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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, January 4, 2022

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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, January 4, 2022

Albanian Language Media:

• “France has changed approach”; optimism for visa liberalisation (Kosovapress)
• Will Biden launch an offensive in Kosovo-Serbia dialogue this year (Gazeta Express)
• Joseph: Rama’s rapprochement with Vucic is not healthy (Radio Free Europe)
• Thaci and others are held in detention on assumptions, attorney says (Kosovapress)
• COVID-19: 108 new cases, no deaths (media)

Serbian Language Media:

• Covid-19: 25 new cases registered in Serbian areas (Radio KIM)
• Petkovic reacts to Pristina’s decision to declare UNMIK official “persona non grata” (B92, social media)
• Moscow reacts to Pristina’s move (media)
• Trajkovic: Albanian political elite in Kosovo admitted return of expelled Serbs is politically conditioned (Kosovo-online)
• Schieb: Serbia–Germany relations aim at providing support for EU integration (N1)
• Chen Bo: Great results of cooperation between China and Serbia in 2021 (N1)
• EU Office condemned recent desecration of cemetery in Kisnica (Radio KIM)
• Two anti-coronavirus shots needed to enter Kosovo as of January 3 (Radio KIM)
• Server: Pristina also responsible for issue of missing persons (Kosovo-online)
• Kosovo police members received letter of reprimand for detaining KoSSev’s editor last year (KoSSev)

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Albanian Language Media:

  • “France has changed approach”; optimism for visa liberalisation (Kosovapress)
  • Will Biden launch an offensive in Kosovo-Serbia dialogue this year (Gazeta Express)
  • Joseph: Rama’s rapprochement with Vucic is not healthy (Radio Free Europe)
  • Thaci and others are held in detention on assumptions, attorney says (Kosovapress)
  • COVID-19: 108 new cases, no deaths (media)

Serbian Language Media:

  • Covid-19: 25 new cases registered in Serbian areas (Radio KIM)
  • Petkovic reacts to Pristina’s decision to declare UNMIK official “persona non grata” (B92, social media)
  • Moscow reacts to Pristina’s move (media)
  • Trajkovic: Albanian political elite in Kosovo admitted return of expelled Serbs is politically conditioned (Kosovo-online)
  • Schieb: Serbia–Germany relations aim at providing support for EU integration (N1)
  • Chen Bo: Great results of cooperation between China and Serbia in 2021 (N1)
  • EU Office condemned recent desecration of cemetery in Kisnica (Radio KIM)
  • Two anti-coronavirus shots needed to enter Kosovo as of January 3 (Radio KIM)
  • Server: Pristina also responsible for issue of missing persons (Kosovo-online)
  • Kosovo police members received letter of reprimand for detaining KoSSev’s editor last year (KoSSev)

 

 

Albanian Language Media  

 

“France has changed approach”; optimism for visa liberalisation (Kosovapress)

Representatives of the ruling Vetevendosje Movement argue that there is positive movement in terms of France’s approach to visa liberalisation for Kosovo’s citizens. Meanwhile, opposition representatives and commentators believe that the government must lobby more efficiently with EU member states that are skeptical to approve visa liberalisation for Kosovo.

Vetevendosje MP, Arbereshe Kryeziu-Hyseni, told the news agency that some EU member states, including France, are no longer skeptical as they were in the past in terms of visa liberalisation for Kosovo. She said that the line ministries have done an outstanding job to remove the dilemmas of skeptical countries especially with regards to the rule of law and the fight against crime and corruption.

“There is now a positive movement in terms of France’s approach, because we know that France has been one of the most skeptical countries. There are also several member states that are no longer as skeptical as they were in the past; at least this has been the position of some of the line ministers. The line ministries are doing an outstanding job to remove the dilemmas that France had on certain issues, one of them being crime and corruption. We have seen that lately there have been many actions by the police and the Ministry of Interior Affairs to fight crime and corruption. The fight against crime and corruption remains one of our top priorities and there are concrete actions. We have intensified the dialogue and bilateral meetings with France to prove that we are willing to break the barrier because outstanding work is being done in this respect. So I expect the intensified talks will bring positive results and that when France takes over the presidency it will change its position toward Kosovo,” she said.

Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) MP and chair of the Kosovo Assembly Committee on European Integration, Rrezarta Krasniqi, said Kosovo has met all requirements for visa liberalisation and that the government needs to work with the skeptical member states.

“The committee is doing its best so that Kosovars can travel freely as soon as possible, because we are the only people in the Balkans without visa liberalisation. The European Commission has confirmed that we have met all the requirements, but the biggest workload is now on the government, especially the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the ambassadors to lobby with the skeptical countries and for the Prime Minister to lobby with our partners,” Krasniqi said.

Will Biden launch an offensive in Kosovo-Serbia dialogue this year (Gazeta Express)

There have never been any important political developments in the Western Balkans without the direct involvement of the White House. Looking back, the bombing of Yugoslavia, the liberation of Kosovo and Kosovo’s path until February 17, all these processes were sealed by the U.S. History shows us that things cannot be any different in terms of concluding the final phase of the process of dialogue with Serbia. But what do experts and commentators of international politics say and is Joe Biden expected to launch an offensive in 2022 to push Prishtina and Belgrade toward a final settlement?

After Joe Biden came to the White House, the team of people implementing the U.S. policy in the Western Balkans changed completely. Instead of Matthew Palmer, now Gabriel Escobar is the envoy for the Western Balkans; Anthony Godfrey in Belgrade will be replaced by Christopher Hill, and Jeffrey Hovenier will head the U.S. Embassy in Prishtina. All of them have ties with the region from the past, especially Ambassador Hill, whose return to Belgrade has attracted a lot of attention given his engagement in the processes in the 1990s.

Daniel Expert, U.S. expert and professor at John Hopkins University, said in an interview with the news website that he expects the new team to do something for the Western Balkans, starting this year. “Their focus was initially in preventing a disaster in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but they will also try to achieve something with Kosovo and Serbia,” he said.

Serwer said he expects concrete developments in the talks between Kosovo and Serbia, especially on the issue of missing persons and issues related to finances. “I would also like to see approval in the Western Balkans, including Prishtina and Belgrade, of principles that lead to fair behavior toward neighbors and the implementation of plans,” he said.

Serwer said he was skeptical about a possible Biden-led meeting at The White House. “Such spectacular things happen only when they are carefully prepared. I don’t see any prospect of Prishtina and Belgrade being ready for this before the Serbian presidential elections, and maybe even later,” he argued.

Bodo Weber, a German expert, has different expectations from Serwer, when asked about a concrete initiative from the Biden administration for the Kosovo-Serbia talks this year. He said that he currently does not expect any offensive by the Biden administration in the dialogue and that according to him the current administration is more a continuation of the policy followed by the Trump administration.

“To date we haven’t seen a defined clarity in the Biden administration’s policy toward the Western Balkans. There have been many staff and a continuation of the Trump administration’s policy. More in Bosnia than in the dialogue. When you hear Escobar and other representatives of the U.S. administration talking about Serbia, they sound more like the Trump administration rather than a democrat administration. The U.S. needs the European Union for a final reset and a serious restart of negotiations for a final and truly comprehensive settlement,” he said.

Avni Spahiu, Kosovo’s former ambassador to Washington, said changes in the U.S. representation in the Western Balkans mean that there will be a stronger U.S. engagement in the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue this year. He said the time is now for concrete results in the negotiations and that if this does not happen the region risks sliding into violence.

Spahiu said that the U.S. administration has implied a more proactive engagement not only because of the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue but also as a result of the growing influence of Russian-Chinese politics in the region.

Joseph: Rama’s rapprochement with Vucic is not healthy (Radio Free Europe)

Edward Joseph, a lecturer at the John Hopkins University in Washington, said in an interview with the news website that Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama’s rapprochement with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic is not healthy. “In fact, one must note that a greater Serbia leads to the creation of a greater Albania or vice versa. This is a very dangerous dynamic and it is being broken in Kosovo, along the Ibar River. The regional economic market is very important for all countries but it cannot be implemented without European and democratic values. Otherwise, it can be very dangerous,” he said.

Joseph said that Kosovo is obliged to implement the decision on the formation of the Association/Community of Serb-majority municipalities because it agreed to this in 2013 and 2015. “Prishtina can propose in constructive fashion how the Association of Serb-majority municipalities can be organised in harmony with the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Kosovo and with the interests of the Serbs there. It is very doable to form an association that would not be another Republika Srpska, and in doing so to contribute to trust building,” he said.

Joseph also said that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic presents Serbia as a key partner of the West in the region although this is not so. “In fact it is a destabilising factor. You cannot be a partner of the West and at the same time promote the ‘Serbian World’, because these two are irreconcilable. You cannot be a partner of the West and at the same time promote Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, and enter into a strategic partnership with China and Russia,” Joseph argued.

Thaci and others are held in detention on assumptions, attorney says (Kosovapress)

Dastid Pallaska, an attorney in the defense team of former Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, who is awaiting trial at The Hague, said in an interview with the news agency that Thaci is being held in detention based on the assumption that he can impact the ongoing procedures although no concrete evidence has been provided so far to substantiate this. Pallaska argued that the Specialist Chambers, established by Kosovo, do not trust the institutions of Kosovo. He also said that the trial against Thaci and others is expected to start at the end of this year.

Pallaska said that the whole process has been marred by serious procedural violations that have made the work of the defense team more difficult.

He also argued that there is no reason to keep Thaci in detention and that although Thaci and the others surrendered voluntarily they are treated as if they had been arrested. “Although my client and the majority there surrendered voluntarily, in our case former President Thaci renounced his constitutional immunity that protected him from being arrested or detained, he is treated as if he was arrested or as if he were a person that tried to avoid justice. At the same time, there is no reason to keep him in detention; he is being held there based on assumptions and hypothesis that he may impact the proceedings although no single concrete evidence has been presented so far to substantiate this,” Pallaska said.

COVID-19: 108 new cases, no deaths (media) 

108 new cases with COVID-19 were confirmed in Kosovo in the last 24 hours. 11 persons recovered from the virus during this time. There are 637 active cases with COVID-19 in Kosovo.

 

 

Serbian Language Media

 

Covid-19: 25 new cases registered in Serbian areas (Radio KIM)

Out of 93 tested samples in the Serb-populated areas, 25 were positive for Covid-19, Crisis Committee of Mitrovica North announced on Sunday, Radio KIM reports.

New cases were registered as follows: ten in Mitrovica North, six in Strpce, four in Zvecan, three in Leposavic and two in Zubin Potok.

Currently there are 80 active cases of Covid-19 in the Serbian areas in Kosovo. 

Petkovic reacts to Pristina’s decision to declare UNMIK official “persona non grata” (B92, social media)

Serbian Government Office for Kosovo and Metohija Director Petar Petkovic reacted to the decision of Pristina authorities to declare UNMIK official “persona non grata” saying it was an “act of violence” against the United Nations, B92 reports.

“Pristina’s declaring a legitimate @UNMIKosovo official as ‘persona non grata’ is its act of violence against the UN administration, the ultimate civilian authority in K&M”, Petkovic said on his Twitter account.

As he said, “In line with the applicable norms of international law and pursuant to UNSCR 1244, the sole legal civilian authority in K&M is UNMIK as UN Mission”.

Kosovo Foreign Minister Donika Gervala Schwartz, announced on December 31 that, at the request of Prime Minister Albin Kurti, she made the decision to declare a Russian official in UNMIK “persona non grata” because, as she said it, of his harmful activities in Kosovo.

Former Serbian high-ranking diplomat Zoran Milivojevic said Pristina authorities have neither legitimacy nor legality to declare a person delegated by the United Nations as “persona non grata”.

“Kosovo is not a state, it is not a UN member and this is not about relations between two subjects having a full international legal capacity. Therefore a concept of “persona non grata” is not applicable in this case”, Milivojevic explained.

He added that the UN made a clear stance on it, stressing such possibilities are not applicable to them, given that the UN have special status and as per rule are deployed in protecting the peace.

He also opined Pristina made such a decision for two reasons. “First is to try to legitimize themselves as a subject of international law and this way confirms their thesis of so-called statehood. To prove they are state and as such they can act this way. The second reason is purely geopolitical, given that they gave some sort of explanation demonstrating that Pristina authorities attempt at any cost to display loyalty to the policy of the west at this moment, underlining as a reason for their move ‘malignant influence of Russia and anti-Russian policy (…)”, Milivojevic said.  

Moscow reacts to Pristina’s move (media)

Proclaiming a Russian official in UNMIK as “persona non grata” by Pristina authorities is a provocation, the Russian Embassy in Serbia announced, Serbian media report.

“We consider Pristina’s ‘decision’ to be another anti-Russian and anti-UN provocation to win the favor of Western mentors. We start from the fact that in accordance with international law and UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which is crucial for resolving the Kosovo issue, it has no legal consequences”, the Russian Embassy said in a statement. They also called on the UN administration in the region to fully ensure the security of its Russian officials.

Kosovo Minister of Foreign Affairs Donika Gervalla Schwartz on December 31, declared the Russian official in UNMIK a “persona non grata”.

Trajkovic: Albanian political elite in Kosovo admitted return of expelled Serbs is politically conditioned (Kosovo-online)

President of the European Serb Movement from Kosovo and politician Rada Trajkovic said the Albanian political elite in Kosovo admitted that the return of expelled Serbs is politically conditioned, Kosovo-online portal reports.

Trajkovic made these remarks reacting to the interview former Pristina chief negotiator Edita Tahiri gave to Mitrovica-North based Kosovo-online portal.

“This is a first official acknowledgment of the Kosovo-Albanian political elite that the return of expelled Serbs is being politically conditioned and that hostile environment for the members of the Serb community is being intentionally created in the towns in Kosovo. Rather concerning and threatening message towards Serbs in Kosovo”, Trajkovic wrote on Twitter.

Edita Tahiri told Kosovo-online portal, among others that “(…) Serbia divided Serbs in Kosovo, by giving double salaries to those in the north not to integrate. It is about a colonial war, war for resources, minerals and water, but I have not allowed this topic to be opened in Brussels. Yes, there are no Serbs in bigger towns, but usually reintegration is not a process that happens within short-time intervals. Look at Bosnia after so many years. However, if the agreement between Kosovo and Serbia is made I am convinced Serbs will return to urban areas”, she said.

Asked by the portal to clarify does it mean that in case the agreement is not made Serbs can not return to Kosovo, Tahiri, as the portal said, responded – with this policy Serbia is currently pursuing, which is getting closer and closer to Russia – no.

Asked to comment on the case of a first Serb woman returnee to Djakovica town, Dragica Gasic who is still unable to buy groceries in the local shops there, Tahiri said it was not a question for her, but for the Kosovo government and Djakovica mayor.

In a lengthy interview in English, with translation in Serbian provided by the portal, Tahiri also spoke about Brussels dialogue, Specialist Court in the Hague, Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, missing persons issue and Community of Serb-majority Municipalities.  

Schieb: Serbia–Germany relations aim at providing support for EU integration (N1)

The main goal of the relations between Serbia and Germany is to support European integration, and it will remain so during the rule of Chancellor Olaf Scholz, German Ambassador to Serbia Thomas Schieb said Friday, N1 reports.

In an article for Belgrade-based Blic daily, he said that those relations primarily included support and critical monitoring of the necessary reforms that Serbia had committed to within the accession negotiations and the process of normalisation of relations with Kosovo.

According to him, the most relevant reforms are in the rule of law and democracy in Serbia, i.e., issues related to the independence of the judiciary, media freedom and the fight against corruption.

Schieb added that Serbia still had a lot of work to do in many areas, but some progress had been made recently.

“Reform in the justice area, which the citizens of Serbia will vote on in the referendum on January 16, is, in my opinion, significant progress”, he said.

Commenting on the opening of cluster 4 in Serbia’s negotiations with the EU, Schieb said it was essential to reduce high dependence on coal, whose current share in electricity production is about 68 percent, significantly reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the country and helping solve environmental problems.

Chen Bo: Great results of cooperation between China and Serbia in 2021 (N1)

Chinese Ambassador to Serbia Chen Bo said on Friday that the cooperation between the two countries progressed in 2021 and that “great results” have been achieved, N1 reports.

“The previous year was a year of further progress in developing relations between China and Serbia, deepening cooperation in all areas and friendship between our two peoples”, Chen Bo said.

She thanked “Serbia’s friends for supporting China’s development and to all those dedicated to promoting Sino-Serbian relations. Together, we are persistent in building our ’steel friendship’ in the new year“, Chen Bo wrote on Twitter in Serbian.

EU Office condemned recent desecration of cemetery in Kisnica (Radio KIM)

The EU Office in Pristina condemned the recent desecration of Orthodox cemetery in Kisnica village, near Gracanica, saying that such acts undermine the trust among communities, Radio KIM reports.

“@eukosovo strongly condemns the recent desecration of gravestones at the Orthodox cemetery in Kišnica/Kishnicë over the last weekend.  Such acts undermine inter-community trust. We commend the efforts by the Kosovo Police and expect that perpetrators are brought to justice”, the EU Office wrote on Twitter.

On December 26, seven tombstones were broken at the Serbian Orthodox cemetery in this village. 

Two anti-coronavirus shots needed to enter Kosovo as of January 3 (Radio KIM)

As of Monday, January 3, two anti-coronavirus vaccines are needed for entering Kosovo, Pristina authorities said, Radio KIM reports.

Persons who have not received two doses, may get vaccinated at Pristina airport and at crossings of Vrbica, Merdare, Bela Zemlja and Djeneral Jaknovic.

The Kosovo government on December 1 last year approved anti-Covid measures that came into immediate force, but part of the measures relating to the entry into Kosovo was postponed for January 3, 2022.

In line with the measures movement is banned from midnight to 5 a.m. and working hours of restaurants and bars is until 11 p.m

Rector of Serbian University in Mitrovica: Unvaccinated students particularly affected by this decision

Students of University of Pristina temporarily relocated to Mitrovica North, who are not vaccinated are particularly affected by the Kosovo government decision to allow entry in Kosovo only to persons who received two doses of vaccine, Kosovo-online portal reports.

Rector of University, Zdravko Vitosevic said faculties provided online lessons to their students, however attending exams poses a problem, as it requires physical presence of students. He added exams commence at the end of January and beginning of February and that he monitors the situation, noting exams can’t be taken online.

“We will monitor the situation and we are here to help our students as much as we can, but I am concerned over exams starting in February, as no university in Serbia is accredited to hold exams online. We will certainly sit down and make an agreement on what we can do”, Vitosevic said.

He also said the University has no influence over the decision made by Pristina authorities.  

Server: Pristina also responsible for issue of missing persons (Kosovo-online)

Johns Hopkins University professor and analyst Daniel Server in a New Year’s interview for Kosovo-online portal said that 2021 was unsuccessful year when it comes to Belgrade-Pristina dialogue and that it is unlikely there will be a new meeting between Aleksandar Vucic and Albin Kurti before elections in Serbia, as well as that he hopes for visa liberalization for Kosovo in 2022.

He also pointed out that, besides Belgrade, Pristina as well has a responsibility in the search for missing persons. Server does not expect progress in dialogue at least until the Serbian elections in 2022.

Q: With the appointment of the special envoy of Great Britain, along with two US envoys for the Western Balkans, will Washington and London take the lead in the dialogue?

The United States still wants the EU to lead, but I think both the United Kingdom and the United States will be more willing to work in tandem with the EU than it has been the case in the past.

Q: How do you see US sanctions? Do you expect new names on the American list?

Yes, I guess there will be more named people.

Q: Prime Minister Kurti says that the issue of missing persons must be resolved, but given that a third of the missing are non-Albanians, mostly Serbs, does Pristina have a responsibility in searching for the missing persons?

Of course. Pristina should be held accountable for any missing person that it has information about. This should include any victims of the KLA or other Albanian armed groups.

Q: Is there a possibility for an agreement and a new meeting between Kurti and Vucic during 2022??

There is always a possibility, but I doubt that will happen before the Serbian elections.

Q: Do you expect visa liberalisation for Kosovo in 2022?

It would be foolish to expect that, but I hope it will happen in 2022. The French and the Dutch should tell Pristina why they are hesitant and give Pristina a chance to please them.

Q: Do you expect a bigger role of the USA in the Western Balkans during 2022 when it comes to dialogue, but Bosnia and Herzegovina as well?

The United States is already more focused on B&H than it has been in the past and will probably continue its diplomatic efforts there in 2022. But to be clear – the right direction for the United States should be more respect for individual rights in B&H. Nothing the United States is doing should strengthen the hold of ethnic nationalist political parties in power. They are the problem, not the solution. A civil state would be a more functional state in B&H. 

Kosovo police members received letter of reprimand for detaining KoSSev’s editor last year (KoSSev)

Police officers of Mitrovica North regional police directorate I. N., S. R., M. P. and T. V. received a letter of reprimand over Tatjana Lazarevic’s detainment on April 11, 2020, according to the decision of the Kosovo Police Committee for Appeals, KoSSev portal reports.

The KoSSev portal editor-in-chief reached out to this committee after the police officers in question were found not guilty by the regional police directorate in Mitrovica North in October this year – following Lazarevic’s two complaints to the Kosovo Police Inspectorate and interrogation during the detainment. Repealing the decision of the N. Mitrovica police, the Committee for Appeals determined that four members of the intervention unit “illegally and without any particular reason“ picked up Lazarevic and violated the administrative instructions and work procedures of the Kosovo police. 

Lazarevic is also awaiting the results of the complaint she filed with the Kosovo Police Inspectorate, the portal added.

 

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