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UNMIK Media Observer, Morning Edition, April 22, 2021

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• COVID-19: 506 new cases, five deaths (media)
• Majority of COVID-19 patients infected with British variant (BIRN)
• Immunisation before the recovery plan (Koha)
• Kurti will visit Brussels, but not to meet with Vucic (Koha)
• Kosovo, Serbia leaders won’t meet on visits to Brussels (BIRN)
• Hajdari on reciprocity measures: We will first exhaust CEFTA tools (Koha)
• German Foreign Minister to visit Kosovo today (media)
• Kurti: People of Kosovo and Israel share a historical tie (media)
• Lajcak speaks with OSCE Head of Mission in Kosovo (media)
• Agron Llugaliu appointed General Director of Kosovo Customs (media)
• Press Council, AJK criticise call for state regulation of online content (BIRN)

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  • COVID-19: 506 new cases, five deaths (media)
  • Majority of COVID-19 patients infected with British variant (BIRN)
  • Immunisation before the recovery plan (Koha)
  • Kurti will visit Brussels, but not to meet with Vucic (Koha)
  • Kosovo, Serbia leaders won’t meet on visits to Brussels (BIRN)
  • Hajdari on reciprocity measures: We will first exhaust CEFTA tools (Koha)
  • German Foreign Minister to visit Kosovo today (media)
  • Kurti: People of Kosovo and Israel share a historical tie (media)
  • Lajcak speaks with OSCE Head of Mission in Kosovo (media)
  • Agron Llugaliu appointed General Director of Kosovo Customs (media)
  • Press Council, AJK criticise call for state regulation of online content (BIRN)

COVID-19: 506 new cases, five deaths (media)

Kosovo has recorded 506 new COVID-19 infections and five deaths in the 24-hour period. 761 persons have meanwhile recovered during this period. There are currently 12,269 active cases of COVID-19 in Kosovo.

Majority of COVID-19 patients infected with British variant (BIRN)

The head of the Infectious Disease Clinic, Izet Sadiku, has stated that research shows most COVID-19 patients in Kosovo have been infected with the British variant of the novel coronavirus, which is spreading faster and leading to more severe symptoms.

Izet Sadiku, the acting director of the Infectious Disease Clinic in Prishtina, stated on Wednesday that the majority of COVID-19 patients in Kosovo have been infected with the so-called British variant of the novel coronavirus.

Sadiku told Telegrafi that the new variant of the SARS-COV-2 coronavirus, discovered in the United Kingdom in November last year and first recorded in Kosovo on January 29, was spreading faster, and having a greater impact on young people.

“Even here we are proving what has been proven elsewhere in the world that it spreads faster,” Sadiku said. The head of the clinic added that it was now common for entire families to become infected, which he said was not the case during previous spikes in coronavirus cases in 2020.

“We have many cases today when a family member says ‘we are all positive’ and this was not the situation in November, or July or August,” he said, adding that patients were also suffering more severe symptoms.

The Infectious Disease Clinic at the University Clinical Centre of Kosovo, UCCK, is currently full to capacity, housing 110 patients, 90 percent of whom are receiving oxygen therapy, according to Sadiku. The head of the clinic added that there is no shortage of supplies in terms of treatment for patients, other than a lack of Remdesivir, an antiviral medication.

According to Kosovo’s health service, there are currently 734 patients being treated in the country’s public hospitals, 611 of whom are confirmed as positive for coronavirus. At UCCK, there are 244 patients confirmed as infected, while in Kosovo’s seven regional hospitals, 367 patients have tested positive for the coronavirus, with the majority at the Hospitals of Peja (96), Gjilan (81) and Gjakova (77).

Despite the large numbers of hospitalised patients, the numbers are decreasing. Two weeks ago, on April 7, there were 757 patients across the public health system confirmed as positive for the coronavirus.

On Sunday, the Kosovo Government eased measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, reopening shopping centres, bars and restaurants after an 11-day shutdown.

“The public must understand that the Infectious Disease Clinic is the last clinic that will be free of patients,” Sadiku said. “We have three other UCCK clinics dealing with COVID and they all have patients, but the number of patients has started to fall.”

Immunisation before the recovery plan (Koha)

The daily reports in its leading front-page story that the Kosovo Government adopted three decisions from which will benefit businesses and employees that were affected by the latest anti COVID-19 measures, healthcare workers and police officers, as well citizens that benefit from social schemes. The total of the stimulus package amounts to around €20 million and government officials have implied that there will not be a recovery plan without the immunisation of the people first.

Kurti will visit Brussels, but not to meet with Vucic (Koha)

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti will visit Brussels next week, but this time not to meet with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic there, the paper reports on page three. In his first visit to Brussels as Prime Minister, Kurti will meet the leaders of the main institutions of the European Union. Unnamed sources in Brussels confirmed this to the paper and said they were not aware of any plans for a meeting between Kurti and Vucic there. Some media in Kosovo and Serbia have speculated about a potential meeting between the two leaders, but the paper’s correspondent in Brussels notes that Vucic will stay in Brussels early next week, while Kurti will be there in the second half of the week.

Kosovo, Serbia leaders won’t meet on visits to Brussels (BIRN)

Both Serbia’s President and Kosovo’s Prime Minister will go to Brussels shortly to meet EU officials – but the two leaders will not meet directly, it has been confirmed.

Serbia’s President, Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo’s Prime Minister, Albin Kurti, will meet EU officials in Brussels next week, but will not meet each other, it has been confirmed.

“Kurti will visit Brussels in the middle of next week, where he will meet with representatives of the European Union institutions. There will be no meeting between Prime Minister Kurti and Vucic,” Kurti’s office told Koha Ditore on Thursday.

Kosovo media on Wednesday reported that Vucic and Kurti would go to Brussels and that afterwards both would visit Paris on the invitation of French President Emmanuel Macron.

Vucic told media in Serbia on Saturday that he will go to Brussels twice. On his first visit, Vucic said he will talk to the EU Foreign Affairs and Security chief Josep Borrell, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi and the EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak.

“I do not expect any pressure, I expect a constructive conversation, important and constructive talks for Serbia,” Vucic said and added: “Sometime in May or in June I expect a continuation of the dialogue with Pristina.”

BIRN asked EU spokesperson Peter Stano bout Vucic’s and Kurti’s meetings in Brussels and a potential meeting between the two leaders, but he did not respond by time of publication.

During the visit to Kosovo and Serbia in March of the EU Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue, Lajcak, he told media that he expected a meeting between Vucic and Kurti “quickly enough”.

Kurti “told me that he was ready to come to Brussels to meet President Vucic, and President Vucic told me that he was ready to come whenever he was invited”, Lajcak told Radio Free Europe.

The last round of high-level dialogue in Brussels was in September 2020, with issues of missing and internally displaced persons as one of the topics. The last so-called technical level meeting was in December 2020.

Kosovo Prime Minister Kurti said in March that he had four principles for continuation of the dialogue with Belgrade: recognition of Kosovo’s independence, acknowledgement by Serbia of crimes committed during Kosovo war, equality of both sides and that citizens benefit from dialogue, not politicians.

The Head of the Serbian Government Office for Kosovo and Metohija, Petar Petkovic, said this statement meant Kurti “announced the end of the dialogue”.

Kosovo was an autonomous province of Serbia until NATO and the West forced Serbia to withdraw its forces in 1999. De facto semi-independent from then on, Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

Most Western countries, including the US, recognised it immediately. However, Russia, China, five EU countries and many others have not recognised it, preventing it from joining the UN.

Hajdari on reciprocity measures: We will first exhaust CEFTA tools (Koha)

Minister of Industry, Entrepreneurship and Trade, Rozeta Hajdari, spoke yesterday after the government meeting about the possibility of reintroducing reciprocity measures towards Serbia.

She said Kosovo authorities will first employ all available tools within the CEFTA agreement, including a unified approach in coordination with the international community. “We are analysing all the relations we have with neighbouring countries regarding the trade balance. We have many barriers, not only with Serbia, but other neighbouring countries too. We will first use CEFTA mechanisms,” Hajdari said.

German Foreign Minister to visit Kosovo today (media)

Most news websites report this morning that German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass will visit Kosovo today and meet with President Vjosa Osmani, Prime Minister Albin Kurti and Foreign Minister Donika Gervalla. The German embassy in Prishtina told Telegrafi that the meetings will focus on furthering bilateral relations, Kosovo’s approximation with the European Union and the dialogue for the normalisation of relations between Kosovo and Serbia.

Kurti: People of Kosovo and Israel share a historical tie (media)

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti said on Wednesday that he was pleased to speak at an online meeting of the US-Israel Chamber of Commerce. “Pleasure to speak at the America-Israel Chamber of Commerce’s event today, together with Kosovo’s Chargé d’affaires Ines Demiri. Our people share a historical tie, and we look forward to strengthening it in the present, especially through economic cooperation,” Kurti said in a Twitter post.

Lajcak speaks with OSCE Head of Mission in Kosovo (media)

European Union Special Representative for the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, Miroslav Lajcak, spoke on the phone on Wednesday with OSCE Head of Mission in Kosovo, Michael Davenport. Lajcak tweeted: “I am glad I had the chance to talk to Michael Davenport, the new Head of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo. The EU and OSCE have a history of successful and close cooperation. I am looking forward to continuing it in the future.”

Agron Llugaliu appointed General Director of Kosovo Customs (media)

Most news websites report that Prime Minister Albin Kurti appointed on Wednesday on Wednesday Agron Llugaliu as the General Director of Kosovo Customs. A press release issued by Kurti’s office notes that the appointment process was done in transparent and professional fashion and monitored by representatives of the British Embassy.

Press Council, AJK criticise call for state regulation of online content (BIRN)

Proposals to regulate ‘toxic’ online media content by law have drawn concern from the Press Council of Kosovo and the Association of Journalists of Kosovo, which have described the initiative as ‘harmful’.

The Press Council of Kosovo, PCK, and the Association of Journalists of Kosovo, AJK, voiced concern on Wednesday over the proposed regulation of online media content under the Law on the Independent Media Commission, IMC, describing it as a violation of “international rules of journalism.”

The IMC is an independent state body that regulates, manages, and oversees TV broadcasting in Kosovo but now it has said it wants video production on local websites added to its jurisdiction. Print media are already monitored by the PCK.

The PCK is a self-regulatory body formed by the print media in Kosovo, which is recognized by the Assembly of Kosovo through the Law on Defamation and Insult. Rulings that the PCK issues for parties and the media are “respected and valued by local courts in cases where they decide on defamation and insult.”

“Each of the media should be held accountable for their actions before state bodies, based on relevant laws, but initially no one can better assess their ethics than the media themselves, or professionals of the field,” the PCK and AJK said in a joint press release.

The reaction comes after the IMC head, Xhevat Latifi, said a new law on the IMC should include audio-visual content of websites within its auspices at a presentation of the IMC’s Annual Report for 2020 to the parliament’s Committee on Local Government, Regional Development and Media on Tuesday.

“We are witnessing a toxic state of media vocabulary in Kosovo,” Latifi said, justifying the initiative.

Later he told BIRN that the initiative was not his own and described it as an issue of public concern.

“I have stated that portals which deal with audio-visual production would best be included in the new law; not all portals, only these which deal with audio-visual parts. It is only a request. We are only testing public opinion, their concerns. I have presented it as a societal concern, we cannot say this is my opinion or the IMC’s position,” he said.

However, the Press Council and AJK consider the idea dangerous. “Initiatives to control and evaluate ethics for print and online media by a state organisation are harmful and do not help the media and journalists,” their press release said.

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