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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, September 16, 2021

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Albanian Language Media:

• COVID-19: 14 deaths, 368 new cases (media)
• Kurti: Kosovo, North Macedonia governments’ meeting, a historic moment (media)
• Kosovo and North Macedonia signed 11 agreements today (media)
• Konjufca: Territorial integrity and independence are non-negotiable (media)
• AAK’s Tahiri asks Lajcak to explain issue of KLA archives (Lajmi)
• 117 Afghan nationals expected to fly out of Kosovo today (Radio Free Europe)
• COVID-19 forces parties to avoid conventional campaigns (Indeksonline)
• Rama on Open Balkan: No one can lecture Albania (media)

Serbian Language Media:

• Three deaths, 29 newly infected with Covid-19 in Serbian communities (KiM radio)
• “Epidemiological situation in Serb areas in Kosovo serious” (Radio Kosovska Mitrovica, KiM radio)
• Petkovic: Pristina wants to go back ten years and bury the dialogue (RTS)
• The hearing in the case of the murder of Oliver Ivanovic postponed again (KiM radio, Radio Mitrovica sever)
• Petritsch: In Washington, the Balkans are increasingly seen as a problem of Europe (Kosovo Online)
• Von der Leyen to visit Belgrade on September 30 (Tanjug)
• Stojanovic: Citizens to decide on their own future (KiM radio)
• Jevtic: Serbian List’s victory will be “defeat to the devil” (KiM radio)

International:

• For Kosovo officials, training means travel on taxpayer dime (BIRN)
• European Parliament gives green light to IPA III worth 14.2 billion euro (EWB)

Humanitarian/Development:

• FRONTEX: Illegal Migration Increased by Over 90% in the Mediterranean, Balkan & Western African Route (schengenvisainfo.com)

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Albanian Language Media:

  • COVID-19: 14 deaths, 368 new cases (media)
  • Kurti: Kosovo, North Macedonia governments’ meeting, a historic moment (media)
  • Kosovo and North Macedonia signed 11 agreements today (media)
  • Konjufca: Territorial integrity and independence are non-negotiable (media)
  • AAK’s Tahiri asks Lajcak to explain issue of KLA archives (Lajmi)
  • 117 Afghan nationals expected to fly out of Kosovo today (Radio Free Europe)
  • COVID-19 forces parties to avoid conventional campaigns (Indeksonline)
  • Rama on Open Balkan: No one can lecture Albania (media)

Serbian Language Media:

  • Three deaths, 29 newly infected with Covid-19 in Serbian communities (KiM radio)
  • “Epidemiological situation in Serb areas in Kosovo serious” (Radio Kosovska Mitrovica, KiM radio)
  • Petkovic: Pristina wants to go back ten years and bury the dialogue (RTS)
  • The hearing in the case of the murder of Oliver Ivanovic postponed again (KiM radio, Radio Mitrovica sever)
  • Petritsch: In Washington, the Balkans are increasingly seen as a problem of Europe (Kosovo Online)
  • Von der Leyen to visit Belgrade on September 30 (Tanjug)
  • Stojanovic: Citizens to decide on their own future (KiM radio)
  • Jevtic: Serbian List’s victory will be “defeat to the devil” (KiM radio)

International:

  • For Kosovo officials, training means travel on taxpayer dime (BIRN)
  • European Parliament gives green light to IPA III worth 14.2 billion euro (EWB)

Humanitarian/Development:

  • FRONTEX: Illegal Migration Increased by Over 90% in the Mediterranean, Balkan & Western African Route (schengenvisainfo.com)

 

 

Albanian Language Media  

 

COVID-19: 14 deaths, 368 new cases (media)

14 deaths from COVID-19 and 368 new cases from the virus were recorded in Kosovo in the last 24 hours. 1,382 persons recovered from the virus during this time. There are 13,473 active cases with COVID-19 in Kosovo.

Kurti: Kosovo, North Macedonia governments’ meeting, a historic moment (media)

The Prime Minister of the Republic of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, said today after the joint meetings of the governments of Kosovo and North Macedonia in Skopje, that the meeting marks a historic moment in the cooperation of the two countries.

“The joint meeting is an expression of the readiness to mark a new era of cooperation. Coordination, policies and work on common projects will improve the lives of our people, and this is our obligation. We signed 11 agreements for different areas today. We had a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Zaev before the meeting of the two governments. As countries with common objectives, we understand that the fight against crime and corruption is very important for our paths. Our new government has been built and stands firm on its path for justice,” he said.

North Macedonia Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said: “although the meeting was held during a pandemic, it is a clear expression of the willingness for good neighborly relations. We have focused on the agreements and memorandums that facilitate the economic development of our countries. Kosovo is one of the most important partners of Macedonia”.

Zaev said his country supports the EU-facilitated talks between Kosovo and Serbia and that they support the right of Kosovars for visa liberalisation.

Zaev also said that he and Kurti don’t share the same opinion about the Open Balkan initiative “but this does not hinder the bilateral cooperation between our countries. Kosovo is independent and it has its own positions”. 

Asked to comment on the Open Balkan, Kurti said: “We want more cooperation and implementation of agreements with North Macedonia. We are focused on the future and the future for us is the European Union. The EU is our destiny and the Republic of Kosovo supports regional initiatives that come from the European Union. Therefore, none of the agreements signed today can be impeded regardless of the differences that we may have.”

Kosovo and North Macedonia signed 11 agreements today (media)

The governments of Kosovo and North Macedonia are holding a joint meeting in Skopje today. Several media outlets in Kosovo are reporting that 11 agreements have been signed by the two governments. A senior advisor to Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti said some of the agreements include the feasibility study for the Prizren-Tetovo road, cooperation in the field of the diaspora, border railway communication, cooperation in the areas of energy, tourism, control of strategic goods, innovation, technological development and entrepreneurship and local governance.

Konjufca: Territorial integrity and independence are non-negotiable (media)

The President of the Assembly of the Republic of Kosovo, Glauk Konjufca, met today with the Special Representative of the European Union for the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue and other Western Balkans regional issues, Miroslav Lajcak. The meeting focused on the course of the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, regional cooperation and the European perspective of the Western Balkans.

Konjufca said the dialogue must result in mutual recognition and reiterated that Kosovo’s constitutional order, sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence are non-negotiable. “We will never allow these foundations of our state to become a topic of talks with Serbia,” he said.

Konjufca also highlighted the engagements of the Kosovo Assembly to adopt laws and harmonise them with the EU Acquis Communitaire, adding that Kosovo’s future is in the European Union.

AAK’s Tahiri asks Lajcak to explain issue of KLA archives (Lajmi)

The head of the parliamentary group of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK), Besnik Tahiri, asked the Special Representative of the European Union for the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak, in a meeting today to explain the issue of KLA archives in order to avoid manipulations in the public discourse.

Tahiri said that mutual recognition between Kosovo and Serbia should be the outcome of the process of dialogue. “Recognition means peace and European integration. Dialogue has no alternative and there is no sense in prolonging the process without clear results that lead toward recognition,” Tahiri said in a Facebook post.

117 Afghan nationals expected to fly out of Kosovo today (Radio Free Europe)

Around 117 Afghan nationals, who were sheltered in Kosovo, are expected to fly out from Prishtina International Airport today, the news website reports citing sources in Kosovo’s Ministry of Interior Affairs. 971 Afghan nationals arrived in Kosovo to date. Kosovo authorities earlier said they would provide temporary shelter to around 2,000 Afghan nationals that worked with the United States and NATO member states and who fled the country after the Taliban takeover.

COVID-19 forces parties to avoid conventional campaigns (Indeksonline)

The election campaign for the October local elections starts today. The law on local elections provides that the campaign lasts one month, but because of the grave situation with the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the main political parties have pledged to shorten their campaigns. The Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) and Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) have said they will focus on digital instead of conventional campaigns. Meanwhile, the Vetevendosje Movement, the ruling party, has made no comment on the issue yet.

Rama on Open Balkan: No one can lecture Albania (media)

The Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama, talked today about the Open Balkan initiative saying that no one can give lectures to Albania. “Open Balkan is not a game by Serbia or a Russian or Chinese conspiracy to bring Yugoslavia back to life. It is in no way a deviation from the path of membership in the European Union or from the framework of the Berlin Process. These are all scary stories that are told in front of the digital fireplace from Facebook and with an enemy that Kosovo and Albania have definitely defeated 20 something years ago thanks to the United States and the Kosovo Liberation Army,” Rama said in an address to the Parliament of Albania.

“We can talk about Kosovo, but it is up to them to make their decisions and vice versa. The authorities of Albania decide for Albania, and they [Kosovo] must respect our decisions. If we don’t like each other’s decisions we can discuss them like brothers with open minds but we cannot declare traitors, Russian-Chinese or Slav-nostalgic those with different opinions,” Rama said.

 

 

 

Serbian Language Media

 

Three deaths, 29 newly infected with Covid-19 in Serbian communities (KiM radio)

According to the latest data, in Serb areas in Kosovo, three more people died as a result of Covida-19, and 29 new cases were registered, the Crisis Staff of the Municipality of Kosovska Mitrovica announced today.

Newly infected by municipalities: North Mitrovica (11), Leposavic (6), Zvecan (3), Zubin Potok (3), Kosovska Kamenica (3), Priluzje (1), Strpce (1) and Gnjilane (1).

The Crisis Staff of the Municipality of Gracanica announced today that four new cases of coronavirus have been recorded on the territory of the municipality in the last 24 hours.

“Epidemiological situation in Serb areas in Kosovo serious” (Radio Kosovska Mitrovica, KiM radio)

The epidemiological situation in Serbian communities in Kosovo has become serious in the last few days, because there is an increase in the number of newly infected people, as well as an increase in the number of testing, epidemiologist of the Public Health Institute in Kosovska Mitrovica Dr. Aleksandar Antonijevic told Radio Kosovska Mitrovica.

“Other parameters, based on which we are assessing the situation, are fine for now. The number of people reporting in local health centers is declining, but unfortunately, today we have three deaths, which is extremely large according to the number of inhabitants in our city,” said Antonijevic

He points out that day by day we are recording an increasing number of newly discovered cases and adds that the situation requires us to be extremely disciplined and responsible, and to follow all the recommendations, which doctors have been insisting on since the beginning of the pandemic. The epidemiologist appealed to the citizens to vaccinate and pointed out that immunization with the Russian vaccine has recently become available.

“I would like to call and appeal to the citizens not to waste time and to come out of this situation together as winners, to respond to the immunization process that is being carried out for our citizens in Raska, Kursumlija and Bujanovac. We have a selection of all vaccines, and since last week, the Russian “Sputnik V” vaccine is also available. Let’s try to put all this behind us; we will not succeed without well-implemented immunization and 80 percent of the immunized population,” said Antonijevic.

Petkovic: Pristina wants to go back ten years and bury the dialogue (RTS)

The director of the Office for KiM, Petar Petkovic told RTS that Pristina wanted to bury the dialogue by announcements on reciprocity and confiscation of license plates.

Petkovic reminded that he would not be able to go to Kosovo during the campaign for the local elections, since Pristina banned him from doing so. 

He emphasized that thus Pristina violated the agreement on the officials’ visits and added that he informed the EU Special Representative for the Dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak, at the Brussels meeting. 

“By announcing reciprocity and confiscation of license plates, Pristina wants to bury the dialogue,” Petkovic told RTS. 

Petkovic expected the dialogue to continue in October. He repeated that Belgrade wanted to continue the dialogue, discussing all topics – freedom of movement, ZSO, energy, justice, the issue of the missing.

He mentioned that Pristina is running away from all topics, and that did not want to fulfill the promise.

Speaking about the meeting between President Vucic and the representatives of Serbs from Kosovo and the candidates of the Serbian List for mayors in the upcoming local elections, he pointed out that the unity was once again confirmed.

“That unity exists between the SL and Belgrade. Vucic once again supported exclusively the candidates of the Serbian List because that keeps the umbilical cord between the state of Serbia and the Serbian people in KiM,” Petkovic stated.

He also said that the representatives of the Serbian List conveyed to Vucic the anxiety of the people in Kosovo because of the announcements from Pristina related to the violation of the Brussels Agreement, namely the agreement on energy and justice in the light of the shameful verdict against Ivan Todosijevic, but also announcement on some reciprocity and taking off license plates.

“This endangers the life and freedom of movement of the Serbian people in KiM, for which the Serb representatives said that they would not watch it silently. If Pristina continues with similar moves, the situation will return to the one ten years ago, before the Brussels agreement,” Petkovic said.

He said that 17 new buildings were being built in North Mitrovica and a new university building. 

He reminded that in addition to the regular budget of the Office for KiM, Belgrade provided additional four billion dinars for capital projects and one-time assistance to the people in Kosovo of 100 and 200 euros through the budget rebalance.

The hearing in the case of the murder of Oliver Ivanovic postponed again (KiM radio, Radio Mitrovica sever)

The examination of prosecution’s witnesses in the process of assisting the murder of Oliver Ivanovic will not continue tomorrow, as announced at the previous hearing.

The measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus were the reason for the postponement, lawyer Jovana Filipovic confirmed to KiM radio. 

Petritsch: In Washington, the Balkans are increasingly seen as a problem of Europe (Kosovo Online)

Austrian diplomat and former EU envoy to Kosovo Wolfgang Petritsch said in an interview with portal Kosovo Online that as far as the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue is concerned, ”it seems we are further away from a solution then we have been in previous years”, and that the US is preoccupied with internal problems, adding that Washington sees the Balkans more as a “problem” for Europeans.

Asked whether the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina has reached the point where there can be no further progress unless Pristina adheres to the agreement – the Community of Serbian Municipalities (ZSO), Petritsch said that “categorical statements – such as that there is no progress if that does not happen – are always difficult”.

“The idea of replacing the areas would be such an alternative, which, however, seems to be excluded under the current conditions. As for the community / association of Serbian municipalities, it should be noted that Pristina has committed itself to its implementation in an international agreement binding under international law, the Brussels Agreement, which was also ratified by the Parliament in Pristina. I believe that the requirements for the implementation of promises and respect for the agreement are completely natural and understandable – that should be the minimum for Pristina,” Petritsch said.

EU spokesman Peter Stano stated that the Brussels agreement was violated in the case of Ivan Todosijevic (all judges were Albanians in the mentioned case). Can such things jeopardize further dialogue and what if the case does not return to the beginning?

Unfortunately, the fact is that ethnic relations in the region are tense and that such incidents can burden international relations. Again, respect for international treaties should be perfectly normal – pacta sunt servanda is one of the most important legal principles.

The fact that the criticism you mentioned on this issue does not come from the region itself, but from the EU, should give the authorities reason to think – especially since international recognition and, ultimately, EU membership is one of Pristina’s most urgent goals.

Gabriel Escobar is the new US envoy for the Western Balkans and the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, instead of Matthew Palmer. Do you expect any changes in the US approach?

I am convinced that we will see a different approach in the new administration than in the time of Trump. But that is not because of Palmer or Escobar – as an official from 2016 to 2020, Palmer eventually had to implement and carry out the political guidelines of the Trump administration. I guess on the one hand we will see a return to traditional American positions in dealing with the region – after all, Biden has been actively involved in shaping American policy in the Balkans since the 1990s. On the other hand, it can be said that the Balkans and Southeast Europe are less important in American politics than before. The US is very busy with internal problems, and the time of American undisputed supremacy in the world is coming to an end. Washington is watching Beijing and Moscow more closely, as well as global challenges such as cybercrime, climate change and the like – the Balkans are increasingly seen in Washington as a “problem” for Europeans.

To what extent does the US have the “strength” to participate in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina due to the recent events in Afghanistan, and has Kosovo “gained” additional support from the Biden administration by accepting refugees from Afghanistan?

The United States certainly does not lack the “strength” to engage in dialogue, and Washington will certainly support the EU in the continuation of negotiations – the question is, however, how much America gives priority to this process, given numerous other urgent issues, internal and external. The reception of Afghan refugees through Pristina – as well as through Tirana and Skopje – has certainly been favorably received by the State Department. However, I do not know whether this act will have any impact on Washington’s policy.

You have participated in many negotiations. Do you see the “end” of the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina?

I’m afraid that now we seem to be further from the solution than we were in previous years. However, if I have learned anything from my experience as a diplomat, it is that it is better not to make predictions. Solutions and new approaches in confusing situations often come completely unexpectedly …

What is your position on the “Open Balkans”, can it be a preparation for joining the EU, as was the case with the Visegrad Group?

I welcome this initiative very fundamentally and independently of its possible effects on EU accession countries – I think it can only benefit this. First, the “Open Balkans” economic area will lead to greater trade, prosperity, but also personal and cultural exchange in the region, which is beneficial only for all involved. Secondly, we must not forget that the EU itself started gradually and slowly as an economic initiative between former opponents of the war. Deepened trade relations, increased prosperity and cross-border contacts are the best hopes for the countries of the Western Balkans to overcome historical contradictions. In that sense, I see the “Open Balkans” less as a means to achieve future EU membership more than as a worthy goal in itself. Another positive consequence is that this increases the conditions for EU membership.

Von der Leyen to visit Belgrade on September 30 (Tanjug)

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will visit Serbia on September 30 and meet with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Tanjug learns.

Sources in the European Commission confirmed to Tanjug on Wednesday von der Leyen’s tour of the Western Balkan region would be concluded with trips to Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

On the first day of the tour, September 28, von der Leyen will be visiting Albania and North Macedonia.

On the second day, September 29, she will be in Kosovo and Montenegro.

The European Commission has announced earlier the visits would precede an October 6 EU-Western Balkans summit in Slovenia.

The summit will reaffirm the European perspective of the Western Balkans and boost the implementation of an EU economic and investment plan in the region, it said.

Stojanovic: Citizens to decide on their own future (KiM radio)

The candidate for the mayor of Gracanica, Branimir Stojanovic stated that he will lead the campaign for the local elections, for now, through social networks. In these elections, citizens decide on their future, says Stojanovic, reported KiM radio.

The campaign for the upcoming local elections, scheduled for October 17, has officially started in Kosovo.

Branimir Stojanovic told RTV KiM that he will run the campaign via the Internet, so as not to endanger people’s lives, because the coronavirus pandemic is in full swing.

“The campaign will start slowly over the Internet, as long as these measures are in place, we must take care not to gather people and not to endanger them due to health security,” said Stojanovic and added:

“In the coming days, there will be more videos and more other activities. We will talk to people as much as the measures allow. As the campaign progresses, it will become more and more present on the Internet and among people. We talk to people every day in the office and in Gracanica, but all our activists also talk to the locals, we try to respect the measures, to preserve people’s health,” Stojanovic pointed out.

Stojanovic is running in the local elections as an independent candidate and did not submit a list of candidates for councilors.

Jevtic: Serbian List’s victory will be “defeat to the devil” (KiM radio)

The candidate for the mayor of Strpce, Dalibor Jevtic stated at the beginning of the election campaign that “the victory of the Serbian List in the local elections and the unity that reigns within it will be a `defeat to the devil` “, reported KiM radio. 

Jevtic wrote on Twitter account that with unity and respect but also ”hard work they will overcome the hatred of those who are against the Serbian list and unity”, cited KiM radio. 

“Thanks to the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, for his support and everything he has done and is doing for a better life for Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija. The victory of the Serbian List and our unity will be a ‘defeat for the devil’!” Jevtic wrote.

 

 

 

International 

 

For Kosovo officials, training means travel on taxpayer dime (BIRN)

Only a quarter of the public funds spent on training Kosovo’s public officials actually stays within the Kosovo economy, with government ministries preferring to take their staff abroad.

If there was a silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was in the at least 650,000 euros of taxpayers’ money that public officials in Kosovo did not spend last year on official visits, seminars and workshops abroad.

Prior to 2020, however, the amount of expenses claimed by public officials for foreign trips had been steadily rising, in spite of a government decision from 2008 requiring ministries to conduct seminars and workshops inside Kosovo only and thus contribute to the local economy.

Between 2015 and 2020, around 8.2 million euros of Kosovo’s public money was spent on ‘capacity-building’ in 10 government ministries for which BIRN managed to obtain data –infrastructure and energy; internal affairs; regional development; finance; industry, entrepreneurship and trade; justice; foreign affairs; communities and returnees; economy; and defence.

But only 27 per cent of that sum was spent within Kosovo.

In 2019, the 10 ministries spent a total of 654,000 euros locally and around 1.3 million euros abroad. This was, in fact, an improvement on 2018, when the ministries spent just 313,000 euros on training and official meetings inside Kosovo and more than 1.5 million euros abroad.

In March, the US embassy took to Facebook to urge local institutions to “spend taxpayers’ money” within Kosovo, instead of holding meetings and workshops abroad. In 2019, former US ambassador to Kosovo, Philip Kosnett, tweeted that “much Kosovo government travel is unnecessary and wasteful.”

“Institutions continue to ignore… the hotel industry and other related industries” in Kosovo,” said economic expert Ermal Lubishtani, arguing that such neglect had a detrimental effect on the local economy.

Read full article here: https://bit.ly/3EqM2iY

European Parliament gives green light to IPA III worth 14.2 billion euro (EWB)

STRASBOURG – Parliament gave its green light on Wednesday to the new generation of the pre-accession funding instrument that will help seven countries better prepare to meet the obligations of future EU membership. Worth 14.2 billion euro, the 2021-2027 Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA III) will support the implementation of EU-related reforms in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Turkey.

See more at:https://bit.ly/3hCPVI1

 

 

 

Humanitarian/Development

 

FRONTEX: Illegal Migration Increased by Over 90% in the Mediterranean, Balkan & Western African Route (schengenvisainfo.com)

Over 103,630 people entered the European countries illegally since the beginning of the year, marking a 64 percent increase from illegal border crossing cases compared to the first months of 2020, the EU Border and Coast Guard Agency, FRONTEX has revealed.

According to a press release of the Agency, the illegal numbers have doubled up during August (+ 53 per cent), with 17,788 illegal border crossings registered, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports.

See more at:https://bit.ly/3hCD6NZ

 

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