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UNMIK Media Observer, Morning Edition, May 14, 2021

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• COVID-19: 112 new cases, 1 death (media)
• EU’s Balkan strategy losing local support, internal paper warns (Reuters)
• Pahor: Western Balkans must join EU, this avoids border changes (media)
• Osmani: Full coordination on genocide lawsuit against Serbia (media)
• Rohde: Mutual recognition must be part of final solution in dialogue (Koha)
• Kosovo government pledges not to allow a monoethnic association (Koha Ditore)
• Vucic says great power to demand withdrawal of KFOR, UNMIK (N1)
• Greek Foreign Minister and Lajcak discuss Kosovo-Serbia dialogue (media)
• Israeli ambassador’s defence of Kosovo recognition riles Belgrade (BIRN)
• Muslims throughout Balkans gather for Eid al-Fitr prayers (BIRN)
• Kosovo war video collector seeks to preserve evidence of crimes (BIRN)

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  • COVID-19: 112 new cases, 1 death (media)
  • EU’s Balkan strategy losing local support, internal paper warns (Reuters)
  • Pahor: Western Balkans must join EU, this avoids border changes (media)
  • Osmani: Full coordination on genocide lawsuit against Serbia (media)
  • Rohde: Mutual recognition must be part of final solution in dialogue (Koha)
  • Kosovo government pledges not to allow a monoethnic association (Koha Ditore)
  • Vucic says great power to demand withdrawal of KFOR, UNMIK (N1)
  • Greek Foreign Minister and Lajcak discuss Kosovo-Serbia dialogue (media)
  • Israeli ambassador’s defence of Kosovo recognition riles Belgrade (BIRN)
  • Muslims throughout Balkans gather for Eid al-Fitr prayers (BIRN)
  • Kosovo war video collector seeks to preserve evidence of crimes (BIRN)

COVID-19: 112 new cases, 1 death (media)

Kosovo has recorded 112 new cases of COVID-19 and one death from the virus in the last 24 hours. 298 persons have recovered from the virus during this time. There are 6,167 active cases of COVID-19 in Kosovo.

EU’s Balkan strategy losing local support, internal paper warns (Reuters)

The European Union must recognise that Balkan countries seeking membership are losing faith in Brussels’ long accession strategy, worsened by its initial failure to provide COVID-19 vaccines, according to an internal EU document seen by Reuters.

Europe and the United States say that Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia will one day become members of the club of 27 states, following the ethnic wars of the 1990s that led to the disintegration of Yugoslavia.

But China and Russia, whose trade and investment levels in the Balkans are far less than the EU’s, are gaining influence, outsmarting the bloc by offering COVID-19 vaccines quickly during the pandemic.

“We need to acknowledge that despite the steadfast commitment to EU integration … the people in the region are experiencing a sense of deep disappointment in the enlargement process,” said the May 5 paper by EU officials and sent to EU’s 27 foreign ministries.

“A perception of tardy EU delivery of the COVID-19 vaccines has further fed a narrative of disillusionment,” said the paper, which was prepared for Monday’s meeting of foreign ministers, who discussed the Balkans but did not take formal decisions.

After years of EU neglect of the region, Croatia organised an EU summit in May 2020 to give new impetus to Balkan integration. North Macedonia and Albania were meant to launch membership talks at the end of the last year.

But Bulgaria refuses to allow North Macedonia to move ahead, citing language and cultural disputes. read more

France held up proceedings in 2019 with scepticism over Albanian and North Macedonian efforts on democracy and fighting corruption.

The European Commission, the EU executive, insists Albania and North Macedonia must move forward together. However, a suggestion by EU Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi this month – later withdrawn – that only Albania should start entry talks, added to a sense of disarray, EU diplomats said.

EU ministers were unable to break the deadlock at a meeting in Brussels on Tuesday.

Membership talks with Serbia and Montenegro, the pair seen as furthest ahead in the accession process, have also slowed, while Bosnia and Kosovo have yet to be formally designated as EU membership candidates.

“The widespread perception in the Western Balkans is that the prospect of accession is receding and that European inspirations are lost under a complex set of conditions and procedures,” the internal report said.

The bloc is now sending 650,000 doses of Western-made vaccines to the six Balkan countries, but only after China and Russia distributed millions of their doses in the region.

Pahor: Western Balkans must join EU, this avoids border changes (media)

Slovenian President Borut Pahor said in a joint press conference with his Kosovo counterpart Vjosa Osmani on Thursday that he will call on EU member states to continue the enlargement of the EU in the Western Balkans in order to avoid ideas for border changes.

“This would strengthen the people’s belief in the European perspective, it would encourage political readiness for reforms, and it would avoid the threat of thinking about changing borders between countries,” he said.

Pahor is quoted as saying on the front page of Koha Ditore that eventual border changes would ruin peace in the Balkans. “Even if someone naively thinks and starts talking about border changes, they know that this cannot end peacefully, given our past in the region. In this respect, I fully reject idea of this non-paper,” the Slovenian President said in an interview for the paper.

Pahor also argued that the first test for the EU about the integration of the Balkans will be on Monday at the Brdo-Brijuni Summit. “In the second half of this year, Slovenia will hold the presidency of the European Union and I would like to see some positive movements in this respect. The first test will be the Brdo-Brijuni meeting on Monday. Before the summit begins, we will make final discussions and the meeting will be a message for the EU and the Balkans countries,” he added.

Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani thanked Slovenia for its support for Kosovo and said that Kosovo has met all the criteria for visa liberalisation. “The visit by the [Slovenian] President is part of preparations for the Brdo-Brijuni Process on May 17 where I will represent the Republic of Kosovo and I thank the President for the invitation. We talked about the need to step up the European integration of the whole region. I assured the President that Kosovo’s top priority is EU integration. The reforms that need to be implemented in the process are reforms that the people need because they include better education and a stronger rule of law. Kosovo has met all the requirements for visa liberalisation and now it is up to the EU to keep its promise. Our people are unfortunately kept isolated while others have benefited from visa liberalisation,” Osmani said.

Osmani: Full coordination on genocide lawsuit against Serbia (media)

Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani said on Thursday that there is full coordination between Kosovo’s main institutions regarding the genocide lawsuit against Serbia. She said genocide was committed in Kosovo and that the lawsuit requires thorough preparations and consultation with experts.

“I have stated before, it is a joint agreement of the three institutions, because we coordinate every position with Prime Minister Kurti and the Speaker of Parliament, and we have had full agreement on the lawsuit for genocide. For anyone who knows the massacres committed by Serbia in Kosovo, the goal of the Serbian military and police forces during the last war was the extermination, so that was their objective. There must be very serious preparations for the lawsuit, including in-depth research and we will cooperate with any state that helps us to achieve justice,” Osmani said.

Rohde: Mutual recognition must be part of final solution in dialogue (Koha)

German Ambassador to Kosovo, Jorn Rohde, said in an interview with KTV on Thursday that Kosovo and Serbia must assume their responsibilities in the dialogue and that for Germany the full normalisation of relations means that mutual recognition will be part of a final solution. He said that if the parties don’t want to achieve something, all efforts by the European Union will prove futile.

Rohde also said that the contents of recent non-papers are not relevant and he reconfirmed Germany’s position on borders in the Balkans saying that this is a closed matter.

Kosovo government pledges not to allow a monoethnic association (Koha Ditore)

The paper reports in one of its front-page stories that Kosovo’s Ministry of Local Government is planning to make several legal amendments this year aimed at preventing the possible formation of the Association/Community of Serb-majority municipalities. The Ministry has pledged that they will not tolerate the formation of monoethnic mechanisms. An advisor to the Local Government Minister told the paper that “for us, the Association of Serb-majority municipalities, or the monoethnic association with executive competencies, is a dead entity”. “We’re not committed to having a monoethnic association, but only mechanisms that are in line with the Constitution and legislation of the Republic of Kosovo,” the advisor said.

The paper further notes that the ministry aims to address several issues by amending the law on local governance. “We would like to regulate two aspects through the amendment of the law: block the creation of monoethnic associations and increase effectiveness public services and local government reforms,” the advisor said.

Vucic says great power to demand withdrawal of KFOR, UNMIK (N1)

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on Thursday that one of the great powers is launching a demand to withdraw KFOR and UNMIK, adding that he will ask NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to try to prevent their withdrawal from Kosovo.

According to Vucic, the demand by the unnamed great power “would be an absolute catastrophe for us” if realized. “I don’t know if they are aware of what that would mean and I am very worried,” he said during a visit to a vaccination post in the Dedinje military compound in Belgrade. Vucic said that the information came from intelligence sources but refused to comment further.

The Serbian President said that the authorities in Pristina planned an annnual budget of 100 million Euro for the Kosovo military. “That should not scare us. It’s up to us to keep the peace and have a strong military,” Vucic said.

Vucic said he would be going to Slovenia on Sunday for a summit of the presidents of the countries of the Western Balkans, which would include Kosovo President Vlosa Osmani and Stoltenberg. “It should be interesting,” he said.

Greek Foreign Minister and Lajcak discuss Kosovo-Serbia dialogue (media)

Several news websites report that Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and EU Special Representative Miroslav Lajcak met and discussed the EU-facilitated dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia. Dendias posted on Twitter: “In a meeting at the Greece Ministry of Foreign Affairs with EU Special Representative Miroslav Lajcak, we focused on EU-facilitated Belgrade-Pristina dialogue and Greece’s readiness to assist European Union’s efforts in the region.”

Israeli ambassador’s defence of Kosovo recognition riles Belgrade (BIRN)

The Israeli ambassador to Serbia’s explanation of how and why his country recognised Kosovo has gone down badly in Belgrade, prompting polemical exchanges between him and Serbia’s Foreign Minister.

Israel’s ambassador in Belgrade, Yahel Vilan, has drawn strong criticism in Serbia over an interview on Wednesday on TV Prva, when he addressed the hot topic of his country’s recognition of Kosovo.

Vilan insisted Israel had only recognised Serbia’s former province under US pressure, adding that it all came about as a result of the US-brokered Washington agreement, signed in September 2020 by Serbia and Kosovo.

“Israel’s decision to recognise Kosovo was made under American pressure. [But] By the way, let’s not forget that this was done within the framework of the [Wshington] agreement between Serbia and Kosovo, especially with America, and not with us, with Israel,” he said.

Serbia’s Foreign Minister Nikola Selakovic dismissed the suggestion that Serbia had, in effect, brought this about by signing the Washington deal and so implicitly recognising Kosovo itself.

Read full article here: https://bit.ly/3uLJIOv

Muslims throughout Balkans gather for Eid al-Fitr prayers (BIRN)

After a year of not being able to attend such public ceremonies, Muslims all over the region gathered in squares on Thursday for the holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

After a year of not being allowed to organise mass prayers and other religious ceremonies, and a second Ramadan fast without traditional iftar dinners, due to COVID-19 restrictions, Muslims in the Balkans were able to attend mass prayers for Eid al-Fitr, known also in the Balkans as Ramazan Bajram, on Thursday.

In Muslim-majority countries such as Turkey, Albania and Kosovo, or in countries with large Muslim communities, such as Bosnia and North Macedonia, many people gathered on Thursday morning for the Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

Despite warnings from official Islamic Communities and imams in each country for citizens to follow COVID-19 prevention measures, by keeping a social distance and wearing masks, this was not always the case.

In Kosovo, the central Eid al-Fitr prayer ceremony took place in the Great Mosque in the capital, Pristina. The mosques were only opened 10 minutes before the prayers began, and believers were urged to do their morning prayers at home instead, in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Read full article here: https://bit.ly/3uONyGx

Kosovo war video collector seeks to preserve evidence of crimes (BIRN)

At his home in a Kosovo village, amateur archivist Esat Shala has collected more than 2,000 video recordings of crimes committed during the 1998-99 war, which he believes could provide fresh evidence for court cases.

Esat Shala has just had another sleepless night and at midday, he is still looking through disturbing video recordings of crimes committed during the 1998-99 Kosovo war.

For several years now, the 35-year-old has been collecting visual evidence of massacres and human rights violations that were committed by Serbian forces during 1998-99 Kosovo war, and he said he now has more than 2,000 video recordings of crimes.

Speaking to BIRN at his house in Krajkova, a village in the central Kosovo municipality of Drenas/Glogovac, Shala said he suffers from a sleep disorder and body tremors, which he puts down to constantly watching the videos.

“Not only the new materials I find, but I cannot resist watching those I found earlier too. Then I cannot stay calm,” he explained.

The videos include amateur footage shot by civilian eyewitnesses or Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA fighters, and images recorded by television crews. The tapes were made during or immediately after the crimes. Shala also has some audio recordings of massacres on his shelves.

In some cases, those who made the recordings that he has collected are known to him, but often they are not.

“In most of the cases, they were recorded by civilians and media, but there are some which are difficult to figure out who recorded them,” he said.

Shala explained that he often needs to negotiate with people for weeks or even months to get them to give him their videos.

“It is very difficult to collect such materials as a private person. People hesitate to hand them over, they often do not trust the aims for which they will be used,” he said.

Read full article here: https://bit.ly/2RPK9ZE

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