Exchange: The Magazine for International Business and Diplomacy talks to His Excellency Dr Muhamet Hamiti, Ambassador of Kosovo to the United Kingdom
Exchange: Your Excellency, today’s Kosovo is a different country than it was 12 years ago in almost every respect. Since its declaration of independence in February 2008 Kosovo has been recognised by 76 countries and it has joined the World Bank and the IMF, displaying an average growth rate of 4 percent. Yet, despite quantifiable progress in terms of international recognition and private sector development, Kosovo’s reputation still remains tainted with images of war. What do you see as the priority focus in the Embassy’s drive to enhance Kosovo’s image within the wider international business community? What efforts have been made by the Government to create a positive FDI environment and by the Embassy to market investments opportunities in Kosovo to British businesses?
Ambassador Hamiti: Kosovo has made remarkable progress since 1999, a watershed in the modern history of our nation. We have had to undergo a range of critical transformations. We have emerged from outright Serbian occupation and war to freedom; then from freedom to independent nationhood, widely but still not universally recognized. We have embarked upon a far-reaching transformation from a Communist to a free market economy in very exacting circumstances. The occupation, the period of disinvestment in the late 20th century, the devastation of the war which left a moribund economy in ruins, as well as the UN administration from 1999 to 2008 were not conducive to fully-fledged economic development for Kosovo.
The clarity, rather the finality, of status which the independence of Kosovo has brought about has generated the peace of mind that freedom and settlement bring to every soul. Indeed, freedom and independence are key ingredients of development.
Kosovo has been engaged in a nation-building process that has entailed a profound process of transformation, of structural reforms in the system, and indeed the very fabric of society. The post-war reconstruction of Kosovo – wherein we have enjoyed the generous support of friends from all over the world, first and foremost the EU and the US – has gone hand in hand with the emergence of a representative democracy and the execution of an unprecedented economic transition.
The Republic of Kosovo is engaged fully in a bid to boost its economic development. The potential is there – a country rich in human and natural resources, with a Government and Parliament working in a synergy to put Kosovo on a path to sustainable growth, wherein the economy at the end of the day is driven by private investment, foreign and domestic, rather than public investment.
Kosovo has a young, entrepreneurial population, a well-educated workforce that is ready to confront the challenges of standing on its feet economically.
The perceptions of foreign investors are often influenced by the strife of our country, and indeed the entire region. The money shies away from crises situations, real or perceived.
Kosovo is at present a better place to live, to work and invest in than the reputation it enjoys. Kosovo is no exception certainly to the ailments (corruption, red tape) inherited and confronted by most of the countries that have emerged from a Communist past. But we have made progress, and made it fast.
The Government of Kosovo, including our diplomatic representations abroad, is working hard to keep the international business community abreast of development opportunities in Kosovo, which is a reliable destination for foreign investment. We are in a process of redressing the situation, and promoting an investment climate that is friendly and conducive to foreign investment, including through public-private partnerships.
The Government will embark upon a radical reform bid in the weeks and months to come. We plan to cut 50 percent of current licences and permissions needed to start a business. We seek to see Kosovo enter the top 40 in the “Doing Business” World Bank report by 2014, and aim at achieving the “Top Reformer Status” in 2012-13.
Last but not least, the Government of Kosovo is streamlining its action and coordination in the area of Investment Promotion activities, which would include relevant institutions of Government and the business community, as well as our outposts, including the embassies of Kosovo. The new global trend is commercial diplomacy, isn’t it, amongst the economic powers, the emerging powers, but also developing countries?
The Embassy of Kosovo organized a UK Investment Promotion event in London in late 2009, a very successful event, barely a year after the Embassy was set up in the UK. The Embassy is promoting Kosovo as a normal country wherein investment opportunities are ripe, despite and sometimes because of its recent tragic history of strife and destruction the 1998-99 war left behind.
Exchange: Since January 2011, Kosovo has been chairing the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA). The main objectives of this comprehensive Agreement are to expand trade in goods and services, foster investment and eliminate barriers to trade between the parties. Yet, Kosovar products bearing the seal of the Republic of Kosovo are prevented from reaching their destinations when exported via Serbia. How effective can CEFTA be as a forum to negotiate equitable solutions to this impasse? What are the priority issues that Kosovo will pursue during its 2011 year-long chairmanship?
Ambassador Hamiti: It is both Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina ….
Read the full interview at: http://issuu.com/ibde/docs/exchange_issue_4_june_2011