International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

IMF has €330 million for Bosnia but entities must first agree on allocation

April 9, 2020

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is prepared to provide 330 million euros in emergency assistance to Bosnia and Herzegovina but authorities in the country must first agree on how the money would be allocated between the two semi-autonomous entities, IMF Representative Andrew Jewell said on Thursday.

Jewell explained that the IMF Executive Board decided this week to increase its emergency assistance to Bosnia under its Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI) to help the country respond to the coronavirus crisis.

“Before the RFI can be approved, authorities must first reach an agreement on how the funds from the RFI will be allocated between the two entities. Failure to reach an agreement will result in the postponement of the assistance,” Jewell said.

Jewel urged political leaders to work together and reach an agreement as soon as possible.

The Executive Board has received more than 90 requests for urgent assistance and it will be difficult to set another date for it to discuss Bosnia’s request in the near future, he said.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a424029/IMF-has-330-million-for-Bosnia-but-entities-must-first-agree-on-allocation.html

Croatia confirms 64 new COVID-19 cases, 40 new recoveries, one more fatality

April 9, 2020

Sixty-four new coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Croatia in the last 24 hours, another 40 people have recovered, and one person has died, the national civil protection team said on Thursday.

"In the last 24 hours there have been 64 new COVID-19 cases, which puts the total number at 1,407," Health Minister Vili Beros said.

A total of 555 new tests have been conducted, which puts their total number at 13,680.

"Since yesterday, a patient has died in Zagreb's KB Dubrava hospital. It was an elderly man with numerous comorbidities," Beros said.

So far a total of 20 people have died from the novel COVID-19 virus.

"Thirty-four patients are on ventilators, 326 have been hospitalised while 842 infected persons are at home," Beros said.

Forty more people have recovered from the disease, which puts their total number at 219.

Four workers at Psychiatric Hospital for Children test positive for coronavirus

Two cooks, a psychiatrist and a nurse at the hospital have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, the head of the city's health department, Vjekoslav Jelec, said, adding that 42 people had been ordered to self-isolate.

Jelec said that testing had been done on 20 people and another 20 would be tested today, including children. He said that ten children were currently in the hospital, all were well and none were showing any symptoms of the disease.

"The situation is under control. Three doctors and nine nurses are looking after the children. All the necessary steps have been taken, and we have alternative solutions as well. The virus entered the hospital via technical support staff," Jelec said.

Interior Minister: Easter holidays are not the time to travel

"I would like to ask everyone planning a short trip to Croatia for the Easter holidays not to do it, for their own safety and that of the people they would like to visit, but also because it is uncertain whether they will be able to return and under what conditions to countries they would like to come from. This is not a time to travel and relax," he said.

Bozinovic said that the measures concerning farmers' markets had been introduced to enable consumers to buy fresh Croatian products and to enable the Croatian agricultural sector to sell those products, adding that the measures should not be compromised.

"We are entering a few critical weeks. Let's stay home," he said.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a424023/Croatia-confirms-64-new-COVID-19-cases-40-new-recoveries-one-more-fatality.html

Bosnia's Central Election Commission wants Parliament to postpone 2020 election

April 9, 2020

Bosnia's top electoral authority asked the State Parliament to amend the Election Law and postpone this year's local election due to COVID-19 pandemic.

The Central Election Commission, which calls and oversee election process in Bosnia, convened on Thursday and agreed to launch an initiative towards the change of Bosnia's Election Law, which would postpone the local election that was supposed to take place this year.

Proposed changes to the Election Law introduce a term of exceptional circumstances that considers an emergency situation as well as the state of natural disaster declared by competent institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which includes all levels of authority and determines that the Central Election Commission has authority to postpone the calling and holding of elections.

According to the same changes, the Commission would be in charge of the assessment of the situation and decide on calling the elections even during the exceptional circumstances, if the conditions and legal framework were met.

The Commission recalled that the state government, formally called the Council of Ministers, declared the state of natural disaster on March 17 due to the coronavirus pandemic and passed a decision on the operation of the state institutions towards the protection of health and lives of its employees.

In line with current law provisions, the Commission is supposed to call the October local election in early May.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a423981/Bosnia-s-Central-Election-Commission-wants-Parliament-to-postpone-2020-election.html

Croatia provides €5.8 mill to help Covid-19-affected Croats in Bosnia

April 9, 2020

Croatian government provided €5.8 million for Bosnia, during a session solely dedicated to the coronavirus pandemic, to help curb the Covid-19 pandemic in the country, and especially in areas where Croats live, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said Thursday.

“In this way, we showed our solidarity and support in preventing the spread of the coronavirus epidemic in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and especially in parts of that country where Croats live as a constituent people,” Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said.

"Given the constitutional guideline according to which the Republic of Croatia will protect the rights and interests of its citizens living and residing abroad and promote their ties with their homeland, which guarantees the Croatian people living in other states special care and protection by the Republic of Croatia, we provided funds in the total amount of 43 million kunas (€5.8 million) from our state budget for Croats living outside the Republic of Croatia,” Croatian Health Minister Vili Beros reported.

The funds will be allocated to health offices to help them combat the Covid-19 epidemic in Bosnia, to settle parts of their obligations to drug suppliers, as well as to buy supplies and fittings for the purpose of fighting the epidemic, Beros said.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a423943/Croatia-provides-5.8-mill-to-help-Covid-19-affected-Croats-in-Bosnia.html

Montenegro tightens confinement measures due to COVID-19 outbreak

April 9, 2020

Montenegro has decided that no more than one person can be in one public space and the new restriction, introduced to slow the spread of coronavirus, does not apply for children under 12.

The confinement measures have been tightened since a larger number of citizens was seen in the streets of urban areas in the past few days, despite the authorities' measures of social distancing aimed at curbing the spread of this infectious disease.

The new restrictions take effect on Thursday.

In the last 24 hours, there have been eight new infections with the novel virus in Montenegro, whereas 315 have been tested, the health authorities said on Wednesday.

Since the outbreak of the disease on 17 March, a total of 249 Montenegrins have tested positive for the virus, two of which have died to date.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a423861/Montenegro-tightens-confinement-measures-due-to-COVID-19-outbreak.html

One dead, 201 new coronavirus cases confirmed

April 9, 2020                                                                               

The Serbian Health Care Ministry reported one coronavirus-related death and 201 new cases in its daily bulletin on Thursday.

A total of 66 people have died and 2,867 tested positive since the outbreak of the pandemic, the COVID19.rs web site said, adding that 1,907 people who tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus had been hospitalized, including 127 who are on respirators.  

The bulletin said that 1,586 people had been tested over the previous 24 hours, bringing the total number of people tested to 12,347.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a587343/One-dead-201-new-coronavirus-cases-confirmed.html

Serbian government officially extends weekend curfew

April 9, 2020

The Serbian government said in a statement on Thursday that it had changed the duration of the curfew imposed under the state of emergency to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

The weekend curfew has been extended from Friday at 5:00 pm to Monday at 5:00 am with people over the age of 65 allowed to leave their homes to shop between 4:00 am and 7:00 am on Friday, the statement said.

The municipal authorities in Mitrovica North and Zvecan decided to impose a curfew between noon and 6:00 am for the next two weeks as part of efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic after a rise in the number of confirmed cases in those tow Serb-majority communities.

Dog owners are now allowed to walk them between 8:00 and 10:00 am on Saturday and Sunday and every night of the week between 11:00 pm and 1:00 am, it added.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a587487/Serbian-government-officially-extends-weekend-curfew.html

Coronavirus death rates in the former Yugoslav republics

April 9, 2020

The average death rate of coronavirus-related ailments in the countries of the former Yugoslavia stands at 2.7 percent.

Death rates are calculated based on the total number infections and the number of deaths.

Data from the six countries that once made up Yugoslavia shows that there were 7,179 confirmed coronavirus cases on April 9 and 196 deaths.

Serbia has a death rate of 2.3 percent as well as the highest number of confirmed cases (2,867) and deaths (66).

The death rate in the coronavirus pandemic stood highest in North Macedonia at 4.5 perent. That country registered 663 coronavirus cases and reported 30 dead in the pandemic.

Bosnia-Herzegovina had 857 cases on April 9, 35 dead and a death rate of 4.1 percent. The death rate in Slovenia stood at 3.8 percent, with 1,124 confirmed cases and 43 deaths.

Croatia’s death rate in the pandemic stood at 1.4 percent. The country has 1,407 cases and a total of 20 people dead.

Montenegro has the lowest death rate (0.8 percent) with 252 people who tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and two deaths.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a587479/Coronavirus-death-rates-in-the-former-Yugoslav-republics.html

Western Balkans call for EU exemption on exports of medical gear

April 9, 2020

Western Balkan foreign ministers called the European Union to exempt their countries from the restrictions imposed on exports of medical protective equipment during the coronavirus pandemic, the Politico portal said on Thursday.

The portal recalled that the EU adopt an export authorization scheme for some things such as face masks to stop member states from imposing national export bans and increase the level of solidarity within the Union while at the same time preventing non-EU countries from buying large quantities of protective equipment.  

Politico said that The foreign ministers of Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia complained in a letter to EU High Representative Josep Borrell, Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan and Neighborhood Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi that the restrictions made it "more difficult" to buy protective gear. "Our region only has a population of 17 million people. Our purchase of these goods would not have a negative impact on the EU market," Politico quoted the letter, dated April 7, as saying.  

It added that the EU has already exempted eight other neighboring countries from the scheme - Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, the Faeroe Islands, Andorra, San Marino and Vatican City.  

The foreign ministers said in the letter that exempting the Western Balkans from the export control would "send a strong signal to our citizens that in this we are all together as Europeans."

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a587445/Western-Balkans-call-for-EU-exemption-on-exports-of-medical-gear.html

Serbia doesn’t have the personnel for mass testing, doctor says

April 9, 2020

The Serbian health care system does not have the personnel for mass testing for the coronavirus, an epidemiologist on the government pandemic Crisis Staff told Thursday’s daily news briefing.

“When it comes to mass testing we are slowing increasing the numbers but we simply don’t have the personnel to respond to the pressure of a sudden increase. No one expected that and someone thought that we could do three times more than we really can,” Dr Predrag Kon said.

He warned of a shortage of medical staff. “We are short of medical staff, people to input data and logistics which requires a medical education and that is complicated,” he said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a587405/Serbia-doesn-t-have-the-personnel-for-mass-testing-doctor-says.html

Yura plant workers protest working conditions

April 9, 2020

Workers protested on Thursday in front of the Yura plant in the southern city of Nis, refusing to enter the factory until the company secures the necessary conditions for work in coronavirus pandemic conditions.

The workers have been protesting since Wednesday. Some told an N1 reporter that a group of 40 workers enter the plant because their workplaces are in isolation. The workers said they have been offered a bonus of 1,000 Dinars (1 Euro – 118 Dinars) for every day at work and 2,000 on Saturdays with another 1,000 for working five days in a row or 2,000 for 10 days in a row.

In a related but separate development, a worker at the Yura plant in Raca was arrested just before he was scheduled to make a statement for N1 following a protest by dissatisfied workers. Yura employee Slavisa Pajovic was walking with an N1 reporter to the place where a camera was set up when he was stopped by police and taken to the local police station.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a587395/Yura-plant-workers-protest-working-conditions.html

COVID-19 UPDATES: Federation entity reports 36 new cases, 857 in total

April 9, 2020

12:00 Today we have 36 new fellow citizens positive to coronavirus, Federation (FBiH) entity's Crisis Staff member Goran Cerkez said during a press conference.

“A total of 475 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed so far (in the entity) and over the past 24 hours, 415 tests were made which shows that this number is stagnating. This means that we're testing over 400 patients per day,” Cerkez noted.

Following this press conference, the total number of infected patients in Bosnia now stands at 857.

9:00 Bosnia's first coronavirus reports started coming in and so far the health authorities reported 28 new COVID-19 cases and one more death.

According to Alen Seranic, the Health Minister in Bosnia's Serb-dominated Republika Srpska entity, this part of the country recorded 17 new COVID-19 cases and one death.

''Over the past 24 hours, 416 samples have been tested in Republika Srpska, 17 of which were positive. As for the University Clinical Centre of Republika Srpska (Banja Luka Hospital), they mainly test persons with symptoms. Nine people have been hospitalized and the rest will be placed under medical supervision. One of the doctors from the hospital also tested positive for coronavirus,” Minister Seranic said.

The patient who died was a 72-year-old from Banja Luka who had multiple chronic pre-existing conditions, the Banja Luka Hospital said.

Sarajevo's University Hospital confirmed that out of 61 samples, five tested positive for COVID 19.

According to Herzegovina Neretva Canton's Civil Protection headquarters, 16 persons tested positive for the virus, over the past 24 hours, and most of them were from the south Bosnian town of Citluk (15) and one from Jablanica.

The total number of COVID-19 patients in Bosnia is over 800, 35 people died and over 1,600 are under medical observation.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a587297/Bosnia-reports-over-800-cases-of-coronavirus-35-people-died.html

Fajon: I hope no Serbia's official will use crisis to score political points

April 9, 2020

Tanja Fajon, an MEP, told N1 on Thursday she 'sincerely' hoped there were no political force or a responsible politician in Serbia who would use the current crisis to score political points, adding she had criticised Serbia's Government over a measure to limit the flow of information about the coronavirus epidemic - which it quickly withdrew - because she saw it as "the announcement of censorship."

"As a former journalist, I saw that as curbing the freedom of media and expression. The next day it was annulled. Also, a journalist was arrested, and I considered that as a wrong decision, Fajon said.

She added that "that's not a situation in which politicians from either side of the political spectre, will look for a benefit. We are jointly responsible for finding solutions for all citizens."

Fajon said she was following what was elsewhere too, adding an example from Hungary where Prime Minister Victor Orban "currently has unlimited powers due to coronavirus."

She warned that by introducing the emergency measures, some countries were "deteriorating democracy, the rule of law and media freedom."

Referring to Serbia, Fajon said she was worried about President Aleksandar Vucic's statement that the European Union did not help the country and about the glorification of aid from China and Russia.

"It has to be known that the EU financial support is substantially bigger. By the end of the last week, the agreement on almost five million Euro grants was signed in Belgrade to help Serbia fighting against COVID-19. It is just a part of the financial support worth 93 million Euro for Serbia," Fajon said.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a587241/Fajon-warns-about-deteriorating-democracy-the-rule-of-law-and-media-freedom.html

Bilčík: Freedom of expression, media to be guaranteed during state of emergency

April 9, 2020

The European Parliament (EP) Raportauer for Serbia Vladimír Bilčík said that the guarantees for the freedom of expression and media should be respected even during the state of emergency, adding the EP oversaw the situation in Serbia carefully," the Danas daily reported on Thursday.

 "I was very concerned with Ms (journalist Ana) Lalic arrest last week. But I was relieved when Serbia's Government reacted fastly and withdrew measures for 'centralising' public information," Bilčík told the daily.

He added that "it should be taken into account that as soon as the situation on the ground allows, general and local elections are due in Serbia."

"We (the EP) are carefully watching the situation in your country and will continue to do that," Bilčík said.

"If the authorities in China informed the world and their people about COVID-19 spreading in December, the current pandemic would have been substantially less serious everywhere, including Serbia."

 Commenting on aid Serbia was receiving from China and the EU, he said that "it is important to talk about what the EU is doing."

But, referring to China, he said that "if the authorities there informed the world and their people about COVID-19 spreading in December, the current pandemic would have been substantially less serious everywhere, including Serbia."

"EU firmly supports our Western Balkans' partners with concrete steps and commitments. The EU is there for people in Serbia in good times and bad," Bilčík said, recalling the EU aid to the country during the 2014 floods.

He said the EU "has so far mobilized 15 million Euro for direct aid to the health care system and was offering 78.4 million Euro for the social and economic recovery from coronavirus epidemic across Serbia."

"Last Friday alone, the EU with its UN partners allocated 4.9 million Euro for purchasing respirators, tests and protective equipment for all people in Serbia who are daily fighting coronavirus 'on the first frontline'," Bilčík said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a587223/Economic-plan-for-Western-Balkans-developmentU.html

BU Senate worries about punishment of PBF Docent after talking to Nova S TV

April 9, 2020

The members of the Belgrade University (BU) Senate said on Thursday they were concerned about the punishment of Theology Faculty (PBF) professor Vukasin Milicevic imposed by the Orthodox Church Patriarch Irinej after Milicevic took part in the latest Nova S talk show, the Belgrade Dans daily reported on Thursday.

 Irinej banned him from public appearance, suspended him from priestly duty and report him to the Church court.

BU Rector Ivanka Popovic told the daily that the students started signing a petition against the punishment. So far, 80 PBF students and 400 more from other faculties supported Milicevic and the freedom of speech.

Popovic said she didn’t want to discuss the issues that fell under the Church jurisdiction, but recalled the BU Code of professional ethics under which the members of the academic community had the right to public appearance and present own views.

"We must have conditions at the University which allow public appearance to all members of the academic community. As the academic community, we have to be concerned about the punishment, but we don’t want that to be understood as interfering with the Church internal aaffairs,” Popovic said.

However, the Theology Faculty Dean Zoran Rankovic, said Milicevic was punished as a priest, not as a professor, and that the Faculty had nothing to do with that.

"That’s about the relationship between a priest and the respective archbishop, so the Faculty has no jurisdiction. Thus, there is even less sense in expressing the Senate opinion. It’s the Church business," Rankovic said.

Popovic said that it would be difficult to make a difference between what a person said as a professor or a priest since a majority of the Theology Faculty professors also had a priestly duty.

The Dean of the Civil Engeneering School Vladan Kuzmanovic said Irinej’s decision did not explicitly say whether the ban referred to Milicevic as a priest or professor, adding the latter would not be right.     

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a587199/BU-concerned-about-Church-punishment-of-its-priest.html

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