International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

EU commissioner to Vucic: Money for immediate needs approved

March 31, 2020

European Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi told President Aleksandar Vucic that Serbia would be granted access to 15 million Euro for immediate needs to combat the coronavirus pandemic, a press release from the president’s cabinet said on Tuesday.

The Commissioner for Expansion and Neighborhood policy is quoted as saying that he instructed the relevant European Union services to allow the use of the funds for immediate needs which will be financed from current agreements with UNOPS and the UNDP and from the European integration support program.  

The press release said that Vucic and Várhelyi spoke by telephone about cooperation in combating the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease it causes as well as EU aid to Serbia and the Western Balkans.  

The commissioner said that he also requested the possible re-directing of the remaining 20.8 million Euro from the European integration program for short-term needs and the re-directing of 57.6 million Euro intended for other projects with the approval of the Serbian government. Várhelyi also offered Serbia the possibility of joining the voluntary agreement on joint procurement.  

Vucic said that he is counting on EU support in dealing with the economic consequences of the pandemic. He added that Serbia will meet its obligations on the European integration path and will show solidarity with the EU member states worst hit by the coronavirus.  

The press release said the Vucic and Várhelyi agreed on the need for the Western Balkans and EU to coordinate measures to combat the pandemic.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a583952/EU-commissioner-to-Vucic-Money-for-immediate-needs-approved.html

AP: Vucic assumes full power under state of emergency

March 31, 2020

The Associated Press said on Tuesday that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has assumed full power during the state of emergency which includes some of the strictest measures that have been imposed in Europe to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

        “The Serbian leader, who makes dramatic daily appearances issuing new decrees, has assumed full power, prompting an outcry from opponents who say he has seized control of the state in an unconstitutional manner,” the AP said, adding that since the “open-ended state of emergency was declared on March 15, parliament has been sidelined, borders shut, a 12-hour police-enforced curfew imposed and people over 65 banned from leaving their homes”.  

“Serbia’s president warned residents that Belgrade’s graveyards won’t be big enough to bury the dead if people ignore his government’s lockdown orders,” it said added that the images of a huge hall at Belgrade Fair being transformed into a makeshift hospital “has triggered widespread public fear of the detention camp-looking facility”.

 “According to Johns Hopkins University, testing (for the coronavirus in Serbia) has been extremely limited and experts believe the figures greatly under-represent the real number of victims,” the AP story said.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a583901/AP-Vucic-assumes-full-power-under-state-of-emergency.html

Serbia: New 44 coronavirus cases, three more dead; measures with Chinese team

March 31, 2020

Until Monday at 3 pm, 44 news cases of coronavirus were confirmed in Serbia, bringing a total of infected to 785 people, 16 of whom have died so far, three since Sunday at 3 pm, N1 reported.

In the last 24 hours, 622 potential patients were tested, while since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, 3,084 people were tested.

Out of those tested positive, 540 are hospitalised, and 33 are in a temporary hospital at Belgrade Fair.  

Serbia’s Prime Minister said later on Monday that the country’s medical experts would bring all future decisions linked to the coronavirus pandemic in consultation with their Chinese colleagues who had been in Belgrade for two weeks now. 

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a583587/In-the-last-24-hours-44-more-infected-with-COVID-19-in-Serbia-total-785.html

Vucic: 24 hour curfew unless public behavior changes

March 31, 2020

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on Sunday night that he would call for a 24 hour curfew if the population does not change its behavior in the coronavirus pandemic, adding that the measure could be imposed immediately if deemed necessary.

The Serbian authorities declared a state of emergency in mid-March which includes a curfew which was originally in place from 5:00 pm to 5:00 am but has been extended on weekends from 3:00 pm to 5:00 am. It also includes a ban on movement for anyone over the age of 65 in urban areas and over the age of 70 in rural areas. Dog owners were allowed out for 20 minutes between 8:00 and 9:00 pm but that decision has also been revoked.

“Unless our behavior changes, I will propose that the government should impose a 24 hour curfew,” he said speaking live on the pro-government TV Prva adding that the stricter measure could be imposed next week which would mean that “no one can be on the street”.  

President Vucic said that the government will pay small and micro company owners and employees minimum wages for three months if they don’t fire more than 10 percent of their staff during the state of emergency and would defer their taxes and other dues adding that this will cost the state 700 million Euro. He said that the government is drawing up an aid package for the economy worth five billion Euro and that it is considering the payment of 100 Euro to every adult Serbian to increase spending.

“If we need to we will take that decision and that means that no one can be on the streets,” he said. Vucic said that whoever is outside will be arrested. Asked how people would do their shopping, he said no one would go to the shops.  

According to the president, the Chinese measures mean complete isolation which, he said, Serbian doctors agree with. He explained that if a complete ban on movement is imposed over a 14 day period there will be no new coronavirus cases in those two weeks and the number of cases will drop. “I am waiting for the Chinese experts to say if they see that in the numbers and once they say so we will impose it within a half hour,” Vucic said. He added that Serbia could get out of the pandemic in less than two months if the population were disciplined about keeping to the rules.  

The president said that the medical system will have the capacity to do 3,000 tests for the coronavirus a day within a week and that “the best” laboratory will be completed by April 8 or 9 as a donation from China.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a583411/Vucic-24-hour-curfew-unless-public-behavior-changes.html

Long queues outside Belgrade shops after Vucic says may introduce 24-hour curfew

March 30, 2020

The latest measures introduced by Serbia’s officials limited the working hours of retail stores to 3 pm during the week and 1 pm on weekends and completely closed open markets to prevent the spreading the coronavirus pandemic, N1 reported on Monday.

Also, the city’s streets will be treated with sodium hypochlorite as soon as enough material is secured. Many people warned that the treatment would imperil numerous stray dogs and cats.

However, the most upsetting news was President Aleksandar Vucic’s statement about a possibility to impose a 24-hour curfew.

Speaking to a TV late on Sunday, Vucic said that the decision might be brought within two or three days if people continue to behave irresponsibly.

He said he didn’t know how that would function because that would be the first time for him. But added shopping would not be allowed.

That made Belgraders to rush to food stores, queuing to buy supplies. Some, as N1 TV showed with masks and gloves, some without.

Also, the so-called social distance up to two meters apart could hardly be obeyed in such long queues, especially in the central streets.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a583735/Belgraders-fear-24-hour-curfew-President-says-may-introduce.html

RFE: Lajcak to take over as EU envoy for Western Balkans this week

March 31, 2020

Slovak diplomat Miroslav Lajcak will take office as European Union Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue and for the Western Balkans later this week, Radio Free Europe reported on Tuesday.

RFE said that it was granted access to a document which shows that Lajcak will begin his one-year term in office on April 2 a day after EU member state ambassadors are due to confirm his appointment as nominated by EU High Representative Josep Borell.  

The document says that Lajcak’s main job is to reach a comprehensive normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo with a legally binding agreement that would resolve all open questions between the two sides in line with international law and contribute to regional stability.  

The former Slovak Foreign Minister served as his country’s ambassador in Belgrade and High Representative for Bosnia-Herzegovina. He was also the EU envoy monitoring the referendum on Montenegro’s independence.   Lajcak’s appointment met with opposition from Kosovo President Hashim Thaci who accused him of preventing Slovakia from recognizing Kosovo.  

RFE recalled that Serbia and Kosovo both aspire to membership in the EU which has set the normalization of their relations as a condition for accession to the Union.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a583847/RFE-Lajcak-to-take-over-as-EU-envoy-for-Western-Balkans-this-week.html

NGO charges Vucic, Mali with violating quarantine regulations

March 31, 2020

A Serbian local NGO has filed criminal charges against President Aleksandar Vucic and Finance Minister Sinisa Mali for failing to obey medical regulations during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Toplica Center for Democracy and Human Rights filed the charges against the President and Finance Minister because they did not self-isolate themselves after a trip to Hungary during the state of emergency imposed to fight the pandemic. A press release recalled that they traveled to Hungary on March 22 to meet with Prime Minister Viktor Orban and other officials.  

The NGO said that Vucic and Mali should be detained because they might commit the same violations of the health regulations. Under the state of emergency, anyone entering the country has to be in isolation for a period of 28 days or face fines and prison sentences. Serbian courts have sentenced several people to between two and three years in jail for violating self-isolation orders after returning home from abroad.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a583845/NGO-charges-Vucic-Mali-with-violating-quarantine-regulations.html

Coronavirus infection confirmed in 102 people in Kosovo

March 30, 2020                

Kosovo’s National Institute for Public Health said on Monday that out of 69 tested people, 12 new cases of coronavirus were confirmed during the day, totalling 102, the Beta news agency reported.

 All 12, the Institute said in a statement were positive after contacts with already infected.

The Infectious Diseases Clinic in Pristina said earlier on Monday that five of their patients were in severe medical condition, one of whom is in an extremely difficult state.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a583799/One-hundred-and-two-people-infected-with-coronavirus-in-Kosovo.html

COVID-19 UPDATES: Another three people test positive, 358 cases in Bosnia

March 30, 2020

Three people tested positive for COVID-19 in the central Bosnian town of Kakanj, bringing the total number of coronavirus patients in the country to 358.

16:20 Authorities in the Herzegovina-Neretva Canton confirmed that another person tested positive to COVID-19 in the southern town of Citluk.

There are more than 350 confirmed coronavirus cases in the country and the number keeps increasing by the hour.

There were two coronavirus-related deaths since Monday morning in Bosnia.

Another person who passed away due to heart failure also tested positive for the virus.

11:55 Two more patients who had previously tested positive for the novel coronavirus passed away, healthcare authorities in Bosnia's Federation entity confirmed on Monday, which brings the country's death toll to eight.

One of the fatalities was recorded in Mostar, which was the first confirmed COVID-19 case in that southern town and was hospitalised due to severe respiratory health issues.

The other death was recorded in central Bosnia. A 56-year-old man who was initially hospitalised in the town Gornji Vakuf-Uskoplje died on the way to the central hospital in Travnik, Sead Karakas, Head of the Public Healthcare Institute in the Central Bosnia Canton (SBK) told media on Monday.

“We had a feeling we had to test him, which we did, and the result was positive,” said Karakas, stressing it was important to find the patient zero and potential contacts.

Meanwhile, Bosnia's Federation entity recorded new confirmed cases, two in the northwestern Una-Sana Canton and seven more in the central Zenica-Doboj Canton.

10:24 Eleven more coronavirus infections have been confirmed in Tuzla Canton, cantonal health authorities told N1, bringing the total number of the COVID-19 cases to 353.

Speaking to N1, general manager of the Tuzla Clinical Centre, Vahid Jusufovic, said the number has grown rapidly over the past days from zero patients only three days ago.

All patients are stable and ten have been hospitalised, he said.

Of the total of 201 patients that have been confirmed Monday morning in Bosnia's Republika Srpska entity, 11 have successfully recovered, health minister Alen Seranic confirmed.

08:05 The authorities of Bosnia's Federation (FBiH) entity launched systematic disinfection of all settlements on its territory, as one in the series of measures to combat the coronavirus and prevent its dramatic spread, starting with the southern town Konjic, the most affected by the virus.

So far, Konjic has 25 registered patients, followed by Tuzla (17) and Sarajevo (15). The whole entity, which makes a little over half of the country counts 139 virus infections.

After the country moved to the daylight saving time on Sunday, the authorities decided to extend the curfew hours and citizens are free to go out now between 5 am to 8 pm. However, wearing face masks and gloves is now mandatory in public.

The other half of the country, Republika Srpska (RS) region, has 200 COVID-19 patients with the city of Banja Luka as a hotspot counting 133 patients.

Six persons passed away in the country as a consequence of the coronavirus infection, and eight recovered.

On Sunday, one entire local community in the northwestern Bosnia was placed in quarantine, after a 61-year-old woman tested positive for the coronavirus.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a583783/Bosnia-and-Herzegovina-reports-total-of-358-confirmed-coronavirus-cases.html

Kosovo's acting Interior Minister files charges against President Thaci

March 30, 2020

Xhelal Sveçla, Kosovo's acting Interior Minister, filed criminal charges against President Hashim Thaci, suspected him of "call for resistance," the Beta news agency reported.

Following the government decision to limit people's movements at a specific time to reduce the spreading of the coronavirus, Thaci told reporters on March 23, that "the citizens should not honour the unconstitutional decision and that no one can punish them for that."

He also said that "Kosovo's police and security should not carry out the decision since it is also the violation of the Constitution." Kosovo's Interior Ministry adds that among 30 powers that a president has none relates to his right to evaluate the legality of the government's decisions.

The Ministry said Thaci's statement caused insecurity among people and could provoke chaos in the streets and 'contribute' to the spreading of COVID-19 virus.

The charges are punishable by Kosovo's Criminal Code Article 403.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a583727/Kosovo-minister-files-charges-against-President.html

EU secures 38 million Euro in aid to Western Balkans

March 30, 2020

The European Commission has secured 38 million Euro in immediate support for the Western Balkans as part of efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic, spokeswoman Ana Pisonero said on Monday.

"As part of the global response to the coronavirus outbreak we are preparing to help our partners, EU is mobilising €38 million in immediate support to the Western Balkans and redirecting 374 million to help their socio-economic recovery," Pisonero wrote on her Twitter account.

A Commisson press release quoted Neighbourhood and Enlargement Commissoner Olivér Várhelyi as saying that: “Europe is facing an unprecedented public health crisis, but even in these difficult times we will always be there for our Western Balkan partners, who belong in the EU. We will help our partners to cover their immediate needs for their health systems, as well as promote longer term measures to mitigate the socio-economic impact of the coronavirus crisis and support small and medium sized enterprises in the region.”

The press release added that the Commission is responding to immediate needs at the request of those partners, by supporting the supply of medical devices and personal equipment, such as ventilators, laboratory kits, masks, goggles, gowns, and safety suits.

"The EU will assist Albania and North Macedonia to cover the immediate needs of their public health systems with up to €4 million each, Bosnia and Herzegovina with €7 million, meanwhile Montenegro will receive up to €3 million, Kosovo up to €5 million and up to €15 million will go to Serbia, the most affected country until now," it added.

The Commission is including the Western Balkans in EU initiatives to tackle the coronavirus crisis such as joint procurement schemes, has accelerated the implementation of a project with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and will redirect funds from the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) to help the recovery in the Western Balkans which includes support to the private sector, increasing social protection, with specific attention to vulnerable groups, and strengthening the public health sector.

The press release specified that the Commission will mobilise up to €46.7 million to support the social and economic recovery of Albania, €73.5 million for Bosnia and Herzegovina, €50 million for Montenegro, whilst North Macedonia will benefit from €62 million, Serbia from €78.4 million and Kosovo will receive up to €63 million.

The Commission has included EU-Western Balkans border-crossings along the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) in its Communication on “Green Lanes” and supports the expanding of the green lanes in the region.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a583547/EU-secures-38-million-Euro-in-aid-to-Western-Balkans.html

Group quarantined in Belgrade rebels

March 30, 2020

A group of people quarantined in a Belgrade suburb rebelled on Monday, demanding to see the results of their coronavirus tests.

The group of people walked out of the building that they were quarantined in, demanding the information before the military police personnel guarding the facility ordered them back inside.

"People were applauding the soldiers. We know that they are here to help us but we want them to really help us and find out when we'll get the test results," one of the crowd told N1.They were tested on Friday and were promised that they would be told the results within two hours.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a583505/Group-quarantined-in-Belgrade-rebels.html

DefMin invites offers to gauge minister’s ratings

March 30, 2020

The Defense Ministry has invited offers for research into the ratings of Minister Aleksandar Vulin on the public procurement pages of its web site.

The invitation for offers specifies that the research should cover the period from April 5, 2020 to March 31, 2021. It does not specify the amount of money for the research. The ministry also invited offers for media monitoring. A statement said that the public procurement of those two things is done annually to gauge the the exposure of the minister and ministry in the public. “Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin did not request this procurement nor does it have anything to do with the personal ratings of the person in office,” it said.  

The Defense Ministry issued a statement saying that it has “procured media monitoring services including the exposure of the minister in the media”. “This procurement has never been criticized in 10 years except since Aleksandar Vulin has been minister,” it said.

 Bojan Klacar, of the CeSID public opion research agency, told N1 that all the ministries have published similar public procurement notices without stressing the personal role of the ministers while Transparency Serbia’s Nemanja Nenadic said that the Defense Ministry notice unwittingly drew attention to the other ministries which made use of the fact that under the law they are not obliged to issue public notices for procurement worth less than half a million Dinars (1 Euro – 118 Dinars).

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a583401/DefMin-invites-offers-to-gauge-minister-s-ratings.html

COVID-19 UPDATES: Bosnia introducing new measures as number of patients rises

March 30, 2020

The authorities of Bosnia's Federation (FBiH) entity launched systematic disinfection of all settlements on its territory, as one in the series of measures to combat the coronavirus and prevent its dramatic spread, starting with the southern town Konjic, the most affected by the virus.

So far, Konjic has 25 registered patients, followed by Tuzla (17) and Sarajevo (15). The whole entity, which makes a little over half of the country counts 139 virus infections.

After the country moved to the daylight saving time on Sunday, the authorities decided to extend the curfew hours and citizens are free to go out now between 5 am to 8 pm. However, wearing face masks and gloves is now mandatory in public.

The other half of the country, Republika Srpska (RS) region, has 200 COVID-19 patients with the city of Banja Luka as a hotspot counting 133 patients.

Six persons passed away in the country as a consequence of the coronavirus infection, and eight recovered.

On Sunday, one entire local community in the northwestern Bosnia was placed in quarantine, after a 61-year-old woman tested positive for the coronavirus.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a420652/COVID-19-UPDATES-Bosnia-introducing-new-measures-as-number-of-patients-rises.html

Serbia confirms 82 new Covid-19 cases, 741 cases in total

March 29, 2020

According to the latest report by Serbian health authorities, the number of newly confirmed Covid-19 cases rose by 82, and the total number of cases in the country amounts to 741, covid19.rs portal reported.

The authorities tested 376 samples of which were positive, the portal said, adding that the national laboratory at the Torlak Institute so far tested 2,462 samples from persons suspected of Covid-19, the portal said.

Virus related deaths also rise

Belgrade's University Hospital Centre Dr Dragica Misovic also recorded two new Covid-19 related fatalities. According to Dr Darija Kisic-Tepavcevic, the patients are two elderly women, age 82 and 86, who suffered from several other chronic diseases.

Thus the number of deaths resulted from the new coronavirus in Serbia also rose to 13.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a583279/Serbia-confirms-82-new-Covid-19-cases-741-cases-in-total.html

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