Kosovo leader urges assistance

by Jun Hongo

Staff Writer

Japan’s investment and skills are crucial to Kosovo’s development, but the country also has much to offer Japanese businesses seeking opportunities in the region, visiting Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci told The Japan Times in an interview Thursday.

“Economic cooperation is the biggest investment Japan can give toward building peace in Kosovo,” Thaci, on a three-day visit to Japan, said while also adding that aid from the international community is necessary to improve the infrastructure as well as agricultural and energy sectors of his state.

Ninety-one members of the U.N. have recognized Kosovo since it declared independence from Serbia in February 2008. Japan was one of the first countries to do so and has continued to financially support the Balkan country, Thaci said.

In further strengthening bilateral ties, the prime minister expressed hope that Tokyo will open an embassy and assign an ambassador. Japan’s diplomacy in Kosovo is now being administered by the ambassador to Austria.

Kosovo is ready to invite Japanese businesses, Thaci said, pointing out it’s “a young country but has big possibilities,” with economic opportunities including rich mineral resources.

Japan designated Kosovo in April for preferential tariff treatment that gives countries reduced or free rates of duty to aid their economic development. The scheme is still in the initial stage, but Kosovo has high expectations it will aid the country’s exporters, Thaci said.

Turning to cultural exchanges, the prime minister said Kosovo has outstanding ski resorts and excellent mountain hiking. The government is implementing policies that will stabilize and bring peace to the region, including holding internal dialogue with the Serbs in the north, Thaci said in promoting his country for Japanese tourists.