13. May. 2020. | 09:16

Issues of non-majority communities with the implementation of a package of measures to counter the economic impact of the coronavirus


Regarding the package of 15 measures adopted by the Government of Kosovo in order to mitigate the economic consequences caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and the situation that arose on the ground during the implementation of these measures among non-majority communities, NGO AKTIV calls on relevant institutions to ensure better implementation of measures in order to assist and reach those who need it most.

Since the outbreak of the emergency situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic, NGO AKTIV has been closely monitoring the situation throughout Kosovo, placing special attention on the position of non-majority communities and their rights. In addition to regular means of monitoring the overall situation, NGO AKTIV established a Civic Rapid Response Group composed of members of the civil sector from all over Kosovo. Through its reporting mechanisms, members of this group identified a number of issues connected to the implementation of measures undertaken by the government of Kosovo aimed at alleviating the economic consequences of the pandemic.

In relation to Government of Kosovo’s decision on assistance intended for unemployed (Measure 15) persons, we noted several potential issues that were brought to our attention as the result of direct contact with citizens from non-majority communities throughout Kosovo.  Namely, the most significant problem emerged due to inadequate information provided to individuals from non-majority communities regarding these measures, which are related to the following:

  • Poor quality of information in the Serbian language on the official websites of ministries and agencies; 
  • Delays and poor translation of information disseminated in Serbian;
  • The poor performance or lack of Employment Offices in Serb-majority municipalities;
  • Complicated explanations of procedures that are not available from a singular source; a part is on the Employment Agency’s website, and another part can be found on the website of the Ministry of Finance and Transfers;
  • The complexity of the procedure due to the fact that potential beneficiaries of this assistance must address two different institutions - the Employment Office and the Center for Social Work;

All of this has led to great deal of confusion among potential beneficiaries of this aid package from non-majority communities, which means that there is a danger of the aid not reaching those for whom it is aimed and for whom it is most needed.

On the 8th of May, 2020, Aktiv reached out to relevant institutions, the Government of Kosovo, the Ministry of Finance and Transfers, the National Employment Agency, the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, and the Ombudspersons’ Institution, with a number of proposals geared at lessening the severity of the problems outlined in this statement:

  • The Government of Kosovo should consider extending the application deadline by a minimum of 7 calendar days, which would reduce delays in the dissemination of vital information and prevent the overall system from functioning poorly. This deadline extension should not delay the implementation of measures for those who have already applied.
  • To correct the Serbian translation of the forms that must be submitted for assistance, which should include, among other things, replacing the word "polsotražioc" with the term “tražilac posla.” The forms should also be supplemented with written and graphic information on filling in the required fields. At the same time, we suggest that in the absence of an e-mail address, and with all other fields filled in, the application should be treated technically correct and finally if the person meets the requirements to receive the necessary assistance. We suggest that completing the forms be made possible without having to provide an e-mail address if all other fields have been completed and if that individual otherwise fulfils the criteria for receiving assistance. 
  • Update the section of the website https://aprk.rks-gov.net/sr-Latn-RS/Home/Index  which lists the names of cities and places in the Serbian language in accordance with the  Law on the Use of Languages in Kosovo.
  • Correct an error in the user registration section of the website where in the drop-down menu that gives options for selecting an applicant’s ethnicity by adding the Gorani community, which was most likely inadvertently omitted during when the website was designed.
  • The institutions charged with overseeing the evaluation process for applications for assistance should exercise a degree of flexibility regarding the occurrence of minor technical omissions, which do not necessarily affect the overall accuracy of the requests submitted. This would create preconditions in which applications for government assistance are not rejected due to smaller technical errors or minor administrative omissions. Administrative procedures in circumstances where freedom of movement is limited has required a higher level of digital literacy from service users, both when it comes to obtaining information as well as during the application process itself.  It should be understood that the lack of experience many have in completing online applications can lead to technical errors. Likewise, potential beneficiaries should not be held responsible for or denied assistance due to technical errors that occur due to the poor quality of translations.
  • The Employment Agency, the Centers for Social Work, the Ministry of Finance and Transfers and other institutions involved in the implementation of these measures should comply with the Law on the Use of Languages and the Law on General Administrative Procedure, which stipulate that the official language in which the party addresses them shall be considered the language of the proceedings and all answers shall be sent to the party in the language used by the party. This obligation applies to all forms of correspondence, including communication by e-mail. According to information obtained by AKTIV, beneficiaries reported receiving replies in Albanian despite having submitted requests for information in Serb from the pako15@rks-gov.net  email address.
  • We firmly believe that the provision of this sort of assistance to citizens should constitute a major priority for the Government in times of crisis.  Having this in mind and on this particular occasion, we appeal to them (the government) to make additional efforts in order to inform citizens about these measures by launching a strong media campaign at the central and local level. In order to achieve this, we propose that they involve local NGOs throughout Kosovo, who would promote the measures on their social networks thereby making a direct contribution to the public information campaign in a similar manner that NGO AKTIV has been doing for weeks now. At the same time, we appeal to institutions, both at the central and local level, as well as to the media to explain as clearly as possible all the procedures related to the measures of the Government of Kosovo.

At this point in time, it is abundantly clear that this aid package (Measure 15) is an absolute necessity for Kosovo’s vulnerable citizens.  However, the problems outlined in this statement can mean that a certain number of citizens will be deprived of this assistance due to a lack of information or other failings.  Due to the fact that we did not receive a reaction to a letter that we sent out to relevant institutions, we feel that we are compelled to issue a public statement in the goal of preventing potential consequences that can arise as a result of inaction.