Kosovo: A thriving economic success story

| July 6, 2019 | 0 Comments
Kosovo was one of the first countries to sign a foreign investment protection agreement with Canada's current government. (Photo: EMBASSY OF KOSOVO)

Kosovo was one of the first countries to sign a foreign investment protection agreement with Canada’s current government. (Photo: EMBASSY OF KOSOVO)

Exactly 20 years ago, Kosovo started building from the ashes of war. With the help of friends such as Canada, the nearly wiped-out country flourished into a free, multi-ethnic, dynamic democracy. This year, we mark several important anniversaries for Kosovo in Canada, and it’s a great time to highlight the role that Canada played in our transformation, which is what makes our relations so unique.
The relationship began in 1999, when Canada and its NATO allies intervened in order to stop the Serbian state-led ethnic cleansing of Kosovo Albanians. It was, in fact, because of Kosovo that the Responsibility to Protect norm finally started to take shape. Following the intervention and after witnessing a humanitarian disaster with more than 80 per cent of Kosovo’s population displaced and deported, Canada decided to airlift more than 7,000 refugees from camps in neighbouring countries on chartered Canadian Forces planes. The refugees were given a chance to start over in Canada and many of them are proud Kosovar-Canadians today.
The relationship between Kosovo and Canada was founded on universal moral principles and values, and everything that has followed since has built upon this foundation. Because we had suffered brutal oppression and massive human rights violations for so long, and because our freedom was a result of a joint international effort in the name of humanitarian values, today Kosovo stands proudly in defence of precisely those values.
This is also why Kosovo is rightfully considered one of the most successful cases of humanitarian intervention worldwide. Following a UN-supervised transition process, during which Canada strongly supported Kosovo’s internal consolidation and democratization, in 2008 Kosovo formally proclaimed independence and has since worked hard towards becoming a regional beacon of democracy and human rights. In this regard, Canada continues to serve as our role model for diversity, tolerance and inclusiveness.
Indeed, our constitution is among the most progressive in the world. It guarantees freedom, justice and equal rights for everyone, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, belief, or even sexual orientation. Kosovo’s multi-ethnic character is reflected both symbolically — such as in our flag, which features six star

s, each of which represents a community living in Kosovo — as well as practically, through specific affirmative actions that promote representation of these communities. For example, although non-Albanian communities make up less than 10 per cent of the overall population, our Parliament guarantees them 20 out of its 120 seats. The communities are also well represented in our government, police, armed forces and judiciary. We have two official languages at the national level, with an additional few at the municipal level. For a young republic born out of a violent ethnic conflict, it’s a remarkable starting point. 

We look up to Canada’s feminist policies, especially given that it’s women who are making international success headlines for Kosovo today. Indeed, Kosovo was the first Western Balkan country to elect a female president. Women are guaranteed 30 per cent of seats in our Parliament, and, in our first ever Olympic Games, unbeatable judo world champion Majlinda Kelmendi took home the gold. The global contemporary art scene is being rocked by our young star artist, Flaka Haliti, while Dua Lipa and Rita Ora dominate the popular music charts worldwide.
Looking at the last 20 years, it’s clear that Kosovo’s liberation unleashed the brimming potential of a nation vying to prove itself to the world. Our youth is the best testament to this. Kosovo is Europe’s youngest country, not just in terms of statehood, but population age as well — the average age in Kosovo is 28 years, and a whopping 70 per cent of the population is under 35 years old. It comes as no surprise that music and arts are a booming industry in Kosovo, as are sports. In fewer than three years since its FIFA debut, the Kosovo national football team is already setting records by being undefeated for more than a dozen matches in a row.
This youth is also driving our economic development. Kosovo used to be poor and underdeveloped, with low literacy rates due to decades of apartheid. In the decade since it became independent, it has had the top economic growth in the region and even in Europe, with latest estimates at 4.2 per cent. The World Bank mentions it as one of only four countries in Europe to experience growth every year since the global financial crisis in 2008. The public debt is very low at 20 per cent of GDP, we have one of the soundest banking systems in the region, if not beyond, and foreign direct investments are growing steadily.

Kosovar President Hashim Thaci met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a visit in 2017.  To thank Canada for its solidarity, Thaci presented Trudeau with Sure Shore, which highlights success stories of former Kosovo refugees warmly welcomed by Canada in 1999. (Photo: EMBASSY OF KOSOVO)

Kosovar President Hashim Thaci met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a visit in 2017. To thank Canada for its solidarity, Thaci presented Trudeau with Sure Shore, which highlights success stories of former Kosovo refugees warmly welcomed by Canada in 1999. (Photo: EMBASSY OF KOSOVO)


Kosovo’s household internet penetration is at almost 90 per cent today. Coupled with an educated, driven and engaged youth, this has resulted in a thriving culture of entrepreneurship and innovation, with many international media now starting to talk about Kosovo less as a war-torn country and more as the region’s first startup nation. From prestigious prizes, such as the NASA Space Apps Challenge, to job creation, our startups are putting Kosovo on a global map.
All this human potential is fortunately also supplemented by Kosovo’s natural resources potential. Despite its small territory, Kosovo has the world’s fifth-largest proven reserves of lignite coal and an abundance of minerals such as lead, zinc, silver, nickel, cobalt, copper, iron and bauxite. For this reason, Kosovo is a regular participant at Canada’s PDAC, the world’s premier mineral exploration and mining convention, and why our partnership with Canada is becoming more tangible by the day.
Kosovo was one of the first countries to sign the Foreign Investment Protection Agreement, known as FIPA, with Canada. This agreement followed an increasing interest by Canadian companies in investing in the mining sector in Kosovo, and it is now opening the way for more Kosovo-Canada economic exchange, for example in agriculture, with the Canadian fertilizer manufacturer NutriVida recently inaugurated in Kosovo, or with Kosovo wines starting to be sold through the LCBO.
All the above helped strengthen the very special ties between Kosovo and Canada since 1999. We are happy to celebrate the 10th anniversary of diplomatic relations with Canada this year, after a successful bilateral agenda ever since our embassy opened in Ottawa in 2016. Whether it’s bilateral visits — Kosovo’s president was the first president from our region to meet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa — or the negotiation and signature of new agreements such as FIPA, or the celebration of success stories of Kosovars’ integration in Canada, our co-operation is stronger than ever.

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