anti-corruption reforms. I mean all this list of reforms that need to be implemented, that is what is urgent. We need stable relations, we do not need authoritarian conditions like in Serbia, but relations, where people understand that they are governed. To feel represented in foreign policy and understand that reforms in the country have begun”.
Q: This will be an election without two old politicians in politics, Thaci and Veseli, who are indicted in The Hague for war crimes. Will it have an impact?
“These are personnel issues of certain parties, I think that the PDK will be reformed in terms of personnel, that was expected. I think that PDK has leading politicians in its ranks who will run in the next elections. But that is an internal matter of the party itself”.
Q: The dialogue with Serbia continued this fall, but reaching an agreement seems far away, if you remember Vučić’s recent statements that Serbia would not recognize Kosovo, as long as he is President. And what will stand at the end of the agreement on the normalization of relations with Serbia, which the EU is also committed to, if not the recognition of Kosovo?
“Yes, of course it will happen, but of course the question remains what is the form of mutual recognition, what will be within the general package, how it should be shaped for Serbia to agree, and of course we will have to negotiate properly when we have a new government in Kosovo. But I do not believe that this will be the final say of the representative of the Government of Serbia. At this moment, I am optimistic, because even the Serbian President knows that only with mutual recognition of Kosovo there is a path to the EU. There is great interest in Serbia’s integration into the EU.”
Q: In addition to the current problems, there is an unresolved problem that has isolated Kosovo, visa liberalization, Kosovans are tired of waiting for liberalization. Is something new expected next year?
“It is unfortunate that nothing was done about that during the German presidency of the EU, and I often raised my voice that the liberalization of the visa regime is late. There are reservations about that, but they are not in Berlin, but in Paris, partly in the Netherlands. And that raises the question of what the Kosovo government can do to remove obstacles. Bilateral talks are now being held with the French government, to show that what is important for the French government, because Macron was registered by the Kosovo government, and the concerns are being resolved one by one, with reforms, it will be presented with evidence. At this moment, we hope that the French will also give the green light, and if everything goes well, we will approve the liberalization of the visa regime next year”.
Petković reacts to latest statement of von Cramon (Radio Mitrovica sever)
Serbian Government Office for Kosovo and Meothija Director Petar Petkovic reacted to the statement of German MEP of the European Parliament Viola von Cramon that “Aleksandar Vučić’s statement on Kosovo’s independence is not the final say, because Vučić is aware that mutual recognition leads to EU membership”, Radio Mitrovica sever reports.
“It is to be expected that Viola von Cramon, as an open promoter of Kosovo self-proclaimed independence, is saying things that are pleasing for politicians in Pristina and is obsessively attacking Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, although he is undoubtedly one of the most responsible and successful politicians in Europe”, Petkovic said in a statement.
“Contrary to her claims, Serbia does not calculate with the question of status of our southern province, because our position, unlike the one advocated by von Cramon, is based on international law, but also on European values”, the statement added.
“For a sincere promoter of democracy, dealing with Kosovo and Metohija in an institution such as the European Parliament would provide countless challenges and opportunities to improve the living conditions, democratic standards and human rights on the ground, but that is not the focus of MP von Cramon”.
“Von Cramon would perform the function of the European Parliament’s rapporteur more diligently and honestly if, instead of focusing all her energy on the promotion of self-proclaimed Kosovo, she devoted part of her time and attention to the endangerment of Serbian Orthodox Church and Serbian people in Kosovo and Metohija, or let’s say, to the fact that on the ground, no one is dealing with the issue of prosecuting those who are responsible for murders and kidnappings of journalists”.
“Once again, with sincere disappointment, I note that it is a great pity for both the European Parliament and people of Kosovo and Metohija that such a responsible and potentially useful function is performed by a person who is not ready to do her job honestly and in accordance with European and democratic values and standards”, Petković concluded.
Majority of Serbian citizens support EU membership (N1)
The European Balkans Fund said on Thursday that 64.1 percent of Serbian citizens support the country’s membership in the European Union, N1 reports.
The poll, conducted by Ipsos Strategic Marketing, showed the 27.3 percent of Serbians do not support EU membership while 8.6 percent said they have no opinion.
Just over a fifth (21.8 percent) of respondents said that the country would become an EU member state in the next five years while 28.4 percent think that will take 10 years and 9.6 percent 20 years.
Almost a third (32.7 percent) said that Serbia will never join the EU. Asked about progress on the path to the EU, 46 percent said they are satisfied and 45 said they are not. About a third (33.1 percent) said the EU is playing a negative role in the democratization process while 30.7 percent said its role is positive.
Almost half (43.1 percent) of respondents said they believe the authorities can be replaced at elections, 32.4 percent said they can’t and 21.1 percent said maybe.
Pressure on voters is believed to be a significant obstacle to fair elections in the opinion of 27.2 percent of the polled while 15.1 percent said the problem is the privileged media approach to the ruling party. A total of 25.8 percent said they support a boycott against irregular elections.
Kosovo can’t allow the dialogue to continue in this form (Prishtina Insight)
Opinion piece by Aidan Hehir, a Reader (Associate Professor) in international relations at the University of Westminster (UK).
Overshadowed and lacking an obvious purpose, the Brussels based dialogue resumed in 2020 in the interest of the EU, Serbia… everyone except Kosovo, writes Aidan Hehir, Reader (Associate Professor) in international relations at the University of Westminster (UK).
2020 proved to be a tumultuous year for all, but especially Kosovo. Not content with only having to deal with a global pandemic, Kosovo plunged into a bewildering series of crises, any one of which would have been enough to keep most countries enthralled for years.
Yet, as Kurti was deposed, Thaci was indicted, and Hoti joined the global fight to decriminalise homosexuality before his government was declared illegal, one thing remained reliably immobile: the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue. The talks continued and there continued to be no progress, but still, they continued again, and they look like they will continue to continue.
Throughout the year, the dialogue became something of a safe space for those trying to keep up to speed with events in Kosovo – in the midst of the maelstrom, the dialogue’s predictable banality, its slow drip-feed of nothingness, was a welcome respite for all seeking shelter from the winds of change howling elsewhere.
See more at: https://bit.ly/38BNyA1
Kosovo pins U.N. membership hopes on Biden presidency (Reuters)
Like many Kosovars, cattle seller Xhelal Terstena hopes incoming U.S. President Joe Biden will help the small Balkan country’s push for United Nations membership.
Biden is respected in Kosovo for his active support of the 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia to halt the killing and expulsion of ethnic Albanians in its then southern province. Kosovo declared independence in 2008 but Belgrade refuses to recognise it.
“For Albanians God comes first, America is second,” says Terstena, who sells live cattle on a 35-km (22 mile) road in the southeast of the country named after Biden’s late son Beau.
See more at: https://tmsnrt.rs/3hdRrPr
Switzerland, Serbia set to vaccinate before EU (Politico)
European Commission plans to start administering shots on Sunday.
When it comes to vaccination, the EU is getting beaten in its own backyard.
Switzerland on Wednesday became the first continental European country to start using the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine, with a 90-year-old woman in Lucerne receiving the first jab. The country’s regulator approved the vaccine with a conditional marketing authorization at the weekend and more than 100,000 doses of the vaccine arrived in the country on Tuesday.
Serbia looks to be next in line, saying it would use the vaccines from Thursday after 5,000 doses arrived in the EU candidate country, President Aleksandar Vučić said Wednesday.
The EU meanwhile, is holding off until Sunday, as European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen designated December 27 through December 29 the EU’s vaccination days. The Commission has stuck to this timeline, even though it approved the vaccine only hours after the European Medicines Agency’s favorable recommendation.
BioNTech said shipments to EU countries could start on Wednesday, but the Commission said they will arrive by Saturday, December 26.
See at: https://politi.co/3mULOHf
Kosovo Opera and Ballet Law Dances Around Hall Issue (Balkan Insight)
A fresh draft Law on the Kosovo Philharmonic, Opera and Ballet, provided to BIRN by an official of the Ministry of Culture – aimed at amending the previous law passed by the UN rule-of-law mission in Kosovo, UNMIK – fails to resolve the key issue – the lack of a dedicated concert and performance hall.
“The purpose of this law is to regulate the organisation of the activity and functioning of the institutions of the Kosovo Philharmonic, Kosovo Opera and the National Ballet of Kosovo,” Article 1 of the law writes, similarly to the existing law from May 2007. The main difference is that the new law will not be pursuant to the UNMIK Regulation of 2001 but to the Kosovo Constitution.
The new law specifies that the Opera as well as Philharmonic orchestras are “composed of 60-80 professional instrumentalists; the professional choir … of 40 to 60 professional choir members” and that the “vocal soloists are a formation consisting of at least 8 professional solo singers; the Opera Ballet Troupe is a formation of 16 pairs of professional dancers”, similarly to the National Ballet Troupe, which should have a minimum of 16 pairs of professional dancers.
See more at: https://bit.ly/3poDBfI