International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

EU commissioner advocates joint migration management with Western Balkans

October 21, 2020

The European Union (EU) has to manage migration together with its Western Balkan partners, notably in returning illegal migrants who should go back to their countries of origin and in fighting against human traffickers, European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson has said.

Human traffickers are extremely well-organised in the Western Balkans and they should be fought together. Without close cooperation with those countries, we won't be successful in the fight against traffickers, she told the press in Brussels ahead of an annual meeting between the EU and Western Balkan justice and interior ministers on Thursday.

Johansson said the meeting would discuss migration and the fight against human traffickers, terrorism and organised crime.

There are many illegal migrants in the Western Balkans who are not refugees and who must go back to their countries of origin, she said.

Both the EU and the Western Balkans should have a registration system for asylum seekers and adequate accommodation capacities for migrants as well as strengthen the asylum system, she said.

Johansson said many migrants in the Western Balkans had not applied for asylum and that this made it impossible to know how many were entitled to international protection.

Therefore, she added, it is necessary to speed up the strengthening of capacities for the processing of asylum applications.

She hopes that agreements on deploying Frontex members will be concluded soon with all Western Balkan countries. Frontex is already deployed in Albania and should be soon in Montenegro.

Asked if the Commission had a way of looking into NGOs' claims about the inhumane treatment of migrants and their pushback at the hands of the Croatian police, Johansson said she was concerned about such reports.

It is not just Croatia. We have reports on pushbacks in several countries on the external border, she added.

The proposal for a new pact on migration and asylum, which the European Commission presented a month ago, envisages new laws so that all member states would have independent monitoring mechanisms on borders to make sure that fundamental rights are respected and to enable people to apply for asylum, she said.

That is a very important proposal whereby all member states would have to investigate allegations of pushbacks, she added.

She expressed optimism that a compromise could be reached between member states on the proposed package and that it could get support from the European Parliament.

The Commission's earlier proposal from 2016 was blocked for years as it envisaged binding quotas for migrant distribution. The new draft pact on migration, presented on September 23, focuses on swift returns of illegal migrants, increased controls on the EU's external borders and faster asylum procedures.

As for solidarity mechanisms, under the new pact EU member states not wishing to take in asylum seekers will be able to contribute in another way, by taking on the responsibility for returning persons not granted asylum to their countries of origin.

Interior ministers of member states have already held their first discussion on that proposal.

The discussion was very constructive. I think the proposal is balanced and that member states and the European Parliament can accept it, the commissioner said.

She stressed that there was no migrant crisis now.

The reality is that there are many migrants arriving legally, three million people got a residence permit last year, and over three million left the EU. We need migrants because we are ageing societies, Johansson said.

We need to deal with the issue of illegal arrivals. Last year there were 140,000 illegal arrivals, which is little compared to the previous period, but we are not managing this well. My goal is to have fewer illegal and more legal migrants, the commissioner added.

Another priority is to send back those who are not entitled to international protection. Of the 140,000 who arrived illegally last year, two-thirds were not refugees and when they apply for asylum, they get a negative response and a return decision, but the EU does not have good results here either, Johansson said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a663063/EU-commissioner-advocates-joint-migration-management-with-Western-Balkans.html

Kosovo's PM: CSM won't have executive power

October 21, 2020

Avdulah Hoti, Kosovo's Prime Minister, reiterated on Wednesday that the Community of Serb Municipalities (CSM) would not have any executive power, adding Pristina's Parliament violated the Constitution when ratified the Community-related agreement with Belgrade in 2013.

"This issue won't be opened again, but an obligation is there. If an agreement is reached, it must not jeopardise Kosovo's unitary character. There won't be any CSM with executive powers," Hoti told reporters.

He added he would not yield to pressures but would respect the Parliament's decisions and Kosovo's Constitution.

"We have clear principles in the (Belgrade – Pristina) dialogue (on the normalisation of relations). I judge that such a decision (on CSM) is inappropriate at this moment. I don't expect the Community to block the dialogue because there is a consent the issue was finalised. If it (the dialogue) is blocked, that won't be our fault since I believe we have shown a significant engagement in the process," Hoti said.

On the other hand, Belgrade is against Pristina's decision to implement the CSM after a comprehensive and legally binding agreement is reached, saying that it has been agreed on seven years ago and should have already been in place.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a663099/Kosovo-s-PM-CSM-won-t-have-executive-power.html

UN Secretary-General: Kosovo’s Thaci, Veseli obstruct Specialist Court’s work

October 21, 2020

The UN Secretary-General accused Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaci and the leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo, Kadri Veseli of obstructing the work of the Specialist Court for Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) 1998-1999 war and post-war crimes.

In his regular six-month report on the work of the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) to be discussed at the UN Security Council’s meeting on Wednesday, Antonio Guterres said that besides the coronavirus pandemic, political crisis and the announced indictment, Thaci and Veselji further agitated the already fragile political and security situation in Kosovo.

The report said that 189 people, most of them Serbs, have returned to Kosovo in the past six months, while just above 28,000 people have done it since the end of the war in 1999.

Guterres welcomed the resumption of the Belgrade - Pristina dialogueon the normalisation of relations, saying the process was boosted by new energy.

The previous Security Council session about UNMIK’s work was held online on April 24. Outgoing Serbia’s Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic will take part on Belgrade’s behalf at Wednesday’s video session.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a662991/UN-Secretary-General-Kosovo-s-Thaci-Veseli-obstruct-Specialist-Court-s-work.html

Brnabic: Authorities face risk with early elections

October 20, 2020

Prime Minister designate Ana Brnabic said on Tuesday that calling early elections for 2022 means that the authorities are taking the risk of having the public evaluate their performance in 2021.

Speaking on a talk show on the state TV (RTS), Brnabic said that the decision to call those elections was very responsible, adding that if the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) does not have a good year in 2021, someone else will get an opportunity to come to power. Brnabic said that Serbia will face a number of challenges next year, primarily in terms of health care and the economy.  

She said that her new cabinet will have the capacity to take important decisions even though its term in office is limited. Brnabic said that minority parties have been offered places in the government. Asked if her cabinet would be a unity government of the kind formed by all parliamentary parties in times of crisis, Brnabic said that the world is in a crisis which demands unity.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a662949/Brnabic-authorities-face-risk-with-early-elections.html

Study says EU should integrate Western Balkans quickly

October 20, 2020

The authors of a study on European Union expansion said that the Union has to integrate the countries of the Western Balkans quickly to complete itself.

The EU also has to maintain control over the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue because relations between Serbia and Kosovo affect relations in the entire region, the online presentation of the study organized by the German Foreign Relations Council (DGAP) was told.  

One of the authors of the study, Mateo Bonomi from the International Relations Institute in Rome told the online gathering that the EU should get out of what he called the compromised stage of providing a European perspective to the countries of the region and speed up their integration process.  

He said that the countries of the Western Balkans are economically integrated into the EU to a great extent but added that the stronger economic ties have not resulted in economic modernization. He warned that the economic gap between the Western Balkan countries and EU member states had increased over the past 10 years.  

The presentation was told that the coronavirus pandemic demands a common EU-Western Balkans agenda which means including the region in the Union’s recovery plan. National responses to the pandemic have shown that the challenges facing the EU and Western Balkans overlap in terms of European democratic values and that those values should be in the heart of the European integration process.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a662929/Study-says-EU-should-integrate-Western-Balkans-quickly.html

Serbian President says three parties in new government

October 20, 2020

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on Tuesday that his Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) would form the new government with the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) and the SPAS coalition.

Speaking at a news conference after a meeting of the SNS Presidency, Vucic said that most of Prime Minister Designate Ana Brnabic’s new cabinet had been decided but that there were dilemmas about two or three ministers.

He said that the cabinet would include officials from the three parties that won seats in parliament at the June 21 elections – the SNS, SPS and SPAS – and some minority parties.  

Vucic said that the names of all the new ministers would be disclosed after another meeting of his party’s presidency on Sunday.  

The only name that Vucic mentioned was that of outgoing Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic who, he said, would take over as parliament speaker.  

Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) leader Ivica Dacic said on Tuesday evening that the post of parliament speaker was an honor for every politician and thanked President Aleksandar Vucic for nominating him to head the legislative body. He said that “only a united Serbia can face the challenges of the coming period”.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a662889/Serbian-President-says-three-parties-in-new-government.html

Croatian envoy to Serbia: We are promised Croats will take some part in new govt

October 20, 2020

Hidajet Biscevic, the Croatian ambassador to Serbia, told N1 TV on Tuesday his host country's leaders promised that local Croats would participate in the work of Serbia's new government, as well as in the provincial and local authorities.

Asked whether the members of the Croatian minority would be state secretaries in the future government, he said "promises were made for one or two such positions", but fell short of specifying which ministries were talked about.

"We received such promises, not directly related to a new government, but regarding the possibility of appointment," he said.

Biscevic added the 'Croatian Club' would be opened in Belgrade, as a gathering place for some 2,000 Croatians living in the capital.

"I think we've laid the groundwork to start opening the door. We need to be realistic, and evaluate well the legacy of our relations, as well as everything that each side brings with it. Especially when it comes to relations from the 1990s onwards," the ambassador said.

He added that "it is encouraging that during the last talks between the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Croatia and Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic we started for the first time to send messages about the need for a dialogue."

"The Americans and Russians had completely different perceptions for 50 years, but they talked, and in the end, they achieved some forms of cooperation. So, regardless of the differences, we should continue to talk," Biscevic said.

 "When I handed over the credentials to President Vucic, I said that my basic task was to move things from the deadlock, be realistic, and do it pragmatically. Without media fuss and high tones. We need to target areas where both sides need to find common interests and work to improve them," Biscevic said.

"We also agreed to speed up the work in eight commissions that have been stagnant for years. What is especially important is the agreement to work on the files of missing persons," Biscevic added.

"If we solve at least one case a month, it would be a big step in relieving our relations, given the sensitivity and humanitarian aspect of the issue," he said.

He said that "mutual mistrust about those issues in the past" was the reason for the delay in shedding light on the fate of missing persons.

"The Americans and Russians had completely different perceptions for 50 years, but they talked, and in the end, they achieved some forms of cooperation. So, regardless of the differences, we should continue to talk," Biscevic said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a662755/Croatian-envoy-to-Serbia-We-are-promised-Croats-will-take-some-part-in-new-government.html


UN boss calls on Belgrade and Pristina to be flexible in overcoming differences

October 20, 2020

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the resumption of EU-mediated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina after a long break and called on both sides to show flexibility and creativity in their efforts to overcome differences.

In a new six-month report on the work of the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), which will be on the agenda of the UN Security Council meeting on Wednesday, Guterres welcomed the Kosovo leadership's commitment to fighting the coronavirus pandemic, improving dialogue with Belgrade and European integration.

He called on Kosovo's new government to continue strengthening the rule of law, support accountability processes for serious human rights violations and take decisive steps in the fight against corruption and impunity.

Guterres also called on Kosovo institutions and international players to provide full support and cooperation to the Special Prosecutor's Office for Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) crimes, adding that was "crucial for Kosovo's peaceful future."

"I urge political leaders (in Belgrade and Pristina) to ensure an inclusive approach through greater participation of key players, especially women and youth, in counselling and decision-making processes as well as the inclusion of gender and youth perspectives in implementing agreements that affect the lives of the population," he added.

In his report for the period between March 16 and September 15, published on the UN website, Guterres also said that "the renewed commitment to the normalisation of relations is obvious and I hope it will remain so until a comprehensive solution is found. I am encouraged by the constructive participation of both sides in the initial phase of negotiations made possible by the EU Special Representative and the EU High Representative's continued personal engagement."

He added that "the parties should build on the progress made so far in the discussions, including the agreements signed under the auspices of the United States on 'economic normalisation.'

The UN boss said he hoped the continuation of the discussion would help clarify the fate of the remaining missing persons and that progress would be made in the return of displaced persons, economic cooperation and the implementation of other outstanding agreements.

Guterres added that the period covered by the report showed the citizens and institutions of Kosovo faced several challenges, including the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which had serious economic, social and political consequences, the voting out of Prime Minister Albin Kurti's government and the announcement of prosecution indictments against Kosovo President Hashim Thaci and Democratic Party of Kosovo leader Kadri Veselji.

The report cites relevant parts of the Special Prosecutor's Office's statement and recalls the events that followed and the reactions of Kosovo officials.

 Guterres said the Special Prosecutor's Office "made progress in further investigations" during the reporting period and called on "all relevant parties, Kosovo institutions and international actors to provide full support and cooperation to these efforts, which are crucial for Kosovo's peaceful future."

The report also expressed "concern over the renewed tension caused by construction activities in a specially protected zone around the Visoki Decani monastery as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site."

"Although work has been suspended, the Kosovo authorities' clear commitment to the law, including a ruling by the Constitutional Court upholding the property rights of the Serbian Orthodox Church, will be important in maintaining trust between communities," the report has said.
The UN Secretary-General reiterated his commitment to supporting the Ashkali, Egyptian and Roma communities affected by lead poisoning in Kosovo and again called on member states, international organisations and other players to help find an effective response and meet the needs of these vulnerable communities.

Guterres said he was concerned over the ongoing political polarization in Pristina, which also affected the management of the pandemic, and called on all politicians in Kosovo to unite on public health priorities and support public institutions in ensuring a coherent and effective response to the pandemic and related public health and socioeconomic challenges.

He also called on Kosovo institutions to step up efforts to implement legal and other protection and address women's inequality, due to the alarming increase in reported cases of domestic violence since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a662735/UN-boss-calls-on-Belgrade-and-Pristina-to-be-flexible-in-overcoming-differences.html

Pristina: Kosovo's Constitution won't change; Kosovo Serb: CSM won't be formed

October 20, 2020

Kosovo's coordinator for the Pristina – Belgrade dialogue on the normalisation of relations Skender Hiseni said on Tuesday that no provision of Kosovo's Constitution would be changed in "any version of a final agreement on mutual recognition."

He told arbeshi.info website he disagreed with Miroslav Lajčák, the European Union special envoy for the dialogue who said in Belgrade that a constitution "isn't the Bible."

The European Commission external affairs spokesman Peter Stanosaid later Lajčak statement was misunderstood.

Lajčak seemingly referred to Serbia's highest legal act as well, since its preamble described Kosovo as a part of Serbia.

"I don't know what Lajčák talked about; he should be asked. Anyhow, Kosovo's constitutional order won't change," Hiseni said.

He added that the Belgrade – Pristina dialogue "about certain elements of the final agreement" would resume soon.

The last meeting at the level of experts was held in Brussels on September 17, when the two delegations discussed mutual financial claims and property.

Pristina has said that a part of the 2013 Brussels agreement with Belgrade regarding the formation of the Community of Serb Municipalities (CSM) should not be an issue any more and would be implemented after the deal on mutual recognition, giving the Community no executive powers.

On the other hand, Belgrade maintains the CSM must be formed as agreed seven years ago before any other agreements.

In the meantime, Kosovo's Parliament's former deputy speaker, Petar Miletic, a local Serb, said on Tuesday that CSM would not be formed because Pristina did not want it and because Belgrade did not show interest in the issue in the last six and a half years.

He recalled that the first six out of 15 points of the First Brussels Agreement envisaged the CSM.

"That means that the creation of the CSM is an essence of the agreement signed on April 19, 2013. The then Serbia's and Kosovo's prime ministers Ivica Dacic and Hashim Thaci respectively agreed with the then EU diplomacy chief Catherine Ashton who mediated the dialogue to form the CSM after the November elections that year," Miletic said.

However, he added, the fact the Community had not been formed yet meant "there are no innocent (sides)."

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a662685/Pristina-Kosovo-s-Constitution-won-t-be-changed.html

Kosovo to open Israeli diplomatic mission in Pristina

October 20, 2020

Kosovo's Prime Minister Avdulah Hoti signed a decree allowing President Hasim Thaci to initiate the opening of the Israeli diplomatic mission in Pristina, agreed during the White House meeting with the US President Donald Trump in Washington on September 4.

Following the meeting, Israel recognized Kosovo's independence 12 years after it seceded from Serbia in 2008.

Hoti and Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic headed Pristina and Belgrade delegations at the September 4 meeting which ended in the agreement of economic cooperation between the two sides and opening of Kosovo's embassy in Jerusalem and moving Serbia's from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Hoti described Israel as Kosovo's strategic partner and nominated Ines Demiri as the Charge d'Affairs in Pristina's embassy in Israel.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a662669/Kosovo-to-open-Israeli-diplomatic-mission-in-Pristina.html

Slovenia reports 537 new coronavirus infections, declares epidemic

October 19, 2020

Over the past 24 hours, 2,673 coronavirus tests have been performed in Slovenia, confirming 537 new cases of coronavirus infection, and there has been one fatality, the Slovenian government said on Monday, declaring a nationwide state of the epidemic for the next 30 days.

The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Slovenia since the outbreak in early March has risen to 13,678, and the number of active cases stands at 7,103.

The exponential spread of coronavirus remains a cause for concern, and the percentage of positive tests is still very high, at 20.4%.

According to the health ministry's latest data, 289 Covid-19 patients are being treated in hospitals, including 55 who are in intensive care units. The death toll is 189.

Prime Minister Janez Jansa said in a video message on Sunday that all the measures introduced by the government would be proportional to the situation and that in addition to protecting lives and health it was also necessary to protect the most important sectors of the economy.

Slovenia declared the epidemic on March 12, after the first case was reported eight days before.

On May 15, it became the first European country to declare the epidemic over, but some measures such as mandatory face masks, physical distance and ban on big gatherings remained in place.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a662299/Slovenia-reports-537-new-coronavirus-infections-declares-epidemic.html

Croatia confirms 393 new coronavirus cases, 11 deaths in last 24 hours

October 19, 2020

A total of 393 new coronavirus cases and 11 related deaths have been recorded in Croatia in the last 24 hours, the national coronavirus response team reported on Monday morning.

The number of active cases currently stands at 5,070. Among them are 571 people who are receiving hospital treatment and 35 of them are on ventilators.

Since February 25, when the first coronavirus case was confirmed in Croatia, 25,973 people have contracted the novel virus, of whom 374 have died and 20,529 have recovered, including 476 in the last 24 hours. A total of 21,329 people are currently in self-isolation.

To date, 400,636 people have been tested for coronavirus, including 3,636 in the last 24 hours.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a662255/Croatia-confirms-393-new-coronavirus-cases-11-deaths-in-last-24-hours.html

Deputy Mayor: No plans for quarantine or curfew in Belgrade

October 19, 2020

Belgrade Deputy Mayor Goran Vesic said on Monday the quarantine or ban on movement in Serbia's capital were not planned regardless of the increasing number of infected with the coronavirus.

"No new measures such as the quarantine or curfew in Belgrade are planned at the moment. It is enough to respect the existing measures, to wear masks indoors, to keep physical distance and to avoid public gatherings, parties and celebrations," he told the Happy TV.

He added that "if we respect all current measures, we will manage to remain among the European countries with the least infected."

Vesic said the economy "must work, kindergartens and schools too, and jobs must be preserved."

"We have to learn to live with the virus. Public health must be preserved, and that is why the measures must be respected. But life must go on," Vesic added.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a662211/Deputy-Mayor-No-plans-for-quarantine-or-curfew-in-Belgrade.html

Coronavirus UPDATE: 2 deaths, 122 new cases

October 19, 2020

The Serbian Health Ministry said in its daily 3:00 pm bulletin on Monday that 2 people died of coronavirus-related ailments over the previous 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 778.

It said that 5,746 people had been tested over the previous 24 hours, including 122 who tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

The total number of people tested to date stands at 1,241,864 with 36,282 confirmed cases.

The bulletin said that there are 408 active cases, including 24 patients on ventilators.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a662393/Coronavirus-UPDATE-2-deaths-122-new-cases.html

Bosnia steady with 541 new coronavirus cases and 13 virus-related deaths

October 19, 2020

According to Bosnian health authorities, the country recorded 541 new cases of coronavirus, on Monday, along with 13 deaths caused by the disease.

The country's Federation (FBiH) entity reported 285 new cases after testing 956 samples for the new coronavirus. The entity's Public Health Institute said they recorded 11 deaths caused by the new coronavirus.

The Republika Srpska (RS) region said they registered 255 new cases of the disease after testing 799 suspected samples. This entity also reported having two fatalities over the last 24 hours.

Brcko District also recorded one new Covid-19 patient and no fatalities.

The hardest-hit city is Sarajevo once again with a total of 103 confirmed cases.

According to the State Civil Affairs Ministry, the country has so far confirmed 34,661 Covid-19 cases, of which 25,442 have recovered and 997 had died.

The country currently has 8,222 active cases, the Ministry said.

Yesterday, the country had 559 new cases of Covid.19

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a662336/Bosnia-steady-with-541-new-coronavirus-cases-and-13-virus-related-deaths.html

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