- Osmani: EU officials must not oppose our fight against crime (Kallxo)
- Justice Minister comments on EU remarks about the vetting (media)
- Vetting must be done, but process must be credible and independent (Telegrafi)
- Commission Report: Kosovo’s progress slow in key areas (BIRN)
- Bislimi: Next meeting of chief negotiators in second half of November (Koha)
- Von Cramon: No doubt that anti-smuggling operation was necessary (media)
- Gervalla: Berlin Process offers security; other initiatives are damaging (media)
- COVID-19: 14 new cases, no deaths (media)
- Police arrest six people suspected of money laundering (media)
- Energy company drops lawsuits against Kosovo environment activists (BIRN)
- Serbian right-wing party planning to hold rally in north of Kosovo (RFE)
- Kamberi: Vucic’s regime remains factor of instability in Western Balkans (media)
Osmani: EU officials must not oppose our fight against crime (Kallxo)
Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani said on Wednesday that she disagrees with the conclusions of the EC Progress Report on Kosovo about the vetting process. Osmani told a press conference in Prishtina that the vetting process must be accelerated and not stopped, as Kosovo needs the process to happen. “As far as the vetting process is concerned, the European Commission concludes that the one-off reevaluation of prosecutors is cause for serious concern. In fact, the lack of a vetting process should be a serious concern and not the implementation of this process. The failure to carry out a vetting process would not contribute to the Republic’s efforts to guarantee the enforcement of the law and its European future. Kosovo needs the vetting. For years, different reports have noted Kosovo’s weak justice system. This is why I call for this process to continue,” Osmani said.
Osmani also argued that EU officials need to stand behind the statement of the European Commission for Kosovo’s fight against crime and corruption throughout its territory, especially in the north. “The European Commission confirms again that the situation in the north is challenging. We call on EU officials to stand behind these statements so that we can have their support and not their opposition whenever our law enforcement institutions fight crime and corruption,” she said.
Justice Minister comments on EU remarks about the vetting (media)
Kosovo’s Minister of Justice, Albulena Haxhiu, when commenting about the remarks in the EC report about the vetting process in Kosovo, said that there is lack of information about the vetting. “As far as the vetting process is concerned, I can see that there is lack of information because we have recently adopted a document in the government and we are now planning to form a group that will work on the constitutional amendments and laws for the vetting in the judiciary,” Haxhiu said.
According to Haxhiu, “the current mechanisms are not functioning properly; they need to be strengthened after a verification of judges and prosecutors by an outside mechanism. Then the mechanisms will be strengthened, and they will be installed within the justice system”.
Haxhiu also said that the government has raised these concerns with the EU ambassador in Kosovo and also with senior EU officials in our joint meetings, “they have their reservations about the vetting”.
Vetting must be done, but process must be credible and independent (Telegrafi)
Ehat Miftaraj, director of the Kosovo Law Institute, said in an interview with the news website that the new Progress Report highlights that the justice system in Kosovo is inefficient, unprofessional, lacks integrity, it is subject of political influence and interference and that there is a lack of results in the fight against organised crime and corruption.
“The Progress Report for Kosovo for 2021 is one of the reports with the most negative assessments for the justice system in the last five years. The only positive parts that the report identifies for 2021 are the adoption of the Rule of Law Strategy and progress in the fight against terror,” he said.
Commenting on the vetting process, Miftaraj said that the Kosovo Law Institute was part of the working group that worked on the concept document for the vetting. “As part of the working group but also based on regular meetings that the KLI has with international partners, we were told that from the beginning of the process the Ministry of Justice was not able to convince the international partners that this government has the capacity and expertise to implement this process. The vetting process must have credibility, uncontested integrity in all its phases, and we believe this was lacking because of improper management until now,” he argued.
Miftaraj also said that there is no alternative to the vetting process. “The vetting has no alternative and it depends on the government how much it will be able to communicate with all stakeholders and convince them about the importance of the process,” he said.
Commission Report: Kosovo’s progress slow in key areas (BIRN)
Kosovo continues to stall in politics, justice, the economy and public administration, although it is making progress in the fight against terrorism, the Progress Report published on Tuesday says.
Lack of political stability in Kosovo, political clashes in the Assembly and the pandemic are some reasons for Kosovo’s lack of progress in many areas, the European Commission’s Progress Report published on Tuesday said.
The Commission publishes Progress Reports once a year for the six countries of the Western Balkans and Turkey.
The report on Kosovo says that most of the period it covers, from 2020 to mid-2021, was characterized by a “polarizing political atmosphere” in Kosovo.
It said this political instability limited the activities of the Assembly in terms of adoption of laws and led to a stalemate over reforms related to the European Union.
“For a large part of the reporting period, the polarised political atmosphere, the lack of an effective government majority and the lack of a quorum severely affected decision-making in the Assembly,” the report recalled.
During the acceptance of the Report by the EU Chief in Kosovo, Tomas Szyoung, Prime Minister Albin Kurti presented a different version of events – deeming the first six months of his second government a time of stability.
“In these six months in government, we’ve had institutional stability, democratic legitimacy and a high level of trust in the institutions by citizens who have made great social progress,” Kurti insisted.
The Progress Report is one of the most important documents produced by the club that Kosovo wishes to join, assessing the country’s overall economic, political and social situation and fitness for eventual membership.
Despite serious progress being sought from Kosovo in public administration reforms, the report said, and despite some preparations, “no progress has been made”. One reason given for that was the “frequent changes of government”.
Read full article here: https://bit.ly/3m7LUOB
Bislimi: Next meeting of chief negotiators in second half of November (Koha)
Kosovo Deputy Prime Minister, Besnik Bislimi, said in an interview with KTV on Wednesday that the next meeting at the level of chief negotiators in Brussels is expected to be held in the second half of November. Bislimi is expected to meet Serbia’s chief negotiator, Petar Petkovic.
Bislmi said that for now there won’t be a meeting between Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.
“The exact date of the meeting is not known. There will be a meeting between the chief negotiators in the second half of November. There won’t be a meeting between the heads of state. I find it encouraging that the Progress Report notes that both sides need to engage constructively in reaching a comprehensive legally-binding agreement for the normalisation of relations. This will be engagement, not for partial and segmented issues. But for a general agreement. This has also been our approach to the dialogue,” Bislimi said.
Von Cramon: No doubt that anti-smuggling operation was necessary (media)
European Parliament Rapporteur for Kosovo, Viola von Cramon, said in an interview with N1 on Wednesday that Sunday’s local elections in Kosovo were peaceful, pluralist and well-organised. She said the Kosovo Serbs were under pressure from the Serbian List and that it would have been better if there were more candidates in the north.
On the Kosovo Police operation against smuggling and organised crime in the north, von Cramon said that the operation was not carried out only in the north of Kosovo and that it was a sovereign decision. “It is good that the Kosovo Government addressed this problem, because the fight against corruption and organised crime was always a condition from the EU. KFOR and other forces too were informed, and it is clear that there is no doubt that it was necessary,” she said.
“The EU has often called to address this issue with greater seriousness. Mainly Albanians were arrested in the operation. In order to stop this problem, interventions are needed. The operation did not take place only in the north, but in other parts of Kosovo too, and there was no opposition. There is a problem with organised crime, corruption and smuggling, and it is up to the Kosovo authorities to decide when and where they will use the police force.”
Von Cramon also said: “all countries wish, at least I hope so, to continue the path of European integration. Every country needs to arrest and put to trial individuals that take part in criminal activities. We know that the focus of these phenomena is in the north of Kosovo, and we need to commend the Kosovo Government for addressing this problem. The fight against corruption and organised crime was always a condition from the EU”.
Von Cramon said she hopes there will be greater progress in the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue after the elections in Kosovo and elections in Serbia next year. “Both sides understand that compromises are needed; they need to implement the agreements that were reached. We hope for a mutual agreement that would be accepted by the majority of the people in both countries,” she added.
Gervalla: Berlin Process offers security; other initiatives are damaging (media)
Kosovo’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Donika Gervalla, said on Wednesday in a virtual meeting with UK Minister for Europe and Americas, Wendy Morton, that the Kosovo Government remains committed to achieving agreements for the good of the people within the Berlin Process.
“The Berlin Process offers security and sustainability. Regional initiatives that are trying to be presented as an alternative to the Berlin Process and even to the EU, are unnecessary and even damaging,” Gervalla said.
COVID-19: 14 new cases, no deaths (media)
14 new COVID-19 cases and no deaths were recorded in the last 24 hours in Kosovo. 61 persons recovered from the virus during this time. There are 515 active cases with COVID-19 in Kosovo.
Police arrest six people suspected of money laundering (media)
All media reported on Wednesday that Kosovo Police arrested six people suspected of money laundering. The Special Prosecution said in a statement that €125,000 were confiscated during the police operation. “Following the order of the Special Prosecution, the Kosovo Police, namely the investigators of the Economic Crimes Investigation Unit and other relevant units, have carried out an operation in several locations in Ferizaj, Fushe Kosove, Viti, Kacanik, and Pristina. The SPRK confirms that during the operation six people have been arrested: A.Q., Sh.R., A.O., F.L., H.L dhe L.S., suspected of criminal charges ‘money laundering’, ‘forgery’ and ‘illegal possession of weapons’. Also, the police have sequestered 125,000 euro and five vehicles,” the statement notes. The arrested persons were sent to custody.
Energy company drops lawsuits against Kosovo environment activists (BIRN)
Environmentalists and rights groups welcome decision of Austrian-based company to withdraw lawsuits against two Kosovo activists who have campaigned against the construction of hydropower plants in western Kosovo.
Human rights watchdog Amnesty International on Wednesday welcomed the decision of an Austrian-based energy company to withdraw lawsuits against two Kosovo environmental activists who campaigned for years against the construction of hydropower plants in western Kosovo.
In June, Amnesty International called on KelKos Energy, a company that operates hydropower plants in a protected area in western Kosovo, to withdraw two lawsuits against Shpresa Loshaj and Adriatik Gacaferi and considered that the lawsuits had been filed in an attempt to silence them.
“Kelkos Energy was using these lawsuits to intimidate and silence activists from speaking out about the possible environmental damage caused by the company’s exploitation of Kosovo’s natural resources. Kelkos Energy’s decision to immediately and unconditionally drop these lawsuits is a victory for freedom of expression, but Shpresa Loshaj and Adriatik Gacaferi should have never been sued in the first place,” Jelena Sesar, Western Balkans researcher at Amnesty International, said on Wednesday.
In 2020, through two different lawsuits, the company sought 100,000 euros from Loshaj and 10,000 euros from Gacaferri after they campaigned against the hydropower plants. Loshaj, founder of the NGO Pishtaret, and Adriatik Gacaferi, a local activist from Decan/Decani, have been two of most vocal campaigners against the projects.
In Pristina, the lawyer Rina Kika who defended the activists, on Wednesday called the withdrawal of the lawsuits “a victory for freedom of expression”.
“Their withdrawal proves what we have constantly said, that Kelkos has known they cannot win on these baseless lawsuits but their aim has been to silence and intimidate activists,” Kika said.
Shpresa Loshaj said that she will continue to campaign against the hydropower plants.
“Despite the withdrawal, nothing has changed in Decan gorge and this is most important. Kelkos continues to operate there unlawfully even though Supreme Court has ruled that it cannot operate under these conditions,” she said.
Read full article here: https://bit.ly/3jjxUPC
Serbian right-wing party planning to hold rally in north of Kosovo (RFE)
The Alliance for Peace and Freedom (APF), an international organisation that gathers far right parties, is planning to hold a rally in the north of Kosovo. Misa Vacic, leader of Serbian Right, a far-right Serbian nationalist political party, told the news agency that the purpose of the rally will be to provide international support for Serbs in Kosovo. “Serbs need to see that there are not only our traditional brothers – Russians and Greeks, but there are people in all states in Europe that believe that Kosovo is Serbia,” Vacic said.
Kamberi: Vucic’s regime remains factor of instability in Western Balkans (media)
Shaip Kamberi, an Albanian MP in the Serbian Parliament, said on Wednesday that the European Commission’s report on Serbia proves that the regime of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic remains a factor of instability in the Western Balkans.
“The report … proves that the current regime of President Vucic lacks the political readiness for the democratization and Europeanisation of the country, and at the same time remains a factor of instability for the region of the Western Balkans”.
Kamberi highlighted numerous violations in Serbia in many areas. “Violations of basic human rights, the improper treatment of the rights of national minorities, the hate speech by senior officials, the lack of inclusive democracy, lack of freedom of speech and the insufficient integration of Albanians in the institutions, the unstable situation in the north of Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Serbia as a vector of instability in these countries. This speaks best about the current regime in Belgrade,” he argued.
Kamberi also said it was encouraging to see the United States of America and the European Union harmonizing their policies on the Western Balkans.