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UNMIK Media Observer, Morning Edition, April 8, 2021

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COVID-19: 714 new cases, 15 deaths (media)
Health Minister: UK variant of coronavirus dominating in Kosovo (Kallxo)
Finance Minister: We’ll support businesses on rents and salaries (media)
Human rights worsened in Central, Southeast Europe, in pandemic (BIRN)
Kurti and Osmani coordinated on dialogue with Serbia (Radio Free Europe)
Long list of officials that must justify their wealth (Koha Ditore)
LDK deputy leader: We didn’t help Vetevendosje, we helped institutions (media)
No visa liberalisation for Kosovo before 2022 elections in France (Zeri/dtt-net)
Justice Minister reacts to corruption scandal(media)
Schieb: 1999 bombing to stop genocide in Kosovo (media)
Kosovo war rape survivors’ painful road to recognition (BIRN)

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  • COVID-19: 714 new cases, 15 deaths (media)
  • Health Minister: UK variant of coronavirus dominating in Kosovo (Kallxo)
  • Finance Minister: We’ll support businesses on rents and salaries (media)
  • Human rights worsened in Central, Southeast Europe, in pandemic (BIRN)
  • Kurti and Osmani coordinated on dialogue with Serbia (Radio Free Europe)
  • Long list of officials that must justify their wealth (Koha Ditore)
  • LDK deputy leader: We didn’t help Vetevendosje, we helped institutions (media)
  • No visa liberalisation for Kosovo before 2022 elections in France (Zeri/dtt-net)
  • Justice Minister reacts to corruption scandal(media)
  • Schieb: 1999 bombing to stop genocide in Kosovo (media)
  • Kosovo war rape survivors’ painful road to recognition (BIRN)

COVID-19: 714 new cases, 15 deaths (media)

714 new cases of COVID-19 and 15 deaths from the virus were recorded in the last 24 hours in Kosovo. 788 persons have recovered from the virus during this time. There are 14,862 active cases of COVID-19 in Kosovo.

Several news websites report that people over 85 will start getting vaccines today.

RTK reports this morning that from a total of 15,000 medical staff in Kosovo, only 4,000 have been vaccinated so far.

Health Minister: UK variant of coronavirus dominating in Kosovo (Kallxo)

Kosovo’s Minister of Health Arben Vitia said on Wednesday that new restrictive measures against COVID-19 were introduced due to a very grave situation. In a joint press conference with Finance Minister Hekuran Murati, Vitia said that the UK variant of the virus is more dangerous, spreads faster and affects young people too.

“The new UK variant of the virus is dominating in Kosovo with over 95 percent. This was our main concern because this variant not only spreads faster but is also more aggressive and touches young people. One of the reasons why we decided to introduce the new measures was that now not only the elderly, but younger people too are at risk,” he said.

Vitia said that the new measures must be respected and that until all citizens are vaccinated, they are not safe from the pandemic. “We appeal to all citizens to respect the measures. The government is working hard to secure the vaccines as soon as possible. Not only the Ministry of Health, but the whole government, starting from Prime Minister Kurti and President Osmani, are working on this. What we have said before and has proven to be correct is that regardless of the vaccination, we need to respect the basic measures, masks, distance and hygiene. We have over 900 suspected patients and over 700 patients on oxygen therapy and some of them are in bad condition,” he said.

Finance Minister: We’ll support businesses on rents and salaries (media)

Kosovo’s Minister of Finance Hekuran Murati told a press conference on Wednesday that following the new restrictive measures against COVID-19, the Kosovo government will come to the aid of businesses affected by the measures, by supporting them in fixed expenditures such as rents and salaries of workers.

Murati said the economic recovery package will be drafted after the emergency situation is over and that it will include more sectors of the economy. “Our primary goal is to save people’s lives. In a difficult financial situation, it is not easy to have additional expenditures, but given the economic situation we are ready to stand behind the government’s decisions. We have done the impossible to protect the economic health too. We need to reach a balance between the economy and having fewer cases of infections. As far as measures for businesses are concerned, we met representatives of sectors and we assured them we will come to their aid. We will announce the concrete assistance in the coming days. We will support them with their rents and salaries of workers. We need to protect the economic health and jobs,” he said.

Human rights worsened in Central, Southeast Europe, in pandemic (BIRN)

The latest report from the international rights watchdog says governments in the region used the pandemic to tighten controls over justice systems, curtail freedoms and further discriminate against marginalised communities.

The COVID-19 pandemic saw an increase in state control over the judiciary and media and further endangered minorities that already suffer from discrimination in Central and Southeast Europe, rights watchdog Amnesty International said in its annual report published on Monday.

Amnesty Secretary General Agnes Callamard said in a press release: “COVID-19 has brutally exposed and deepened inequality both within and between countries, and highlighted the staggering disregard our leaders have for our shared humanity.”

The report, “The State of the World’s Human Rights”, which covers 149 countries, says governments “took insufficient measures to protect journalists and whistle-blowers, including health workers, at times targeting those who criticized government responses to COVID-19”.

This occurred in multiple countries, among them Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hungary, Kosovo, Poland, Serbia and Turkey.

Governments in countries such as Bosnia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia and Turkey also “misused existing and new legislation to curtail freedom of expression”.

Most Central European and SEE countries struggled with media freedom, and investigative journalists in Kosovo, including those from BIRN, faced threats, slurs and attacks, the report recalled.

“In June, the former Minister of European Integration opened a defamation suit against Jeta Xharra, director of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, KALLXO.com and Prishtina Insight. In July, Xharra was threatened by another former minister, and in September, former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj called journalists ‘mercenaries’,” the report noted.

In North Macedonia, “employers failed to implement COVID-19- related measures to assist working parents, disproportionately affecting women, some of whom had their wages unlawfully reduced if they took time off”.

Read full article at: https://bit.ly/3cZNrl0

Kurti and Osmani coordinated on dialogue with Serbia (Radio Free Europe)

A spokesperson for the Kosovo Government told the news website on Wednesday that Prime Minister Albin Kurti will lead the dialogue with Serbia while advising with President Vjosa Osmani. “The Prime Minister will certainly do this in advice and coordination with the President and by building national and state consensus on the dialogue. The Prime Minister has said on several occasions that he will seek consensus and debate with the opposition on capital issues for the country and the dialogue with Serbia is one of the main issues that require consensus,” the spokesperson said.

Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani met on Wednesday with Prime Minister Albin Kurti and several ministers to discuss the need for creating joint coordinating mechanisms in foreign policy.

“President Osmani and Prime Minister Kurti agreed to have regular institutional coordination between the key institutions of the Republic of Kosovo in implementing joint objectives related to strengthening international subjectivity and national security,” said a press release issued by Osmani’s office after the meeting.

Long list of officials that must justify their wealth (Koha Ditore)

The paper reports in its leading front-page story this morning that the new Kosovo Assembly plans to adopt this year a law which enables the confiscation of any unjustifiable asset of officials amounting over €5,000 without a guilty verdict from courts. The anti-mafia law, as it is known in the public, will reportedly not apply to ordinary citizens of Kosovo. According to the paper, the Ministry of Justice has already submitted the draft law for approval to the government. The paper claims to have secured a copy of the document. which includes three options for addressing the problem. The document lists two categories of persons to whom confiscation will be applied. The first category lists senior public officials and their family members. The document initially includes top officials of the three main institutions: The President’s Office, the Assembly, and the Government. The document also includes general secretaries, chief executive officers, board members and department directors, judges, prosecutors, as well as senior officials of Kosovo’s Tax Administration, Customs, Police, Kosovo Intelligence Agency, and Kosovo Security Force. Ambassadors and officials with diplomatic positions, as well as heads of universities, are also included in this document.

LDK deputy leader: We didn’t help Vetevendosje, we helped institutions (media)

Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) deputy leader Shqipe Mjekiqi-Sadiku said on Wednesday that if LDK MPs would not have taken part in the Assembly session that voted on the new Kosovo President, Kosovo would go to new elections again.

“We didn’t help Vetevendosje, we helped the institutions. If the LDK did not take part in the session, the country would go to elections. Our possibilities were limited, because we were not the winning party. The winning party proposed the candidate for President. We did what was good for the state of Kosovo and that was to avoid new elections. We were not in favor of having close relations with Vetevendosje, but we did help. We were not in a position to present another candidate,” she said.

Mjekiqi-Sadiku also said that Vjosa Osmani must have a unifying role as President of Kosovo. “I think Osmani needs to play a unifying role between the parties. In our meetings with Osmani we asked her to assure us that she will have a unifying role and for us to take part in the voting process and avoid elections. Our position was against new elections. Elections determine the winner,” she added.

No visa liberalisation for Kosovo before 2022 elections in France (Zeri/dtt-net)

Citing diplomatic sources in Brussels, dtt-net.com reports that Paris will not give its consent for visa liberalisation for Kosovo nor to accession negotiations with Albania before the April 2022 presidential elections in France. “French diplomats are telling us privately that the EU visa regime for Kosovo cannot be lifted before the elections in France, nor can membership negotiations be opened for Albania,” an unnamed diplomat in Brussels told dtt-net.com.

Justice Minister reacts to corruption scandal (media)

Kosovo’s Minister of Justice Albulena Haxhiu took to Facebook on Wednesday to react after a media investigation was aired on RTV Dukagjini revealing that €5,000 were given in a corruption affair to close a case in the prosecution. “The investigation, which is being aired on RTV Dukagjini, in addition to being a major scandal it unfortunately also reveals major deals in the justice system. Tonight, we were able to see in public what is happening in the justice system where money is given to escape justice. We might not be aware of many other cases. What we saw tonight is great evidence that vetting in the judiciary is key to restore the trust of the people in judicial institutions. We will very soon start working on this,” Haxhiu wrote.

Schieb: 1999 bombing to stop genocide in Kosovo (media)

German Ambassador to Serbia, Thomas Schieb, said in an interview with the Radio Television of Vojvodina on Wednesday that the air raids over Yugoslavia in 1999 were needed to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe and genocide in Kosovo.

“I am aware that this is a disputed issue and that there was no decision by the United Nations Security Council (for military action). But a decision was needed to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe and to avoid the genocide,” he said.

Schieb also said that the air raids were very difficult for Serbia but that it must not be forgotten that they were not accidental. “The problem was to find a solution for Kosovo after all diplomatic means were exhausted,” he added.

Kosovo war rape survivors’ painful road to recognition (BIRN)

Over 220 women who applied to a Kosovo government committee to verify victims of wartime sexual violence have been rejected, showing how difficult it can be to establish facts about assaults that happened more than 20 years ago during the war.

As thousands of Kosovo Albanians who had been displaced from their homes by the war walked from one village to another on the outskirts of the town of Drenas/Glogovac, seeking a safe refuge, Sadije was worrying about her youngest son, who was six months old and who had been ill several days beforehand.

Sadije recalled that it was a sunny afternoon on April 30, 1999 when the column of displaced Kosovars was intercepted by Yugoslav Army troops a few kilometres further along the road to the town of Skenderaj/Srbica.

After they were forced to spend the night by the roadside, Serbian policemen and soldiers then separated the men from the women, and forced the women into two houses.

In the evening, they took some of the women away and raped them in other buildings nearby, said Sadije, whose name has been changed because she asked to remain anonymous.

“There were 11 or 12 other women in the two houses, but I did not recognise them,” she said. The fact that she did not know the other female victims’ names turned out to be crucial many years later when she was trying to prove what happened to her.

Read full article at: https://bit.ly/3ux23hQ

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