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Can the new government change Kosovo’s fortunes?

By Alon Ben-Meir and Arbana Xharra - posted Friday, 8 November 2019

Second, they must make economic development a top priority, which is central to creating jobs and opportunities for growth. Given that financial resources are scarce, however, the government should make it conducive for foreign investors to invest in the private sector. Moreover, other than loans given by the IMF and the World Bank designated for special projects, the US and EU would certainly be open to provide further financial aid provided that the money is spent on projects with transparency and competency. The funds, however, should be given incrementally and correspond to the progress being made.

Third, they should seek a solution to the conflict with Serbia that is not contingent on any other domestic issues or concerns. Both the US and the EU want an end to the conflict, and given the imperative of their economic and political support, the new government cannot dismiss what they believe to be in the best interest of Kosovo. As important for the new government is to make a good-will gesture toward Serbia by immediately lifting the 100% tariff imposed on imports of Serbian goods. The government should make it clear that it is ready to enter negotiations in good faith to resolve the conflict, which neither can escape indefinitely.

Fourth, given the public's skepticism and lack of trust in past governance, the new government should engage the public on a regular basis through the media and public statements about the progress being made or the lack thereof. This is essential not only for restoring public trust, but also for engendering public support, as they are impatient and eager for quick solutions to the many endemic problems facing the country.


Fifth, the government should develop trade and friendly relations with all its neighbors, but limit the influence of major powers like Russia, China, and Turkey, whose presences in Kosovo are increasing exponentially and geared to serve their interests. In contrast to the old government, the new one should not invite these countries to develop national projects, such as major energy plants or networks of highways, through which they can exert undue political and economic influence.

Sixth, the government must maintain the secular nature of the country and insist on the separation between "state and church." Turkey in particular has made no secret of its desire to greatly influence the political discourse in Kosovo. Ankara should be prevented from building more mosques and other religious institutions, and Pristina should oppose the Islamization of the country. Erdogan is using religion as a tool to promulgate his Islamic agenda, which is against the Kosovo public's Western orientation.

Seventh, it is central for the government to allocate enough funds to advance the educational system. No child should be deprived of a good education. Well trained and better paid teachers and rehabilitated schools create a conducive learning environment and quality education. Given the extremely high number of unemployed youths, ranging from 30-50 percent, technical schools to train young adults in various trades that would allow them to find better job opportunities are necessary.

Eighth, maintaining and protecting the democratic nature of the state is sine qua non for the health of the country as well as its standing among the European community. Democracy is not merely free and fair elections. A true democracy rests on an additional four major pillars: freedom of the press, speech, and assembly; an independent judiciary; strict adherence to human rights; and religious and ideological freedom.

Ninth, the new government should postpone the establishment of an army, which was advocated by the previous government, as there is no imminent threat in the offing. Building even a small army would require hundreds of millions of dollars annually, which must instead be invested in economic development. The focus should be on building a strong and uncorrupt domestic force to provide internal security. Presently, the US and EU are committed to Kosovo's security, and once the conflict with Serbia is resolved, Kosovo could become a NATO member, which would provide it with the security umbrella it needs.

It would be presumptuous to assume that such a "revolutionary" agenda can be implemented within the first "100 days." Given, however, the public's impatience and skepticism, the new government should lay down its plans and engage the public in the development process to instill hope and restore confidence that real and constructive change is approaching.

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About the Authors

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.

Arbana Xharra authored a series of investigative reports on religious extremists and Turkey's Islamic agenda operating in the Balkans. She has won numerous awards for her reporting, and was a 2015 recipient of the International Women of Courage Award from the US State Department.

Other articles by these Authors

All articles by Alon Ben-Meir
All articles by Arbana Xharra

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