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UNMIK Media Observer, Morning Edition, April 19, 2021

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• COVID-19: 521 new cases, 8 deaths (media)
• Government announces new measures against COVID-19 (media)
• Health Minister Vitia meets PDK MP Haxhiu (media)
• Additional uncertainties in the Kosovo – Serbia dialogue (Koha Ditore)
• Croatian President slams idea of border changes in the Balkans (media)
• Russian Foreign Minister reacts to Slovenian non-paper (media)
• Kosovo civil society criticise monastery’s inclusion on endangered list (BIRN)
• Kosovo authorities “withdraw from investigations against Insajderi” (RFE)
• Confiscation of unjustifiable wealth; EU calls for respect of human rights (Koha)

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  • COVID-19: 521 new cases, 8 deaths (media)
  • Government announces new measures against COVID-19 (media)
  • Health Minister Vitia meets PDK MP Haxhiu (media)
  • Additional uncertainties in the Kosovo – Serbia dialogue (Koha Ditore)
  • Croatian President slams idea of border changes in the Balkans (media)
  • Russian Foreign Minister reacts to Slovenian non-paper (media)
  • Kosovo civil society criticise monastery’s inclusion on endangered list (BIRN)
  • Kosovo authorities “withdraw from investigations against Insajderi” (RFE)
  • Confiscation of unjustifiable wealth; EU calls for respect of human rights (Koha)

COVID-19: 521 new cases, 8 deaths (media)

521 new cases of COVID-19 and eight deaths from the virus were recorded in the last 24 hours in Kosovo. 730 persons have recovered from the virus during this time. There are 13,348 active cases of COVID-19 in Kosovo.

Several news websites reported on Sunday afternoon that so far over 16,000 citizens of Kosovo have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Government announces new measures against COVID-19 (media)

The Kosovo Government announced on Sunday new measures aimed at preventing the further spread of COVID-19. According to the new measures, trade centers, eateries and bars will be able to resume their activities and the movement of citizens will be restricted from 22:30 to 05:00.

Health Minister Vitia meets PDK MP Haxhiu (media)

Most news websites reported on Sunday that Kosovo’s Health Minister Arben Vitia met with Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) MP Bekim Haxhiu to discuss securing doses of vaccines against COVID-19. Haxhiu took to Facebook after the meeting saying that the meeting focused on securing vaccines from Pfizer and that he gave Minister Vitia the contacts he had with the company which offered 500,000 to 3 million doses of vaccines. He also said that “regardless of whether we are in opposition or in the government, in this situation, we all need to work together for the good of the people of Kosovo”.

Additional uncertainties in the Kosovo – Serbia dialogue (Koha Ditore)

The paper reports in its leading front-page story that renewed discussions about border changes in the Balkans following the appearance of a Slovenian non-paper are seen as detrimental at a time when Kosovo and Serbia are expected to resume negotiations for a final settlement. There have been reports in Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina that Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansha, several months before taking over presidency over the European Union, sent a letter to European Council President Charles Michel arguing in favor of border changes in the Balkans. The non-paper also includes Kosovo’s partition.

The Kosovo Government meanwhile said it can comment on unconfirmed or unofficial documents. The paper recalls that Prime Minister Albin Kurti has said on several occasions that the project for border changes has failed but that the idea has not died.

Croatian President slams idea of border changes in the Balkans (media)

Croatian President Zoran Milanovic said on Saturday that border changes in the Balkans is a dangerous idea that should not be included even in a non-paper. “I don’t know if the idea is coming from Jansha [Slovenian Prime Minister] or not, but I would advise them to keep their hands off Bosnia and Herzegovina,” he said. Milanovic also said he does not believe that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic would agree with Kosovo uniting with Albania, one of the ideas mentioned in the alleged non-paper.

Russian Foreign Minister reacts to Slovenian non-paper (media)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a press conference on Friday that statements by Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansha about the breakup of the former Yugoslavia not being over, and that ideas for a Greater Albania are unacceptable and harmful provocations.

Lavrov said: “This is a very dangerous game. The UNSC Resolution 1244 is in force and has never been repealed. Responsible politicians, especially leaders of governments in European countries, have no right to present ideas that undermine the concept set out by Resolution 1244.”

Kosovo civil society criticise monastery’s inclusion on endangered list (BIRN)

Forty Kosovo CSOs have expressed discontent with moves to add a medieval orthodox Monastery to a list of endangered sites in Europe.

Kosovo NGO have criticised the decision of Europa Nostra, which specialises in the protection of cultural heritage, to shortlist a 14-century Serbian Orthodox monastery in western Kosovo on its list of the most endangered sites in Europe.

The NGOs claim the inclusion is based on”false and unverified data”.

Europa Nostra noted that the monastery at Decani is “the only monument in Europe under such robust international military protection for a continuous period of 20 years”, citing the protection supplied by the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo, KFOR.

But the Kosovo CSOs disagree. “The data presented in the nomination file are mainly extracted from Serbian institutions’ reports, which for political purposes have been already proven to falsely present the reality of Kosovo,” they said in a joint letter.

“The published document states that the Decani Monastery was the target of ‘an ISIS attempt in 2016’ which in fact refers to an incident with graffiti written on a peripheral wall in support of ISIS but, however, the perpetrators have never been identified,” the letter added.

“We invite Europa Nostra to visit Kosovo and meet all stakeholders in order to verify all data in accordance with the criteria of the ‘7 Most Endangered Heritage Sites in Europe’ program. This will make Europa Nostra’s work reliable and trustworthy to everyone. Until this is accomplished, we, as civil society organizations, are worried about the negative consequences of the Europa Nostra decision, which has the potential to jeopardize the process of building mutual confidence between Kosovo’s communities,” the letter reads.

The news was also heavily criticised by Kosovo leaders last week. President Vjosa Osmani and Prime Minister Albin Kurti condemned the proposal, labelling it politically motivated.

In their joint letter, dated March 18, Kurti and Osmani insisted that Serbian Orthodox Church sites in Kosovo enjoy “all constitutional, legal and institutional guarantees that ensure full respect of their rights” under Kosovo’s laws and constitution, and have done since the country declared its independence from Serbia in February 2008.

They added: “Let us inform you that the Serbian Orthodox Church … enjoys the rights… but refuses to recognise the state of Kosovo, which is a precondition to enjoying those rights.”

Kosovo authorities “withdraw from investigations against Insajderi” (RFE)

Vehbi Kajtazi, editor in chief of Insajderi news website, told Radio Free Europe on Saturday that Kosovo authorities have withdrawn from investigations against this media about an article which said that Health Minister Arben Vitia refused to sign a contract with the U.S. company Pfizer to secure vaccines against the coronavirus. The article, which was published on April 16, noted that “the supply with 500,000 doses of Pfizer vaccines is expected to be postponed to September”.

“The prosecution withdrew after Parim Olluri, the director of Insajderi, together with his lawyer, went to the police station and asked to see the decision for investigations, which they were not given and were told ‘we have nothing to do with you’. They gave the police a copy of the law on the protection of sources and that was it,” Kajtazi said.

Kosovo Police said in a Facebook post that it has taken legal action in this case. “Police, in this case the police officers, have not questioned and have not launched investigations against citizen that practices the profession of a journalist. Following an order from the prosecutor, they have only questioned persons or officials that possessed the confidential information. Whereas the representatives of the media were invited only for information according to the instructions from the prosecutor,” the police said.

Confiscation of unjustifiable wealth; EU calls for respect of human rights (Koha)

The paper reports on page four that the European Union is opposing the way in which the Kurti-led government has decided to establish the mechanism for confiscating unjustifiable wealth. The EU Office in Prishtina said last year that the process should not be in the hands of an independent agency but rather be carried out by judicial institutions and prosecutors. The EU also does not agree for citizens to be subject to investigations about their wealth. Lately, the EU has called on the government that the legislation in this process must be in line with the Constitution of Kosovo and basic human rights.

Kosovo Police stop seven Serbian nationals in Vushtrri (media)

Most news websites reported on Sunday that Kosovo Police stopped seven Serbian nationals in the city of Vushtrri after they were seen taking pictures of the city’s castle. They were escorted to the police station for information and were later released.

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