1. In which year did you emigrate?
I emigrated in 1995, after being accepted as an economics student at the University of Graz. After obtaining a student visa at the Austrian embassy, I tried to fly from Skopje to Vienna, but the Macedonian authorities at the time wouldn't let me. It seems that they were hindered by the fact that a young Albanian, who was not allowed to continue his education in his homeland, was going to a western country to study. I returned to Kosovo and after two days secured a ticket for the Pristina-Belgrade-Vienna flight. But it appeared that more tickets had been sold than there were seats available for the first leg of the flight. The captain, a corpulent man in his forties with thick gray hair, let me fly even though he couldn't offer me a seat. Thus, I did the first part of the journey standing. Upon arrival in Belgrade I was questioned by the border police about the reasons for my migration, but since my documentation was in order, I was allowed to fly to Vienna.
2. What do you remember most about your early life in the Western world?
I had left my homeland in deep gloom, forgotten by the world, enslaved, humiliated and trampled by a terrible conqueror, who chose no means to carry out his plans to the end. Persecution and persecution were the order of the day, while the persistence of our people to free themselves grew more and more.
On the other hand, upon arriving in Austria, I saw a free society, which valued and held high the freedom of the individual, human rights, democratic principles, freedom of expression and action. I saw institutions responsible to the citizen and at his service, professional administration, educational institutions with tradition and good name. First of all, I intimated an old European nation, which not only continued the tradition of supporting us Albanians, now opening the doors of the universities for us, but also contained so much glorious history, which unfolded every day. at every step in education, culture, administration, health, architecture, in the behavior of citizens and their daily life. The difference I saw between the captive homeland and the new home was like darkness and light. This difference increased my compassion for my country in captivity and strengthened in me the feeling and desire to make it free, just, loving and equal for all its citizens. But this difference made me a little "jealous" of how a nation numerically as large as the Albanians managed to create an Empire, which for 600 years in a row dominated Europe in the political, military, economic and cultural fields.
3. How did your integration go and what difficulties did you encounter?
The first challenge was language. Learning a foreign language at the level that enables you to study the social sciences is not easy. I overcame this challenge after a one-year intensive study. The next challenge was making a living. We had no financial support or scholarships. It was almost impossible for our family members to support us, because Serbia kicked them out of their jobs. Therefore, I was forced to do various jobs in the hotel industry and later as a translator. It was difficult to find the energy to learn after attending lectures and 7-8 hours of work, but there was no other alternative. This already affected my state of health, so that I got sick and almost died. After a one-year recovery, I returned to my studies only to interrupt them with the beginning of the war in Kosovo. Together with my colleagues, we organized in our student association to sensitize the Austrian public about what was happening in Kosovo. We published magazines, organized conferences, distributed informative materials, made petitions and protests, supported refugees, provided scholarships and collected aid for the country.
4. What ties do you have with your homeland and what importance does it have in your life?
Immediately after the liberation, I engaged in a program of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Austria to help reopen the University of Pristina. We had to renovate the facilities, find the professors and help them return to Kosovo, in order for regular classes to resume on October 1, 1999. And we succeeded. It was one of those small victories, after the big victory, liberation, that gave a sense of real progress. Then, I worked for a German development bank, where I prepared the first promotional materials for foreign investors, helped establish over 25 new companies with foreign capital, and secured financing for a host of other large private sector projects from Pact tools. Stability. This is where my desire to orient my career completely towards the economic development of Kosovo was cemented.
5. How many times a year do you visit Kosovo on average?
More often. Since the end of the war, in cooperation with the governments of Austria and Switzerland and with other international development institutions, I have carried out numerous projects of a developmental nature, directly related to the economic development of Kosovo. Among other things, I have advised hundreds of foreign investors, I have realized over 35 investment projects in Kosovo, I have mobilized over 100 million euros of investments, I have helped to increase the capacities of the economic institutions of Kosovo, I have initiated and advanced the formation of the Guarantee Fund Creditors of Kosovo, I have supported the internationalization of Kosovo's economy, I have helped Kosovo's membership in various economic and sports institutions, such as the Vienna Economic Forum or the European Handball Federation, etc. Currently, through a project designed by me and funded by the Austrian government, I am supporting the digital transformation of the private and public sectors in Kosovo. I continue to carry out all these activities through the Economic Initiative for Kosovo ECIKS, founded together with my colleagues in 2003 in Vienna. Because I believe in the strength and future of Kosovo, but also based on the need to convey confidence to investors, I have personally invested in various projects that generate employment and economic activity. As a result of all this commitment, I spend more than six months a year in Kosovo.
6. How much has Kosovo changed according to your impression?
When we compare the situation today with that of 1995, which I described at the beginning, the difference is staggering. Today, Kosovo is free, independent, an open society with great support from the Western world, which has learned the mechanisms of democracy well, with a responsible citizenry, which day by day is recognizing the power of the vote and has begun to hold the authorities accountable and with an excellent youth with a lot of potential. Of course, the challenges are present, both from the political, economic and social aspects. Kosovo should enable an explosion of innovation and creativity, which creates economic development and stable employment, not through migration or the growth of the public sector, but through the development of the private sector, the unlocking of natural resources and the attraction of foreign direct investments. Freedom, work, private property, economic development, well-being are essential for human dignity.
7. What do you miss the most from Kosovo in exile?
I miss the people, their humor, the closeness, which sometimes goes as far as the elegant but well-intentioned violation of privacy ("how much is your salary?", "when are you having a baby?", "when did you come and how much do you want?" ", "is it better here or there?"), up to individual creativity and flexibility. I feel a lack of walks in the beautiful nature of Kosovo, but also of Albania.
8. Do you think of returning one day to live in Kosovo?
In fact, I have never stopped returning to Kosovo. All my private and professional activity, my entire career is related to Kosovo. This is because I always feel it as a moral obligation to give my contribution to the motherland, for which my compatriots, friends and family have not hesitated to give even the most precious thing, their lives. We are a lucky generation that has experienced the liberation and the state of Kosovo, for which entire generations have fought. Therefore, we have a moral and patriotic obligation to contribute to its development and strengthening, so that history does not repeat itself.
9. Describe your professional commitment to us in more detail?
I am an economist by profession, specializing in strategic management (master). Recently, I did additional professional education in the field of digitization. I am an entrepreneur with long experience in management consultancy, economic development, capacity building of economic institutions, promotion and generation of foreign investments and I also act as an independent consultant. Geographically, my activity focuses on the German-speaking and Albanian-speaking regions. My clients are public development institutions, for example in Austria, Switzerland, USA and EU, as well as various enterprises in the aforementioned regions. From time to time, when time permits, I also deal with journalism, especially with writings dealing with development and economic topics.
10. In your opinion, what should Kosovo institutions do for emigrants?
First, Kosovo's institutions must commit to stopping, or at least, slowing down migration. Current trends show that the desire for migration is great. Sectors such as health, hospitality, agriculture and construction are being affected by the brain drain and labor force. A Kosovo emptied of its most vital part cannot develop economically, nor become part of the international chain of creating productive and service values.
Whereas, as for the diaspora, I think that classroom teaching in the Albanian language should be strengthened first. There is no doubt that a part of the new generation of the diaspora has been unwittingly subjected to a dogmatic and denationalizing process led by religious associations with a rather dangerous background. Strange and inexplicable is the host countries' tolerance of these associations that preach intolerance. The long-term effect of the irresponsibility of our institutions towards the diaspora will be to create a growing gap between it and the countries of origin. As a second step, the investment process of the diaspora should be facilitated through various mechanisms and financial instruments.
As I said in an earlier article, the diaspora was yesterday the pillar of peaceful resistance, of armed resistance and of the reconstruction and revitalization of development resources. Today, with her examples of success in music and sports and not only, she contributes to a new development inspiration and the restoration of a moral compass towards the values of Western culture. Today's generation is still strongly connected to the homeland. To use the words of the well-known Czech writer, Milan Kundera, she still feels that she is walking "in an empty space above the earth without that protective net that gives every human being his true place, where he has his family, colleagues, friends, where they understand him effortlessly in the language he speaks as a child." But tomorrow's generation will no longer move through this "empty space". She has put down roots in the countries where she lives, there she has family, friends, colleagues and there they understand her in the language she speaks since she was a child. She will not necessarily have a strong emotional connection to her parents' hometown. Today, it faces on the one hand the challenges of the developed world, which includes the selection of the right education and profession, the connection with the world in order to be a valuable part of value chains in the global plane and securing the future in a very volatile period. , where the digital revolution and the pandemic have made change the only constant.
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