International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Slovenia exceeds 300 new daily Covid cases for first time

October 7, 2020

In the last 24 hours, there have been 356 new cases of infection with the novel coronavirus in Slovenia, the government stated on Wednesday. This is almost twice as high as on Tuesday when there were 189 new cases.

In the last 24 hours, 3,998 tests for coronavirus have been performed. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Janez Jansa said that the situation was "no longer funny".

Since the outbreak of the infection in this country with about two million inhabitants, 7,100 people have tested positive and of them 160 have died.

Currently, 122 Covid-19 patients are receiving hospital treatment.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a658141/Slovenia-exceeds-300-new-daily-Covid-cases-for-first-time.html

Croatia reports 363 new coronavirus cases, 5 dead

October 7, 2020

Over the past 24 hours 363 new coronavirus cases have been registered in Croatia, bringing the number of active cases to 1,830, and five persons have died, the national Covid response team said on Wednesday.

Currently 344 patients are hospitalised, including 26 on ventilators, while 9,675 persons are self-isolating.

Since February 25, when the first infection was registered in Croatia, 18,447 persons have been infected with the virus, of whom 309 have died, while 16,308 have recovered, including 116 in the last 24 hours.

To date 338,594 persons have been tested, including 5,353 in the last 24 hours.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a658145/Croatia-reports-363-new-coronavirus-cases-5-dead.html

Bosnia sees surge in new coronavirus infections, with 365 cases confirmed

October 7, 2020

Bosnia and Herzegovina has seen another surge in new coronavirus infections, with 365 cases confirmed on Wednesday, according to healthcare authorities.

Bosnia's Federation (FBiH) entity reported 222 new Covid-19 patients out of 1,423 performed lab tests. The region confirmed the total of 18,909 patients since the epidemic outbreak, with 15,661 those who recovered. Only in the last 24 hours, 266 patients recovered from the disease.

The region currently has 2,679 active cases reported on its territory.

With five new coronavirus-related deaths, the region's death toll stands at 569.

As for Republika Srpska (RS), this region's healthcare authorities performed 672 lab tests in the last 24 hours, with 142 positive outcomes. To this date, the region recorded 9,848 cases, with 6,670 recoveries, and 318 deaths related to the infection with the novel coronavirus.

Brcko District, a separate administrative unit, has reported one new case of the coronavirus infection among 59 lab tests performed in the past 24 hours.

According to Bosnia's Civil Affairs Ministry, the country's coronavirus total stands at 29,075, confirmed through 253,264 lab tests performed in the country since the epidemic outbreak.

So far, 22, 614 Covid-19 patients have recovered and 908 died, leaving 5,553 active cases in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a658147/Bosnia-sees-surge-in-new-coronavirus-infections-with-365-cases-confirmed.html

Coronavirus UPDATE: 1 death, 121new cases

October 7, 2020

The Serbian Health Ministry said in its daily 3:00 pm bulletin on Wednesday that 1 person died of coronavirus-related ailments over the previous 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 758.

It said that 6,700 people had been tested over the previous 24 hours, including 121 who tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

The total number of people tested to date stands at 1,173,582 with 34,193 confirmed cases.

The bulletin said that there are 283 active cases, including 20 patients on ventilators.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a658168/Coronavirus-UPDATE-1-death-121new-cases.html

Two more coronavirus-related deaths in Montenegro

October 7, 2020

The Montenegrin Public Health Institute reported two more coronavirus-related deaths over the previous 24 hours, bringing the total to 181 since the pandemic broke out.

It said that 210 people had tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in that period, bringing the total to 12,794.  

The Institute said that there are 3,697 active cases in the country and that 350 patients had recovered from COVID-19.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a658294/Two-more-coronavirus-related-deaths-in-Montenegro.html

Four more coronavirus deaths in N.Macedonia

October 7, 2020

The North Macedonia Health Ministry said on Wednesday that four people died of coronavirus related ailments over the previous 24 hours, bringing the total to 772 since the pandemic broke out.

The ministry said that 317 people tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, the most on any single day during the pandemic. A total of 1,990 people were tested over the previous 24 hours.  

There are 2,892 active cases in the country, the Public Health Institute said and added that another 104 patients recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveried to 15,749.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a658296/Four-more-coronavirus-related-deaths-in-North-Macedonia.html

Serbian munitions plant CEO denies exports to Armenia, Azerbaijan

October 7, 2020

A Serbian munitions factory CEO on Wednesday exports of arms and ammuntion directly to Armenia or Azerbaijan.

Krusik CEO Vladan Lukic told Belgrade daily Politika that the munitions plant in Valjevo was not exporting any of its products to the two countries which have gone to war over the Nagorno Karabakh region.  

Whistleblower Aleksandar Obradovic revealed dubious dealings between Krusik and private arms trading companies with the munitions exported to Saudi Arabia ending up in the Yemen.  

Lukic claimed that the military industry plant does all export deals transparently and in line with regulations. “When we work with mediators we don’t know who they are selling our goods to. Everything we do is done in line with the law,” Lukic said and added that he has the right to sign contracts worth up to 300,000 Euro and that anything more than that has to be approved by the Oversight Committee.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a658111/Serbian-munitions-plant-CEO-denies-exports-to-Armenia-Azerbaijan.html

US Congress Resolution aimed to change political situation in Bosnia

October 7, 2020

The Resolution concerning Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was introduced in the US Congress last week, is aimed to change the political situation in the country, in terms of its accelerated integration into European Union and NATO, Social Justice and Democracy Movement (SPD) Presidency member Miro Lazovic told N1.

US Senators Rob Portman and Sherod Brown, as well as Representative Mike Turner, introduced in Congress last week a bipartisan Resolution to recognise the 25 anniversary of the Dayton Peace Accords, which condemns the human rights abuses that took place in Bosnia during the 1992-1995 war.

The document also encourages Bosnia's authorities to continue pursuing NATO and EU membership as well as its “progress towards solving its constitutional issues and improving its economic policy as it advances towards NATO and EU membership.” 

“The Resolution comes at the moment of marking the 25th anniversary of the Dayton (Peace Agreement – a document which ended the 1992-95 Bosnian war). America was its creator and has a responsibility and obligation to monitor its implementation and fix the injustice that was embedded in the Constitution,” stressed Lazovic, noting that the Resolution also urges Bosnia and Herzegovina to adjust its constitutional reforms to European principles and standards.

Commenting on the European Commission's 2020 report on the Western Balkans, published Tuesday, according to which Bosnia made little or no progress in key areas on its EU integration path, SPD official said this did not surprise him but what did was Brussels' increased activity that warns Bosnia and Herzegovina of the urgency to implement the key priorities from the commission's Opinion on Bosnia's membership application. 

“I would like to be optimistic about obtaining the EU candidate status in 2021 as a result of the activities by local politicians and with the pressure and activities of the EU and American administration,” he stressed.

According to him, changes to the Constitution are crucial for Bosnia's progress because current provisions affirm ethnic divisions and policies that are dividing Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“If changes don't take place, Bosnia and Herzegovina will remain the hostage to ethnic divisions,” he added.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a476608/Politician-US-Congress-resolution-aimed-to-change-political-situation-in-Bosnia.html

EU Spec. Rep: Bosnia could get €250 million if it proves progress on rule of law

October 7, 2020

Rule of law is very important for the European Union, which is offering 250 million Euros in aid to Bosnia if the country proves that it made progress on the issue and judicial reform, the EU Special Representative in Bosnia, Johann Sattler, told N1 on Wednesday.

Sattler spoke to N1 a day after he handed the European Commission 2020 Report on Bosnia to the Chairman of the Council of Ministers, Zoran Tegeltija.

The Report said, among other things, that Bosnia has not made little to no progress in public administration reform, reform of the judiciary, the fight against corruption and fundamental rights of minorities in the past 16 months.

In May last year, the European Commission defined 14 priorities that Bosnia and Herzegovina should focus on in order to achieve a positive opinion on Bosnia’s EU candidate status application.

Tegeltija said on Tuesday that Bosnia should be able to meet those conditions by spring next year.

“I believe that this is ambitious when looking at the 14 key priorities,” Sattler told N1, arguing that some of them are issues that could be resolved quickly and there could be progress only if politicians are determined to work for the well being of the country.

The most important thing is to focus on the 14 priorities, he said, arguing that the process of Bosnia tackling these issues accordingly is “painfully long” and that citizens are leaving the country because of it.

“This is a call for action,” he said, adding that if Bosnia and Herzegovina does its part of the task then the European Union will do its part from the other side.

Sattler said on Tuesday that there are three key laws that must be adopted - the law on conflict of interest, the law on public procurement, and amendments to the law on the Bosnia’s top judicial institution, the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC).

“These three laws are part of 14 key priorities. After the meeting with Tegeltija, I am encouraged that this will happen by the end of the year,” he said.

However, Sattler expressed disappointed that “we have not made progress in the area of the rule of law in a year.”

“Citizens are dissatisfied with the situation in the judiciary. There was a lot of resistance to reforms within the judiciary, but also within politics,” he said, but reiterated that this is a condition for the payment of macroeconomic assistance to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The EU is offering 250 million euros in aid, but in order for Bosnia to get the money, it must first show progress on rule of law, he said.

Sattler argued that rule of law is highly important for every democratic society and that examples from the region show how important judicial reform is.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a476786/EU-Spec.-Rep-Bosnia-could-get-250-million-if-it-proves-progress-on-rule-of-law.html

EC 2020 Report on Bosnia finds little to no progress in key areas

October 6, 2020

The European Commission presented its 2020 report on the Western Balkans, including Bosnia, on Tuesday, saying the country was blocked politically and that it had no progress in the Public Administration Reform. The Commission also found little to no progress in the reform of the judiciary, fight against corruption or fundamental rights of minorities.

During most of the reporting period the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina was blocked for political reasons, which resulted in a legislative backlog,” the report said, adding that the government was only formed “in December 2019, 14 months after the general elections.”

“The Federation entity government is still in a caretaker function. Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Constitution remains in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), as per the Sejdic-Finci and related cases. No progress was made in improving the electoral framework in line with European standards and ensuring transparency of political party financing, “ the report said among other things.

The European Commission said Bosnia and Herzegovina is at an early stage with public administration reform (PAR) and there was no progress on ensuring a professional and depoliticised civil service and a coordinated countrywide approach to policymaking.
According to them, the country is at an early stage in the area of judiciary.

“No progress was made in this area during the reporting period. No appropriate action was taken to address the findings of the Expert Report on Rule of Law issues. Integrity reforms have met resistance from within the judiciary. Evident signs of deterioration require urgent measures to strengthen the integrity and regain citizens’ trust in the judiciary, starting with a credible and rigorous system of verification of financial statements of judicial officeholders,” the report states.

Corruption remained widespread, the report noted, and is a serious concern, with all levels of government showing signs of political capture directly affecting the daily life of citizens.

“There are systemic shortcomings in the operational cooperation of law enforcement agencies and very limited exchange of intelligence. The police is vulnerable to political interference. Financial investigations and asset seizures are largely ineffective,” the report concluded.
When it comes to fundamental rights, the report noted that the legislative and institutional framework was largely in place but noticed that a comprehensive strategic framework remains to be adopted.

“Some steps were made – notably, the Constitutional Court repealed the provision on the death penalty in the Republika Srpska entity Constitution, and the first LGBTI Pride Parade took place peacefully in Sarajevo. Challenges remain on freedom of assembly, notably in the Republika Srpska entity,” the European Commission said, adding:

“There was no progress on guaranteeing freedom of expression and of the media and the protection of journalists by ensuring the appropriate judicial follow-up to cases of threats and violence against journalists and media workers, and ensuring the financial sustainability of the public broadcasting system.”

The Commission urged Bosnia to urgently take all necessary measures to prevent a humanitarian crisis regarding the migrant situation from unfolding.

“As regards the economic criteria, Bosnia and Herzegovina has made limited progress and is at an early stage of establishing a functioning market economy. The public sector remained oversized and inefficient. The financial sector remained stable and lending increased, while unemployment has declined, partly due to a substantial labour force outflow,” the Commission's report said.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a476450/EC-2020-Report-on-Bosnia-finds-little-to-no-progress-in-key-areas.html

European Commission says Kosovo made limited progress

October 6, 2020

The European Commission said in its latest progress report for European Union candidate countries that Kosovo made limited progress on reforms.

“As regards Kosovo, limited progress was made on EU related reforms and it is important that Kosovo authorities redouble their efforts to advance on the European path, including through the implementation of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement,” the Commission said. Speaking after the report was adopted,

Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi said the political context in Kosovo”over the last year has been volatile and not been favourable to making bold progress on EU-related reforms”. “In order to put back focus on reforms, I am looking forward to launching with Prime Minister [Avdullah] Hoti in the coming days a second phase of Kosovo’s European Reform Agenda,” he said.

Varhelyi said that the EU welcomed the lifting of the 100% tariff on goods from Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina as a crucial decision which allowed the resumption of the EU-facilitated Belgrade-Pristina dialogue.

“The Commission remains committed to achieving visa liberalisation for Kosovo citizens. We maintain our position that Kosovo fulfils all criteria, and we continue to call on Kosovo to make sure that all benchmarks continue to be met,” he said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a657849/European-Commission-says-Kosovo-made-limited-progress.html

EC report says Serbia made little or no progress in key areas

October 6, 2020

The European Commission said on Wednesday that Serbia had made limited or no progress in key areas on its path to the European Union.

The section of the Commission's progress report on the Serbian elections said that "fundamental freedoms were respected but voter choice was limited by the governing party’s overwhelming advantage and the promotion of government policies by most major media outlets, according to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe/Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR)".

The report said that a number of ODIHR recommendations were not implemented, adding that the Serbian authorities should address long-standing electoral shortcomings through a transparent and inclusive dialogue with political parties and other relevant stakeholders well ahead of the next elections. "The newly constituted Serbian parliament is marked by the overwhelming majority of the ruling coalition and the absence of a viable opposition, a situation which is not conducive to political pluralism in the country," it said.

It said that Serbia is moderately prepared in the area of public administration reform. "No progress was made overall as the excessive number of acting senior manager positions was not sizeably reduced. Lack of transparency and respect of the merit-based recruitment procedure for senior civil service positions is an issue of increasingly serious concern," it said.Serbia’s judicial system has some level of preparation. No progress was made over the reporting period, the report said.

"Serbia has some level of preparation in the fight against corruption. Limited progress was made over the reporting period," the report said.

"In the fight against organised crime, Serbia has some level of preparation with limited progress over the reporting period related notably to structural reforms and interagency cooperation. ... Overall, Serbia has yet to establish a convincing track record of effective investigations, prosecutions and final convictions in serious and organised crime cases, leading to an increased amount of confiscated assets.

Serbia needs to increase its efforts in dismantling large and internationally active criminal organisations," the report added."The legislative and institutional framework for upholding fundamental rights is broadly in place. However, its consistent and efficient implementation still needs to be ensured. Human rights institutions need to be strengthened and their independence guaranteed, including via the allocation of the necessary financial and human resources," the EC said.

It recalled that the government adopted a new media strategy, which identifies the main media freedom challenges but its implementation has not yet started and no progress was made yet on the ground to improve the overall environment for freedom of expression.

It expressed concern over the continuing threats, intimidation and violence against journalists and the failure to establish transparency of media ownership and of allocation of public funds, especially at local level.Serbia continued to significantly contribute to the management of the mixed migration flows towards the EU by playing an active and constructive role and cooperating effectively with its neighbours and EU Member States. It also continued to effectively implement the integrated border management strategy and its action plan.

"On the economic criteria, Serbia made some progress and is moderately prepared/at a good level of preparation in developing a functioning market economy. ... By reducing the budgetary deficit and maintaining a prudent fiscal stance, Serbia has significantly improved debt sustainability. Labour market performance has improved, with the lowest unemployment rates in the last decade; however, this was also due to large-scale emigration," it said. Serbia made some progress and is moderately prepared to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the EU. Serbia overall remained committed to bilateral relations with other enlargement countries and neighbouring EU Member States and an active participant in regional cooperation.

Regarding the normalisation of relations with Kosovo, Serbia needs to make further substantial efforts and contribute to reaching a comprehensive legally binding agreement with Kosovo.

As regards its ability to assume the obligations of membership, Serbia stepped up its work to align legislation with the EU acquis in the economic and internal market chapters. The country made good progress in economic areas such as company law, intellectual property law, competition and financial services. However, limited progress was made on public procurement.

Serbia continued to develop intense relations and strategic partnerships with a number of countries worldwide, including Russia, China and the US. Cooperation with China increased during the COVID-19 crisis and was marked by pro-China and EU sceptical rhetoric by high-ranking state officials, the report said and added that Serbia aligned with 60% of the EU CFSP positions in 2019 and needs to step up its efforts in order to progressively align its foreign and security policy with that of the European Union in the period up to accession.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a657785/EC-report-says-Serbia-made-little-or-no-progress-in-key-areas.html

Dacic, Vulin statements draw fierce reactions from Pristina

October 6, 2020

Statements about the Kosovo Albanians by Serbian cabinet Ministers Ivica Dacic and Aleksandar Vulin drew condemnation from top officials in Pristina, calling them offensive and proof that Serbia is pursuing fascist policies.

The reactions came after Dacic told the pro-authorities Happy TV that there are Serbs “showing where Albanians are buried across Serbia” and that people in the Serbian War Crimes Prosecution are cooperating with the Albanians while Vulin used a derogatory word for Albanians while criticizing a statement by the Prime Minister of Albanian Edi Rama about the abolishing of his country’s border with Kosovo.  

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci wrote on his Twitter profile that the statements by the two ministers are proof that Serbia hasn’t changed its policies. “Offensive statements of Dacic & Vulin twds. civilian victims of the war, murdered by Millosevic's regime, are proof that Serbia still hasn't changed its fascist policies towards Kosovo. Such actions harm the dialogue and undermine our joint efforts for reconciliation,” Thaci tweeted.  

Kosovo Parliament Speaker Vjosa Osmani said that the government in Pristina should not be negotiating with the likes of Dacic who, she said, “is perpetrating a double crime by secreting crimes and making threats”.

In a separate reaction, the Kosovo government expressed deep disappointment with the statements which, it said, “openly continue to show a deep lack of respect for the victims of the recent war in Kosovo”. It added that “scandalous statements like these seriously insult the victims of Serb crimes and prove to the world that officials in Belgrade have consciously and intentionally been hiding evidence of crimes and mass graves with hundreds of innocent civilians in them”.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a657560/Dacic-Vulin-statements-draw-fierce-reactions-from-Pristina.html

Vucic names Brnabic to form new government

October 5, 2020

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic named Ana Brnabic as the Prime Minister designate on Monday,saying that he has confidence in her.

“I have signed the decision to give Ana Brnabic the mandate to form a new government,” he told a news conference after a meeting of the presidency of his Serbian Progressive Party (SNS).  

Vucic said that he took the decision following consultations with parties elected to parliament within time frame set by law. He said that several candidates for Prime Minister had been discussed at the meeting.  

“I hold a high opinion of Ana Brnabic. She has done well and in the interest of Serbia and there is nothing much to criticize her for. I think she is a good choice,” he said.  

The president said that he told Brnabic to think about introducing two new ministries – one for human rights, gender equality and social dialogue and the other for family care, children and demographics.  

He said that the new government’s job is to raise pensions and salaries, continue road and rail construction projects and launch new projects such as fast railways and the Belgrade metro, and improve the situation in the health care system. Vucic said that “it’s important to strengthen our army and police”.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a657472/Vucic-names-Brnabic-to-form-new-government.html

BIRN publishes data on coronavirus-related deaths

October 5, 2020

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) published data on coronavirus-related deaths from the COVID-19 data base that its journalists used for their reports on Monday.

The published data covers the period after March 19 when the first coronavirus-related death was reported up to June 1. BIRN said that it did not have access to later data. A total of 1,081 deaths were reported up to that date in COVID hospitals while the government’s pandemic Crisis Staff reported just 224 deaths.  

BIRN invited its readers, especially all those who lost family members or friends, to check the data and see if the names of their familiy and friends are on it and send BIRN a message to check any new data.  

The data is available on the javno.rs web site here.  

BIRN journalists have been claiming that they had access to the COVID data base set up by the authorities.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a657446/BIRN-publishes-data-on-coronavirus-related-deaths.html

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