United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) - Security Council Open VTC

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24-Apr-2020 01:59:03
Briefing Security Council, mission head urges Kosovo leaders to put aside partisan agendas, restart dialogue with Belgrade, work towards fighting COVID-19.

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Political leaders in Belgrade and Pristina should take a cue from health‑care workers jointly fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, put aside their political agendas and engage anew in a European Union-facilitated dialogue that leads to sustained peace, the top United Nations official in Kosovo told the Security Council during a 24 April videoconference meeting*.

Zahir Tanin, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), said that the human toll of COVID-19 is rising in Kosovo and throughout the Western Balkans. Public health authorities in Kosovo, in consultation with the World Health Organization (WHO) and others, swiftly put measures into place to curtail its spread, but with its smaller population and limited resources, Kosovo remains vulnerable, and its health-care resources are stretched thin. The economic impact is just beginning to be felt, and while the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Union are providing loans, more will be needed.

Unfortunately, in Kosovo, political divisions are distracting many leaders away from the health crisis, reducing public trust at a time of heightened public anxiety, he said. Sharp disagreements exist — both within the governing coalition and between the Government and the president — on a range of issues, from the response to the pandemic to lifting of the tariff on Serbian goods and dialogue with Belgrade. The conflicting agendas culminated in a vote of no confidence against the coalition government on 25 March, just as the coronavirus crisis was striking. A caretaker government is in place, but now Hashim Thaçi is calling for a new government, formed by an alternative majority. Whatever happens, political uncertainties must not derail non-partisan action to fight the pandemic, he emphasized.

Nevertheless, there are many examples of positive cross-community and cross‑boundary coordination, he said. Health officials in Pristina and in Belgrade, have established improved communication and coordination, which was missing at the onset of this crisis. Essential items cross the border freely and the Government of Serbia recently donated testing kits to Pristina’s health authorities. “The solidarity shown between leading medical professionals and officials, across ethnic and political divides, gives hope that cooperation can yet increase, as the rate of infections also continues to rise.”

The removal of a 100 per cent tariff on imports from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, coupled with the introduction of “reciprocity measures” vis-à-vis Belgrade, is not only a step towards more regular commercial relations, but also represents an important signpost towards a restart of the political dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, he added. While there is still no clear road map for continuing dialogue, there are at least signals that attention remains focused upon the issue, even as the COVID-19 emergency takes precedence. Welcoming the European Union’s appointment of a Special Representative, Miroslav Lajčák, tasked with advancing Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, he said that coordinated international support for European Union-facilitated talks is essential, as that approach remains the best hope for reaching a comprehensive agreement and for sustaining peace.

“In closing, I wish to pay tribute to those leaders and professionals on both sides of the boundary who are supporting one another in fighting the pandemic,” the Special Representative said. “I urge political leaders to follow their example, and to focus on unifying their energy while putting personal and political agendas aside.”

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2543716
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2543708