Report: Free Market Road Show in Pristina 2019

Rethinking Kosovo’s past and future

As it is becoming a tradition, the Free Market Road Show visited Pristina teaming up with the University for Business and Technology and the Liberal Institute for Policy Research.

After the opening remarks by UBT’s Rector Edmond Hajrizi and AEC’s Senior Fellow Federico N. Fernández, the first keynote speech was given by Abelard Tahiri. Mr. Tahiri is the Minister of Justice in Kosovo. He highlighted that the country is putting great efforts in order to improve. The minister mentioned that his two greatest achievements were the law that creates the possibility of seizing assets coming from corruption and the reforms carried out following the Georgian anti-corruption model.

However, not all the local speakers were as optimistic as the Justice Minister. Armend Muja, who is a professor at UBT, explained that according to Freedom House, “Serbia is ahead of us in several items.” He went on to explain that “young people do not know what people suffered under Communism. This is dangerous because they end up having sympathy towards Socialism.” He also attacked the disastrous situation regarding the privatization of the postal services: “Vodafone wanted to buy our post service for 700 million euros. Now we cannot find a buyer for 150 million euros. This shows the utter failure of the state.”

Later on, Bardhyl Salihu, a local businessman, also pointed out certain problems. “Economic freedom is not the well-known in Kosovo,” said Mr. Salihu. “We see the state as the dominant factor of every part of life.” He lamented that the public sector is a giant – one in four people are employed by the state. Moreover, foreign investments are still very low due to corruption at the state level. The diaspora is basically the only one who invests here – mostly in real estate. Which reforms does Kosovo need? To Mr. Salihu, three are key. Namely, a judiciary reform, stronger protection of private property, and enforcement of contracts.

Finally came the turn of Adri Nurellari. Mr. Nurellari is the main local organizer for the Free Market Road Show in Pristina and a magnificent speaker who has served as economic adviser for both the Albanian and the Kosovarian governments. Mr. Nurellari claimed that “Kosovo needs a process of de-Communization. Something similar to the de-Nazification process in Germany after World War II.”

For Nurellari, there is still a misconception regarding the Communist past in Kosovo. “85 percent of the Albanian factories were closed in 1989. The workers were paid 80 percent of their salaries even though they did not work at all. But it was more economically ‘efficient’ to pay them not to work. In Kosovo, many people did not feel the total collapse of the communist economy because the war ended all violently. This helped create a mythology of a golden past.”

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