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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, January 21, 2021

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Albanian Language Media:

• COVID – 19: 296 new cases, seven deaths (media)
• Hoti congratulates U.S. President Biden (media)
• Daka says she was threatened by political parties (Koha)
• Hoti: The decision not to certify candidates for MPs must be accepted by all (Koha)
• CDHRF seeks investigation of threats against the CEC (media)
• Haradinaj: We should move Kosovo forward, time for unity (RTK)
• Kurti: LVV’s list of candidates remains the same, I am holder of the list (Koha)
• Mustafa: Those out of LDK cannot inherit Rugova’s path (media)

Serbian Language Media:

• 16 new cases of Covid-19, 25 cured in Serbian communities (Kosovo Online)
• Selakovic: Meeting Vucic – Biden by the end of the year (RTS, FoNet, Danas)
• Serbian President Vucic’s message to US President Biden (N1)
• Mitrovica Prosecutor’s Office: We are collecting information on the potential illegal entry of anti-covid vaccines in northern Kosovo (KoSSev)
• Brnabic: Confiscation of vaccines in Kosovo irresponsible act (Kosovo-online)
• Petkovic with Italian Ambassador: Impermissible intrusion into Health House in Strpce (Kosovo-online)
• Pristina’s bans are in favor of the Serbian List (Danas)
• Djerlek: 436.000 citizens applied for vaccination, infection rate is about 30% (B92, Tanjug)
• Kursumlija: Vaccination of citizens from Kosovo in the Health Center continues next week (Kosovo Online)
• First private lawsuit filed against NATO in Serbian court (N1, Sputnik, Srna)
• Brnabic: Implementation of Washington agreement remains (Tanjug, Kosovo-online)

Opinion:
• The trial in the murder of Oliver Ivanovic (KoSSev)
• Under Biden, Balkans to Remain Flashpoint in US-Russia Relations (Balkan Insight)
• February 14 elections and Kosovo’s never-ending problems (aa.com.tr)

International:

• Kosovo Court Ruling Puts Kurti’s Election Candidacy at Risk (Balkan Insight)
• Serbia in 2021: Hostage to an Election Won and Another to Come (Balkan Insight)
• US targets Putin’s pipelines from Baltic Sea to Balkans (atlanticcouncil.com)

Humanitarian/Development:

• The Regional Academy for the Development of Democracy called for the region to get involved in the ‘You are not alone’ campaign! (Danas)
• Transparency Serbia warns of risk of corruption during pandemic (FoNet, N1)

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Albanian Language Media:

  • COVID – 19: 296 new cases, seven deaths (media)
  • Hoti congratulates U.S. President Biden (media)
  • Daka says she was threatened by political parties (Koha)
  • Hoti: The decision not to certify candidates for MPs must be accepted by all (Koha)
  • CDHRF seeks investigation of threats against the CEC (media)
  • Haradinaj: We should move Kosovo forward, time for unity (RTK)
  • Kurti: LVV’s list of candidates remains the same, I am holder of the list (Koha)
  • Mustafa: Those out of LDK cannot inherit Rugova’s path (media)

Serbian Language Media:

  • 16 new cases of Covid-19, 25 cured in Serbian communities (Kosovo Online) 
  • Selakovic: Meeting Vucic – Biden by the end of the year (RTS, FoNet, Danas)
  • Serbian President Vucic’s message to US President Biden (N1)
  • Mitrovica Prosecutor’s Office: We are collecting information on the potential illegal entry of anti-covid vaccines in northern Kosovo (KoSSev)
  • Brnabic: Confiscation of vaccines in Kosovo irresponsible act (Kosovo-online)
  • Petkovic with Italian Ambassador: Impermissible intrusion into Health House in Strpce (Kosovo-online)
  • Pristina’s bans are in favor of the Serbian List (Danas)
  • Djerlek: 436.000 citizens applied for vaccination, infection rate is about 30% (B92, Tanjug)
  • Kursumlija: Vaccination of citizens from Kosovo in the Health Center continues next week (Kosovo Online)
  • First private lawsuit filed against NATO in Serbian court (N1, Sputnik, Srna)
  • Brnabic: Implementation of Washington agreement remains (Tanjug, Kosovo-online)

Opinion:

  • The trial in the murder of Oliver Ivanovic (KoSSev)
  • Under Biden, Balkans to Remain Flashpoint in US-Russia Relations (Balkan Insight)
  • February 14 elections and Kosovo’s never-ending problems (aa.com.tr)

International:

  • Kosovo Court Ruling Puts Kurti’s Election Candidacy at Risk (Balkan Insight)
  • Serbia in 2021: Hostage to an Election Won and Another to Come (Balkan Insight)
  • US targets Putin’s pipelines from Baltic Sea to Balkans (atlanticcouncil.com)

Humanitarian/Development:

  • The Regional Academy for the Development of Democracy called for the region to get involved in the ‘You are not alone’ campaign! (Danas) 
  • Transparency Serbia warns of risk of corruption during pandemic (FoNet, N1)

 

 

Albanian Language Media 

 

COVID – 19: 296 new cases, seven deaths (media)

296 new cases of COVID – 19 and seven deaths from the virus were recorded in the last 24 hours in Kosovo. 202 persons have recovered from the virus during this time. There are 5,411 active cases of COVID – 19 in Kosovo.

Hoti congratulates U.S. President Biden (media)

The acting Prime Minister of Kosovo Abdullah Hoti sent a congratulatory telegram to the President of the United States, Joe Biden.

“I am very happy to emphasize that the Republic of Kosovo has very special relations with the United States of America. In the recent history of Kosovo, the United States of America has played a crucial role,” the telegram reads.

Hoti assured President Biden that the Government of Kosovo, all its political parties, government and opposition are fully committed to cultivating and strengthening relations with the United States of America.

“I am committed to working with your administration to strengthen democratic institutions, Euro – Atlantic integration and to become a bearer of stability,” the letter said.

Daka says she was threatened by political parties (Koha)

Valdete Daka, chairwoman of the Central Election Commission (CEC) said that the political accusations against the CEC and her are interference in their work.

She said that threats are unacceptable and dangerous.

“I would never have wanted to hold a press conference to defend my work. I want to assure the citizens that the CEC is working hard to perform its duties. My commitment to the electoral field for more than a decade is proof. The political accusations against the CEC and me are interference. Threats are unacceptable and dangerous,” she said.

Daka stressed that it is the law and the decision of the Constitutional Court that make it impossible for those who have problems with the law to run for parliament and not her.

“I did not write the article of this law. Any person who thinks he is being wronged can complain to the ECAP or the Supreme Court,” she said.

She added that she will implement the Constitution of Kosovo, and laws voted by the MPs themselves.

“It has become easy for political party men to attack a woman who is not supported by any political party,” she said.

Hoti: The decision not to certify candidates for MPs must be accepted by all (Koha)

Acting Prime Minister of Kosovo and candidate for Prime Minister of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) Avdullah Hoti, said that the decision not to nominate for MPs persons who have problems with the law, must be respected by all.

He said that there should be no differences here.

“Everyone must respect the decisions of justice institutions and there should be no difference here. LDK has had a candidate who will not be certified and we will replace him today,” Hoti said after paying homage to the grave of former President Ibrahim Rugova on the 15th anniversary of his death.

Hoti also spoke about the appointment of the head of the Kosovo Intelligence Agency, saying they are in consultation with the acting president to find a candidate.

On this occasion, Prime Hoti expressed his gratitude and appreciation to President Donald Trump and his administration for the support given to the democratic processes in Kosovo, and regional economic integration.

Kosovo’s Foreign Minister Meliza Haradinaj-Stublla and leader of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) Ramush Haradinaj, also congratulated the U.S. President Joe Biden. 

CDHRF seeks investigation of threats against the CEC (media)

The Council for the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms (CDHRF) demanded an end to the attacks and threats against the Central Election Commission (CEC), CEC members and the chairwoman, Valdete Daka, in order not to hinder their work in organizing and conducting the elections.

The CDHRF also requested from the Kosovo Police to investigate all possible threats to the CEC and, if necessary, provide conditions for unhindered work.

According to the CDHRF, on the eve of the early elections of February 14, the CEC is being subjected to inadmissible pressure that affects the smooth running of the work.

The Kosovo Law Institute has also reacted to the threatening language of the representatives of political parties towards the heads of constitutional institutions, assessing it as unacceptable and reprehensible.

Haradinaj: We should move Kosovo forward, time for unity (RTK)

The leader of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) Ramush Haradinaj said Kosovo needs him more as President than as Prime Minister.

‘Kosovo citizens need reforms and a new dynamic in the country, certainly, a dignified government and Prime Minister. political balance, seeing that us, in the region, have not yet become members of NATO, UN. Under these new circumstances, the country needs me as President, in order to create political and institutional balance. Our relations with our allies need to strengthen, especially on the main path, membership in NATO,” Haradinaj told Syri TV.

He claims that although he served the country for two years, he has accomplished work of two decades.

“With President Rugova, we initially unified the country and then established public order. While with my latest governing, it is sufficient to mention the army, Trepca, energy independence and many, many other significant works,” Haradinaj said.  

Haradinaj also addressed the citizens saying that he knew to seek power, but to leave power as well.

“Now is the time for the president, to lead Kosovo forward, regulate the internal plan, and it is the time for reconciliation and unity,” Haradinaj said.  

Kurti: LVV’s list of candidates remains the same, I am holder of the list (Koha)

Albin Kurti, leader of the Vetevendosje Movement (LVV) said today after paying homage to former President of Kosovo Ibrahim Rugova, that his political party’s list of the candidates running for MPs remains the same as submitted to the Central Election Commission (CEC).

He said that he is the holder of the list and that he will respect the laws and the Constitution.

He further recalled a meeting of the former President Hashim Thaci with the U.S. Envoy for the dialogue with Serbia Richard Grenell, adding that institutions need to refresh under new circumstances.

“I am the holder of the list who respects and strictly applies the Constitution and laws which defend the rights of all of us,” Kurti said.

Mustafa: Those out of LDK cannot inherit Rugova’s path (media)

Isa Mustafa, leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) said Ibrahim Rugova’s path cannot be inherited by anyone but those who remain in LDK.

After paying homage together with the LDK leadership at the grave of former President Ibrahim Rugova, on the 15th anniversary of his death, Mustafa said that the LDK and Kosovo feel Rugova’s absence.

“LDK and Kosovo feel his absence, a historical figure who gave a lot for the freedom and independence of Kosovo. No one can inherit this path except the LDK and those who stay and work so that Rugova’s work and deed can be realized,” he said.

 

 

 

Serbian Language Media

 

16 new cases of Covid-19, 25 cured in Serbian communities (Kosovo Online) 

North Mitrovica Crisis Staff announced today that 16 more cases of coronavirus infection have been recorded in Serb areas in Kosovo, reported portal Kosovo Online. 

According to the statement, 56 citizens were tested on the last day and in the same period, 25 people came out of isolation,

New cases by municipalities: North Mitrovica (5), Zvecan (3), Leposavic (3), Zubin Potok (0). 

Five new cases were registered in central Kosovo, in Kamenica (2), Priluzje (2) and Strpce (1).

Since the beginning of the pandemic, a total of 3,720 people have been infected with coronavirus in Serb areas in Kosovo. 13,120 samples were tested, and 95 people died.

Selakovic: Meeting Vucic – Biden by the end of the year (RTS, FoNet, Danas)

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Serbia Nikola Selakovic stated today that he was convinced that a meeting between the President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic and the President of the United States of America Joseph Biden will be held by the end of the year, quoted daily Danas. 

Selakovic told RTS that the President of Serbia had a serious and good relationship with the newly elected President of the United States Joseph Biden, and that it would continue to be so.

“I am convinced that by the end of the year, thanks to the strong and serious contacts that the President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic has made in previous years, we will have a bilateral meeting between President Vucic and President Biden. I am convinced this will happen, knowing our president and knowing that those contacts are good,” stated Selakovic.

He also assessed that it was a good sign for Serbia that the Ambassador of Serbia to the US, Marko Djuric attended the inauguration despite the small number of people. 

“Our representative, our ambassador Marko Djuric, who was accredited in Washington, was one of 1,000 people who had the opportunity to attend the inauguration ceremony, so in addition to numerous members of the House of Representatives, Congress, senators, friends, the Serbian ambassador was also there, and I think it is important for us, that it is an important message for us and for Serbia itself,” said the Minister.

When asked if he expects a change of course in relation to Serbia, he stated that it was difficult to talk about it now. 

“Will and when the United States will look back on our region in its foreign policy agenda, let the time tell. What is true is that there are people in his administration who have dealt with our region, who are well acquainted with the situation,” Selakovic stated.

He reminded that Vucic said after one meeting with Biden that he was one of the best prepared and most informed interlocutors with whom he had the opportunity to talk when it comes to our region, reported daily Danas.

Serbian President Vucic’s message to US President Biden (N1)

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic sent US President Joe Biden a message of congratulations on his inauguration, wishing him good health and success and inviting him to visit Belgrade, N1 reports.

A press release from the Vucic cabinet quoting him as saying that he believes Biden will perform his duties as president “with true commitment, inexhaustible energy and a clear vision which reflects your long political career and rich experience of a statesman”.

Vucic recalled that 2021 will see the 140th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Serbia and the US, and expressed the hope that the two countries’ relations will return to the level of a strategic partnership “as they were and should be despite the scars left behind by the time of misunderstanding and disagreement“.

Vucic also said he is sure that Biden is a partner who will help reinforce political dialogue and economic cooperation.

At the end he invited Biden to visit Serbia and recalled his 2016 visit to Belgrade.

See at: https://bit.ly/3sLCKs4

Mitrovica Prosecutor’s Office: We are collecting information on the potential illegal entry of anti-covid vaccines in northern Kosovo (KoSSev)

KoSSev portal reported yesterday that after the backlash from Pristina due to, as it was interpreted, the illegal import of Covid-19 vaccines by Serbia, and the claim of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic that Pristina institutions were preparing to seize these vaccines in Leposavic, the location of vaccination for Serbian citizens residing in Kosovo was changed to Raska and Nis.

The Basic Prosecutor’s Office in Mitrovica also announced that they have authorized the police to collect information regarding potential criminal acts of drug smuggling and illegal medical activities, adding that the investigation has not been officially opened yet.

The Kosovo Basic Prosecutor’s Office announced that they are still collecting information on whether vaccines have been imported in accordance with relevant public health protocols.

„We assure the public to continue to monitor the situation, detecting, investigating and prosecuting illegal activities that may endanger public health and safety, and that we remain committed to ensuring that no one takes advantage of the situation created as a result of the pandemic during these critical times,“ the prosecution said.

Brnabic: Confiscation of vaccines in Kosovo irresponsible act (Kosovo-online)

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic assessed today there is no more irresponsible act than the one of Pristina authorities saying they would confiscate vaccines from Serbia arriving in Kosovo, Tanjug news agency reports.

Brnabic told Happy TV this way Pristina’s representatives brought a political campaign to the attack against peoples’ health, adding that Serbia in any case would not allow the health of its citizens to be endangered.

“Serbs in any case can go to Raska and be vaccinated there. It would not be a major issue if they confiscate (the vaccines) and give them to Albanians, but they want to destroy them”, Brnabic said.

She added it would be much better for Prisitna’s election campaign if it made an agreement with Belgrade, which offered to send the vaccines in Kosovo too.   

Petkovic with Italian Ambassador: Impermissible intrusion into Health House in Strpce (Kosovo-online)

Serbian Government Office for Kosovo and Metohija Director Petar Petkovic met today Italian Ambassador to Serbia Carlo Lo Cascio and informed him about the political and security situation in Kosovo as well as the situation of the Serbian people living there, Kosovo-online portal reports.

Petkovic in particular pointed out more frequent and sharper anti-Serbian rhetoric and action, by which Pristina representatives try to improve their political rating ahead of the parliamentary elections there.  

Petkovic termed yesterday’s intrusion of the Pristina Ministry of Health inspection and police to the Health House in Strpce, operating under the system of the Republic of Serbia, searching for vaccines against Covid as impermissible.

Petkovic also assessed that Pristina continues its unlawful practice of banning Belgrade officials from entering Kosovo, which represents the most flagrant violation of the agreement regulating freedom of movement. Petkovic said that a week ago he was prevented from visiting flood-endangered areas populated by Serbs in Kosovo and delivering humanitarian aid.

He also touched upon the latest threats of creating a “Great Albania’,’ adding Belgrade would not fall for provocations, but expects the international community to clearly and unambiguously take a stance on such Pristina’s dangerous intentions.

At the end, Petkovic concluded Belgrade remains committed to the dialogue as the only means to peacefully resolve all open issues and create preconditions for lasting stabilization in the Western Balkans.

Pristina’s bans are in favor of the Serbian List (Danas)

All the mechanisms that have been applied so far will be applied in the next campaign as well, writes Belgrade based daily Danas.

The only thing that may cause a little nervousness in the Office for KiM is that there are two more Serbian lists that will take part. However, there are well-established mechanisms for preventing these lists from gaining votes in the Serbian community – Dusan Janjic, director of the Forum for Ethnic Relations told daily Danas. 

On daily’s question whether banning Petar Petkovic (Director of the Office for KiM) to enter Kosovo would affect Serbian List’s campaign, Janjic said that “a game” of allowing or not allowing the Director of the Office for KiM to enter Kosovo marks the beginning of the pre-election campaign of the Serbian List.

In Janjic’s opinion this was a sign that the Serbian List is a desirable partner for the current government of Kosovo, as well as the future one. 

Danas asks whether he thinks that the Pristina authorities were actually doing a favour to the Serbian List, Janjic says that he doesn’t think so, he knows so.

“Experience confirms that these games are always played before the elections, so, if necessary, occasionally, the minister or the Director of the Office enters Kosovo illegally, to show how close he is to the people and how nothing can stop them. So, there is nothing new here,” he concluded.

Janjic says that the Serbian List will enter again the Kosovo government, that they would again demand the formation of the Community of Serbian Municipalities and improvement of the economic position.

– In short, a familiar routine repetition of the past. That is the future of these elections, at least as far as the Serbian list is concerned – Janjic concluded. 

Program manager of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Centre from Mitrovica, Lazar Rakic states that it is important to understand that official Belgrade, whoever was in power, would always have an impact on Kosovo Serb political action, as long as the Serbian minority feared the Albanian majority.

In his view, when someone feels threatened, it was natural that he would look for an ally and protector, and in this case, Kosovo Serbs would naturally follow Belgrade’s instructions as long as that fear of the majority existed.

-In that sense, the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) is exploiting the justified fear that exists among Kosovo Serbs from the Albanian political elites. For that reason, we can again expect that Serbian List’s campaign will be based on the same messages as before: a call for unity and unanimity, so that they would survive with the support of Belgrade and fight for their rights. It is also important to understand that Belgrade is the one thanks to whom Kosovo Serbs participate in the political process. If it were not for that political decision of official Belgrade, the turnout of Serbs in the Kosovo elections would be negligible, especially in the North, because Kosovo Serbs do not identify with the Kosovo political system – Rakic said.

He adds that  one should not forget that due to the uncertainty of investment, there is hardly a real economy in Serbian communities, and therefore financial dependence on the public sector is huge, and the SNS controls both Serbian and Kosovo public sectors in Serbian communities, thus it has the mechanisms to control the electoral process.

On the question how important the presence of the Director of the Office for KiM in the campaign was, as a link between official Belgrade and the representatives of Serbian List, and considering the ban to enter Kosovo, Rakic answers that his presence was not important.

-More significant will be that maybe President Vucic will invite citizens to vote for the Serbian List. Also, banning Petar Petkovic to enter Kosovo only confirms the perceptions of Kosovo Serbs about the need of the majority to institutionally dominate, that is to establish the dominant position of one ethnic group over another, thus even assisting the campaign of the Serbian Progressive Party – says Rakic.

Djerlek: 436.000 citizens applied for vaccination, infection rate is about 30% (B92, Tanjug)

436.000 Serbian citizens registered for vaccination by 8 pm on Wednesday, State Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Mirsad Djerlek stated this morning, Tanjug news agency reports.

According to him, the response of citizens for immunization is higher than expected, and it has increased in the last 3-4 days.

That, as he said for TV Prva, shows that the awareness of the citizens of Serbia is at a high level and that they are aware that the vaccine is the only solution, because there is no adequate cure against the coronavirus.

Djerlek pointed out that with an infection rate of about 30 percent, which is currently achieved in Serbia, “we can put the epidemic under control”.

“We are closer to gaining victory over the coronavirus compared to two months ago when we did not have the vaccine”, Djerlek said.

See at: https://bit.ly/3a681Ob

Kursumlija: Vaccination of citizens from Kosovo in the Health Center continues next week (Kosovo Online)

Vaccination against the corona virus is underway at the Health Center in Kursumlija, and the immunization of the first group of 750 citizens from Kosovo, which began on Tuesday, should be completed by the end of the day.

On Tuesday, 209 citizens from Kosovo received the vaccine against Covid-19 in the Kursumlija Health Center, and during yesterday, 262, the director of that health institution, Uranija Petrovic told news agency Tanjug.

Next week, another group of citizens from Kosovo should be vaccinated, said Dr. Petrovic, Kosovo Online portal quoted.

First private lawsuit filed against NATO in Serbian court (N1, Sputnik, Srna)

The first individual lawsuit against NATO over the use of depleted uranium munitions in 1999 was filed with the Higher Court in Belgrade on Wednesday on behalf of an unnamed Serbian military officer, the Russian Sputnik said on its Serbian-language portal.

It said that the lawsuit was filed by lawyer Srdjan Aleksic and added that it includes a demand for compensation for his client who has contracted cancer which was allegedly caused by depleted uranium munitions while he was deployed in what is now known as the Ground Safety Zone along the administrative border of Kosovo during the NATO air campaign of 1999.

Aleksic told the Srna news agency that an Italian lawyer had successfully filed suit on behalf of Italian soldiers deployed in Kosovo who contracted cancer from leftover munitions. He said that people in Bosnia-Herzegovina should do that same. “We are filing suit on behalf of officers, conscript soldiers, police officers and reservist veterans who were deployed in Kosovo and contracted some form of cancer,” he said, adding that the suit included evidence from the US and World Health Organization on the effects of depleted uranium.

“I planned to file five lawsuits to see how NATO will react. I expect the first response in July because the delivery through diplomatic channels takes months,” he told the state TV (RTS). He said that NATO aircraft dropped 15 tons of depleted uranium munitions on southern Serbia and Kosovo and claimed that those munitions can cause eight types of cancer identical to what 7,600 Italian soldiers deployed in Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina were diagnosed with.

See at: https://bit.ly/3qFvM69

Brnabic: Implementation of Washington agreement remains (Tanjug, Kosovo-online)

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Branbic said today that during the hearings of new candidates before the US Congress, the Washington agreement was mentioned as one of the good results of Donald Trump’s administration, Kosovo-online portal reports.

She added implementation of the Washington agreement remains and that Serbian Minister of Finance Sinisa Mali will sign a contract with DFC on grants for micro, small and medium enterprises.

“Implementation of the Washington agreement remains, DFC stays in Belgrade and signing of contracts and financing of our enterprises continues”, Brnabic underlined. 

 

 

Opinion

 

The trial in the murder of Oliver Ivanovic (KoSSev)

By Milan Radonjic

STANDSTILL, PROGRESS, HIBERNATION

Every part of the initial investigation into Ivanovic’s murder was done in a completely wrong and amateurish way – in an attempt to solve a political assassination executed with precision and organized in a military manner. Starting with the immediate reaction of the police officers who did not secure the crime scene through the lackluster reaction of the Kosovo Police Service Directorate for the north region in the hours after the assassination.

When the Special Prosecutor’s Office of Kosovo took over the investigation of the assassination, a phase of more professional work began, and in December 2019, an indictment was filed. At the beginning of the following year, the first hearing was held before the Basic Court in Pristina, but with the decision of the Court of Appeals in Pristina on September 25th, 2020, the process was practically returned to the beginning.

It took the Serbian judiciary four years to complete the investigation and pass a first-instance judgment for the murder of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic. This very long window of time to end such an important trial was caused by the complexity of the case, which included some previous crimes (such as the murder of Ivan Stambolic, the Ibar Highway assassination attempt), obstructions by the defense, but also political changes which took place in Serbia between March 2003 and November 2007.

Speaking of the trial in the murder of Oliver Ivanovic, which according to the indictment of the Special Prosecutor’s Office of Kosovo also covers some crimes that took place before Ivanovic’s assassination (the murder of Ivica Rajcic in 2014), there is no hope that a coherent and comprehensive legal assessment of this political crime of the decade could be achieved within the same period. The indictment, which has been amended three times and does not include the perpetrators or instigators, absolutely does not allow for such hope.

See more at: https://bit.ly/2M7GBPq

Under Biden, Balkans to Remain Flashpoint in US-Russia Relations (Balkan Insight)

By: David L. Philips

The United States under Joe Biden must resist turning a blind eye to Russia’s provocations in Kosovo and across the Balkans in exchange for deals elsewhere.

The Biden administration faces a myriad of challenges managing relations with Russia.

It must renew the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, START, address recent cyberattacks, and deter Russia’s regional provocations in Syria and the eastern Mediterranean. Kosovo is also a flash point that could escalate, embroiling the US and Russia in a broader confrontation.

Do not expect a reset in US-Russia relations. However, both sides will seek common ground to avoid escalatory confrontation. Arms control will be a priority.

New START expires on February 5, 2021. Bilateral talks, leading to a freeze on both strategic and tactical warheads, can extend the treaty for a year, while the US and Russia negotiate a longer and more durable agreement.

See at: https://bit.ly/3o2UhIR

February 14 elections and Kosovo’s never-ending problems (aa.com.tr)

By Dr. İdlir Lika

Kosovars more than ever want to give the leftists their chance, this time hopefully unrestricted by outside powers

The socialist Self-Determination Movement (LVV) led by Albin Kurti will win the Kosovo snap polls set to be held on Feb. 14, 2021, this time maybe even by a landslide. This is the widespread expectation among all serious observers of Kosovo’s political scene, including the author. What we do not know is whether the LVV will be allowed to serve a full term in office once it assumes power. This points to perhaps the most pressing problem the youngest “nation-state” in Europe has faced since its independence from Serbia thirteen years ago: political parties / elites in Kosovo lack real power and autonomy to rule their own country. They are instead treated like pawns which serve the often-short-term interests of outside powers, which in turn, turn a blind eye on their clients’ indulging in rampant corruption, crime, and state-capture. What goes on within the borders of Kosovo is not decided in Pristina (as it should normally be), but in Brussels and Washington. Indeed, it is striking that not a single Kosovar government has finished its full term since the independence from Serbia in 2008. The fate of the last democratically elected government, however, was undoubtedly the most flagrant.

In late March 2020, during the peak of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trump administration, more specifically its Special Presidential Envoy for Serbia and Kosovo Richard Grenell, engineered the collapse of the LVV-led coalition government of Albin Kurti (after only 50 days in office) because the latter apparently was giving Trump a lot of hassle. Mounting pressure on President Hashim Thaçi and on Isa Mustafa, the leader of Kurti’s coalition partner the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), the Trump administration brought down the LVV-led government in a no-confidence vote in parliament, installed in its place a compliant minority government led by Avdullah Hoti of the LDK (supported by the Serbian minority), and on Sept. 4, 2020, finalized the whole process by getting Serbia and Kosovo sign a theatrical “economic normalization” agreement in the White House. As I have previously argued in these pages, this deal clearly had only the short-term goal of serving Trump’s re-election purposes and did not reflect any sort of genuine commitment by the White House to advance the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue. Now that Trump is gone, the deal is largely forgotten and useless.

See more at: https://bit.ly/2Y2XhKs

 

 

International

 

Kosovo Court Ruling Puts Kurti’s Election Candidacy at Risk (Balkan Insight)

Vetevendosje candidate and former PM Albin Kurti may be barred from standing in the February 14 elections – after the Kosovo Judicial Council ruled that 47 candidates were theoretically unable to run having been found guilty of a criminal offence in court.

Albin Kurti’s hopes of becoming Prime Minister of Kosovo once again have been set back after the Central Election Commission, CEC, on Wednesday said 15 of the 28 political entities that had applied to run in the February 14 snap elections had proposed candidates “not in line with the Law on General Elections, which specifies that a person who has been found guilty of a criminal charge in the last three years cannot run as an MP”.

Kurti, head of the main opposition Vetevendosje party, and Albulena Haxhiu, a former Justice Minister, were handed conditional prison sentences by a Prishtina court in January 2018 for throwing tear gas in parliament.

The Kosovo Judicial Council verified the candidates acting on a CEC request. “Overall, 47 of 1,081 candidates have been found guilty of a crime by a final court verdict,” CEC spokesperson Valmir Elezi told the media.

See at: https://bit.ly/39P0TFv

Serbia in 2021: Hostage to an Election Won and Another to Come (Balkan Insight)

Serbia faces a year of deepening polarisation and social discontent, while the government will tread water on Kosovo and European integration.

In 2021, Serbia’s ruling Progressive Party faces being revisited by the errors of 2020.

A landslide election win in June yielded a parliament without an opposition, likely necessitating mediation by the European Union in 2021 if President Aleksandar Vucic is to head off another opposition boycott come the next election he wants held in 2022.

On the thorny issue of Kosovo, the majority-Albanian former southern province of Serbia, the prospect of an election in Serbia next year will make progress in EU-led talks between Belgrade and Pristina unlikely, prolonging the stalemate of 2020.

Add to that the government’s haphazard handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, signs of disquiet over jobs and pay and the lack of any tangible progress towards EU accession, Vucic’s Progressive Party, SNS, may be walking into a minefield in 2021.

“The government made three major errors in 2020 that will come back to haunt it in 2021,” said Belgrade political scientist Vujo Ilic. “It overspent in the first wave of the pandemic, it made a strong turn away from the EU and it overplayed its hand in the elections.”

See more at: https://bit.ly/395v8Jn

US targets Putin’s pipelines from Baltic Sea to Balkans (atlanticcouncil.com)

The US has begun 2021 by delivering a series of sanctions blows that leave the future of Vladimir Putin’s USD 11 billion Nord Stream 2 pipeline project in grave doubt. The latest American measures appear to have succeeded in forcing insurance, certification, and engineering firms to distance themselves from the geopolitically sensitive energy infrastructure project.

Moscow remains publicly defiant and bullish over the prospects of completing the unfinished pipeline, but it seems that Russia’s gas producer Gazprom is under no such illusions. A January 19 Reuters report claims Gazprom acknowledged in a recent Eurobond prospectus that the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project may be suspended or scrapped amid political pressure.

“We have faced and may continue to encounter risks associated with changes in political conditions in various regions related to such projects. In exceptional circumstances, including owing to political pressure, such changes may result in a project being suspended or discontinued,” reads the Gazprom statement.

Nord Stream 2 is not the only pipeline under pressure. The projects Gazprom refers to include Turk Stream 2, another controversial Russian pipeline opposed by the US. The Turk Stream 1 line was completed some years ago and serves Turkey. Russia has since diverted the second line and extended it on land from Turkey through Bulgaria and now into Serbia. Eventually, this Balkan Stream pipeline will serve the entire Southeastern Europe region.

See more at: https://bit.ly/35ZWazX

 

 

Humanitarian/Development

 

The Regional Academy for the Development of Democracy called for the region to get involved in the ‘You are not alone’ (Nisi sama) campaign! (Danas) 

The Regional Academy for the Development of Democracy called on all people in the region today to join them in sending a message to victims of sexual violence that they are not alone and that everyone will fight for them together and provide them with support, quoted Belgrade based daily Danas. 

“The courage of the actress Milena Radulovic, who reported the rape she suffered over the years with four other girls, empowered dozens of other girls to do the same.

”The fact that Milena was able to speak out publicly about the violence and the most monstrous sexual crimes she suffered as a girl is an encouragement to all women and girls who continue to struggle with the trauma they have experienced, who still live in fear of the rapist or convictions, who still do not dare to report what happened to them,” the statement said.

The Regional Academy for the Development of Democracy, an initiative of young people from Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Montenegro, Northern Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo, said it supports all women who had suffered sexual violence and wanted to send them a message that they are not alone.

“Together, we will fight for our countries to become societies in which victims of sexual violence find support and not condemnation, in which justice comes and not re-traumatization. The first step towards that is that women who report sexual violence know that they are not alone, and that we are with them,” the statement reads.

Transparency Serbia warns of risk of corruption during pandemic (FoNet, N1)

Transparency Serbia warned on Thursday of higher risk of corruption during the coronavirus pandemic, adding that those risks are greater in Serbia’s regulations than in other countries, N1 reports.

The organization’s Program Director Nemanja Nenadic told a presentation of a report on risk of corruption in the law that the danger is especially great in public procurement since no laws have been changed and a government decree has demeaned its implementation. “The government decided to declare all public procurement of medicine and medical equipment a secret even though there are no legal grounds for the secrecy”, he said. Nenadic warned that regulations allowing risk of corruption have been adopted for other areas.

He said that the risk of corruption existed in the government decision to pay every adult citizen 100 Euros just prior to the elections and in the decision to provide aid to the economy because there was no control of the use of those funds.

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

 

 

 

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