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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, April 23, 2021

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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, April 23, 2021

Albanian Language Media:

• COVID-19: 356 new cases, eight deaths (media)
• PM Kurti meets North Macedonian FM Osmani (media)
• Osmani: We reject ideas that affect our borders (media)
• Kosovo FM Gervalla against redrawing of Balkans borders (media)
• North Macedonia’s FM pledges support to Kosovo (media)
• Austria opposes border changes (Koha)
• Szunyog commends minister for publishing list of recovery aid recipients (media)
• Ministry launches disciplinary procedures against correctional service chief (media)

Serbian Language Media:

• Vucic travels to Brussels on Sunday (Kosovo-online)
• Vucic: Pristina will have to respect Brussels agreement (Kosovo-online)
• Maas: The right time to continue the dialogue; no need to reset (media)
• Mojsilovic: Construction of the base in northern Kosovo causes concern, we monitor the situation (Danas, Beta, Politika)
• Selakovic and Petkovic: Scandalous political audacity of Vjosa Osmani (RTS)
• Selakovic with Maas: Germany one of the most important Serbian economic partners (Kosovo-online)
• Vucic says Belgrade not interested in creating Greater Serbia (N1)
• Commemoration for 16 killed during 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia’s state TV (Beta, N1)
• Rakocevic: KFOR must open its eyes; lies being told nowadays only encourage extremists (Kosovo-online)
• Bishop Irinej writes to Blinken about violence against Serbs in Kosovo (Radio KIM)

Opinion:

• Organic networking: a Balkan awakening (KoSSev)
• A ‘Greying’ Western Balkans Must Look to Robots (Balkan Insight)

International:

• German diplomat says time is right for Serbia-Kosovo talks (AP)
• Germany rejects idea of redrawing Western Balkans borders – minister (Reuters)
• Serbian Leader Talks Up Ties To Biden, Says ‘No Interest’ In ‘Greater Serbia’ (RFE)
• Disputed memo on partitioning Bosnia sparks fears of violence (Al Jazeera)
• Serbian Court Tries Kosovo Albanian for Wartime Killings (Balkan Insight)
• Vučić: Serbia wants stronger relations with Bosniaks and Croats in Bosnia (euractive.com)
• Suspicions Persist About NATO’s Deadly Bombing of Serbian TV (Balkan Insight)

Humanitarian/Development:

• We want to breathe (EWB)

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Albanian Language Media:

  • COVID-19: 356 new cases, eight deaths (media)
  • PM Kurti meets North Macedonian FM Osmani (media)
  • Osmani: We reject ideas that affect our borders (media)
  • Kosovo FM Gervalla against redrawing of Balkans borders (media)
  • North Macedonia’s FM pledges support to Kosovo (media)
  • Austria opposes border changes (Koha)
  • Szunyog commends minister for publishing list of recovery aid recipients (media)
  • Ministry launches disciplinary procedures against correctional service chief (media)

Serbian Language Media:

  • Vucic travels to Brussels on Sunday (Kosovo-online)
  • Vucic: Pristina will have to respect Brussels agreement (Kosovo-online)
  • Maas: The right time to continue the dialogue; no need to reset (media)
  • Mojsilovic: Construction of the base in northern Kosovo causes concern, we monitor the situation (Danas, Beta, Politika)
  • Selakovic and Petkovic: Scandalous political audacity of Vjosa Osmani (RTS)
  • Selakovic with Maas: Germany one of the most important Serbian economic partners (Kosovo-online)
  • Vucic says Belgrade not interested in creating Greater Serbia (N1)
  • Commemoration for 16 killed during 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia’s state TV (Beta, N1)
  • Rakocevic: KFOR must open its eyes; lies being told nowadays only encourage extremists (Kosovo-online)
  • Bishop Irinej writes to Blinken about violence against Serbs in Kosovo (Radio KIM)

Opinion:

  • Organic networking: a Balkan awakening (KoSSev)
  • A ‘Greying’ Western Balkans Must Look to Robots (Balkan Insight)

International:

  • German diplomat says time is right for Serbia-Kosovo talks (AP)
  • Germany rejects idea of redrawing Western Balkans borders – minister (Reuters)
  • Serbian Leader Talks Up Ties To Biden, Says ‘No Interest’ In ‘Greater Serbia’ (RFE)
  • Disputed memo on partitioning Bosnia sparks fears of violence (Al Jazeera)
  • Serbian Court Tries Kosovo Albanian for Wartime Killings (Balkan Insight)
  • Vučić: Serbia wants stronger relations with Bosniaks and Croats in Bosnia (euractive.com)
  • Suspicions Persist About NATO’s Deadly Bombing of Serbian TV (Balkan Insight)

Humanitarian/Development:

  • We want to breathe (EWB)

 

 

Albanian Language Media  

 

COVID-19: 356 new cases, eight deaths (media)

Kosovo’s Institute for Public Health has recorded 356 new COVID-19 infections and eight deaths in the 24-hour period. 

680 persons have meanwhile recovered during this period.

PM Kurti meets North Macedonian FM Osmani (media)

Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti met today Foreign Minister of North Macedonia Bujar Osmani and the two are reported to have discussed ways to increase coordination and concrete actions between the two governments. They also agreed on steps towards organising a joint meeting of the two governments where a number of agreements is expected to be signed.

According to a press release issued by Kosovo PM’s Office, the two officials assessed that relations between Kosovo and North Macedonia are a model of good neighbourhood. 

Osmani: We reject ideas that affect our borders (media)

Kosovo’s President Vjosa Osmani said that Kosovo rejects border changes scenarios. 

“We do not accept ideas that affect our borders and make Kosovo non-functional,” Osmani said after meeting Foreign Minister of North Macedonia Bujar Osmani.

President Osmani also said that relations between Kosovo and North Macedonia were excellent. 

Kosovo FM Gervalla against redrawing of Balkans borders (media)

Kosovo’s Foreign Minister Donika Gervalla said today that the mere mentioning of ideas that suggest border changes in the Western Balkans region are very dangerous.

“In 2018 we saw tendencies for finding a solution through land swap, partition of the country along ethnic lines. For us this is very clear that what is suggested in those papers, regardless of who the authors may be and whether they were intended to be simply theses to discuss or even implement, is not an option. Our position is very clear in that we consider this to be dangerous and that all parties would have to be very cautious in this as it could draw them into new conflicts which for our region are entirely unnecessary,” Gervalla remarked after meeting North Macedonian Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani in Pristina today. 

Speaking about Kosovo relations with North Macedonia, Gervalla said they should serve as a model for the region. “The Republic of Kosovo and that of North Macedonia share common political and economic interests for stability, sustainability and prosperity of our region Strengthening of bilateral relations and good neighbourhood is our commitment to which there is no alternative.”

North Macedonia’s FM pledges support to Kosovo (media)

Foreign Minister of North Macedonia Bujar Osmani is visiting Kosovo today and met Foreign Minister Donika Gervalla, President Vjosa Osmani, and Prime Minister Albin Kurti.

Osmani said North Macedonia would support Kosovo in its European path and that it supports its aspiration to join NATO. He also opposed redrawing of borders ideas saying that the Ohrid Agreement, independence of Kosovo, and the region’s Euro-Atlantic perspective have proven to be successful models.

Osmani also said that North Macedonia supports dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia with mutual recognition being its end-goal. 

Austria opposes border changes (Koha)

Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said an agreement between Kosovo and Serbia is necessary to enable the countries to become part of the EU while noting that independence of Kosovo should be recognised by the whole international community.

Speaking to Koha, the Austrian chief of diplomacy opposed the idea of border changes saying that Austria is committed to inviolability of borders across Europe: “Above all, we need to work on further integration of Europe so that the importance of borders becomes a secondary issue. This should also be the basis of the future for the Western Balkans.”

“European Union has repeatedly stressed that a precondition for EU membership is resolution of all open issues between Kosovo and Serbia and the achievement of a comprehensive and legally binding agreement. Such an agreement between Kosovo and Serbia is not only of special importance for these two countries but also for the stability and future of the entire Western Balkans region,” Schallenberg said. 

Schallenberg said he was assured by his Kosovo counterpart Donika Gervalla-Schwarz that Kosovo would be constructively engaged in the dialogue with Serbia and that Austria fully supports the EU facilitator Miroslav Lajcak in the process. “It is also very encouraging to see that the American administration is committed to supporting the EU-facilitated dialogue, whose successful conclusion is a precondition for EU accession.”

The Austrian diplomat also expressed his country’s support for visa liberalisation for Kosovo saying he understood the frustration of the citizens on the issue. “While there is still hesitancy on the part of some EU member states, my request to Kosovo is to try harder to prove them wrong,” Schallenberg suggested.

Szunyog commends minister for publishing list of recovery aid recipients (media)

Head of the EU Office Tomas Szunyog commended the Minister of Finance Hekuran Murati for publishing on the ministry’s website the list of fifty largest recipients of the economic recovery package executed by the previous Government of Kosovo in October 2020.

“I support @HekuranMurati decision to publish the list of 50 largest beneficiaries from Kosovo public funds. A positive step towards transparency and accountability. This is a condition EU agreed with Kosovo when €100 million Macro Financial Assistance loan agreement was signed,” Szunyog wrote on Twitter and added that support measures need to be well-targeted, well-designed and transparent. 

The Ministry of Finance said the publication of the list is done in the spirit of transparency and in implementation of the international financial agreement with the European Union ratified by the Assembly of Kosovo.

Ministry launches disciplinary procedures against correctional service chief (media)

Kosovo’s Minister of Justice, Albulena Haxhiu, announced the launching of disciplinary procedures for the dismissal of the Kosovo  Correctional Service chief Nehat Thaci on the grounds of unlawful contracts, transfers, and recruitments. 

“Few days ago we received information of violations inside the Kosovo’s Correctional Service. Unlawful contracts were signed and transfers made. We will proceed today with taking measures against the director of the Correctional Service,” Haxhiu said at a press conference today.

Haxhiu explained that Thaci’s dismissal would have to be made by the State Council for Assessment and Discipline but that she will make the request. 

Meanwhile Deputy Minister Blerim Sallahu said that the contract in question involves the right to use municipality-owned land in Vushtrri and was signed by former Minister Selim Selimi and a private company owned by Thaci.

Thaci has rejected allegations against him saying they are politically motivated.

 

 

Serbian Language Media

 

Vucic travels to Brussels on Sunday (Kosovo-online)

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said today he would travel to Brussels on Sunday, April 25 and meet European Union officials, Kosovo-online portal reports. He also said he hopes the dialogue with Pristina would continue in May.

Speaking on the meetings with the EU officials, Vucic said he would meet the President of the European Council Charles Michel, High Representative Josep Borrell, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen.

Vucic would also meet EU Special Envoy for Belgrade-Pristina talks Miroslav Lajcak, EU Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi, representatives of the European Parliament and other institutions based in Brussels.

“Those would be hard days for us, but I believe they are important for Serbia”, Vucic said.

Vucic also said he expects continuation of the dialogue with Pristina in Brussels in May. After that, he added, he expects, also in Brussels, a meeting of an entire Western Balkans.

“We will go to Brussels many times in the next three to four weeks”, he said.

According to Vucic it will not be simple and easy on all issues, especially in the dialogue.

“It is important that we show determination, fight for solution, not enter the dialogue for the sake of fulfilling formal conditions, but not to leave the burden to our children”, Vucic stressed. 

He also noted “it takes two to tango”, adding success doesn’t depend upon Serbia only.

Vucic: Pristina will have to respect Brussels agreement (Kosovo-online)

Brussels agreement for Serbia is something that must be respected, and we shall insist that Pristina fulfills the only obligation it has, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said, Kosovo-online portal reports.

“If we could fulfill all our obligations, Pristina would also have to fulfill the only one it has”, Vucic said in a joint press conference with German Foreign Affairs Minister Heiko Maas.

This way he also commented on the statement of the Kosovo President Vjosa Osamni, who said earlier the negotiations should be re-set and Pristina will not implement anything agreed so far, the portal reported.

“For Serbia, the dialogue with Pristina is not a wishlist, but rather serious talks to reach a compromise in a serious manner. What we have signed with the Brussels agreement in 2013 is something that must be respected and Serbia will insist on that”, he added.

Vucic also said Serbia and Germany have different stances on the issue of Kosovo independence, adding Serbia wants in a serious manner to talk about the future of an entire region and reach a compromise, at the same time protecting its state and national interests.

Maas: The right time to continue the dialogue; no need to reset (media)

After the meeting between the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, and the German Minister of Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas, a press conference was held. Vucic pointed out that Belgrade is ready to continue the dialogue and that it will approach it constructively, in the desire to reach a compromise solution. Mass emphasized that Germany will be a reliable partner for Serbia to join the EU faster.

Minister Heiko Maas stated that the dialogue on Kosovo already exists and that it does not have to be reset, and that now is the right time to continue.

“We would happily be ready and willing to participate and contribute to that. Dialogue already exists and does not have to be reset. Certainly, the governments of both countries will dedicate themselves and confirm everything that has been agreed so far and develop their attitudes and positions, since this conflict exists. Therefore, it should not be started from the beginning and everything that has been the subject of negotiations in the past should now be used in order to achieve results now,” Maas said

He answered the question of the journalists to comment on the statement of the president in Pristina , Vjosa Osmani, that the negotiations with Belgrade should be reset, start from the beginning and that Pristina will not be applying anything agreed so far, as well to the question whether the Brussels agreement will be fulfilled or not.

Maas said that was the topic of his talks in Pristina and now in Belgrade, primarily because we are in a situation where “both countries have held elections and governments have been formed with a stable parliamentary majority.”

“This is the right moment to continue the dialogue on normalization and to achieve results,” Maas emphasized.

He said that Miroslav Lajcak enjoys his full trust, as well as the support of the German government.

Maas pointed out that he said in both Pristina and Belgrade that it is important now that this dialogue is not conducted for the sake of dialogue, but to achieve results, and said that both sides in the dialogue must give their contribution.

German Foreign Minister pointed out that he knows the process of normalization of relations with Pristina is not easy, but he believes that it will also contribute to the development of the economy.

That is why, as he says, Germany supports this process, the EU and Miroslav Lajcak, who mediate the dialogue.

“Serbia and the countries in its vicinity have such economic potential and richness of culture, and those are the resources that should be used for the benefit of the people in the region, but also the EU,” Maas said.

He reminded that each country in the Western Balkans determines the speed of accession, and added that this requires a reform effort at the national level, primarily in major areas such as the rule of law and the fight against corruption

Mas pointed out that what he heard from the President of Serbia in that regard was moving in the right direction and emphasized that the results were important.

He emphasized that he gained the impression during the talks in Belgrade that the Serbian authorities are fully aware of that.

According to him, Germany will give its contribution to increasing the speed in that

“Be assured that we will be your reliable partner,” Maas said.

He recalled that a visit to Belgrade was planned for almost a year, but due to the pandemic and the constant growth in the number of newly infected, it had to be postponed. Now, he adds, is a good time to visit.

He said that it is also the moment when you can see how successful Serbia is in implementing the vaccination of the population.

“This is being closely monitored in the EU as well. The more successful we are in vaccination, the easier it will be to return to normal life. Since Minister Nikola Selakovic’s recent visit to Berlin, we have been able to admire your vaccination remotely. Meanwhile, Germany and the EU have narrowed this gap and now every fifth citizen has been vaccinated,” Maas explained.

He said that there will be more and more vaccines in the next period, and that this enabled the EU to deliver vaccines to the Western Balkans as well; that is 651,000 vaccines.

“It is high time that we succeeded in that. I think that is a turning point in the joint fight against this virus,” Maas emphasized.

He pointed out that behind that delivery is the EU’s knowledge that it can overcome this crisis only if its neighbors are safe.

“This also applies to overcoming the economic and social consequences. The EU has prepared, in this regard, a package of assistance for the region in the amount of 12 billion euros. However, it is important that these funds are used to the maximum, that there is a favorable environment for investment that all obstacles are removed, so that we can work effectively on economic empowerment in both Serbia and the EU,” Maas explained.

He pointed out that after the meeting, he would ceremoniously open the German embassy in Belgrade, saying that the facility is in the heart of the city.

“The new facility is a visible sign that Germany is strategically investing in relations with Serbia. It is more than an expression of the ever-deeper friendship that has developed in previous years,” Maas pointed out.

Mojsilovic: Construction of the base in northern Kosovo causes concern, we monitor the situation (Danas, Beta, Politika)

General Staff Chief of the Serbian Armed Forces, Milan Mojsilovic told Belgrade based daily Politika  that ”the plans of the so-called Kosovo Security Force to build a base on Crnusa Hill rightly cause concern for the Serbian population” and that ”the Serbian Army and Serbian security services are monitoring the situation on the ground”.

”Unilateral measures and activities of provisional institutions of self-government in Pristina do not contribute to security in the territory of Kosovo and Metohija, and especially in the north of the province where Serbs are the majority population,” Mojsilovic told the daily. 

He added that ”the presence of persons armed with ‘long guns’ and heavy equipment in the north without the consent of KFOR and Serb representatives is inadmissible”.

He also said that the Armed Forces ” closely cooperate with KFOR, which, in accordance with Resolution 1244 (UN Security Council) and signed agreements, recognizes the Armed Forces as the only partner in securing the administrative line and a guarantor of security for the Serbian population in Kosovo and Metohija, as well as in the protection of our national, cultural-historical and religious heritage”.

”Cooperation between the Armed Forces and KFOR is of key importance for the security of the Serbian population in Kosovo and Metohija and a safe and secure environment, both in the province and in the grip of the administrative line,” Mojsilovic said.

Selakovic and Petkovic: Scandalous political audacity of Vjosa Osmani (RTS)

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Serbia Nikola Selakovic warned that the statements and behavior of Vjosa Osmani that the Brussels Agreement would be reconsidered were scandalous, and added that it represented political audacity, that showed that Pristina essentially did not want a dialogue. The director of the office for Kosovo and Metohija Petar Petkovic emphasized that all agreements reached within the Brussels dialogue must be implemented, and that any revision was inadmissible, reported Radio Television of Serbia (RTS). 

Minister Selakovic said that “the messages of Pristina’s representatives that they will reconsider the Brussels agreement in order to ‘reset’ the dialogue with Belgrade are unprecedented political audacity, and demand an urgent and sharp reaction from all those who want lasting stability and peace in the Western Balkans”.

In a statement, Selakovic emphasized that a message from yesterday by Vjosa Osmani were a euphemism for blocking the dialogue, because the results of the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina were not, as he said, “a buffet from which one can choose what will be applied and what will not”.

He stated that Albin Kurti’s pre-election messages that the dialogue with Belgrade will be low on the list of priorities were coming true. That, he said, was definitely confirmed yesterday, which actually meant that Kurti was not interested in dialogue or compromise at all.

He warned that Pristina for years, more precisely for eight years, refused to implement its only real and essential obligation from the Brussels Agreement, and that was the formation of the Community of Serbian Municipalities.

The minister also said that he expected the international community, especially the countries that openly and intensively support Pristina, to curb and discipline them in the interest of stability and peace in the region, reported RTS. 

Petkovic: Any revision is inadmissible

Petar Petkovic, director of the office for Kosovo and Metohija, pointed out that all agreements reached within the Brussels dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina must be implemented in order for any meaningful continuation of the talks to be possible.

“Every time Pristina constitutes a new composition of temporary institutions of self-government, it threatens to reconsider and annul the agreement from Brussels, and it is clear that someone who acts from such positions does not sincerely care about an agreed solution to the problem,” Petkovic said in a statement.

He assessed that Vjosa Osmani could study and review the agreements reached within the Brussels dialogue only as a material for the implementation of the agreement, and that any revision of what was created as a result of hard work was not admissible.

“I expect that this kind of political audacity and attempt to avoid the assumed obligations will not be viewed favorably in Brussels or in other European capitals,” stated the director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija.

He stressed that Belgrade remains committed to dialogue as the only reasonable means of resolving disagreements, but that, as he said, two were required for dialogue. 

Selakovic with Maas: Germany one of the most important Serbian economic partners (Kosovo-online)

Serbian Foreign Minister Nikola Selakovic met this morning his German counterpart Heiko Maas in Belgrade, Tanjug news agency reports.

As the press statement of the Serbian Foreign Ministry said Maas expressed satisfaction over his first official visit to Serbia and opening of a new German embassy building in Belgrade.

Selakovic said Germany is one of the most important Serbian economic partners, and one of the biggest investors in the Serbian economy, adding there is an interest on the Serbian side to further advance economic cooperation.

The two ministers also touched upon the upcoming Berlin process summit due on June 8, expressing interest for more concrete projects and activities without this initiative.

Vucic says Belgrade not interested in creating Greater Serbia (N1)

President Aleksandar Vucic said during an Atlantic Council event on Thursday that Belgrade is not interested in creating a Greater Serbia.

“To us, Greater Serbia means a better economy, more factories, a green agenda without jeopardizing the economy, better wages, better infrastructure,” he said in the Atlantic Council Conversation event, adding that he knws that people don’t trust him. “It’s clear to me that it will take time to prove that we are honest,” he said. Vucic said that people are returning to the region after leaving over the past 25 years. “We need young, talented, smart people to return, not new wars and instability,” he said, adding that only the stupid think that talk of war will bring victor at elections. “We won’t allow that. Even if anyone wants to go to war, they won’t go to war with us and we can guarantee that,” he said.

According to Vucic, the United States need Serbia as a friend and added that Serbia can’t advance without American support. “We are serious about developing relations with the US,” he said. The Serbs underestimated the role of the US and did not understand what happened when the Berlin Wall fell, he said and expressed the hope that they understand the current political situation in the world.

Vucic said that trust between Serbs and Albanians has to be reinforced to achieve a compromise solution for Kosovo. “We have to strengthen trust between us, we are not enemies and we can’t create an atmosphere of enmity. We need a completely different atmosphere to find a solution,” he said. He said that he insists on the free flow of goods and people so that business people and ordinary people can talk to each other. According to him, one of the reasons why little progress has been achieved lies in the fact that “leading Western countries are waiting for Serbia to recognize Kosovo”. “When I ask what we’ll get in return, they don’t say anything. They won’t guarantee European Union membership, they won’t guarantee anything,” he said.

See at: https://bit.ly/32MAmFD

Full conversation of Atlantic Council with President of the Republic of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic is available at: https://bit.ly/3xkWFAo

Commemoration for 16 killed during 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia’s state TV (Beta, N1)

The commemoration for 16 employees killed by the NATO bombing of Serbia’s Radio-Television, RTS’ main building on April 23 1999, was held at 2:06 am on Friday, at the ‘Why?’ monument in the central Belgrade Tasmajdan park.

“We still ask why they were killed so mercilessly? Why were they sacrificed? Why was no NATO official held responsible? Why no one from Serbia’s authorities did nothing to prevent this tragedy from happening; why those bound to protect those people did nothing although there were announcements that the TV was a possible target,” Miroslav Medic, the brother of the killed Sinisa Medic.

In its statement, the state broadcaster said the bombing of the TV building was the first time in history that a media house was marked as a legitimate military target.

It added the TV was hit during airing news and that between 150 and 160 people were inside.

A month into the NATO bombing campaign of the then rump Yugoslavia comprising Serbia and Montenegro, launched to prevent what it said was looming humanitarian catastrophe in Kosovo, Serbia’s province at the time, the RTS master control room was hit killing 16 broadcaster’s technical staff on duty.

NATO justification for targeting RTS was that it was the regime’ propaganda tool, spreading lies about the campaign.

Six hours after the bombing, RTS resumed broadcast from a reserve location.

The bombing got the green light from the UN General Assembly. Still, the Security Council was avoided in fear of a possible veto by either Russia or China as permanent members.

Days ahead of the bombing, rumours were it would happen. Still, it continued with the broadcast from the main building, and a journalist even directly addressed NATO, saying “we are here,” giving it the address of the TV station.

After Slobodan Milosevic’s regime fell in 2000, the then RTS director Dragoljub Milanovic was sentenced to ten years for knowing the station was a target and failing to protect the staff.

Ilija Cerovic, acting TV director, said on Friday the ‘Why’ monument was a warning that “something like this should never happen again.”

“We know who killed them, but we do not know who convicted them. We did nothing to prevent that and it’s our disgrace. How long shall we wait for the authorities to answer the victims’ families questions to help them know the truth and get justice,” Cerovic asked.

See at: https://bit.ly/3auL5sI

Rakocevic: KFOR must open its eyes; lies being told nowadays only encourage extremists (Kosovo-online)

Commenting on yesterday’s press statement of KFOR, in which it said there have been no significant incidents around the Visoki Decani Monastery in the last decade, writer and journalist from Gracanica Zivojin Rakocevic told Kosovo online a new reality based on fantasy has been formed in Kosovo.

“In the past ten days, we learned that there is 3,000 years of Kosovo culture, Abbot Sava Janjic is a camp warden and that KFOR has not noticed a single significant incident around the Visoki Dečani Monastery in the past ten years. All of this indicates that a new reality has been formed in Kosovo based on fantasy and on absence of any arguments and facts. This approach to reality shows that the situation is very bad and that every scenario is possible and that nothing is protected and safe – starting from human lives to UNESCO monuments”, Rakocevic pointed out.

According to him, the incident with the Islamists, who were arrested in front of the Decani Monastery gate in 2016 with a car full of weapons, “if this understanding of reality continues, will be presented as a tourist visit to the monastery that was hindered by KFOR soldiers”.

“When they searched their house, they found more weapons and the flag of ISIS. The graffiti of ISIS was written inside the monastery complex two years earlier (2014). It is possible that they are fine urban folks who need to express themselves in a modern manner on the monastery walls”, Rakocevic added.

He also said he personally witnessed in Decani, at the demonstrations against the Decani Monastery and Abbot Sava Janjic, that everything was hateful and aggressive.

“This is being repeated in various forms – almost on a daily basis. What is the seizure of monastery land, what is the construction of an illegal road next to the monastery, what is the constant claim that Decani is an Albanian monastery, what is the proclamation of Abbot Janjic as a camp warden, what is the drawing of targets the monks from Decani, what is the destruction, desecration, appropriation of the Serbian, cultural, spiritual and national heritage in Kosovo and Metohija”, Rakocevic said.

At the end he concluded that “in it, KFOR must open its eyes, accept reality, as well as direct all its forces to the protection of our and European values. Hatred can start a disaster, and the lies that are now being told about peace and a stable situation only encourage extremists”.

Bishop Irinej writes to Blinken about violence against Serbs in Kosovo (Radio KIM)

Eastern American Bishop Irinej Dobrijevic in a letter sent to the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called upon him “to do his utmost with the Kosovo authorities to stop violence against Serbs”, Radio KIM reports citing Belgrade-based B92.

Bishop Irinej said that violence against the Serbs is made on ethnic basis and there is persecution of the Serbian Orthodox Church, its clergy and monks.

The Bishop, based in New York, sent a letter to Blinken “because of more frequented attacks against the clergy, monkshood and shrines of the SOC In Kosovo and Metohija”, and also “pointed out to constant violation of fundamental human rights of Serbs in this southern Serbian province”.

The Bishop also said “that the reports on constant persecution of the Serbs based on their ethnic or religious background by the Kosovo Albanians are particularly concerning for the Serbs in the US and expect the US authorities to decisively condemn them”.  

Bishop Irinej “voiced particular concern over the latest attacks and slanders against the brotherhood of Visoki Decani Monastery and its Abbot, Archimandrite Sava Janjic”. Regarding this, the Bishop also forwarded the official statement of the Raska-Prizren Eparchy Teodosije on endangerment of the Serbian cultural and spiritual heritage in Kosovo and Metohija. 

 

 

Opinion

 

Organic networking: a Balkan awakening (KoSSev)

By Tatjana Lazarevic

”Rama is losing the election?” ; ”Elbasan shaken before the elections! Pjerin Xhuvani murdered! He recently joined the Socialist Party, suspicion of vote buying ”; ”Member of the 63rd Parachute Brigade dies during a jump”; ”Indictment filed against Miroslav Aleksic” – read the headlines of news pieces published yesterday afternoon on our portal that deals with the topic of Kosovo.

I remembered when we published the news about how an owner of a butcher’s shop, Mirza Brajlovic, from Tuzla, decided to donate a Golf V vehicle to his longtime employee Rasudin Muhic, a few days ago, a close family member commented: ”Why would you publish this?”

Indeed, what do the elections and a murder in Albania, the death of a Serbian paratrooper, the failed career of a Belgrade acting teacher, and a dream boss from Tuzla have to do with us?

We have been reporting on the elections in Kosovo for seven years –the Serbian and Kosovan elections alike. For the sake of the experiment, I could copy many sentences from reports of the Albanian media, paste them into my news articles about the elections in Kosovo, change the names and dates – and there would be no difference. Murders also took place in Mitrovica. One took place in the middle of one campaign, the other after another campaign and elections.

Albania is also dear to my neighbors in Kosovo. For me and a large number of my fellow citizens – it is a recently discovered fantastic tourist destination and a long-learned lesson from history about the tragic retreat of my people from their heroic past of World War I. For both – it is a neighboring country.

In Kosovo’s recent history, only the uniforms of NATO, the Kosovo Security Forces, and the Kosovo Police can be seen, but our Serbian readers in Kosovo pay special homage to the soldier of the elite Serbian 63rd Parachute Brigade. That uniform is closer to their identity.

An indictment was filed in Belgrade against acting teacher Miroslav Aleksic. The subsequently published news piece was related to the arrest of a police officer from Gnjilane/Gjilan, who is suspected of sexually assaulting a minor.

From Marija Lukic, through Danijela Stajnfeld, Milena Radulovic, Iva Ilincic, to Marinika Tepic – are all women from Serbia who, except for the opposition politician, as alleged victims (in Lukic’s case, a verdict was passed in her favor) bravely stepped forward and reported their abusers – and this wave is spreading across the region. The iron curtain of silence on sexual assault and exploitation, solicitation, humiliation and degradation, misogyny, deviant behavior, femicide was lifted in the Balkans. Rapists can be found in the palace and the hut, in all the states. Fear and shame are in each of us.

Collectively, it’s the same story everywhere – So what, that has always been the case, well he’s a man, he’s powerful, why did she provoke him…

After all, why would I have to interpret the noble gesture of a Tuzla man?! Or that a good Muslim will do a good deed in the month of Ramadan? In the days of Easter Lent, we especially call for repentance and humanity. And why should humanity be divided by languages, states, religions, believers, and agnostics, when we are all human?!

In bad times, it will be even easier for us to recognize each other and group ourselves by that.

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

A ‘Greying’ Western Balkans Must Look to Robots (Balkan Insight)

Automation and digitisation – especially in healthcare – are going to be crucial to the survival of ageing, rural Balkan communities from which the young have fled.

When I began my primary education in the autumn of 1991, in the settlement where I had grown up on the outskirts of Prijepolje, in southwest Serbia, three of my classmates were from the same village, and there were 30 more in the school. The settlement was then experiencing its heyday, like many comparable places throughout the former Yugoslavia.

Generally, these were regular villages next to small and medium-sized towns that grew in the 1970s and 1980s into working-class suburbs of mainly informally built family houses as a result of waves of migration from surrounding rural communities. The prime goal of the settlers was to stay closer to their parents and relatives in order to care for them in old age.

Nowadays, after mass migrations caused by the fragmentation of Yugoslavia and the collapse of local industries, the community is a shadow of what it was 30 years ago.

Those who remain are mainly younger retirees, or people waiting to retire, whose children have moved to Belgrade or abroad, ending the traditional system of inter-generational solidarity in family care. The youngest is 35 years old. Recently, the oldest dweller passed away at the age of 90; her carers at the end were also pensioners. It has become a regular routine for residents to complain about their grey future due to the absence of people to care for them.

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

 

 

International

 

German diplomat says time is right for Serbia-Kosovo talks (AP)

Germany’s foreign minister called Friday for the resumption of negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo on normalizing the relations between the former war foes whose unresolved territorial dispute has stalled efforts to achieve stability in the Balkans.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said during a visit to Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, that now is the “right moment” to restart the European Union-mediated talks, The negotiations have been stalled since September, in part because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Both countries have held elections and formed governments with a stable majority,” Maas said at a press conference with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. “It is now important…not to hold the dialogue for dialogue’s sake, but to achieve results.”

See more at: https://bit.ly/3gzTNJV

Germany rejects idea of redrawing Western Balkans borders – minister (Reuters)

Germany rejects a redrawing of borders in the Western Balkans along ethnic lines and the idea has been “put back into a drawer”, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Thursday.

The idea was raised in an unofficial European Union diplomatic note that alarmed Bosnians, who saw it as a threat to their country’s territorial unity, two decades after ethnic conflicts led to war in the region.

The note, seen by Reuters, suggested that creating a Greater Serbia, a Greater Albania and a Greater Croatia could help resolve national tensions holding up EU integration in the region.

See more at: https://reut.rs/2PebVOj

Serbian Leader Talks Up Ties To Biden, Says ‘No Interest’ In ‘Greater Serbia’ (RFE)

Serbian President Aleksandr Vucic highlighted what he said were good personal relations with U.S. President Joe Biden amid expectations that the new U.S. administration could take a tougher stance on the rollback of democracy in the Balkan nation.

In an April 22 interview from Belgrade with the Washington-based think tank the Atlantic Council, Vucic said he was actively seeking stronger ties with the United States, but admitted there were difficulties in the bilateral relationship, especially differing views on peace talks with Kosovo.

Vucic, who has met Biden five times, described the U.S. president as “politically the best prepared man I ever talked to.”

See more at: https://bit.ly/3dLpheB

Disputed memo on partitioning Bosnia sparks fears of violence (Al Jazeera)

A leaked document which advocates for partitioning Bosnia and Herzegovina has reportedly reached the European Union (EU), stirring concerns of renewed violence in the Balkans region.

Though there are questions over the so-called non-paper’s authenticity, top officials have responded to the alleged proposal to draw borders along ethnic lines with some alarm.

Bosnian Foreign Minister Bisera Turkovic told Al Jazeera that any move towards revision of the current borders is undoubtedly a “revival of the aggression that we saw in the 1990s.”

See more at: https://bit.ly/3dHMr5f

Serbian Court Tries Kosovo Albanian for Wartime Killings (Balkan Insight)

An alleged former Kosovo Liberation Army fighter, Nezir Mehmetaj, went on trial in Belgrade for participating in the killing of seven people and for looting and burning houses in June and July 1999.

The trial of Nezir Mehmetaj, a Kosovo Albanian accused of participation in war crimes against civilians in the village of Rudice in the Klina municipality in June and July 1999, opened in Belgrade Higher Court on Thursday.

Mehmetaj is accused of involvement in killing seven people and burning and looting houses in Rudice as a member of the Kosovo Liberation Army.

See more at: https://bit.ly/3awy0PA

Vučić: Serbia wants stronger relations with Bosniaks and Croats in Bosnia (euractive.com)

Serbia wants to establish stronger relations with the Bosniaks and Croats, and not only with the Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina, said Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić in Banjaluka on Thursday, at the official visit by the Serbian delegation in the city.

“We don’t intend to dwell on the conflicts and wars and I view the statements that go in that direction as irresponsible, just as I do the insults at the expense of other people,” Vučić said after the session of the Council for Cooperation between Serbia and Republika Srpska in Banjaluka.

He recalled that Bosnia as a whole was the third export destination for Serbia, and the seventh biggest trade partner, and said he believed the volume of trade in 2021 could see a large increase.

See more at: https://bit.ly/3xhSfue

Suspicions Persist About NATO’s Deadly Bombing of Serbian TV (Balkan Insight)

Families of 16 media workers killed when NATO bombed Radio-Television Serbia in April 1999 still want the state to answer questions about whether military officials knew about the impending attack and could have prevented the deaths.

Around 120 people were working at the Radio-Television Serbia building in central Belgrade at about 2am on April 23, 1999 when it was hit by a NATO missile as the Western military alliance continued its bombing campaign against Slobodan Milosevic’s Yugoslavia.

See more at: https://bit.ly/3aAnNlb

 

 

Humanitarian/Development

 

We want to breathe (EWB)

WESTERN BALKANS –  In the past three months, the “Balkans United for Clean Air” campaign has helped gather a network of more than 520 organizations, individuals and experts, with the goal of informing Western Balkans citizens about air pollution’s causes, consequences and possible solutions which could improve air quality.

With this campaign, we intended to point out the fact that all of us from the Western Balkans have sufficient potential, knowledge and capacity to work together in the spirit of solidarity, so as to solve the problem of air pollution.

The necessity of breathing clean and healthy air has united us in our solidarity-based struggle within the “Balkans United for Clean Air” campaign, which was initiated by the European Fund for the Balkans, in partnership with the organizations Right to the City, Renewables and Environmental Regulatory Institute (RERI), Belgrade Open School (BOŠ) (Belgrade, Serbia); Environmental and Territorial Management Institute (Tirana, Albania); Ekoforum (Zenica, BiH), Centre for Ecology and Energy (Tuzla, BiH); Sbunker (Pristina, Kosovo); Air Care (Skopje, North Macedonia), and OZON (Podgorica, Montenegro).

See more at: https://bit.ly/2PeyB0W

 

 

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