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International Information Centre for Balkan Studies



Another 12 test positive for coronavirus in North Macedonia

May 2, 2020

Another 12 people tested positive for the coronavirus in North Macedonia in the past 24 hours, bringing the total of those who caught the virus until now in the country to 1,507 - with 572 active cases, Health Minister Venko Filipce posted on Facebook.

"We are slowly winning the battle against this virus. But let's not forget that all measures are being prolonged and must continue to be respected,” he wrote, urging citizens to “be responsible.”

The Minister wrote that North Macedonian six small towns which had Covid-19 patients now have no active cases anymore, among which is Debar, which was under quarantine for a month as it was the first hotspot of the virus.

No new patients suspected of having Covid-19 were admitted to the Skopje clinic for infectious diseases throughout the past 24 hours, he wrote.

A total of 852 people have recovered across North Macedonia, while 82 have died due to Covid-19.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a595245/Another-12-test-positive-for-coronavirus-in-North-Macedonia.html

Bosnia sees more than 60 new coronavirus cases, two more deaths due to Covid-19

May 2, 2020

According to the latest data published by the Ministry of Civil Affairs, a total of 1,839 people tested positive for the coronavirus in Bosnia and Herzegovina while 72 have passed away due to Covid-19.

A total of 779 people have recovered. More than 32,000 were tested.

Authorities in Bosnia’s Serb-majority region, Republika Srpska (RS), reported that two more people died due to Covid-19 and 49 people tested positive for the virus throughout the past 24 hours there.

The two fatalities, one male and one female, were both seniors who suffered from various other health issues, the Republika Srpska Clinical Centre said.

According to the RS Government, 15 of the 49 people who tested positive for the virus since Friday were hospitalized.

Meanwhile, the Sarajevo University Clinical Centre reported that the 12 of the 177 samples sent from across the other semi-autonomous region, the Federation (FBiH), came back positive.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a595223/Bosnia-sees-more-than-60-new-coronavirus-cases-two-more-deaths-due-to-Covid-19.html

Croatia reports 3 new coronavirus cases, 2 deaths in last 24 hours

May 2, 2020

Three new coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Croatia in the last 24 hours and two more people have died due to Covid-19, the national coronavirus crisis management team told a daily press conference on Saturday.

The total number of positive cases now stands at 2,088, and the death toll has risen to 77, Health Minister Vili Beros said, adding that a woman born in 1929 had died in a hospital in Split and a man born in 1946 had died in a hospital in Zagreb.

Number of people who have recovered now stands at 1,463 A total of 239 infected people are in hospitals, nine fewer than on Friday, and 17 patients are currently on ventilators. 591 patients have been discharged from hospitals, which is three more than on Friday, and 872 have recovered at home, which is 39 more than on Friday.

Beros said he was particularly pleased to be able to announce that in Istria County all the people who had tested positive for the COVID-19 virus had recovered and there were no more such patients in the Pula General Hospital.

"We should continue working together to move on while exercising caution and patience," Beros said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a595227/Croatia-reports-3-new-coronavirus-cases-2-deaths-in-last-24-hours.html

Croatia sending aid to W. Balkan countries for fight against COVID-19

May 2, 2020

Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Grlic Radman said on Saturday that Croatia would send protective gear to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania and Montenegro and that shipments were worth HRK 1.2 million (€158,000).

Zagreb will send shipments of protective masks, tents, blankets, sleeping bags and so on."In this way, we strengthen our friendship and cooperation," Minister Grlic Radman said.

He added that Croatia had tackled the coronavirus epidemic in the most organised manner in comparison to other European countries.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a430413/Croatia-sending-aid-to-W.-Balkan-countries-for-fight-against-COVID-19.html

Kosovo’s Constitutional Court to Urgently Decide on Suspending Vote on New Government

May 1, 2020

The Constitutional Court of has urgently started to review the request by Kosovo’s election winner Vetevendosje party (LVV) to suspend the expected Saturday parliamentary vote on a new government, and refute the President’s decree to mandate a candidate for prime minister.

On Friday, the Court has demanded the president, government, parliament and ombudsman to submit their comments on the suspension of the vote before Friday noon. A Court ruling on this point is expected before the vote takes place.

“The Constitutional Court is dedicated prioritize and urgently review this case, in compliance with its constitutional responsibilities and function,” a statement by the Court read.

A court decision before the Saturday vote could avoid the potentially dangerous scenario of having two governments in place.

The Court gave the same institutions one week time, until May 8, to present comments on President’s decree.

On Thursday, President Thaçi and the second largest party Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) appeared to have coordinated their moves to attempt a vote on a LDK-led government during the weekend.

Just by the end of the workday, at 4:00 p.m., the President made public his decision to offer the mandate to form a new government to LDK’s Avdullah Hoti. At the same time, LDK requested the parliament to hold an extraordinary session to vote on the new government on Saturday, 1:00 p.m.

Vetevendosje immediately took the matter to the Constitutional Court. Its 30 MPs submitted a 32-page-long request to the Court to suspend the vote and overturn the President’s decision to mandate Hoti as candidate for prime minister. They maintain that once the coalition government they led as election winner party was voted down, the country must go to new elections.

The party has also announced that they will ask the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission for an opinion on President Thaçi’s actions to sidestep the election winner and push for a new government by smaller parties.

With the Friday 12:00 p.m. deadline passed, it’s not clear whether any of the interested parties submitted any comments to the Court.

Source:  https://exit.al/en/2020/05/01/kosovos-constitutional-court-to-urgently-decide-on-suspending-vote-on-new-government/

Bosnia confirms 25 new Covid-19 cases and one fatality

May 1, 2020

Bosnian health authorities have recorded 25 new Covid-19 cases and one fatality, over the past 24 hours, raising the total number of cases since the beginning of the pandemic to 1,781.

After testing 638 samples, the Bosnian-Serb Republika Srpska (RS) entity health authorities said 22 samples came back positive.

Fourteen of the 22 newly-discovered patients are men while eight are women, with varying age from young to elderly, they said. So far, 842 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in the RS, of which 35 have died, and 381 have recovered.

The Bosniak-Croat shared Federation entity reported only 3 new cases after testing 722 samples, the entity Crisis Staff said.

So far, this entity tested over 18,000 cases, of which 920 were positive and over 300 have recovered. The FBiH currently has 526 active cases of Covid-19.

The fatality was recorded in the Banja Luka Hospital, where a 74-year-old man with multiple chronic diseases died after being received for Covid-19 treatment, the hospital said.

The total number of fatalities in Bosnia now stands at 70.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a430137/Bosnia-confirms-25-new-Covid-19-cases-and-one-fatality.html

N1's analysis: From pandemic to repression

May 1, 2020

The period lying ahead of us will serve to analysts from the Balkans and across the world to approach the situation caused by the pandemic more comprehensively and in the spirit of critical analysis. We will touch upon some of the segments of this crisis covered by the veil of a heroic and just battle for the public healthcare.

We would like to open some crucial issues that remain unanswered to date such as – for instance – how much is the vulnerability of human lives indeed determined by the virus and how much by utter sources of intolerable stress and rigid crisis management? Many dilemmas are still awaiting a referential answer based on empirical research.

Medicine's fiasco in the making

Long-term consequences of restrictive measures, carried out in line with recommendations of healthcare authorities, remain unclear. In his article published on March 17, one of the world's leading epidemiologists, the professor at the Stanford University, John P.A. Ioannidis, expressed suspicions over the risks of fatal outcomes i.e. over the mortality rate caused by COVID-19. This US epidemiologist says it is not known for how long could possibly the distancing and self-isolation measures last without leaving major consequences on the economy, society and mental health, adding that “the lockdown” along with potentially huge social and financial consequences could be completely irrational.

“In the absence of data, prepare-for-the-worst reasoning leads to extreme measures of social distancing and lockdowns. Unfortunately, we do not know if these measures work. School closures, for example, may reduce transmission rates. But they may also backfire if children socialize anyhow, if school closure leads children to spend more time with susceptible elderly family members if children at home disrupt their parents' ability to work, and more. School closures may also diminish the chances of developing herd immunity in an age group that is spared serious disease.” (Ioannidis, 2020).

At the local level in Bosnia and Herzegovina, some doctors raised their voices – more intensively following the tragic death of epidemiologist Sefik Pasagic, which sparked reactions among not only professional but a broad social community. That was, namely, the death that was already listed in the mortality statistics of fatalities caused by COVID-19, given the fact that the repeated test showed the patient was positive for the novel coronavirus. While his death deepened the fear of citizens from corrosion that accumulated on Bosnia and Herzegovina's healthcare system, the patient's wife immediately expressed doubts that the healthcare system failed to work. One of the prominent Bosnian doctors, Kemal Dizdarevic, also commented on the case, warning in his article that “our doctor Pasagic is a victim (…) of the healthcare system and not of coronavirus.” Dizdarevic and many other doctors in the region and the world seeks the answers from competent authorities responsible for the crisis management. This medical worker claims that death came with coronavirus and not because of it.

“Many of them didn't develop any infectious disease but the virus was a trigger in worsening their current health condition. Or the virus presence was only incidentally proven. However, the cause of death by definition is only one. That defined cause actually launches a cascade of pathological events that lead to death. It seems like the virus has been recognised as a cause of death with many older patients as well as those with accompanying illnesses, although that was not the case. It is crucial to put the official data in the context of current global events and current political guidances.” (Dizdarevic, 2020)

The industry of the (i)llogical

Dizdarevic is not the only actor of professional, scientific and clinical-medical background who expressed suspicions over the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. In neighbouring Croatia, it was internal medicine doctor, Lidija Gajski, who asked the competent authorities in that country the questions concerning the management of crisis caused by ongoing epidemiological situation. Soon afterwards, a 'fact-checking' institution labelled Gajski and the Medical Chamber accused her of putting in jeopardy people's health with her allegations. But, let's take a look at what was she talking about.

In a phone call we had with Gajski, she introduced herself as an internal medicine specialist, with over 30-year-long working experience. She deals with the criticism of modern medicine and its corruption link with industry and politics.

“Given the fact that the medical profession was the one to recommend the measures, it should provide answers to several questions. The first question I asked refers to the disease itself. From what I know, coronaviruses are not lethal, as media and professionals call them. Namely, every season we are facing new viruses which are continuously mutating – that's their natural state. And the fact that this was a new virus doesn't mean it was exceptionally perilous, and it particularly doesn't mean that it requires such strict measures that are usually not introduced in case of flu,” Gajski told N1.

Her second question referred to the validity of numbers of the infected and those who died. She claims the numbers are not valid because the number of the infected and fatalities depend on the number of those who were tested. Besides, Gajski continues, some doctors link the fatality in this pandemic with aggressive treatment. The death rate caused by COVID-19 is for now lower than the one caused by seasonal flu (flu takes approximately 250,000-600,000 lives a year), according to Gajski, which leads her to ask: what is so special about this virus to push the competent authorities into this rarely seen alarm and rigorous measures, so much different and opposite from the ordinary indifference towards the common cold?

                                                                                                    
The repressive scent of measures

Whenever a crisis emerges in society, it is necessary to reach out to the sciences that competently understand social circumstances, a possibility of social transformations and validity of the measures that the society should take. In an analysis that was made available for N1, Bosnia's prominent sociologist Salih Foco argues that insecure authorities reached out to radical measures of repression instead of a taking a humane stance towards citizens and their health. Repression, therefore, reflects in the restriction of the citizens' right to the gathering, to work, to economic and production activities, to movement, etc.

“Those restrictions are counterproductive for the citizens and their health. (…) Instead of facing the current situation that emerged, the undemocratic and incapable authorities reached out to repressive power. Of course, the pandemic requires a series of measures but they have to be balanced and carried out under strict supervision of parliaments and structures of authorities that are controlled by democratic and legitimate representatives.” (Foco, 2020)

Psychology of fear – manipulation and obedience

Fear is induced in Bosnia and Herzegovina on a daily basis. War is being mentioned in political narrative weekly, while the topics of secession, referendums, arming and military drills are keywords in political press releases. Fear is a natural reaction in the society which, 25 years after the end of the war, does not have a database of those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), its intensity or how many of those were provided with any psychological assistance and support. One does not have to dig deep into psychology or research to understand the concept where people who feel fear turn to those who will protect them from peril. And it happens too often in this country that the ones who create fear expressly arrive as protectors from the peril. Did crisis management groups, politicians and various experts, as well as collective health protectors increase the fear from the peril that they saved us from? The curfew, police cars, police sirens – are they triggering the feeling of safety or fear? Which order would we next obey in fear, if the authorities said it was a necessity?

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a430183/N1-s-analysis-From-pandemic-to-repression.html

Russian military-medical team's arrival to Mostar postponed

May 1, 2020

The arrival of a Russian military-medical team which was allegedly supposed to perform disinfection of the Mustar University Hospital was postponed until further indefinitely, hospital spokesperson Adrijana Pandza told Srna news agency on Friday.

“Their arrival has been postponed due to procedural issues. Based on positive experiences from the Banja Luka University Hospital where the Russian Medical team performed disinfection 10 days ago, we requested that they do the same in Mostar,” Pandza said.

She added that the request was submitted through the Office of the House of People's Speaker Dragan Covic.

Earlier on Friday, N1 learned that the Bosnian Croat leader Dragan Covic requested the arrival of a 24-member medical team along with five specialised military vehicles used for disinfection and decontamination to come to Mostar and perform disinfection.

It was then learned that Covic did this without consulting the tripartite Presidency which is in charge of Bosnia's foreign policy and the only institution that can send and approve such a request.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a430171/Russian-military-medical-team-s-arrival-to-Mostar-postponed.html

Bosnian Croat leader asks for Russian military-medical help behind state's back

May 1, 2020

Bosnia's Foreign Ministry received a letter from the Russian Embassy at the request from the Bosnian Croat leader Dragan Covic, requesting permission for a 24-member medical team as well as five specialised military vehicles used for disinfection and decontamination, to enter the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, N1 learned on Friday.

According to the document sent by Bosnian Foreign Minister Bisera Turkovic to the country's Defence Minister Sifet Podzic, the entrance of Russian chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) defence vehicles and the medical team from that country was requested by the state House of Peoples' Speaker and Croat leader Dragan Covic who argued that they would be helping the south-Bosnian city of Mostar.

However, Podzic told N1 that his Ministry cannot allow the entrance of foreign military forces into Bosnia as this is solely the competence of the country's tripartite Presidency.

He added that the Ministry is unaware of any possible decision of the tripartite Presidency which would allow for the Russian military-medical team to enter the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its Bosniak-Croat shared Federation entity or the tasks which they would be engaged in.

"Also, neither the Defence Ministry nor Bosnia's Armed Forces were involved in the agreement of any bilateral arrangement that would involve the stay and engagement of members of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina," Podzic said.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a430091/Bosnian-Croat-leader-asks-for-Russian-military-medical-help-behind-state-s-back.html

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE: Six more died, 196 new cases in Serbia

May 1, 2020

Serbia’s Crisis Team said on Friday that in the last 24 hours six people died, two men and four women, from COVID-19, increasing the total number of victims to 185 with a mortality rate of 2.01 percent, N1 reported.

At the same time, 5,906 people were tested, and 196 samples turned back positive.

A total number of COVID-19 cases was 9,205.

So far 1.379 patients have recovered.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic in the country on March 6, a total of 91.551 people were tested.

To date, 2, 375 COVID-19 patients are being treated in hospitals, including 65 on ventilators.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a594953/Six-more-dead-196-tested-positive-on-coronavirus-in-Serbia.html

Serbia journalist's car tyre cut, Nova.rs says, NDNV worries about her safety

May 1, 2020

Nova.rs journalist Ana Lalic, who was arrested, released and freed from all charges was again targeted when her car's tyre was cut, the website reported on Friday.

She reported the incident to the police.

Lalic noticed the flat tyre with a piece of metal sticking out of it when wanted to drive to work.

She said she reported the case after being threatened and attacked during the last several weeks and under her lawyer's advice.

The Nova.rs editorial board said it would hold the state and highest Serbia's officials responsible "if anything happens to any member of the website."

 Lalic said she would like to believe it as a coincidence, but regarding what had been happening to her, she said she was afraid the flat tyre was the continuation of the attacks on her.

Last Monday, criminal chargesagainst Lalic were dropped, after she was arrested on April 1 and spent a night in custody.

She was charged with 'causing panic and unrest under Criminal Code Article 343,' after the Vojvodina Clinical Centre sued her following an article in early April in which her unnamed sources said the medical staff at the Centre did not have enough protective gear.

Later on Friday, the Independent Society of Vojvodina’s Journalists (NDNV) demanded that the police and prosecutors to urgently investigate the case of damaging Lalic’s car tyre, and estimate her safety.

NDNV reminds the authorities that a severe campaign against her has recently been conducted in tabloids and on social networks because of her story about the situation in the Vojvodina Clinical Center.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a594941/Serbia-s-journalist-targeted-again.html

Increasing number of Serbia house managers don't let people protest on rooftops

May 1, 2020

After people from a building in Belgarde Karaburma district chased away on Thursday night young men who wanted to lighten firework and play load music in support of Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic and his Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) in a response to the evening civil anti-regime protests, media on Friday reported about more cases of house managers refusing to let the pro-regime groups do that.

Vojvodina Investigative-Analytical Centre (VOICE) reported that several buildings' managers in Novi Sad turned back such groups.

One manager who demanded anonymity told VOICE he was tricked by a group of people who asked him to allow them to relax on the rooftop.

The man said he hadn't a clue what they meant by relaxation, but after other occupants complained to him, he put a note that something like that would not be allowed again.

He also told VOICE that his colleagues from other apartments' buildings said to him that unknown people wanted to use their rooftops, but the position was unsatisfactory.

Similar problems happened in other buildings in Novi Sad, where unanimous young men came and organised pro-regime gathering using pyrotechnic.

"No one knows how those men entered the buildings, and that had upset the occupants. So, they decided to go outside the buildings this evening and prevent the groups if they try to do the same," another manager said, also under the condition of anonymity.

VOICE reported that they had calls from a building manager from Belgrade saying he was contacted from a municipality asking permission to use the rooftop during the evening, but that he had rejected the request.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a594991/Apartments-building-managers-refuse-to-let-pro-regime-groups-on-their-rooftops.html

Two thirds of Covid-19 infected people in Croatia have recovered so far

May 1, 2020

In the last 24 hours, there have been nine new infections with the novel coronavirus in Croatia, bringing the total number to 2,085, whereas the death toll has risen by six to 75, Croatia's COVID-19 crisis management team said at a daily news conference on Friday.

Since the outbreak of the disease in late February, 1,421 patients have recovered, which is about two thirds out of those 2,085 cases.

As for the latest fatalities, five were elderly women in Split, born in 1924, 1927, 1948 and two born in 1942, and one more fatality was an 89-year-old woman in the town of Koprivnica.

Health Minister Vili Beros told the news conference that three of them had been on ventilators.

The average age of the dead patients is 79.2 years, and 55 percent of those victims were women.

Currently, 17 patients are on ventilators, among those 248 who are being treated in hospitals. The number of hospitalised COVID-19 patients fell by 13 from Thursday.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a595075/Six-new-deaths-rom-COVID-19-two-thirds-of-infected-recovered-in-Croatia.html

Borrell: US and EU has same goal, there's only one Belgrade - Pristina dialogue

May 1, 2020

The European Union Foreign and Security Policy High Representative Joseph Borrell said that there was only one Belgrade – Pristina dialogue and that the US counted on the US as a reliable and welcome partner in the region, the Beta news agency reported on Friday.

"We have to go in the same direction to achieve progress. I want us to have a common approach instead of doubling the existing mechanisms. The US shares the goals with us," Borrell told Radio Free Europe (RFE) in an interview.

He denied the existence of two parallel dialogues between Belgrade and Pristina under the US and EU auspices.

"Next year, it will be a decade since the UN General Assembly welcomed the EU's facilitating role in the dialogue. The UN decision implies that there is only one dialogue and institutionally speaking, the EU is a mediator," Borrell said.

The fact that the US made agreements between Belgrade and Pristina on its own was "a good question for Washington," he added.

"We're not interested in what others can do because I assume that all our ships sail in the same direction. This is not a beauty contest between the EU and the US. We are trying to facilitate the dialogue, to help to solve the Western Balkans' problems and any support is welcome," Borrell told RSF.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a594833/Both-EU-and-US-have-same-goal-in-Belgarde-Pristina-dialogue.html

US envoy: News about Serbia facing away from West are exaggerated

May 1, 2020

Antony Godfrey, the US ambassador to Serbia, said on Friday the statements by some analysts and politicians, including ministers, that the coronavirus crisis moved the geopolitical influence over Serbia from the West to China and Russia were exaggerated, the FoNet news agency reported.

In an article for the Belgrade Kurir tabloid, the ambassador recalled that the US "has been the most significant contributor to the world health safety.

"In the last 20 years alone, the US has given over 140 billion Dollars. Besides, a good part of a billion in aid went to Serbia's health care system from 2001," Godfrey wrote.

He added that even now, when the US faced a difficult situation, "the Americans are sending aid to Serbia – tests for coronavirus, protective gear, and other urgent supplies."

Godfrey said that his "strongest impression these days is the importance of transparency and truthfulness."

Godfrey: "Where the freedom of speech and media is stifled the corruption and tyranny flourish."

 He added that the World Press Freedom Day on Sunday was an ideal opportunity to think about the value of journalism and free flow of information."The US is formed as a democratic experiment against the tyranny of an untamed monarch."

"That's why our Constitution protects the freedom of the press. We believe that where the freedom of speech and media is stifled, the corruption and tyranny flourish," the ambassador wrote.

He added that the coronavirus pandemic proved that the lack of "free and open information about the virus spreading after it appeared in China substantially worsened the tragedy the world is facing now."

"More transparency, better information, and addressing the international community for help immediately after the pandemic outbreak could have saved many lives and enabled a fast global response two months earlier at least," Godfrey wrote.

He added that "democracy, independent media, and an open and honest regime are the most powerful preventive measures against the problem such as the COVID-19.

"The world's countries, including Serbia, have closed ranks to help each other," Godfrey said, adding "it was seen in the best possible way when Belgrade sent the needed aid to Rome last weekend."

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a594807/Serbia-hasn-t-totally-turned-to-Beijing-and-Moscow.html

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