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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, May 23, 2022

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Albanian Language Media:

• Kurti pays homage at graves of Bytyqi brothers (media)
• Kurti to attend World Economic Forum in Davos (media)
• Assembly to hold session this week, opposition highlights energy tariffs (media)
• KESCO: Energy Regulatory Office’s decision in not clear (media)
• Kosovo’s Ombudsperson: ERO’s decision on energy tariffs, discriminatory (media)
• SPO sends witness summons to General Inspector of AKI (Telegrafi)
• Kosovo’s Justice Minister clashes with Serbian State Secretary of Justice (Telegrafi)
• Montenegro to join the Open Balkan initiative? (RTK)
• COVID-19: 1 new case (media)

Serbian Language Media:

• Bilcik: There is no alternative to dialogue because we have nothing else (Kosovo Online)
• Ambassador Hill’s interview with Politika: No third way – East or West (media)
• ”The EU and the US very dissatisfied with Kurti’s refusal to renew the Dialogue with Belgrade” (Beta, NMagazin, Danas)
• Vucic, Hill meeting: All efforts should be directed towards the dialogue under the EU auspices (RTS)
• Petkovic in a two-day visit to Kosovo (KiM radio, Kosovo Online)
• ”Property of Decani, hotels in Brezovica, and Brezovica Ski Centre go into the Sovereign Wealth Fund” (KiM radio)
• Scholz in Serbia on June 10 (KiM radio, DW, N1)
• Vucic to speak with Putin about gas supplies on Wednesday or Thursday (Tanjug, media)

International:

• Berisha claims he’s back in charge of Albania’s Democratic Party (BIRN)
• Albanian PM supports new community for non-EU countries (Euractiv)
• US would defend Taiwan if attacked by China, says Joe Biden (The Guardian)

Humanitarian/Development:

• Krasniqi: 14 municipalities to benefit from the €8 million performance grant (EO)

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Albanian Language Media:

  • Kurti pays homage at graves of Bytyqi brothers (media)
  • Kurti to attend World Economic Forum in Davos (media)
  • Assembly to hold session this week, opposition highlights energy tariffs (media)
  • KESCO: Energy Regulatory Office’s decision in not clear (media)
  • Kosovo’s Ombudsperson: ERO’s decision on energy tariffs, discriminatory (media)
  • SPO sends witness summons to General Inspector of AKI (Telegrafi) 
  • Kosovo’s Justice Minister clashes with Serbian State Secretary of Justice (Telegrafi)
  • Montenegro to join the Open Balkan initiative? (RTK)
  • COVID-19: 1 new case (media)

Serbian Language Media:

  • Bilcik: There is no alternative to dialogue because we have nothing else (Kosovo Online)
  • Ambassador Hill’s interview with Politika: No third way – East or West (media)
  • ”The EU and the US very dissatisfied with Kurti’s refusal to renew the Dialogue with Belgrade” (Beta, NMagazin, Danas)
  • Vucic, Hill meeting: All efforts should be directed towards the dialogue under the EU auspices (RTS)
  • Petkovic in a two-day visit to Kosovo (KiM radio, Kosovo Online)  
  • ”Property of Decani, hotels in Brezovica, and Brezovica Ski Centre go into the Sovereign Wealth Fund” (KiM radio)
  • Scholz in Serbia on June 10 (KiM radio, DW, N1)
  • Vucic to speak with Putin about gas supplies on Wednesday or Thursday (Tanjug, media)

International:

  • Berisha claims he’s back in charge of Albania’s Democratic Party (BIRN)
  • Albanian PM supports new community for non-EU countries (Euractiv)
  • US would defend Taiwan if attacked by China, says Joe Biden (The Guardian)

Humanitarian/Development:

  • Krasniqi: 14 municipalities to benefit from the €8 million performance grant (EO)

 

 

 

Albanian Language Media  

 

Kurti pays homage at graves of Bytyqi brothers (media)

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti, during his stay in the United States, paid homage at the graves of the Bytyqi brothers who were killed in July 1999 in Serbia. “I paid my respects to Agron, Mehmet & Yll Bytyqi, three heroes murdered by Serbia after the war. Sacrifice, patriotism, humanity—these are the values exemplified by the Bytyqi brothers & KLA, and that define Kosova as a state. We will not rest until the perpetrators face justice,” Kurti wrote on a Twitter post.

Kurti to attend World Economic Forum in Davos (media)

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti travelled to Switzerland today where he will attend the World Economic Forum in Davos. Kurti’s office said in a statement that he will meet representatives of different companies and political leaders and will take part in the panel “Diplomacy Dialogue on Western Balkans”. During his stay in Switzerland, Kurti will also meet the Albanian diaspora.

Assembly to hold session this week, opposition highlights energy tariffs (media)

The chairmanship of the Kosovo Assembly decided to call a session on Thursday. 

Head of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) parliamentary group, Arben Gashi, said after the meeting of the chairmanship that the party will be looking into the possibility of launching procedures that would lead to the Assembly dismissing the board of the Energy Regulatory Office citing “incapability in managing the energy crisis”. 

Armend Muja from the Vetevendosje Movement (LVV) said the request to dismiss the ERO board is “illogical” as there is no final court verdict on the tariffs. He accused the opposition parties of trying to instigate an ‘energy collapse’ in Kosovo. “The opposition should bear in mind that these attempts to block the solutions to a problem that dates back to the time when they were in power are reckless”. 

Abelard Tahiri, head of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) parliamentary group, said that the court ruling in suspending the new energy tariffs, proposed by the Energy Regulatory Office (ERO), is clear and that the relevant institutions should uphold it. 

KESCO: Energy Regulatory Office’s decision in not clear (media)

The Kosovo Electricity Supply Company (KESCO) announced that it has received instructions from the Energy Regulatory Office (ERO) on how to apply energy tariffs but that the decision is not clear.

“To avoid misunderstandings which could potentially affect the consumers, we have sought out clarifications from the ERO,” KESCO said, adding that regardless of developments in light of the court decision regarding the new tariffs, “we wish to assure consumers that they will not be damaged.”

At the same  time, the chairman of the ERO Board, Ymer Fejzullahu, said that the decision of the Basic Court, confirmed by the Court of Appeals for suspending the decision on the new tariffs until a final verdict, is being implemented. On the issue of KESCO’s request for clarifications regarding the suspension of new tariffs, Fejzullahu said that KESCO should address the court.

Kosovo’s Ombudsperson: ERO’s decision on energy tariffs, discriminatory (media)

The Kosovo’s Ombudsperson published an opinion on the new energy tariffs and concluded that the Energy Regulatory Office (ERO) decision contains elementrs of discrimination and uneqaul treatment of consumers. 

It said that different tariffs based on the level of electricity consumption are in contradiction with the Law on the Energy Regulator and notes further that “ERO’s decision to exclude consumers in northern Kosovo from the increase in electricity prices creates a situation of discrimination against the rest of consumers.” The Ombudsperson also stated that subsidizing between categories of customers at regulated prices places ERO in a discriminatory position whereas the decision for retroactive billing and the failure of its disclosure in the bill constitutes a violation of consumers’ right to be informed. 

The Ombudsperson advised that the dicrimination eems as necessary that the whole process of determination of the tariff structure and the amount of tariffs is returned to point zero and any future process, to be followed by the principles of ethnic or regional non-discrimination and consumer equality in the regulated market.

See the report: https://bit.ly/38CTYTv

SPO sends witness summons to General Inspector of AKI (Telegrafi) 

The Kosovo Intelligence Agency (AKI) in a statement today said that the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office (SPO) in The Hague has sent a witness summons to AKI General Inspector, Burim Ramadani. The summons orders Ramadani to appear as a witness for questioning by the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office, and to “provide details about his physical and geographical location during the war and provide documentation including photographs and other data from the period from 1 January 1998 to 31 December 2000”. “Mr. Ramadani is fully aware of the legal obligations in such cases, as well as believes that this is a technical error and as such will be clarified further,” the AKI statement notes.

Kosovo’s Justice Minister clashes with Serbian State Secretary of Justice (Telegrafi)

Kosovo’s Minister of Justice, Albulena Haxhiu, clashed today with the State Secretary of the Justice Ministry of Serbia, Bojana Scepanovic, during discussions at a regional conference in Croatia, the news website reports. Scepanovic referred to Kosovo as “Kosovo and Metohija”, to which Haxhiu said: “Kosovo has been an independent state since 2008, and whether you like this or not, it matters very little. The Republic of Kosovo has been recognized by over 100 countries and we are working to get recognized by other countries too”. In a video from the conference Haxhiu can also be heard telling Scepanovic “you represent a country that has committed war crimes in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo. Therefore, you need to apologise for the crimes committed by your country”.

Montenegro to join the Open Balkan initiative? (RTK)

The Open Balkan initiative currently includes three out of six countries of the Western Balkans, and a fourth country could soon join the initiative. The news comes from Tirana, namely by the head of the parliamentary group of the ruling Socialist Party, Taulant Balla. “There is no doubt that another country will join the Open Balkan in the coming weeks,” Balla said in his address at the Parliament of Albania today. Albania, Serbia and North Macedonia are part of the initiative, and Kosovo, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina are against it. Balla did not say which country could join the initiative, but this could be Montenegro based on recent remarks by Montenegrin Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic, who said that the initiative is good for the region. Balla also said: “I am very hopeful that with the new elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina in autumn, the new Bosniak government too will join the Open Balkan”.

COVID-19: 1 new case (media)

One new case of COVID-19 has been recorded in Kosovo in the last 24 hours. There are 157 active cases of COVID-19 in Kosovo.

 

 

 

Serbian Language Media

 

Bilcik: There is no alternative to dialogue because we have nothing else (Kosovo Online)

There is no alternative to dialogue because we have nothing else. I also want to say that there is only a European solution and I honestly do not see how that issue would be related to sanctions against Russia, because it is a dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina under the auspices of the EU. After the elections in Pristina, the problem is much more in the hands of both the leadership in Pristina and Kurti’s government. These are the key messages of the member of the European Parliament and the rapporteur for Serbia, Vladimir Bilcik, in an interview for Kosovo Online portal.

When it comes to Kosovo’s application for the Council of Europe, Bilcik states that “all steps that undermine previous agreements or dialogue do not help”, reported Kosovo Online.

“I think that any unilateral steps in the direction that do not benefit the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina do not help, and that is why I am worried that the dialogue may not go forward but backward, and that is something we all want to prevent. Therefore, I appeal to everyone involved here to be smart and wise and to play the cards they have at their disposal, to move the dialogue forward, to think outside the box and not about direct elections and local politics. In the region, a statesman behaviour on these issues is needed, and I hope that this is understood in Belgrade and Pristina. That is all I am going to say about this application; I do not think that some steps help what is crucial, and that is dialogue,” Bilcik said.

At the recent meeting in Brussels, it was reiterated that Belgrade and Pristina must respect the agreements they agreed to. Can things change here, Belgrade especially insists on CSM (ZSO)?

-There is no alternative to dialogue because we have nothing else. I also want to say that there is only a European solution and I honestly do not see how that issue would be related to sanctions against Russia, because dialogue is a dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina under the auspices of the EU and it is part of progress towards the European perspective of the region and Belgrade, and I do not see an alternative here. And I appreciate all the steps that Belgrade has taken in the dialogue. After the elections in Pristina, the problem is much more in the hands of both the leadership in Pristina and Kurti’s government. I hope progress will be made on smaller issues such as license plates, but also when it comes to larger issues and commitments already made in the past. It is clear from the messages heard from the European Parliament. I hope that everyone in the region understands that there is no time or place to play with fire. We have a war in Europe, Russian aggression is real, civilians are dying because of Russia’s brutal attack on Ukraine, and the Balkans are always potentially exposed with Russia’s presence and influence in the region. The future of Serbia is European, not Russian, or Chinese, and in that sense, I see an opportunity to speed up the dialogue, but also to help Serbia take steps not to be dependent on Russia. Now, it is difficult to sit on several chairs at the same time. The European chair is simply not compatible with Putin’s Russia, and in this light, I see opportunities for dialogue, and he can move forward, which would be good for Belgrade and the region. The commitments made by both parties in the dialogue must be implemented and fulfilled.

Can the EU “force” the parties to the dialogue to fulfil their commitments in the dialogue?

-The EU is powerful, but neither is the omnipotent teacher who comes to kindergarten in the Balkans and tells children what to do. People and politicians in the Balkans are adults and our equal partners and we are ready to help and engage, but solutions must come from the region. And for that to happen, members of parliament in Belgrade and Pristina will have to approve the agreement. This is a dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, there must be an agreement and good will, and the EU can encourage every step in that direction. And yes, this dialogue takes a long time because we are resolving difficult issues from the 90s and it is painful to discuss it. But this is also a debate on how Serbia should go from the 20th century to the 21st century. Serbia has the opportunity to be a European leader in the region, but it must make some important choices – both when it comes to dialogue with Pristina, but also how to stand side by side with the EU when it comes to Russian aggression.

Will Serbia have to decide on sanctions against Russia in the coming months – is there a deadline by which Belgrade should declare itself?

-Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has changed so much in the context of European policy as well as enlargement policy. There is also a new dynamic now when it comes to EU enlargement, which is something we have discussed quite openly. Alignment with EU foreign policy is a crucial part of the progress of negotiations with the EU. Honestly, there is no specific date for Serbia for the introduction of restrictive measures against Russia, but the point is there is a new policy of dynamics and talking about dates is missing the point. The point is that everyone in the EU is watching what is happening in the Western Balkans, and the question is whether the countries are really working together with us to help us face and defend against Russian aggression, because Ukrainians are fighting for us in Europe and fighting for European future of the Western Balkans. That is why restrictive measures against Russia are not a symbolic move, but a very important one. And we expect all countries to join as soon as possible. And that is an opportunity for the newly elected Assembly and the future Government of Serbia. We understand that there were elections and that it will take time, but this issue will not disappear from the table, but will remain and is already an important part of my report on Serbia, which will be discussed in June and July, and of course depending on what Serbia does, and the conclusions in the report could be very different by July. At the same time, the EU understands that the choice is not easy for any country but let me tell you that we all feel the consequences of sanctions both in the EU and in the region. Serbia is not alone, my country Slovakia is hardly dependent on Russian natural gas, but we are helping Ukraine and the EU wants to help candidate countries, including Serbia with alternative energy sources, but we must see good will and first steps by Serbia. Expectations are high, otherwise, I will say openly, it is difficult to talk about the accession process. This is important, the sooner Serbia takes a step, the easier it will be to discuss other issues related to the accession process.

We have been hearing from EU politicians for years that the future of the Western Balkans is in the EU, but we are still far from joining the EU. Will that change?

-It is imperative to start negotiations with Albania and Northern Macedonia, and I can freely say that it is years late. We see positive signs from Montenegro in order for the country to move towards the EU. The presence of political representatives of the Western Balkans in Brussels is encouraging. Things are moving, we must have some decisions on our part in the EU, but I must also emphasize the decisions of our partners. You just have to do your homework. I know that sometimes it is not easy, and homework does not only mean words and papers, but also a change of country and institutions. It is worrying that the number of people in Serbia who are skeptical about the EU is increasing, we have to do a lot on our part, but also politicians in Serbia, in order to restore trust. I know that such things take time, but Serbia has been negotiating since 2014, and the next year or two can be crucial. Russian aggression has changed everything, and it is important that Serbian partners show that they are with us, and the EU is ready to help. In the end, it is all about building community and trust, and trust is best built in difficult, crucial moments like these. If there is one success story this year, Montenegro has the opportunity to be that success story by the fall, which could really accelerate the dynamics in the enlargement policy, which would be good news for Serbia and for everyone in the region. We have to learn lessons from the past, we have to work on reconciliation, but we cannot rewrite history and that should never be done by politicians, but by historians, and politics should not be reduced to a story about history and “historical injustices”. It is not only in the Balkans, but we also had it in Central Europe as well. We had examples of Slovakia and Hungary, Czechoslovakia, difficult relations between Poles and Czechs, and we managed to solve those issues and enter the EU together, solving those issues. We expect the same from the region, but I know that the issues are difficult, but I think if you ask me, Abazovic’s government can be a positive step in the right direction, not only for Montenegro but for the entire region.

How do you view the Open Balkans?

-Such an initiative only makes sense if it is fully in step with European integration. There is a sense of confidence in this project and that it is not just a matter of one or a few countries in the region, but that it is an exercise that supports European integration for the region. Especially in these difficult times when we will face severe economic and social consequences due to Russian aggression and I want to say this clearly to the public in Serbia – the social and economic problems you are facing now would not be so great or would not exist at all if it were either Putin’s or Russia’s attack on Ukraine. That is why sanctions are a response to that aggression to help the Ukrainians stop the Russians, and they are doing it. I want to emphasize that the economic and social problems of the Balkans are in Moscow at the moment. One of the ways to deal with these consequences is to help European projects in the region, and as long as the Open Balkans opens up opportunities for economic and social cooperation and as long as it is fully in line with European integration, we can support that. I know that there is a lot of mistrust in parts of the region, but I hope that we can find a balance between that – the past and what the future brings. Because if the region gets stuck in the past, we will go back to the 90s, and of course we all know how tragic it was. I see hope in Podgorica, but I also see hope in Belgrade. The ball is in our hands, but also in yours, and some key decisions must be made in the region. Abazovic understands that I hope that other leaders will understand as well. I hope that in the coming months we will see progress in the right direction.

Ambassador Hill’s interview with Politika: No third way – East or West (media)

It is not good that Serbia is so dependent on Russian gas, and America will help Belgrade to get to the other energy sources

“Biden said that he wants me in this region, that he wants someone who understands this region. However, things have changed in the last 20 years. And that is why, when I said that I would listen more than speak here, I really meant it,” the new American ambassador to Serbia, Christopher Hill, told Politia daily, answering the question of what President Joe Biden told him when he left for Belgrade. 

When you arrived in Belgrade, you stated that you are familiar with the region, but you are also aware that a lot has changed. After spending some time here, what do you think is the most significant thing that has changed, and that it is important for Serbian American relations?

-There is no better way to describe Serbia than to say that it is a European country. Unlike in the past, when it was thought that there was a third way in Serbia, that Serbia was neither East nor West, that it was somehow special, that it went its own way, now most Serbs think there is a right way and a wrong way and want to choose the right way. You have to make choices in life, and this is the moment. There is only one way, and that is the West and that is the European Union. You have to decide whether you want to have a self-sufficient army, buy weapons from different countries, or join a collective defense. Serbs should decide this, and I think that they have decided that their future is in the West, and not in some undefined East. I say all this based on what I hear every day from people, but also based on President Vucic statements. When it comes to changes, I see many young people working in high technologies in Serbia and far more American business here, but I am also disappointed that the problem of Kosovo still exists.

It is considered that your advantage is that you know the region, but again, people remember you as an official of the Clinton administration, which is not very popular here. Is that a burden for you?

-I am professional. I was an ambassador nominated by four of the last five presidents, except for Trump. I represent American interests and I think that for the sake of American interests it is necessary to have close relations with Serbia. I believe that I am doing what is my job and I believe that Serbia and the United States can achieve more than in the past.

Aleksandar Vucic points out that Serbia is under great pressure and that we would live much better if we would impose sanctions on Russia. What will happen if Serbia does not do that?

-Serbia should decide whether its relations with Russia have brought it good, whether they have served Serbian interests well. When Putin cited Kosovo as inspiration for Ukraine’s plans, most people found it strange. I am not sure that Russia cares about Serbia, not even before, and especially now. Serbia must answer those questions. I think the answer is no. It is not in Serbia’s interest to be so energy dependent on Russia. I would be careful if I were you. I do not know what exactly Putin meant, especially since he said that at the time when negotiations on a new gas contract are being negotiated with Serbia.

Is Vucic basing his statements about pressure on something that you told him?

-No. I believe that people have to decide for themselves. We are not telling President Vucic what to do. Serbia is one of the few countries that does not support sanctions, and that affects its relations with other countries. The Serbian leadership must consider many things, including energy issues, but it is not up to the foreign diplomat to tell Serbia what it should do.

What do you answer to Serbian officials when they ask you how America expects Serbia to respect Ukrainian sovereignty and integrity and at the same time renounce its sovereignty and integrity in Kosovo?

-Circumstances are different. This interview would not be enough to cover all the circumstances in Kosovo in 1999 and now in Ukraine. These are very different situations. I urge people not to link what happened in Kosovo in 1999 with what is happening in Ukraine today.

French President Emanuel Macron says that non-EU countries should unite in a new political community, which was understood as an indirect message that the Western Balkans will not join the EU. Do you understand the local frustration with European integration and the proposal that Serbia should risk something concrete, such as Russian gas, because of the EU, with which it has been negotiating unsuccessfully for 20 years?

-The US believes that the EU should expand. If it was up to us, it would happen faster. It would be arrogant to tell the EU when to include new members, but we think it should accept them. Serbia is in Europe. We cannot impose our position on Europe. We support Serbia on that path, we want to help it be ready, we do not want the Balkans to remain a half-finished or unfinished business. In the meantime, we support more integration in the Balkans and the Open Balkans initiative. We would like the Open Balkans to develop faster. More “Open Balkans” would also mean that EU candidate countries are better prepared to join the EU. What we as the United States need to do is help where we can, but not pretend that we decide about that. 

You have announced major changes in energy in the world and in Serbia. What did you mean?

-We have to do something because fossil fuels poison the planet. That is easy to say, but it’s hard to find energy sources. We do not want shortages. We need to use energy more efficiently and our embassy has numerous projects related to that, with solar energy, with wind energy. We are thinking about the next generation of energy sources. We want to help Serbia have access to natural gas. We want Serbia to have access to those pipelines.

Russia has political reasons when deciding who to give gas to, look at Bulgaria and other countries. This political and security crisis caused by Russia says that we do not want to depend on Russian fossil fuels, not only because they pollute, but also because Russia is an unreliable supplier. As soon as people realize that Russia is an unreliable supplier, we will progress faster.

Do you mean American liquefied natural gas?

-We export that gas; build pipelines and we are trying to connect Serbia with pipelines in seaports. There is also nuclear energy, which I think needs to be further supported.

It takes years. What if Russia now denies supplies to Serbia?

-As far as I understand, this is not an urgent problem for Serbia, but it is a problem in the long run. That is why the President of Serbia was in Greece to mark the beginning of the construction of a terminal for natural liquefied gas. It takes years to develop these technologies. Just like when you are wondering when to plant a tree, the best time is now.

When congressmen and senators discussed your appointment as ambassador, you told them that the US government wanted to reduce Russian and Chinese influence in Serbia. What is unacceptable to you in that influence?

-When it comes to Russia, that is clear. Russia uses energy as a political weapon. What I said a few months ago is even more true now. Russia is politicizing everything, keeping the goods agreed in the agreements, and that is worrying. I would find a better supplier.

It is a very complex story with China, when it comes to how China concludes contracts, how it realizes construction, whether the host country gets what it pays for, and there were problems in Africa and everywhere in the world. I think that Serbia should pay attention to that, which it does.

Let’s go back to the fact that this is the time to vote, and on the occasion of the fact that Sweden and Finland have applied to join NATO. Does this also tell us about the end of neutrality, about the – choose the side moment?

-The problem is that after the end of the USSR, we had the feeling that we had reached a balance, there was a concept that peace had prevailed. We have lost that now when we see what Russia has done to its neighbor. Let us look at what Russia takes as a reason for war. No serious person can justify that. There is no explanation with the country that did it. That is why Sweden and Finland decided to take this step.

Serbia, as well as Sweden and Finland, should decide what is best for it. It has to decide whether it will continue to buy one type of weapon from China, another from Russia, a third from France, and whether it is all compatible. I am not an expert on military issues, but I know one thing: when you buy a weapon, make sure it can fit into a single whole. In the army, everything is interoperable, how everything can function and be efficient. Some countries produce one thing better, others another, but they cooperate, they are part of the same alliance, and everything is dedicated to the goal of collective defense and security. Can Serbia achieve that on its own through active diplomacy on both sides? If you rely only on diplomacy, and you see the irrationality of Russia’s policy towards Ukraine, can your diplomats cope with that in the next 200 years? I do not know. It is up to Serbia to answer.

The Washington agreement was reached during the Trump era, what does the Biden administration think of it?

-The Washington agreement was a good framework for some questions, but I have no answer as to how stable that framework is. When it comes to Kosovo and Serbia, they are neighboring countries, Serbs live in Kosovo and there are many things in Kosovo that are important to Serbia. Good neighbors have to solve that. The right way is the EU-mediated dialogue and negotiations in Brussels. I believe that all the elements must be on the negotiating table, you cannot say I want to talk about this, but I will not talk about this. I still do not see the commitment of the parties to that. If we talk about Euro-Atlantic integrations, and those are also an element on that negotiating table. When you negotiate, one side wants one thing, the other side wants another, but then you just have to talk about it. I am discouraged when I see that one side wants one thing and does not want what the other side wants to be on the negotiating table.

Are you leaving everything to Brussels or is “Washington 2” conceivable?

-If we have concluded anything after the Russian attack on Ukraine, it is that the United States and Europe have never been closer. We saw much better cooperation and realized that we had to act together. The Brussels dialogue is an EU-mediated dialogue, and we can support the principles of negotiating and strive for a successful outcome, when it comes to a dialogue we are mediating.

What is a successful outcome?

-It is by definition an agreement, normalization of economic cooperation, that the Serbian community feels safe in Kosovo, that both sides support the success of the other side and, finally, understand that they will be neighbors for a long time and that it is better to have good relations.

”The EU and the US very dissatisfied with Kurti’s refusal to renew the Dialogue with Belgrade” (Beta, NMagazin, Danas)

Officials in the European Union’s institutions and members of the Union have strongly demanded that the authorities in Kosovo make a substantial effort to rebuild dialogue with Belgrade, making it very clear that neither Serbia nor Kosovo could progress in their integration into the EU without tangible progress in the normalization of their relations, materialized in a comprehensive, internationally recognized agreement, reported NMagazin portal, citing Beta agency.

Officials in the European Commission and the EU Council of Ministers told Beta, emphasizing that both EU institutions and governments are very dissatisfied because the Prime Minister in Pristina, Albin Kurti, despite all clearly stated reasons, persistently refuses to accept the renewal of the Dialogue, with the necessary implementation of all agreements reached so far, the portal cited.

For now, as it was said, that is why there is practically no chance of organizing an essential meeting in the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue, especially when it comes to the leaders in Belgrade and Pristina, and “now both the EU and Washington have concluded that Kurti is the one who is holding back Dialogue”, which is confirmed by the latest attempts to at least find a solution to the technical issue of car license plates.

Sources in Brussels have been asked to say whether Belgrade’s reluctance to comply with EU sanctions against Russia, over the invasion of Ukraine, see in the Serbian authorities not realizing that in return they can get more tangible evidence that they will progress towards EU membership, and in this connection, the inevitable settlement of relations with Pristina, which is now blocking it, even though the Union is the guarantor of the Dialogue and the Brussels Agreement.

Because, as the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic made it known that by applying to join the Council of Europe, the Pristina authorities “brutally trampled” the Washington Agreement, and after ten years of signing, they reject the Brussels Agreement and its key part of creating the Community of Serbian Municipalities.

Officials at the EU headquarters replied that the policy of the Union towards Serbia, as well as Belgrade towards the EU, was at a turning point, but assessed that the inevitable settlement of relations between Belgrade and Pristina could not relate to the problem of world scale and European security, such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

They noted that Belgrade also realized the extent to which Russia’s foreign policy and geopolitical goals are more important to Moscow when President Vladimir Putin who, “to the great surprise and obvious dissatisfaction of Belgrade”, said that Western recognition of self-proclaimed Kosovo was a precedent used by Russia and perhaps the annexation of the self-proclaimed districts of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Noting that it was announced from Washington that US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan talked to Kurti and that he pointed out that the US wants progress in the Dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina on open issues, it was said that European officials and especially the main mediator Miroslav Lajcak continue efforts in that direction, but there is no prospect of anything more serious before July.

European diplomatic officials said that the announced visit of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to the Western Balkans in June should contribute to a clearer view of the EU’s relations with the region, as well as how to remove the stalemate in the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue.

Diplomats in Brussels underlined that there is no change in the EU’s position, which was announced by EU High Representative Josep Borrell after the discussion at the Council of Ministers on Dialogue and Kosovo at the end of last year, emphasizing that the Union does not prescribe anything as a solution to the Belgrade-Pristina conflict adding that whatever their agreement will be, it is necessary for Serbia’s progress towards membership in the Union, i.e. Kosovo’s shift towards the EU, reported the portal, citing Beta agency.

Vucic, Hill meeting: All efforts should be directed towards the dialogue under the EU auspices (RTS)

President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic met today with the Ambassador of the United States of America, Christopher Hill, discussing the improvement of bilateral relations, energy diversification, European integration of Serbia, as well as current geopolitical issues and regional integration initiatives, reported Radio Television of Serbia. 

According to the press release, President Vucic highlighted Serbia’s efforts aimed at preservation of peace and stability in the region, since Serbia, with its consistent and serious policy, has positioned itself as a reliable and responsible partner, committed to political dialogue and further development of regional relations in all areas. 

According to the press release, Vucic therefore emphasized, why precisely Serbia was the initiator and architect of numerous projects that connect the countries of the Western Balkans in the best way and added that it was recognized because of that as a proactive partner to all those who want to work sincerely and dedicatedly on the region’s progress, RTS reported.

Ambassador Hill reiterated US support for the European integration of Serbia and the countries of the region, as well as the position of the United States that the European Union should expand.

“We also support the Open Balkan initiative, and we are ready to help in its faster development,” said Ambassador Hill, adding that the United States will always support efforts to deepen regional economic cooperation in a way that promotes European Union integration.

Speaking about the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, the interlocutors agreed that all efforts should be directed towards the dialogue under the auspices of the EU, considering that the talks are the only right path for the resolution of open issues, as well as to reach a sustainable agreement.

Ambassador Hill pointed out that the US will continue its engagement with EU partners towards the continuation of the dialogue that will bring concrete results.

Following a recent letter from US President Joseph Biden to President Vucic, Ambassador Hill reiterated his country’s support for Serbia’s efforts to diversify energy sources and energy efficiency, stressing that the United States will work to give Serbia access to energy projects which are already being worked on extensively.

Petkovic in a two-day visit to Kosovo (KiM radio, Kosovo Online)  

Director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija, Petar Petkovic, will be in Kosovo today and tomorrow, the Office for Kosovo and Metohija announced, reported Serbian media. 

Petkovic will be paying a visit to a socially vulnerable family in Orahovac, deliver help provided by the Office, pay a visit to Velika Hoca and its residents and dental clinic. After, the Decani vineyard visit is planned as well as a visit to two socially vulnerable families. 

Petkovic will then visit the village of Novake near Prizren, where he will talk to returnees about their problems and needs.

On Tuesday, the second day of the visit, Petkovic, together with Bishop Teodosije of Raska-Prizren and Kosovo-Metohija, will attend the celebration of patron saint of Prizren Theological Seminary, St. Ciril and Metodije in Prizren, which will begin at nine o’clock with a liturgy in St. George’s Church, followed by a festive program. Petkovic will end his visit to Kosovo by visiting the Our Lady of Ljevis Church. 

”Property of Decani, hotels in Brezovica, and Brezovica Ski Centre go into the Sovereign Wealth Fund” (KiM radio)

KiM radio reported today that, citing Gazeta Express, that ”the former children’s resort in Decani, which covers an area of 10 hectares, otherwise the land that according to the decision of the Constitutional Court should be returned to the Decani monastery goes to the Sovereign Wealth Fund”. 

According to Gazeta Express, the assets of the planned Fund envisage total ownership of 44 assets that can be taken over from the Kosovo Privatization Agency.

The same Fund will have at its disposal the ski slope in Brezovica, together with the hotels “Lahor” and “Junior”.

According to Gazeta, more than 3,000 square meters of land and 24 buildings around Pristina will be transferred to the social enterprise Grmija (Germia), including one of the most famous hotels in Kosovo – Grand, located in the centre of Pristina, with an area of 8,900 square meters.

The Privatization Agency of Kosovo has estimated that 12 facilities of Jugobanka, based in Mitrovica, which currently houses a department of the Basic Court, will be taken over.

According to this media, the fund will also take over the factories in Suva Reka and Prizren, as well as Trepča and KEK.

The total value of the Fund’s shares is expected to be 500 million euros, KiM radio cited.

Scholz in Serbia on June 10 (KiM radio, DW, N1)

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is scheduled to visit Serbia and the neighborhood on June 10th. DW sources say the goal is good preparation for the Berlin Process summit, KiM radio reported, citing DW in Serbian language. 

Chancellor Scholz should visit Serbia on June 10; it was confirmed to DW from Serbian diplomatic sources.

“We are striving for that date, the visit still needs to be coordinated with other countries in the region,” the source said.

According to the source, Scholz will, in addition to Belgrade, certainly visit Pristina, and the trip tends to grow into a small Balkan tour with visits to Tirana and Skopje, and possibly Sarajevo.

Earlier, the journalist of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Michael Martens, reported on Twitter that Scholz was coming to Belgrade on June 10. Referring to reliable sources from Berlin, he stated that the topics would be “energy, economy, Serbia’s position towards Russia” and others.

A DW source says Scholz is keen to prepare well for the Berlin Process summit, which is likely to take place in August:

“Unlike former Chancellor Merkel, Scholz is more in favor of concrete solutions. He cares that this summit is not just an expensive trip, but that concrete solutions are being reached”.

The goal of the Berlin Process is to connect the regions of the Western Balkans more closely, through the free flow of people, goods, capital, and services.

Macron as a brakeman

In addition to trying to get Belgrade involved in sanctions against Russia, Scholz will also try to offer something to Albania and Northern Macedonia, insiders say.

Namely, French President Emanuel Macron is expected to further block the start of EU negotiations with Skopje and Tirana. That is why, according to sources, the EU-Western Balkans summit under the French presidency will be held in June in Brussels, and not in Paris.

Macron and Scholz differ in their ideas on EU enlargement. The French president recently fueled the vision of Europe “in two speeds”, where countries like Serbia and its neighbors would have places only in the outer ring but would not be full members of the EU.

High on the priority list

Scholz’s visit to the Balkans is new proof that the region is high on the list of priorities of the new coalition in Berlin. In early May, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti visited Berlin.

Then it was assessed that the Scholz Government attaches great importance to the Kosovo problem in the light of the war in Ukraine. Scholz said for the first time that “mutual recognition” should be part of a comprehensive agreement between Belgrade and Pristina, Kim radio cited.

Vucic to speak with Putin about gas supplies on Wednesday or Thursday (Tanjug, media)

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic announced at the weekend he would have a phone conversation with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin this week, most likely on Wednesday or Thursday, reported Tanjug agency.

Speaking to Pink TV at the Novi Sad agriculture fair on Saturday, Vucic said he expected a good conversation and that there were three significant things when it comes to a new deal on Russian gas supplies to Serbia.

“The quantities are the most important for us, the price is the number two aspect, and the number three aspect is security of supplies, with which we have had no problems so far. The first two aspects are crucial,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Vucic and Hungarian PM Viktor Orban opened the 89th International Agriculture Fair in Novi Sad.

Vucic said the friendship with Hungary was substantial for Serbia and added that the two countries need not worry about food supplies.

Vucic also said he had reached an agreement with Orban that allowed Serbia to store 300-500 mln cubic metres of natural gas in Hungary.

 

 

International 

 

Berisha claims he’s back in charge of Albania’s Democratic Party (BIRN)

Former Democratic Party boss Sali Berisha claims he is once again head of the opposition Democratic Party after Sunday’s elections – despite an ongoing court case concerning the leadership.

Sali Berisha appeared to be back in charge of Albania’s main centre-right opposition Democratic Party after nine years, after he won 93 percent of votes cast by around 40,000 party members on Sunday.

The move follows months of battles for control of the party between Berisha, 76 – who was declared non-grata by the US State Department for involvement in corruption and expelled from the party – and its then leader, Lulzim Basha.

Disillusioned with Basha, Berisha started a new movement within the party, aiming to take back control of it by holding a “National Assembly” last December, where his supporters gathered and annulled Basha’s decision to expel him. The so-called Re-Founding Committee of the party then organised internal elections.

Read more at: https://bit.ly/3wM90Q9

Albanian PM supports new community for non-EU countries (Euractiv)

Prime Minister Edi Rama has thrown his government’s full support behind French President Emmanuel Macron’s proposal to create a new “European community” that would allegedly allow for better political integration of non-EU member states with the union.

In a press conference with the President of the European Council Charles Michel, the two politicians stressed that the new initiative does not intend to create more barriers to the Western Balkan countries’ integration into the European Union. On the contrary, it aims at enabling “immediate political integration” with all EU member states, Rama claimed.

Read more at:https://bit.ly/3a5Xnuc

US would defend Taiwan if attacked by China, says Joe Biden (The Guardian)

President says US’s responsibility to protect island is ‘even stronger’ after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Joe Biden has said the US would intervene militarily to defend Taiwan if it came under attack from China, in an unusually forceful presidential statement in support of self-governing that drew a defiant response from Beijing

Read more at: https://bit.ly/389pGrd

 

 

 

Humanitarian/Development

 

Krasniqi: 14 municipalities to benefit from the €8 million performance grant (EO)

Kosovo’s Minister for Local Governance, Elbert Krasniqi, said in an interview with the news website that 14 municipalities will benefit from the €8 million performance grant. He said that the ministry will also support the municipalities through other programmes such as the green agenda and all-inclusiveness. “We don’t plan implementation projects at the local level, but we allocate funds for previously-selected areas. The performance-based grant is one of them and it is up to the municipalities to determine their priorities. At the same time, there are areas of infrastructure that will be directly financed in the municipalities,” Krasniqi said.

 

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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, July 7, 2022

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