By Linda Karadaku
Turkish businesses have successfully penetrated Balkan markets. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Kosovo and Albania, where investments in the countries’ banks, airports, schools and healthcare institutions are yielding mutual benefits.
Over the past decade, Kosovo’s Agency for the Promotion of Foreign Investments (APIK) registered 405 Turkish companies and 2,339 workers in the fields of construction, education, tourism, healthcare, telecommunications, transportation and trade.
Speaking to SETimes, APIK Director Mustafe Hasani mentioned several companies whose large workforce has had a positive impact on Kosovo’s economic development, including construction firm Bechtel Enka, Limak Group airline, TEB (Paribas) and BKT banks.
“The APIK cites Turkey in its foreign investment strategy due to Turkey’s comparative advantage in Kosovo from a shared culture and religion,” Hasani said. He explains that much of Kosovo’s young workforce speaks both Turkish and English and studied in either Kosovo or Turkey.
Bilateral trade has played a major role in cultivating a partnership between the two countries. Several organisations, such as the Turkish Trade and Economic Chamber in Kosovo, help to bolster the Kosovo-Turkey relationship.
Hasani also highlights Kosovo’s preferential status in the EU and CEFTA as another benefit for Turkish businesses. By setting up production in Kosovo, Turkey can export its goods to EU and CEFTA without incurring a customs tariff.
“In this context, I believe Turkey should see Kosovo as a friendly environment for potential investors,” Hasani said.
The government of Kosovo has shown its support for Turkish investment. In March, Prime Minister Hashim Thaci visited Turkey to meet with his counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogon.
“Kosovo considers Turkey its strategic partner, and welcomes its help in strengthening regional co-operation in the Balkans,” Thaci said.
Investors have responded to Kosovo’s call. Recently, Turkish healthcare group Medicana announced plans to build an internationally accredited hospital in Kosovo.
The Kosovo Daily Express reported on May 10th that Kosovo’s Minister of Health, Ferid Agani, met with Huseyin Boskurt, chairman of Medicana’s board of directors, to express institutional support for the project.
Turkey’s businesses are also active in Albania’s banking, financial, construction, tourism, health care, telecommunications, trade, and transportation sectors.
Figures released by Albania’s Foreign Aid Co-ordinator Azeta Çollaku Xhafka show Turkish investment has had the greatest impact on trade and transport, followed by processing and construction.
There are 111 Turkish companies operating in the country.
According to the Albanian public broadcaster RTSH, Turkish investment in Albania rose to 260m euros in 2010.
The largest investor in Albania — Turkish conglomerate Calik Holding — has invested approximately 340m euros in Albanian infrastructure and telecommunications, according to Calik Group for Southern Europe and the Balkans President Orhan Coskun.
“In terms of population and market potential, Albania is the best investment,” Coskun said. He confirmed the company’s plan to enter the energy sector as well, emphasising its experience in the field.