23. January. 2015. | 05:27

Economic prosperity of northern Kosovo lies in the development of small and medium enterprises

One the main conclusions from the 4th debate of the Mitrovica Social Club project, which took place on Thursday evening in the AKTIV Art Center in Kosovska Mitrovica, was that “the economic prosperity of northern Kosovo lies in the development of small and medium enterprises”. 

It was said that EU funds intended for northern Kosovo should contribute to the economic development of the region, but that they cannot replace funds that come from central Serbia. The panelists were Ljubisa Mijačić, a researcher and associate of local and international institutions in development of strategic, socio-economic and infrastructure projects, and Žarko Kovačević, representative of the Agency for Regional Development. Kovačević said that the EU has recently allocated 8.5 million Euros in order to support 67 projects in the north of Kosovo. "This is just the beginning and 67 of these projects should contribute to the development of economic situation in northern Kosovo. However, the funds now coming from the EU cannot replace the funds that have been coming from central Serbia. Funds from Serbia are still the primary funds, especially for the north of Kosovo.

"Mijačić recalled that the first IPA fund that was implemented in the north of Kosovo was the one which made it possible for one industrial bakery in Zubin Potok to open. He siad that "today this bakery is one of the strongest bakeries in Kosovo, profitable and competitive enough to sell a loaf of bread in Štrpce and be even more competitive than a bakery from Uroševac for example."  He explained that economic nationalism still exists in Kosovo - Serbs are buying from Serbs and Albanians from Albanians. According to Mijačić, the economic situation in northern Kosovo is "bleak and with no trends to encourage one to believe that it will get better." He stressed that the existing economic system in northern Kosovo is unsustainable and pointed out that the lack of a unified strategy for the economic development of northern Kosovo presents a problem. He explained how to his "knowledge, except from some short term (and in some cases long-term) political strategies there is no strategy for the development of northern Kosovo." He pointed out that the young generation now entering the labor market is facing the greatest challenge because they are not offered any real opportunities. "The problem with young people is that we do not know how to keep them from moving away. In Zubin Potok we have the situation that out of the five students who go to study in Belgrade, four of them do not return after the studies. For a small environment such as Zubin Potok it is a huge economic impact, because we lose the capacity for growth and development in the future," warned Mijačić.

Kovačević stated that the future of northern Kosovo lies in the development of small and medium-sized enterprises. He said that: "As examples from throughout Europe have shown - investing in SMEs is the most profitable and over there such enterprises bear the burden of 90 percent of the economy. I do not understand why we would not apply this kind of system especially having in mind that we have a large number of educated young people who possess knowledge. With small economic investment the economic burden of a new company could be endured.”

During the debate it was also stated that the north of Kosovo has a potential to become an attractive tourist destination and that this idea must receive more marketing support.It was indicated that the political framework is very important and that this is currently the main obstacle to creating a policy for economic development in north Kosovo. Both panelists agreed that in certain municipalities in the north agriculture could be considered as a resource potentially conducive to the economic development of the region, but the problem here is environmental pollution. It was also stated that "Trepča" mining and industrial complex does not present the future of northern Kosovo.

AKTIV’s project, Mitrovica Social Club, envisages as a series of debates to be held twice a month from November untill March and it is funded by the U.S. Embassy.