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International Information Centre for Balkan Studies



Grenell: Implementation of Washington's agreement White House priority

September 21, 2020

The US President Donald Trump's special envoy for Belgrade – Pristina dialogue Richard Grenell said late on Sunday the implementation of the agreement the two sides signed at the White House on September 4 was a priority of Trump's administration.

 His tweet, including the message "See you in Pristina and Belgrade this week," came after Kosovo's ambassador to Washington Vlora Çitaku re-published that the DFC delegation would visit Pristina and Belgrade.

DFC said its delegation headed by the executive director Adam Bohler would visit Greece, Kosovo, Serbia and Israel in the next five days to improve the economic cooperation and development.

Grenell will join the US International Finance Development Corporation (DFC) delegation, which also comes because of the implementation of the Washington agreement between Kosovo's and Serbia's leaders on the normalisation of economic relations.

A part of the deal is Kosovo and Serbia cooperation with the DFC and the US Export-Import (EXIM) Bank on a memorandum of understanding for the realisation of the 'Motorway of Peace,' (Autoput Mira), the railway connections Pristina - Merdare, and Nis - Pristina, and a provision of loan financing of small and medium-sized companies, additional bilateral projects and the DFC permanent presence in Belgrade.

DFC Executive Director Adam Bohler and EXIM Bank Director Kimberly Reed, who will also be part of the US government delegation, signed letters of intent with Serbia and Kosovo on Tuesday to help finance the construction of the 'Motorway of Peace' between Nis and Pristina.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a641981/Grenell-Implementation-of-Washington-s-agreement-Trump-s-administration-priority.html

Coronavirus UPDATE: 1 death, 62 new cases

September 18, 2020

The Serbian Health Ministry said in its daily 3:00 pm bulletin on Friday that 1 person died of coronavirus-related ailments over the previous 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 739.

It said that 7,411 people had been tested over the previous 24 hours, including 62 who tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

The total number of people tested to date stands at 1,063,667 with 32,757 confirmed cases.

The bulletin said that there are 331 active cases, including 20 patients on ventilators.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a641241/Coronavirus-UPDATE-1-death-62-new-cases.html

Slovenia registers record number of 137 new coronavirus cases

September 18, 2020                    

In the past 24 hours Slovenia has conducted 3,557 tests for coronavirus, with 137 cases returned positive, which is 33 more than the day before and a new record of confirmed cases since the outbreak of the epidemic, the country's government reported on Friday.

The greatest number of new cases was previously registered on 15 September when 123 new cases were confirmed after 3,123 tests conducted.

Due to the spike in numbers Great Britain has placed Slovenia on the list of epidemiologically unsafe countries after Norway, Sweden, Lithuania and Estonia had already done so in the past few days, Slovenian media said.

There are currently 1,116 active cases in Slovenia, and 4,195 people have contracted the disease since its outbreak..

Sixty-seven infected people are being treated in hospitals, seven more than on Thursday, and 11 are in intensive care. Four more fatalities have been registered, bringing the death toll to 138.

Prime Minister Janez Jansa has announced that as of Saturday wearing masks will be mandatory in all public areas such as farmers' markets but also in schools and universities. The government is also considering restricting the number of people in one place to six, and all bars and cafes will have to close at 10 pm as of next week. There is also some media speculation that working hours for stores may also be shortened.

In an effort to curb the disease from spreading the government on Thursday called on employers to measure workers' temperature when they arrive at work.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a641299/Slovenia-registers-record-number-of-137-new-coronavirus-cases.html

Coronavirus: 6 deaths and 234 new cases in Croatia over the past 24 hours

September 18, 2020

Six people have died in Croatia in the past 24 hours as a consequence of the coronavirus and 234 new cases have been identified, bringing the total number of active cases to 2,100, the national Covid response team reported on Friday.

Currently, 280 patients are being treated for the new virus in hospitals, 21 of whom are on ventilators.

Since 25 February, when the first case of the disease was registered in Croatia, a total of 14,513 people have been infected with Covid-19 and 244 of them have died, while 12,169 have recovered, including 236 in the past 24 hours.

There are currently 8,938 people in self-isolation. A total of 249,023 people have been tested for the virus to date, including 6,137 in the past 24 hours.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a641301/Coronavirus-6-deaths-and-234-new-cases-in-Croatia-over-the-past-24-hours.html

Bosnia registers 292 new cases of coronavirus, four deaths

September 18, 2020

Bosnia has registered 292 new cases of the coronavirus entity health institutions informed on Friday, adding that four people have died in the past 24 hours, the country's health authorities said on Friday.

A total of 1,567 tests for coronavirus were taken in the Federation entity, and 194 returned positive, while of 641 tests conducted in the Republika Srpska entity, 98 turned out positive.

Health authorities in Banja Luka said that most cases had been imported and though the situation had deteriorated, it was still under control.

Since the outbreak of the epidemic in Bosnia and Herzegovina 24,900 cases of the virus have been registered and 753 have died.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a641303/Bosnia-registers-292-new-cases-of-coronavirus-four-deaths.html

Montenegro reports three deaths and 212 newly infected with coronavirus

September 17, 2020

Over the last 24 hours, three patients died from COVID-19-related complications and out of 857 tested people, 212 were confirmed infected with the coronavirus in Montenegro.

The death toll stood on 129, while 2,482 cases were active on Thursday.

Since the beginning of the year, 7,503 people were confirmed infected.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a641011/Montenegro-reports-three-deaths-and-212-newly-infected-with-coronavirus.html

Epidemiologist says Serbia should expect rise in coronavirus cases

September 18, 2020

Epidemiologist Branislav Tiodorovic said on Friday that Serbia should expect to see a rise in the number of coronavirus infections over the next two weeks.

Tiodorovic told the Serbian state TV (RTS) that the number of checkups in medical centers had dropped but warned that this was no reason to relax.  

He said that most people will follow the new measures which the pandemic Crisis Staff has introduced, adding that people return to the country will be asked to report to their doctor within 24 hours to determine if they need to be under surveillance.  

The Crisis Staff has introduced new measures which take effect on Friday for people returning home from abroad, including keeping children home from school for 10 days.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a641085/Epidemiologist-says-Serbia-should-expect-rise-in-coronavirus-cases.html

Kosovo PM’s advisor claims Merkel, Macron want dialogue over by year’s end

September 18, 2020

An advisor to Kosovo’s Prime Minister claimed that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron want Belgrade and Pristina to finish the dialogue to normalize relations by the end of the year.

Advisor Xhavit Beqiri told RTV Dukajin that Merkel and Macron said clearly that the dialogue should not be an endless process. “It was clear at the meeting mediated by Merkel and Macron that this not an endless process. The end of the year was mentioned as the end of the process so there is a deadline when the dialogue should be concluded,” he said.  

Beqiri said that the dialogue should end in mutual recognition. He added that all other agreements will not be implemented without recognition. “Kosovo has no obligation to abide by any agreement without Serbia’s recognition,” he said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a641223/Kosovo-PM-s-advisor-claims-Merkel-Macron-want-dialogue-over-by-year-s-end.html

Berlin Process meeting in November, N1 told

September 18, 2020

Sources at the European Commission told N1 on Friday that the next Berlin Process meeting will be held in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia on November 10.

The sources said that European Union and Western Balkans leaders should adopt a plan to form a single regional market at the meeting, adding that the plan is being drafted. “The plan should be structured around the free movement of people, goods and services and concrete measures to bring tangible advantages for companies and the population of the region, including lowering cross-border bank fees, technical obstacles to trade, aligning investment policies and stimulating e-trade among other things.  

The Berlin Process was launched in 2014 at a meeting of heads of government, foreign and economy ministers of Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia, Austria, France and European Commission officials.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a641291/Berlin-Process-meeting-in-November-N1-told.html

Thaci awarding Kosovo’s highest order to Trump

September 18, 2020

President Hashim Thaci said that he would give US President Donald Trump Kosovo’s highest award for his role in helping Belgrade and Pristina reach a deal to normalize economic relations, the Reuters news agency said.

“Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, in a letter seen by Reuters, informed Trump that he will receive Kosovo’s Medal of the Order of the Freedom,” the news agency said. Thaci also invited Trump to visit Kosovo and expressed “profound gratitude for your personal contribution in brokering the agreement”.

It added that Trump’s national security adviser Robert O’Brien and envoy for the Belgrade-Pristian dialogue Ambassador Richard Grenell would receive Presidential Medal of Merits.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti signed separate documents at the White House to normalize economic relations. The White House Agreements included clauses on relations between Israel and Kosovo and Serbia’s pledge to move its embassy to Jerusalem.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a641108/Thaci-awarding-Kosovo-s-highest-order-to-Trump.html

Belgrade & Pristina clash over CSM in Brussels

September 17, 2020

The issue of the Community of Serb Municipalities (CSM) has not been on the agenda of the Thursday's meeting between Belgrade and Pristina technical negotiations in Brussels after Serbia's delegation insisted on the issue, while Kosovo's team strongly opposed the idea.

The head of Serbia's Government Office for Kosovo Marko Djuric said that after the talks about mutual financial claims and property, Belgrade's delegation "did not agree to remove the CSM topic from the agenda" or "renamed it in a way that would not reflect a status-neutral form of dialogue. "

However, he added, Pristina was firmly against mentioning CSM as Belgrade wanted it.

"No way we will allow the talks on CSM to switch to the position of national minorities' topic, nor will we ever agree that Kosovo Serbs are treated as a national minority," Djuric told reporters in Brussels.

He said the negotiations were "very intensive and difficult".

"We had a bitter discussion. Pristina delegation tried to take the discussion 13 centuries back to say the Serbs had colonised Kosovo," Djuric added.

Skender Hyseni, who led Kosovo delegation, told the Pristina media that Serbia's team tried to open the CSM but that he "categorically refused".

Ahead of the talks, Djuric and the European Union Special Representative for the Belgrade - Pristina dialogue Miroslav Lajčák exchange tweets,expressing different ideas about the Thursday's meeting, with Lajčak saying the CSM issue was not on the table and Djuric assuring him it would be.

"But one fact must be remembered. We have two agreements on CSM signed in 2013 and 2015. In the latter, the court commented on 21 or 22 specific issues and did not say that CSM should not be implemented ", Hyseni said.

He added it was now about the CSM statute, saying Pristina would take an exact political position on that issue.

The mutual financial claims were discussed, Hyseni said, adding that was one of the elements of the general agreement on mutual recognition.

However, as he confirmed, the parties had opposed views about it.

"The views on this topic are very different. We see the issue of succession as one which must be treated following international law and the successions that took place between the entities of former Yugoslavia, now independent states," Hyseni said, reiterating that was Kosovo's position.

Lajčák said the talks at the expert level referred to mutual financial claims and property, and that they showed the complexity and sensitivity of those issues.

"I have just finished today's talks with Marko Djuric and Skender Hyseni on mutual financial claims and property. Our talks confirmed the complexity and sensitivity of the issue,"  Lajčák wrote on his Twitter account.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a640977/Belgrade-Pristina-clash-over-CSM-in-Brussels.html

AFP: Belgrade is only city that pollutes international Danube river

September 17, 2020

Just down the road from Belgrade's historic city centre, gates open for lorries to pass to the banks of the Danube, and dump raw sewage into Europe's venerated river, the French AFP news agency reported on Thursday.

It adds "it's not a secret operation, but rather a business nobody likes to mention in the Serbian capital — the only one in Europe to spew all of its unfiltered wastewater into the continent's second-longest river."

An agency's reporter said that fatty odour "rises as the brown stream of faeces flows into the waterway."

"Around a third of Belgrade, a city of 1.6 million, has no connection to drainage systems and instead relies on the septic tanks that the trucks empty straight into the rivers," AFP said, adding the rest shunt their unprocessed waste into the river through around 100 sewage drains."

It quoted Infrastructure minister Zorana Mihajlovic as estimating that some 190 million cubic meters of wastewater were poured into the rivers annually.

Belgrade Deputy Mayor Goran Vesic, who had called for a proper wastewater treatment system, had said that "no big city in Europe commits such a crime towards its rivers," AFP reported.

The Danube begins in Germany and snakes through nine other countries over 2,850 kilometres before draining into the Black Sea, and a group of Austrian scientists said in 2019 that there was a "critical" presence of E. coli bacteria in Serbia's strip of the river, according to the agency.

Being a European Union candidate country, Serbia needs to build the necessary eco-friendly infrastructure, which is estimated to cost five billion Euro.

However, the country has no such money, and AFP recalls that Belgrade authorities have signed an agreement with the China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC) to start work on a wastewater treatment plant for the city, in January.

Still, construction hadn't begun as Serbia were yet to allocate money in the budget.    

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a640933/AFP-Belgrade-is-only-city-that-pollutes-international-Danube-river.html

Presidency against moving embassy to Jerusalem, Dodik against Kosovo recognition

September 17, 2020

The Bosniak and the Croat members of the tripartite Presidency voted on Thursday against a proposal made by their Serb colleague for the country’s embassy to be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Right after that, the Serb member voted against an initiative for Bosnia to recognize the independence of Kosovo.

Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik proposed the embassy to move following the foreign policy of neighbouring Serbia after Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic agreed in Washington to move the Serbian embassy to Jerusalem.

Bosnian Croat and Bosniak Presidency members, Zeljko Komsic and Sefik Dzaferovic, respectively, voted against the initiative so no decision was adopted.

“I think that was the right move by the Presidency as it’s in accordance with the international obligations which Bosnia has regarding this issue,” Dzaferovic said after the session.

The proposal to recognize Kosovo came from Komsic and was supported by Dzaferovic but rejected by Dodik.

In order for any decision to be made in Bosnia’s Presidency, a consensus must be reached between all three Presidency members.

Dzaferovic said there would be another round of voting on the matter.

“If the vote turns out the way it did today, then Mr. Dodik has a right to launch the mechanism of vital entity interest,” Dzaferovic said, referring to the constitutional mechanism which enables representatives of one of the two semi-autonomous entities in the country - in this case, the Serb-majority Republika Srpska (RS) - to veto any state-level decision that is deemed damaging to the interest of the entity.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a640923/As-he-was-receiving-his-Plaque-as-an-Honorary-Citizen-of-Sarajevo-on-Thursday-Serbian-politician-Ce.html

EU spokesman says Belgrade, Pristina agreed to discuss finances

September 17, 2020

European Commission foreign affairs spokesman Peter Stano said on Thursday that Belgrade and Pristina agreed earlier this week to devote today’s meeting to debts and finances.

He said that those are complex issues which led both sides to agree earlier in the week to devote the entire meeting to mutual debts.

Stano said that non-majority communities would be discussed at a meeting in the next few days. He said that was agreed by both sides.

Belgrade’s delegation in Brussels met with the EU special representative Miroslav Lajcak earlier on Thursday before going on to the talks at expert level with the delegation from Pristina and EU mediators.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a640845/EU-spokesman-says-Belgrade-Pristina-agreed-to-discuss-finances.html

OSCE Serbia mission chief says no impunity for attacks on journalists

September 17, 2020

OSCE Serbia mission chief Andrea Orizio told Thursday’s online debate on media safety that impunity for attacks on journalists cannot be tolerated

Orizio said that a strong democratic society is impossible without free media. He said that significant progress in defining conditions for the safety of journalists and the media can be achieved through a constructive dialogue, mutual understanding and constant learning.

He said that a working group for the safety of journalists can serve as the model for cooperation between state institutions, civil society and international institutions. According to Orizio, the efficiency of investigations and prosecutors in cases of danger to journalists has been strengthened significantly.  

http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a640775/OSCE-Serbia-mission-chief-says-no-impunity-for-attacks-on-journalists.html

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