Kosovo struggles to wean itself off foreign aid

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Kosovo struggles to wean itself off foreign aid

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Two years after it declared independence, Kosovo is a long way from starting to end its dependence on foreign aid. Experts say the politicians are struggling to create a viable economy.

Jean-Michel de Walle, an expert in eastern European affairs at the Université Libre Bruxelles, said: “Independence did not resolve anything. For those who thought that independence alone would solve Kosovo’s problems, as if by magic, they must realise that the problems remain. It didn’t make matters worse, but things weren’t resolved.”

Since the end of the war with Belgrade, Kosovo has received four billion euros in aid, about 15 percent of GDP.

With a population of two million, Kosovo is not generating enough revenue, and for the 30,000 youngsters trying to enter the job market every year, things don’t look encouraging. The unemployment rate stands at 40 percent. The average yearly income is 1,760 euros, much lower than the European average of 24,000 euros.

Jean-Michel de Walle said: “Right from the start, we knew that Kosovo would be a real economic problem. It’s a country without natural resources, industries and strong agriculture. It’s a poor country, without infrastructure … The problems have become worse because of the lack of a competent administration, the lack of public policies, the lack of a political elite – economic and social – capable of launching a real public policy project for this country.”

On top of Kosovo’s economic dependence, there is also the question of dependence on outside security.

Some 10,000 NATO troops and 2,000 police, judges and prosecutors from the EU are deployed to fight against organised crime and keep the tension between the majority Albanians and minority Serbs in check. The Serbs, mostly in the north, do not recognise Kosovo’s institutions and rely on support from Belgrade.

Jean-Michel de Walle said: “Is the recognition of an independent Kosovo legitimate under international law? As long as there’s no answer to that, it’s going to be difficult to move forward. I think for Serbia, as well as for a democratic and pro-European government, it’s something that’s absolutely unacceptable.”

The International Court of Justice is expected to deliver its verdict soon on the case. 65 countries have recognised Kosovo, but opposition from Serbia, Russia and China has prevented it from becoming a UN member.