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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, January 19, 2022

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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, January 19, 2022

Albanian Language Media:

• COVID-19: 2,050 new cases, no deaths (media)
• Lajcak and Escobar expected to visit Prishtina and Belgrade (RFE)
• Arrival of new SRSG and Head of UNMIK, Caroline Ziadeh (media)
• From crisis to convergence: A strategy to tackle Balkans instability at its source (media)
• “Kosovo selectively discriminated against for visa liberalization” (media)
• Haradinaj suspects energy situation created to benefit “the energy mafia” (Koha)
• Kosovo in 2022: No end in sight to life in limbo (BIRN)

Serbian Language Media:

• Covid-19: 51 new cases registered in Serbian areas (Radio KIM)
• HLC: Investigations still opened on days of arrests of defendants (Radio KIM)
• Lawyer: Second witness in case of Dusko Arsic interviewed, says he never heard about him (Kosovo-online)
• Petkovic with French Ambassador Koshar on situation in Kosovo (Kosovo-online)
• Epidemiologists warn of rapidly rising number of coronavirus cases (N1)
• Djuric with Escobar: Serbia ready to contribute to progress of region (Kosovo-online)
• Vucic: Peace, stability priceless (Tanjug)
• Erdogan: 2021 was exceptional year for Turkey-Serbia ties (Tanjug)
• Drecun: Kurti wants to interrupt practice of Serbs voting in Kosovo (Kosovo-online)

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Albanian Language Media:

  • COVID-19: 2,050 new cases, no deaths (media)
  • Lajcak and Escobar expected to visit Prishtina and Belgrade (RFE)
  • Arrival of new SRSG and Head of UNMIK, Caroline Ziadeh (media)
  • From crisis to convergence: A strategy to tackle Balkans instability at its source (media)
  • “Kosovo selectively discriminated against for visa liberalization” (media)
  • Haradinaj suspects energy situation created to benefit “the energy mafia” (Koha)
  • Kosovo in 2022: No end in sight to life in limbo (BIRN)

Serbian Language Media:

  • Covid-19: 51 new cases registered in Serbian areas (Radio KIM)
  • HLC: Investigations still opened on days of arrests of defendants (Radio KIM) 
  • Lawyer: Second witness in case of Dusko Arsic interviewed, says he never heard about him (Kosovo-online)
  • Petkovic with French Ambassador Koshar on situation in Kosovo (Kosovo-online) 
  • Epidemiologists warn of rapidly rising number of coronavirus cases (N1)
  • Djuric with Escobar: Serbia ready to contribute to progress of region (Kosovo-online)
  • Vucic: Peace, stability priceless (Tanjug)
  • Erdogan: 2021 was exceptional year for Turkey-Serbia ties (Tanjug)
  • Drecun: Kurti wants to interrupt practice of Serbs voting in Kosovo (Kosovo-online)

 

 

Albanian Language Media  

 

COVID-19: 2,050 new cases, no deaths (media)

Kosovo has recorded 2,050 new cases with COVID-19 in the last 24 hours in Kosovo. 462 persons have recovered from the virus during this time. There are 7,266 active cases with COVID-19 in Kosovo.

Lajcak and Escobar expected to visit Prishtina and Belgrade (RFE)

Although there is no official confirmation yet, according to diplomatic sources in Brussels, the EU Special Representative for the dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak, is expected to visit Kosovo and Serbia late this month and in early February as part of efforts to organize new rounds of the dialogue. The same sources did not deny that Lajcak could be accompanied by the U.S. Envoy for the Western Balkans, Gabriel Escobar. “The details of the meetings are still being prepared,” the source said.

Sources in Brussels also said they expect the dialogue to also focus on the organization of voting for Serbian elections in the territory of Kosovo and that an eventual solution is expected before the Serbian parliamentary elections in late April.

Arrival of new SRSG and Head of UNMIK, Caroline Ziadeh (media)

All news websites cover a press release issued by the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) announcing the arrival of the new Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Kosovo and Head of UNMIK, Ms. Caroline Ziadeh.

We are pleased to announce the arrival of Caroline Ziadeh of Lebanon as the new Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Kosovo and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). 

SRSG Ziadeh succeeds Mr. Zahir Tanin to whom the Secretary-General is grateful for his dedicated efforts to further peace and stability in Kosovo and the region, and his effective leadership of the Mission.

Having served since 2017 as Director of the Department of International Organizations, Conferences and Cultural Services in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants of Lebanon, Ms. Ziadeh brings to the position close to 30 years of experience in international diplomacy with extensive knowledge of the United Nations having led national delegations to the United Nations on human rights issues, the Women, Peace and Security agenda and migration.

Former Deputy Permanent Representative of Lebanon to the United Nations in New York (2006-2017), SRSG Ziadeh served at the Embassies of Lebanon to the United Kingdom (2004-2006), to Belgium and the European Union (1994-1999), as well as the Permanent Mission of Lebanon in Vienna and the Embassies to Austria, Croatia, and Slovakia (1999-2002).

SRSG Ziadeh holds a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in Economy and Political Science from the Lebanese University, Beirut, and Diplomas in International Relations from the University Libre de Bruxelles and the Diplomatic Academy Vienna. She is fluent in Arabic, English and French.

“I look forward to engaging with Kosovo authorities and civil society as well as our international partners in Kosovo and the region. Under my leadership, UNMIK will maintain its commitment to support the institutions and people of Kosovo for the realization of a more peaceful and prosperous future through promoting human rights, building trust across communities and empowering agents of positive change, including women and youth. UNMIK will remain steadfast in its support for the EU-facilitated dialogue to reach a comprehensive agreement and long-term peace and reconciliation,” SRSG Ziadeh said.

From crisis to convergence: A strategy to tackle Balkans instability at its source (media)

Most news websites have covered “From Crisis to Convergence: A Strategy to Tackle Balkans Instability at its Source” a joint publication by the Foreign Policy Institute at Johns Hopkins SAIS and Wilson Center’s Global Europe Program. 

“There is a clear path for the US and its European partners to reverse — not just contain — the alarming deterioration in the Balkans. US-led ‘convergence’ over Kosovo will transform the stalled EU Dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina — and the entire region, including Bosnia-Herzegovina.  ‘Convergence’ will alter Serbia’s strategic calculus, curtail malign Russian and Chinese influence in the region, and finally close the three-decade Yugoslav crisis.”

Read the full publication at: https://bit.ly/3tC3P3X

Some news websites also cover a Twitter post by Edward P. Joseph, one of the authors of the publication. “While #Russia tests US/Alliance resolve in #Ukraine, this new Strategy denies Moscow its vital “partner” in the #Balkans. Let’s finally approach #Serbia from a position of strength leading to partnership, rather than fear leading to dangerous supplication of Belgrade. #Kosovo,” he tweeted.

“Kosovo selectively discriminated against for visa liberalization” (media)

Kosovo’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Liza Gashi, said today that Kosovo is being selectively discriminated against when it comes to visa liberalization. “Our constant knocking on the EU’s doors have gone unanswered for far too long. Put simply, we believe that #Kosova is being selectively discriminated against when it comes to visa liberalization. Kosova’s final destination is the EU! There is no other path or alternative,” Gashi tweeted.

Haradinaj suspects energy situation created to benefit “energy mafia” (Koha)

Leader of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK), Ramush Haradinaj, said today he suspects that the situation with energy has been created to benefit what he called “the energy mafia”. In a Facebook post, Haradinaj criticized Prime Minister Albin Kurti for having a problematic approach to energy. “While he was in the opposition, he was against the construction of Kosova e Re [power plant] claiming that the energy would be more expensive, although it comes out that energy fees would have been several times cheaper. The moment he came to power, for ridiculous not to say banal reasons, he turned down the U.S. gas, which would have been an additional source of energy production. He spent tens of millions of euros to pay for energy for Serb citizens in the north. Meanwhile, he continued subsidizing the purchase of energy with tens of millions of euros from taxpayer’s money. With all these enormous expenses of public funds, he has decided to increase energy fees at an unaffordable rate for the people,” Haradinaj argued.

Kosovo in 2022: No end in sight to life in limbo (BIRN)

Kosovo entered the new year burdened with most of the problems it had entering 2021 – the stalled dialogue with Serbia, the visa issue with the EU and the disputed Association of Serb-majority Municipalities.

The EU-facilitated Dialogue on normalization of relations with Serbia was supposed to advance in 2021 – but didn’t. The European Union was supposed to lift the visa regime for Kosovars – but didn’t. Many other issues on the country’s checklist at the start of 2021 are still there, adding to another year of what seems like a life in limbo.

The only major difference at the end of the year was that Kosovo had a stable government in terms of numbers in parliament.

This was after, for the first time in the short history of Kosovo elections, voters entrusted a single party, Albin Kurti’s Vetevendosje, to lead the country in the task to fight endemic corruption, undertake internal reforms and reach a permanent solution to relations with Serbia.

Talks since 2011 between the two sides have brought some progress in technical issues but not on the main political issue of Kosovo’s final status. Serbia refuses to recognize its former province as an independent state.

For years, Kosovo and Serbia leaders have traded accusations over which side is most responsible for the failure to implement agreements reached in Brussels.

Negotiations led to the so-called Brussels Agreement in 2013, which envisaged the establishment of an Association of Serb-Majority Municipalities in areas of Kosovo where they form the majority.

Read full article at: https://bit.ly/3FHBMCB

 

 

Serbian Language Media

 

Covid-19: 51 new cases registered in Serbian areas (Radio KIM)

Out of 55 tested samples in the Serb-populated areas in Kosovo, 51 tested positive for Covid-19, Crisis Committee of Mitrovica North announced today, Radio KIM reports.

New cases were registered as follows: 26 in Leposavic, ten in Gnjilane, five in Mitrovica North, four in Zvecan, three in Zubin Potok, two in Priluzje and one in Gracanica.

Currently there are 720 active cases of Covid-19 in the Serbian areas in Kosovo.  

HLC: Investigations still opened on days of arrests of defendants (Radio KIM) 

Eight war crimes related proceedings are ongoing at Kosovo courts at the moment. Five persons are accused, three Serbs and two Albanians. Two more persons are arrested under war crimes charges, however, their proceedings are still in the investigation phase, Radio KIM reports.

The Humanitarian Law Center in Kosovo, since the end of the armed conflict, monitors such trials at Kosovo courts, and this time presented general information on the court proceedings related to war crimes covering the period from July to December 2021.

The HLC recalled that in July 2019, a Law 06/L-091 enabling local judiciary to try persons accused of war crimes in absentia, came into force. Given that this law had shortcomings and was unimplementable in practice, at the end of June 2021, a new law on trials in absentia was promulgated, 08/L-002, which as HCL said eliminated shortcomings of the previous one.

However, by the end of December 2021, no court proceeding against persons in absentia was initiated. 

In the period from July to December 2021, in war crimes cases in Kosovo, a total of 16 hearings took place and 14 witnesses were interviewed.

First-instance verdicts were made in cases of:

          Defendant Zoran Vukotic (case file Vukotic IV), who was found guilty by Basic Court in Pristina, on July 5, 2021 and sentenced to ten years in prison, under the charges of “mistreatment and rape as war crime that took place on May 22, 1999 in Vucitrn”. A proceeding regarding his case is currently ongoing at the Court of Appeals.

          Defendant Goran Stanisic, who was found guilty by Basic Court in Pristina on October 5, 2021 and sentenced to 20 years in prison under the charges “of expulsion and murder of Albanian civilians in the villages of Slovinje and Trbovce, in Lipljan municipality on April 15 and 16 in 1999”.

Second-instance verdicts were made in cases of:

          Defendant Zoran Djokic, his first-instance verdict from February 11, 2021 was upheld by the Court of Appeals on October 12, 2021. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison under the charges “of expulsion, mistreatment, robbery and murder of Albanian civilians, which took place in Pec on March 28 and 29, 1999”. The verdict is in force.

          Defendants Zlatan Krstic and Destan Shabani whose first-instance verdicts from March 23, 2021 were confirmed by the Court of Appeals on November 8, 2021. Krstic was sentenced to 14 years and a half in prison under the charges “of deportation, inhuman treatment, unlawfull destruction of property, torture and murder of Albanian civilian population, that took place on March 26, 1999 in the village of Gornje Nerodimlje in Urosevac municipality”. Shabani was sentenced to seven years in prison under the charges of “desecrating, humiliating and degrading treatment of corpses, by implementing the orders and contributing to undignified burial of civilian victims”. The verdicts are in force.

HLC noticed that also in 2021 a practice of opening the investigation against defendants by Kosovo special prosecution on a day of arrests continues. Such practice should be avoided or minimized to the least possible level, and sufficient evidence supporting the charges must be collected before arrests of the defendants take place. The time that defendants spend in detention during the investigation or prior to raising indictment should be as short as possible, HLC said in its recommendations.

It also noted that in the second half of 2021 no hearings took place in the cases of Zoran Vukotic (I, II, and III) and the case of Sulejman Selimi at Basic Court in Mitrovica, which HLC sees as contrary to the principle of fair trial within reasonable deadline.

Lawyer: Second witness in case of Dusko Arsic interviewed, says he never heard about him (Kosovo-online)

Jovana Filipovic, defense lawyer of Dusko Arsic, accused of committing war crimes in Kosovo said yesterday that a second witness in this case was interviewed, adding he said that “he doesn’t know the defendant nor even heard about him”, Kosovo-online portal reports.

Arsic is accused of “committing a war crime in the village of Brutovac, in 1999”, the portal recalled.

“On January 5, the court extended detention to Dusko Arsic, citing as a reason that he was at large until now. The claims of prosecution and the court are obviously unfounded, given that Arsic has residence in Gracanica municipality, and used to go outside of Kosovo several times per month and never had any problems”, Filipovic said.  

Dusko Arsic was arrested at Jarinje crossing point on December 9, 2021. Filipovic said back then Arsic was arrested under charges of committing war crime, only a few days after he initiated in Pristina a court proceeding to return his usurped property in the village of Maticane, near Pristina. She also said Arsic obtained Kosovo citizenship, ten days prior to arrest. 

Petkovic with French Ambassador Koshar on situation in Kosovo (Kosovo-online) 

Office for Kosovo and Metohija Director Petar Petković in a meeting with French Ambassador to Serbia Pierre Koshar discussed the current political and security situation in Kosovo, Kosovo-online portal reports. Petkovic informed his interlocutor about the latest events in Kosovo, including the decision of Pristina authorities to ban holding of the Serbian referendum there.

In a statement issued following the meeting, Petkovic also voiced expectations that international community will be firmer and will exert timely and stronger pressure on Pristina, so that “everything would not be reduced to a reaction of statements and rhetorical messages, which was obviously not binding for Pristina’s political structures”.

Petkovic recalled that in the past Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija, with the support of the OSCE, were enabled to vote in the elections called by the Republic of Serbia, adding that Pristina’s decision on referendum can be considered as “the most flagrant act of political and legal violence”. 

“The statements of politicians in Pristina are causing further distress, that Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija will be prohibited in the future as well to vote in the elections called by the Republic of Serbia, especially in the elections on April 3, which, according to their plan, should ultimately discourage the Serbian people from fighting for survival and their rights. Such Pristina’s scenario of abolishing the right to vote in the elections in April will certainly not happen”, Petkovic said.

Epidemiologists warn of rapidly rising number of coronavirus cases (N1)

Serbian epidemiologists warned on Wednesday that a majority of the country’s population will be infected with the omicron variant of the coronavirus in the next few weeks, adding that the number of hospitalized patients is rising rapidly, N1 reports.

According to Dr Radmilo Petrovic, the number of omicron cases is three or four times higher than diagnosed in laboratory tests. He said that 70 percent of the population of Serbia will be infected by the end of March. Petrovic told Vecernje Novosti daily that more than a quarter of a million people have been infected, the vast majority of whom have not been registered as sick.

“We will detect only a small number of omicron cases while the rest of the diseased will be walking around without showing symptoms”, Petrovic said and added that the number of new cases will continue rising for at least another two weeks and start dropping off in mid-February.

The CEO of the Belgrade City Lung Disease Institute Dr Ljiljana Timotijevic warned that the number of new cases is rising rapidly. She told public broadcaster RTS Wednesday that her staff examined 30 patients that morning alone. The doctor said that the number of patients with serious symptoms who need hospitalization was also rising.

Her warning was played down somewhat by Health Ministry State Secretary Mirsad Djerlek who said that the public should not be afraid but should be cautious. “The infection rate is high but just about six percent of the sick require hospitalization”, he said. Djerlek agreed that the number of new cases will continue to rise for at least the next three or four weeks.

Epidemiologist Zoran Radovanovic told N1 that he also believes the number of new cases is much higher than official figures show. He warned that the long lines of patients waiting for hours in front of COVID facilities show that the health system is collapsing. “It’s highly inhuman to allow patients to spend hours waiting in line and that means that the system is collapsing”, he said.

“We can assume that this is the final big wave and could end relatively quickly”, he added.

Djuric with Escobar: Serbia ready to contribute to progress of region (Kosovo-online)

Serbian Ambassador to the US, Marko Djuric met Deputy Assistant of US Secretary of State for Southern and Central Europe, Gabriel Escobar and discussed with him the situation in the region, Kosovo-online portal reports.

Djuric wrote on Instagram that he had a substantial discussion about the region with Escobar.

“A substantial discussion with DAS Escobar of @statedept on the best ways of transforming challenges into opportunities in our region. Serbia 🇷🇸 stands ready to contribute to the progress, development and improvement of lives of all people in the #WesternBalkans”, Djuric said. 

Vucic: Peace, stability priceless (Tanjug)

Peace and stability are priceless and it is important that we push Serbia and Turkey forward, rather than into the past, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said in press conference with Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, adding that Serbia’s cooperation with Turkey was growing in all areas and would be continued, Tanjug news agency reports.

Vucic said he was confident he would welcome Erdogan in Serbia for a bilateral or trilateral visit in the coming months. He said they had discussed all topics, bilateral cooperation in a large number of international organizations and all regional affairs.

“We tried to find the lowest common denominator in each topic. Essentially, as Erdogan said, peace and stability are priceless and that is why it is important to maintain them, to act in a responsible and serious manner and understand all the circumstances we live in and push our countries forward, rather than into the past”, Vucic said.

It is important that we know the past, that we learn the lessons from it and that we study it, as well as that we build a different, better future, he noted. He said the growing economic ties with Turkey were significant for Serbia.

He added the bilateral trade volume with the country had been up by as much as 35 pct in 2021 relative to 2020 and that the medium-term objective was for bilateral trade to reach 5 billion euros. It is also important that Serbia works with Turkey on connecting the region, Vucic noted.

“We talked about politics much more than we can convey to you here. We had a very good understanding on many matters and I believe we will continue the good cooperation. I expect President Erdogan to come to Serbia soon”, Vucic said.

Erdogan: 2021 was exceptional year for Turkey-Serbia ties (Tanjug)

2021 was an exceptional year for the excellent Ankara-Belgrade relations, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said after a meeting with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Tuesday.

He said the meeting with Vucic had addressed regional and international affairs, as well as steps to be taken to boost cooperation further.

Erdogan added he was pleased that the High Council for Cooperation between Serbia and Turkey had met for a third time, and added that his meeting with Vucic had reaffirmed the significance they both attached to peace and stability in the Balkans.

He noted that Turkey had opened a consulate general in Novi Pazar, Serbia, in November, thus becoming the first country to have a consulate in the city.

“We hope we will open a consulate in Nis as well this year while, together with honorary consulates in Alanya and Bursa, Serbia has increased the number of its consulates (in Turkey) to five”, Erdogan explained.

Read more at: https://bit.ly/3Inl6lF

Drecun: Kurti wants to interrupt practice of Serbs voting in Kosovo (Kosovo-online)

Chairman of the Serbian Assembly Committee for Kosovo and Metohija, Milovan Drecun said that Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti wants to disable any presence of Serbia in Kosovo and abolish established practice that Serbs in Kosovo can vote on elections called for by Serbia, Kosovo-online portal reports.

He assessed the ban on holding Serbian referendum in Kosovo as Kurti’s strategy to make Serbia treat Kosovo “as separate state”.

He also notes the current situation in Kosovo is followed by two parallel processes.

“One of them Kurti implements by banning Serbs from voting, while the second one is implemented by Quint states – US, Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy”, Drecun said, adding that Quint states “allegedly advocated” that Pristina allows Serbs in Kosovo to vote.

According to Drecun, those states in no way condemned or punished Kurti’s behavior.

“This way the Quint states send a message to us, that until we recognize Kosovo as a state, they will maximally tolerate and support unilateral actions of the provisional institutions of the self-government and violation of the basic human rights and democratic rights of Serbian people in Kosovo”, Drecun opined.

He added that the US wants to impose the “two Germanies model” to Serbia, where Serbia doesn’t have to de facto recognize Kosovo, but will not oppose its membership in the United Nations.  

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