Let me first thank the SRSG for his briefing. We welcome the opportunity to engage in this discussion of the Council as Norway was among the first to recognise the Republic of Kosovo as an independent State in March 2008.
Now, today, we are pleased to commend Kosovo’s institutions, political organizations, and voters for the organization and implementation of legislative elections in February, and we would like to use this opportunity to congratulate Prime Minister Albin Kurti on his election, and his newly established government.
We note that the report from the Secretary-General describes slow progress in fighting political instability. Including combatting corruption, and ensuring the independence of the judiciary. We therefore urge Kosovo’s new leaders to capitalise on the momentum offered by the February elections, and continue efforts to: consolidate the rule of law, combat corruption, and uphold human rights.
We also believe that this momentum should be used to engage fully in important high-level political processes such as the European Union-facilitated dialogue with Serbia. We encourage the parties to resume the dialogue based on the Brussels Agreements through a mutually acceptable compromise. An agreement between Kosovo and Serbia on full normalisation of relations is key to avoid a frozen conflict, and to achieve economic development. This is paramount for the future development of Kosovo, and of the region.
Norway will continue to work closely with EU institutions, key member states, and the US, to get the negotiations back on track. There is no alternative to the EU-led dialogue, and it needs our full support. We call on all parties to uphold their commitments in order to consolidate and engage constructively towards resolving the conflict.
Kosovo continues to wrestle with the COVID-19 crisis. While we are pleased to see UNMIK has adapted its activities in order to meet these new challenges, the negative socio-economic and political impact of COVID-19 in Kosovo is significant. We express support and sympathy with Kosovo’s government during these exceptional times- with the pandemic, and the public sector facing severe challenges. We see worrying trends of growing unemployment, continued loss of income, setbacks within the health and education sectors, and an increase in domestic violence.
Yet, democratisation, strengthening the rule of law, freedom of expression, protection of human rights, and the fight against domestic and gender-based violence continue to be fundamental for social transformation. This is why we welcome initiatives to address these issues, such as those jointly implemented by UNMIK, UN organizations, and other stakeholders. This also includes the “Security and Gender Group” activities carried out to fight gender-based violence, ensure property rights, and ease the impact of the pandemic on women and girls.
We know women are key to peace. We call on parties to ensure women’s full, equal, and meaningful participation in all aspects of dialogue and peacebuilding. The increase of women in parliament, and in the new government, is an inspiration for further work and inclusion of women in the peace dialogue. In this respect, let me also take this opportunity to congratulate Vjosa Osmani on her election as President of Kosovo.
Norway looks forward to working closely with President Osmani and the newly consolidated Kosovo institutions.
Let me conclude by reiterating Norway’s support to: Kosovo, the EU-led dialogue with Serbia, and finding sustainable solutions based on the Brussels Agreements.
I thank you.