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UNMIK Media Observer, Morning Edition, January 21, 2022

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• COVID-19: 2,708 new cases, one death (media)
• Kosovo considers new measures in light of increasing COVID-19 cases (media)
• In Athens, Gervalla urges Greece to recognise Kosovo (media)
• U.S. Ambassador at OSCE: Kosovo sets terms for elections of other states in its territory (media)
• Konjufca: Kosovo has nothing more to give to Vucic (Telegrafi)
• AAK-sponsored resolution on electricity price not approved by Assembly (RTK)
• PSD to stage protest next week against electricity price increase (media)
• Mehaj: NATO’s base in Kucove, show of commitment to peace and stability in region (media)
• Kosovo Public Broadcaster Board Sacks Director for Negligence (BIRN)
• After Ban, Kosovo’s Crypto Miners Weigh Options (BIRN)

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  • COVID-19: 2,708 new cases, one death (media)
  • Kosovo considers new measures in light of increasing COVID-19 cases (media)
  • In Athens, Gervalla urges Greece to recognise Kosovo (media)
  • U.S. Ambassador at OSCE: Kosovo sets terms for elections of other states in its territory (media)
  • Konjufca: Kosovo has nothing more to give to Vucic (Telegrafi)
  • AAK-sponsored resolution on electricity price not approved by Assembly (RTK)
  • PSD to stage protest next week against electricity price increase (media)
  • Mehaj: NATO’s base in Kucove, show of commitment to peace and stability in region (media)
  • Kosovo Public Broadcaster Board Sacks Director for Negligence (BIRN)
  • After Ban, Kosovo’s Crypto Miners Weigh Options (BIRN)

 

 

COVID-19: 2,708 new cases, one death (media)

Kosovo has confirmed a record of 2,708 new cases with COVID-19 and one death in the last 24 hours. 202 persons have recovered from the virus during this time.

There are 9,771 active cases with COVID-19 in Kosovo.

Kosovo considers new measures in light of increasing COVID-19 cases (media)

Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti has urged the committee for coordination and assessment of the pandemic situation to update the set of measures aimed at curtailing the spread of COVID-19, Radio Free Europe reports.

Koha quotes Health Minister Rifat Latifi saying that there is no decision yet on the new measures but who did note that Kosovo is faring better than the region with the pandemic. Calling on the citizens to get vaccinated, Latifi said that the recommendations containing proposals for new measures are expected to be submitted to the Government by today.

At the same time, Education Minister Arberie Nagavci told Kosovapress at the end of the committee’s meeting yesterday that health experts have recommended schools be the last to close in face of growing cases of coronavirus. She said there would be no decision that would apply to all schools but that the situation would be managed on a case-by-case basis.

Faik Hoti, spokesperson for the Health Ministry, spoke to Klan Kosova about some of the proposals under discussion which include increasing the current curfew by two additional hours. “This would automatically mean that the gastronomy sector would have to shorten its working hours,” Hoti said, adding: “The non-essential staff would work from home, except the essential part who will have to come to their workplaces.”

In Athens, Gervalla urges Greece to recognise Kosovo (media)

Kosovo’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Donika Gervalla, met Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and discussed bilateral cooperation.

In the meeting in Athens, Gervalla expressed the readiness of the Government of Kosovo to advance relations with Greece which, she said, is an important contributor to peace and security of the region. “Minister Gervalla also underlined that Kosovo views Greece as a friendly country and partner and values it for its constructiveness in relation to the European agenda and the visa liberalisation process for the citizens of Kosovo,” a press release issued by Kosovo’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Diaspora noted.

The two ministers are reported to have emphasised the importance of advancing economic relations, particularly cooperation in the field of energy. Gervalla said Kosovo is still in the process of reviewing best option regarding the energy strategy. “We are in contact with our friends about options for the challenging transition in this field. We will continue to be in close contact with

Gervalla is further quoted to have said that recognition of Kosovo’s independence by all members of the European Union, including Greece, would be a bold move towards regional stability. “Such a step would be historic, and we think it is something that needs to be done,” she said.

Dendias on his part said that the Western Balkans region should look to the future and not the past. He noted that Europe is the only perspective for the Western Balkans.

U.S. Ambassador at OSCE: Kosovo sets terms for elections of other states in its territory (media)

Michael Carpenter, United States Ambassador to the OSCE, said that the U.S. welcomes Serbia’s referendum approving amendments for judicial reform.  “These amendments are a significant step towards depoliticizing Serbia’s judiciary in alignment with European standards and will support Serbia’s EU accession process,” he said.

Carpenter stressed that while the U.S. joined the European Union in calling on Serbian citizens to take part in the referendum, “let us be clear about the U.S. position on the rights of Kosovo as an independent and sovereign state to set the terms by which elections of other sovereign states are conducted in its territory.”

“We had hoped that the Kosovo government would continue the long-standing practice of permitting the OSCE to collect the ballots of eligible voters living in Kosovo, but it chose not to do so.  We commend the OSCE Mission in Kosovo for its willingness to once again, take on the task of assisting Serbs living in Kosovo to vote.  We look forward to discussing with our partners – both with the Government of Kosovo and the Government of Serbia – what arrangements and accommodations can be made to ensure citizens who respectively reside in Kosovo and Serbia are able to exercise their right to participate in their country’s elections and in so doing, to be able to chart their European futures.  We believe it to be unfortunate that Kosovo is not a member of this body and is therefore unable to speak for itself today.  We look forward to the day when Kosovo is a participating State of this organization and that can happen,” Carpenter said in his remarks to the Permanent Council in Vienna.

Carpenter further urged the governments of Kosovo and Serbia to refrain from actions and rhetoric that increase tensions and to engage constructively in the EU-facilitated Dialogue.  “It is important that both governments achieve progress towards a comprehensive agreement that increases regional stability.”

Konjufca: Kosovo has nothing more to give to Vucic (Telegrafi)

Kosovo Assembly Speaker Glauk Konjufca said that dialogue with Serbia is necessary but also that Kosovo made it known to the international community that it is not ready to make compromises that lead to the creation of mechanisms that would ‘sink’ it.

“The association with executive powers is one that would Bosnianise Kosovo,” he said in a debate with political commentators aired on RTV Dukagjini. “Kosovo has nothing more to give to Vucic. We are continuing the dialogue to convince everyone that the Serb people live in line with requests for a comfortable life in Kosovo but the Serb people are not being left in peace by Vucic.”

Konjufca spoke about the Serbian List’s inclusion in the Government of Kosovo. He said that for the first time the Vetevendosje Movement has managed to reduce Serbia’s influence without undermining the Constitution. About Goran Rakic, leader of the Serbian List and minister in the Government of Kosovo, Konjufca said: “There is nothing that can be done about him. The Constitution says you need to have the votes of the Serb community and you cannot choose who, the Serbs do.”

On the gas pipeline project, Konjufca said he didn’t think Kosovo has refused it. “The chances are very high that the project will be realised. The project has been temporarily sidelined due to cost-related calculations. If the project had more subsidies from the international factor I think the government would have no dilemma. So we have no geopolitical dilemma. It is the cost of it that is overwhelming.”

With regards to the energy crisis and the announcements that the electricity price will increase, Konjufca said the has sure the Government and the Energy Regulatory Office will find a “golden middle”. “The government has considered that consumption has not been entirely in line with the needs but sometimes went beyond that. In order to install that discipline and rationalisation of the electricity use, the government has supported it [price increase] not directly, but through subsidies,” he said.

AAK-sponsored resolution on electricity price not approved by Assembly (RTK)

The Assembly of Kosovo did not approve a resolution, put forward by the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) parliamentary group, which called on the Energy Regulatory Office (ERO) and the Government of Kosovo to reject the increase of electricity tariffs.

The draft resolution received 22 votes in favour, 49 abstentions and none against.

PSD to stage protest next week against electricity price increase (media)

The Social Democratic Party (PSD) leader Dardan Molliqaj said the party will organise protests against the proposal for increase of electricity price.

Announcing that the protest will take place in Pristina on 29 January, Molliqaj accused the Government of Kosovo of siding with interests of private businesses who, he said, are the only ones that would not be affected by the price increase.

Mehaj: NATO’s base in Kucove, show of commitment to peace and stability in region (media)

Kosovo’s Defence Minister Armend Mehaj said the modernisation of the airfield in Kucove, Albania, into a NATO air base is a strong indicator of the commitment of the United States and NATO allies towards peace and stability in the region and beyond.

“The clear Euro-Atlantic orientation of the nation and our countries towards NATO confirms the full trust built naturally between us and the irreplaceable ally, the United States of America,” Mehaj wrote on social media. “Together with U.S. and NATO we are stronger against all those that threaten and endanger western values of freedom and democracy anywhere in the world,” he concluded.

Kosovo Public Broadcaster Board Sacks Director for Negligence (BIRN)

The newly elected board of the Kosovo public broadcaster, Radio Television of Kosovo, RTK, has dismissed Ngadhnjim Kastrati as director for not performing his duties effectively and for violating RTK law.

“I received notification of my dismissal at home where I have been in isolation for several days due to COVID-19,” Kastrati announced on Facebook. “I was not notified of any dismissal procedure and nor was there an item on the agenda for my dismissal,” he added.

Kastrati was dismissed by nine votes in favour and one against. “The decision for the dismissal is based on numerous violations of the Law on RTK and other sub-legal acts in the RTK during Kastrati’s mandate. The RTK Board concluded that the general director neglected irregularities, abuses, lack of work, nepotism … and continued biased reporting by the public broadcaster,” the board said.

Last year, Kastrati was grilled about nepotistic job appointments by two parliamentary commissions that oversee RTK. Kastrati then defended the employment of family members of former president Hashim Thaci, now facing war crimes charges at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in the Hague. He said MPs should not interfere in recruitment processes.

BIRN reported on how Thaci family members were hired as a copyright experts, a camera operator and in the marketing department.

In its 2020 report on Kosovo’s progress, the European Commission said that RTK “remains vulnerable to political pressure and influence”, mainly due to being “directly state-funded, with its budget determined annually by the Assembly”.

According to the report, RTK at the time had 1,024 employees, of whom 806 were on regular contracts and the rest working part-time. Just over two-thirds of the broadcaster’s budget went on salaries, it said. The general consensus is that RTK has too many employees.

The board’s decision to dismiss Kastrati also cites a 2020 National Audit report, which identified mismanagement and unwillingness to improve and resolve RTK problems, mismanagement by RTK marketing contracts, and mismanagement of invoice contracts.

During Kastrati’s mandate, which was due to end in early 2022 anyway, there were accusations also that RTK would propagandize for certain politicians, and that there was budget misuse.

In its dismissal decision, the RTK board claimed Kastrati failed to open proper vacancy positions for the needs of RTK and had violated the law by allowing an editor-in-chief to remain in post since 2019 when the law allows only six-month terms.

The board claimed Kastrati has violated RTK’s internal Regulation on Material and Disciplinary Responsibilities by not taking “corrective measures after ascertaining violations by employees”. For example, Ridvan Berisha on January 10 confirmed via email that he had not been to work for almost a year – but continues to be paid by RTK.

After Ban, Kosovo’s Crypto Miners Weigh Options (BIRN)

Following a government ban on cryptocurrency mining to help tackle an energy crisis, miners in Kosovo are weighing up whether to sit tight, sell up or relocate.

Facebook groups have been flooded with ads for second-hand crypto mining equipment, with prices ranging from 1,500 euros to 8,000 euros.

It follows an announcement on January 4 by Economy Minister Artane Rizvanolli of a ban on crypto mining under ‘Emergency Measures’ to address electricity shortages.

“The first and only reason was the option of saving energy where it is possible and for the available energy to be preferably used for legal activities,” Luan Morina, head of the Department for Energy at the Ministry of Economy, told BIRN’s Kosovo television show Kallxo Pernime.

With no legal framework in place to regulate crypto mining in Kosovo, many of those involved in mining the currency say they are confused as to their options. Given crypto mining is not strictly illegal, their equipment cannot be confiscated providing it has been properly imported.

While some are trying to sell up, others are sitting tight in the expectation that the ban will be lifted.

“Obviously I turned the rig off a while ago and now I am selling it to get rid of it,” a Kosovo-based miner, who was trying to sell his equipment on Facebook, told BIRN on condition of anonymity. But another said: “I am 99 per cent certain this decision will be overturned.”

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