Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Kosovo Celebrates Third Independence Day from Serbia

Kosovo celebrates Third
Independence Day from Serbia

Dr. Mozammel Haque
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: On behalf of Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz, the Governor of the Riyadh Region, Dr Nasser ibn Abdulaziz, Deputy Governor of the region opens the celebration of the Third Independence Day of the Republic of Kosovo, on Saturday, the 19th of February, at Tuwaiq Palace, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Many ambassadors, embassy officials and representatives came to the celebration. I had the opportunity to meet and talk with the Albanian Ambassador, Admirim Banaj, Kosovan Ambassador, Dr. Rajab Boya, Bosnian Ambassador, Malaysian Ambassador, Mitsuru Murase, Counsellor of the Embassy of Japan, Ismail Mae, Counsellor of Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative office in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and others.
Kosovo is indeed Europe’s youngest country. International community welcomes the new nation in Europe on its first independence day on 7 February, 2008. Since then, Kosovo is recognized by 75 countries around the world. Dr. Rajab Boya, the Ambassador of Kosovo in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia said in his welcoming speech, “We thank all those countries for their recognition and hoping that the rest of other countries will follow them also. We look very much forward to build relationship and friendship with all countries and with people of the world.”
“Kosovo will take its positive place within the international communities,” said the Kosovan Ambassador and added, “Kosovan Embassy in Riyadh is one of the first and earliest in the world for which the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its people have played significant role.”
Japanese counselor, Mitsuru Murase said, “I would like to express my heartfelt congratulations on behalf of the Embassy. I hope Kosovo will be active more and more, day by day.”
This is the third anniversary of the declaration of Independence Day of Kosovo from Serbia and Albania is not only a neighbouring country but religiously and ethnically they belong to the same religion Islam and the same ethnicity Albanian. I met Albanian Ambassador Admirim Banaj and enquired about their relationship and cooperation. Ambassador Banaj said, “Practically this region with all the misinformation and with all the historical diplomatic relations and the rest of conduct that former Yugoslavia had met Arab partners and Muslim countries managed to come in term of reality looking at the issue of Kosovo, with this kind of positive light and we have now recognition from the GCC countries except Kuwait and Yemen. Of course, Yemen is not a GCC country. Kuwait is somehow in a difficult position regarding Iraq, regarding all that regional matters.”
“Western world in one way or another is very well known with the Albanians. Recognition of Kosovo comes first from Turkey, then it was Afghanistan, then it was U.S.A., then it was Albania. It is important that the West has already faced the Albanian problem, Balkans, historic. In one way or another, it was created because of the regional position or the different big powers. I mean they have opened the book of real history – history which is full of spices – you have a lot of spices; so you don’t have the proper taste of eating because there is lot of spices," he said.
Ambassador also mentioned, “Albanian used to have certain problems, very sensitive problems, since countries or entities used to be very active in the political game and affiliation of the First World War and then they want to be paid back from this table and Albanian was the only leverage; so they try to make it as much as possible invisible. But historically, now we become a fact. After one year, we fulfil our centre like an independent state that means that we are not claiming any territory; we are trying just to rest other world the international community to understand that Albania is surrounded by Albanians. It is not an extension or expansion of Albanians.”
Republic of Kosovo
Kosovo is situated in the centre of the Balkan Peninsula. It presents an important junction of the Median and Southern Europe, and the Adriatic and Black Sea. Kosovo’s area is 10,908 km2 and is populated by over 2 million people. In fact, the total population of Kosovo is approximately 2.2 million. Its ethnic composition is 90% Albanians, 5% Serbs, 2% Muslim Slavs (Bosniaks, Gorans), 2% Roma and 1% Turks. There are over 500,000 people living as Diaspora. The language spoken by the people of Kosovo are Albanian, Serbian and English.

Kosovo is well endowed with agricultural land. Out of a total surface of 1.1 million ha approx. 588,000 ha or 53% is cultivable land. Currently some 260,000 ha is used as agricultural land in the different fields. With some 60 percent of the population living in rural areas and mostly working in agriculture, Kosovo has a long agricultural tradition. Currently, the sector of agriculture contributes 18 percent to the GDP and is the main source of income for the majority of the population. It is one of the most employment providers in Kosovo and it accounts for 13 percent of the value of exports. Some 70 percent of the local market demand for the agricultural products and processed foodstuff is still being fulfilled by imports.

Kosovo is blessed with a young, skilled, multilingual and motivated labour force with a strong entrepreneurial spirit. With 70 per cent of the population being under the age of 35, Kosovo is considered to have the youngest population in Europe. This young population has a high literacy of foreign languages. Albanian and Serbian are both official languages, and given the long-term presence of a large international community, English has been established as a de-facto third official language. Owing to the large Kosovar Diaspora, German and other European languages are frequently heard.

The main advantage of the Kosovo labour force remains its low cost. With the average monthly labour cost estimated at EUR 262.5 it is the most competitive in the region. Furthermore, personal income tax in Kosovo is very low at only four percent of the average gross salary, and the wages are unburdened by costly social contributions, unlike the salaries in most neighbouring countries.
Its Education system
The compulsory school and Higher education systems in Kosovo have been reformed in recent years landing great importance to their quality, and thus creating the basic preconditions for the development of a knowledge-based society out of the young population. With the ratification of the new university law by the Government back in 2004, Kosovo’s higher education authority has introduced educational levels in accordance with the Bologna Declaration.

Great importance has been given to establishing a privately-driven educational system. Currently Kosovo has two state universities and several private universities and colleges, with worldwide known educational institutions among them. As part of the educational reforms, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has started implementation work for the foundation of the Public University of Prizren, which will start its first educational year in October 2010. The curricula of the study fields offered by the University of Prizren were developed based on the mid-term needs of the local economy.

With approximately 30,000 students at the two state universities, and at least 10,000 students at the private universities and colleges, a sufficient stream of highly educated labour is guaranteed. The number of graduates is increasing continuously, with social science graduates over-performing those studying the natural science.

Its Trade
Kosovo has a liberal trade regime and derives three major benefits from trade liberalization, namely improved export possibilities, a better investment environment, and stable relations with its neighbours. Committed to establishing principles for the stable development of a pure economy, since a very early stage of development, Kosovo’s government has been working towards establishing a system for the free movement of goods and services throughout the country’s borders. As a result Kosovo currently enjoys free trade within Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA), enabling its businesses and producers of goods to access the regional market comprising of 30 million consumers, free of any customs duties.

In addition, Kosovo benefits from non-reciprocal, customs-free access to the EU market based on the EU Autonomous Trade Preference) ATP) Regime. Qualitative and Quantitative restrictions remain in force only for a limited number of goods. Furthermore, goods produced in Kosovo enjoy a preferential treatment in the US market.

Foreign Investment
There is enough scope for foreign direct investment. Since declaring independence, Kosovo has embarked on a major social and economic development programme that will act as the foundation for a better future. “Kosovo is well aware that independence brings with it opportunities to increase foreign investments, to increase our manufacturing base, and to generate profits. It is important to underscore the fact that Kosovo has a clear future in the European Union. Kosovo has low taxes and a simple tax system. It further offers macroeconomic stability, simple and quick business registration procedures, the Euro as its official currency, and a young, dynamic and well educated work force. Through its membership in CEFTA, investors entering Kosovo will enter a market of 28 million people. In addition, Kosovo enjoys customs-free access to the EU market based on the EU Autonomous Trade Preference (ATP) Regime as well as customs-free access to the US market,” said Minister of Trade and Industry of Kosovo, Lutfi Zharku.

Speaking about the economic development during the last two years, Lutfi Zharku said, “The last two years have shown the first signs of sustainable economic development with the private sector being the main backbone of this growth, Kosovo was one of the few economies that experienced a positive economic growth (3.8%) in 2009, despite the financial crisis. However, the Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) inflow decreased during 2009, but the amount of FDI still remained on an acceptable level. Still, some of the key challenges of Kosovo, such as the big trade imbalance and the high unemployment rate remain.”

He also assured that the Government of Kosovo will remain focused in further improving the business climate and in speeding up the regional and European integration of Kosovo.
Mr. Suleiman Shiddi
Mr. Suleiman Shiddi from the Shiddi Company of Saudi Arabia told me that they have started many projects and investments in Kosovo. Earlier, when I met him at the Second Financial Investment Conference under the auspices of Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank (IDB) in Tirana in 2008 that time Mr. Suleiman negotiated and cooperated for further investment in the region, especially in Albania and Kosovo.

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