By Bojana Barlovac
Kosovo’s wealthy Deputy Prime Minister, Behgjet Pacolli, says if Serb-run Northern Kosovo was turned into a free economic zone, it would solve the conflict there fast.
Behgjet Pacolli, Kosovo’s Deputy Prime Minister and a rich businessman, has declared that best solution for the Serb-run northern part of Kosovo is to become a free economic zone, like Jebel Ali, the world’s largest and fastest-growing free zone in Dubai.
“I would give my best for the free economic zone to function and the international community would benefit, as the money it spends on police could instead be invested in production,” Pacolli told the German media on Thursday.
According to Pacolli, the free economic zone would include the northern part of Kosovo, down to and including the southern, Albanian, part of the town of Mitrovica.
“Over the next 20 or 30 years it would create thousands of new jobs annually,” he said explaining that while producers in Germany currently pay up to 50 per cent tax, tax in the free zone would be only 5 per cent.
Pacolli said that he had been urging problems in the north to be resolved through economic means for some years.
Northern Kosovo, which borders Serbia, is almost entirely comprised of Serbs, and does not recognise Kosovo’s 2008 independence or the ethnic Albanian-led government in Pristina.
The region is under the de-facto control of so-called parallel institutions, funded by Belgrade. These parallel institutions include town councils, health authorities, post offices and schools.
According to Pacolli, both Albanian and Serb criminal groups work and cooperate in the North and their illicit earnings damage both the Serbian and Kosovo economies.
“I am sure that people are tired of that life,” he noted.
Asked whether the Kosovo government supports his ambitious idea, Pacolli said the government had not discussed it yet.
Meanwhile, he insisted that the Northern issue has to be solved in consultation with the international community.
Pacolli maintains that once the free economic zone comes to life, no one in Pristina, Mitrovica and Belgrade, will give primacy to politics any longer, but will turn their attention to economic development.