Investment in Kosovo

At this critical stage of developments for the future of Kosovo, a group of Greek businessmen from Macedonia and Thrace have visited Pristina, after an initiative by the Foreign Ministry. Greek investors in Kosovo? It may sound like a joke to some, but there have been several high-level meetings and dinners with Kosovo’s new Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, leaders of the other parties and contacts with Kosovo businessmen. Some of the Greek delegates have come back with signed contracts; many others have exchanged phone numbers and addresses with contacts in Kosovo. Most importantly of all, everyone returned safe and sound. No one was missing a finger after shaking hands with a Kosovar, no one was robbed, had their wallet stolen or even lost a suitcase. Just before the visit, I had received a phone call from an anxious member of the group asking about the risks. I replied that as far as I knew, absolute calm and order prevailed and there was nothing to fear. I happened to be in Pristina on another story and was able to observe their meetings, which had been very well organized by the Greek Association Bureau. The general view was that everything went well and would continue with a reciprocal visit by a Kosovo mission to Thessaloniki in the spring. The Greek delegates returned home in an upbeat mood. When I asked some of them what conclusions they had drawn from their visit, they replied that they had known very little about this 2-million-strong market just a short distance from the port of Thessaloniki, and blamed the media for presenting an image of Kosovo as a den of criminals. They aren’t completely wrong. For Greeks, Kosovo is still a place no one, including businessmen, would want to visit, let alone do business. People still associate it with the bombings and the conflict between ethnic Serbs and Albanians as to who had arrived first in Kosovo, the «field of blackbirds.» As a result, they have left the arena for trade and investments wide open to Slovenes, Croats, Austrians, Turks, the Dutch and the Serbs themselves, whose products are the top sellers, not only in Pristina but in the Albanian sector. Kosovo today is neither an investor’s paradise nor a den of criminals. Whoever takes a risk now, as others are doing, will rule the market tomorrow, when the country’s status is finally established and the situation has improved.