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UNMIK Media Observer, Morning Edition, July 1, 2022

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• President Osmani: International should be vocal on all matters (Koha)
• Quint, EU were aware of decision on reciprocity (Koha)
• EU spokesperson: Kosovo has the right to remove KM license plates (media)
• Lajcak: “A new situation” in relations between Kosovo and Serbia (RFE)
• Abazi on Vucic: Warning that electricity in north won’t be paid (Telegrafi)
• Kosovo receives confirmation on EU: No need for new roadmap (media)
• Kurti: Never promised fixed date for visa liberalisation (KP/Euronews Albania)
• Kurti: Kosovo will apply for status of EU candidate country this year (media)
• President Osmani meets U.S. Ambassador Hovenier (media)
• ‘New Wave’ of COVID Surges Again in Central, Southeast Europe (BIRN)
• Poor help to the poor (Kosovo 2.0)
• Macron: Compromise found on membership talks for North Macedonia (RFE)

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  • President Osmani: International should be vocal on all matters (Koha)
  • Quint, EU were aware of decision on reciprocity (Koha)
  • EU spokesperson: Kosovo has the right to remove KM license plates (media)
  • Lajcak: “A new situation” in relations between Kosovo and Serbia (RFE)
  • Abazi on Vucic: Warning that electricity in north won’t be paid (Telegrafi)
  • Kosovo receives confirmation on EU: No need for new roadmap (media)
  • Kurti: Never promised fixed date for visa liberalisation (KP/Euronews Albania)
  • Kurti: Kosovo will apply for status of EU candidate country this year (media)
  • President Osmani meets U.S. Ambassador Hovenier (media)
  • ‘New Wave’ of COVID Surges Again in Central, Southeast Europe (BIRN)
  • Poor help to the poor (Kosovo 2.0)
  • Macron: Compromise found on membership talks for North Macedonia (RFE)

President Osmani: International should be vocal on all matters (Koha)

President of Kosovo, Vjosa Osmani, said on Thursday the Constitutional Court of Kosovo has explained everything related to the formation of the Association of Serb-majority municipalities and that this mechanism cannot have executive competencies. In an interview with KTV, Osmani called on the international community to have an equal approach on all issues related to the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia.

“If the international community calls for moving forward with the implementation of the properties of the Monastery, the question is why they are not so vocal about many other decisions of the Constitutional Court. There can be no separate approaches, this is not an issue of picking and choosing, to call for the implementation of the decision on the Decani Monastery, but not for the decision on the Association,” she argued.

According to Osmani, the ball is now in Serbia’s hands, because in her opinion Serbia has failed to implement at least two thirds of the agreements signed in Brussels. “I don’t think we should keep silent when Kosovo is accused of something that it should not be accused of; each and every one of us must raise their voices and say that Serbia has not implemented the majority of the agreements. Why Serbia keeps empowering its criminal structures in the north instead of dismantling them,” she added.

Osmani also said: “every step we have made was in coordination with the internationals. Serbia blocked the steps. From Kosovo’s side, a solution will always be found that will not create obstacles. Kosovo has shown a great share of constructiveness on this topic [the license plates] and we reached a document that was acceptable for both Kosovo and the EU, but Serbia with its destructive approach rejected every proposal”.

Quint, EU were aware of decision on reciprocity (Koha)

The Kosovo government said on Thursday it had previously informed the Quint countries and EU Special Representative Miroslav Lajcak about its decisions on reciprocity with Serbia. A spokesman for the government told Koha on Thursday that a meeting with Quint representatives was held early in the week and that they were informed about the decisions.

“We remain committed to a principled dialogue and to reaching a legally binding agreement focused on mutual recognition. Yesterday’s decision of the Government of the Republic of Kosovo on license plates and ID cards is a proportional decision aimed at enforcing law and order. We displayed the required readiness and constructiveness to reach a permanent agreement on the issue of license plates, and there is already strong evidence that one thing has been impossible due to destructiveness on the part of the Serbian side,” the spokesperson said.

EU spokesperson: Kosovo has the right to remove KM license plates (media)

Spokesperson for the European Union, Peter Stano, told Tanjug news agency that Brussels was informed but not consulted early this week about Prishtina’s plans on license plates. Stano said that according to the agreement on freedom of movement reached in 2011 and 2016, Kosovo has the right to gradually remove KM license plates. “The agreements are clear in saying that only license plates issued by Kosovo are used in Kosovo,” he said.

He also said it was important to give sufficient time for the implementation of plan and that it is prepared and implemented in close consultation with the citizens and in line with the best European practices. “The freedom of movement is a cornerstone of the European Union. We expect Kosovo and Serbia to promote freedom of movement in the region and to act constructively in this respect and not set unreasonable obstacles that would limit the freedom of movement,” Stano added.

Lajcak: “A new situation” in relations between Kosovo and Serbia (RFE)

Special Representative of the European Union for the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, Miroslav Lajcak, said on Thursday that there is “a new situation” in relations between the two sides and which changed the plans and topics of his visit to Kosovo and Serbia. Lajcak made these remarks after the Kosovo government decided to introduce reciprocity decisions vis-à-vis Serbia. He told a press conference in Belgrade that the situation needs to be solved and that “we cannot allow a crisis to happen”. “I came to the region to prepare a new meeting between the leaders and to talk about progress and normalisation of relations. Now we need to solve this situation,” Lajcak said.

Abazi on Vucic threats: Warning that electricity in north won’t be paid (Telegrafi)

MP from the Vetevendosje Movement, Haki Abazi, said on Thursday that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic’s threats against the Kosovo government’s decision on reciprocity is a warning that Serbs in the north of Kosovo might not pay their electricity bills despite the agreement that was reached in Brussels. “It is a warning that Serbs won’t pay for their electricity. The law must be enforced, and they must pay for their electricity. They haven’t been paying it for 20 years now. The agreement was reached. These are games that Vucic plays to apply pressure on the dialogue,” he said.

Abazi also said that the decision on reciprocity is not a strategy from Kosovo’s side but rather a step that Prishtina had to take in the face of the circumstances created by Serbia.

Kosovo receives confirmation on EU: No need for new roadmap (media)

Kosovo’s Minister of Interior Affairs, Xhelal Svecla, talked with the Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, on Thursday, and according to him it was made clear that the European Commission is in favor of visa liberalisation for Kosovo and that there is no need for a new roadmap. “Kosovo has met the required criteria; this is a matter of agreeing with individual states in a process that is not expected to last for long. We will continue our communication with different countries so that we can present to them the real situation in Kosovo and tell them about the work we are doing and our plans for the future,” Svecla said.

Johansson tweeted after the meeting: “In my meeting with Minister Svecla I congratulated him for the efforts of Kosovo in the fight against corruption and organised crime. The EU Commission continues to stand by its assessment that Kosovo has fulfilled all visa liberalisation benchmarks set out in the Roadmap.”

Kurti: Never promised fixed date for visa liberalisation (KP/Euronews Albania)

Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, said on Thursday that he has made no promises about the date when Kosovo could get visa liberalisation. In a response in parliament to PDK deputy leader Enver Hoxhaj, Kurti said that Kosovo has done its share of the work and that visa liberalisation no longer depends on Kosovo. “I am the prime minister who has never made any promises related to lifting the visa regime for the people of Kosovo, be that during electoral campaign or in office. We’ve had examples in the past of politicians saying 15 months, 90 days, this year or next year. You’ve never heard me say that because I know that it doesn’t depend on us. We have fulfilled 95 conditions, but the skepticism is coming from member countries and not European institutions”, he said.

“Sometimes statements coming from Brussels are not in the same line with Brussels itself, and we’re trying with patience and commitment to clarify them, but there’s not much we can do,” Kurti said.

President Vjosa Osmani said earlier during the day that Kosovo would not accept any additional roadmaps on visa liberalisation.

Kurti: Kosovo will apply for status of EU candidate country this year (media)

Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, said on Thursday that Kosovo will apply for the status of an EU candidate country this year. Kurti made these remarks during a meeting with German MP, Metin Hakverdi.

President Osmani meets U.S. Ambassador Hovenier (media)

President of Kosovo, Vjosa Osmani, met on Thursday with the United States Ambassador to Kosovo, Jeffrey Hovenier. A press release issued by Osmani’s office notes that the meeting focused on developments in Kosovo and the region in the framework of continuous coordination between Kosovo and the United States in the field of foreign policy and defense. Osmani also said that “Kosovo has engaged constructively in the dialogue with Serbia and that the warmongering rhetoric from Belgrade towards Kosovo does not contribute to peace in the region”.

‘New Wave’ of COVID Surges Again in Central, Southeast Europe (BIRN)

COVID-19 cases are spiking all over Central and Southeast Europe – long after governments lifted restrictions and declared the pandemic more or less over. There is no word yet on reinstating safety measures.

Central and Southeast Europe have seen a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in the last few weeks, while there is no word yet from authorities on whether they will reinstate some or all of the protective measures that were eased before the summer.

Experts across the region have said that the rising level of infections is likely to be down to a number of factors including waning immunity but also a return to pre-pandemic behaviours and the tourist season, which is already in full swing.

Serbia leads the way with 876 new COVID-19 cases registered in the last 24 hours. Albania comes next with 581 followed by Montenegro with 221 new cases, and Kosovo with with 149.

On June 30, Serbia registered 921 new cases, while one person died from COVID, 102 people are in hospital and 10 are on respirators.

The numbers in North Macedonia are swelling as well. Ten days ago, according to the Health Ministry, the country had 351 active cases, while on Wednesday that number had doubled to 750. The country registered 180 new cases in the last three days. In the last 24 hours, it registered another 163 infections. There were no fatalities.

Positive cases in all six WB states increased significantly in the last week compared to one week before. In Serbia, there were 507 new cases on June 21, while on June 29 there were 876. Between June 21 and 26, the daily number did not exceed 590, but on Monday it jumped to 751, and on Tuesday and Wednesday they were over 800.

Albania on Tuesday saw 550 new cases while one citizen died from complications related to the virus. On Monday, there had been only 90 infected citizens. The numbers this week are almost twice as high as the previous week. On Wednesday last week, there were only 271 cases, while this Wednesday, there were 581.

Kosovo has registered around 500 new cases in the ten days since June 19, 2022, when only 15 new cases were registered.

Read more at: https://bit.ly/3yawkq7

Poor help to the poor (Kosovo 2.0)

Kosovo’s social assistance program confronts long overdue reforms.

Social assistance programs in Kosovo that support the poorest parts of society continue to have more demand than they can meet. Many families that have no employed people in the household receive their only income from social assistance schemes financed by the state budget.

Kosovo is one of the poorest countries in Europe and has a high unemployment rate of around 26%. Around 23% of the population lives at or below the poverty line. In March this year alone, around 26,000 families benefited from the state social assistance.

But there are long-running debates about the design of the social assistance scheme, which has been in place since 2003. Successive governments have promised — and some have taken steps — to reform the system. Currently a special draft law to amend the existing law is awaiting government approval.

The main criticisms towards the design of the social assistance program is that it does not include all citizens who need it, discourages beneficiaries from seeking employment and that the provided aid does not cover the needs of beneficiaries. However, it remains the only state program that exists to specifically help those in poverty.

To reform social assistance in Kosovo, the government led by Vetëvendosje (VV) has sought financial support and expertise from the World Bank. In October 2021 an agreement with the World Bank was signed which would provide financial support in the form of a 47 million euro loan. But the government is having trouble getting this agreement ratified in the Assembly.

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

Macron says compromise found on membership talks for North Macedonia (RFE)

French President Emmanuel Macron says he believes a compromise has been found on the framework for negotiations on EU membership for North Macedonia.

Macron provided no details when he made the comment on June 30 at a news conference at the close of the NATO summit in Spain.

EU officials confirmed to RFE/RL that the proposal takes into account concerns expressed by both sides, potentially breaking a deadlock that has prevented the start of accession talks for more than two years.

Balkan countries are deeply frustrated about the impasse in their bids to join. Especially frustrating for North Macedonia is EU member Bulgaria’s veto on the start of negotiations because of a dispute with Skopje relating to history and language.

Albania is being held back because the EU has linked its progress to that of North Macedonia.

Last week, Bulgarian lawmakers conditionally approved dropping their opposition, raising the prospect of progress in the Western Balkans’ quest for EU membership.

EU officials emphasized that, if the proposal cited by Macron is accepted, it would enable a major step forward in enlargement talks.

“This would pave the way for the immediate adoption (in the EU Council) of negotiating frameworks for North Macedonia and Albania and for the organization of intergovernmental conferences with both countries,” one EU official said.

Read more at: https://bit.ly/3NA5ayo

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