Up to 20,000 people leave Kosovo each month in a bid to escape corruption, poverty and soaring unemployment
Kosovo may write off old tax debts and unpaid electricity bills owed by the breakaway republic’s citizens and businesses as it struggles to stem a surge in illegal migration to the EU.
The Kosovar media has reported that as many as 20,000 people are leaving the tiny country of around two million people each month in a bid to escape corruption, poverty and soaring unemployment.
The education ministry released this week “alarming statistics” showing that 5,200 children dropped out of school in recent months to follow their parents abroad.
Near neighbours such as Hungary and Austria have both reported a sudden rise in migration from Kosovo.
“We agreed to create a commission that will review the possibility of forgiving all debts of businesses and citizens to the Kosovo institutions and public companies until December 31, 2008,” said Avdullah Hoti, the Kosovar finance minister. “We feel it is necessary to have a fresh start with the new government.”
The government, which has been in office for just two months, chose 2008 as that was the year when Kosovo declared independence from Serbia.
In total, Mr Hoti said, the government could write off about £152 million owed in taxes and unpaid utility bills as it tries to stimulate the country’s ailing economy.
Kosovo is one of Europe’s poorest countries, has an unemployment rate standing at 37 per cent, which rises to 55 per cent for 15-24-year olds, and increasing numbers of its citizens have decided to seek a better future in the EU.
Hungary reported that 10,000 Kosovars filed for asylum in January alone, compared to just 6,000 in the whole of 2013. In Austria 535 launched a bid last month for asylum compared to 1,901 for 2013.
And experts state that these figures are just the tip of the iceberg as most Kosovars aim to disappear into the EU’s grey economy, and so are not officially recorded.
Laszlo Toroczkai, mayor of the Hungarian village of Asotthalom, which sits on the border with Serbia and has become a popular crossing point into the EU for Kosovars, has called for a fence to be built to stop the “thousands” of illegal migrants reaching his village.