International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Coronavirus on April 20: Slovenia

April 20, 2021

The Slovenian government said that 8 people died of coronavirus-related ailments in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 4,167 since the pandemic broke out.

It said that 3,537 people had been tested for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, including 718 who tested positive. There are 12,331 active cases.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/coronavirus-pandemic-daily-regional-update-on-april-20-2021/

Croatia's coronavirus update: 2,106 new cases, 42 deaths

April 20, 2021

In the past 24 hours, 9,831 coronavirus tests have been performed in Croatia and of them 21.4%, that is 2,106, have turned out to be positive, the country's COVID-19 crisis management team stated on Tuesday.

The COVID-related death toll has increased by 42 to 6,643.

Croatia has currently 13,999 active cases, including 2,198 patients who are receiving hospital treatment and of them 213 are placed on ventilators.

As many as 30,534 people are self-isolating.

Since the outbreak of the infection on 25 February last year, 1,713,174 people have been tested for the virus. So far Croatia has registered 310,306 coronavirus cases, and 289,664 recovered patients, including 1,877 in the past 24 hours.

Since the beginning of this year, 698,032 COVID vaccine doses have been administered under Croatia's vaccine rollout plan. The press release reads that until 19 April, 556,969 people have been given shots against this disease. As many as 413,812 people have received the first dose of the two-dose vaccine, and 141,063 have been inoculated with both doses.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/croatias-coronavirus-update-2106-new-cases-42-deaths/

Bosnia reports 722 new coronavirus cases and 86 fatalities

April 20, 2021

Bosnian health officials reported 722 new Covid-19 cases on Friday, along with 86 virus-related fatalities.

The country's Federation (FBiH) entity reported 357 new cases after testing 2,958 samples for the new coronavirus. The entity's Public Health Institute said they recorded 55 deaths caused by the virus.

The Republika Srpska (RS) region said they registered 268 new cases of the disease after testing 787 suspected samples. This entity also reported having 25 fatalities over the last 24 hours.

Brcko District health officials said they recorded 97 new coronavirus cases along with six fatalities.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/bosnia-reports-722-new-coronavirus-cases-and-86-fatalities/

Coronavirus UPDATE: 32 deaths, 2,965 new cases

April 20, 2021

The Serbian Health Ministry said in its daily 3:00 pm bulletin on Tuesday that 32 people died of coronavirus-related ailments over the previous 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 6,058.

It said that 15,562 people had been tested over the previous 24 hours, including 2,965 who tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

The total number of people tested to date stands at 3,711,555 with 667,937 confirmed cases.

The bulletin said that there are 6,512 hospitalized cases, including 219 patients on ventilators.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/coronavirus-update-32-deaths-2965-new-cases/

Coronavirus on April 20: Kosovo

April 20, 2021

The authorities in Pristina said that 14 people died of coronavirus-related ailments in the past 24 hours in Kosovo, bringing the total number of deaths to 2,100 since the pandemic broke out.

It said that 3,090 people had been tested for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, including 442 who tested positive. There are 11,756 active cases. Another 957 patients were reported to have recovered from COVID-19.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/coronavirus-pandemic-daily-regional-update-on-april-20-2021/

Coronavirus on April 20: North Macedonia

April 20, 2021

The North Macedonia Health Ministry said that 31 people died of coronavirus-related ailments in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 4,509 since the pandemic broke out.

It said that 3,171 people had been tested for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, including 766 who tested positive. There are 18,658 active cases. Another 1,118 patients were reported to have recovered from COVID-19.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/coronavirus-pandemic-daily-regional-update-on-april-20-2021/

Coronavirus numbers continue to fall in Slovenia

April 20, 2021

In the past 24 hours Slovenia has registered 718 new coronavirus cases and the number of new cases is continuing to fall however a new cluster has emerged in an aged-care facilities with more than 30 residents being infected.

Of the 3,537 PCR tests taken, 718 proved positive which is a rate of 20.3%. That is a much better situation than a week ago when there were 1,049 new infections and a rate of 22.9% of positive tests, government representatives told a press conference. They warned that the situation in hospitals is not calming down and 71 new COVID patients were admitted on Monday, bringing the number of hospitalized cases to 649.

The fourteen-day incidence rate is still relatively high at 584.

In the past 24 hours, eight people died as a consequence of COVID, five of whom were hospitalized patients and the death toll has now climbed to 4,167.

The number of active cases is stable currently at 12,331, while the seven-day average increase in one day has fallen from 785 to 737, the government's official data indicates.

So far 17.8% of the population has received at least one dose of two-dose vaccines and the government expects that more than half the adult population will have been inoculated by the start of summer.

Most of the fatal cases are among the elderly population and these mostly being in aged-care facilities where the situation is much better than it was at the peak of the second wave of the epidemic late last year when the daily incidence rate was more than 160 residents and 130 staff in aged-care facilities, state-secretary in the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare,  Cveto Ursic explained.

Thanks to inoculation and good organization, at the start of this month the average number of new cases in aged-care facilities has come down to less than 30 new cases among a population of almost 19,000 beneficiaries and 12,000 staff, he underlined.

One of the rare hotspots has been identified in an aged-care facility in Trbovlje where more than 30 residents have caught the virus including some who have been inoculated. However, all of them have developed mild symptoms and do not need hospital treatment, the local health authorities said.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/coronavirus-numbers-continue-to-fall-in-slovenia/

EU confirms vaccine quantity and delivery dates for Western Balkans

April 20, 2021

European Union is sending 651,000 Pfizer/BioNTech doses for the Western Balkans, of which Bosnia and Herzegovina will receive the largest portion, 214,000 doses, the EU officials confirmed on Tuesday.

The first delivery to all partners in the region is expected in May with regular tranches to continue until August. The doses are intended for the immunisation of health workers and vulnerable groups.

“Despite the current global shortage, the EU will deliver life-saving vaccines for the Western Balkans. We have provided support from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic: First, with emergency medical equipment like masks, ventilators, intensive care units and ambulance vehicles; second, by strengthening the resilience,” said European Neighbourhood and Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi, according to a European Commission press release.

“We care about the Western Balkans whose future is in the European Union,” he added.

The vaccine delivery will be carried out with the support of Austria through the legal arrangement with the producers and the Western Balkans partners. The doses are funded from the 70 million euro package adopted by the Commission in December 2020 to help cover the cost of vaccines, secured under the EU's advance purchase agreements for the Western Balkan partners.

“It is crucial to speed up the vaccination campaign everywhere,” said European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, adding that the EU stands by its partners in the region “who have been looking to us for support.

“We are in this together,” she wrote on her Twitter addressing the people of Western Balkans in local languages.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/eu-confirms-vaccine-quantity-and-delivery-dates-for-western-balkans/

Serbian security agency files charges against former policeman

April 20, 2021

Serbia’s top civilian security agency and its chief filed charges against former police officer Milan Dumanovic over claims that the agency was sharing the profits of drug trafficking with the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS).

The Security Information Agency (BIA) issued a statement saying that the agency and its Director Bratislav Gasic filed charges against Dumanovic over his statements in the Impression of the Week talk show. Speaking on the Sunday evening show, Dumanovic, a former officer with the Police Covert Surveillance Section, said that “the BIA and SNS were sharing money from drugs”. Dumanovic was fired from the police after claiming that officers from his section had been sent to Bosnia-Herzegovina with then Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic in violation of all regulations. Vucic was assaulted by the crowd at the Potocari memorial center during a commemoration for the victims of the Srebrenica massacres.

The BIA filed the charges of causing panic and unrest while Gasic sued him for insults. “Dumanovic’s claims are an attempt to sow panic among the public through misinformation and weaken the integrity and authority of the national security service,” the statement said, adding that he obstructed BIA measures aimed at protecting the country from current threats, especially organized crime, by creating dissatisfaction and weakening trust in the BIA.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/serbian-security-agency-files-charges-against-former-policeman/

EU, CoE call Serbian media to refrain from hate speech

April 20, 2021

The European Union and Council of Europe (CoE) said in a joint report on Tuesday that the media in Serbia should refrain from hate speech and establish a system of self-regulation.

“The media have powerful impact on Serbian society and a corresponding responsibility in addressing hate speech. Media representatives should not only refrain from using hate speech but also emphasize and promote positive and value-driven arguments about members of vulnerable groups, thus contributing to breaking predominant stereotypes and prejudices. The legal framework in place does not appear to be effective – it is necessary for the media community to establish a system of collective self-regulation based on agreed codes of conducts and mechanisms to deal with complaints of hate speech,” the Report on the Use of Hate Speech in the Serbian Media said.

The report said that Serbia needs a media environment that will enable a vivid and balanced public debate and citizens to receive impartial information on issues of public concern, adding that hate speech needs to be eradicated.

The report was drawn up under the joint EU/CoE Promotion of Diversity and Equality in Serbia project.

A press release quoted CoE Belgrade office head Tobias Flessenkemper as saying that the pandemic has given rise to a new wave of hate speech. “I am concerned about a further polarization of public discourse… COVID-19 related hate speech includes expressions of contempt against individuals and groups. Scapegoating, stereotyping, stigmatization and the use of derogatory and sometimes violent language can be seen also in Serbia. It is targeted particularly against people and groups who are already marginalized: older persons, Roma, LGBTI people, ethnic minorities, migrants, and foreigners.  Though hate speech is often spread by members of the general public, its consequences are exacerbated by the inflammatory rhetoric of politicians and others in a position of influence, including the media”, he said.

It also quoted the deputy head of the EU Delegation in Serbia Mateja Norcic Stamcar who said that “hate speech is a universal problem and unified and coordinated approach in tackling it is necessary… The European Commission is following closely the measures that Serbia is taking to fight hate speech, but this fight is a chain in which everyone has its link of responsibility”.

The report, covering the November–December 2020 period, confirmed the findings of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) in its 2017 report on Serbia which noted the frequent use of inflammatory, pejorative and nationalistic language and continuing coverage of hate speech by politicians and other public figures.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/eu-coe-call-serbian-media-to-refrain-from-hate-speech/

United Media: violations of media freedom at worrying level


April 20, 2021

United Media, an international company operating in Serbia, said on Tuesday that it warned the public, local and European institutions on several occasions about the worrying level of violations of media freedom that it faced and is facing again.

“Fear and self-censorship, caused by the ruling establishment’s control of the media, are so deeply embedded in every pore of society that we are witnessing the fact that there isn’t a single printing press in Serbia that would agree to print the new daily newspaper Nova which has been designed as an alternative to the existing print media,” United Media said.

It said that negotiations with companies whose basic business is printing newspapers and magazines. Politika, Borba, Ringier Axel Springer, Color Press, Grafoprodukt have given various explanations and did not accept the job. United Media added: “From silence to the claims that they “don’t have the capacities for the job” to “machines have broken down” the excuses came for why they do not want to with a few rare ones openly saying that they fear the reaction of the authorities”.

“Can it be that Ringier as the biggest and most modern printer in Serbia as they call themselves does not have the capacity to print the Nova newspaper alongside Blic, Kurir, Informer, Srpski Telegraf, and Objektiv, or is the editorial policy the big problem which is different in this case?” United Media said. “We have reason to doubt the truthfulness of the answers bearing in mind that all those printing presses recently had the capacity for much higher daily circulations,” it said.

According to United Media, this confirms the lack of media pluralism in Serbia. “The authorities have taken editorial control of all TV stations with national frequencies, the state company Telekom has used huge funds on several occasions to invest in infrastructure, content and the acquisition of other operators to establish its domination of cable channels. Through a non-transparent contract worth 38 million Euro, the state has become the owner of the Kurir tabloid and people close to the ruling regime bought Studio B, the HIT FM, TDI, JAT, Karolina radio stations, Vecernje Novosti daily, the Tabloid Alo, and the state news agency Tanjug,” the press release said.

United Media said that a state monopoly has been established on the media scene in Serbia and a campaign is constantly being waged to shut down the few remaining free media, including N1 and Nova S.

“Local and international organizations have expressed deep concern over the state of media freedom in Serbia. In its annual report, Reporters Without Borders warned that “Serbia is a country with weak institutions that is prey to fake news spread by government-backed sensational media, a country where journalists are subjected to almost daily attacks that increasingly come from the ruling elite and pro-government media” which is why its important to prevent the remaining voices of independent journalism from being silenced and give the public access to free, professional media and true information and for the Nova daily newspaper to appear on newsstands across the country soon,” United Media said.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/united-media-violations-of-media-freedom-at-worrying-level/


Serbian Finance Ministry says bankrupt bank NPLs sold

April 20, 2021

The Serbian Finance Ministry said on Tuesday that the second package of non-performing loans from bankrupt banks worth 1.82 billion euros.

The NPLs were managed by the Deposit Insurance Agency. The Finance Ministry did not specify the buyer of the NPLs nor what they will pay for the package. “The Deposit Insurance Agency successfully sold the so-called big portfolio of debts of eight bankrupt banks and the debts managed by the Agency for the Republic of Serbia nominally worth 1.82 billion Euro,” the press release said.

The first package of those NPLs was sold in February 2019 to the German EOS Matrix that paid 11.29 million euros for the debt package worth some 240 million.

The press release quoted Finance Minister Sinisa Mali who said that the sale means that the decades-old problem of bankrupt banks in Serbia is being resolved. He said that investors made their final offers in September 2020.

The press release said that the sale of the second NPL portfolio was defined as a reform goal in Serbia’s earlier arrangement with the International Monetary Fund.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/serbian-finance-ministry-says-bankrupt-bank-npls-sold/

Serbian Parliament Speaker says inter-party talks to open on April 26

Aprl 20, 2021

Serbian Parliament Speaker Ivica Dacic said on Tuesday that the talks to improve election conditions between political parties that do not want European Union mediation will start on April 26.

Dacic said that the first meeting would be attended by the Serb Patriotic Alliance, Serbian Radical Party (SRS), Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), and Dosta je Bilo (DJB) movement. He said that President Aleksandar Vucic had been invited to the talks.

He called all other interested parties to join in the inter-party dialogue, especially those that refuse to accept the mediation of the European Parliament.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/serbian-parliament-speaker-says-inter-party-talks-to-open-on-april-26/

Croatian daily says Serbian Constitutional Court ruled in favor of migrants

April 20, 2021

A Croatian daily reported on Tuesday that the Serbian Constitutional Court ruled that the border police violated the rights of 17 Afghans who were pushed back over the border into Bulgaria.

Vecernji.hr said that the Constitutional Court ordered the state to pay the migrants 1,000 Euro each for the pushback. It quoted lawyer Nikola Kovacevic who said that this was an important ruling which sends a message to state bodies that they have to keep their practices on the border in line with Serbian and international law. The daily said that this a rare admission by a European state that migrants were thrown out of the country in violation of both European Union and other international laws.

Migrants passing through the Balkans on their way to the European Union have testified to the violent practices of the border police contrary to official claims, it said.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/croatian-daily-says-serbian-constitutional-court-ruled-in-favor-of-migrants/

Women’s rights organization demands investigation into sexual abuse claims

April 20, 2021

The Women Against Violence Network on Tuesday called the Serbian prosecution to immediately investigate claims of the involvement of United Serbia (JS) leader Dragan Markovic Palma MP in the pimping of young girls and women in the town of Jagodina.

The Network also called Markovic to resign from all posts he holds and take “political and personal responsibility”. It called the Serbian parliament and government and state bodies in charge of tackling human trafficking and gender equality to inform the public of the steps they have taken to investigate the allegations made against Markovic and other officials. Party of Freedom and Justice (SSP) official Marinika Tepic showed reporters a video of an unnamed man who claimed that Markovic and other officials in Jagodina were forcing young women and girls to trade sexual favors for jobs.

“We condemn every form of abuse of women and girls and demand a thorough investigation of this case of sexual violence against them as well as other cases which have surfaced in Serbia recently, deeply upsetting the public,” a statement said.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/womens-rights-organization-demands-investigation-into-sexual-abuse-claims/

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