Healthcare in Kosovo
When it declared its independence in 2008, Kosovo became the second youngest country in the world. This nation of almost 1.9 million saw intense conflict in the decades leading up to its separation from Serbia and did not emerge unscathed. The state of Kosovo’s healthcare system bears the marks of war. From shortages of medical equipment to prohibitively expensive services, many aspects of Kosovo’s public health infrastructure need improvement. However, to best understand the unique challenges and opportunities facing healthcare in Kosovo, one must first have some understanding of its history.

A Little History

Until 1989, Kosovo was an autonomous region within Serbia, which was itself one of six republics comprising the former Yugoslavia. In March 1989, however, the Serbian government revoked Kosovo’s autonomous status. This action stirred significant social and political tension within the region; nearly a decade later, this tension would escalate to armed conflict.

Kosovo’s healthcare system was one of the first sites of friction between the Serbian government and Kosovo’s Albanian population. Starting in the early 1990s, more than 60% of Albanian health workers left their jobs for reasons including employers firing them outright or forcing them to bear discriminatory policies, like the health sector’s newly imposed Serbian language requirement. Meanwhile, the Serbian government also closed Kosovo’s only medical school. This closure interrupted the training of many medical students, leaving a generation of Albanian healthcare workers in the country with uneven medical credentials and large gaps in their education.

The spring of 1998 saw the outbreak of armed conflict between the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and Serbian forces. By the war’s conclusion in June 1999, almost 90% of all clinics and hospitals had suffered damage. Meanwhile, the war destroyed nearly 100% of private clinics belonging to Albanian doctors. The post-conflict reconstruction efforts eventually led to the system that makes up healthcare in Kosovo today.

The Primary Care Model

International donors, who favored the implementation of a primary healthcare model, significantly influenced the recovery efforts following the war. In this model, there are three levels of care: primary, secondary and tertiary.

Primary care is to act as a gatekeeper to more specialized services, reducing reliance on secondary and tertiary institutions for routine healthcare. Researchers and Kosovar officials alike agree that it has largely been failing in this regard, primarily due to a failure to shift behavioral patterns and attitudes. Many patients prefer to seek out specialized care directly, and attempts to change this inclination are ongoing. In Kosovo, people can access primary care services at Family Medicine Centers (FMC), with one in each of the country’s 38 municipalities. Each FMC has, at minimum, two nurses and one doctor per 2,000 people in the area that the center serves.

Secondary care is accessible at any of seven regional hospitals; tertiary care is available only at the Kosovo University Hospital in the capital city of Pristina, Kosovo. While the Ministry of Health oversees secondary and tertiary services, primary care services are under municipal management.

Public Versus Private

Alongside public health institutions in Kosovo are numerous private clinics and hospitals, offering a range of services from general to specialized. Despite being more expensive than public healthcare, private health centers remain a popular choice for those seeking medical treatment in Kosovo. Those who can afford to do so cite better quality care and more streamlined services as their primary reasons for going to private over public hospitals and clinics.

In regard to healthcare employees, many workers choose to supplement their income from the public sector by also working in the private sector. This obvious, yet relatively common, conflict of interest can impact everything from the availability of certain types of medical equipment to the level of education provided to patients regarding their medical options. While there are some laws in place which seek to limit practices like referring patients from the public to private institutions, Kosovo’s healthcare system is in need of work to address corruption.

Health Insurance

According to the Act on Health, which Kosovo’s government passed into law in 2004, public health insurance is a human right. In 2014, the government passed the Law on Health Insurance in an effort to create a legal foundation from which a public health insurance program could emerge. As of 2019, however, the Health Insurance Fund detailed in this law had not become a reality, nor has it been thus far in 2020.

A lack of the necessary infrastructure is a barrier to the implementation of public health insurance, as well as a high unemployment rate. This is relevant as a premium from Kosovar incomes would fund the Health Insurance Fund almost entirely. In 2016, about 6% of Kosovars had purchased private health insurance. This leaves a significant majority of the country’s population without any health insurance to help alleviate the cost of services; with over 20% of Kosovo living in poverty, healthcare remains prohibitively expensive for many.


Air pollution in Kosovo rivals places like Mumbai, India and Beijing, as well as the severe respiratory and cardiovascular effects that necessarily accompany such pollution. Additionally, persistently high rates of tuberculosis are current public health challenges in Kosovo. Limited monitoring and reporting on health-related statistics in the country make it difficult to ascertain recent progress in fighting these and other diseases. In 2019, the European Union invested €80 million in projects intended to improve the infrastructure contributing to Kosovo’s hazardous air quality.

At present, Kosovo is the third poorest country in Europe in terms of GDP per capita, despite its income per person more than tripling over the past 19 years. The country has one of the youngest populations in Europe with a median age of 28 and one of the highest rates of youth unemployment at 55.3%.

Life expectancy in 2018 was 72.2 years, almost three years higher than a decade earlier. From 2000 to 2016, Kosovo’s infant mortality rate decreased from 29 deaths per 1,000 births to 11. While this still is higher than the European average of 4.1 deaths per 1,000 births, Kosovo has made significant progress in lowering the mortality rate of its newborns and infants.

Although Kosovo clearly still has a great deal of work to do in terms of bettering both its healthcare system and the living standards of its citizens, this country has demonstrated its extraordinary capacity for improvement repeatedly throughout its history. Kosovo continues to face many challenges in its overall development, not the least of which is the COVID-19 pandemic. The country has already come so far, so improvements in healthcare in Kosovo seem possible in the decades to come.

– Gennaveve Brizendine
Photo: Flickr

Energy Crisis In Kosovo
The energy crisis in Kosovo has long inhibited its economy. Already suffering from a post-war economy, Kosovo’s need for green energy has increased dramatically as a result. The following are five of the most salient facts about the energy crisis in Kosovo.

5 Facts About the Energy Crisis in Kosovo

  1. Kosovo’s energy crisis, as well as war, has rendered it extremely poorabout one-third of the 1.8 million people in Kosovo live in poverty; the European nation reports a 60% unemployment rate for young adults between the ages of 15 and 24. After the war in Kosovo ended in 1999, its culture was left divided and its economy shattered. The additional strain of an energy crisis has only exacerbated the problem.
  2. Kosovo has historically relied on coal for energy—For most of its existence, two coal-powered plants—Kosovo A and Kosovo B—have produced 97% of its 900 MW “operating capacity,” according to the World Bank’s website. However, these plants have been in operation for a long time and rely on a non-renewable resource for power output.
  3. Kosovo’s current infrastructure has a short shelf lifeKosovo A, the older of the nation’s two plants, has produced energy from coal for 43 years, and it has been labeled Europe’s biggest pollutant. Likewise, Kosovo B has operated for 30 years and needs rehabilitation. The Government of Kosovo currently plans to cease the operation of Kosovo A and begin work to improve Kosovo B.
  4. Land disputes have worsened the problem in recent yearsIn 2017, the Kosovo government failed to seal a crucial land acquisition deal with the Sipitule village. The government desired the village’s land; the plan was to mine it for the 14 billion tons of coal thought to lie beneath it. Ultimately, Sipitule wanted more money than the government would pay, and the deal was not completed. At this time, Kosovo’s economy had already taken major blows as a result of insufficient power supply. According to Balkan Green Energy News, “the private sector of the economy suffered damages of almost EUR 300 million because of power shortages in 2016.” Since then, coal as a fuel source has become increasingly unable to support Kosovo and its people.
  5. Solar power can help solve the energy crisis in Kosovo from the inside—In 2015, in response to inflated costs of electricity, Kosovo native Fadil Hoxha started a solar panel manufacturing company called Jaha Solar. Today, Jaha Solar reports “a production capacity up to 200 MW solar panels per year” on their website. The company remains the only solar panel manufacturer in the region, but its numbers evince great success.

Kosovo still suffers greatly from poverty and insufficient energy, but companies like Jaha Solar have created new and cleaner methods of energy production that could help reduce the aftermath of coal dependency.

– Will Sikich
Photo: Flickr

Anti-Poverty Movement
The Borgen Project has published this article and podcast episode, “Creating an Anti-Poverty Movement with Clint Borgen,” with permission from The World Food Program (WFP) USA. “Hacking Hunger” is the organization’s podcast that features stories of people around the world who are struggling with hunger and thought-provoking conversations with humanitarians who are working to solve it.


When you ask nonprofit founders how their organization began, spending months on a fishing boat is rarely the answer. But that’s exactly where Clint Borgen developed his dream for The Borgen Project, an NGO that fights global poverty through advocacy and civic engagement. His ideas weren’t pulled completely from the sea, rather, they were inspired by unique global experiences that made him passionate about garnering more U.S. political attention on the issue of global poverty.

Nearly 20 years later, The Borgen Project has evolved from a sketchbook of plans to a nationwide campaign with volunteers in 931 cities. It advocates, mobilizes and educates to improve the living conditions of people living on less than a dollar a day.

Intrigued by his organization and career, we caught up with Clint at his home in Seattle. We asked him more about that fishing boat and his prior experiences – and how The Borgen Project is currently working to change the world.

Click below to listen to Clint Borgen’s story about The Borgen Project’s foundation and its work in the present day.



Photo: The Borgen Project

Life Expectancy in Kosovo
Kosovo is a newly and controversially independent Baltic state with its fair share of hardships. After only recently deescalating its conflict with Serbia, the war-torn country must continue to find how to establish itself in the world. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Kosovo highlight Kosovo’s unstable internal conditions as well as the efforts that the country is putting forth to improve them.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Kosovo

  1. In 2002, the average life expectancy in Kosovo was 68 years. It has steadily improved since then with the average life expectancy in Kosovo now being 72 years according to the World Bank. Improvements in many sectors, such as increased health care accessibility, education reforms and de-escalation of the conflict in the region may be a cause of this. Compared to the average life expectancy of the European Union (E.U.) nations (81 years), Kosovo has a long way to go. However, many project the yearly improvement over the past two decades to continue.
  2. According to the Kosovo Agency of Statistics, in 2017, 18 percent of the population lived below the poverty line. High poverty levels likely stem from a prevalence of unemployment (31 percent in 2017) as well as exceedingly low wages (500 euros monthly). This makes Kosovo the third poorest country in Europe. However, increased foreign investment and urban development have caused major improvements from figures just five years prior that show the poverty level at 23.5 percent, reflected by a higher unemployment rate of 35 percent.

  3. There is a vast disparity in health care access between minority populations and the general populous of Kosovo. Children living in rural areas are less likely to have access to good health care, and this is even worse for ethnic minorities. According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), more than 60 percent of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian children live in absolute poverty and over 30 percent live in extreme poverty (compared to the average statistics of 48.6 percent and 18.9 percent, respectively). A statistic that reflects this disparity is the infant mortality rate (IMR). The average IMR for the whole of Kosovo is 12 deaths per 1,000 live births. When looking at the IMR for minorities, that number jumps to 41 deaths per 1,000 live births.

  4. Kosovo has a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $7.129 billion and spends 1.1 percent of it on health and social work, as well as 0.9 percent on public administration. While the amount the country spends on public health services is very low, Kosovars have seen improvements in basic health. The government has recently subsidized health care accessibility programs such as the Law on Health Insurance (2014) and the National Health Sector Strategy (2017-2021). The former gave all Kosovo citizens the right and obligation to have a basic, mandatory health insurance package that covers emergencies, pregnancies and childbirth and other health care essentials. The latter is a strategy the Ministry of Health adopted that focuses on better management of health care funds as well as improving the accessibility of basic health care to minorities and other marginalized communities. Ultimately, however, the outcomes of the new policies have been difficult to measure due to lacking administrative records and unclear implementation policies.

  5. The leading causes of death in Kosovo are circulatory system diseases, making up 62.7 percent of all deaths in 2015. Other prevalent causes of death are tumor diseases (14.7 percent) and respiratory diseases (5.4 percent). Kosovo also has one of the highest tuberculosis rates in Europe, according to the World Health Organization. Many of these diseases are due to the overwhelming amount of tobacco products consumed in Southeastern European countries, causing 80-90 percent of all lung cancer cases and increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases and tuberculosis.

  6. Starting in 1998, Serbia cast out over 800,000 people from Kosovo during the Kosovo Conflict. Thousands of people still live in refugee camps since they have no way to reclaim their homes. Other organizations or individuals have bought the properties, and Kosovo courts make it very difficult to evict the illegal tenants and allow refugees to return to their homes. However, efforts from UN Habitat, a branch of the United Nations that deals with sustainable human settlements and shelters, have recently pushed for reform in Kosovo’s court system to more adequately handle the illegal seizures of property. The Kosovo Municipal Spatial Planning Support Programme, which UN Habitat developed, has built capacities for sustainable and affordable development of urban areas and has established institutions like the Housing and Property Directorate and the Kosovo Cadastre Agency.

  7. The homicide rate in Kosovo is measured at about 2.1 intentional homicides per every 100,000 people in 2016. This is impressively low, considering the global average is 6.2 homicides per 100,000 people and the U.S. average is 4.9 per 100,000.

  8. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) looks at three categories for fifteen-year-old students: math, reading and sciences. The test thereby evaluates teaching methods and education infrastructure and shows the government whether the improvement is necessary or not. In 2015, the PISA ranked Kosovo as one of the last three countries in all of the evaluated categories. The ranking is devastating, yet the Minister of Education Arsim Bajrami embraced the results with a promise of improvement. He stated, “[The decision to participate in the PISA] was a courageous act as well as a commitment to increase the quality of education in our country.” Since then, with the help of foreign aid, the government has worked to improve the technical training of teachers and the ability of Kosovo’s youngest generation to be financially viable.

  9. Kosovo air quality has been steadily decreasing over the past decade. In December 2018, Kosovo’s capital of Prishtina had an air quality measured as hazardous. Increased investment in coal and biofuel power plants have caused a sharp increase in air pollution. The Balkan Green Foundation and the Institute for Development Policy (INDEP) launched campaigns to raise awareness on the effects of excessive air pollution caused by fossil fuel. They have been pushing for transparency with energy expenditure and power plant output, but the government has been less than receptive. However, the green movement in Kosovo has gained traction very quickly within the past six months. There are now large pushes for the Kosovo government to be more accurate with air pollution reports as well as transportation reform to ensure car emissions are not unnecessarily high.

  10. The people of Kosovo consider corruption to be the most important problem facing them, after unemployment, according to the UNODC Corruption Report on Kosovo. Systemic bribery is endangering Kosovars by obstructing their access to law enforcement as well as health care. Thirty percent of all bribes went to police officers to overlook petty crimes, 26 percent went to nurses and a massive 42 percent of bribes went to doctors to either expedite or receive better treatment. The U.K.’s ambassador to Kosovo Ruairi O’Connell has pushed very strongly for a crackdown on governmental and private corruption, “The moment has come to remove officials whose integrity is contested. Politicians should not meddle in the work of police, courts, and prosecutor’s office.”As of yet, corruption continues to be widespread, and public opinion as well as the justice ministers in the Kosovo government call for immediate reform.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Kosovo reflect that the condition is gloomy, but improving. Corruption is still endemic and ethnic disparities are prevalent, but outside influencers, like the U.N. and non-governmental organizations like INDEP are helping the government improve. If the government carries out infrastructure, education and health care developments successfully, the country would see improvements across the board and become a more competitive piece of the world with a much higher life expectancy.

– Graham Gordon
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Kosovo
Kosovo is a small, partially recognized country located in Balkan that has existed since its separation from Serbia in 2008. Despite being a young and still developing nation, it is rich in culture from its diverse populace. In the text below, top 10 facts about living conditions in Kosovo are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Kosovo

  1. Kosovo’s citizens are the second poorest in Europe. The country suffers an unemployment rate of 33 percent and youth unemployment near 60 percent.
  2. Around 45 percent of Kosovo’s population live below the poverty line, with 15 percent living in extreme poverty. Most of the population lives in rural areas, living on small plots with limited industrial tools. This leads to much of the country’s citizens being forced to live on near-subsistence farming.
  3. The country does not have enough doctors. Kosovo started new health care reform in 2010. These include universal, the state ran health insurance with a network of family health centers. The latest reports found 2,664 doctors in the program with an additional 1,457 doctors in the private sector. This totals 2.2 medical doctors per 1,000 citizens, far below the European average of 3.4.
  4. Personal hygiene is a huge problem in the country. Massive inequalities exist in the lower economic classes of the country in access to hygiene and sanitation. Lack of electricity exists for only 0.1 percent of university-educated people and 10 percent of people without an education. Meanwhile, lack of personal bathrooms are reported in large numbers and are usually divided by ethnic lines (0.3 percent of Albanian households compared to 20.2 percent of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian ethnicity households).
  5. Ethnic minorities face many legal barriers that compound their hardships. Minorities such as Roma, Ashkali and Balkan Egyptians suffer problems in obtaining personal documents needed to access health care, social assistance and education. This hinders these citizens from obtaining many of the programs designed to help low-income citizens, further trapping them in the vicious cycle of poverty.
  6. Many women face domestic violence as around 68 percent of women in Kosovo report having experienced domestic violence. This is due to a few and inadequate police and prosecutors responses. The government, however, has created a new National Strategy and Action Plan against Domestic Violence to fight against these crimes.
  7. People with diseases and injuries are at greater risk for inadequate homes, water and income. Inadequate housing is reported by 11.6 percent of those with diseases or injuries and inadequate water by 7.4 percent. Even more citizens in this situation, however, face problems with affordable conditions: 26.6 percent of citizens with health-related outcomes report inadequate affordability conditions.
  8. Kosovo’s courts are packed and overloaded. The latest reports from the International Monetary Fund showed the courts had 264,193 pending cases and a backlog of inventories ranging from 25.7 to 71.7 percent in different cases. They have 29 percent of their judicial positions filled and only five specialized judges in the lower court and only one in the appellate court. These statistics show a slow and inefficient court, hindering the legal action of citizens in the country.
  9. Kosovo is a fairly safe country. Kosovo has a crime index of 33.37. The same index is 37.27 in Serbia, 39.29 in Macedonia, 40.3 in Albania and 40.48 in Montenegro, all neighboring countries of Kosovo. In 2017, 72 citizens have been convicted of murder related crimes and 218 were convicted of robbery-related crimes in a country of 1.8 million people.
  10. There is not enough housing in the country as 21.5 percent of households report having two or more people per room in the house, and 28.7 percent have between 1.5 and 2 people per room. The United Nations had long been at work to address this problem, specifically in Prishtina. The project started in 2015 and in on-going.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Kosovo are meant to highlight the problems that urgently need to be addressed in the country. Despite the problems presented in the text above and other problems facing the country, many laws and initiatives are in the works to alleviate citizens’ poor situation. Both international and local programs are currently working to improve conditions in the country, so far successfully. This, combined with a seemingly stable economy, provides a hopeful future for the citizens of Kosovo.

– Zachary Sparks
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Kosovo
Kosovo, once a part of Serbia, has a long history of working towards gaining independence. In 1996, a Kosovo rebel group created the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which led to repression by Serbia and an ethnic cleansing campaign against Kosovar Albanians. A peace agreement in the late 1990s ended the conflict and gave control of Kosovo to a United Nations administration. In 2008, Kosovo officially declared its independence from Serbia with support from the U.N.

However, due to this conflict, Kosovo struggled in the early 2000s to rebuild its education system. This article will discuss the top 10 facts about girls’ education in Kosovo.

Top 10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Kosovo

  1. Education in Kosovo is split into pre-primary, primary, lower secondary, upper secondary and tertiary levels. Within upper secondary, students can either attend a vocational or general education school.
  2. In 2005, 10 percent of rural girls dropped out of school before finishing Grade 5. Due to this, female students only comprised 43 percent of students in rural secondary schools.
  3. In 2009 and 2010, although elementary and secondary schools were comprised of 52 percent boys and 48 percent girls, slightly more women attended university than men, with university enrollment consisting of 49 percent males and 51 percent females.
  4. Based on data from 2010, 7.2 percent of women aged 15 and older in Kosovo are illiterate, in comparison to 2.2 percent of men. In rural areas where literacy rates are lower, 8.7 percent of women and 2.8 percent of men are illiterate. This represents a significant improvement from 2005, however, when 14 percent of rural women were illiterate.
  5. Approximately 71 percent of all Kosovo children attended pre-primary education (for ages 5 through 6) in 2010, but by 2015 this percentage had risen to 81.3. However, poorer households and Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian families are less likely to send their children to pre-primary school.
  6. Grade 5 testing done in 2010 indicated that girls and urban students significantly outperformed boys and rural students. While the urban-rural divide in education access and quality is well-documented, reasons for girls attaining on average higher test scores is yet unknown.
  7. As of 2012, 62 percent of women and 37 percent of men had nine or fewer years of schooling and only 6 percent of women and 12 percent of men had a university degree.
  8. Overall, 99.6 percent of girls in Kosovo complete primary education and 99.3 percent of girls begin lower secondary school according to 2013-2014 UNICEF reports. However, only 85.5 percent of girls continue on to upper secondary school, as opposed to 89.6 percent of boys. These percentages have increased significantly since 2002, however, when 91.2 percent of girls attended primary school but only 54 percent received secondary education.
  9. Kosovo’s Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian populations, both men and women, are educated at lower rates than the Albanian and Serbian populations. While 91.6 percent of girls and 94 percent of boys from these communities enter primary school, only 72.2 percent of girls and 80.3 percent of boys finish. These percentages continue to decrease as the educational level increases, with 28.7 percent of girls and 37.3 percent of boys beginning upper secondary school.
  10. Poverty and safety concerns are the two primary factors that inhibit rural girls from obtaining an education. A survey from the early 2000s found that economic hardship, particularly in the aftermath of the conflict, was the most common reason for girls to not attend school. There was also little economic incentive for girls to attend school as female unemployment in rural areas was ninety-nine percent. Additionally, students often lived far away from the schools, making it potentially unsafe for them to walk miles by themselves, especially during the winter.

These top 10 facts about girls’ education in Kosovo help illuminate the progress the country has made, but also the work that still needs to be done, namely decreasing urban and rural disparities, as well as ethnic inequalities in education. Keeping girls in school through upper secondary education is also a concern that needs to be addressed, although the higher rate at which women are attending universities suggests that education for girls and women in Kosovo is becoming more accessible overall.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Kosovo
The Kosovo War in the late 1990’s destroyed much of country’s agricultural sector and infrastructure, and a large portion of the working population was crippled by war consequences. Currently, Kosovo’s total population is about two million. The scars of the war can still be seen in its high poverty rate and human development index (HDI) score compared to its neighbors. Here is the list of the top 10 facts about poverty in Kosovo.

  1. Kosovo’s GDP per capita or Gross Domestic Product (the number that gives an estimation of individual-based economic health) tripled from 2000 to 2017 and is currently at $3,902. However, Kosovo is still the third-poorest country in Europe.
  2. In 2015, approximately 17 percent of the population was living below the poverty line of $2.11 a day, and about five percent of the population was living below the extreme poverty line of $1.51 a day.
  3. UNICEF, based on 2006-2007 data, found that families in Kosovo with children were less likely to be poor than families without children. However, this research also concluded that children aged 0-19 were more likely to be at risk of poverty than the general population.
  4. Kosovo is rich in lignite (a type of coal) and many other natural resources, but the population’s energy needs exceed the production of the country’s two power plants. Less than 0.8 kW (kilowatts) is generated per person, which is under half of that in Slovenia and under a quarter of that in Austria.
  5. From December 2014 to February 2015, the number of migrants seeking asylum from Kosovo to the EU had grown by 40 percent.
  6. Economic growth in Kosovo is projected at between two to four percent for the period from 2018 to 2020. It has held a steady rate of growth since the 2008 global recession.
  7. Nearly two decades after the Kosovo War, ethnic tensions began to ramp up again. Local politicians are taking advantage of fear from potential conflicts and are using nationalist slogans for their political campaigns.
  8. Foreign aid and remittances from countries such as the United States, France, and others reached more than 700 million dollars in 2017, reducing poverty and trade deficits in Kosovo, according to the country’s Central Bank.
  9. Self-employment is widely recognized as one of the solutions to poverty in Kosovo, but conducted surveys show that the low investment capital and limited access to loans keep most of the people away from starting a business.
  10. Kosovo’s transportation infrastructure is very weak, with undeveloped networks of railways and motorways. It lags behind the EU average as well as other Balkan states, such as Macedonia and Albania.

Silver lining

Despite many domestic challenges Kosovo faces regarding the economy and its infrastructure, the country is back on track in economic growth and self-sustainability. Country’s quality of life has steadily improved, while poverty has decreased over the last two decades and this can be attributed to international aid and domestic policy reform.

If Kosovo can continue to maintain its growth rate and effectively integrate foreign aid and advising into both its public and private sectors, in addition to addressing its social issues, the country can expect a brighter future for its citizens in the upcoming decades.

Alex Qi

Photo: Flickr

Kosovo-Serbia Relations
Kosovo was once a province of Serbia, where  Serbians discriminated against and excluded Kosovars of ethnic Albanian origin all throughout the late 20th century. Excluded from education and administrative systems, Kosovars fought long and hard for their independence.

Kosovo History

After more than 800,000 Kosovars were forced to find refuge in neighboring countries from 1989 to 1999, NATO militarily intervened against the Yugoslavia and Serbia joint forces. After three months of NATO airstrikes, Yugoslav and Serbian forces withdrew from Kosovo and the U.N. was authorized to facilitate a political process to determine the future of Kosovo’s status.

After suffering years of systematic discrimination, the people’s right to self-determination prevailed; in 2008, Kosovo declared independence and became Europe’s newest state.

However, ten years on the relationship between Kosovo and Serbia is still relatively unstable. Recent talks between the two nations have been facilitated in the hopes of coming to a peaceful resolution. Below are five facts on Kosovo-Serbia relations today.

Facts About Kosovo-Serbia Relations

  1. Serbia, a state backed by Russia, does not recognize Kosovo as an independent state. Kosovo, as well as Serbia, is not recognized by 5 of the 28 European member states. Recently, a deal was proposed to Serbia to recognize Kosovo’s independence in exchange for EU membership. This is a long sought-after goal of Serbia.
  2. Kosovo’s population is made up of a majority ethnic Albanian population and a minority Serbian population. Serbians are mostly found in the north of the country. These populations have created some key issues within the country, as the Serbian majority population in the north is run by a parallel administration backed by the Serbian capital, Belgrade.
  3. The Serbian population refuses to integrate into Kosovo and wishes to keep close ties with Serbia and their administration. An example of the lack of integration between the two is Serbian and Kosovo schools in Kosovo. Both teach different versions of what occurred between 1989 and 1999 to coincide with their own versions. Schools teach different languages — Kosovars learn Albanian and Serbians learn Serbian — and neither interact with each other. This has created a cycle of hostility between the two ethnicities and countries.
  4. An association of Serbian municipalities was created as part of a deal brokered between the two countries in 2015. This was done to give more autonomy to the Serbian communities in Kosovo. The deal allowed the five percent of ethnic Serbs to have their own courts of appeal, budgets and police officers. However, this autonomy has caused some tension between the two groups. This year, amendments were requested as the agreement was deemed incompatible with Kosovo’s constitution and sovereignty.
  5. In the past few years, talks have been facilitated between the Serbian and Kosovo governments to put an end to their turbulent relationship. These discussions also strove for peace and agreement to come to fruition. In 2017, the Justice Agreement was reached, integrating all judicial personnel and allowing justice to be delivered across Kosovo, including the Serbian municipalities. This was a milestone for Kosovo-Serbia relations.

Future Relations

Since the end of the war, Kosovo-Serbia relations have been fraught with disagreements and tensions. However, things are looking up and future relations between Kosovo and Serbia seem to be more cooperative and peaceful.

Hopefully, there will be a full recognition of Kosovo’s independence followed by both its and Serbia’s admission to the European Union in the near future. The relationship between these two countries should be a fruitful and peaceful one, but acceptance and cooperation must come from both sides to ensure their peaceful coexistence.

– Trelawny Robinson
Photo: Flickr

sustainable agriculture in kosovo

Kosovo’s economy is highly dependent on agriculture and related industries, which are estimated to be the biggest sector of the economy. At a broad level, Kosovo’s agricultural sector is doing well, but there are some key challenges holding it back. That being said, external aid, particularly from the U.S. and the European Union, is helping to rectify some of these issues in conjunction with many local activists whose efforts to promote sustainable agriculture in Kosovo cannot be overlooked.

The main challenge facing Kosovo’s agricultural sector amounts most fundamentally to a lack of competitiveness. This results from a variety of factors, ranging from outdated techniques and equipment (with regards to both production and processing) to difficulty with market access. Additionally, Kosovar farmers are facing increased pressure to switch to more sustainable practices before the environment can no longer support their current ones. Encouragingly, many small farmers are open to doing this, but may lack the means to do so, which is why support from outside actors promises to be wildly successful in promoting sustainable agriculture in Kosovo.

Many groups are hard at work trying to modernize the Kosovar agricultural sector and make it more internationally competitive. The EU’s mission to Kosovo has made a point of working with small farmers and providing them with grants to make necessary improvements. Additionally, the EU mission is also working closely with Kosovo’s Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Development to ensure that all of the work being done is helping to bring Kosovo in line with the EU’s common agricultural policy and all of its associated regulations.

The EU has made a point to prioritize providing grants to farmers who are also advocates for sustainable agriculture in Kosovo. Saffron Team, one of the EU grant recipients, lobbies against the use of artificial pesticides and works to sustainably produce saffron, a highly valuable crop that is well-suited to the local climate.

The story of Saffron Team is also a good example of how money put towards sustainable agriculture or other seemingly-irrelevant efforts can also have unintended positive effects elsewhere. The owner of Saffron Team, Nexhmedin Kahrimani, is currently negotiating with an ethnic Serb from northern Kosovo, and the two are considering going into business together. When describing this latest venture, he emphasizes the importance of mutual trust in all aspects of daily life. It is quite possible, then, that efforts to promote sustainable agriculture in Kosovo can also play a role in helping to encourage reconciliation between the multiple ethnic groups who call this country home.

USAID is also heavily involved with promoting sustainable agriculture in Kosovo. The U.S. is currently focusing on helping Kosovar farmers improve their production and processing techniques while opening up new links to markets around the world. USAID is working to bring in new investors and generate economically sustainable partnerships that will foster long-term growth in this sector. The U.S. is also working to provide improved equipment and training to help farmers increase volume and achieve greater economies of scale. Additionally, USAID is emphasizing improved food quality to help Kosovar products compete on the international market. The United States is also helping to fund initiatives to encourage young people to enter careers in agriculture, ensuring the promotion of sustainable agriculture in Kosovo in the long term as well as the short term.

As with many aspects of international development, significant challenges are present and it will take time for sustainable agriculture in Kosovo to become firmly entrenched. It will be difficult for all farmers to adopt these techniques at the same rates, and market access may continue to be a problem. That being said, those parties working on these issues in Kosovo are to be commended for their efforts, which are already making a major difference.

– Michaela Downey

Photo: Flickr

5 Development Projects in KosovoDespite turbulence in the past, Kosovo is undergoing rapid economic development at present. However, this is not distributed evenly across all populations and parts of the country. However, there are numerous development projects in Kosovo working to change that. These five promise to make a major difference.

USAID Engagement for Equity

This program works to support local civil society groups in developing policies to promote greater equity for marginalized groups and communities in Kosovo. This project has had a broad reach and has made especially notable improvements in gender equity. Kosovo has relatively strong protections for women on the books, but few women are aware of their rights and often have difficulty taking advantage of them because of the patriarchal culture in Kosovo that is common in many Balkan societies. This problem is especially pronounced when it comes to property rights, as women traditionally did not own or inherit property.

USAID recently worked with Kosova Women 4 Women to organize a class that taught women what their rights are and how to exercise them. While this seems small, this is an example of development projects in Kosovo that have a much broader reach than they seem. Women who have property in their names or register property jointly with their husbands have a much easier time accessing credit, which helps them to start small businesses, promoting the growth of the entire economy as well as greater financial security for women.

LuxDev Health Sector Support Programme

Luxembourg has been a major donor to Kosovo’s health sector for many years and has contributed to many successful projects. This latest project is expected to be completed in 2019 and will build on the successes of previous projects. Its goals primarily center around improving institutional capacity and management to ensure full implementation of previous achievements, as well as increasing access to and affordability of care.

InTerDev 2

InTerDev 2 is the latest in a series of projects supported by the UNDP to reduce economic insecurity, particularly in southern Kosovo and among minorities and women. Its primary goals are to bring down the high unemployment rate, address underemployment and precarious employment, improve public services, and end the socioeconomic exclusion of women and minority groups. The plan is to do this by expanding the capacity of municipalities and local actors, especially in rural areas, to assist underserved populations, supporting small and medium-sized business owners who wish to modernize and expand and by promoting job growth at the local level.

Kosovo Safety and Security Project

This comprehensive approach to security, spearheaded by the U.N. but also supported by several EU member states, seeks to improve security in Kosovo by focusing on small arms control, countering violent extremism, and improvements in policing. Recent years have seen multiple development projects in Kosovo focus on addressing violent crime and cracking down on the illegal trade and possession of small firearms and explosive materials. The Safety and Security Project seeks to build on best practices learned from these projects to strengthen and empower Kosovo’s law enforcement agencies. Another effect of this project will be to bring Kosovo into compliance with EU regulations regarding firearms, helping to put Kosovo on a more equal footing with its neighbors. It is also hoped that the root causes of illegal weapons possession can be mitigated, helping to make Kosovo safer.

Institutional and Technical Support for the Water Supply System

This project is a follow-up to the 2016 project of the same name, both organized by Luxembourg. The 2016 project saw the creation of the Mitrovica Regional Water Company and supporting infrastructure. The current project aims to strengthen the management and customer service capabilities of the company and enable it to run more efficiently from a business standpoint. This comes as other development projects in Kosovo are also working to strengthen and support private sector activity. Also included in the current project are the use of satellite imagery to identify leaks and the replacement of some aging infrastructure to make the water supply system more efficient and more environmentally friendly by reducing the amount of water wasted as a result of leaks.

These projects all promise to jump-start economic development in Kosovo and lift people out of poverty. They will all have a major impact on quality of life and some even promise to help calm the lingering tensions in Kosovo as a result of the conflict. Improved economic conditions and stronger legal frameworks will also make major strides towards rectifying the ongoing issues surrounding property ownership. Once this is resolved, the credit access problem in Kosovo will also become much more manageable. Taken together, these improvements promise to strengthen Kosovo’s economy and bring down the poverty rate, which is good for everyone.

– Michaela Downey

Photo: Flickr