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International Information Centre for Balkan Studies



Kosovo COVID-19 Update 19 January 9 Deaths, 294 Infections, 281 Recoveries

January 19, 2021

Kosovo has reported nine COVID-19-related deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the country’s total death toll to 1,420. The victims’ age varied between 59 and 85.

Meanwhile, 294 new cases were reported today– 56,412 since the beginning of the pandemic. About 212 thousand people have been tested, of the 1,729 today.

281 people recovered in the last 24 hours– 49,713 in total.

There are currently 5,279 active cases in the country.

Source:  https://exit.al/en/2021/01/19/kosovo-covid-19-update-19-january-9-deaths-294-infections-281-recoveries/

Cov19 – North Macedonia

January 19, 2021

Eleven patients died from COVID-19-related complications, and out of 2,726 tested people, 400 were infected with the coronavirus over the last 24 hours, North Macedonia’s Health Ministry said on Tuesday.

The death toll stood at 2,726, and 73,983 patients have recovered since the epidemic outbreak.

At the same time, out of 434,568 tested people, 89,392 have been positive for the new virus, while on Tuesday, there were 12,683 active infection cases.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/coronavirus-pandemic-daily-regional-update-on-january-19-2021/

Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccines to arrive in Bosnia's FBiH entity within a month

January 19, 2021

The first shipment of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccines will arrive in Bosnia’s Federation (FBiH) entity either at the end of January or beginning of February, the director of the FBiH Public Health Institute, Davor Pehar, said on Tuesday.

Pehar made the announcement at a press conference following a session of representatives of his institution, the FBiH Health Ministry and the health ministries of the ten cantons within the semi-autonomous entity.

He explained that there is still no exact information on the quantity of the vaccines that will arrive in the first shipment, but that it should be between five and ten thousand doses.

According to the head of the FBiH Public Health Institute's epidemiology department, Sanjin Musa, the European Medicines Agency is expected to issue a permit for other vaccines as well by the end of the month and that the process of procurement and distribution of vaccines is expected to improve in the first quarter.

He explained that the priority groups for vaccination are health workers and residents of nursing homes.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/pfizers-covid-19-vaccines-to-arrive-in-bosnias-fbih-entity-within-a-month/

Vucic: Fourth vaccine arriving in Serbia soon

January 19, 2021

President Aleksandar Vucic told a meeting of the top state leadership that the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine is due to be delivered to Serbia soon.

He said the delivery of that fourth type of coronavirus vaccine will come to Serbia once a contract is signed with Poland and AstraZeneca for 800,000 doses of its vaccine.

Vucic added that another shipment of 250,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine is expected to arrive this week – 200,000 of the first dose and 50,000 of the second dose. The Serbian President said that mass vaccination with the Chinese Sinofarm vaccine would start on Tuesday.

He said that Serbia was the first country in the region to pay into the European Union COVAX program fund but had not received a single dose of vaccine through the program but added that he believes the EU will “understand the needs of the Western Balkans”.

“Vaccination is of huge importance for Serbia and without it, we won’t beat the coronavirus, not just in terms of health but in economic terms as well and the country will be brought to the brink of ruin,” he said.

Vucic said that a state of the art monitoring system had been set up to track who has been vaccinated, when, and where. He said people in the education system, police, and health care system should be vaccinated along with people in public companies as well as post office staff and power company employees.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/vucic-fourth-vaccine-arriving-in-serbia-soon/

Serbian PM says a million doses of vaccine delivered, six million on the way

January 19, 2021

Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said on Tuesday that Serbia has secured more than a million doses of coronavirus vaccine so far and has secured more than six million more doses.

She told a meeting of the state leadership and the government vaccination team that a total of 1,054,950 doses of vaccine had been delivered and that the government made advance payments for another six million doses. She said the new inoculation tracking system could monitor everything from the moment the vaccines arrive at the moment that the entire population is inoculated. “The challenge lies in administering the vaccines, vaccinating as many people as possible. This system allows us to monitor everything,” she said.

Brnabic said that mass vaccination is starting on Tuesday with the police, military, and other security services getting inoculated first. She said that goal is to vaccinate as many people as possible as soon as possible to achieve collective immunity in the shortest possible time. She appealed to the public to register for vaccination.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/serbian-pm-says-a-million-doses-of-vaccine-delivered-six-million-on-the-way/

EC Vice-President Sefcovic says Western Balkans will get vaccines

January 19, 2021

European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic told Radio Free Europe on Tuesday that the European Union General Affairs Council affirmed the partnership with the Western Balkan countries in sharing coronavirus vaccines.

Sefcovic is quoted as telling this year’s first General Affairs Council meeting that the EU managed to secure vaccines and should be able to share them with its Western Balkan partners.

He told the video conference that the European Commission is trying to secure coronavirus vaccines for the countries of the region through its member states individually and through the COVAX initiative. Sefcovic said that the EU has just started the inoculation campaign and that the Commission is coordinating member states who want to donate vaccines from the joint EU procurement.

Sefcovic confirmed that that the EU will make sure that an adequate share of vaccines is secured through COVAX for its partners.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/ec-vice-president-sefcovic-says-western-balkans-will-get-vaccines/

Experts: US will have a different approach toward the region under Biden

January 19, 2021

A day before the inauguration of Joe Biden as the new U.S. president, experts from former Yugoslavia said that Donald Trump’s administration has contributed to the fact that some local leaders have turned to Russia and China but that with Biden in the White House, Washington will have a new approach toward the region.

The presence of the United States and the European Union played a key role in the Balkans but in 2010 both abandoned the region which allowed Russia and China to slip in, Sonja Biserko, the President of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia said.

“The Trump administration itself contributed to local leaders turning to Russia,” she said speaking of Serbia.

“The new American administration will be against divisions in the Balkans, and we should expect a new engagement of America when Biden finishes what he has to do at home,” she said.

“A breakthrough in the Balkans should be expected because the Balkans are also seen as a security issue,” she explained, adding that Russia's role remains important and that the recent visit by Russian Foreign Minister Sergej Lavrov was a message to Washington that it should count on Russia’s presence in the region.

She also pointed out that a new U.S. policy is being prepared, primarily for Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo.

Zlatko Lagumdzija, Bosnia’s former Foreign Minister, said that the country should use the new democratic wave coming from the U.S.

“The attitude towards BiH, as a multi-ethnic state, as a state of equal peoples in which all people are free, that Bosnia and Herzegovina has a proven friend in America,” he said.

With this new administration in Washington “the stars could not have aligned better for us because we have people who believe in such a BiH,” he said, adding that people in the new administration know this region well and that they will focus on multilateralism and strengthening the Euro-Atlantic partnership.

“This will become both a geostrategic and geopolitical issue and in a way will create a balance in the kind of policy Russia, China, and Turkey have introduced here,” he said.

Lagumdzija added that he was still glad that Russia, China, and Turkey were present in this region because if they weren't, the U.S. “wouldn't remember us and it's good that they remember us.”

But ultimately, he said, it is up to locals to act, regardless of how many friends they have abroad.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/experts-us-will-have-a-different-approach-toward-the-region-under-biden/

Part of MEPs slam Croatia's treatment of migrants at border with Bosnia

January 19, 2021

During the European Parliament's discussion on the humanitarian situation of refugees and migrants at the EU's external borders, a number of MEPs, mostly from left or centrist groups, strongly criticised Croatia's treatment of migrants at its border with Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Some of those MEPs described Croatia's treatment of migrants as shameful as the issue was discussed during a debate on conditions in migrant camps in Greece.

An estimated 7,000-9,000 migrants are stranded in Bosnia and Herzegovina, trying to pass through Croatia and reach western or northern Europe. Two thirds of them are in makeshift centres in the northwestern Una-Sana Canton and in the wider Sarajevo area, while others have been staying in abandoned buildings or in woods near the border with Croatia.

The MEPs who criticised Croatia claimed that the local police forcibly pushed back migrants to Bosnia.

A number of MEPs insisted that the European Union carry out an investigation and make sure that Croatian law enforcement authorities discontinued such practice.

Croatian MEP: Attacks against Croatia unfounded, politically motivated

Commenting on the criticism against Croatian authorities over the unlawful treatment of migrants, HDZ MEP Karlo Ressler claimed those were “unfounded and politically motivated attacks against Croatia, Greece, Frontex and basically, the European border protection policy.”

“The real causes of this humanitarian situation are porous borders and the lack of border and institutional capacity in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as the not always adequate European engagement in our immediate neigbourhood,” said Ressler.

He said that the EU should insist on political will and investment in Bosnia and Herzegovina to strengthen the country's capacity to control its borders.

“Only that way can the unceasing repetition of the suffering that degrades human dignity be avoided,” he concluded.

Croatian Social Democrat MEP Tonino Picula said that the situation on the Croatia-Bosnia border was “increasingly bad and additionally accentuates the non-functioning of Bosnia and Herzegovina institutions and the obsolete Dayton system.”

Opening the debate, European Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said that the European Commission and Croatian authorities were in constant dialogue and that she expected an independent mechanism to be established soon to monitor conduct on the border.

The migrant crisis in Bosnia and Herzegovina is unnecessary and it could have been avoided had the Bosnia and Herzegovina authorities responded responsibly, she said, calling on them to show political will and find long-term solutions, including the establishment of accommodation facilities for migrants throughout the country's territory.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/part-of-meps-slam-croatias-treatment-of-migrants-at-border-with-bosnia/

Bosnia's capital again among cities with the worst air quality in the world

January 19, 2021

According to Swiss air quality technology company IQAir, Sarajevo was the second most polluted city across the world on Tuesday afternoon, with an air quality index of 261.

Only Dhaka, Bangladesh surpassed Bosnia’s capital in terms of air pollution on the list, with an index of 275.

The website recommends wearing a mask in the city, running an air purifier, avoiding outdoor activities, and closing windows and doors in homes.

As every winter, air pollution during the winter months remains an issue in the city.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/bosnias-capital-again-among-cities-with-the-worst-air-quality-in-the-world/

Human rights activist: Serbia must accept facts established by intl. courts

January 19, 2021

The most important thing for Serbia is to acknowledge its responsibility for war crimes members of its armed forces and police were involved in, but the country is not going in that direction, activist and founder of the Humanitarian Law Center in Belgrade, Natasa Kandic, told N1.

Kandic said that Serbia must not “remain silent about facts established in courts” and that the country should accept “those facts related to war crimes committed by members of the armed forces of Serbia, police, various formations.”

Comments that the Hague Court is a political court can often be heard in Serbia but such statements have no basis, she said, stressing that many people who stood accused of war crimes “found refuge in Serbia” and giving the examples of convicted Bosnian Serb war criminals Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic.

“We know how peacefully Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, as well as various others, hid peacefully for years until the moment came when they were no longer important for Serbia, so they were arrested and handed over,” Kandic said, adding that Mladic stopped being important for Serbia when he became “a senile and old person” who was not able to present what he did during the war.

“Throughout the entire trial, we could not hear a single sentence containing any serious information that he would present. He is a completely senile person who repeats that the genocide did not happen and says that he came to return Srebrenica to the Serbs,” Kandic said, referring to the 1995 genocide that took place in the eastern Bosnian town.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/human-rights-activist-serbia-must-accept-facts-established-by-intl-courts/

BiH election watchdog confirms Mostar local election results

January 19, 2021

Bosnia's Central Election Commission (CIK BiH) confirmed and published the Mostar local election results, Tuesday, almost a month after they were held in this south Bosnian city.

The decision to confirm and announce the results of the local elections in Mostar which were held on December 20, 2020, was made at an emergency session after the BiH Court rejected three appeals (from the Social Democratic Party – SDP BiH, Our Party and Platform for Progress) for the recount of ballots at several polling stations as unfounded.

Six election watchdog members voted in favour of this decision while one was against it, the CIK BiH said.

Of the 35 representatives in the city council, 13 will be from Bosnia’s main Croat ethnic party, the Croat Democratic Union (HDZ BiH).

The Coalition for Mostar, a group of parties including the main Bosniak ethnic party in the country, the Party for Democratic Action (SDA), will have 12 representatives in the council.

The left-leaning coalition BH Bloc will have six representatives, while the Croat Republican Party (HRS) will have three representatives.

The coalition of Serb ethnic parties, ‘Ostajte ovdje – zajedno za naš Mostar’ (Stay here – Together for our Mostar), will have one representative in the Council.

Mostar mayor will be elected indirectly, by councillors after the constitution of the new convocation of the City Council. The election of the mayor requires a two-thirds majority in the City Council, ie 24 councillors.

This was the first election Mostar had in 12 years.

In 2010, the Constitutional Court ruled parts of the Election Law for Mostar unconstitutional and parties that won the 2008 election, the HDZ BiH and the SDA, could not reach an agreement on how to amend it until last year.

They finally reached an agreement in June last year.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/bih-election-watchdog-confirms-mostar-local-election-results/

EU's Varhelyi urges BiH authorities to swiftly certify Mostar election results

 

January 19, 2021

EU Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi urged the Bosnian institutions to conclude the counting process of Mostar local election ballots and certify the results, in a Tweet published Tuesday.

“Bosnia and Herzegovina: Elections that took place in Mostar last December, first after 12 years, were a major achievement. It is therefore paramount that the competent institutions conclude their work swiftly so that results can be certified,” he tweeted.

After a 12 year break, Mostar finally held the local elections on December 20, 2020, but the results were never announced due to numerous irregularities that had to be resolved and calls for recounts from various parties and coalitions claiming election fraud.

According to BIH election watchdog's unofficial results, the Croat center-right Croat Democratic Union (HDZ BiH) won 13 seats at the City Council, Coalition for Mostar won 11, BH Bloc won six, Croat Republican Party (HRS) won three, Mostar party and Stay here party won one seat each.

The Central Election Commission is still working on resolving all the issues regarding the election.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/eu-varhely-urges-bih-authorities-to-swiftly-certify-mostar-election-results/

 

AI: Situation in Bosnia a consequence of ‘atrocious’ EU migrant policy

 

January 19, 2021

The current situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina is a consequence of the authorities' intransigence but also of atrocious European Union's migrant policy, said the European office of Amnesty International.

Residents in Lipa do not have access to water, sanitation, or regular meals, the organization warned, urging the European institutions to solve the problem in Bosnia's northwest, where hundreds of migrants were left in the open after the Lipa camp, some 15 kilometres outside the town of Bihac, closed down last month.

“Safe routes for people seeking safety/to make a life in Europe could prevent this from happening year on year,” Amnesty International said on the day when the European Parliament is ina plenary session discussing the ‘Humanitarian situation of refugees and migrants at the EU's external borders’.

The human rights activists recalled that the local authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina installed tents, a few showers, while the Red Cross secured basic assistance for the migrants and refugees.

“This is welcome, but tents will not make the Lipa site any more suitable for long-term accommodation,” Amnesty International stressed, urging the European Commission to work with BiH authorities to develop long-term solutions to meet the needs of the people and “prevent another crisis next winter.”

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/ai-situation-in-bosnia-a-consequence-of-atrocious-eu-migrant-policy/

 

Journalist: Data shows Croatia dumping migrants into Bosnia

January 19, 2021

Official figures claim only 200 migrants were returned from Croatia to Bosnia, but we have 7,200 individuals claiming they were returned from Croatia to Bosnia, BiH investigative journalist Avdo Avdic said Tuesday, claiming all this can be confirmed by comparing data from the web portal of the Slovenian police.

“Slovenian police returned over 9,000 migrants to Croatia in 2020. This can be seen on the web portal of the Slovenian police which clearly states the number of migrants returned to the territory of Croatia. These data are clear evidence that Croatia transferred migrants illegally to the territory of BiH. This is clear evidence that over 7,000 migrants were illegally dumped into Bosnia last year,” Avdic said for N1.

Speaking about the readmission to Bosnia, Mirsad Buzar, Deputy Director of Foreigners’ Affairs Service told N1 that BiH had officially received some 1,500 migrants over the past 3 years.

“We received 1,563 foreign citizens in the past three years. The Service also worked on the removal of foreigners from BiH, and in the past three years, we have removed over 3,000 foreigners [from the BiH territory]. Migrants started hiding their documents thus making the re-admission process more difficult for us. We returned some thirty people to Croatia,” he said.

Speaking about the Lipa camp in the north-west of the country, he noted that the BiH Armed Forces have set up some 80 army tents for the accommodation of 947 migrants, adding that they are mostly of Pakistani origin.

Shirt Fazlic, the mayor of Bihac where most BiH migrants are located due to its proximity to the EU border, said the city had mostly been coping with the problem by itself over the past three years, and only recently has the state-level started playing an active role in this.

“Migrants in Bihac reside in the Retirement Home, in abandoned factories, ruins. No one alive knows how many there are, and according to the latest estimates, there are between 750 and 1,000 migrants [in the streets of Bihac]. The state didn’t start doing more, but it only now started doing its job. So far, we have dealt with these problems on our own, with the help of the IOM and organizations. The main features of the crisis were a large number of migrants, the disorderly situation, the fact that we had to deal with it alone. We had over 2,000 people running over the part of the town where Bira Camp was located. It's a lot easier for us now that Lipa Camp opened,” Fazlic said told N1.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/journalist-data-shows-croatia-dumping-migrants-into-bosnia/

MP Zvizdic: US remains strong and dedicated friend of Bosnia and Herzegovina

January 19, 2021

US support to the sovereignty, territorial integrity and international subjectivity of Bosnia and Herzegovina has always been clear and unambiguous, said Deputy Speaker of Bosnia's House of Representatives Denis Zvizdic, stressing that he was sure that the friendly relationship of the two countries will continue during the Joe Biden's presidency.

“President Biden and a part of his administration are very familiar with the situation in BiH, they know what was happening in our country and what the situation looks like now, and this is why I believe they will get actively involved in the seeking for a solution to the problems in our BiH,” Zvizdic told Fena news agency, a day before Biden's inauguration.

“The USA with Biden at the helm will remain a strong and dedicated friend of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the reform processes and Euro-Atlantic integration, and the US support to the territorial integrity, sovereignty and Euro-Atlantic integration of Bosnia and Herzegovina has always been and will always be beyond doubt,” he added.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/mp-zvizdic-us-remains-strong-and-dedicated-friend-of-bosnia-and-herzegovina/

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