The leader of Kosovo’s largest party and former prime minister Albin Kurti has called for Kosovo to set up a task force for the attraction of foreign investment as a way to bolster the country’s struggle for fully-fledged independence and international recognition.
“Creating a task force for foreign direct investment is going to spark a shift from cultural and geopolitical diplomacy towards economic diplomacy,” Mr Kurti told fDi on the sidelines of the Investment Management Exhibition held in Frankfurt on September 8-9.
Mr Kurti’s Vetëvendosje (“Self-determination”) party won a majority of seats in the parliamentary elections held in 2019, which eventually saw him appointed as prime minister in February. Parliament voted him and his government out just a few weeks later following a rift over the Covid-19 crisis response plan.
“Politics and geopolitics are somehow detached from the people, from the labour market and economic dynamics. As long as we are engaged in geopolitics, it’s not the people, but the politicians that will be the end beneficiaries. It’s economic investment that turns the people into economic beneficiaries of political processes, and we believe that investors know and understand this approach best.”
Kosovo, where ethnic Albanians make up 95% of the population, declared independence from Serbia in 2008. The country has achieved wide international recognition since then, although there are notable exceptions that prevent it from setting up as a fully-fledged independent country.
Five of the EU’s 27 members do not recognise Kosovo – namely, Spain, Slovakia, Cyprus, Romania and Greece – nor two of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – China and Russia. At the same time, Serbia continues to advocate against Kosovo’s independence, which has prompted several countries to withdraw their recognition in recent years. The US brokered an ‘economic normalisation’ deal between Serbia and Kosovo on September 4.
Following years of negotiations, Mr Kurti now believes it is time for business and investment to take the centre stage in the country’s play for independence.
“We want to have a rule of law in place, and also a commercial court to create confidence among investors, especially foreign investors, including our huge diaspora. Our economy is so thirsty [for investment],” he said, adding that the country offers opportunities in manufacturing, as well as IT, agriculture and wood processing.
Allied governments are also supporting Kosovo’s efforts to set up a business environment conducive to foreign investment. The German government is behind the initiative of transforming a former military base in Prizren which was occupied by German peacekeeping troops from 1999 into an Innovation and Training Park (ITP Prizren).
Kosovo’s $8bn economy has attracted 58 foreign direct investment projects, worth $2.3bn, since the declaration of independence in February 2008, according to figures from foreign investment monitor fDi Markets.
The lion's share went to the financial services sector, with Frankfurt-based ProCredit standing out as the most active foreign investor in Kosovo since 2008, fDi Markets figures show.