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UNMIK Media Observer, Morning Edition, August 16, 2021

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• COVID-19: 1,096 new cases, 4 deaths (media)
• Kosovo opens doors to Afghan refugees (Koha Ditore)
• US: Kosovo joins calls for safe departure of Afghans (media)
• Albright thanks Kosovo for offering to refuge Afghan allies (media)
• Citaku: Kosovo should shelter some refugees from Afghanistan (RTK)
• Kosovo parties ponder joint candidates in Serb-majority areas (BIRN)
• Kosovo without protect against Russian propaganda (Radio Free Europe)
• COVID-19 spike adds to jitters over new school year in Balkans (BIRN)

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  • COVID-19: 1,096 new cases, 4 deaths (media)
  • Kosovo opens doors to Afghan refugees (Koha Ditore)
  • US: Kosovo joins calls for safe departure of Afghans (media)
  • Albright thanks Kosovo for offering to refuge Afghan allies (media)
  • Citaku: Kosovo should shelter some refugees from Afghanistan (RTK)
  • Kosovo parties ponder joint candidates in Serb-majority areas (BIRN)
  • Kosovo without protect against Russian propaganda (Radio Free Europe)
  • COVID-19 spike adds to jitters over new school year in Balkans (BIRN)

COVID-19: 1,096 new cases, 4 deaths (media)

1,096 new cases with COVID-19 and four deaths from the virus were recorded in the last 24 hours in Kosovo. 53 persons recovered from the virus during this time. There are 7,854 active cases with COVID-19 in Kosovo.

Kosovo opens doors to Afghan refugees (Koha Ditore)

Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani said on Sunday that Kosovo’s doors are open to refugees from Afghanistan after the country has now fallen in the hands of the Taliban. Osmani said that Kosovo will have the support of the United States for security evaluations during the provisional stay of Afghan nationals until their documentation for travelling to the United States is arranged. “No one knows better than us what it means to be forcefully expelled from the place you were born, to be separated from your loved ones, and to be forced to escape in order to save life,” Osmani said in a Facebook post.

US: Kosovo joins calls for safe departure of Afghans (media)

The United States Embassy in Prishtina took to Facebook today to share a statement issued by the Department of State and noting that “Kosovo joins the United States and other countries in calling on all parties to respect and facilitate, the safe and orderly departure of foreign nationals and Afghans who wish to leave the country.”

Albright thanks Kosovo for offering to refuge Afghan allies (media)

Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State, said in a Twitter post “we must focus on saving lives in Afghanistan. As the US works to evacuate those at special risk from the Taliban, I am grateful to Albania, Canada, Kosovo and North Macedonia for offering refuge to Afghan allies, especially women and civil society leaders. I hope & expect others to follow.”

Citaku: Kosovo should shelter some refugees from Afghanistan (RTK)

Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) deputy leader Vlora Citaku said on Sunday that Kosovo, although small and with limited resources, must show generosity and shelter a number of refugees from Afghanistan. “We in Kosovo know very well the feeling of powerlessness when you are forcefully expelled from your home. The pain and insecurity that engulfs you when you are separated from everything you know and love,” Citaku said.

Kosovo parties ponder joint candidates in Serb-majority areas (BIRN)

Kosovo Albanian parties are mulling calls to unite behind a single mayoral candidate in two Serb-majority municipalities where the Belgrade-backed party usually wins by a landslide.

In a bid to break the domination in two Serb-majority areas of the Belgrade-backed Srpska Lista party in local elections, Kosovo Albanian parties are considering uniting behind a single candidate as the deadline for submission of political entities closes on August 16.

On Friday, Erden Atiq, a local Vetevendosje leader in mainly Serb North Mitrovica, spoke about a potential agreement between the Albanian parties to field a single mayoral candidate for the October 17 local elections.

“We have not finalised the agreement yet but we agreed that I will be the candidate for mayor and we will have a single list for the municipal assembly,” Atiq told BIRN.

In North Mitrovica’s last mayoral election in 2019, Goran Rakic of Srpska Lista won hands down with 90 per cent of the votes.

“I cannot speak about the results but we expect to bring together the votes of Albanian voters [in North Mitrovica],” Atiq said.

Since its establishment in 2013, Srpska Lista has won all local and parliamentary elections in Serb-majority municipalities in Kosovo. The party has the strong support of Serbia’s President, Aleksandar Vucic.

North Mitrovica is not the only municipality where Albanian parties are trying to challenge Srpska Lista with a joint mayoral candidate.

On Thursday, Abdyl Gashi, head of Vetevendosje in Novobrdo, said the unification of Albanian parties behind a single candidate there was “very necessary”.

“When little time remains for this initiative to be realised, I call on Albanian political parties to be more rational and conscious and unify around an initiative which will win all [the seats], especially Novobrdo,” Gashi said on his Facebook account.

In the 2017 local elections, Svetislav Ivanovic from Srpska Lista won there in the first round with 59.4 per cent of the votes.

However, only the Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, has signalled its support for the initiative so far. Bajrush Ymeri, head of the Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK, in Novobrdo told BIRN that no such agreement is in sight.

He hinted that two parties, the Alliance for Future of Kosovo, AAK, and the Alliance for New Kosovo, AKR, would support him as a candidate, with Vetevendosje preferring another name.

Kosovo without protect against Russian propaganda (Radio Free Europe)

In the 22 years after the war in Kosovo, Russia has been one of the biggest opponents of the state of Kosovo. According to policy researchers in Kosovo, in addition to the political and diplomatic war, Russia continues to challenge Kosovo through propaganda and false content produced by Russian government-controlled media. They argue that these media which operate in the region continuously produce fake content aimed at creating a narrative that Kosovo is a criminal country and that it declared its statehood in opposition with international law.

From September 2001 to August 2021, the webpage of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has published a total of 835 material referring to Kosovo. In most cases these are statements by Russian ministers and officials denying Kosovo’s statehood, condemning acts of violence against the Serb minority in Kosovo, the cultural heritage of the Serb Orthodox Church and accusing the Kosovo Liberation Army of organs trafficking.

COVID-19 spike adds to jitters over new school year in Balkans (BIRN)

As a new hike of COVID-19 infections strikes the Western Balkans, schools face a challenge preparing for class returns in autumn.

A recent spike in COVID-19 cases has increased uncertainties over the start of the new school year in the Western Balkans, where governments are appealing to teachers to get vaccinated.

Most authorities do not want a return to online learning, but too many unvaccinated teachers may force a change of plan.

North Macedonia’s Education Ministry said it hopes to open all schools on September 1 but is preparing for other scenarios amid a fresh spike in infections.

One envisages repeating the practice from last school year, when younger pupils attended classes in person under strict safety protocols while older pupils followed online classes.

A second alternative would rotate children so that they spend one week in school and the next online.

The ministry said it will make a final decision in the second half of August, depending on viral conditions.

It said that some 60 per cent of the country’s 31,500 teachers and school staff had been vaccinated.

“We appeal to the remaining teaching and other staff to get a vaccine in order to protect their own health and the health of loved ones,” the ministry said.

Meri Gavrilova, a high school teacher from the capital, Skopje, told BIRN that their school was preparing for all possibilities.

“Almost no one wants a repetition of last year’s online classes. It was a hurdle for teachers as we had to work overtime with limited technical resources, and most students were not happy, either. They were unmotivated and ill prepared,” she said.

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