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UNMIK Media Observer, Morning Edition, July 30, 2021

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• Serbia, North Macedonia, Albania Push Forward On ‘Open Balkans’ Initiative (RFE)
• Government of Kosovo reiterates position against Open Balkans initiative (media)
• Analysts support Kosovo’s position on Mini-Schengen (Kosovapress)
• LDK: Berlin Process should be the starting point for Kosovo (Telegrafi)
• Kosovo Dismisses ‘Visionless Mini Schengen’, Urges for Trade Deal with the EU (Exit)
• Over 55% of respondents consider rejection of “Open Balkans” will not negatively affect Kosovo’s economy (Telegrafi)
• Demi: Easy for Rama and Vucic to make calls for not keeping hostage to the past (Koha)
• Spahiu: Kosovo loses politically by not joining Open Balkans initiative (Klan)
• Osmani, Kurti, and Konjufca pay respects to the victims of bus crash (media)
• Kurti: Ireland, an important voice in speeding up the visa liberalization (media)
• President Osmani has telephone conversation with Israeli President Herzog (media)
• Gervalla to pay an official visit to North Macedonia today (media)
• Four laws in four months (RFE, media)
• COVID-19: 72 new cases, no deaths (media)

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  • Serbia, North Macedonia, Albania Push Forward On ‘Open Balkans’ Initiative (RFE)
  • Government of Kosovo reiterates position against Open Balkans initiative (media)
  • Analysts support Kosovo’s position on Mini-Schengen (Kosovapress)
  • LDK: Berlin Process should be the starting point for Kosovo (Telegrafi)
  • Kosovo Dismisses ‘Visionless Mini Schengen’, Urges for Trade Deal with the EU (Exit)
  • Over 55% of respondents consider rejection of “Open Balkans” will not negatively affect Kosovo’s economy (Telegrafi)
  • Demi: Easy for Rama and Vucic to make calls for not keeping hostage to the past (Koha)
  • Spahiu: Kosovo loses politically by not joining Open Balkans initiative (Klan)
  • Osmani, Kurti, and Konjufca pay respects to the victims of bus crash (media)
  • Kurti: Ireland, an important voice in speeding up the visa liberalization (media)
  • President Osmani has telephone conversation with Israeli President Herzog (media)
  • Gervalla to pay an official visit to North Macedonia today (media)
  • Four laws in four months (RFE, media)
  • COVID-19: 72 new cases, no deaths (media)

Serbia, North Macedonia, Albania Push Forward On ‘Open Balkans’ Initiative (RFE)

The leaders of Serbia, North Macedonia, and Albania have moved forward on a regional border-control initiative — changing the name of the project from Little Schengen to Open Balkans.

The new name was announced on July 29 after a meeting in Skopje between Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, and North Macedonia’s prime minister, Zoran Zaev.

The Balkan leaders agreed at the meeting to abolish border controls between Serbia, North Macedonia, and Albania from January 1, 2023, Vucic said.

Read more at: https://bit.ly/2TMOAWq

Government of Kosovo reiterates position against Open Balkans initiative (media)

The Government of Kosovo representatives reiterated yesterday the position against the Open Balkans initiative, formally launched by leaders of Albania, Serbia, and North Macedonia yesterday.

Rozafa Kelmendi, spokesperson for the Government of Kosovo said that they have made their position on the project very clear. “The Novi Sad Initiative does not enjoy our approval and as a result we received no invitation to take part. For us, the so-called Mini Schengen is an initiative without vision for the region,” she told Kosovapress.

At the same time, in a reply to Radio Free Europe, the Government of Kosovo stated: “We have proposed advancing regional cooperation from CEFTA to SEFTA, based on the EFTA-EEA model, which would be simultaneously beneficial for all countries of the Western Balkans.”

Analysts support Kosovo’s position on Mini-Schengen (Kosovapress)

Political commentators have come out in support of the Kosovo Government’s position against the Mini-Schengen initiative, officially launched yesterday by the leaders of Serbia, Albania, and North Macedonia under the name of “Open Balkans”.

Demush Shasha from the Pristina-based EPIK Institute said that despite the initiative’s name-change, its objective remains the same: empowerment of Serbia. He said the initiative does not enjoy the financial backing of the EU and added that Kosovo should be focusing instead on the EU-led Berlin Process as a way to foster regional cooperation. “Participants are improvising and in this context agreed to change the name. But the name is the slightest of problems. The biggest and most serious problem is the fact that this initiative aims to create a political space which would ensure Serbia’s domination in the region of the Western Balkans.”

Jeta Krasniqi from the Kosovo Democratic Institute (KDI) warns that the Government of Kosovo should not agree to initiatives that want to replace EU-led integration processes. “It is up to the Government of Kosovo to assess which is better, both in the political and economic aspect. There have been discussions as to whether it is positive, or is it a replica of the former Yugoslavia with Albania in it. But we know that this government has been against it from the beginning,” she said.

LDK: Berlin Process should be the starting point for Kosovo (Telegrafi)

Officials of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) said the Berlin Process should be the starting point of Kosovo when it comes to regional cooperation and that the partly fiercely opposed an initiative, resembling the current Open Balkans one, when it was in office.

“In 2016, when the LDK was leading the Government, when the trade union was proposed which included the customs union, we opposed it so much that we convinced the Prime Minister of Montenegro, and we jointly opposed this. What has happened today and what we have seen is a more complex issue that we need information on. We saw that the Government of Kosovo was not even officially invited, so we cannot say much. For us, the starting point is the Berlin process,” MP Hykmete Bajrami said for RTV Dukagjini.

Kosovo Dismisses ‘Visionless Mini Schengen’, Urges for Trade Deal with the EU  (Exit)

Kosovo prime minister Albin Kurti has dismissed the “Mini Schengen” free economic area initiative by Albania, Serbia and North Macedonia as visionless, and called for the region to enter a trade agreement with the European Union instead.

“The initiative launched in [Serbia’s] Novi Sad does not have our approval, hence we received no official invitation to join this meeting. We consider the so-called ‘Mini Schengen’ as a visionless initiative for the region. We have proposed to advance regional cooperation by moving from CEFTA to SEFTA, according to the EFTA-EEA model, from which all Western Balkan countries would benefit simultaneously,” a press release by the Kosovo government stated on Thursday, before the start of the 9th meeting between the leaders of Albania, Serbia, and North Macedonia over the Mini Schengen.

The goal of Kurti’s proposal is to go from the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA), which includes mostly countries located in Southeastern Europe, to SEFTA (Southeast European Free Trade Agreement). In Kurti’s vision, SEFTA should be tailored similarly with the existing trade agreement between the European Union and the 4 non-EU member states: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.

This, Kurti claims, would truly boost the economies of the region, and prepare them for their future accession to the EU.

On the other hand, the Mini Schengen initiative proposed in 2019 by Aleksandar Vucic of Serbia, Edi Rama of Albania and Zoran Zaev of North Macedonia aims at establishing the free movement of goods, peoples, services, and capital within the Western Balkans only.

Bosnia, Kosovo and Montenegro have refused to join it, calling for the European Union to be involved in such an initiative, given the region’s aspiration and work to join the block.

Rama, Vucic and Zaev have nevertheless vowed to advance their project with or without the other half of the region.

Over 55% of respondents consider rejection of “Open Balkans” will not negatively affect Kosovo’s economy (Telegrafi)

Pyper, as a specialized platform for measuring public opinion, in cooperation with the show “Debat Plus”, which is broadcast on RTV Dukagjini, has organized a poll in which people were asked whether or not the Kurti government would implement the Washington agreement.

Over 37% of the respondents have no answer, 34.24% of them think that it will not implement, while 28.54% of respondents think that government will implement the agreement.

Asked ‘do you think that Kosovo’s non-membership in the Open Balkans (Mini-Schengen) will have a negative impact on the economy of our country,’ over 55% of them think that there will be no negative impact. About 22% of respondents participating in the survey, consider that it will have a negative effect, while over 28 percent of them did not give any answer.

Regarding the role of the LDK in opposition, compared to other opposition parties, 30.66% think that nothing has changed, while 27.71% of them think that LDK makes weak opposition.

Demi: Easy for Rama and Vucic to make calls for not keeping hostage to the past (Koha)

Political commentator, Agron Demi, said it is easy for Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama and President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic to state that “we should not remain hostage to the past” because, according to him, the former has not experienced anything from that past while the second sees nothing bad in its country’s “genocidal past”.

In a Facebook post, Demi said: “You cannot create ‘Open Balkans’ and invite for joining ‘so-called’ countries which is what Serbia acts like towards Kosovo.”

Spahiu: Kosovo loses politically by not joining Open Balkans initiative (Klan)

Nexhmedin Spahiu, political analyst, said that Albania acted ‘behind Kosovo’s back’ and to the detriment of Kosovo by joining an initiative such as the recently announced one named Open Balkans which he said was done ahead of the final deal of Kosovo being recognised by Serbia.

He added however that Kosovo has lost politically by not being part of the initiative: “Kosovo is unprepared to join such a dance. In the political sense, Kosovo has lost a great deal and became even more isolated. Not being part of an alliance with neighbours sounds very serious for any foreign investor, policy maker.”

Spahiu argued that Kosovo should have adopted the following motto in connection to the initiative: “If you cannot beat it, join it.”

Osmani, Kurti, and Konjufca pay respects to the victims of bus crash (media)

President of Kosovo Vjosa Osmani, Prime Minister Albin Kurti and Assembly Speaker Glauk Konjufca began visiting families who lost their loved ones in the tragic bus accident in Croatia that left 10 people dead and over 45 injured.

“The three state leaders underlined that a tragedy like this is painful for all citizens of Kosovo and wished a speedy recovery to all the injured.”

Kurti: Ireland, an important voice in speeding up the visa liberalization (media)

Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti met on Thursday with non-resident Ambassador of Ireland, Ronan Gargan. Increasing economic and cultural cooperation between Ireland and Kosovo was the main topic of the meeting.

Kosovo’s potential in the field of information technology was highlighted by Prime Minister Kurti as an opportunity that should be explored to increase economic cooperation.

Ambassador Gargan expressed his condolences to Prime Minister Kurti for the lives lost in the tragic accident in Croatia. He highlighted the similarities between Ireland and Kosovo in their ties to the diaspora.

The importance of political and economic stability in the Western Balkans and European Union integration was also discussed at the meeting.

Kurti said Ireland could be an important voice in the EU for advocating for speeding up the visa liberalization process for Kosovo.

President Osmani has telephone conversation with Israeli President Herzog (media)

President of Kosovo Vjosa Osmani had a telephone conversation yesterday with Israeli President Isaac Herzog.

She congratulated Herzog in assuming new post and expressed the readiness of Kosovo to deepen bilateral cooperation in the field of politics, trade, education, energy, and defence. “President Osmani emphasised that Kosovo’s relationship with Israel is early and dates back to the period of World War II when Albanians in Kosovo protected Jews, while President Herzog underlined the support of the state of Israel for Albanian refugees from the war in Kosovo. President Osmani and President Herzog agreed to further communication and to undertaking respective visits to Kosovo and Israel,” a statement issued by the Kosovo presidency notes.

Gervalla to pay an official visit to North Macedonia today (media)

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Donika Gervalla, will pay her first official visit to North Macedonia this Friday.

Gervalla will be received at the meeting by, President Stevo Pendarovski, Parliament Speaker Musa Xhaferi, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, First Deputy Prime Minister Artan Grubi and Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani.

According to the Embassy of Kosovo in Skopje, the main topic of the meetings that Minister Gervalla will hold there will be the advancement of friendly bilateral relations in the political, economic, defence and other areas of common interest.

Four laws in four months (RFE, media)

Radio Free Europe in Albanian reports that since March 22, when the eighth legislature of the Assembly of Kosovo was constituted and when the legislative agenda of the government was approved, and so far, out of 26 draft laws that are in process, the Assembly has approved only four of them. One of these approvals is the ratification of an international agreement.

According to estimates by the Democratic Institute of Kosovo (KDI), an organization that monitors the work of the Assembly, the government is late in approving the legislative agenda and, consequently, there are delays in the adoption of laws.

Agnesa Haxhiu, researcher at KDI, told Radio Free Europe that the work dynamics in the Assembly of Kosovo should be increased, otherwise the adoption of laws will be far behind.

“The dynamics of the work of the Assembly of Kosovo, in terms of lawmaking, depends a lot on the work of the government. Well, in fact, the government is quite late in approving the agenda. Then, there are other delays for the approval of laws,” Haxhiu said.

193 laws are foreseen in the legislative agenda for this year.

The Chairman of the Committee on Legislation in the Assembly of Kosovo, Adnan Rrustemi, MP from the Vetevendosje Movement, said that by the end of the year a considerable number of laws will be adopted.

According to him, there are some internal deadlines within the Assembly, which prevent the faster passage of draft laws.

“Of course, we are now at the end of the spring session and the Assembly is expected to take a break in early August, to return to the autumn session in the second week of September. I expect that a great deal of work will await the Assembly and the deputies, in the sense of reviewing the draft laws in the fall, because now there are some draft laws that have passed the first reading and are expected to pass in the working groups,” Rrustemi said.

On the other hand, MP Time Kadrijaj, from the ranks of the opposition political party, the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK), told Radio Free Europe that the government is very late in passing laws in the Assembly.

One of the problems in the Assembly of Kosovo is the lack of a quorum. Even before in the previous legislatures, and now, the Assembly has failed to ratify some international agreements in the absence of a quorum.

COVID-19: 72 new cases, no deaths (media)

72 new cases of COVID-19 and no fatalities from the virus were recorded in the last 24 hours in Kosovo. 17 persons have recovered from the virus during this time.

There are 305 active cases of COVID-19 in Kosovo.

To date, 400,217 vaccine doses have been administered in Kosovo.

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