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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, August 4, 2021

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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, August 4, 2021

Albanian Language Media:

• EU Special Representative for Kosovo: Fighting corruption needs constant attention (Prishtina Insight)
• Wilson Center issues report: Consolidating Kosovo’s Sovereignty (media)
• CEC has so far approved 1,960 registration applications from Diaspora (Koha)
• Interest in COVID-19 vaccines increases in Kosovo, 14% of people fully vaccinated (KP)
• COVID-19: 221 new cases, one death (media)

Serbian Language Media:

• Grenell’s visit during the “Open Balkans” project is (not) a coincidence (Danas, Kosovo Online)
• Serbia sends police choppers to help North Macedonia’s firefighters (N1)
• Jevtic: By introducing economic measures to Serbia, Kurti wants to end dialogue (Gracanica-online)
• Davenport and Mladenovic on language rights in Kosovo (Radio KIM)
• Sheholli: ”Dragica ought to be sitting with Albanian women, apologizing, although she is not guilty” (Kosovo Online, Blic, Euronews)
• Kosovo portals say Bregovic inspired massacres (KoSSev, N1, Kosovo Online)

International:

• Serbia’s Ambassador to Russia Lazanski Passes Away (Balkan Insight)

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Albanian Language Media:

  • EU Special Representative for Kosovo: Fighting corruption needs constant attention (Prishtina Insight)
  • Wilson Center issues report: Consolidating Kosovo’s Sovereignty (media)
  • CEC has so far approved 1,960 registration applications from Diaspora (Koha)
  • Interest in COVID-19 vaccines increases in Kosovo, 14% of people fully vaccinated (KP)
  • COVID-19: 221 new cases, one death (media)

Serbian Language Media:

  • Grenell’s visit during the “Open Balkans” project is (not) a coincidence (Danas, Kosovo Online)
  • Serbia sends police choppers to help North Macedonia’s firefighters (N1)
  • Jevtic: By introducing economic measures to Serbia, Kurti wants to end dialogue (Gracanica-online)
  • Davenport and Mladenovic on language rights in Kosovo (Radio KIM)
  • Sheholli: ”Dragica ought to be sitting with Albanian women, apologizing, although she is not guilty” (Kosovo Online, Blic, Euronews)
  • Kosovo portals say Bregovic inspired massacres (KoSSev, N1, Kosovo Online)

International:

  • Serbia’s Ambassador to Russia Lazanski Passes Away (Balkan Insight)

 

 

Albanian Language Media  

 

EU Special Representative for Kosovo: Fighting corruption needs constant attention (Prishtina Insight)

During an interview for BIRN, the EU’s Special Representative for Kosovo, Tomas Szunyog, stated that he understood the frustrations of the Kosovo public in relation to the visa liberalisation saga. “The situation is not positive [and] I hope that it will be solved quite soon,” he told BIRN’s Jeta Xharra.

Szunyog reiterated that the process led by the European Commission concluded that Kosovo had met all of the conditions for its citizens to be granted visa free travel in the Schengen zone. 

However, the decision now rests with the European Council, which is made up of the foreign ministers of each of the 27 member states of the EU, and there is currently still no consensus  amongst the Council to remove the visa regime for Kosovo citizens.

The EU ambassador told BIRN that the Council makes decisions based not only on the European Commission’s findings, but also on experts advising the 27 ministers. “Some of those experts are not persuaded that the European Commission evaluation was done correctly,” he said.

Szunyog refuted the idea that visa liberalisation was being used as a carrot in the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, describing the two as completely separate processes. He added that Kosovo needs to continue to focus on the criteria set out by the European Commission, despite being given the green light in the past.

“Some of those criteria remain and require constant attention,” Szunyog told BIRN. “Let’s say that criteria is the track record on fighting organized crime and corruption. This is something which is not just one thing fulfilled five years ago. This needs constant attention.”

The EU ambassador refused to be drawn on giving a prediction as to when visa liberalisation may be achieved, but stated that a positive decision can be seen if Kosovo does its homework and engages with member states.

Turning to the dialogue, Szunyog welcomed the introduction of a Kosovo government likely to serve its full term, with a solid parliamentary majority. 

“There is no excuse that things cannot be delivered because the majority in parliament is not there,” he said, adding that he is “pleased that we have a Government which is active in the dialogue, and raising its own issues and agenda.”

The EU Special Representative went on to defend the achievements of the EU-facilitated dialogue, pointing to successes in integrating Serbs into the Kosovo Police, and the establishment of the Common Crossing Point in Merdare. 

He also rejected the notion that pressure was not being applied to the Serbian side to implement agreements, and argued that in some cases it was Kosovo that had failed on implementation, citing an issue over car registration plates that violated the Brussels agreement.

“The car plate agreement was that Kosovo should be using those Kosovo plates until September this year,” Szunyog told BIRN. “The previous Minister of Interior unilaterally cancelled this obligation and decided that all Kosovars may use only Republic of Kosovo plates, which was a clear violation of the agreement.”

The EU ambassador also defended the practical nature of the talks, arguing that it was the European Coal and Steel Community that was the basis of the European Union itself. “[The] logic of European Integration started with very practical issues of economic cooperation, trade, [and the] common use of natural resources like coal and steel,” he said.

One of the key stumbling blocks in the dialogue has been the formation of an Association of Serb-Majority Municipalities, which was a key part of the 2013 Brussels Agreement. Principles for the formation of an Association were agreed in 2015, but were declared contrary to the spirit of the Kosovo Constitution by the country’s Constitutional Court.

In his interview with BIRN, Szunyog was keen to stress that the Constitutional Court’s decision did not declare that the Association could not not be formed, nor did it void obligations from the 2013 agreement. “It also says that the statute of association should be prepared and again subjected to review by the Constitutional Court,” he said. “Actually, the Constitutional Court is expecting the statute to come and be reviewed again.”

The EU Special representative added that a working group to draft the statute of the Association of Serb-majority Municipalities established by a previous government still exists, and that from his perspective, the Kosovo Government implementing its own laws is of vital importance.

Szunyog stressed that he was not suggesting any specific method for establishing the Association, but stated that the EU would not automatically reject something similar to a National Minorities Council, comparable to that which exists in Serbia for ethnic non-majority communities, as was suggested by Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti in Brussels in June.

“I would say, first of all, we need to see more details for this proposal. It was presented in one sentence and we need to see more,” he said. “The second thing is that if this is something which is in the context of the agreement from 2013, then why not?”

The ambassador also reiterated the maxim of Miroslav Lajcak, the EU’s Special Representative for the dialogue, that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” in regard to the comprehensive agreement between Kosovo and Serbia.

“[The] Association is part of the agreement,” he said. “If it is proposed and agreed as a text, it would not be operational and would not be requested to be implemented until the whole deal is signed.”

A greener and cleaner Kosovo

During his interview with BIRN, the EU Special Representative also addressed a number of domestic issues within Kosovo, including the ongoing fight against corruption and environmental issues.

In terms of tackling corruption, Szunyog highlighted the courts’ failure to utilise legislation that allowed for the confiscation of property following a criminal conviction, which was introduced in 2018.

“We are disappointed that this very good, modern, new law, which is fully compatible with the EU acquis, is not being used,” he said. “If you look at the level of confiscated property it is very low. The first step is to start using existing legislation.”

In regard to oversight of the judiciary, Szunyog stated that the system deployed to assess the integrity and performance of prosecutors and judges must start becoming more functional, adding that a good system exists but is not being used properly. He added that a new vetting system, as promised by governing party Vetevendosje during the most recent election campaign, would not add much to what is already in place, and will be slow and difficult to implement.

As for the environment, Szunyog stated that the EU’s position is very clear in regard to new coal based energy sources – there is no way it can support it and no European bank would fund it. 

“There is no future for coal in the long-term perspective,” he said. “What we are talking about with the government is how to transit from a coal-based energy system to a new one. We understand the reality in Kosovo is that 97% of electricity is generated by coal power plants, which has effects on the environment, but also on the health of the population.”

The ambassador stated that so far he has not yet seen a green policy in Kosovo, but acknowledged that there was a willingness to engage from the prime minister, president and other government figures. However, he added that there was still work to be done across the board for a greener future.

“There needs to be a push for energy efficiency and savings, that’s important,” Szunyog told BIRN. “But there also needs to be more educational campaigns [towards] individuals, as this is also an individual responsibility.”

See the video and transcript of the full interview at: https://bit.ly/2Vy801u

Wilson Center issues report: Consolidating Kosovo’s Sovereignty (media)

There is now a unique opportunity to resolve one of the major sources of inter-state tension in the Western Balkans: the dispute between Kosovo and Serbia over Kosovo’s sovereignty. The people of Kosovo have elected a government with a strong parliamentary majority on an anti-corruption and progressive platform. The new government under Prime Minister Albin Kurti requires firm international support from Kosovo’s allies—especially the United States and member states of the European Union (EU)—to realize its domestic agenda and to consolidate Kosovo’s sovereignty, a report issued by the U.S.-based Wilson Center argues. 

It states that re-energized U.S. and EU support is necessary to realize the goal of independent, multi-ethnic states and societies co-existing peacefully in the Western Balkans and while the Government of Kosovo is committed to these principles, Serbia is not. “The United States and the EU must confront Serbia’s increasingly authoritarian government and its destabilizing  foreign policy.”

“Serbia is facilitating the growing influence of illiberal states in the Western Balkans. Russia and China in particular are using Serbia as a vehicle for increasing their own power and influence and undermine Western gains in the region. A renewed commitment to consolidating Kosovo’s sovereignty is one clear means by which Kosovo’s partners can demonstrate their commitment to a democratic partner and a principled stance towards Serbia’s illiberal and destabilizing behavior, and opposition to its growing military ties to Russia and China.”

To achieve this, the report argues that the international community should recommit to a renewed dialogue that treats Kosovo and Serbia as equal parties, recognizing the sovereignty and territorial integrity of each. “U.S. and EU dialogue facilitators should support these principles and unequivocally renounce border changes.” 

Under recommendations for Kosovo and Serbia, the report says they need to put people ahead of territory and prioritize key issues that affect people’s lives: “These include dealing with core matters relating to transitional justice—namely locating the missing and delivering justice to survivors of sexual violence—and supporting bilateral economic cooperation to combat unemployment.”

Furthermore, Kosovo and Serbia should agree to reciprocity of rights for the Serb community in Kosovo and the Albanian community in Serbia as a basic principle to guide further Kosovo-Serbia dialogue agreements. Property rights and cultural heritage for all citizens in Kosovo must be secured, particularly for Kosovo Serbs’ property outside of North Mitrovica and surrounding areas, and for Kosovo Albanians’ property in the northern four municipalities.

Kosovo is at the same time called to ensure that the Association/Community of Serb Majority Municipalities is designed explicitly to support cooperation and exchange of resources among municipalities, according to the Kosovo Constitution, EU and international law and must not have executive authority outside the purview of the central government.

See the full report at: https://bit.ly/37hyXtd

CEC has so far approved 1,960 registration applications from Diaspora (Koha)

The Central Election Commission (CEC) is in the process of conducting registration of voters outside of Kosovo, as part of preparations for 17 October local elections. The period for registration was open on 10 July and will run through 18 August, Koha reports. 

CEC spokesperson Valmir Elezi said that based on the information from the voters’ service, 2,101 registration applications have been received from the Diaspora so far, of which 1,960 have been approved and the other 141 rejected for not meeting the legal criteria. Elezi said that the CEC has informed the rejected applicants of what additional documents they need to present in order to have their requests approved.

Voters from abroad that meet the necessary requirements to vote in Kosovo local elections will be able to cast their ballots by post from 15 September to 15 October 2021.

Interest in COVID-19 vaccines increases in Kosovo, 14% of people fully vaccinated (KP)

Faik Hoti, spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, said that the opportunity for vaccination of different age groups has increased the interest in Kosovo and that so far, 25 percent of citizens have received first doses while around 14 percent are fully vaccinated.

“We are seeing in recent days a huge interest of citizens to get vaccinated and what is striking is that the youth are getting the vaccines and this is a good indicator that if we continue with this dynamic, the Government, namely the Ministry of Health will be able to fulfil the objective of vaccinating 60 percent of population by the end of the year,” Hoti told Kosovapress

Hoti added that Pristina is the municipality with the highest number of vaccinated residents.

COVID-19: 221 new cases, one death (media)

Kosovo’s Ministry of Health said that 221 new cases of COVID-19 and one death from the virus were recorded in the last 24 hours. 21 persons recovered from the virus during this time. 

There are 888 active cases with COVID-19. 

14,616 vaccine doses were administered in the last 24 hours. To date, 460,297 vaccines have been administered in Kosovo.

 

 

Serbian Language Media

 

Grenell’s visit during the “Open Balkans” project is (not) a coincidence (Danas, Kosovo Online)

Richard Grenell, former envoy of former US President Donald Trump for the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, has created financial and human contacts with this part of the world, but as a former official he has no influence on the new policy of the US administration – Danas’ interlocutors comment on Grenell’s visit to the Balkans, portal Kosovo Online cited.

Dusan Janjic, from the Forum for Ethnic Relations, believes that Grenell’s visit to Belgrade and Tirana just at the time when the “Open Balkans” project was presented is not a coincidence.

According to him, Grenell, as a former diplomat, although not yet relieved of all duties, then a member of the administration, and a man who participated in a very specific arrangement that ended with the Washington agreement, left some traces and probably created financial and human contacts with this part of the world. 

“What is happening is not bad. It is good for the government and the public in Serbia and Albania to have that kind of contact in Washington. He is a Republican, he will probably fall out of the new division, because he stood out in Trump’s team, but that is a part of America’s political elite that has the appropriate lobbying, and other influence, “Janjic explains.

Jovana Radosavljevic, director of the New Social Initiative from Kosovska Mitrovica, estimates that former American officials do not have much influence on the new policy of the American administration, especially those who do not come from the party, and actively criticize the current American president.

It is interesting that Grenell comes now after the signing of the “Open Balkan” initiative, and that he is visiting Serbia and Albania. However, the fact that no other Serbian or Albanian official he met announced information about that visit, indicates that these are meetings that are in private, not official capacity,” Radosavljevic said.

Serbia sends police choppers to help North Macedonia’s firefighters (N1)

Serbian Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin said Tuesday his ministry (MUP) sent four helicopters with the 16-member crew to North Macedonia to help firefighters there extinguish fire in villages in the north of the country, N1 reports.

Three more Fire Brigade’s helicopters were also sent to the area.

Vulin said Serbia was ready to help anywhere in the neighboring country if the fire spread, thus preventing it from unfurling to Serbia.

“We are together in this area, and we must be as close as possible to each other“, Vulin said in the statement. 

Jevtic: By introducing economic measures to Serbia, Kurti wants to end dialogue (Gracanica-online)

Gracanica-online writes Tuesday that “as local elections in Kosovo approach, rhetoric of Albanian leaders in relation to Serbs and Serbia is becoming harsher”. Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti continues to disrespect the agreements reached so far and announces the reintroduction of reciprocity in relations with Serbia.

There are no changes in Kurti’s stances and policies compared to the period when he was in opposition. Serbs from Kosovo almost do not exist for him, there is not even a condemnation when they were attacked, and the agreements with Serbia, both in Brussels, and the one from Washington, are respected only in the part that suits Pristina, the portal added.

“There is no doubt that as part of his election campaign, Albin Kurti will address that part of the disrespect, not only of the Washington agreement, but everything that was achieved in the agreements through the dialogue, and that is a break in activities related to recognition and membership in international organizations. And so, he will certainly do it with the goal, not to really contribute to Kosovo being better, but to bring him personally as a leader who is running in the upcoming elections as many votes as possible” Serbian List Vice President Dalibor Jevtic told Gracanica-online.

Davenport and Mladenovic on language rights in Kosovo (Radio KIM)

Head of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo, Ambassador Michael Davenport met Language Commissioner Slavisa Mladenovic and offered him assistance in the work as he considers that engagement in achieving the language rights in Kosovo is very important, Radio KIM reports.

Following the meeting with Mladenovic, the OSCE Mission wrote on Twitter OSCE will “continue to support their important work on language rights, one of the main elements of our latest Community Rights Assessment Report”.

It also added that OSCE “welcomed the recent positive decision on accreditation of Balkanology Studies at University of Prishtina and pledged support to establishment of the Government Translation Unit, which will harmonize translation and interpretation procedures in public institutions”.

Sheholli: ”Dragica ought to be sitting with Albanian women, apologizing, although she is not guilty” (Kosovo Online, Blic, Euronews)

Belgrade based daily Blic reported that “after months of silence, Albanian NGOs in Kosovo have finally spoken out about the case of Dragica Gasic, a returnee to Djakovica who has been putting up with the local terror for months. But the way they spoke out, it would have been better if they didn’t, since they practically justified all the violations of the most basic human rights”, portal Kosovo Online cited.

Blic referred to the statement of Fatmir Sheholli from the Institute of Affirmation of Interethnic Relations for Euronews Serbia, who said that  “Serbia and the Office, so called Office for  Kosovo led by Petkovic did this on purpose to politicize the whole situation, and not because Dragica cared so much about returning and living alone in Djakovica, but to show the world that Albanians do not want anyone to return”.

“Dragica Gasic, instead of going from one office to another in Belgrade and thus being abused by Petkovic and Vucic and Ana Brnabic and everyone else, should sit with the Albanian women in Djakovica and apologize although she is not guilty of it. But that is an act of the moral aspect, so that she affords the possibility of living in a society where she wants to move about,” Fatmir Sheholli from the Institute of Affirmation of Interethnic Relations in Kosovo concluded, the daily cited.

Kosovo portals say Bregovic inspired massacres (KoSSev, N1, Kosovo Online)

Several Pristina-based online media have been calling musician Goran Bregovic the man whose music “inspired massacres in Kosovo”.

The comments came over Bregovic’s announced performance at the Korce Beer Festival in Albania between August 18 and 22 as a special guest. Bregovic is a native of Sarajevo who now lives in Belgrade. He is known world-wide for his movie scores and concerts by his Wedding and Funeral Orchestra. There was no confirmation of the report on the festival’s website nor on Bregovic’s portal which says that he is scheduled to appear in Moscow on August 26.

Reports of Bregovic’s performance on Albanian media were carried by several Kosovo portals saying that the Serb singer who was “once the inspiration for massacres in Kosovo has been invited to the festival in Korca. Gazeta Express, Indexonline and Bota Sot said that Bregovic is the inspiration behind Serbian myths and inspired the massacres in Kosovo especially with his song titled Kalashnikov.

See at: https://bit.ly/3lsibj9

 

 

International 

 

Serbia’s Ambassador to Russia Lazanski Passes Away (Balkan Insight)

Serbian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday announced the sudden death of Miroslav Lazanski who, before entering politics and diplomacy, was a well-known military journalist and commentator.

Miroslav Lazanski, the Serbian ambassador to Russia, has suddenly died, Serbia’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

Lazanski was appointed ambassador to Moscow in June 2019. He had been an MP in parliament since June 2016, elected on the ruling Serbian Progressive Party’s list as a non-party person.

Speaking on N1 Television before the 2016 election, Lazanski said that Aleksandar Vucic, then Serbian Prime Minister, now President, had not asked anything from him.

Read more at: https://bit.ly/3CbUAt3

 

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