“Kosovo, alles Scheiße. Serbien, auch Scheiße. Deutschland, das ist gut. Da kann man arbeiten, fünf Euro die Stunde, egal ob schwarz oder nicht, es ist besser.” (Rexhep Kurteshi)
The greatest exodus from Kosovo since the 1998-99 war has started. More than 15 years after NATO bombing Kosovo is witnessing a dramatic surge in the number of its citizens smuggling themselves across Serbia’s border into Hungary and push westwards to the likes of Germany and Switzerland through the EU’s borderless Schengen zone. Since August 2014, when exodus from Kosovo began, until last December, it is estimated that about 100,000 people has left Kosovo, and from the beginning of this year 50,000 more, although no one officially wants to say it, writes Pristina daily “Bota Sot”. That is six per cent of population. Hungary and Austria have both reported a sudden rise in migration from Kosovo. In only two months between 50,000 and 120,000 ethnic Albanians have left Kosovo in a wave migration to western European countries.
The Kosovar media has reported that as many as 20,000 people are leaving the tiny country of around two million people each month in a bid to escape corruption, poverty and soaring unemployment. The Hungarian Embassy in Kosovo estimates the number of Kosovo Albanians in Hungary could be as high as 60,000, according to Balkan Insight. The education ministry of Kosovo released on mid-February “alarming statistics” showing that 5,200 children dropped out of school in recent months to follow their parents abroad. In addition 60,000 Kosovo Albanians applying now for Serbs passport as they need visa for Schengen area but Serbs not. On 12th Feb 2014 Serbian security forces stepped up patrols and deployed an elite unit on its border with Hungary, trying to halt a torrent of migrants that has triggered alarm in many European Union countries.
German figures released on Monday, February 9 show a significant increase in asylum applications from Kosovars – from 1,956 applications in December to 3,630 in January. Germany’s interior ministry announced on 12th Feb. 2015 it was sending 20 police officers to the border between Hungary and Serbia to help control a surge in the number of asylum seekers heading into the European Union and ultimately to Germany with its generous welfare benefits. It said authorities would prioritize asylum applications of Kosovo citizens, deciding on them within two weeks and stepping up efforts to show Germany is not an easy place to get applications through. Germany rejected about 99 percent of asylum applications from Kosovars last year and in January the approval rate was even lower, at 0.3 percent. (More in DW )
To gain asylum, applicants must show they would faced persecution if they returned to their home country. The interior ministry has also signaled it is open to changing the law – possibly making it easier to deport asylum seekers from Kosovo by making it a country of safe origin – but it has said that this is not the priority for now. The aim of ministry is to make decisions about asylum in three months while the process now takes from six to seven months. ( Source and more in Frankfurter Allgemeine )
One consequence about this exodus especially in Germany and Austria is that Kosovo Albanians are blocking space and services from those asylum seekers who have real need to flee from their homeland, e.g. Syria and Iraq.
Why now? The reason for leaving now, according to many of the migrants, is an easing of the travel restrictions, which used to prevent them leaving Kosovo, and travelling across Serbia. One should note that especially Germany has demanded improvement of cooperation between Serbia and Kosovo. One part of cooperation is that Kosovo Albanians can travel with their ID to borders and then to try illegally enter to EU. Also migrants spoken to by Reuters reporters suggest smugglers have found safer routes across the border, and word of mouth has triggered an exodus.
The reason: Hopes are gone
According to the UN, 35 percent of people in Kosovo are unemployed and nearly 30 percent of the country lives in poverty. After elections Kosovo got last December new government and since then more and more Kosovo Albanians are trying to escape from their country. It seems that Kosovo Albanians have lost all hope for better living in Kosovo – poverty and a lack of prospects might be two reasons why they’re searching better future from Germany.
The analyst Fatmir Seholi believes that the governments of Kosovo were never serious about the international reports on the progress of Kosovo which are continuously talking about the poor economic conditions in Kosovo. Referring to the data of the Association “Mother Teresa”, which operates in Kosovo, Seholi says that 18 percent of the population lives in extreme poverty with 0.90 eurocents per day, while 27 percent of them live in poverty with only 1.40 euros a day, and that unemployment in Kosovo is over 60 percent. The greatest enemy of Kosovo, says Seholi, is corruption, organized crime and “client-based” access to employment in Kosovo institutions. “People expected changes after the elections in June last year and seeing that nothing will change, hopes are gone and they now have their own and the fate of their families risked by going to the EU countries,” he said. (Source InNews )
But the unemployment may not be the main cause for emigration. In a matter of few weeks the Pristina-based construction company “Pozhegu Brothers” has witnessed a sudden decline of its workforce in a wave of illegal emigration that has hit Kosovo in recent months. The company says that it has lost 40 members of its workforce for the purpose of emigrating for a better life and prosperity into a European Union (EU) country. They stress that each of them was a qualified and experienced worker, and in terms of financial sustainability each of them earned between 350 and 600 euros a month. Other companies and businesses are reporting the same problem of workforce resigning from jobs for emigrating purposes. (Source: ShanghaiDaily ) For me this sounds very strange as in Balkans and especially in Kosovo 350-600 € per month is really good salary. On the other hand a couple of years ago I was informed that that poor people from Bulgaria came to pick grapes to Kosovo as the local ones did not accept so low compensation as paid for that that job.
Poverty seems to be relative issue. Here one excerpt from BBC-story: “It started last summer as several dozen a day. Now it is several thousand a day,” says Laszlo Torockai, mayor of Asotthalom, a village of 4,000 people [in Hungary]. “We sympathise with those fleeing war zones – the Syrians and Iraqis – but less so with those fleeing poverty. Many have smart phones and follow their progress by GPS. Few of my constituents, whose doors they knock on in the middle of the night, can afford phones like those.
Strategic mistakes as background
The only thing the Albanians were able to demonstrate was their insignificance, inability, cowardice and dependency on others (NATO) to save them from the horrible mess they created. Albanian success was in demonstrating terror, crime and inventing history! Albanian solidarity was in their incompetence and collective failure to achieve anything throughout their entire (short) history on their own! The ONLY time albanians are in the news is because of their crimes and acts of terror. (Mike in netforum)
I agree with those who claim that it is clear that Kosovo’s secession from Serbia, as well as its hasty recognition as an independent state, was a mistake. The current wave of refugees confirms that Kosovo cannot endure as a state.
The insignificant economic base was easy to see when creation of the state of Kosovo was ongoing. Official statistics from year 2008 shows that export from Kosovo amounted about 200 million Euro while import increased to 2 billion Euro, which makes trade balance almost 1,800 million Euro minus. If export is covering some 10 percent of import so from where is money coming to this consumption. The estimate is that when export brings mentioned 71 million Euro the organised crime (mainly drug trafficking) brings 1 billion Euro, diaspora gives 500 million Euro and international community 200 million Euro.
After bombing Serbia 1999 KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) leaders changed their organized crime clans officially to political parties. This public image however can not hide the origins of money and power, old channels and connections are still in place in conservative tribe society. Last ten years now political leaders have whitewashed their drugs- and other OC-money by establishing façade-firms as well real enterprises, by success in donor funded investment projects and through privatisation process.
The real power in Kosovo lays with 15 to 20 family clans who control “almost all substantial key social positions” and are closely linked to prominent political decision makers. German intelligence services (BND) have concluded for example that Prime Minister Thaçi is a key figure in a Kosovar-Albanian mafia network. Two German intelligence reports – BND report 2005 and BND-IEP report Kosovo 2007 – are giving clear picture about connection between politics and organized crime; both reports can be found from my document library under headline Kosovo. (For background see also my article Kosovo: Two years of Pseudo-state ).
In the late 1990s Serbia was bombed by NATO for the purpose of Kosovo independence. Now the Kosovo people, the ethnic Albanians, under the EU/NATO/US umbrella, are fleeing Kosovo in droves. Ironically one would think, that after being bombed over Kosovo the Serbs would just let the peasants cross into Hungary and be the EUs problem. Besides since the EU wanted Kosovo to be independent, and Kosovo and Albania are candidates for EU membership, one would think the EU would be welcoming these Kosovo Albanians with red carpet.
In my previous articles – e.g in Captured Pseudo-State Kosovo – I have portrayed Kosovo with quite dark colours. I have summarized Kosovo
“as Serbian province, occupied and now international protectorate administrated by UN Kosovo mission; as quasi-independent pseudo-state has good change to become next “failed” or “captured” state; today’s Kosovo is already safe-heaven for war criminals, drug traffickers, international money laundry and radical Wahhabists – unfortunately all are also allies of western powers”.
So what can be done? From my perspective everything went wrong when mid-90’s Germany and U.S. selected strategy to support Croatian Nazis, Bosnian jihadists and Kosovo Albanian mafia with their separatist intentions while same time demonizing Serbs. As result Croatia got independency, Bosnia-Herzegovina came artificial creature in Dayton and Kosovo as international protectorate. From year 1999 international community has squandered billions of euros for its state-building efforts and after 15 years Bosnia-Herzegovina is even more dysfunctional than before western interventions and Kosovo is transforming itself from failed to captured state.
The way out in Kosovo in my opinion starts from first recognizing made mistakes while selecting sides and then cleaning old allies and present day ruling elite – organized crime clans – out from their administrative positions; EULEX rule and law mission could be good tool for this job. Only from this clean base the capacity building activities of state and local administration can be successful.
The new start could lead into more democratic independent Kosovo, the outcome could also be renewed autonomy as part of Serbia, or integrating Northern Serb populated area to Serbia, or cantonization depending of interests of local stakeholders. Anyway each of these follow-ups from my perspective are better for Kosovo as well Serbia than situation today.