Personal and political agendas must be put aside in order to save lives, SRSG Tanin tells Security Council
24 April 2020, Pristina - Strong leadership and political unity are needed in Kosovo now more than ever as the battle is waged against the “enormous challenge” posed by COVID-19, the Head of UNMIK said during his Security Council address.
Starting his regular briefing by expressing condolences to all in the Mission area whose lives had been affected by the global virus, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General Zahir Tanin spoke of Kosovo’s particular vulnerability to the threat of a wider outbreak.
“Even as heroic efforts are being made by medical personnel, the healthcare resources of Kosovo are stretched thin.”
SRSG Tanin commended the swift action taken by public health authorities to introduce measures to curtail the spread of the virus; and welcomed the financial reprieve coming from members states, the European Union’s €100 million in loans, and the International Monetary Fund’s $56.5 million emergency loan - while calling for more direct support for the most vulnerable.
He also expressed concerns over internal political instability, including the March 25 parliamentary vote of no-confidence.
“It is an unfortunate feature of the present circumstances in Kosovo that political divisions have dis-tracted the attention of many leaders away from the health crisis. These divisions have served to reduce public trust in political leadership during a time of heightened public anxiety and uncertainty.”
SRSG Tanin outlined a focused government, mobilisation of people and resources, and strong lead-ership as three essential elements for success in defeating COVID-19.
“I urge political leaders…to focus on unifying their energy while putting personal and political agen-das aside.”
He also reflected on positive actions being taken both within the Mission and externally.
Examples of sorely-needed “positive cross-community and cross-boundary coordination” included:
- The improved communication and coordination between health authorities in Pristina and Belgrade, which enabled donation of testing kits from Serbia and free movement of essential goods across the boundary;
- The endorsement of Kosovo energy operator KOSTT by the European Network of Transmission System Operators, which would advance regional energy efficiency;
- The European Union appointment of a dedicated Special Representative to progress the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue;
- Recent joint infrastructure and transport initiatives under the auspices of the US Special Presidential Envoy.
- And the initial removal of the 100 per cent tariff on goods from Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
SRSG Tanin detailed how UNMIK and UNKT were adapting their work during the pandemic, provid-ing direct support to vulnerable communities and municipalities; assisting local public health authori-ties; working alongside local media partners to disseminate public health information; responding to the 36 per cent increase in domestic violence; and closely monitoring human rights.
The Mission was also taking all precautions to protect staff, with no case of COVID-19 infection reg-istered to-date.
“We stand together with the people of Kosovo in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.”
While the pandemic was testing communities and populations the world over, SRSG Tanin paid tribute to leaders on “both sides of the boundary” who were supporting each other in the global fight.
“As the Secretary-General has stressed, only through solidarity and unity of effort can we succeed in meeting and overcoming this enormous challenge.”