UN Releases Report On Mission In Kosovo Outlining COVID-19, Political Uncertainty And Vulnerable Communities

On October 1st, 2020, the United Nations Secretary-General released a report on the developments related to current operations by the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). The report outlines a variety of events that have struck the region of Kosovo between March and September 2020. The report indicates concerns over the nation’s health, socio-economic condition, reports of human rights violations, corruption, and political polarization.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was felt across Kosovo, with initial cases beginning in March which later peaked during the months of June and July. Cases have declined since August, with the government proceeding with the opening of schools and a plan to recover the economy, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. As of early October, there have been over 15,000 cases in Kosovo with over 600 deaths. The strain of the COVID-19 pandemic was felt by the nation’s public institutions according to the UN report. This comes amidst an already existing political crisis in relation to the state of the office of the Prime Minister. In March, Prime Minister Albin Kurtin was removed from office by his coalition partners in a non-confidence motion. This was in response to inter-party disagreements over the question of import taxes from Serbia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina.

To add to the political uncertainty, on June 24th, the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office charged President Hashim Thaçi with numerous accounts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The press statement accuses Thaçi of complicity in “nearly 100 murders” alongside allegations of “enforced disappearance of persons, persecution, and torture.” Additionally, the UN report calls to attention the continuing issue of lead poisoning amongst the Ashkali, Egyptian, and Roma communities in Kosovo. Lead poisoning amongst the communities was first reported in 1999 and has not been dealt with sufficiently, according to the United Nations. The UN report calls for contributions from member states and other actors and organizations in order to provide an effective response for the communities.

The UN Secretary-General report calls for the participation of stakeholders in the decision-making process, increased attention to the Ashkali, Egyptian, and Rona communities suffering from lead poisoning in Kosovo, and for continued support and cooperation in the investigations by the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office. The report describes UNMIK’s mission as one that continues to provide support, monitor human-rights frameworks, sponsor projects, and cooperate with government and non-government entities within Kosovo.