Bildt sees economic challenge for Kosovo

Kosovo faces a major challenge in developing a sustainable economy after its February 17th declaration of independence from Serbia, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said on Saturday.

“Now the real challenges start for Kosovo to become not only a functioning multiethnic democratic society, but also the economic and social issues which are very pressing in Kosovo,” said Bildt after meeting Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu.

During his stay in Pristina, Bildt — the first foreign minister to visit Kosovo since it declared independence — met with Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and made a brief trip to the divided northern flashpoint town of Mitrovica.

Bildt — the international community’s high representative in Bosnia in the first post-war years in that former Yugoslav republic in the mid-1990s — warned that Kosovo had “a very fragile economy.”

“It will take a number of years before it is possible to see it take off,” Bildt said.

He added that the coming years “are going to be critical both in overcoming the division inside the Kosovo society and in creating conditions, framework and foundations for functioning economy”.

Sejdiu said the authorities in Kosovo — which has been under UN administration since a NATO air war in 1999 wrested it from Belgrade’s grip — were aware of the economic challenges ahead of them.

“We have never created illusions among the citizens that (after proclaiming independence) we will immediately get into a paradise,” Sejdiu said, adding however that independence was “the key to start” economic development.

Sweden officially recognized Kosovo’s independence on Tuesday. A total of 27 countries — including EU kingpins Britain, France, Germany and Italy — have now recognized its sovereignty, which is opposed by Serbia and Russia.