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UNMIK Media Observer, Morning Edition, June 1, 2021

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• COVID-19: 5 new cases, no deaths (media)
• Health Minister to report today about management of COVID-19 (media)
• President Osmani meets Palmer and Lajcak (media)
• Prime Minister Kurti meets Lajcak and Palmer (media)
• Foreign Minister Gervalla meets Lajcak and Palmer (media)
• Palmer meets Serbian List representatives, discuss dialogue (media)
• Palmer: Kosovo-Serbia agreement, crucial to attracting US investments (media)
• US Embassy says Palmer’s meetings were constructive (media)
• Palmer, Lajcak to hold joint press conference today at 10:45 (media)
• Spanish Foreign Ministry: No plan to open liaison office in Kosovo (Express)
• Government wants direct communication with Serb Orthodox Church in Kosovo (Koha)
• Local Government Minister: Association is anti-constitutional (media)
• Former judge: EU mission in Kosovo politically handled KLA Cases (Exit News)

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  • COVID-19: 5 new cases, no deaths (media)
  • Health Minister to report today about management of COVID-19 (media)
  • President Osmani meets Palmer and Lajcak (media)
  • Prime Minister Kurti meets Lajcak and Palmer (media)
  • Foreign Minister Gervalla meets Lajcak and Palmer (media)
  • Palmer meets Serbian List representatives, discuss dialogue (media)
  • Palmer: Kosovo-Serbia agreement, crucial to attracting US investments (media)
  • US Embassy says Palmer’s meetings were constructive (media)
  • Palmer, Lajcak to hold joint press conference today at 10:45 (media)
  • Spanish Foreign Ministry: No plan to open liaison office in Kosovo (Express)
  • Government wants direct communication with Serb Orthodox Church in Kosovo (Koha)
  • Local Government Minister: Association is anti-constitutional (media)
  • Former judge: EU mission in Kosovo politically handled KLA cases (Exit News)

COVID-19: 5 new cases, no deaths (media)

Kosovo recorded five new cases of COVID-19 and no deaths from the virus in the last 24 hours. 184 persons recovered from the virus during this time. There are 2,266 active cases of COVID-19 in Kosovo.

Health Minister to report today about management of COVID-19 (media)

Kosovo’s Minister of Health, Arben Vitia, will report today at the Kosovo Assembly’s Healthcare Committee, about the management of the COVID-19 pandemic and the process of vaccination against the coronavirus.

President Osmani meets Palmer and Lajcak (media)

Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani held a substantive meeting on Monday with US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Matthew Palmer and the European Union Representative for Dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak, a press release issued by Osmani’s office after the meeting noted
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In the meeting, Osmani stressed that the institutions of Kosovo are maximally focused on the management of the pandemic, the implementation of reforms in the field of rule of law and the economic development of the country, as the basic priorities of the country’s institutions.

She also thanked the United States of America and the EU for the support they have given to the citizens of Kosovo in this difficult time for all of us. She expressed gratitude to the European Union for donating vaccines and expressed hope that the USA will also donate a number of vaccines to our citizens.

Regarding the dialogue process with Serbia, the President reiterated the position of the institutions that Kosovo expects that the dialogue process will end with mutual recognition between the two countries. She reiterated the position that for Kosovo it remains essential that in this process the territorial integrity, the internal constitutional and state regulation, and the functionality of the country will be respected. Furthermore, the President highlighted the issue of the missing during the recent war in Kosovo, as a priority in this process.

“We expect that the process will be concluded with mutual recognition, respecting these principles, and for the agreement to be fully enforceable”, stressed President Osmani. Mr. Palmer and Mr. Lajcak once again reiterated their full support for the dialogue process and its conclusion with a final agreement between Kosovo and Serbia.

Prime Minister Kurti meets Lajcak and Palmer (media)

Kosovo Prime Minister, Albin Kurti received on Monday in his office the EU Special Representative for the Belgrade- Prishtinë Dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak, and the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Matthew Palmer.

Prime Minister Kurti considered important the meeting and the time when it is taking place: on the eve of the meeting in Brussels, announced for mid-June, after meetings with opposition leaders and before the discussion in the Assembly on the past dialogue process, the agreements reached in Brussels and the level of their applicability.

He said that cooperation and coordination between the European Union and the United States of America in the new dialogue process is welcomed because it is necessary, while for the dialogue he said that it should be fair, principled and in the service of peoples and peace and overall security.

Foreign Minister Gervalla meets Lajcak and Palmer (media)

Kosovo’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Donika Gervalla, met on Monday with EU Special Representative for the Belgrade- Prishtinë Dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak, and the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Matthew Palmer. A press release issued by the Ministry after the meeting noted that discussions focused on the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia and Kosovo’s expectations from the process.

Palmer meets Serbian List representatives, discuss dialogue (media)

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Matthew Palmer, met on Monday during his visit to Kosovo with representatives of the Serbian List during. The meeting focused on the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, the issue of the Association/Community of Serb-majority municipalities and Orthodox churches.

The Serbian List said in a Facebook post after the meeting: “The need to respect the rights of the Serbian people was especially emphasised and also the need to continue the EU-sponsored dialogue between Belgrade and Prishtina, and in the light of the implementation of agreements reached so far, mainly related to the Association of Serb municipalities, the energy and the judiciary”.

Palmer: Kosovo-Serbia agreement, crucial to attracting US investments (media)

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Matthew Palmer, and US Ambassador to Kosovo, Philip Kosnett, visited the American Chamber of Commerce in Kosovo on Monday. Palmer said that a comprehensive agreement for the normalisation of relations between Kosovo and Serbia is key to attracting US and other foreign investments, as well as to generate much needed jobs for the people of Kosovo and the whole region.

Palmer also thanked the American Chamber of Commerce in Kosovo for promoting economic partnership between the two countries and said that the network of American Chambers in the region represents a productive network for addressing the current challenges of the region.

US Embassy says Palmer’s meetings were constructive (media)

Most news websites covered on Monday a tweet by the US Embassy in Kosovo calling constructive the meetings that Deputy Assistant Secretary Matthew Palmer had with EU Special Representative Miroslav Lajcak, President Osmani, Prime Minister Kurti, Deputy Prime Minister Bislimi and Foreign Minister Donika Gervalla-Schwartz.

Palmer, Lajcak to hold joint press conference today at 10:45 (media)

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Matthew Palmer, and EU Special Representative for the Prishtina-Belgrade Dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak, will hold a joint press conference today at 10:45. Palmer and Lajcak met on Monday with Kosovo’s heads of state and opposition leaders. At the press conference, they are expected to talk about their meetings in Kosovo and their messages about the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia.

Spanish Foreign Ministry: No plan to open liaison office in Kosovo (Express)

The Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied media reports on Tuesday according to which this country could open a liaison office in Prishtina. In a response to Prishtina-based Gazeta Metro news website, the Ministry said: “There is no plan to open a liaison office in Prishtina”. It also said that Spain’s position on the Kosovo issue is well known and that it will not change if the issue is not resolved through the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia.

Government wants direct communication with Serb Orthodox Church in Kosovo (Koha)

The daily reports that the Kosovo government does not plan to give up on direct communication with the clergy of the Serb Orthodox Church in Kosovo even after the latter recently turned down a request by Prime Minister Albin Kurti to visit the Decani Monastery. “The government’s approach will remain the same. We will continue to insist on direct, open and honest dialogue and communication, as the only way to resolve our common challenges,” Kosovo’s Minister of Culture, Hajrulla Ceku said.

Local Government Minister: Association is anti-constitutional (media)

Kosovo’s Minister of Local Government, Elbert Krasniqi, said in an interview with KTV on Monday that the issue of the Association/Community of Serb-majority municipalities is closed and that there is no room for discussion. He argued that the Constitutional Court rejected many points of the agreement on the formation of the Association/Community and that no one can be forced to do something against the Constitution. “The Association is anti-constitutional. 24 points of the agreement were ruled to be in violation with the principles of our Constitution. We can no longer discuss this matter,” he said.

Former judge: EU mission in Kosovo politically handled KLA cases (Exit News)

Malcom Simmons, former head judge of the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), accuses EULEX that the cases the mission heard against former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) members were subject to political interference.

While waiting for the Kosovo Parliament to schedule a hearing on his claims against EULEX, Simmons talked to Exit News claiming that Charles Smith, former President of the Assembly of EULEX judges, based his decision-making on political considerations.

In an email that Exit News has seen, Smith asks Simmons that the case against former KLA commander turned politician, Fatmir Limaj – informally known as the “Kleçka” case – be scheduled for trial “asap.”

In his email sent on January 2013, Smith states that the request comes for a number of reasons, “mainly political.”

“I hope that you can get this case up and running quickly,” he also wrote.

EULEX submitted the indictment on the Kleçka case in 2011 and the trial started in January 2012, relying mainly on the testimony of the key witness Agim Zogaj who committed suicide while under the protective custody of EULEX in Germany.

After Limaj was acquitted in 2012, the Supreme Court of Kosovo ordered a retrial and Limaj was sent to detention.

Fatmir Limaj and nine other co-defendants (ex-KLA fighters) were charged with war crimes, for torturing Albanian and Serb civilians and prisoners in the Kleçka detention center throughout 1999.

The case was closed in May 2017 when the Supreme Court of Kosovo issued a verdict acquitting Limaj of war crimes charges.

EULEX vs SIMMONS

Contacted by Exit News to comment on Simmons’ allegations, EULEX stated that its judges and prosecutors were autonomous and independent and conducted their prosecution and adjudications based on the law.

Regarding Simmons’ claims, which EULEX describes as “one-sided and uncorroborated,” the mission says that Malcolm Simmons “refused to cooperate with an investigation team led by a retired judge of the European Court of Justice, which was established to investigate alleged breaches reported by him.”

“When provided with the opportunity to substantiate his various allegations, Mr Simmons failed to provide the investigation team with any evidence to support his allegations,” EULEX’s written answer reads.

Furthermore, according EULEX, an independent investigation led by a former judge of the European Court of Justice examined allegations of possible misconduct by Simmons in three individual cases during his time as a judge for EULEX. While the investigation was finalized, any final decision on how to proceed with the allegations against Simmons for misconduct were referred to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK, as his seconding authority.

Simmons, however, says that the disciplinary process was “a charade.”

“The process was designed to give the appearance of being credible and legitimate,” Simmons claimed in an interview for Exit News.

He added that the investigators, including the one led by the former Judge of the European Court of Justice, were also in possession of his private emails.

He alleged that it was only after a judge of an EU member state, employed by EULEX, hacked into his private emails, that the European External Action Service commenced disciplinary proceedings against him.

Simmons says that the emails revealed he was a whistle-blower and he reported to the UK Government and the EU anti-fraud agency “matters of serious concern within the EULEX.”

Exit News has seen an email sent to an UK Government officer in 2013, through which Simmons raises these concerns by mentioning a conversation he held with Charles Smith on the Kleçka case.

In the confidential email sent on July 11, 2013, Simmons quotes Smith as saying “You know the mission is expecting convictions?”.

“As we parted company […] he [Smith] said ‘unfortunately there will be job cuts in the restructuring…hopefully I won’t lose my best judges’. I was left in no doubt what he was telling me,” Simons wrote.

“The purpose of the disciplinary process was to remove me,” Simmons insisted during the interview.

“However, as I will demonstrate, the process was flawed and manipulated by the EEAS […] with the connivance of members of the disciplinary boards,” he adds.

Currently, Charles Smith is one of the international judges appointed to serve at The Hague-based Kosovo Specialist Chambers (KSC).

The Specialist Prosecutor’s Office (SPO) and the KSC were established by the Kosovo parliament at the insistence of the international community in August 2015.

It followed a 2011 Council of Europe report in which Swiss Senator Dick Marty addresses the alleged crimes that “members of the Kosovo Liberation Army [had committed] against ethnic minorities and political rivals” from January 1998 until December 2000.

Several KLA senior officials have been indicted by the SPO and KSC so far. Among them, former President Hashim Thaci, former parliament speakers Jakup Krasniqi and Kadri Veseli and former Vetevendoje MP Rexhep Selimi are facing war crimes charges while being held in detention facilities in The Hague.

The detention center in Kleçka is also mentioned in the confirmed indictment against Thaci, Veseli, Krasniqi and Selimi.

“Between at least November 1998 and June 1999, certain KLA members detained at least 20 persons for varying periods of time and without due process of law at a house and surrounding buildings near Kleçkë/Klečka, Lipjan/Lipljan. Detainees were tied, blindfolded, and held under armed guard. In1999, multiple KLA members, including Kadri VESELI, Rexhep SELIMI, Jakup KRASNIQI, and Fatmir LIMAJ, were involved in various aspects of the transfer, detention, and/or release of detainees held at the detention site near Kleçkë/Klečk,” reads the SPO’s indictment.

Exit News reached out to the KSC, asking how Charles Smith’s alleged demand that the Kleçka trial be scheduled as soon as possible, because of “political reasons,” would affect the credibility of the KSC.

“These claims have been raised by Mr Simmons with respect to his litigation regarding his employment with EULEX and the British Foreign Office. We do not comment on such claims,” KSC’s spokesperson, Angela Griep told Exit News in a written answer.

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