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International Information Centre for Balkan Studies



Dodik thanks Vucic for Serbian help to Republika Srpska

April 15, 2020

Bosnia's Serb-dominated entity of Republika Srpska is carefully watching all the help Serbia has provided so far to help its economy which was shaken amid the coronavirus pandemic, Bosnian Serb Presidency member Milorad Dodik said at a press conference, following a meeting with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Tuesday.

"Our capabilities are limited by the RS Budget and some of the opportunities we ensured through the International Monetary Fund. We have a good understanding of the business sector, and only 800 workers were laid off this month," Dodik said.

Speaking about Serbia's assistance to this entity, he said that "the RS would have been far worse off epidemic-wise without the help from Serbia."

the two also discussed the upcoming Easter holiday and stressed that the holiday comes during extraordinary circumstances, but that their love for the Serbian Orthodox Church should not enable the spread of the virus.

"We mustn't allow the spread of the virus to occur because we have been tolerant in some ways. We agreed to extend the curfew because we don't want to see the spread in Serbia and RS and we ask for understanding from all the faithful," he said. Dodik.

In his address to the public, the Serbian President said that they talked about relations between Bosnia and Serbia, but also between Serbia and the RS.

Talking about the upcoming Easter, Vucic said his job was to protect people's lives and urged Patriarch Irinej to hold services without the presence of people.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a425643/Dodik-thanks-Vucic-for-Serbian-help-to-Republika-Srpska.html

FlyBosnia in historic mission of bringing medical equipment from China to Bosnia

April 15, 2020

A Bosnian-based air carrier FlyBosnia will fly-in a load of personal protective equipment (PPE) from Shanghai on Wednesday for Bosnian healthcare workers to fight the novel coronavirus.

This is the first time ever that a Bosnian-based company FlyBosnia will fly PPE from China. The flight is scheduled to stop in Kazakhstan, with Captain Amir Baralic at the helm.

The company said they are extremely proud of their pilots because they have successfully accomplished such a demanding mission in the interest of Bosnia's health care system.

FlyBosnia is planning to make a second flight also carrying PPE, in partnership with another Bosnian company Violet, who donated all the funding for the purchase of the equipment including ventilators.

Another partner in the purchase was the EU Delegation to Bosnia, which responded quickly and decided to sponsor the flight.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a425721/FlyBosnia-in-historic-mission-of-bringing-medical-equipment-from-China-to-Bosnia.html

Republika Srpska gets medical supplies from China to fight coronavirus

April 15, 2020

A cargo plane from China carrying medical supplies for the healthcare sector in Bosnia's Serb-dominated region, Republika Srpska (RS), amid coronavirus pandemic, landed at Banja Luka airport Wednesday evening.

RS top officials were at the airport to welcome the plane.

“There is over 55 tonnes of equipment here, which means we have enough of medical supplies for several next months in RS. From now on, RS won't depend on anyone for any segment of medical equipment. Although we paid for it, I would like to thank China, its President, and Chinese ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina for making it possible for the equipment to be sent to Banja Luka from China,” said RS Prime Minister, Radovan Viskovic. A day later, Banja Luka authorities also expect aid from Hungary, according to Serb member of Bosnia's tripartite Presidency, Milorad Dodik.

Hungarian Foreign Minister, Peter Szijjarto, is set to arrive in Sarajevo, where he will deliver the aid of his country and meet his Bosnian counterpart, FM Bisera Turkovic.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a425791/Republika-Srpska-gets-medical-supplies-from-China-to-fight-coronavirus.html

Malaysia donates 10 tonnes of protective equipment to Bosnia

April 15, 2020

An Air Asia aircraft carrying ten tonnes of protective equipment Malaysia donated to Bosnia and Herzegovina arrived at the Sarajevo International Airport on Wednesday evening.

“The Malaysian Government sent the aid, which is the biggest donation our country has received yet for the fight against the coronavirus pandemic,” the spokesperson for the Sarajevo International Airport, Sanja Bagaric, told N1.

According to official data, about 1110 people have contracted the coronavirus since it came to the country in March and more than 40 passed away due to COVID-19.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a425863/Malaysia-donates-10-tonnes-of-protective-equipment-to-Bosnia.html

European Commission sets criteria for gradual lifting of pandemic restrictions

April 15, 2020

The European Commission unveiled a plan for a gradual lifting of pandemic measures on Wednesday, which set out criteria for Europe's return to normal life.

The European Commission said that although restrictions on movement introduced by member countries have saved thousands of lives, they come at a very high cost for Europe's society and economy.

Returning to normalcy after the coronavirus crisis will require a carefully coordinated European approach based on science and the spirit of solidarity, Health Commissioner, Stella Kyriakides, said.

She added that the easing of restrictions would be "long and gradual" and that the consequences of the crisis would be felt for a long time. It will, therefore, be necessary to get used to living with the virus until an effective vaccine is found, Kyriakides said.

The European Commission said that decisions on when restrictions will begin to be relaxed need to be based on three criteria which will be closely monitored.

The first one is epidemiological, meaning that the spread of the disease must show to have been significantly slowed down and stabilised.

The second criterion is for health care systems to have sufficient capacity to assist patients, which includes intensive care beds, and the availability of medical workers and medical equipment.

The third criterion refers to the monitoring of the disease, which includes mass testing, in order to quickly isolate any newly infected persons.

President of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen, warned that the rolling out of the plan does not constitute the beginning of easing of restrictions, as these are regulated by authorities in each member country.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a425715/European-Commission-sets-criteria-for-gradual-lifting-of-pandemic-restrictions.html

Radoncic asks ambassadors not to return Bosnian nationals from their countries

April 15, 2020

Bosnia's Security Minister Fahrudin Radoncic addressed foreign ambassadors in the country informing them that Bosnia would make it possible for all foreigners to return to their countries of origins but also asking that they do not send back the nationals of Bosnia and Herzegovina from their respective countries.

“Authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina will schedule special flights and other means of transportations for all foreign citizens to their countries of origin, and will provide special support for their implementation, but we kindly ask you that such flights and other means of transportations are not used for the return of the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina from your countries to Bosnia and Herzegovina,” said the minister's note.

Given the current circumstances and the measures that competent authorities adopted to contain the coronavirus spread, the repatriation of Bosnian nationals would require detailed preparation and coordination of more competent institutions at several levels of authorities as well as a special approach towards those who return, their transportation, quarantine facilities and medical care.

“If you still decide to enable the return of Bosnian nationals to Bosnia and Herzegovina on special flights and other means of transportation, we ask you to inform us at least 15 days prior to the scheduled date of return and to deliver the lists of Bosnian nationals whom you plan to return to their places of residence in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” said the minister.

Radoncic told N1 that the potential repatriation of Bosnian nationals requires a decision of the Council of Ministers as well as a decision of crisis management groups, which would take them over.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a425709/Radoncic-asks-ambassadors-not-to-return-Bosnian-nationals-from-their-countries.html

FBiH Interior Minister against full quarantine, asks citizens to be patient

April 14, 2020

Aljosa Campara, the Interior Minister of Bosnia's Federation (FBiH) entity, said he was absolutely against a 24-hour quarantine and asked the citizens to have a little more patience with the measures that the authorities introduced to combat the coronavirus spread.

Speaking to N1, the minister said the situation in this half of the country is satisfying and he thanked the citizens for respecting the orders and recommendations.

“They make it easier for police officers. There are always some irresponsible individuals who disturb all that, who make problems for the police. Those are irresponsible individuals who ignore the orders, who don't respect the curfew or other measures. They deserve sanctions and all kinds of fines because they are jeopardising all other citizens,” said Campara.

It has been a month since the authorities declared the state of emergency, he recalled, stressing that most of the citizens act in the way they should but that rare individuals are not.

“We will certainly introduce stricter measures for those irresponsible ones. I understand the civil protection authorities, the pressure they feel and their concerns. What matters the most to us is that pandemic does not grow exponentially but linearly. I'm asking the citizens for a little more of patience,” said the minister.

He could not specify for how long will the anti-coronavirus measures remain in effect, noting that the authorities are closely following the situation in the rest of the region and Europe.

“In a way, the measures we imposed gave results and I hope it will stay like that, and that we will see the stage of decline at the end of April,” said the minister.

Asked if the FBiH needs a 24-hour quarantine, Campara replied he was absolutely against such a measure and that full quarantine could be introduced only if the situation escalated.

“We have to think about the citizens and how would they feel in a situation with a 24-hour quarantine,” he added.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a425473/FBiH-Interior-Minister-against-full-quarantine-asks-citizens-to-be-patient.html

NATO, US military deliver medical supplies for Bosnian citizens

April 14, 2020

US military and NATO representatives in Bosnia delivered on Tuesday the essential medical and disinfecting supplies, in response to the request that Bosnian authorities sent to NATO and its Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre for aid during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Bosnia's Security Ministry, the institution in charge of assisting the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, will forward the supplies to those in need, in all parts of the country.

This is just one of several donations made to the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina by NATO Allies as they respond to Bosnia’s request for help, said NATO HQ in Bosnia.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a425391/NATO-US-military-deliver-medical-supplies-for-people-of-Bosnia-and-Herzegovina.html

OSCE urges Republika Srpska authorities to withdraw 'fake news' decree

April 14, 2020

Senior officials of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) warned about potential violations of fundamental freedoms after the authorities of Republika Srpska, Bosnia's Serb-dominated region, issued a decree that could prevent media and journalists from reporting freely on the Covid-19 pandemic, urging the Bosnian entity to withdraw the document.

On 10 April, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Désir, and Head of the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kathleen Kavalec, sent a letter to RS President Zeljka Cvijanovic, following the adoption of a decree prohibiting incitement to panic and disorder during the state of emergency.

The decree, published in the Official Gazette of the Republika Srpska on 6 April, forbids the media and the general public from spreading false news that incites panic and prescribes significant fines for those who do so.

“We take note of the public statements by President Cvijanovic that followed our letter, in which she suggests there may be no need to implement such regulation or similar limitations,” said the OSCE officials.

“We fully understand the aim of tackling the dissemination of ‘fake news’ that could pose a risk to public health, or which could create panic and disorder during this health crisis,” Désir and Kavalec said. “However, it is important to ensure the free flow of information and that the media can work free from any kind of pressure, in order for them to provide essential information to the public, including on vital health measures,” they added.

In their letter, the OSCE officials also noted that such a decree could lead to censorship and self-censorship, as well as arbitrary and disproportionate penalties. This, they said, could undermine media freedom and the fundamental human right of freedom of expression.

Furthermore, they were particularly concerned that the decree does not provide concrete details on how these offences would be determined, or on which jurisprudence they are based.

“We recall our press statement published on 23 March 2020 (https://www.osce.org/representative-on-freedom-of-media/449041), and we encourage the authorities in the Republika Srpska to take the statement into consideration in the framework of the current state of emergency,” Désir and Kavalec said.

They called on the authorities to withdraw the decree, reiterating their readiness to assist the state and entity authorities and to provide expert analysis on any media freedom issue.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a425371/OSCE-urges-Republika-Srpska-authorities-to-withdraw-fake-news-decree.html

Sarajevo to the US: We stand with you as you have always stood with us

April 13, 2020

“We stand with you as you have always stood with us,” said the mayor's message written on the front walls of Sarajevo's City Hall, the city's landmark lit in the colours of the United States flag Monday evening.

In this way, Sarajevo has continued its campaign of showing solidarity with the countries across the globe severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic.


“The people and government of the United States of America are a proven ally and friend of the peoples and state of Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as the City of Sarajevo. This is a symbolic act, sending an important message in the days when the whole world is faced with an unprecedented threat. I am convinced that the people of US will find the strength and capacities to beat the pandemic, It is our responsibility and obligation to give a hand of support and solidarity to our friends,” said mayor Abdulah Skaka.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a425143/Sarajevo-to-United-States-We-stand-with-you-as-you-have-always-stood-with-us.html

FM asks EU to provide aid equally to everyone in Bosnia, not 'selectively'

April 13, 2020

Bosnia and Herzegovina sincerely appreciates the help of the European Union and its member states provided at this delicate moment of coronavirus pandemic, Bosnia's Foreign Minister Bisera Turkovic wrote in letters to European officials, stressing however that some of the member states were providing that help “selectively” which is opposite to the country's “delicate political and social balance” and its aspirations towards equality.

The letters come days after some countries, including Hungary and Russia, announced help to only one of Bosnia's two semi-autonomous regions, the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska, and after Croatia, also an EU member state, promised to financially help the Croats in Bosnia during the coronavirus pandemic.

In two separate letters, addressed to Josep Borrell, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and Peter Sijjarto, Hungary's Foreign Minister, Turkovic emphasised that Bosnia is “a multiethnic and multicultural country, with a delicate political and social balance, striving for equality for all its citizens.

“An approach that provided help to some, but not to others, endangers that delicate balance and presents additional, and perhaps unnecessary challenges during these overwhelming times. It is, therefore, that I ask for your assistance in conveying this important message to the EU member states,” Turkovic wrote to the EU's senior official.

In a note to her Hungarian counterpart, Turkovic underlined the same, asking for help in conveying this message to the Government of his country, expressing gratitude for all the help that Hungary provided.

                      
“Bosnia and Herzegovina very much appreciates all aid provided by Hungary in this difficult period, but we feel it is more helpful if that support is offered to all citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina and not selectively to some,” she stressed.

Expressing the appreciation for the EU's assistance in the letter for Borrell, Turkovic called for the unity and cross-border cooperation.


“Allow me to reiterate the gratefulness of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its citizens to the EU and its member states. We are all aware that needs are great in every country, and it is encouraging and inspirational to see EU member states assisting others in fragile situations. Today, more than ever, we need to act in unison and cooperate across borders in order to beat this pandemic,” said the letter.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a425135/FM-asks-EU-to-provide-aid-equally-to-everyone-in-Bosnia-not-selectively.html

Palmer: US aid helped Western Balkans tackle pandemic

April 15, 2020

US special envoy for the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer told the Voice of America that the countries of the region are in a good position to respond to the coronavirus pandemic thanks in great part to US aid.

“The countries of the Western Balkans are in a position to strongly respond to the coronavirus threat, thanks in large part of the efforts invested by the US in helping them develop their institutional capacities,” he said and recalled that his country invested billions of Dollars in aid in the region. He said that 500 million Dollars will be required for the immediate needs of the Western Balkan countries.

  Asked about aid from China and Russia, Palmer said that this is not a competition. “If China and Russia are helping Serbia and other countries in the Western Balkans, that’s great,” he said and recalled that the EU is providing even more aid and the US is sending aid directly to individual countries and through international institutions. He said that the US can provide significant amounts of aid to its partners across the world, including the Western Balkans despite the pandemic situation at home.  

According to Palmer, the aid goes both ways. “The US has done a lot to help the countries of the Western Balkans respond to COVID-19 and the Western Balkans has helped the US. The countries of the region have been generous in allowing Americans to return home from those countries often without charging for expenses. Serbia has done that, Montenegro and Albania and we are grateful for that partnership and show of solidarity,” he said.  

Palmer expressed concern over restrictions on human rights imposed during the pandemic. He said that it’s important for governments to take carefully considered decision about the extent to which they can affect rights and liberties in dealing with the crisis. The measures have to be proportional and can be lifted as soon as the pandemic ends, he said and expressed the hope that the measures will be short-term. Asked about Belgrade-Pristina relations in the current situation, Palmer said that their cooperation is encouraging. “I think that cooperation between Serbia and Kosovo on the coronavirus is truly encouraging. That is a rare piece of good news in this situation,” he said. “It’s encouraging to see Serbia and Kosovo find points in common to cooperate to get past this current threat,” he added.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a589261/Palmer-US-aid-helped-Western-Balkans-tackle-pandemic.html

Coronavirus update: Nine more deaths, 411 new case; 50-59 years old most hit

April 14, 2020

Another 411 people were infected with the coronavirus in Serbia, and nine more died from Coronavirus Disease -19, COVID-19, in the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 94, the members of the Crisis Team said at their daily news conference on Tuesday.

In that period, 2,440 people were tested.

The latest fatalities included seven men and two women with an average age of 69.

Out of 94 patients who died, 28 were women and 66 men. Their average age was 63.9. The mortality rate is 2.1 percent.

The virus spread among the medical staff, and 4,936 have been tested and 533 have been positive, while 1,062 have still been waiting for results.

Serbia Crisis Team said that children and people with autism and other special needs could go for a walk from 6 to 8 pm every day.

The Government later specified new timetable from 5 - 8 pm during the week, and from 3 to 8 pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

The decision was made after five weeks of pledges from parents of children with autism to allow them more time out.

 A total of people tested positive in Serbia since the first case appeared on March 6, was 4,465, while  3006 are hospitalised, while 131 are currently on ventilators.

The age breakdown of the infected in Serbia shows the highest number was among people between 50-29 years of age with 22.21 percent followed by those between 40-49 years with 20.73 percent, while 15.34 percent of infected were between 60 and 69 years of age.

The percentage of infected children between zero and nine years was 2.9, between 10 and 19 years of age  - 1.25, between 20 and 29 - 8.23, between 30 and 39 -15.07, between 70 and 79 - 8.77, between 80 and 89 4.92 and 0.87 with older than 90 years of age.

Serbia has until now tested a total of 23,398 people. The media conferences in Belgrade are held without journalists who are allowed to send questions via email.

The Government decision, which has been approved by medical experts, "without many thinking," has been in place since two days ago. It was explained as a preventive measure against the spreading of the infection.

Late on Monday, it was reported that there were no infected media people in Serbia's three news agencies.          

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a589033/Nine-more-people-died-from-COVID-19-in-Serbia.html

Serbia's top officials convince country's leading epidemiologist not to resign

April 14, 2020

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Prime Minister Ana Brnabic met with leading epidemiologist Predrag Kon on Tuesday after the doctor said in a Facebook post that he would step down from his position in the government’s pandemic Crisis Staff and convinced him to change his mind, N1 reported.

The state agency Tanjug said that it was told that Vucic and Brnabic convinced the doctor not to resign from the Crisis Staff.  

Kon said in the Facebook post that he realised that he and the team of experts were being blamed for the coronavirus infection of 140 people at a retirement home in the southern city of Nis. “It is time for me to withdraw and allow others to lead the way in the pandemic,” he is reported to have written in the post.

He said another reason for his decision was the request by the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) to relax the curfew on Sunday between 5 and 10 am to enable the believers to take part in Easter liturgy.

Last weekend, during the Roman Catholic Easter, the curfew was extended from Friday at 5 pm to Monday at 5 am. The clergy obeyed the curfew and did not ask for an exemption.

Kon changed his mind after meeting with President Aleksandar Vucic and Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, later on Tuesday, during which he said it was clear he had a professional duty. "I must say that without strong support from the President and the country's authorities, we wouldn't be able to do anything, except to talk about (the situation)," Kon told reporters at Tuesday's news conference.

 N1 checked Kon’s Facebook profile and could not find the post quoted by pro-government media. N1 also asked Kon for comment but got no reply.  

Kon was not at the Monday daily briefing about the coronavirus pandemic. He appeared on the morning show on the pro-government TV Pink on Tuesday but made no mention of the Facebook post nor was he asked about it. The Pink.rs web site reported later that he said he would resign but that President Vucic would try to convince him to stay on the Crisis Staff.  

Kon was promoted to the rank of Medical Corps reserve Lt Colonel at the suggestion of the president recently.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a588951/President-and-Prime-Minister-convince-leading-Serbia-s-epidemiologist-not-to-resign.html

Political uncertainty in Kosovo amid coronavirus pandemic

April 14, 2020

The Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), the main partner of Prime Minister Albin Kurti's Self-Determination movement in Pristina's outgoing Government said it would make a new coalition for early elections, the Beta news agency reported.

Amid the crisis with the coronavirus pandemic, Kosovo seems to be heading into a political uncertainty after Albin Kurti's cabinet was voted out on March 25.

His main coalition partner, Isa Mustafa, the LDK head, said on Tuesday he considered a new partnership that would include the Alliance for Kosovo Future (ABK), Socialdemocratic Initiative (SDI), The Alliance for New Kosovo (ANK) and the minorities' representatives.

Mustafa said that the LDK Main Board was ready to assume a mandate to form a new government following the Constitutional procedures.

President Hashim Thaci offered Kurti's party to name a candidate for new prime minister as stipulated by the Constitution. Still, the party failed to respond to two calls by the President.

The Constitution hasn't set the deadline for a response, and the self-Determination says its priority right now is coronavirus prevention. 

Kosovo legal experts differ on what the next move should be. Some say Thaci should offer the mandate to another party which can secure 61 votes in the 120-strong Parliament,  the option LDK is preparing for.

However, many other believe  the President should wait for Self-Determination's answer and in case it doesn't come, he should call an early vote to be held after the end of the pandemic.

In the meantime, they say, Kurti's cabinet should continue to work.    

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a589200/Kosovo-s-next-governmnet-won-t-include-Prime-Minister-Albin-Kurti-s-party.html

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