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UNMIK Media Observer, Morning Edition, October 26, 2021

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• Kurti: Serbia should show strength in boxing ring not at the border (media)
• Ceku: Serbia refusing boxers entry violates international sporting rules (media)
• EU’s position on Kosovo boxers not allowed entry to Serbia (Koha)
• Serbia bars Kosovo team from competing in boxing championship (BIRN)
• Albania threatens to quit boxing championship after Kosovo snub (Exit News)
• Phillips: Serbs have enough rights; Association would be too much (media)
• Court overturns ECAP’s decision on repeating elections in Hani i Elezit (media)
• Kosovo university teaches Serbian again, two decades after war (BIRN)
• COVID-19: 3 new cases, one death (media)
• Kosovo tops vaccination rates in Western Balkans (Exit News)
• Calls to dismiss judge who sentenced rapist to only eight months (Koha)
• Escobar: US will support Vucic while on European path (media)

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  • Kurti: Serbia should show strength in boxing ring not at the border (media)
  • Ceku: Serbia refusing boxers entry violates international sporting rules (media)
  • EU’s position on Kosovo boxers not allowed entry to Serbia (Koha)
  • Serbia bars Kosovo team from competing in boxing championship (BIRN)
  • Albania threatens to quit boxing championship after Kosovo snub (Exit News)
  • Phillips: Serbs have enough rights; Association would be too much (media)
  • Court overturns ECAP’s decision on repeating elections in Hani i Elezit (media)
  • Kosovo university teaches Serbian again, two decades after war (BIRN)
  • COVID-19: 3 new cases, one death (media)
  • Kosovo tops vaccination rates in Western Balkans (Exit News)
  • Calls to dismiss judge who sentenced rapist to only eight months (Koha)
  • Escobar: US will support Vucic while on European path (media)

Kurti: Serbia should show strength in boxing ring not at the border (media)

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti took to Twitter on Monday to react to Serbia’s refusal to allow Kosovo boxers from taking part at the world championship in Belgrade. “Serbia should show its strength in the boxing ring not at the border. Their decision to deny entry to our athletes for the World Boxing Championships 2021 is a violation of international norms on sport. I call on the European Union and the international community to condemn this violation and discriminatory action,” Kurti tweeted.

Ceku: Serbia refusing boxers entry violates international sporting rules (media)

Kosovo’s Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Hajrulla Ceku reacted to the Kosovo boxers not being allowed into Serbia to take part at the world championship saying that the issue need be raised at the dialogue with Serbia. He said the Government of Kosovo strongly condemns the actions of Serbian authorities which, Ceku noted, constitute violations of all international sports regulations.

“We are in communication with Deputy Prime Minister Bislimi so that this issue gets addressed at the dialogue level and request the dialogue not continue further until Serbia receives deserved punishment,” Ceku said at a news conference yesterday.

Ceku said Serbia needs to be sanctioned for preventing Kosovo boxers from competing at the international event. “Our greatest concern is if this passes without any reaction, without any sanction, towards Serbia and the organiser which would set a dangerous precedent for the future.”

He also slammed the BE for not reacting to the move of Serbia’s authorities. “We expect a public reaction and follow up actions.”

Ceku further said that parallel sporting events organised by Serbia in Kosovo will not be allowed to take place. He said the decision is expected to be taken by the national council for sanctioning of violence and negative phenomena in sports. “For some time now, parallel sports structures of Serbia have been functioning in Kosovo. The law on sports in Kosovo does not permit the organization of activities by parallel federations. Our sports federations have repeatedly called on sports clubs of the Serb community in Kosovo to integrate in our organizational structures and become part of the legitimate sports activity in Kosovo,” he said.

EU’s position on Kosovo boxers not allowed entry to Serbia (Koha)

Replying to a question about Kosovo boxers not allowed to enter Serbia to take part in world championships, the European Union has called for non-obstruction of cultural, sporting, intellectual, and artistic exchange between Kosovo and Serbia adding that it supports the request of the International Boxing Association to have the Kosovo Boxing Federation be treated equally as all other members.

“As we have said several times in the past, the long-term normalization of relations and lasting reconciliation between societies begins with intellectual, cultural, sporting and artistic exchanges. Such exchanges are essential to building trust. Authorities at all levels should spare no effort to ensure that such an exchange takes place regularly, unhindered and without disturbance,” EU foreign policy spokesperson Peter Stano said.

Serbia bars Kosovo team from competing in boxing championship (BIRN)

A national boxing team from Kosovo spent the weekend travelling from Kosovo to the Serbian border three times for a planned journey to the Men’s World Boxing Championships in Belgrade before finally returning home after Serbia refused to let them enter the country.

The championship, taking place from October 24 to November 6, gathers more than 500 athletes from over 88 countries to compete in 13 weight categories.

The Kosovo Boxing Federation has been a full member of the International Boxing Association AIBA since November 2014 one month before its Olympic Committee became a member of the International Olympic Committee.

On Saturday, AIBA said the Kosovo team was expected to attend the Championship and suggested that the Kosovo delegation “will be treated no differently than the delegation of any other AIBA member”.

“AIBA aims to provide a welcoming home for every boxer, and the world of boxing has no borders. We believe that all athletes must receive a fair chance to compete and demonstrate their best abilities in the ring. Sport is intended to unite people and should be free of national politics,” AIBA said, adding that it is in contact with the event host, the Serbian Boxing Federation, in an attempt to remedy the situation.

But the International Olympic Committee, IOC, blamed AIBA for not being able to secure the right of Kosovo athletes to participate in a tournament in Belgrade.

“It appears that AIBA has not applied the necessary due diligence before allocating this tournament to Belgrade, despite the fact that the IOC has repeatedly advised the international federations of the necessity of such due diligence,” Reuters quoted an IOC spokesperson as saying.

Besim Brahimi, selector of the Kosovo national team, told Klan Kosova TV channel on Monday that AIBA asked them to go to Serbia without showing their national symbols.

“AIBA sent us a message [asking us] to participate without state symbols, under AIBA’s flag, but this would be an insult for Kosovo because we are as full a member as any other state,” Brahimi said.

Blerim, Vela, Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani’s Chief of Staff, called the ban a “clear violation of universal sporting values” and called on AIBA to “heavily fine Serbia for promoting political stances”.

This was not the first time Kosovo and Serbia athletes are paying the price for the long-lasting political disputes between the countries.

In May 2018, a karate team from Kosovo was not allowed to enter to Serbia to compete in the European Karate Championship in the northern Serbian city of Novi Sad.

The retaliatory move came days after the Football Federation of Kosovo refused to allow Serbia’s Red Star team to play a match in the mainly ethnic Serbian town of Gracanica.

In March 2019, Belgrade was forced to cancel a planned match between the women’s junior handball teams from Serbia and Kosovo, amid rising tensions and fears of clashes between Serbian fans and police.

In October that year, Kosovo authorities banned a football match from taking place in the disputed Serb-dominated north of the country between Serbian club Red Star and a local team, Trepca, which is not recognized by the Kosovo football authority.

Kosovo proclaimed its independence from Serbia in 2008, having broken away in 1999 as a result of NATO’s air war on Serbian forces in the then province.

Most Western countries, including the US, recognised Kosovo long ago, but its statehood is still bitterly contested by Serbia and Russia, among others.

As a result, Serbia remains reluctant to allow any sporting engagements with Kosovo that might signal de facto recognition of Kosovo as a state.

Albania threatens to quit boxing championship after Kosovo snub (Exit News)

The Albanian national boxing team has threatened to quit the 2021 World Boxing Championship in Belgrade, if Serbia refuses to allow Kosovo to take part. Over the weekend, Kosovo’s national team was turned away at the Serbian border on three separate occasions. Serbian authorities first refused to let the athletes enter Serbia wearing Kosovo’s national symbols. However, the team was barred entry even after removing their uniforms.

On Saturday, the International Boxing Association released a statement, writing that it “expects that the Kosovo Boxing Federation’s delegation [be] treated no differently than the delegation of any other AIBA member.”

The association also wrote that they are in contact with Serbian authorities to remedy the situation.

However, Kosovo’s team was turned away at the border two further times after AIBA’s statement, and the opening ceremony and the first bouts in Belgrade proceeded without delays.

Albania’s trainer, Zef Gjoni, spoke to Euronews about the situation. He said that he had reached out to Prime Minister Edi Rama and told him that Albania would withdraw from the competition if Kosovo’s exclusion persisted.

According to Gjoni, Serbian fans had thrown lighters and booed the Albanian team during Sunday’s parade in Belgrade.

He also mentioned that police had been stationed at the hotel where the Albanian team is staying for security reasons.

Phillips: Serbs have enough rights; Association would be too much (media)

David Phillips, Director of the Program on Peace-building and Rights at Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights, is quoted as saying in several media that Kosovo should ask for the same rights for the Albanians in Presevo Valley as the Serbs have in Kosovo.

“The Association [of Serb majority municipalities] would be too much. The Constitution of Kosovo foresees a series of measures for the protection and promotion of minorities, which are also protected by the Ahtisaari principles. The Agreement that Mr. Thaci [former Kosovo President] reached on the Association was bad from the beginning,” Phillips said in an interview with Dukagjini TV. “If Kosovo moves forward with the agreement on the Association, for which it is obliged, then Serbia needs to offers the same treatment for the Albanian minority living in Presevo Valley”.

Phillips also argued that the Association would create big divisions in the north and that it would undermine the sovereignty of Kosovo.

Court overturns ECAP’s decision on repeating elections in Hani i Elezit (media)

Kosovo’s Supreme Court overturned the decision of the Elections Complaints and Appeals Panel (ECAP) to have mayoral elections in Hani i Elezit be repeated due to voter intimidation by the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK).

The Court approved the appeal presented by PDK’s candidate Mehmet Ballazhi challenging the ECAP ruling. Supreme Court said that ECAP did not accurately implement certain provisions of the law and instructed it to once again review the case and “take a fair and legal decision.”

Independent candidate Rufki Suma, who originally submitted the case to ECAP, said the Supreme Court decision is groundless. Election preliminary results showed PDK’s candidate winning in the first round.

Kosovo university teaches Serbian again, two decades after war (BIRN)

The Serbian language is being studied alongside Albanian at the University of Pristina in Kosovo for the first time since the war ended in 1999 – part of a new programme intended to help bridge ethnic divides.

It’s Thursday morning and lecturer Lindita Rugova is busy preparing for Balkanistica, the newly-launched teaching programme at the University of Pristina’s Faculty of Philology.

More than two decades after Kosovo Albanians fought a war to break away from Serbian rule, the Serbian language is once again being studied at the University of Pristina, the main public university in Kosovo, as part of the Balkanistica programme.

Rugova, who is also the dean of the Faculty of Philology, has been working for more than two years to design the programme, which offers students an opportunity to study both Albanian and Serbian, as well as the history of the Balkans, in an attempt to overcome linguistic barriers.

“Balkanistica was originally designed as a bilingual programme and its content will be unique. It is not only about the scientific aspects of the languages in the Balkans, but also the cultural, historical and literary aspects,” Rugova told BIRN.

The programme is significant because linguistic divisions in Kosovo have widened over several decades, and continue to be endemic, reflecting persistent inter-ethnic animosity.

When Kosovo was a province of Serbia in the former Yugoslavia, the Albanian language was used in official documents and communications, alongside what was then known as Serbo-Croat. This ended in 1989, when Slobodan Milosevic’s government abolished Kosovo’s provincial autonomy.

From that point on, Serbo-Croat was the only official language, even though ethnic Albanians constituted the majority of Kosovo’s population. Universities and secondary schools were also closed to ethnic Albanians, so they set up their own parallel education system, in which Serbo-Croat was not taught. This continued until Milosevic lost control of Kosovo in the 1998-99 war.

All of these developments widened the linguistic divide, which has continued since the war ended. Today, Serbia still maintains control over the education system in Serb-majority areas of Kosovo, where schools use the Serbian state curriculum, which doesn’t include the teaching of Albanian. Meanwhile, ethnic Albanian pupils are not taught Serbian.

“The past still has a heavy influence, and it will take a long time until the tensions are relieved. Based on the history of my family, who suffered persecution by the Yugoslav regime, there are still remnants of the painful past. However, these dividing lines are slowly fading away,” said Rugova.

COVID-19: 3 new cases, one death (media)

3 new COVID-19 cases and one death were recorded in the last 24 hours in Kosovo. 20 persons recovered from the virus during this time. There are 438 active cases with COVID-19 in Kosovo.

Kosovo tops vaccination rates in Western Balkans (Exit News)

Kosovo has the highest vaccination rate in the Western Balkans, despite being the last to start immunizing its population. 47% of Kosovo citizens have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and roughly 38% have been fully vaccinated. This puts Kosovo ahead of Serbia and Montenegro, that have administered at least one dose of the vaccine to 45% and 40% of their populations respectively. Albania is second from last with 34.5%, while Bosnia and Herzegovina trails behind with 23%.

Kosovo saw a significant decrease in the number of active cases and deaths over the past two months, after implementing strict anti-pandemic measures starting in late August. Kosovo residents can only attend indoor events and visit restaurants and cafés if they had been vaccinated or could show a negative COVID-19 test.

On Sunday, there were only 13 positive cases and no deaths.

Comparatively, Albania registered 444 new positive cases and four deaths on Sunday alone.

Calls to dismiss judge who sentenced rapist to only eight months (Koha)

The Basic Court in Peja decided to sentence a man accused of raping a 15 year old girl to only eight months in prison triggering a reaction from representatives of civil society and organisations that defend women’s rights. According to the Criminal Code of Kosovo, sentences for raping a minor range from five to twenty years of imprisonment. Kosovo’s Minister of Justice, Albulena Haxhiu, reacted to the court’s decision calling it absurd and said that such judgments encourage rapists. Representatives of civil society have asked the court to immediately dismiss the judge that worked on the case. The Kosovo Women Network issued a press release on Monday saying that such sentences discourage women from reporting cases of violence.

Escobar: US will support Vucic while on European path (media)

US Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, Gabriel Escobar, said in an interview with Al Jazeera Balkans on Monday that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic would have support from the US as long as he continues to follow the European path.

“Our relationship with Serbia is neither good nor bad; it is complicated. I hope that this partnership in development, which we have with Serbia, will help stability in the region,” Escobar said when asked if Serbia was a destabilising factor in the region.

Escobar said that there would be no new war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. “There will be no war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I don’t know why people are talking about war. They should be talking about economic development. When people go to the polls, I think they have clear options between those who want to continue the ethnic divisions of the 1990s and those who wish to move forward,” Escobar said.

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