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UNMIK Media Observer, Morning Edition, August 2, 2021

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• COVID-19: 100 new cases, no deaths (media)
• Kurti on Open Balkans: Creates space for influence from the East (KP)
• Kosovo honors Beau Biden, late son of US President (Reuters)
• Kosovo MPs to debate today on first 100 days of Kurti-led government (media)
• Gervalla denies reports suggesting her removal from post (Kallxo)
• Police arrest person for breaking into Gasic’s flat (Koha)
• Kosovo wins international recognition … at the Olympics (Politico.eu)
• Experts’ exodus from Kosovo accreditation body sparks blame game (BIRN)
• Minor earthquake shakes Kosovo, Serbia and North Macedonia (media)
• Kosovo men in search of WWII aircraft at bottom of Lake Ohrid (Euronews.al)

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  • COVID-19: 100 new cases, no deaths (media)
  • Kurti on Open Balkans: Creates space for influence from the East (KP)
  • Kosovo honors Beau Biden, late son of US President (Reuters)
  • Kosovo MPs to debate today on first 100 days of Kurti-led government (media)
  • Gervalla denies reports suggesting her removal from post (Kallxo)
  • Police arrest person for breaking into Gasic’s flat (Koha)
  • Kosovo wins international recognition … at the Olympics (Politico.eu)
  • Experts’ exodus from Kosovo accreditation body sparks blame game (BIRN)
  • Minor earthquake shakes Kosovo, Serbia and North Macedonia (media)
  • Kosovo men in search of WWII aircraft at bottom of Lake Ohrid (Euronews.al)

COVID-19: 100 new cases, no deaths (media)

Kosovo’s Ministry of Health said in a statement on Sunday that 100 new cases of COVID-19 and no deaths were registered in the last 24 hours. Three persons recovered from the virus during that period. There are 539 active cases with COVID-19 in Kosovo.

Telegrafi news website reports today that the Delta variant of the virus is not sparing even people who got vaccinated against COVID-19. Kosovo’s health authorities have confirmed that so far 10 people who got both doses of the vaccines were infected with the variant but that their health condition is stable.

The head of the Kosovo Chamber of Tourism said in an interview with Ekonomia Online news website that people in Kosovo must get the vaccine against the virus otherwise the country will be faced with another lockdown as a result of the increase in new cases.

Kurti on Open Balkans: Creates space for influence from the East (KP)

Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti commented on the Open Balkans initiative, launched last week by leaders of Albania, Serbia, and North Macedonia saying that the biggest problem in the Western Balkans is Serbia’s leadership failing to face the past.

Kurti said that a joint market means democratisation and rule of law but this, he added, is not possible for as long as Serbia does not recognise its criminal past.

Kurti also commented on the name change of the initiative saying he was not thrilled about it: “‘Open Balkans’ sounds a lot like a Balkans that is open to influences from the East, especially the Russian Federation and China, as well as an open Balkans for autocracy, corruption, war criminals, which as we know are at large in Serbia and not few of them are also in power.”

Kurti noted that relations between Kosovo and Albania will not be affected. “It is neither up to prime minister of Kosovo or that of Albania for our countries that are one nation to have bad relations.

Kosovo honors Beau Biden, late son of US President (Reuters)

Kosovo’s president on Sunday awarded a medal to the late son of U.S. President Joe Biden for his service in building the country’s justice system after war ended more than two decades ago.

Beau Biden worked in Kosovo after the 1998-1999 war, helping to train local prosecutors and judges for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. The former Delaware attorney general died in 2015 of cancer aged 46.

“Beau’s work in Kosovo was heartfelt; he fell in love with the country,” President Biden said in a pre-recorded video message played during the ceremony in Pristina on Sunday.

“Beau could see what you could do, Beau could see even then the future that was possible for your proud country. The future that Kosovo had so long been denied,” Biden said.

In 2016 Biden, then vice president, unveiled a memorial to his son in Kosovo. A road leading to Camp Bondsteel, home to the 700 American soldiers who still help maintain the fragile peace in Kosovo, was also named after Beau Biden.

Naming streets after U.S. officials has become something of a tradition in Kosovo, whose population is mainly ethnic Albanian, and which considers the United States its savior for its support of a 1999 bombing campaign that deprived Serbia of control of Kosovo.

Kosovo declared independence in 2008 with Western backing, but Serbia still refuses to recognize it and considers it part of its territory.

“What the United States and the American people have done for our country, for our freedom, for our right to exist, goes beyond any partnership currently witnessed in the world. Mr. President, Kosovo is your home too,” said Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani while presenting the award.

Kosovo MPs to debate today on first 100 days of Kurti-led government (media)

Members of the Kosovo Assembly will meet today at 10:00 and debate among other issues on the first 100 days of the Kurti-led government.

Gervalla denies reports suggesting her removal from post (Kallxo)

Kosovo’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Donika Gervalla, denied media reports saying that she was asked to step down from her post by Prime Minister Albin Kurti.

Gervalla said such news reports are part of an unserious campaign. “There is no truth to those reports,” she told Kallxo.com.

“Not only polls, like the recent one from USAID, prove overwhelming support for the Government’s performance. Political opposition cannot be done through lies. The country needs meaningful criticism for the work of the Government and not denigrating campaigns based entirely on untruths.”

Police arrest person for breaking into Gasic’s flat (Koha)

The Kosovo Police arrested Friday a person for breaking into the flat of Dragica Gasic, the only Serb returnee in Gjakova.

The arrest was confirmed to Koha by the Kosovo Police which said that the suspect admitted to the act in the presence of attorney.

“He has been remanded to a 48-hour detention period,” said police spokesperson Nysret Gjurkaj.

Kosovo wins international recognition … at the Olympics (Politico.eu)

Call it judo diplomacy.

Kosovo, the Balkan nation that tends to produce some of the region’s most intractable problems, has instead been gaining attention in recent days for its judo champions at the Tokyo Olympics.

Millions watched last week as two Kosovo women, Nora Gjakova and Distria Krasniqi, claimed gold medals in their weight categories. While two golds may be no big deal for Olympic behemoths like China or the U.S., it’s the type of accomplishment that can vault a small country like Kosovo into the international spotlight — and help change its reputation.

The triumphs have put Kosovo among the top countries at the Tokyo Olympics when it comes to gold medals won per head of population.

“Victories like this make us forget we’re small and make us good enough to fight against the big leagues,” said Kushtrim Krasniqi, the head of Kosovo’s Olympic committee, speaking on the phone from Tokyo.

And that’s exactly what Kosovo is trying to do on multiple fronts. The country has been waging a multi-year campaign to gain international recognition as an independent nation — and ultimately join major organizations like the U.N. and EU. Currently, around 100 countries recognize Kosovo’s independence but the drive to join the U.N. has effectively hit a wall, due to opposition from wartime enemy Serbia and its allies, such as Russia.

Reluctance in Serbia to recognize Kosovo was reflected in news reports on the victories, featuring headlines such as “So-called Kosovo Wins Gold in Tokyo” and referring to the country as “Serbia’s southern province” — despite Kosovo and Serbia competing against one another and being awarded scores separately.

Read full article here: https://politi.co/2TPc9On

Experts’ exodus from Kosovo accreditation body sparks blame game (BIRN)

Three international members of Kosovo’s state body for accrediting of educational institutions have quit rather than declare their assets – leaving the institution non-functional and sparking arguments.

Less than one month after they were appointed, three international members of the Kosovo’s State Council for Quality resigned last week over their obligations to declare their assets to the Anti-Corruption Agency, as requested by Kosovo law.

On July 27, once the Council had approved a list of around 230 programs of institutions of higher education, three international members, Alison Felce, Cassie Barnhardt and Werner Stueber made the surprise move, announcing they were stepping down.

“I am resigning, and this is my last meeting. I justified it [the resignation] two weeks ago,” Stueber told his colleagues. Asked about the reasons of his resignation, Stueber declined to give BIRN more details.

Mexhide Demolli Nimani, Executive Director of the Pristina-based FOL Movement, an NGO, told BIRN that in the past, there had been cases of international officials who had been hired by Kosovo institutions in senior positions declaring their assets, adding that the Anti-Corruption Agency has no capacity to verify the assets of internationals.

The agency “has limited capacities even when it comes to verification of the assets of officials within Kosovo, and it … cannot collect information on assets out of the country,” Demolli Nimani said.

Read full article here: https://bit.ly/37guXZL

Minor earthquake shakes Kosovo, Serbia and North Macedonia (media)

Most news websites report that a 3.3 magnitude earthquake was felt in Kosovo, Serbia and North Macedonia on Sunday evening. The epicenter of the earthquake is reported to have been in North Macedonia, 28 kilometers from Skopje.

Kosovo men in search of WWII aircraft at bottom of Lake Ohrid (Euronews.al)

A British aircraft that was shot down during World War II and is now found at the bottom of Lake Ohrid got the attention of three divers from Pristina.

The three of them went this weekend to Pogradec and dove for several hours in search of the rare piece laying in the lake for over half a century.

However, their plan did not succeed as the divers did not have the exact coordinates of the aircraft.

“We couldn’t find the airplane. We had some information from the citizens of Pogradec but not by the authorities”, says Arber Krasniqi, a professional diver from Kosovo.

Besart Kasumi, a young man from Pristina, got to see the aircraft 5 years ago when he was on another expedition.

“We were more organized last time, we also cooperated with institutions who gave us the exact location. It was much easier back then, without the search part. We saw what had remained of the aircraft”, he explains.

But apart from the curiosity to see the WWII aircraft, Kasumi says he is also keen on getting a glimpse of Lake Ohrid’s rich underwater habitat.

The aircraft was shot down during an exchange of fire in the war and fell 7 meters deep in the lake.

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