International Business

Life of an American Expat in Kosovo – Summer of 2012

There is something fundamental about Kosovo. Fundamental in its rudimentary awakening into a relatively free society and well, everything thing involved with that awakening. But fundamental is a good thing. It denotes an initial stage, a starting point. No one wants to invest in a stock after they read about its potential in the New York Times, it’s too late.

Kosovo’s not a place of contrast nor is an ideal destination on the yearly vacation short-list; frankly it shouldn’t be. The landscape and country outline on a map (that is to say when Kosovo is actually represented on a map) reminds one that a mere four years ago this country was carved out of Serbia; it clearly looks like a country out-of-place. But truth be told, you cannot help but feel proud of what they’ve been able to carve out for themselves, they fought for it like so many cultures have in the past and got it. It isn’t much, but it’s enough for them and enough to render a visit to this Southeastern European country.

The very first anomaly that a westerner experiences when arriving in Pristina is the ubiquitous presence of foreign peacekeeping organizations. These range from the United States Marines to KFOR to EU police. They do their job but frankly from an American perspective I found their presence annoying and initially unnecessary. That assertion was quickly retracted upon my various interactions with locals. They self admittedly recognize that should those organizations leave within a matter of days fighting would commence between the northern Serbs and the majority Albanians to the south, they hate each other, but then again that seems to be the Balkan way. The Albanian Kosovars recognize their faults and that my friends is always the first step to recovery; their willingness to adapt to the western way of life but maintaining their identity in the process in commendable. (But rest assured, those peacekeeper aren’t going anywhere any time soon).

In this tiny country you’ll find, en masse, a gracious and accepting people, ready for whatever comes their way, politically and socially. What you’ll also discover is a surprisingly receptive business community, foreign and domestic, ready to establish partnerships and level the playing field. Are they going through tremendous growing pains? That is for certain. But with successful foreign investments already established and flourishing they can take heart in knowing that these pains are not in vain. Regional players are achieving success but where are the American investors? Really, they have a bronzed statue of Bill Clinton conveniently located on Bill Clinton Boulevard. Rest assured, if a country is an advocate of American enterprise it’s Kosovo, they love the US. We liberalized them. The resources available to American investors are second to none in this strategically located country.

But even with all of Kosovo’s flaws, inherent to a developing nation, I find the good and frankly if there wasn’t anything worth reporting about I wouldn’t be here. I’d like to say this is what makes my opinion unique, but it’s the countries visited that afford me that exact same characteristic by default. For that, I thank you Kosovo, thank you for being unique. You truly are, newborn.