Donors pledge $1.9 billion for Kosovo

July 12th, 2008 - 2:49 am ICT by IANS  

DPA
Brussels, July 12 (DPA) The international community Friday committed a total of 1.2 billion euros ($1.9 billion ) over the next three years to help build Kosovo, the newest Balkan nation to emerge from the break up of Yugoslavia. Nearly 40 countries were represented at a donors’ conference in Brussels organized by the European Commission and attended by Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci. The World Bank was among the international institutions also present in Brussels.

The European Union’s executive, the commission, emerged as the biggest single donor, with 500 million euros, followed by the US (256 million).

Virtually all of the 20 EU countries that have already recognized Kosovo as an independent state pledged some money. But the amounts committed by the EU’s heavyweights ranged from the 100 million euros provided by Germany, to the just 2 million euros pledged by France, which currently holds the bloc’s rotating presidency.

Non-EU countries Norway, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia and Turkey also contributed sizeable amounts.

The aggregate sum was slightly more than the 1 billion euros that organizers had expected, but just short of the 1.4 billion gap identified by the Kosovo administration.

“This is a great success for my country and its citizens. The conference marks a new chapter for the economy development of Kosovo,” said Thaci.

Thaci vowed to reassure donors that the money would not be embezzled, saying his administration had already taken “concrete” and “daring” steps to fight corruption.

“This kind of support would not have come if donors were not convinced that good governance had been established,” he stressed.

Some donors made their pledges conditional to the country adopting democratic reforms. And there were also concerns that the administration might ignore the country’s Serbian minority.

Seeking to address such concerns, Thaci said he was proud to lead a multi-ethnic, European and democratic state.

“We are well aware of our responsibilities,” said Thaci. “We will never disappoint you,” he added.

With a population of just over 2 million people, predominantly ethnic-Albanian Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in February and adopted a new constitution in June.

The region is one of the poorest in Europe, with high unemployment and powerful organized crime networks. Economic growth averaged just 3 percent between 2003 and 2007, well below the levels seen in neighbouring Macedonia, Bosnia or Albania, according to International Monetary Fund estimates.

Most of the money committed Friday will be used for social and economic development purposes, such as the building of roads and schools. About 100 million euros will be used to service Kosovo’s debt.

Kosovo has been under UN administration since 1999, when NATO bombs ended Serbian ethnic-cleansing in the region. The EU now aims to take on a leading role in helping rebuild its administration and judiciary through its EULEX mission.

Olli Rehn, the EU’s enlargement commissioner, said it was now up to Kosovo’s officials to “live up to the expectations they have raised in the eyes of the international community.”

He also said there would be a strict monitoring of the funds to ensure that “every euro given out to Kosovo (is) accounted for and put to good use.” dpa nr sc
DPA

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