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UNMIK Media Observer, Morning Edition, May 5, 2021

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• COVID-19: 75 new cases, 4 (media)
• Kosovo receives 4,680 doses of Pfizer vaccines (media)
• Kurti: Securing vaccines remains our most urgent priority (media)
• PDK MP: Kurti government has failed with vaccines (media)
• Kurti to meet opposition parties this month on dialogue with Serbia (Koha)
• Kosovo Foreign Minister: I will never stop seeking justice for all victims (media)
• Lajcak strongly against border changes in the Balkans (media)
• EU inaction blamed for proposal to redraw Balkan borders (BIRN)
• State guarantees crucial for interim release of defendants (Koha Ditore)
• NATO shows “muscles” in Albania (Koha Ditore)
• Kosovo Army participates in ‘Defender Europe 21’ (Exit News)
• Kosovo Police investigate threat to LGBTI activist (BIRN)

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  • COVID-19: 75 new cases, 4 (media)
  • Kosovo receives 4,680 doses of Pfizer vaccines (media)
  • Kurti: Securing vaccines remains our most urgent priority (media)
  • PDK MP: Kurti government has failed with vaccines (media)
  • Kurti to meet opposition parties this month on dialogue with Serbia (Koha)
  • Kosovo Foreign Minister: I will never stop seeking justice for all victims (media)
  • Lajcak strongly against border changes in the Balkans (media)
  • EU inaction blamed for proposal to redraw Balkan borders (BIRN)
  • State guarantees crucial for interim release of defendants (Koha Ditore)
  • NATO shows “muscles” in Albania (Koha Ditore)
  • Kosovo Army participates in ‘Defender Europe 21’ (Exit News)
  • Kosovo Police investigate threat to LGBTI activist (BIRN)

COVID-19: 75 new cases, 4 (media)

Kosovo recorded 75 new cases of COVID-19 and four deaths from the virus in the last 24 hours. 546 persons recovered from the virus during this time. There are 7,994 active cases of COVID-19 in Kosovo.

Kosovo receives 4,680 doses of Pfizer vaccines (media)

Most news websites reported on Tuesday afternoon that Kosovo’s National Institute for Public Health received 4,680 doses of Pfizer vaccines from Austria. This is the first part of the 95,000 doses that the European Union has divided for Kosovo as part of its aid to the Western Balkans. The Ministry of Health said in a statement on Tuesday that healthcare staff all over Kosovo, who could not be vaccinated earlier, will start getting the vaccine on Wednesday.

Kurti: Securing vaccines remains our most urgent priority (media)

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti held an online meeting on Tuesday with Sir Suma Chakrabarti, former President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). Chakrabarti congratulated Kurti on the victory in the February 14 elections, saying that a convincing victory increases chances for successful economic reforms.

Kurti said that securing vaccines against COVID-19 remains Kosovo’s most urgent priority. He said other priorities include bigger loans for small and medium businesses, improving the climate for investments in Kosovo, especially for the diaspora, and targeting public sector expenditures to generate more jobs.

PDK MP: Kurti government has failed with vaccines (media)

Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) MP Bekim Haxhiu argued in a Facebook post on Tuesday that the Kurti-led government has failed in the process of securing vaccines against the coronavirus. “In the last 10 days there have been zero vaccinations and during the six weeks of the Kurti government there have been 431 deaths from the virus … Opening a vaccination point for the citizens of Kosovo by the Government of Albania is now a necessity, because the Government of Kosovo has failed,” Haxhiu said.

Kurti to meet opposition parties this month on dialogue with Serbia (Koha)

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti is expected to meet with opposition parties this month in efforts to coordinate positions on the dialogue with Serbia. Government officials could not say on Tuesday when the meetings will take place but said that they will ask the opposition to cooperate on issues of national interest.

A government spokesperson sad: “We said that on issues of national interest we will consult and ask for cooperation from opposition parties and leaders. The dialogue is a topic of national interest. As Prime Minister Kurti has said, we expect that during May, at an appropriate time for all, we will start consultations with opposition parties in the Assembly. We want to recall that the Constitution notes that the Assembly has a supervisory role over the Government and the Government reports to the Assembly. Therefore, Prime Minister Kurti will fully respect these relations.”

Kosovo Foreign Minister: I will never stop seeking justice for all victims (media)

Kosovo’s Foreign Minister, Donika Gervalla-Schwarz, said on Tuesday that she will never stop seeking justice for all victims in Kosovo, regardless of their political and gender orientations or nationality. “This is the least we can do not only for the victims but also for the new generations. Civic silence does not bring honor to any of us. The Assembly of the Republic of Kosovo has spoken clearly. As an elected minister of government, I bow to every decision of the Assembly. Today I hear screams from the same people that brought Kosovo to this shameful position with their silence and actions. Only with courage and a lot of work we can restore Kosovo’s good image, not with silence and deception. A lot of work is ahead of us,” she said.

Lajcak strongly against border changes in the Balkans (media)

EU Special Representative for the Prishtina-Belgrade dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak, said on Tuesday that he is strongly against potential border changes in the Balkans, adding that they can provoke war in the region.

“I deeply disagree with border changes. I think it is extremely dangerous and I also believe that this idea provokes war. If we implement this idea, we would we fulfilling the dreams of Milosevic and Tudjman and this is not something that we want to do. We strongly reject this.”

Lajcak said he cannot speculate who stands behind the recent non-papers but said that he is against ideas presented in those documents.

Lajcak commented on priorities set out by Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti, saying that he agrees employment and justice are priorities but also added that they are closely related to the dialogue.

“I have served as minister in my country for 10 years and learned that you don’t choose the priorities, the priorities choose you. The same goes for the dialogue. Dialogue is a priority for every government in Kosovo and Serbia, because their future and their plans in the economic and social area are linked to the European agenda and the road toward the European agenda is through dialogue. Dialogue cannot be something that can wait. It is present in everything that you do. If for the Kurti government, employment and justice are priorities – employment implies economic progress. Can you imagine economic progress without regional cooperation and isn’t regional cooperation linked to EU integration and isn’t EU integration clearly linked to the dialogue,” he asked.

“We fully support employment and justice, but we are explaining to our colleagues in Kosovo that the success of the agenda is through the dialogue”.

Commenting on reciprocity, which in his opinion is more of an election detail, Lajcak said that the EU-facilitated dialogue is the only platform where Kosovo and Serbia are treated equally in all aspects. “Kosovo and Serbia are equal parties and they benefit equally from the process or suffer equally from the lack of progress,” he said.

EU inaction blamed for proposal to redraw Balkan borders (BIRN)

Miroslav Lajcak, the EU’s Special Representative for Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue and Carl Bildt, former UN Special Envoy to the Balkans said on Tuesday that the decline in the EU’s influence is the main reason for risky plans being floated to redraw borders in the region.

At a panel discussion entitled ‘Geopolitical Gambles in the Balkans’, Lajcak and Bildt expressed concern about two so-called ‘non-papers’ – discussion documents – one of which was allegedly circulated by the Slovenian Prime Minister and the other allegedly by France and Germany, although this has been denied.

The first is reported to have suggested that parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but possibly also of North Macedonia and Montenegro, would become parts of a ‘greater Croatia’ and a ‘greater Serbia’, and that Albania and Kosovo would merge into a ‘greater Albania’.

The second reportedly suggested the creation of an autonomous district in Serb-majority northern Kosovo as part of a deal in which Serbia would recognise Kosovo’s independence. Both ‘non-papers’ have sparked widespread controversy, although no one has admitted to being behind them.

“The idea of redrawing borders is not new. It has been here for many years but it was brought to the forefront now. I deeply disagree with these ideas. I consider them extremely dangerous and a war-provoking idea,” Lajcak said.

“Unfortunately, the vision of EU membership for the Western Balkans has become more blurred more distant and therefore also less motivated. When we created a void in the region, others are coming with other ideas,” he added.

Lajcak argued that implementing the border changes would be “fulfilling the dream of [Slobodan] Milosevic and [Franjo] Tudjman”, the 1990s wartime leaders of Serbia and Croatia.

He referred to a joint plan agreed by Tudjman and Milosevic in 1992 for the partitioning of Bosnia and Herzegovina along ethnic lines.

“When we [the EU] created a void in the region, others are coming with other ideas. If we are not serious with Plan A [EU membership for Balkan states], people would come with a Plan B and this is exactly what this first paper is about,” he said.

Bildt agreed: “If Plan A does not work, which lost credibility [for the EU], you have Plan B, the non-papers are on the table,” he said.

He also described the suggestions for redrawing borders as “highly dangerous”.

“Everyone is saying they don’t agree with the papers but everyone who has been dealing with the Balkans knows that there is quite a number of people around these papers,” he said.

Bildt argued that other international players are not becoming stronger in the Balkans, but the EU is becoming weaker.

“It is not that Russia, Turkey and others are strong actors in the Balkans but if the EU becomes weaker, others can become stronger by definition without being particularly strong,” he said.

The panel discussion was organised by the Italian Institute for International Political Studies, ISPI and moderated by Tim Judah, the Balkans correspondent for The Economist and president of the BIRN board.

State guarantees crucial for interim release of defendants (Koha Ditore)

The paper reports in one of its front-page stories that guarantees that the state of Kosovo can offer to the Specialist Chambers for the defendants could be crucial for their interim release. The legislation for the Specialist Chambers notes that with the exception of outstanding circumstances, the defendants cannot be held in detention more than a year if the trial does not commence during this time. The Kosovo Government did not reply to the paper if it is ready to offer guarantees for the defendants.

NATO shows “muscles” in Albania (Koha Ditore)

The daily reports in its leading front-page story that the NATO exercise “Defender Europe 2021” has begun in Durres, Albania. The Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Tod Wolters, said at the start of biggest military exercise that Defender Europe has 28,000 troops in the marine, from 25 countries, and that the objective is to demonstrate the collective abilities of NATO allies and their partners. The Kosovo Security Force is also part of the exercise and Kosovo will also be among the 16 host countries of the exercise.

Kosovo Army participates in ‘Defender Europe 21’ (Exit News)

The Kosovo Security Force (KSF) is participating in the multinational “Defender Europe 21” military exercise led by the United States, which kicked off in Albania on Tuesday.

This is the first time for the Kosovo army to be participating in a major exercise alongside its partners – the US, NATO and other allies.

“There are many reasons to be proud today, and the biggest of them all is the participation of our Army for the first time in an operation of such scale,” former Prime Minister of Kosovo Ramush Haradinaj said.

In 2018, during Haradinaj’s term in office, the Assembly of Kosovo approved legal changes to transform the mandate of the Kosovo Security Force into an armed force. Its transformation process is expected to last ten years.

The KSF has 2,747 active soldiers and aims to double the number, as well as securing a reserve force of 3,000.

Its troops are currently participating in a joint peacekeeping mission in Kuwait, alongside the US troops, for the first time in Kosovo’s history.

Kosovo Police investigate threat to LGBTI activist (BIRN)

Kosovo Police said on Tuesday that they are looking into allegations that the life of a well-known LGBT activist, Lend Mustafa, was threatened at the weekend.

“We are currently working on an investigation of circumstances of the incident and in coordination with the prosecutor have initiated an investigation into the intimidation,” police told BIRN in a written answer.

On Sunday, Mustafa said in a post on Facebook that he was threatened in Prishtina’s main square. “It is noon in the square and a bearded boy spat in my face and shouted ‘I will kill you’,” Mustafa wrote. “I have been insulted before, I was threatened and someone tried to run over me with a car [in the street] but nothing has been more humiliating and disgusting so far,” he added.

Mustafa vowed not to give up his activism. “I will still fight as I have always fought and I will remain here [in Kosovo],” he said.

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