Check Against Delivery
First of all, I would like to thank SRSG Tanin for his insightful report, and I would like to welcome the First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Serbia, as well as the Foreign Minister of Kosovo.
Mr. President, it is unfortunate that political divisions have distracted the attention of many leaders away from the current health crisis caused by COVID-19. We hope that the current polarization among parties can be overcome soon to tackle the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, which represents unprecedented challenges for Kosovo and the region.
Having said that, there are also some encouraging signs. We are encouraged by the way Kosovo’s caretaker government manages the current pandemic. They have taken swift and successful action to limit the spread of the corona virus and mitigate the effects of the crisis in the country. We call on all actors and decision makers in the country to work together in this regard! What Kosovo requires now is stability and for all actors to act responsibly and in the interest of Kosovo’s citizens.
We commend the cross-border cooperation between the caretaker government of Kosovo and the government of Serbia to fight the health crisis together. This is an encouraging proof that progress is possible when all work toward the same goal. This spirit of collaboration should be a positive example in resolving differences.
Mr. President, the unresolved relationship between Kosovo and Serbia remains a source of bilateral tensions, an obstacle in the everyday life of citizens of both countries, and a stumbling block on both Kosovo’s and Serbia’s path to the European Union. It is clear that progress in Kosovo-Serbia relations is urgently needed.
The goal must be a comprehensive and legally binding agreement that is sustainable, enables both countries to become members of the EU, and contributes to regional stability.
This, in turn, will require well-structured negotiations with significant input from the European Union as the facilitator of the dialogue. In this context, we very much welcome the recent appointment of the new EU Special Representative for Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue, Miroslav Lajčak, and look forward to closely working with him.
We welcome the lifting of tariffs on goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina by the Kosovo government as of 1 April. In the first three weeks since the lifting, trade has been flowing freely across the border. This was the necessary step by the Kosovar side to resume the EU-facilitated dialogue. Existing grievances, concerning non-tariff trade barriers, for example, should be settled in the framework of the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia. The EU has offered its support in that context.
We call on both sides to further build confidence. This includes the halting of Serbia’s de-recognition campaign. It also includes adopting conciliatory rhetoric towards one another, as well as transparent communication towards constituencies on why finding a comprehensive agreement is in their mutual interest.
Mr. President, turning to WPS issues, I would like to stress that we continue to support the efforts in Kosovo to adopt and implement a survivor-centered approach to addressing conflict-related sexual violence in line with resolution 2467 of this Council. In this regard, we welcome the ongoing work of the Kosovar government commission responsible for the verification and recognition of the status of survivors of conflict-related sexual violence, which has so far granted survivor status to 785 applicants. We call on the Kosovo institutions to further intensify their work on empowering women survivors of conflict-related sexual violence from different communities to overcome isolation, contribute to the well-being of their families, and elevate their status and role within their community.
At the same time it is essential that women participate meaningfully and equally in the political process. We call upon the EU Special Representative to include women and civil society in the dialogue, and on UNMIK to mainstream gender-issues into all their work and policies.
Mr. President, before concluding, let me give one practical example for the need and benefit of closer regional cooperation: Together with our French partners, we have initiated a regional roadmap for the Western Balkans to strengthen the control of small arms that are all too readily available in the region. We are encouraged by the progress achieved both at the national level in building new capacities and at the regional level in strengthening cross-border cooperation and coordination.
The ministerial conference chaired by the German and French Ministers of Foreign Affairs on 31 January has reaffirmed the strong commitment of the entire region to make this progress a success and solve the problem of illicitly circulating weapons in the Western Balkans in a lasting way.
Thank you very much Mr. President.