Expo 2020 Dubai participation boosts Kosovo’s ‘chances of getting UN membership,’ says minister
Kosovo believes its participation at Expo 2020 Dubai is boosting its chances of getting a UN membership, a cherished dream since the country’s declaration of independence in 2008, according to a top official who is in the UAE with a business delegation.
Rozeta Hajdari, Kosovo’s minister of industry, entrepreneurship and trade, made the remarks in an interview with Emirates News Agency (WAM), ahead of her participation in Kosovo’s National Day celebrations at the expo on Thursday.
“When our flag is raised at Expo 2020 Dubai for six months, we see an opportunity for our country to be recognized by more world nations, which will help us become a member of the UN,” said Hajdari, who is meeting with UAE officials during her three-day visit.
“But we need recognition from more countries to get UN membership. Many visitors (at Expo) still don’t know where Kosovo is because it’s a new state.”
Kosovo, which was part of former Yugoslavia before a war broke out in 1998, has been recognized by more than 100 countries, including the US, the UK, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Serbia (which continues to see Kosovo as its own territory), Russia and China are among the countries that have yet to recognize Kosovo’s independence.
More than 11 years have passed since The Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) delivered a landmark advisory opinion that Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia did not violate international law.
According to UN membership procedures, the Security Council has to recommend the admission without a veto by any of the five permanent members; it is then presented to the General Assembly for consideration. A two-thirds majority vote is necessary in the 193-member Assembly for admission of a new state.
“I would urge all the countries in the world, for the sake of long-term peace, sustainable security and recognizing the rights of people to freedom and self-determination, to recognize the independence of Kosovo,” Albin Kurti, the Kosovan prime minister, told Arab News during an exclusive interview at his office in Pristina on the occasion of the republic’s 14th independence day.
According to Hajdari, it is the first time Kosovo has got an opportunity to participate in an expo, thanks to the UAE’s funding of the construction of its pavilion.
She told WAM that presence at the event could be useful in getting more recognition from other countries, which would also help Kosovo’s efforts for a membership in the European Union as well.
Among the Kosovan officials accompanying Hajdari is Faton Peci, the minister of agriculture, who described the business delegation’s participation in the National Day celebrations at the expo as a way to highlight Kosovo’s attractiveness for foreign investors and to create a new relationship with different countries.
“This opportunity will help us foster new bridges with other countries — a crucial step in our ability to integrate internationally and to be part of the United Nations and the European Union,” he told Arab News.
“We are interested in having both European investors and those from the East.”
With regard to agriculture in particular, Peci said Kosovo has much to offer to the Gulf countries by way of food processing and access to fresh produce, fruits and vegetables. He said Kosovo’s food and agriculture sector has great potential, thanks to its excellent soil, water quality and agro-climatic conditions.
Peci said the agriculture sector currently contributes to 10 percent of Kosovo’s GDP, adding that 62 percent of the country’s population live in rural areas and are eager to work. He believes food safety is one area in which the Gulf countries are particularly interested.
“We can offer fruits, vegetables, organic farms and herbs for medical purposes that are very attractive to foreign markets,” Peci said. “As a small country, we believe we have great potential for foreign investors that have capital.”
Another incentive for foreign investors to put their money in Kosovo, according to Peci, is the country’s low tax rate, especially when compared with the rest of Eastern Europe.
He also pointed out that Kosovo has the youngest demographic in Europe, with half of the population under the age of 25, which is another advantage for foreign investors that require young workers.
“The young are smart and have great skills, offering services in tech and IT, for example,” he said, citing irrigation systems that can tackle climate change as an example of how Kosovo has kept pace with technological advances.
“We also have much potential in the field of agritourism and tourism,” he said. “We have good climate during the summer months and, in the winter months, great potential for tourism. Kosovo could become another success story in agritourism and tourism. We have serious investors in the field.”
Peci said there is also great opportunity for developing rural tourism and agriculture given that forests cover 54 percent of Kosovo’s total land area, “These are two fields that could be particularly attractive to investors from such Gulf countries as Saudi Arabia and the UAE,” he told Arab News.
In addition to being a Muslim-majority country with a young population, the Western Balkan country has philosophical commonalities with the Gulf states, with their emphasis on moderate Islam, women’s empowerment and religious inclusion.
“Kosovo offers good opportunities for the integration of various communities. We as a people are known for our belief in tolerance,” Peci said.
“The independence of Kosovo is grounds for stability and peace in the Balkan region. We do not have any intention to destabilize the region. We offer and respect the rights of all minority populations in our country.”
He added: “Our new government is very eager to address any issue or policy that will help develop our country, (very eager) to advance legislation and, at the same time, ensure and offer security for foreign investors. We are here to explain to international entrepreneurs what we can offer as a society.”
Thursday’s Kosovo National Day celebrations at the expo featured traditional Kosovan dance at the centrally located Al-Wasl Plaza and a musical concert by the tenor Rame Lahaj.
The performances were appreciated by an audience that included Minister Hajdari, her Emirati counterpart Dr. Ahmad Belhoul Al-Falasi and other high-level officials and diplomats.
In a statement tweeted by the Kosovo embassy in Abu Dhabi, Hajdari said: “We are very thankful for the warm hospitality and welcome Kosovo has received at the Expo 2020 Dubai and being treated equally with other 191 states in the world.”
(Additional reporting by Arnab Sengupta and WAM)