Q How does Kosovo fit into south-eastern Europe from a financial standpoint, and why would investors look to invest in Kosovo instead of, say, Albania, Macedonia or Serbia?

A We have introduced a very attractive tax system, with a simple tax rate, that is lower than that of our regional neighbours. We have also eliminated value-added tax on agriculture, capital and intermediate goods.

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To protect foreign investors, we have adopted a law on foreign investment [which means they receive similar treatment to domestic investors]. Foreign investors have the right to own local companies and the freedom to use their profits without restrictions. The law prevents any type of discrimination and offers foreign investors the same rights and obligations as apply to residents of Kosovo. We offer simple and fast procedures for registering businesses – within three days – and the latest World Bank Doing Business report saw a significant improvement [in Kosovo’s performance].

We have a very young population, the youngest in Europe, and they represent a new [opportunity]. They are educated and multi-lingual. As well as this, the geographical position of Kosovo gives us an advantage for investment as we are a bridge for the markets of south-eastern Europe, which hold more than 100 million people. We also have direct access, via a recently built highway, to the Adriatic.
Q Do some of the unresolved political issues between Serbia and Kosovo make potential investors cautious over investing in the country?

A In the Balkans in general, it is impossible to speak about economic issues without political aspects. It is not just an obstacle for Kosovo, but for the entire region. It is true that North Mitrovica [which has a Serb population majority] politicises Kosovo, while at the same time it discourages foreign investors.

Despite this, the Kosovo Trust Agency [the agency charged with privatising Kosovo’s state-owned companies] is doing a good job in this regard. Legislation has been adopted that will move the Trepca Mine [a huge industrial complex that straddles South Mitrovica and the disputed North Mitrovica] in the right direction. Our focus for Trepca is purely economic. We will be able to minimise tensions in this part of Kosovo and [make matters easier for] those living on both sides.
Q What is the government doing to support economic growth in Kosovo?

A This year the government is focusing on economic legislation that will further contribute to creating a favourable environment that will attract business. It has also created the National Council for Economic Development. The aim of this council is to increase public and private dialogue between government and businesses by drafting economic policies and reform.

Kosovo’s government is committed to promoting and attracting foreign investment and continuing the privatisation of publicly owned companies. Major privatisations this year will include the Post and Telecom of Kosovo. [In addition to this,] membership in international organisations will continue to [drive] our development.  
Q Kosovo, along with other countries in the Balkans, has battled with political and economic corruption and organised crime over the past few years. What is being done on these issues and what can you say to ease the concerns of potential investors?

A Corruption is a disease of countries in transition and a serious regional issue that has a negative impact on the development process. We are determined to do our utmost to root out corruption.

The government of Kosovo, myself and all institutions in Kosovo have zero tolerance on organised crime and corruption. Last year, we took on major reforms of the judiciary system and we have an advanced partnership between the local judiciary and the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo.
Last year, I created an anti-corruption council, which is the first time in this region that such a body has been organised on a presidential level. [The council will] coordinate with different institutional agencies in the fight against corruption. We have also created other coordinating structures at an executive level, such as an anti-corruption task force, to effectively combat corruption. Recently, our parliament passed an anti-corruption strategy, which is very important in this fight.