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UNMIK Media Observer, Morning Edition, March 10, 2021

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• COVID-19: 444 new cases, 13 deaths (media)
• Zemaj: 33,600 doses of COVAX vaccine will arrive this month (media)
• Besnik Tahiri appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs (media)
• Battle against vote theft carried to the Supreme Court (Koha Ditore)
• How many ministries will the new government have? (Koha)
• Citaku reacts to Thaci’s non-inclusion in EU post about dialogue (media)
• “Status of Orthodox churches in Kosovo could be topic of dialogue” (media)
• Kosovar peacekeepers sent on first mission abroad (Radio Free Europe)
• Hague prosecution accused of obstructing Kosovo ex-President’s defence (BIRN)

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  • COVID-19: 444 new cases, 13 deaths (media)
  • Zemaj: 33,600 doses of COVAX vaccine will arrive this month (media)
  • Besnik Tahiri appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs (media)
  • Battle against vote theft carried to the Supreme Court (Koha Ditore)
  • How many ministries will the new government have? (Koha)
  • Citaku reacts to Thaci’s non-inclusion in EU post about dialogue (media)
  • “Status of Orthodox churches in Kosovo could be topic of dialogue” (media)
  • Kosovar peacekeepers sent on first mission abroad (Radio Free Europe)
  • Hague prosecution accused of obstructing Kosovo ex-President’s defence (BIRN)

COVID-19: 444 new cases, 13 deaths (media)

Kosovo has recorded 444 new cases of COVID-19 and 13 deaths from the virus in the last 24 hours. 452 persons have recovered from the virus during this time. There are 9,761 active cases of COVID-19 in Kosovo.

Zemaj: 33,600 doses of COVAX vaccine will arrive this month (media)

Kosovo’s caretaker Minister of Health Armend Zemaj said on Tuesday that Kosovo will receive 33,600 doses of COVAX vaccine this month. Zemaj also said that no new measures against the spread of the virus are expected to be introduced this week, but also that the National Institute for Public Health could announce new information this Thursday.

Besnik Tahiri appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs (media)

Most news websites report that Kosovo’s caretaker Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti appointed on Tuesday Besnik Tahiri as caretaker Minister of Foreign Affairs after Meliza Haradinaj-Stublla resigned her post.

Battle against vote theft carried to the Supreme Court (Koha Ditore)

The paper reports in its leading front-page story that the recount of some votes ordered by the Elections Complaints and Appeals Panel (ECAP) showed that election results were framed at least within the Haradinaj-led Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK). The vote recount disqualified from the race Meliza Haradinaj-Stublla who resigned from the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs and from her positions in the AAK. Meanwhile, other candidates that were not satisfied with the decisions of ECAP have now rested their hopes with the Supreme Court.

How many ministries will the new government have? (Koha)

Vetevendosje Movement (VV) representatives said on Tuesday that the new government will have approximately the same number of ministries as the Kurti 1 government. While they insist that it is too early to talk about the name of new ministers, VV said in a written reply to the news website that the new government won’t have more ministries than the first government led by Kurti in 2020.

“We will aim for a small government. As incoming Prime Minister Albin Kurt said the number of ministries will not be larger than the Kurti 1 Government, and every ministry will not have more than two deputy ministers,” VV said in its reply.

Civil society representatives are meanwhile calling on Vetevendosje to be careful in organising the new government and in respecting gender equality. VV leader Kurti recently said that the new government will not have less than five female ministers. “We will see if we can do more in this respect,” he said.

Citaku reacts to Thaci’s non-inclusion in EU post about dialogue (media)

Kosovo’s ambassador to the United States, Vlora Citaku, took to Twitter to react after former President Hashim Thaci was not included in pictures posted by the European Union External Action (EEAS) on the 10th anniversary of the start of the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia.

“Hi EEAS. Good to see you are keeping track of things. But somehow you seem to have forgotten who the PM of Kosovo was that signed the Brussels agreement. Or maybe you are just trying to tell us that the agreements that Thaci signed are not valid anymore?!”, she wrote.

“Status of Orthodox churches in Kosovo could be topic of dialogue” (media)

Brussels-based correspondent Gjeraqina Tuhina said on Tuesday that the status of Orthodox churches in Kosovo is expected to be a new topic in the EU-facilitated talks between Prishtina and Belgrade. She argued that this will be one of the most sensitive topics in the process. “These religious sites will most probably be discussed and it is expected that the status of these buildings in the territory of Kosovo will change,” she added.

Kosovar peacekeepers sent on first mission abroad (Radio Free Europe)

Kosovo has sent an army platoon to Kuwait to take part in young country’s first-ever international peacekeeping mission.

A ceremony was held on March 9 at the military barracks in the capital, Pristina, in the presence of top leaders and Western military attaches.

The unit will be deployed following a request from the U.S. Central Command.

Kosovo’s lightly armed military is expected to have 5,000 troops and 3,000 reservists. They are heavily supported by the United States.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. The move followed a bloody war between separatist ethnic Albanian rebels and Serb forces that ended in 1999 after a 78-day NATO air campaign to drive Serb troops out and allow a peacekeeping force to move in.

The country is recognized by most Western nations, but not by Belgrade and its allies Russia and China.

“It’s extremely important because 22 years after the war, we’re not just importing peacekeeping troops, we’re also exporting them,” Kosovo’s acting President Vjosa Osmani said.

The peacekeeping platoon from Kosovo will be under the command of the National Guard of Iowa.

No precise details were given on their expected location in Kuwait, or the actual number of peacekeepers to be deployed. However, a platoon of 32 soldiers was seen lined up during the ceremony.

The 3,400-troop Kosovo Security Force was turned into a regular army two years ago, although its name has not been changed to armed forces as planned.

Hague prosecution accused of obstructing Kosovo ex-President’s defence (BIRN)

The lawyer for Kosovo’s former president, Hashim Thaci, who is awaiting trial for alleged wartime crimes at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague, has again accused the prosecution of hindering the defence’s preparations for the trial.

“Defence pre-trial preparations are being significantly hampered by the approach taken to [evidence] disclosure by the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office,” defence lawyer David Hooper said in a request to the Kosovo Specialist Chambers on Monday.

Thaci and three other former Kosovo politicians, Kadri Veseli, Rexhep Selimi and Jakup Krasniqi, are all accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity when they were senior figures in the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA in the late 1990s. They have all pleaded not guilty.

Thaci’s defence lawyer called on the pre-trial judge to intervene to ensure that the prosecution hands over “complete witness interview materials”, including documents, maps, photographs and videos that witnesses refer to during their interviews.

“Without access to the material, a full and proper understanding of that witness’ evidence (including an assessment of his/her credibility) is difficult or impossible to reach,” Hooper argued.

The failure to do this is having a “prejudicial impact” on the defence’s ability to “analyse the evidence, create investigation plans and deploy resources in the most efficient and effective manner”, he added.

Witness protection is a key issue for the Kosovo Specialist Chambers because witnesses have been intimidated during previous trials of Kosovo Liberation Army fighters.

But Hooper argued that the measures being taken by the prosecution were “excessive”, and said that “if there are objectively justified security concerns, then these can be addressed by the application of redactions”.

The indictment in the case alleges that Thaci, Veseli, Selimi, and Krasniqi were part of a “joint criminal enterprise” that aimed to take control over Kosovo during the war “by means including unlawfully intimidating, mistreating, committing violence against, and removing those deemed to be opponents”.

The Kosovo Specialist Chambers was set up to try former KLA guerrillas for crimes allegedly committed during and just after the Kosovo war from 1998 to 2000.

They are part of Kosovo’s judicial system but located in the Netherlands and staffed by internationals.

The so-called ‘Special Court’ is widely resented by Kosovo Albanians, who see it as an attempt to tarnish the KLA’s war for liberation from Serbian rule.

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