European Union Office in Kosovo 
European Union Special Representative in Kosovo

The youth are showing the way to Kosovo’s European future

08/05/2019 - 11:10
Voices and views

Op-ed by Nataliya Apostolova, Head of the EU Office in Kosovo/EU Special Representative published in daily Zeri (Albanian) and Kontakt plus (Serbian)

 

The youth are showing the way to Kosovo’s European future: by investing in education, job creation and rule of law, the EU is there for them

 

Almost three years ago, when I first came to Kosovo, what struck me the most was seeing so many youth on the streets of Kosovo cities, feeling this vibrant society, the hope in the hearts of the youngsters and the undoubtedly European spirit I could feel wherever I went.

This vibrant youth has made a great influence on the way how I approach my work in Kosovo. I want to help move forward those things that matter to the young generation, for Kosovo’s future. On this Europe Day 2019, allow me to talk about the youth and what we at the EU are doing for them.

A key ingredient of a successful society is a good education. Over these past years, the EU has highlighted education as a priority. I want to see the education system worthy of the potential of the youth I have met. Just last month, I delivered a lecture in a high school in Pristina. The Minister of Education was there as well. I was fascinated with the interest, the boldness and the ideas the young students showed during the Q&A session. In plain and open language before the Minister, the media and all of us, they articulated the faults of the education system, they demanded modern teaching and said NO to nepotism, to put them on equal footing with other Europeans. This kind of critical mind is a treasure that Kosovo has and that, if guarded and stimulated, is the key to Kosovo’s success.

Upon finishing school, the youth need to be able to enter Kosovo and the wider European market on a competitive basis. For this, the government needs to put in place economic policies, rule of law guarantees and standards necessary for attracting investments. Kosovo must focus on its competitive advantages and support sectors that will substitute import with export and job-creation. To make this happen, the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) that Kosovo has signed with the EU, can be of a great assistance. The SAA enables the EU to be Kosovo's top trading partner; the EU is also Kosovo’s No. 1 investor, with more than every third euro invested here originating from the EU.

First and foremost we work for the youth to have conditions in Kosovo for a good life for them and for their families. We want the youth to be able to travel across Europe to gain experiences they will be able to apply to making Kosovo successful. For this purpose, we have provided thousands of scholarships in the EU to Kosovo students through the Erasmus+ programme.

Visa liberalisation can be instrumental in further enhancing the opportunities we already offer to youth mobility. We want the people to be able to travel visa free as soon as possible. It is important to know that the European Commission and the European Parliament have said that Kosovo has met all the conditions and recommended that the visas be lifted. A final decision will still have to be taken by one of the EU decision making bodies, the Council. Decisions can take a long time in the EU, and the Kosovo Government still needs to do some work to convince the EU Member States that visa liberalisation would be good for everyone. With the European Parliament elections later this month, some more time is needed for these efforts to bear fruits.

The EU has been by Kosovo’s side for many years; we have invested over 2.5 billion euro in every segment of the society. Our investments have contributed to creating thousands of jobs across Kosovo, supported hundreds of companies, and built numerous schools. It is thanks to the EU that Pristina now has 24/7 water, and that tens of thousands of its citizens have district heating.

The EU and Kosovo are destined to be together. Our paths will not drift. Yet, for Kosovo to succeed in the long term the drive must come from within. The youth are showing the way. The leaders of Kosovo need to follow. No leader should be satisfied with the prospect of its best and brightest wanting to leave. Instead, they must do everything in their power to make them want to stay in Kosovo. Investing in education, job creation, rule of law and sustainable development is the right path. The youth are showing the way.

Happy Europe Day to all in Kosovo!

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