I am very pleased to have an opportunity to talk to you today.
I listened carefully to Trina who reminded me once again that Kosovo’s greatest potential are its youth and children. I have also read carefully, the Resolution of Children of Kosovo on Universal Children’s Day.
Coming myself from a former socialist country who had to go and is still going through a hard transition I do understand and see the challenges that not only children and youth but the entire society face in Kosovo.
When I say, I understand, I mean it, I am a mother myself, of a daughter and I have a personal experience of what a youngster faces in a transitional society.
Let me tell you that I meet very often talented young people and children in Kosovo. Most recently, I met the class of teacher Donjeta, from 'Ismail Qemali' primary school in Pristina! I was amazed by the quality of English that these eleven year-old boys and girls spoke! I was moved and thrilled by the great questions about life they asked me. And by their ambitious dreams, that they shared with me.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Kosovo is the youngest country in Europe. The percentage of population of less than 18 years old is the highest in the continent. This is the potential Kosovo has!
However, if not protected, promoted and properly educated this great asset that Kosovo has – ITS YOUTH - may turn into a problem.
The data from Kosovo Statistical Agency is alarming. It shows a 20.7% rate of child poverty!
10.7% of children in Kosovo are involved in work while 6.8% of children work in hazardous conditions!
61.4% of children up to the age of 14 have suffered from psychological and physical violence.
Only 10% of children with disabilities benefit from health, education and social services.
Discrimination of certain category of vulnerable children is even worse; differences between girls and boys on education or inheritance rights still exist!
It has especially touched me lately to hear of an increased number of children victims of domestic violence in Kosovo. Only last week, we have witnessed the court trail of a man from the village of Kacareva who allegedly killed his own 14 years old child because of severe beating.
On the other hand, reports from governmental and non-governmental institutions talk about increasing child involvement in behaviours that are in violation of the law. Most recently, we have followed the court trail of three juveniles, all three of them between 15 and 16 years old who had shot dead their own school friend.
Therefore let me underscore that disregarding the rights of the children is equivalent to disregarding the future of Kosovo. We have to make sure that every child has a fair chance! The commitment of Kosovo government and institutions to children is indispensable.
I was glad to hear that the draft Law on Child Protection was passed in the first reading on 15 October 2018. I hope that the Assembly will not take too long to have it approved in the second reading. I hold my hopes that this will represent a turning point on Kosovo policies on children’s rights.
As for many other matters in Kosovo, the legal and policy framework on the rights of the child is mostly in line with international standards.
However, its implementation has proven challenging. Even before the Law on Child Protection, other laws and policies covering different areas of children’s rights had been developed these years, many of them with the assistance of the EUO/EUSR in Kosovo.
These include the Juvenile Justice Code and the Law on Social and Family Services. In addition, the EUO/EUSR commitment for Education in Kosovo, with children at its heart, is well known by all.
The commitment of Kosovo institutions should go beyond the adoption of legislation.
Adequate budget resources should be dedicated to ensuring that the rights of Kosovo’s children are protected in line with international best practices.
Coordination among those involved is of essence. The Inter-Ministerial Committee on the Rights of the Child, and respective line ministries as well as the Council for Protection and Justice for Children under Office of the Prime Minister should facilitate and monitor the implementation of policies, programs and other measures adopted regarding child protection.
I want to also stress that we as the European Union, we are engaged and continue to support children rights with policies on the promotion and protection of children’s rights, education and wellbeing! Only in education, since 2007 we have invested over 34 million.
Education is a priority: from the IPA 2016 envelope we will invest some 6 million Euros in education sector and we were intending to increase this amount to 12 million and 15 million Euros in IPA 2017 and 2018 respectively.
Only recently we have built three kindergartens, (in Pristina, in Zvecan and Ferizaj) and we are planning to build another three in the coming year. We have built and rehabilitated some seven primary and secondary schools. And we are planning to build 3-4 more in the coming year.
The EU is funding two big ongoing projects totalling EUR 0.5 million (each of €250,000) and each supporting other grassroots Civil Society Organisations (17 in total) working at municipal/local level. These projects focus on improving child protection measures in schools through awareness raising, mediation and peaceful conflict resolution and on strengthening capacities of local civil society (grassroots NGOs) working in child protection and child rights sector at municipal level.
Ladies and gentlemen, dear children
Let me underline my strong commitment to implementing the European Union’s policy on the promotion and protection of children’s rights.
This calls for a reinforced cooperation with national authorities and civil society so that we can ensure that children are treated as fully fledged members of society.
Thank you very much.