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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, June 14, 2024

Albanian Language Media: 

•    State Department: Long-term U.S. policy is mutual recognition (Express)
•    Rohde recalls 'Scholz’s clear statement during visits to Kosovo and Serbia’ (media)
•    Bajrami: Without mutual recognition, there can be no normalisation (media)
•    State Department comments on declaration of All-Serbian Assembly (media)
•    De Riu: Opening Iber bridge has "political and electoral purposes" (media)
•    Investigation of war crimes; Svecla, Haxhiu meet senior police officers (Kallxo)
•    Government ministers, MPs help clean shores of lake in north Kosovo (media)
•    Kurti: Walker is among Kosovo’s greatest friends (media)
•    Sources: “Shabani wanted BIA to act faster, stronger in Kosovo” (Express)
•    Arifi: “Elections in October; increase in public sector wages in summer” (media)

Serbian Language Media: 

•    Petkovic says 150 Serb families to be evicted from their apartments in the north by Kosovo Verification Agency: "Ethnic cleansing continues" (Kosovo Online, RTS)
•    Petkovic: Shameful and anti-civilized decision of Pristina to ban goods from central Serbia (Tanjug)
•    People in the north, Strpce on Serbian goods import ban (Kosovo Online)
•    Gracanica residents: "We buy what we must" - dissatisfaction with quality and prices of available goods (Kosovo Online)
•    Shahini: Serbs affected the most with goods import ban, Albanians were buying those goods also (Kosovo Online)
•    Gogic: Ban on Serbian goods an illegal measure violating human rights (media)
•    Vucic meets with Sarrazin (Tanjug, Kosovo Online) 
•    Stano on banning the import of Serbian goods: Refrain from unilateral steps (KiM radio)


•    Qirezi: “All-Serbian Assembly is a shameful return to the 1990s” (Koha)


•    Kosovo ‘child of war’ wins competition to rebuild war-destroyed school in Ukraine (Prishtina Insight)
•    Suffering in silence: The horrors of giving birth in Kosovo state hospitals (BIRN)
•    People are convinced Tony Blair statue unveiled in Kosovo is Jason Donovan (The Independent)

Albanian Language Media: 

State Department: Long-term U.S. policy is mutual recognition (Express)

The U.S. State Department said in a statement to the news website that the official policy of Washington about the process of normalisation between Kosovo and Serbia has not changed and that the long-term policy of U.S. policy is mutual recognition between Kosovo and Serbia.

Asked to comment on the latest statements by the U.S. ambassadors in Pristina and Belgrade on mutual recognition between Kosovo and Serbia, a spokesperson for the State Department said that the U.S. position has not changed, and that Washington supports the EU-facilitated dialogue as the only way toward normalisation, peace, and productive relations. “We expect Kosovo and Serbia to respect and implement all their commitments from the Dialogue fully and without delays or preconditions. The long-term policy of the United States is the conclusion with mutual recognition between Kosovo and Serbia,” the spokesperson said.

Rohde recalls ‘Scholz’s clear statement during visits to Kosovo and Serbia’ (media)

All news websites covered a post on X by German Ambassador to Kosovo, Jorn Rohde, who writes: “Just as a reminder: Read Chancellor Scholz’ clear statement during his visits to Kosovo and Serbia in June '22 on normalisation, including mutual recognition! That still stands. The path is there: full implementation of the Brussels/Ohrid agreements by both sides ASAP”.

News websites recall that during his visit to Kosovo in 2022, Scholz had said that Kosovo and Serbia would not be able to join the European Union without recognizing each other. “A political agreement between the two countries is an important condition for investments and jobs, and with this also for the perspective of young people in Kosovo. It is clear that the agreement must finally resolve the issue of recognition of Kosovo, because it is unimaginable that two countries that do not recognize each other become members of the EU,” Scholz said during his stay in Pristina.

Former Kosovo Foreign Minister Petrit Selimi shared Rohde’s post adding that “this is correct of course. There is simply no path, nor has there ever been, for Serbia to join the EU without the ‘legally binding agreement on full normalisation centred on mutual recognition’. The EU will not import Balkans problems on top of their own existing problems.”

Bajrami: Without mutual recognition, there can be no normalisation (media)

Kosovo’s Ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg and the EU, Agron Bajrami, writes in a post on X today that without mutual recognition between Kosovo and Serbia there can be no normalisation. “It’s plain and simple: EU led Brussels Dialogue goal is to achieve full normalisation of relations between Kosovo and Serbia. Without mutual recognition, there can be no normalisation,” he writes.

State Department comments on declaration of All-Serbian Assembly (media)

Most news websites cover a statement that the U.S. State Department gave to Serbian media N1 about the declaration of the All-Serbian Assembly. The State Department said “we urge the political leaders of the region to better use their meetings to promote regional stability and reconciliation. As we have consistently made clear, we firmly support the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and multiethnic character of Bosnia and Herzegovina, of which the Republika Srpska is a part. Some of the provisions in the declaration are a continuation of Republika Srpska’s attempts to violate the Dayton Peace Agreement and destabilise Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region”. The State Department also said that “the U.S. recognizes Kosovo as a sovereign and independent state, as it has since 2008”.

De Riu: Opening Iber bridge, has "political and electoral purposes" (media)

Italian Ambassador to Kosovo, Antontello De Riu, said in an interview with TeVe1 on Thursday that the issue of reopening of the Iber bridge for traffic is being done with political and electoral purposes. “The bridge is not closed, it is completely open to cross on foot. There are Serbs that go to the southern part for shopping but there are also people from the south that go to the north. I too walk freely on that bridge, but there is no vehicle traffic … We have great doubts , we have expressed them, and we hope that the Kosovo authorities will take them into consideration,” he was quoted as saying.

Investigation of war crimes; Svecla, Haxhiu meet senior police officers (Kallxo)

Kosovo’s Interior Minister Xhelal Svecla and Justice Minister Albulena Haxhiu met today with Kosovo Police Deputy General Director Fehmi Hoti and other senior police officers. The focus of their visit was on the Kosovo Police Directorate for the Investigation of War Crimes. A press release issued by the Ministry of Interior Affairs notes that the meeting focused “on the work, engagement and commitment of this directorate on the investigation of crimes committed during the war and bringing to justice people who are suspected of carrying out crimes and genocide in Kosovo”.

Government ministers, MPs help clean shores of lake in north Kosovo (media)

Kosovo’s Minister of Local Government, Elbert Krasniqi, said in a Facebook post today that together with Interior Minister Xhelal Svecla and Economy Minister Artane Rizvanolli, MPs Fitore Pacolli, Armend Muja and Arjeta Fejza and activists from the Vetevendosje centres in Mitrovica and Vushtrri they cleaned the shores of the Ujman/Gazivoda Lake. “The beauties of our mountains, water resources and forests are a legacy and treasure that we need to save at any cost,” Krasniqi said.

Kurti: Walker is among Kosovo’s greatest friends (media)

All news websites report that Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti met with former chief of the OSCE Verification Mission in Kosovo, Ambassador William Walker, on Thursday, and said that he is among Kosovo’s greatest friends. Kurti wrote in a post on X that Walker was “one of the first international figures to visit the massacre sites as Head of the Kosovo Verification Mission, documenting the atrocities occurring in Kosovo in 1998”. He also added that “when he entered Recak, he saw the bodies of 45 Albanians who had been killed by Serbian forces in this village. The events in Kosovo took place before the era of social media, so without the will and integrity of people and organisations like Ambassador Walker and the OSCE, history might have taken an even more dire turn. In our darkest times, he announced to the world the full and unvarnished truth about the Milosevic regime. This is also why his work is a fundamental contribution to human rights and why we were honoured to have him as a special guest for the 25th anniversary of our liberation”.

Sources: “Shabani wanted BIA to act faster, stronger in Kosovo” (Express)

Citing what it calls reliable sources, the news website reports that Bedri Shabani, who was recently arrested on espionage charges and cooperation with the Serbian Intelligence Agency (BIA), “is suspected of having asked the former head of the Secretariat of Interior Affairs in Ferizaj, Bogoljub Janicijevic, to encourage BIA people to act faster and stronger in relation to the developments in Kosovo”. The same sources told the news website that there are surveillance recordings of Shabani’s conversations with Janicijevic.

Arifi: "Elections in October; increase in public sector wages in summer" (media)

Several news websites cover a Facebook post by Avni Arifi, political commentator and former chief of staff in the Haradinaj-led government, who claims that early general elections will be held in October this year and that the Kurti-led government will increase “by not a small percentage” the wages and pensions in mid-summer or the latest by September.

Serbian Language Media

Petkovic says about 100 Serb families to be evicted from their apartments in the north by Kosovo Verification Agency; "Ethnic cleansing continues" (Kosovo Online)
The Director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija, Petar Petkovic, assessed that Kosovo Prime Minister, Albin Kurti, does not rest and continues to implement his policy of ethnic cleansing, with the decision to evict Serbs from their apartments and settle Albanians in the north of Kosovo, reported Kosovo Online.
"Kurti is not resting, he is doing everything to continue his policy of ethnic cleansing, and this sense is this decision, which implies that Serbs move out from their apartments," Petkovic pointed out for RTS.

Petkovic explained that the Kosovo Verification Agency sent notices to the Serbs who own apartments and who bought those apartments decades ago from companies like Trepca, with a request to move out, stating that if they don't do so, they will be forcibly evicted.

As he says, the Office for KiM has sent letters to numerous addresses.

"We are doing everything through diplomatic channels to stop that decision, but I have to say that this agency was founded contrary to the agreement from Brussels, which meant that people from Belgrade, Pristina and the EU would sit in it. They now unilaterally implement decisions to evict Serbs and settle Albanians, which is being done together with fake Albanian mayors," said Petkovic.

He states that it is about more than 100 families, more precisely about 150 of them.

"Pristina does not implement the decisions made in favour of the Serbs because even before the UNMIK agency, there were more than 29,000 requests to return property to the Serbs south of the Ibar. These requests are not acted upon, but the requests of the Albanians are acted upon," he said.

As he says, Belgrade pursues a policy of peace and seeks to preserve the Serbian people in Kosovo.

"We will look for solutions, we will insist on dialogue, we will insist on the formation of the CSM (ZSO), but everything that is happening must stop," said Petkovic.
When it comes to the economy, as Petkovic states, Serbia will do everything to help its people, but in terms of security, the responsibility is on KFOR and the international community to, as he points out, stop ''the madness of Albin Kurti''.

When asked where the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina is now, Petkovic points out that Belgrade is always ready for dialogue, and that Kurti is the one who does not want it and who does not want to form the CSM.

"When we receive an invitation from Brussels, we are ready to respond, we also expect Lajcak in Belgrade," said Petkovic.

Petkovic: Shameful and anti-civilizational decision of Pristina to ban goods from central Serbia (Tanjug)

Office for Kosovo and Metohija Director Petar Petkovic said today decision of Pristina authorities to ban the import of goods from central Serbia, which is in force for a year already, is shameful and anti-civilizational, adding that no one from international community react to it, Tanjug news agency reported.

“It is about the most drastic violation of the human rights of Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija with the aim of their expulsion. It is absolutely inconceivable that basic European values are being trampled upon in the heart of Europe, and those are above all the freedom of movement of goods, people, services and capital", Petkovic told RTS.
He pointed out that during one year of this ban from Pristina, no one except official Belgrade is reacting, even though Serbian officials have addressed the representatives of the international community dozens of times.

People in the north, Strpce on Serbian goods import ban (Kosovo Online)

One year after the Kosovo Government made a verbal decision to ban import of goods from central Serbia, people in Mitrovica North told Kosovo Online portal that they feel limited as far as groceries selection is concerned, adding those available on the market are of low quality.

“We miss the Serbian goods, because we are consuming Kosovo products which are of less quality, and also some foreign products, which are perhaps cheaper, but of worse quality than products we are used to. A lot changed, the quality of food the most”, David Markovic said.

Female resident of Mitrovica North told the portal that only one type of meat is mainly available on the market. A young person told the portal that he misses everything, and only Albanian food is available. “We have nothing, what is left? To cry only and stuff like that”, he said.

People in Leposavic said they miss the most dairy and meat products from central Serbia, complaining that the content of the products they can get on the market now is written mainly in the languages they do not know, so it is difficult to find out what certain product contains.

People in Strpce said they still find it hard to get accustomed to the new situation, adding they are buying products of lower quality. Rodoljub Mladenovic said the biggest problem is the lack of products dedicated to children, such as Plazma biscuits and milk.

Gracanica residents: "We buy what we must", dissatisfied with the quality and prices of available goods (Kosovo Online)

A year after the institutions in Pristina banned the import of Serbian goods, the citizens of central and north Kosovo express their dissatisfaction with the quality and prices of the available products. They emphasise that they buy what they must to survive and that it is clear that "everything Serbian is being banned for Serbs in Kosovo."
The Kosovo government decided on June 14, 2023, to ban the import of goods from Serbia. The supplies that were in markets and stores were quickly depleted, and Serbs in Kosovo were forced to buy more expensive and, as they say, lower quality products.
Mirjana Mitic from Laplje Selo emphasises that she buys what she must.

"We lack quality, what we are used to, dairy products, we miss Plazma, cream, all those good things we grew up with. Now we buy what we have to, and quantity is more important than quality," Mitic said.

"As for goods, everything is missing. There is no milk, there's simply nothing to buy. Prices are rising, we buy what is available, what can we do... When we go to Serbia, we buy something better, but that happens rarely," a resident of Gracanica said.

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Shahini: Serbs affected the most with goods import ban, Albanians were buying those goods also (Kosovo Online)

Chairman of the Kosovo Business Association Agim Shahini said the goods exchange between Kosovo and Serbia dropped by 50 percent, adding the goods from central Serbia imported prior to the ban, are not arriving from other states, and that decision which is in force for one year, should be resolved at political level, given that its introduction was a political decision. He also said some groceries are now more expensive in Kosovo, than before when there was import from central Serbia.

“The biggest damage is inflicted to the Serbian producers and Serbian citizens living in Kosovo, who are used to products from Serbia, but also Albanians were consumers of those goods. If we look at 2022, we imported goods from Serbia in the amount of 372 million euros, and those goods were distributed across Kosovo. Citizens in Kosovo buy the goods from Serbia, Albania or North Macedonia. What is important is quality, competitiveness of the prices. In our opinion this serves no purpose, hampers the movement of goods, capital and people. According to me, each consumer should choose the goods he will buy”, Shahini said.

He added Albanian companies in Kosovo were affected as well, in particular at the beginning, until the Kosovo Government changed the part of the decision allowing import of raw materials from central Serbia.

Gogic: Ban on Serbian goods illegal measure violating human rights (media)

Political analyst Ognjen Gogic said the ban on importing goods from central Serbia, in force for one year already, a measure imposed by Kosovo Government, is illegal and leads to human rights violations, adding it is incomprehensible why this issue did not receive adequate attention from the international community.

He termed the decision on goods import ban as yet another unilateral, escalatory and provocative measure of Pristina. “(…) This measure is disputable for many reasons, the first it being illegal. It was made only verbally and implemented based on that. This decision was not made as a legal act, because such a document would probably be disputed at the Constitutional Court. Nevertheless it is being implemented, although it in fact represents violation of the rule of law in Kosovo”, Gogic said.

He also argued this decision runs contrary to the spirit of CEFTA  and other trade agreements, as well as principles of free trade. It goes opposite to the attempts to promote economic regional cooperation, primarily through the processes such as the Berlin Process or common market.

Vucic meets with Sarrazin (Tanjug, Kosovo Online)

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic met on Friday in Belgrade with German special Western Balkans envoy Manuel Sarrazin to discuss the situation in the region, unfulfilled agreements from the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue - above all, those related to the safety of Serbs in Kosovo and the establishment of a Community of Serb Municipalities - the continuation of Serbia's EU path and Germany's engagement in regional processes and bilateral relations.

"I reiterated that both Germany and the international community have a dependable partner in Serbia in the preservation of peace and stability and strengthening of regional cooperation and prosperity, but that protecting the national interests of the state and the Serbian nation will always be our priority," Vucic noted in a post on his buducnostsrbijeav Instagram account.

He added that he had had "another open and direct discussion" with Sarrazin
Stano on banning the import of Serbian goods: Refrain from unilateral steps (KiM radio)

The spokesperson of the European Union, Peter Stano said that the position of the EU is that Belgrade and Pristina, whatever they do, should stick to the agreements reached within the dialogue and refrain from unilateral and uncoordinated steps. He said this at the press briefing in Brussels, when asked by Tanjug what the EU's position is after a year has passed since the ban on import of goods from Serbia.

"The position of the EU is that both parties, whatever they do, should stick to the agreements reached within the dialogue, should prevent or refrain from uncoordinated and unilateral steps, and should focus in everything they do on the Agreement implementation on the path to the normalisation of relations between Serbia and Kosovo," said Stano, reported KiM radio.


Qirezi: “All-Serbian Assembly, a shameful return to the 1990s” (Koha)

Arben Qirezi, political commentator and a columnist for Koha, writes in an opinion piece that four out of 49 points of the declaration adopted by the All-Serbian Assembly in Belgrade refer to Kosovo. He argues that “Albanians there are dehumanised, by being labelled as ‘secessionists’, as they were labelled since 1981 and during the 1990s and make calls for ‘the protection of Serbs’ and of Serbian ‘monuments, properties, and cemeteries’ to be done while using ‘all means foreseen by domestic and international law’. This is an open call to use force in Kosovo, 25 years after the expulsion of military and police forces from Kosovo and shows that normalisation and peace are far … If declarations like this are made and they include open calls for aggression, what is the logic of the dialogue? The international community should seriously address this declaration because it is not folklore as U.S. Ambassador to Belgrade, Christopher Hill, said, but a synthesis of Serbia’s short and long-term policies which would send the region of the Western Balkans back to the 1990s”.

According to Qirezi, in Kosovo’s case, the declaration of the All-Serbian Assembly shows that “Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic is not a reliable partner with whom normalisation and peace can be achieved. On the contrary, he is the main promoter of the great-Serbian aggressive policy, and dialogue is not the only way through which sustainable normalisation and peace can be achieved between Kosovo and Serbia and the region”.

Qirezi also notes that the membership of Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina in NATO would serve “as a long-term and sustainable security umbrella to establish political stability in the region”.


Kosovo ‘child of war’ wins competition to rebuild war-destroyed school in Ukraine (Prishtina Insight)

Lendi Osmani Bojniku was born at a time when Kosovo was ravaged by war. 25 years on, as a student of Architecture, his project has been selected as the best in a hard fought competition to rebuild a war- destroyed school in Ukraine’s Kharkiv.

Debris dominates a site in Kharkiv, Ukraine where a school once stood. Students attended classes there until the day, in July 2022, when Russian shells fell mercilessly on the building. The area is now expected to be rebuilt according to the vision of a young architect from Kosovo.

Lendi Bojniku Osmani, a 25 year old architect from Prishtina, is part of the team which won first prize in an international competition for constructing a new school in the war-ravaged southeastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.

“We have won the tender for constructing a school in Ukraine unfortunately destroyed by the conflict there,” Bojniku Osmani told BIRN in an interview, speaking about the nearly 10 million Euro project.

Having graduated from the University of Prishtina’s Faculty of Architecture in 2021, Bojniku Osmani was looking for a topic for his master’s degree, which he is pursuing at the Polytechnic University of Torino, Italy.

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Suffering in silence: The horrors of giving birth in Kosovo state hospitals (BIRN)

Even as Kosovo's state hospitals fall far below appropriate standards, from poor sanitary conditions to unsupportive medical staff, women remain quiet about terrible childbirth experiences for fear of being locked out during future pregnancies.

Terrified of how the birth would go and apprehensive about starting a new chapter in her life, like many expectant mothers Valmira Jashari made her way to the University Clinical Center of Kosovo (QKUK) hoping her medical carers would help put her mind at ease – only to have a psychological experience of a completely different nature.
Just 25 years old when she gave birth to her first baby in 2022, Jashari said her experience at the state hospital in Pristina is not something she will ever be able to forget – for all the wrong reasons.

“The horror for me began in the intensive care unit at QKUK, where the doctor in charge during the check-up pressed his hand on the wounds that many women have after just giving birth. The same happened to me, too,” she recounted to BIRN.

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People are convinced Tony Blair statue unveiled in Kosovo is Jason Donovan (The Independent)

Singer’s fans said they couldn’t ‘unsee’ the comparison.

People have been left in hysterics after a statue of Tony Blair unveiled in Kosovo, drew comparisons to Australian actor and Neighbours star Jason Donovan.

The sculpture was unveiled in Ferizaj, Kosovo on Wednesday (12 June) to celebrate 25 years of independence from the former state of Yugoslavia, where Blair played a role in Nato discussions. The former prime minister was in attendance at the unveiling on Blair Boulevard, and addressed MPs in a special session in Kosovo’s parliament. But a post shared by Blair’s former secretary Alistair Campbell went viral after he shared the image in a bid to urge the public to vote for the Labour party, but responses to the post became comical immediately.

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