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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, October 7, 2021

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Albanian Language Media:

• Tannin at regular meetings with Belgrade officials, reports on Kosovo at UNSC on 15 October (Klan)
• Seven congressmen send letter to Biden and Blinken on Kosovo-Serbia license plate issue (media)
• Sanchez criticized by Spanish politicians for talking to Kurti in Slovenia (media)
• Hoti: Serbia’s state archives help enlighten fate of the missing (media)
• COVID-19: No deaths, 30 new cases (media)

Serbian Language Media:

• Covid-19 in Serbian communities: 35 new cases, one death (Radio Mitrovica sever)
• SRSG Tanin met President Vucic ahead of UN SC session on Kosovo (media)
• Vucic: Serbia’s EU accession depends on solution to issues with Kosovo (N1)
• World Health Organization in Belgrade office chief on pandemic situation in Serbia (N1)
• MTS d.o.o buys cable operators (KiM radio, Kontakt plus radio)
• Radovic: Police station in Mitrovica North started distribution of stickers (Kosovo-online, KoSSev)
• Vlajic: I didn’t request to extend deadline to Todosijevic to appear and serve sentence, summons has not arrived yet (KoSSev)
• Petkovic: Upcoming elections important for the survival of Serbs in Kosovo (Politika, RTS, Kosovo online)

Opinion:

• Living on both sides of the border (Kosovo 2.0)

International:

• EU leaders fail to give Balkan nations a membership timeline (AP)
• Kosovo rebel veterans’ leaders deny charges over leaked witness data (Reuters)

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Albanian Language Media:

  • Tanin at regular meetings with Belgrade officials, reports on Kosovo at UNSC on 15 October (Klan)
  • Seven congressmen send letter to Biden and Blinken on Kosovo-Serbia license plate issue (media)
  • Sanchez criticized by Spanish politicians for talking to Kurti in Slovenia (media)
  • Hoti: Serbia’s state archives help enlighten fate of the missing (media)
  • COVID-19: No deaths, 30 new cases (media)

Serbian Language Media:

  • Covid-19 in Serbian communities: 35 new cases, one death (Radio Mitrovica sever)
  • SRSG Tanin met President Vucic ahead of UN SC session on Kosovo (media)
  • Vucic: Serbia’s EU accession depends on solution to issues with Kosovo (N1)
  • World Health Organization in Belgrade office chief on pandemic situation in Serbia (N1)
  • MTS d.o.o buys cable operators (KiM radio, Kontakt plus radio)
  • Radovic: Police station in Mitrovica North started distribution of stickers (Kosovo-online, KoSSev)
  • Vlajic: I didn’t request to extend deadline to Todosijevic to appear and serve sentence, summons has not arrived yet (KoSSev)
  • Petkovic: Upcoming elections important for the survival of Serbs in Kosovo (Politika, RTS, Kosovo online)  

Opinion:

  • Living on both sides of the border (Kosovo 2.0)

International:

  • EU leaders fail to give Balkan nations a membership timeline (AP)
  • Kosovo rebel veterans’ leaders deny charges over leaked witness data (Reuters)

 

 

Albanian Language Media  

 

Tanin at regular meetings with Belgrade officials, reports on Kosovo at UNSC on 15 October (Klan)

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNMIK Zahir Tanin, met with President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic. The meeting is considered regular, in advance of the United Nations Security Council meeting on Kosovo.

Issues of mutual interest, including recent political developments were discussed, and SRSG Tanin highlighted the importance of using established dialogue mechanisms to promote peace and build trust.

SRSG Tanin who is accompanied by the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General Barrie Freeman and Representative of the Secretary-General in Belgrade Mari Yamashita, will also meet with Serbia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikola Selaković, and the ambassadors of the United States, Russia and China during his visit.

SRSG Tanin will report to the United Nations Security Council on 15 October 2021.

Seven congressmen send letter to Biden and Blinken on Kosovo-Serbia license plate issue (media)

Seven U.S. congressmen have sent a letter to President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken about the recent tensions between Kosovo and Serbia over license plate reciprocity.

Ritchie Torres, Jim Himes, Elissa Slotkin, Joe Courtney, Mandaire Jones, Corolyn B. Maloney and James P. GcGovern urge the U.S. to focus on resolving tensions between the two Balkan countries. Below, find the content of the letter:

Dear President Biden and Secretary Blinken,

We write to urge you to redouble American focus on resolving Kosovo-Serbia tensions in light of the recent escalation of hostilities between the Kosovo and Serbia governments. In the last week a disturbing situation emerged as a result of a military mobilization on the border, threatening the precarious stability in the Balkan region. Given the disproportionate strength of Serbia’s armed forces, we urge you to recommit the United States to ensuring that our ally Kosovo receives fair treatment and recognition as an independent country.

On Sunday, tensions escalated when Serbian fighter jets flew close to the Kosovo-Serbia border. This most recent round of unrest was sparked by Kosovo’s reciprocal ban on Serbian vehicle license plates when entering its sovereign territory – a move that Serbia has enforced for ten years on Kosovar license plates. The ban requires the driver to use temporary plates when driving across the border. Since Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008, Serbia has refused to recognize Kosovo as an independent nation. This is reflected in an agreement, in which Serbia only allowed vehicles displaying license plates with “KS” (Kosovo) and refused entry to vehicles showing license plates with “RKS” (Republic of Kosovo).

Kosovo reciprocated Serbia’s border crossing policy soon after the agreement lapsed on September 15, by imposing a fee and travel paper requirement on Serbians entering Kosovo. In retaliation, a group of Kosovar Serbs blocked two border crossings, Jarinje and Brnjak, in reprisal of the policy.

  1.   In addition, reports reveal that a vehicle registration office in northern Kosovo was burned to the ground and another public office was targeted by two grenades, which thankfully did not explode.
  2.   In response, the Kosovar government deployed their special police forces to ensure compliance with the new policy. Furthermore, media reports and videos indicated Serbian police and military forces mobilized along the Kosovo-Serbia border in an effort to threaten Kosovo’s new policy.
  3.   Most, if not all, of the Serbian military equipment used was provided by Russia, Serbia’s closest ally. The Russian Ambassador to Belgrade, Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko, visited the border on September 26, 2021, alongside Serbian Defense Minister Nebojša Stefanović and Serbian Army Chief of Staff Milan Mojsilović, which is seen as further legitimizing and supporting Serbia’s tactics.
  4.   On September 30, an interim-agreement was brokered by the E.U. Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue and other Western Balkan regional issues, Miroslav Lajčák, Chief Negotiator of Kosovo, Besnik Bislimi, and Chief Negotiator of Serbia, Petar Petković. It called for all special police forces to be removed from the border, the establishment of a working group consisting of E.U. members, and the implementation of the “sticker regime,” the requirement that the coat of arms on license plates be covered up with a stick for both Kosovars and Serbians until a more permanent solution is found.
  5.   We are encouraged by the interim agreement to prevent another flare up, but we ask that you and your Administration do all that it can to support efforts that could lead to a lasting peace between Kosovo and Serbia. Since its independence Serbia has repeatedly sought to undermine the legitimacy and sovereignty of Kosovo. This recent military mobilization further demonstrates this continuing reality. The United States has always and must continue to stand with our ally Kosovo. We call on you to condemn the recent escalation of tensions and Serbian military mobilization, as well as encourage your Administration to join our E.U. and NATO partners in supporting the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia to find a peaceful and final resolution.

Thank you for your time and we look forward to an expeditious response given the security implications of the situation.

Sincerely,

Members of US Congress: Ritchie Torres and Jim Himes (Co-Chairs/Albanian Issues Caucus), Elissa Slotkin, Joe Courtney, Mondaire Jones, Carolyn B. Maloney, James P. McGovern (Albanian Issues Caucus Members)

Sanchez criticized by Spanish politicians for talking to Kurti in Slovenia (media)

The Prime Minister of Spain Pedro Sanchez confirmed on Wednesday that he greeted the Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti, during the EU-Balkan summit held in Slovenia, writes Eruopa Press.

Sanchez said that during this greeting with Kurti they also discussed the work of the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, and that he encouraged the parties to find an agreement that is in line with international law and that would be acceptable to both parties.

“I had the opportunity to greet the prime minister and tell him that we welcome the dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade and encourage both sides to find an agreement that is in line with international law and that satisfies both parties,” Sanchez said.

While talking about the decision for Spain to participate in a Summit where Kosovo was also present, Sanchez said that it is unimaginable to be absent in a Summit attended by 26 EU member states.

“Can you imagine that Spain was absent from this summit when there were 26 other member states?” We have to be in debates to give our opinion,” Sanchez said.

Meanwhile, Sanchez has received criticism in Spain for participating in the Summit and for greeting Kurti.

The spokesman of the People’s Group in the Spanish Congress Pablo Hispan has said that the decision to participate in the Summit is a “new nonsense” of the foreign policy of the Spanish Government, while emphasizing that such an action violates the state position that Spain has held for a decade.

Hispan said Sanchez has surrendered. Criticism of Sanchez came also from another Spanish politician and member of Congress, Pablo Casado.

Hoti: Serbia’s state archives help enlighten fate of the missing (media)

The chairman of the government committee for missing persons Andin Hoti said at the Assembly Committee for Human Rights that pressure should be put on the EU to ask Serbia to clarify the fate of over 1600 missing persons. He also said that there is a lack of staff, for which he asked for support from the embassies.

“We are working on amending the Law on Missing Persons. The requests of the relatives of missing persons have been addressed. We consider that family members should have other benefits. At the same time, we have addressed a recommendation not to call the Law on Missing Persons but the Law on the Missing Persons by Force,” Hoti said.

He also said that by order of the prosecution, several locations in Kosovo are being investigated.

He further presented the challenges for clarifying the fate of missing persons.

“One of the challenges we have as a commission is the lack of accurate information. We are aware that there is manipulation from Serbia. One of the challenges we discussed in Brussels is the issue of state archives,” Hoti said.

“We think that the state archives of Serbia help a lot in clarifying the fate of the missing persons. 21 identifications were within this year, 19 of them are Albanians and two Serbs,” he added.

In addition to the remains of Kosovars, Hoti stressed that they are also searching for missing persons by force. He asked the Human Rights Commission that family members and missing persons should not be treated as victims but should have a special status.

COVID-19: No deaths, 30 new cases (media)

No deaths from COVID-19 and 30 new cases with the virus have been confirmed in the last 24 hours in Kosovo. 94 persons recovered from the virus during this time. There are 1,676 active cases with COVID-19 in Kosovo.

 

 

Serbian Language Media

 

Covid-19 in Serbian communities: 35 new cases, one death (Radio Mitrovica sever)

The Institute of Public Health in Kosovska Mitrovica, announced today that out of 94 tested, 35 cases of coronavirus have been recorded in Serbian communities in Kosovo. One person died in the last 24 hours from the consequences of coronavirus. 

New cases were registered in North Mitrovica – 3, Zvecan – 2, Leposavic – 9, Zubin Potok – 10 and in Strpce – 2, Gnjilane – 2, Kosovska Kamenica -2, Gracanica-4 and Pec-1.

SRSG Tanin met President Vucic ahead of UN SC session on Kosovo (media)

Special Representative of the Secretary General and Head of UNMIK, Zahir Tanin met Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and discussed with him current political and security situation in Kosovo, Serbian media report.

The meeting takes place as part of regular consultations SRGS Tanin maintains ahead of the UN Security Council session on Kosovo due on October 15, UNMIK said in a statement. It added that SRSG Tanin highlighted the importance of using established dialogue mechanisms to promote peace and build trust.

Press statement issued by Vucic’s cabinet reads that President Vucic stressed the importance of the communication with UNMIK, adding Serbia was always ready to invest additional efforts  to develop models of exchanging opinions with the UN Mission in Kosovo. He also said regular contacts with UNMIK were important to Serbia. 

During the meeting Vucic also said that Pristina’s latest acts and deployment of the ROSU special police members in northern Kosovo represents a “new provocative and unilateral measure” which caused strong concern of Serbia regarding the future of Serbs in Kosovo  

Vucic: Serbia’s EU accession depends on solution to issues with Kosovo (N1)

President Aleksandar Vucic said Wednesday that Serbia’s accession to the EU depends on a solution to open issues between Belgrade and Pristina, N1 reports.

“I have no doubts that resolving problems between Pristina and Belgrade is necessary”, Vucic said after the EU-Western Balkans Summit in Slovenia. Vucic also said that he discussed diplomas and professional qualifications with Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti adding that these are non-status issues.

He said that Belgrade will continue the dialogue with Pristina. “That process will continue (…) The Community of Serb Municipalities should be the first topic”.

Vucic also said Serbia is a serious state which respects everything that any previous government agreed and that Belgrade is fully prepared to implement the Washington agreements, adding the only thing that is disputable for Belgrade is linked to relations with Israel. “We are prepared to implement everything else but Pristina has said that this is not valid for them”, he said.

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

World Health Organization in Belgrade office chief on pandemic situation in Serbia (N1)

Chief of the World Health Organization office in Belgrade, Marjan Ivanusa said that Serbia is facing perhaps the worst period since the coronavirus pandemic broke out, N1 reports.

“The current situation in Serbia is very serious. I would even say that it is perhaps the worst since the pandemic broke out in terms of new cases and deaths”, Ivanusa said.

He added that Serbia has the most new cases in Europe. Ivanusa called all health care staff to encourage people to get vaccinated.

MTS d.o.o buys cable operators (KiM radio, Kontakt plus radio)

MTS d.o.o. took over the cable operator Link in central Kosovo, RTV KiM learned from sources close to the company. Independent Belgrade based TV channels N1 and Nova S were excluded from the program offer.

Former cable operator Link has sold its shares and equipment to the largest distributor of television programs and telephone signals in Serb areas in Kosovo, MTS.

Immediately after taking over, MTS excluded the independent television channels N1 and Nova S from the offer.

RTV KiM asked why there are no N1 and Nova S TV programs in the cable offer in the last few days, Link (cable operator) said that there were technical problems. However, RTV KiM learned this morning that this company was sold to MTS.

According to RTV KiM findings, MTS d.o.o. is negotiating the purchase of the remaining operators in central Kosovo.

RTV KiM reports that MTS d.o.o., a company close to the current government in Serbia, first took over cable operators in northern Kosovo, and in recent months has expanded to Sirincka Zupa, parts of Kosovo Pomoravlje.

MTS. d.o.o is registered as a subsidiary of Telekom Srbija in Kosovo. The company was formed as a result of the signing of the 2015 Brussels Telecommunications Agreement and it is run by controversial businessman Zoran Milojevic Zelja, reported RTV KiM.

Radovic: Police station in Mitrovica North started distribution of stickers (Kosovo-online, KoSSev)

Police station in Mitrovica North has started today distribution of stickers for the vehicles with Serbian registration plates, police spokesman Branislav Radovic said, Kosovo-online portal reports.

He added that citizens who were unable to get the stickers at the Vehicle Registration Center located at Mitrovica North municipal building due to technical problems, can do so at the police station now.

He said an identity card and a driving license were requirements to get the stickers.

KoSSev portal earlier reported that the deadline for the owners of the vehicles with Serbian license plates in Kosovo to obtain the stickers was October 8. The residents of Mitrovica North were unable to get the stickers given that the municipality in the town was closed due to a coronavirus outbreak. 

Vlajic: I didn’t request to extend deadline to Todosijevic to appear and serve sentence, summons has not arrived yet (KoSSev)

Nebojsa Vlajic, defense lawyer of Serbian List MP Ivan Todosijevic  sentenced to two years in prison for calling Racak case “a fabrication”, has refuted allegations that he has requested Basic Court in Pristina to extend the deadline for his client to appear and serve the prison sentence, KoSSev portal reports. 

Radio Free Europe reported yesterday, referring to the confirmation of the Pristina Basic Court that the request to extend the deadline to Todosijevic to appear and serve the sentence was accepted, given that “he was abroad”. 

Vlajic also said nothing has changed regarding his statement on summons made on October 5, adding the summons has not arrived yet. 

“Regarding allegations on extending the deadline, I have requested to send the summons to Ivan Todosijevic, since he has not received it”, Vlajic said. 

He pointed out he doesn’t understand where it came from that he has requested an extension of the deadline for his client to appear and serve the sentence. He said he is not familiar that Todosijevic was abroad, and even believes that he is not. 

Petkovic: Upcoming elections important for the survival of Serbs in Kosovo (Politika, RTS, Kosovo online)  

Director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija, Petar Petkovic said in an interview to Belgrade based daily Politika that the local elections in Kosovo are of crucial importance because the survival of Serbian people depend on it.  

Petkovic pointed out that there were many who would like to see division among Serbs, because they thought that this way, they could achieve their political goals more easily. 

”That is why many Albanian parties are uniting in Serbian communities, but our response will be even stronger unity and unanimity. Only united and unanimous, we can fight for the interests of our people in the province, for new jobs, economic investments, new kindergartens, schools, hospitals,” Petkovic said. 

According to him, only the Serbian List and its candidates for mayors have the support of Belgrade and President Aleksandar Vucic because they were sincerely and decisively, uncompromisingly fighting for the interests of Serbian people in Kosovo.  

As he said this was noticeable during the recent crisis in the north of Kosovo, which was caused by Pristina sending special ROSU forces at the Jarinje and Brnjak administrative crossings, and unilateral moves regarding the license plates. 

”During those 13 days, Serbian List representatives were with our compatriots day and night, sharing every moment with them and, most importantly, they fought together for their fundamental rights, among which the most important is the right to freedom of movement,” he said. Petkovic said that the last Brussels meeting and the reached agreement brought several strategically important things for Serbs in Kosovo. 

According to him, on one hand, Serbs fought for the withdrawal of the ROSU units that held Jarinje and Brnjak crossings under siege, and the arrival of the KFOR mission was ensured in accordance with Resolution 1244, which Pristina wants to minimize in every way. 

”We managed to preserve the much-needed peace, but also to prevent the humiliation of our people at the crossings. the north of Kosovo and Metohija,” he said, and added that a sticker regime was agreed upon, which was envisaged in the agreement from 2016, and which Pristina wanted to avoid all these years. 

”Also, KM, GL, PR and other license plates for the area of Kosovo and Metohija issued by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Serbia have been preserved ”. 

The EU message that the formation of the Community of Serbian Municipalities (CSM) would be the topic of the next negotiating meeting in Brussels was a great incentive for Belgrade, said Petkovic

Commenting that the EU said that the verdict against Todosijevic violated the Brussels Agreement in point 10, which concerns justice, Petkovic said that it indicated that the EU was aware of all violations of the Brussels Agreement and was ready to engage in its implementation. 

Petkovic has no dilemma that Pristina will try to obstruct the formation of CSM and the conversation on that topic, because, as he said, that is the only thing they have been doing in the last eight years. 

”However, this is not about what Pristina wants or does not want to fulfill, but about the fact that the agreed agreements must be respected,” said Petkovic among other things, and added that the EU has clearly committed itself to that. 

Commenting on the fact that the temporary agreement on license plates is valid for six months, and that Pristina announces “solutions”, Petkovic said that Bislimi was trying to limit the duration of KM plates because he probably wants to calm down the Albanian public, which only a few days earlier, spray-painted the same “KM” on official vehicles in Pristina, sending the message that the ”Serbian plates for the area of Kosovo and Metohija” remained in force. 

”What is fixed for six months is exclusively the mandate of the Working Group that should draft a proposal for a permanent solution to the issue of license plates, while the final decision about the kind of plates and permanent solution that would be accepted will be made at a high-level dialogue in which Belgrade, rest assured, will defend the interests of Serbian people in Kosovo and Metohija, same as before, ” Petkovic said. 

”In addition to the agreement itself, we stayed until the end and we stood our ground when it came to the stance we presented earlier that there would be no direct talks with the Pristina side until ROSU units and unilateral measures are not withdrawn…, ” Petkovic stressed. 

In the end, he pointed out that it was now clear to everyone that Pristina cannot impose solutions by force, but that they can only be found through compromise and in agreement with Belgrade

 

 

 

Opinion

 

Living on both sides of the border (Kosovo 2.0)

By Bashkim Fazliu

Both of my parents are from the area of Medveđa, Serbia. One of them hails from one of the highest villages in the municipality, a very beautiful area that is partially inhabited by Albanians.  

My parents lived for decades in Prishtina, but some years ago they decided to follow their dream and find some nice place in the countryside, amid fields and forests, to settle once they grew older and retired.

Knowing the quality of the public transport they would have available, they needed a car when they moved to the countryside. They bought one in Prishtina, which of course came with Kosovar license plates. They were simply never allowed to register it in Serbia, or to own a different car.

The Agreement on Freedom of Movement allowed them to drive their car to Serbia, but nothing more. Even today, their Kosovar driving licenses cannot be notarized or exchanged in Serbia; it is simply forbidden. And of course, without a “valid” driving license, they could not buy (or import) a car. 

So, whenever they drive to Serbia, my parents have been forced for years to remove their plates and put on temporary ones. After Kosovo decided to request the same for cars registered in Serbia, I could easily understand how much hardship that created for their owners, ordinary Serbs and Albanians with a life on both sides of the border. The new sticker regime is, by contrast, a huge improvement.

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

 

 

 

International 

 

EU leaders fail to give Balkan nations a membership timeline (AP)

European Union leaders tried to reassure six Balkan countries they could eventually join the trading bloc if they met its standards, but the leaders failed to provide a credible signal Wednesday that the EU’s enlargement process will be relaunched in the near future.

Despite years of talk about the “European perspective” of Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia, the EU’s progress on admitting them has stalled.

A meeting at Brdo Castle, a Renaissance-style fortified palace in Slovenia, gave EU leaders the opportunity to reaffirm their “unequivocal support” for their Western Balkans partners. But they stopped short of offering a timeline for their accession.

Read more at: https://bit.ly/2YkDDx7

Kosovo rebel veterans’ leaders deny charges over leaked witness data (Reuters)

Leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) veterans’ association pleaded not guilty at a war crimes tribunal on Thursday to charges of obstruction and intimidation for allegedly revealing names of protected witnesses.

Prosecutors allege Hysni Gucati and Nasim Haradinaj, who run the association, gave Kosovo media and politicians confidential court documents last year that included names and personal data from witnesses involved in war crimes cases.

According to specialist prosecutor Jack Smith there is a “small but powerful group” in Kosovo that opposes the court and will do anything to push “a false narrative” that there were no KLA crimes during the 1998-99 conflict with Serbia.

“These accused are a part of this group that wants this court to go away at any cost,” Smith told judges.

Gucati and Haradinaj risk a fine and a jail sentence of up to 10 years if they are convicted.

“I am innocent, I have no connection to any of the points in the confirmed indictment,” Gucati said. Haradinaj also pleaded not guilty at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers tribunal.

The veterans’ association wields considerable influence in Kosovo, where many former KLA fighters are now in political positions and KLA veterans are celebrated as national heroes.

More than 13,000 people are believed to have died during the war, when Kosovo was still part of Serbia under the rule of late Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Fighting ended after NATO air strikes against Milosevic’s forces, and Kosovo is recognised as an independent country by the Unites States and the majority of European countries.

Read more at: https://reut.rs/2YrScPm

 

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