“As a deputy of the Croatian Parliament, a citizen born and raised in Kosovo, I call on you to let alone the disagreements and party hatreds and unite to fight this pandemic which has gripped the world,” Albanian Croatian MP Ermina Lekaj Prljaskaj wrote in a letter addressed to Kosovo’s leadership
By Genc Mlloja
Senior Diplomatic Editor
“My message is that each of us can do a little but together we can do much. Now is the time to show ourselves,” has said Ermina Lekaj Prljaskaj, Albanian deputy in the Parliament of Croatia, in an exclusive interview with Albanian Daily News which among others asked her about the preventive measures taken in Croatia in face of the coronavirus pandemic, the situation of Albanian community and of Albanians from Albania, Kosovo and North Macedonia who are on working contracts there.
Initially Ms. Prljaskaj spoke of the measures taken by the Croatian government to cope with the ‘Covid – 19’ crisis. But, as the Albanian Croatian MP noted, the strong earthquake, which shook Zagreb a few days ago, added to the complicated situation because of coronavirus pandemic. With regard to this she had words of praise for the government and the political class in this country where forces are joined by all at such times of crisis.
“The Croatian state is managing the whole situation with dignity and what makes this country unique is that the majority and opposition join forces to cope with the disaster,” she said.
Deputy Prljaskaj, a Kosovo born politician, is very much worried about the government crisis in Kosovo where political quarrels have created confusion and lack of leadership.
“As a deputy of the Croatian Parliament, a citizen born and raised in Kosovo, I call on you to let alone the disagreements and party hatreds and unite to fight this pandemic which has gripped the world,” she said in a letter of appeal addressed to Albin Kurti, President Hashim Thaci, Speaker Vjosa Osmani, and the Chairman of the Democratic League of Kosovo (Lidhja Demokratike e Kosoves), Isa Mustafa on March 24, 2020. “I am aware that Kosovo has a weak health system, lack of respirators and bad conditions in hospitals, and like in other countries which have far better health systems people are alarmed by the proportions of the pandemic. In the first place this struggle needs the engagement of a responsible government to save the lives of its citizens by using all the available means.”
The Croatian Albanian lawmaker was happy that the EU decided a few days ago to open the accession negotiations with Albania. “Croatia is backing Albania for its membership in the Union, and fortunately the accession negotiations were opened last week. I hope that Albania will require stronger support from Croatia regarding its experience in the further process of joining the EU family as soon as possible,” she said.
Asked about the economic implications of the coronavirus crisis she was of the opinion that they will be severe. “I am also certain that the global economic order will be redesigned, but how and in what way it remains to be seen and time will show the implications at a regional and worldwide scale,” said the Albanian Deputy in the Croatian Parliament, Ermina Lekaj Prljaskaj in the following interview”
Albanian Daily News: Can you share with us what measures has the government in Croatia taken to cope with the Covid-19 crisis, and which is the role of deputies like you in the Croatian Parliament, who represent minority groups among whom Albanian community so that no one is ‘left behind’ amidst the painful impact of the disease?
MP Ermina Lekaj Prljaskaj: We are in a very difficult global situation, and I hope and wish that medical treatment for people infected with Covid-19 virus will be discovered soon. It has become a worldwide race in protection of life. And along with these efforts all states, their governments and people, are engaged in taking and implementing preventive measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
As far as the Croatian government is concerned, more than a month ago it started with measures to cope with the ‘Covid – 19’ crisis. The human and medical capacities are intact to face Covid-19. Over 5,000 beds are placed in premises out of the existing hospital centers. Over 800 ventilators are available to be used in any case. Students of medicine have been included in medical teams. The Health Ministry and other line institutions are doing the utmost to fight the virus.
The role of the MPs and specifically my role is to help Albanian citizens from Albania, Kosovo and North Macedonia who are in Croatia on employment contracts. I am in coordination with the embassies of Albania and Kosovo doing the best to provide our compatriots with shelter and food to overcome this situation. In addition I am also in touch with most employers who have expressed willingness to take care of their employees. But there is also a group of employers who are not ready to help!
I am also in contact with these workers telling them that it is best way to stay in Croatia for the time being because if they leave they will be stranded and placed in quarantine. In these circumstances it might happen that they can be mistreated. In the meantime I realize that states are no longer able to help each other so much, and for that reason I think that it is best for them not to move out of Croatia to protect their life.
–If the coronavirus epidemic was not enough Croatia was hit a few days ago by a strong earthquake. First, how has the situation been managed by the relevant government institutions, and secondly, Mr. Paplekaj, are Albanians demonstrating solidarity with vulnerable groups of their compatriots in such circumstances?
– It is true. Croatia was hit by a strong earthquake which caused heavy damages but, fortunately, there were not many casualties. Some 140 years ago Zagreb was hit by a powerful earthquake that destroyed the city. Such a disaster happened even now. There are major damages in the center part of the capital where there are old buildings built before 1967 but in the suburbs there are no major damages. The Croatian state is managing the whole situation with dignity and what makes this country unique is that the majority and opposition join forces to cope with the disaster. There are many volunteers who make their contribution in the relief work and are in solidarity with the citizens.
It should be noted that Albanians who live for many years in this country are in solidarity not only with the Croatian citizens but also with Albanians from the states of Albania, Kosovo and North Macedonia. I would especially like to thank the Albanian bakers who have fed our fellow citizens and Albanian associations which care for our fellow compatriots.
In a letter addressed to the Albanian community in Croatia on March 23, 2020, I called for readiness to face the challenges being emotionally and materially close the needy people. During these days many of our compatriots in Croatia are coping with unprecedented problems because of the limitation of the movement as well as of the earthquake in Zagreb.
I have particularly appealed to owners of bakeries in Croatia to supply Albanians with food, to owners of hotels or those who have extra houses to shelter our compatriots at these hard times.
My message is that each of us can do a little but together we can do much. Now is the time to show ourselves.
– Madame Deputy, you have expressed your deep concern on what is going on in Kosovo’s political scene. How would you assess such a hectic political situation particularly at a time when the country is hit by the coronavirus pandemic? Secondly, have you undertaken any effort to help for the pacification of the situation which is becoming a bit complicated as major allies do not have a common stance on these developments?
– I am very concerned and disappointed with the Kosovo political scene in these times of the pandemic. What worries me the most is the ordinary citizen who cannot rely on officials now because politics is based on the anger and tribalism of persons who, as a matter of fact, should have been united to come to citizens’ help.
I wrote an appeal to the main Kosovo political actors. I addressed the letter to PM Albin Kurti, President Hashim Thaci, Speaker Vjosa Osmani, and the Chairman of the Democratic League of Kosovo (Lidhja Demokratike e Kosoves), Isa Mustafa on March 24, 2020. I expressed the concern over the threat of the spread of the Covid-19 virus and its impact on the people and in such circumstance the overthrow of the government sounds a grave irresponsible act.
“As a deputy of the Croatian Parliament, a citizen born and raised in Kosovo, I call on you to let alone the disagreements and party hatreds and unite to fight this pandemic which has gripped the world,” I wrote in the letter.
My appeal was for them to come to senses and avoid any government crisis because it would be too late. But, unfortunately, it seems that this appeal fell in deaf ears because everyone is witness how the events have developed in Kosovo, where the country is in deep government crisis.
I highlighted the example of Croatia where the situation was graver than in Kosovo. There is a month that the government has taken measures and the human and medical capacities are intact to face Covid-19.
I am conscious that Kosovo has a weak health system, lack of respirators and bad conditions in hospitals, and like in other countries which have far better health systems people are alarmed by the proportions of the pandemic. In the first place this struggle needs the engagement of a responsible government to save the lives of its citizens by using all the available means. This should be the priority of the Kurti government. I called on the top leaders of Kosovo not to allow that the people be left alone, unprotected, abandoned by their politicians voted by them at a time when the world is fighting against death.
But as the latest developments in Pristina evolved my appeal to its leaders to cooperate in such a situation was not taken into account at all.
I feel bad to say but, apparently, we are a bossy people, and the example of the current pandemic speaks a lot as such a dangerous situation does not stop Albanians from achieving their own selfish goals to the detriment of the common people’s interest. This shows that we have no national strategy something which leads us to rely solely on our own instincts.
– In a post on your FB account you commemorated March 24, 1999, when NATO began the bombings on Serbia and after some years Kosovo won its statehood becoming an independent country. Now we are in 2020. How do you evaluate that event and in your view how have things progressed? Do you believe that Serbia is really interested in accepting Kosovo’s independence, territorial integrity and after all recognize it as a sovereign state?
– I have always marked some events in my FB posts because we are a people forgetting quickly. For our good luck we have won the independence and some things have gone ahead. We cannot say that everything has stalled. Serbia has historically been for the liquidation of the Albanian people and for years it has overpowered us through its cunning schemes.
Serbia may recognize Kosovo’s independence but its sovereignty is another question for Belgrade because it is acting in the same way towards Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Serbia has a hundred- year diplomacy and has experience. So I fear that what we have won in the war might be lost in peace.
– In times of hardship there are sometimes joyful events. I have in mind the EU decision to open accession talks with Albania. Croatia has always supported ‘Albania’s European journey’. First, how have you felt after learning this decision, and secondly, in what new ways will Croatia help Albania during this new stage of membership in the Union especially now when it has the EU presidency?
-Yes, Croatia is backing Albania for its membership in the Union, and fortunately the accession negotiations were opened last week.
I hope that Albania will require stronger support from Croatia regarding its experience in the further process of joining the EU family as soon as possible. In addition, now it has the EU Presidency and the Western Balkans-EU Summit will be held in Zagreb in May this year.
I can say that Croatia can help Albania avoid the repeating of Croatia’s mistakes during EU membership negotiations.
– And lastly, Madam Ermina Lekaj Prljaskaj, will there be a regional coordination to overpower Covid pandemic with the view of helping the most vulnerable countries, and after its hopeful termination how do you see the implications of the pandemic on the regional economic cooperation and worldwide? Do you think the global economic order will be redesigned?
– Answering your question on eventual regional coordination for helping endangered countries to overpower the pandemic, I have no detailed information yet. The European Union has assisted Croatia even during the accession negotiations, and I hope that it will help Albania, too.
Hoping that this pandemic will not last more than three months, I am convinced that the economic consequences will be severe and that it will take at least four years to revitalize the economy. On the other hand, I am also certain that the global economic order will be redesigned, but how and in what way it remains to be seen and time will show the implications at a regional and worldwide scale./ADN