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UNMIK Media Observer, Morning Edition, June 23, 2021

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• COVID-19: 18 new cases, one death (media)
• Norway donates over 180,000 COVID-19 vaccines to Kosovo (media)
• Di Maio on the dialogue: US-EU cooperation, a historic opportunity (Koha)
• Bogujevci: Let’s work together to reach a peace agreement in the region (Koha)
• Cakaj: I don’t plan to join any political party in Kosovo (media)
• PDK senior member: We haven’t discussed candidates for party leader (KTV)
• Demhasaj: PDK is gradually distancing from links with KLA (Telegrafi)
• Committee approves Simmons call to report on allegations about EULEX (RTK)
• Former judge: EULEX transferred war crimes files to Serbia (Exit News)
• EULEX refutes Simmons’ allegations on cooperation with Serbia (media)
• RTK Board says recommendation for its dismissal is political (media)
• Discrimination in social and health services (Kosovo 2.0)
• Upcoming Cannes festival recognises Balkan film talent (BIRN)

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  • COVID-19: 18 new cases, one death (media)
  • Norway donates over 180,000 COVID-19 vaccines to Kosovo (media)
  • Di Maio on the dialogue: US-EU cooperation, a historic opportunity (Koha)
  • Bogujevci: Let’s work together to reach a peace agreement in the region (Koha)
  • Cakaj: I don’t plan to join any political party in Kosovo (media)
  • PDK senior member: We haven’t discussed candidates for party leader (KTV)
  • Demhasaj: PDK is gradually distancing from links with KLA (Telegrafi)
  • Committee approves Simmons call to report on allegations about EULEX (RTK)
  • Former judge: EULEX transferred war crimes files to Serbia (Exit News)
  • EULEX refutes Simmons’ allegations on cooperation with Serbia (media)
  • RTK Board says recommendation for its dismissal is political (media)
  • Discrimination in social and health services (Kosovo 2.0)
  • Upcoming Cannes festival recognises Balkan film talent (BIRN)

COVID-19: 18 new cases, one death (media)

Kosovo has recorded 18 new cases of COVID-19 and one death from the virus in the last 24 hours. 14 persons recovered from the virus during this time. There are 172 active cases of COVID-19 in Kosovo.

Norway donates over 180,000 COVID-19 vaccines to Kosovo (media)

The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Tuesday that it will be donating 180,000 doses of AstraZeneca anti COVID vaccines to Kosovo. “Kosovo can rely on Team Europe. Norway donates more than 180 000 AZ doses to Kosovo. Good cooperation with Miroslav Lajcak and EU institutions,” the Ministry said in a Twitter post.

Di Maio on the dialogue: US-EU cooperation, a historic opportunity (Koha)

Italian Foreign Affairs Minister, Luigi Di Maio, said during his visit to Kosovo on Tuesday that cooperation between the United States of America and the European Union in the talks between Kosovo and Serbia is a historic opportunity for both countries. He said that reaching a final settlement is an ambitious project but that it can be achieved if there is political readiness. He also said that the dialogue does not involve only two countries but that it also has to do with stability in the Balkans and the security in Europe.

In his address to the Kosovo Assembly, Di Maio said: “The independence of Kosovo is not up for discussion, neither is its territorial integrity or functionality as a democratic state. Italy encourages both parties to push forward the negotiations in constructive fashion and with an open spirit so that a new page in history can be written based on mutual respect and understanding, in which the citizens of Kosovo and Serbia can build a future of prosperity and peace”.

Most online media also quoted the Italian Foreign Minister as saying that Kosovo should get visa liberalisation as soon as possible.

Bogujevci: Let’s work together to reach a peace agreement in the region (Koha)

Kosovo Assembly Deputy President, Saranda Bogujevci, said on Tuesday that the region must work together to reach a common peace agreement to eliminate every possibility for new conflicts. In her address to the Eighth Plenary Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP), Bogujevci said that security in the region is closely linked with security and stability in EU member states. “To eliminate every possibility of new conflicts or security threats in the region, I suggest we work together to reach a common peace agreement as a region and send a strong signal to EU member states. This could also be used as a model to overcome conflicts in other countries and the regions in the world. Regional platforms often contribute to reaching sustainable peace and permanent security,” she said.

Cakaj: I don’t plan to join any political party in Kosovo (media)

Gent Cakaj, former Acting Foreign Minister of Albania, took to Facebook on Tuesday evening to react to reports that he could be a candidate for the post of leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK). “I am not part of any political party in Kosovo and I don’t plan to join any party. I have withdrawn from the public life until another decision for which I will inform you personally,” Cakaj said.

PDK senior member: We haven’t discussed candidates for party leader (KTV)

Eliza Hoxha, MP from the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), said in an interview with the TV station on Tuesday that the PDK chairmanship has not yet discussed candidates for the post of party leader. The PDK is scheduled to hold its convention for the new leader on July 3. “We haven’t discussed any names yet. Several names have been rumored for months now, but I can say that no specific candidate has been discussed by the chairmanship yet,” she said.

Demhasaj: PDK is gradually distancing from links with KLA (Telegrafi)

Arton Demhasaj, executive director of Prishtina-based NGO Cohu, said in a debate on Tuesday evening that there is a tendency that the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) is distancing itself from its past linked with the former Kosovo Liberation Army. He said this tendency was also apparent in the last parliamentary elections when the PDK had in its election list fewer candidates whose past is linked with the war. “We will have to wait and see if this is good or bad,” he said.

Demhasaj argued that the PDK must elect a new leader that would match the profile of Vetevendosje leader and Kosovo Prime Minister, Albin Kurti. “I would choose between Gent Cakaj and Bedri Hamza. I would opt for Cakaj for several reasons: he has proved he has a policymaking strategy. I think he can match Albin Kurti in any debate. He can bring votes to the PDK in a long-term period,” he said.

Committee approves Simmons call to report on allegations about EULEX (RTK)

A legislation committee of the Kosovo Assembly has approved a request from former head judge of EULEX, Malcolm Simmons, to report to the Assembly about alleged wrongdoings by the mission. The chairman of the committee is quoted as saying by RTK that Simmons will be heard at an assembly session and that MPs will be able to ask him questions. A date for the session has yet to be set.

Former judge: EULEX transferred war crimes files to Serbia (Exit News)

Former head judge of the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), Malcom Simmons, claims that the mission handed over dozens of war crimes files to Serbian prosecution authorities.

In the statement Simmons would give if invited by the Parliament of Kosovo for an inquiry into his claims, he says that prior to him being appointed President of EULEX Judges in 2014, he was aware of discussions within the mission regarding the transfer of files to prosecution authorities in Serbia. He mentions also being aware of “ongoing” discussions between EULEX prosecutors and prosecutors in Serbia.

“These were investigations into alleged atrocities committed by persons of Serbian ethnicity during the conflict. Those files contained not only details of the alleged offences and perpetrators but included the personal data of Kosovo citizens who were the victims of these crimes and details of witnesses most of whom were of Kosovo Albanian ethnicity,” Simmons claims in his statement seen by Exit News.

He says that those files were the ones EULEX had received from the United Nations Mission in Kosovo, UNMIK.

“These were offences committed in Kosovo against citizens of Kosovo by persons of Serbian ethnicity, many of whom were also citizens of Kosovo,” he specifies.

Simmons told Exit News that he asked senior management of EULEX to explain the legal basis for the transfer of these files. He had also requested a list of the cases that had been handed over.

“My request was refused,” he said.

Exit News asked EULEX if war crimes files were transferred to Serbian authorities and if so, how many. However, despite repeated requests, Exit News did not receive any comment by EULEX on Simmons’ claims at the time of publishing.

“When I discussed this issue with senior EULEX management it became clear they knew the Serbian authorities did not have the resources –or, indeed, the will to investigate these crimes,” Simmons maintains.

He adds that EULEX knew that it was unlikely these cases would ever be investigated–regardless of what resources were available.

“As I understand it, the Serbian authorities have failed to prosecute any of the cases handed over by EULEX,” he contends.

Due to the absence of an extradition agreement between Kosovo and Serbia, Simmons says that “it was obvious the EU wished to avoid a messy confrontation with Serbia regarding the extradition of defendants of Serbian ethnicity at a time when it was seeking to normalize relations between the two countries.”

“The solution, it appeared, was simply to have the Serbian authorities deal with those cases, something it knew they had no capacity or intention of doing,” Simmons says.

Malcolm Simmons sent a summary of his claims to Kosovo’s Prime Minister, Albin Kurti earlier this month.

Simmons claims that the cases EULEX 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 in May, claiming that Charles Smith, former President of the Assembly of EULEX judges, based his decision-making on political considerations.

EULEX refutes Simmons’ allegations on cooperation with Serbia (media)

The European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) has denied statements of its former judge Malcom Simmons that the mission handed over war crimes files to Serbian prosecutors. The mission said in a statement that it never handed over war crimes files the Serbian prosecution nor did it give up authority over investigative files and cases.

“However, until the end of EULEX’s executive mandate in June 2018, the Mission could not proceed with cases for war crimes allegedly committed by individuals who were outside Kosovo, including suspects known to be living in Serbia, because the applicable Kosovo law did not allow for trials in absentia. In their effort to ensure accountability for war crimes allegedly committed by individuals who were believed to be outside Kosovo, EULEX prosecutors occasionally shared information on these individuals with prosecution services of other jurisdictions, including but not limited to the prosecution authorities of Serbia. In line with the Kosovo law, until June 2014 EULEX Prosecutors exchanged information with and rendered assistance to the Serbian authorities, in the presence of Kosovo prosecutors, on several war crimes cases. Between 2014 and 2018, as the Mission’s mandate changed, this practice was gradually discontinued,” the statement adds.

RTK Board says recommendation for its dismissal is political (media)

The Board of the Radio Television of Kosovo (RTK) issued a statement on Tuesday saying that the decision by a parliamentary committee to initiate its dismissal is political and unsubstantiated with facts. After it was initiated, the dismissal will now be sent to the Kosovo Assembly for approval. The statement by the RTK Board notes that “the political war against the public broadcaster, based on ‘alternative facts’, is unfair and aimed at instrumentalizing the public broadcaster for political needs”.

Discrimination in social and health services (Kosovo 2.0)

In December 2019, the Basic Court in Prishtina affirmed Blert Morina’s right to change his name and gender marker on his identification documents, marking an important moment for Blert, transgender people and the entire LGBTQ movement in Kosovo.

With the verdict on his side, he went to the Municipality of Gjakova in January last year to formally request new documents. This was the very institution that rejected his request to change his name from “Blerta” to “Blert,” and the gender marker from F (Female) to M (Male), prompting continuous court battles for almost two years.

As he was struggling with the state, he was also going through hormone therapy as part of his planned transition that he had started before 2018, the year he submitted the request to change his name and gender marker at the Office of Civil Registration in Gjakova, his hometown. When he received the new papers two years later, masculine features were already evident in his appearance – hormone therapy had manifested itself in facial and arm hair, as well as a deeper voice.

But despite his victory over the state and his successful transition, a lack of social and health services are affecting Morina and other individuals from socially marginalized communities forcing them to confront additional challenges and difficulties.

Complications in transition

From the first confirmation of infected cases, it soon became clear that the COVID-19 pandemic was deepening inequalities through the neglect, in particular, of people who already encounter systemic institutional discrimination. For example, hormone therapy, which for some transgender people is crucial during their transition, has never been considered by local institutions as sufficiently important.

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

Upcoming Cannes festival recognises Balkan film talent (BIRN)

Reflecting the quality of filmmaking in the Balkans in recent years, three films from the region are up for prizes in Cannes in July.

In the short film category, Severen Pol [North Pole], a co-production between North Macedonia and Serbia, and Pa Vend [Displaced] from Kosovo are among a total of 10 films shortlisted from 3,739 reviewed.

Directed by Marija Apcevska, Severen Pol tells the story of Margo, a 16 year-old girl who feels isolated among her peers but believes she will fit in better if she loses her virginity.

Pa Vend, directed by Samir Karahoda, is the first film from Kosovo to be shortlisted at Cannes. Karahoda, who curates the short film programme at Kosovo’s renowned documentary film festival DokuFest, also took Europe’s youngest country to the Berlinale in 2019 with his documentary, Ne mes [In between].

Pa Vend tells how two table tennis enthusiasts in the southern Kosovo city of Prizren kept the game alive, with the local table tennis federation the first sports federation in Kosovo to be internationally recognised after the former Serbian province’s declaration of independence in 2008.

From elsewhere in the Balkans, the Romanian-Belgium collaboration La Civil is one of 20 films shortlisted in the Un Certain Regard section. Directed by Romanian director Teodora Ana Mihai, La Civil follows Cielo and his search for his daughter who has been kidnapped by a crime cartel in Mexico.

From Central Europe, the Czech animated short film Rude Boty [Red Boots] will compete in the Cinefondation Selection. Created by Ana Padarova, the 14-minute film depicts a village party where the main character, Roza, waits to be invited to dance. After a stranger gives Roza a pair of red shoes, she becomes the centre of attention and realises that the shoes have to take control.

Following the cancellation of the 2020 edition due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cannes Film Festival will run this year from July 6 to July 17.

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