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UNMIK Media Observer, October 7, 2021

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• EU: Western Balkans to implement necessary reforms in key areas (EWB)
• EU – WB Summit Brdo Declaration (media)
• Kurti on meeting Merkel, Macron and Vucic (media)
• Borrell: I call on both parties to intensify work on an agreement (media)
• Macron: Kosovo – Serbia dialogue seems very complex (media)
• Shared responsibility for a common European future (media)
• Lajcak travels to New York to meet UN leadership (media)
• ‘Loyalty to Comrades’ lands Kosovo War Veterans’ leaders in court (BIRN)
• COVID-19: One death, 41 new cases (media)

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  • EU: Western Balkans to implement necessary reforms in key areas (EWB)
  • EU – WB Summit Brdo Declaration (media)
  • Kurti on meeting Merkel, Macron and Vucic (media)
  • Borrell: I call on both parties to intensify work on an agreement (media)
  • Macron: Kosovo – Serbia dialogue seems very complex (media)
  • Shared responsibility for a common European future (media)
  • Lajcak travels to New York to meet UN leadership (media)
  • ‘Loyalty to Comrades’ lands Kosovo War Veterans’  leaders in court (BIRN)
  • COVID-19: One death, 41 new cases (media)

EU: Western Balkans to implement necessary reforms in key areas (EWB)

During the EU – Western Balkans Summit on Wednesday, leaders of the EU and EU member states adopted a declaration reaffirming the European perspective of the Western Balkan countries. Leaders welcome the commitment of the Western Balkans partners to the EU perspective, which is in mutual strategic interest and remains a shared strategic choice.

President of the European Council Charles Michel says that the region has strategic importance for the EU.

According to Michel the fundamental values, rule of law, fight against corruption are in the European DNA. “These should also be the choice for the Western Balkan government,” he said.

He said that this debate was the opportunity for speaking about enlargement, history but also the question of minorities and their treatment in different countries.

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said that Europe is not complete without Western Balkans.

“European Commission’s position is very clear. Western Balkans is a part of same Europe as the European Union. We want the Western Balkan in the EU and there can not be any doubt that our goal is enlargement,” said von der Leyen.

She pointed out that she feels the frustrations of ordinary people due to the length of the EU accession process, adding that she fully understands them.

“Which way forward? When it comes to reforms, our partners in the Western Balkans are implementing important reforms. Clearly, there is a lot of progress. It is important to stay on that path in key areas such as the rule of law, the fight against corruption, freedom of the media, and economic reform,” she said. She emphasized that the European Union must also do its part. “Especially the lack of a decision to open negotiations with Northern Macedonia and Albania threatens our power in the region. It is important to move forward in that process and clarify the whole process,” said President of the European Commission.

She mentioned the Economic and Investment Plan and underlined his importance for the Western Balkans and forwarding the Regional Economic Area.

“My second message is that the Economic and Investment Plan is at the heart of our work with the region. With nine billion euros in grants on the table, we can increase support to 30 billion euros for the region. The Economic and Investment Plan is accompanied by the Berlin Process, which is key to stronger integration of the common regional market. Market integration will be beneficial for the Western Balkans as is the common market for the European Union. That is why our focus now is on the development of this common regional market,” von der Leyen said.

Talking about the reforms in the key areas, von der Leyen said that Western Balkan’s partners are not there yet, but they have made much progress and now it is time to stay the course.

Von der Leyen announced that the EU had prepared an action plan for a green and innovation agenda and that it had been agreed on a road map for roaming charges between the EU and the Western Balkans.

She said that the latest agreement between Kosovo and Serbia on a license plate was an excellent message for the whole region that is possible to resolve problems if you have a desire for that.

Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa assesses that this was a very important event for the EU and the Western Balkans.

Jansa said that it was clear that the EU is proving with concrete steps that the Western Balkans are still in the context of the Thessaloniki decision.

He stated that Ljubljana wanted the deadlines related to EU enlargement to be stated in the declaration from today’s EU-Western Balkans Summit, but that this did not happen.

“Many crises followed after that decision, also in the EU itself, which also met delays. Timetable for enlargement is not a part of the declaration, and it is not part of it, but I think that most of EU Member States have shown the will that over the next decade we will focus on the EU membership in the Western Balkans”, Jansa said.

According to Jansa, reforming the Union, internal reforms in the Western Balkans, and the resolution of bilateral issues are the three processes that need to run in parallel in the next decade.

He assessed that in order to materialize the European perspective of the region, it is necessary for the EU institutions to be more efficient, to resolve open bilateral issues, such as relations between Belgrade and Pristina and Skopje and Sofia, and to continue the negotiation process with Brussels.

EU – WB Summit Brdo Declaration (media)

All media cover the declaration adopted at the EU – Western Balkans Summit in Brdo, Slovenija, on Wednesday.

We, the leaders of the European Union (EU) and its Member States, in consultation with Western Balkans leaders, and in the presence of regional and international stakeholders, today concluded the following:

1. The EU reaffirms its unequivocal support for the European perspective of the Western Balkans and welcomes the commitment of the Western Balkans partners to the European perspective, which is in our mutual strategic interest and remains our shared strategic choice. The EU reconfirms its commitment to the enlargement process and its decisions taken thereon, based upon credible reforms by partners, fair and rigorous conditionality and the principle of own merits. We will further intensify our joint engagement to take forward the region’s political, economic and social transformation, while acknowledging the progress made by the Western Balkans. We also recall the importance that the EU can maintain and deepen its own development, ensuring its capacity to integrate new members.

2. The Western Balkans partners reiterate their dedication to European values and principles and to carrying out necessary reforms in the interest of their people. The EU welcomes the restated commitment of the Western Balkans partners to the primacy of democracy, fundamental rights and values and the rule of law, and to sustaining efforts in the fight against corruption and organised crime, support for good governance, human rights, gender equality and the rights of persons belonging to minorities. The credibility of these commitments depends on the meaningful implementation of necessary reforms, and building a solid track record underpinned by clear and consistent public communication. An empowered civil society and independent and pluralistic media are crucial components of any democratic system and we welcome and support the role they play in the Western Balkans.

3. The EU is by far the region’s closest partner, main investor and principal donor. The unprecedented scale and range of this support must be fully recognised and conveyed by the partners in their public debate and communication.

4. EU support will continue to be linked to tangible progress on the rule of law and socio- economic reforms, as well as to partners’ adherence to European values, rules and standards.

5. The EU fully supports the Western Balkans partners’ reaffirmed commitment to inclusive regional cooperation and strengthening good neighbourly relations, including with EU Member States. Implementing bilateral agreements in good faith and with tangible results, including the Prespa Agreement with Greece and the Treaty on Good Neighbourly Relations with Bulgaria, remains important. Further, decisive efforts are required to foster reconciliation and regional stability, as well as to find and implement definitive, inclusive and binding solutions to partners’ bilateral disputes and issues rooted in the legacy of the past, in line with international law and established principles, including the Agreement on Succession Issues, and the remaining cases of missing persons and war crimes issues.

6. We fully support the efforts of the EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue and other Western Balkan regional issues and expect concrete progress by the two Parties on the full normalisation of relations between them, which is critical for the stability and development of the whole region and to ensure that they can continue on their respective European paths.

Read the full declaration here:

https://www.consilium.europa.eu/media/52280/brdo-declaration-6-october-2021-en.pdf

Kurti on meeting Merkel, Macron and Vucic (media)

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti said in a Twitter post on Wednesday that in a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President President Emmanuel Macron and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic they discussed about the Berlin Process, free movement and recognition of diplomas. “We support agreements in which all WB6 countries are treated as equals and citizens are the end-beneficiaries,” Kurti wrote.

Borrell: I call on both parties to intensify work on an agreement (media)

EU High Representative Josep Borrell said in a Twitter post on Wednesday that he discussed last week’s arrangement between Belgrade and Pristina with Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti. “An important step which needs implementation. I now call on both parties to intensify work on a comprehensive and legally binding agreement normalizing relations within the EU-facilitated Dialogue,” Borrell tweeted.

Kurti wrote on Twitter that they discussed recent developments and events we agreed that EU dialogue is the platform to resolve outstanding issues. “I stressed the importance of good neighborly relations based on equality and reciprocity,” he tweeted.

Macron: Kosovo – Serbia dialogue seems very complex (media)

At the end of the BRDO summit, French president, Emmanuel Macron took a few minutes to talk about the complex scenario currently unraveling in the Western Balkans. Macron referred to the issues amongst Kosovo and Serbia as well as the dispute between North Macedonia and Bulgaria.

“We had a very good discussion today, about the Balkans and the perspective of integration. Nowadays, the situation is very complicated for many countries in Europe. The situation between Serbia and Kosovo, the dialogue Prishtina-Belgrade, seems very complicated also. We had the chance to spend several moments with the leaders of these countries and the German chancellor. In addition, we also discussed about North Macedonia and Bulgaria, as you know. We need to move forward and beyond this topic but our goal is to be able to offer a new perspective on the Balkans, one where everyone is included in Europe,” – said the French president.

According to Macron, the Balkans today are “facing a sort of return back in time as well as great tensions”.

Shared responsibility for a common European future (media)

Joint Op-Ed by Tomas Szunyog, Head of the EU Office/EU Special Representative in Kosovo and Minca Benedejcic, Ambassador of the Republic of Slovenia to the Republic of Kosovo in relation to the European Union and Western Balkans Summit in Brdo, held on October 6 2021.

Today in Brdo pri Kranju in Slovenia, the leaders of the European Union and its Member States, and their counterparts from the Western Balkans region gathered to demonstrate their commitment to build a better common future. The European Union in the Brdo Declaration reaffirmed its unequivocal support for the European perspective of the Western Balkans and welcomed the commitment of the Western Balkans partners to the European perspective, which is in our mutual strategic interest. The European Union reconfirmed its commitment to the enlargement process, based upon reforms by partners and respect of democracy, fundamental rights and values and the rule of law. We share a common history and culture, and together, we are responsible for a common future of a united Europe. Therefore, we should put vision into action: a vision of a future rooted in peace and prosperity.

The European Union wants to be an engine of positive change across the region. The European integration has indeed a transformative power, upholding European values and supporting those reforms. Backed and supported by the European Union, reforms enhance political and economic governance, aim at the highest standards of adherence to the rule of law, the promotion of media freedom, and vibrant civil society. The European Union support is firmly attached to European values – values that the majority of Western Balkans citizens see as very important for their livelihood and future. As potential future European Union Member States, our partners in the region are part of our vision for a stronger, greener, and more resilient Europe.

As an evidence to the importance, the European Union attaches to the region and the Summit, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, visited Kosovo last week, as part of her tour of the Western Balkans. She wanted personally to demonstrate the shared strategic interests of the European Union for Kosovo and to play a constructive role in the preparations for the Summit.

The European Union provides unprecedented financial support which will bring forward more sustainable, green, digital, and people-focused growth, benefiting the region and Europe as a whole. We remain assured and optimistic about the long-term positive effects of the Economic and Investment Plan and Green Agenda for the Western Balkans. The Plan sets out a substantial investment package mobilising some EUR 30 billion for the region over the next seven years, comprised of EUR 9 billion in grant funding and EUR 20 billion in investments, leveraged by the new Western Balkans Guarantee Facility. It will increase the region’s competitiveness through sustainable transport and energy connectivity, unleash its economic potential and expand the scope for regional economic cooperation and trade. Through the Economic and Investment Plan we are working together on building and upgrading sustainable transport and energy infrastructures, and on addressing the great societal transformations of our time: the green transition and digitalisation.

We are Kosovo’s biggest trading partner, with its Foreign Direct Investment reaching EUR 151.6 million in 2020. The European Union is bringing significant investment opportunities to the region, now it is for the region to use them well by harnessing its full economic potential and establishing a Common Regional Market based on European Union rules, examples, and standards. This ambitious regional economic integration project was agreed upon by Western Balkans Leaders in Sofia in November 2020, and it will not only unlock the economic potential of the entire region and make Kosovo a more attractive investment destination, but it will also bring Kosovo closer to the EU. We are proud to remind you of some tangible effects of European Union support: We marked the start of the roaming free era in the Western Balkans as of the 1st of July 2021. Connectivity and roaming-free and similar projects have a concrete impact on everyday life. Therefore we also welcome the roadmap for roaming, which will create the conditions and set clear targets for lowering roaming costs between the European Union and the Western Balkans.

Other examples are the “Peace Highway in Kosovo” linking Pristina with Nis in Serbia, completion of the construction for wastewater treatment plan in Pristina, or upgrading the railway route connecting Belgrade and Pristina.

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the extent to which the European Union and the Western Balkans need to work together to face generation-defining tasks. The European Union, together with its Member States, has stood by the Western Balkans throughout the pandemic, with health and socio-economic support totalling an unprecedented EUR 3.3 billion for the region so far. The WB has been the largest beneficiary worldwide of EU assistance related to COVID-19, including on vaccines. The European Union and its Member States have provided 2,9 million vaccine doses through various channels to the Western Balkans, with more to come. The European Union will continue supporting the Western Balkans resolutely, particularly as regards the supply of vaccines and will support the vaccination plans of all partners to help reach similar vaccination rates to the European Union average by the end of 2021.

Another challenge, not to be underestimated is countering disinformation. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become even clearer that it targets citizens, polarises societies, challenges democratic values, and threatens lives and public safety through misleading health advice. We remain faithful to battling this phenomenon through financing studies; promoting awareness about the issue and investing in education and activities such as workshops for students and teachers across the whole Western Balkans. In conclusion, we, as ambassadors serving in Kosovo, strongly believe that it is through regional cooperation that the people-to-people connections can be strengthened and the full economic potential unleashed. Responsibility, leadership, and vision are crucial, together with participation and joint efforts by the entire society. In this context, dialogue and regional cooperation are key to dealing with the difficulties of the past and addressing bilateral issues including the need to make progress in the framework of the European Union-facilitated Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue. We are pleased that an agreement concerning the latest crisis over the license plates has been reached and is being implemented.

The Western Balkans are at the heart of Europe, geographically surrounded by the European Union Member States. We strongly believe that sustainable development, stability and prosperity of the region are in the vital and strategic interest of the European Union. We know that the Western Balkans countries are reliable, credible and constructive partners, willing to contribute to shaping a positive vision for the future of Europe.

Lajcak travels to New York to meet UN leadership (media)

EU Special Representative for the Kosovo – Serbia dialogue and other Western Balkans regional issues, Miroslav Lajcak said on Wednesday that after “3 busy days full of consultations and discussions with US partners, officials of the administration and opinion leaders in Washington DC, I am now heading to New York to meet with UN leadership, international community and think tanks.”

‘Loyalty to Comrades’ lands Kosovo War Veterans’  leaders in court (BIRN)

The leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army War Veterans Association hoped that their acquisition of leaked war crime case files would undermine the court that is preparing to try their fellow guerrillas, but instead it led to their own trial in The Hague.

Hysni Gucati and Nasim Haradinaj, the leader and deputy leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army War Veterans Association, have spent a lot of time over the past two years writing statements of support on social media for their former guerrilla comrades who have been summoned for questioning at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague about alleged war crimes.

On Thursday, Gucati and Haradinaj go on trial at the Hague-based court themselves for obstruction of justice and intimidation of witnesses when they came into possession of two tranches of confidential case files from the Specialist Chambers in September 2020.

The two men, both of whom saw action in the 1998-99 war with Serbian forces, have long opposed the Specialist Chambers, which they insist is a biased institution because it was set up to try KLA ex-fighters, not Serbs who committed most of the war crimes during the conflict.

The indictment claims that in the months prior to the leak, the two men made statements calling witnesses who collaborated with the Specialist Chambers “liars, collaborators, and traitors” in an attempt to “undermine and obstruct” the court.

After receiving the leaked files, which included the identities of protected witnesses, they then made public appearances and held press conferences at which “confidential and non-public information was publicly disseminated and discussed”, the indictment alleges.

As a result of their actions, witnesses and their relatives were intimidated, the prosecutors claim. “Their safety, privacy, reputations, and livelihoods were threatened,” the indictment says.

The leak first became public on September 22 last year, when Gucati announced at a press conference that a package containing more than 4,000 documents had been delivered to the KLA War Veterans Association’s office in Pristina, and that it included the names of potential indictees and protected witnesses in cases at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers.

Gucati said that a “masked man” delivered the documents, but never revealed any more details about him.

A few days later, Gucati and Haradinaj announced they had received a second package containing court documents. The source of the leak has so far not been publicly identified by the Specialist Chambers.

The two men called on media in Kosovo to come to their office, take the documents and use them, but despite this, no media outlet in Kosovo published any of the contents of the files. Soon afterwards, Gucati and Haradinaj were arrested and sent to The Hague.

Neither man’s lawyer wanted to comment on their defence strategy ahead of the trial opening on Thursday and the prosecution setting out its case.

However, Haradinaj’s lawyer Toby Cadman said he was seeking independent monitoring of the proceedings, raising questions about the fairness of the process.

“We will ask the OSCE or another body… to conduct an independent monitoring of the proceedings, because we are concerned about the way the proceedings are being conducted,” Cadman said.

Read full article here:

https://bit.ly/3FsqDX8

COVID-19: One death, 41 new cases (media)

One death from COVID-19 and 41 new cases with the virus have been confirmed in the last 24 hours in Kosovo. 198 persons recovered from the virus during this time. There are 1,737 active cases with COVID-19 in Kosovo.

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