Kosovo: UNMIK Changes Rules for Privatization

Prishtinë, 22 April 2005 – The United Nations mission in Kosovo set new rules Friday for the privatization process, pledging a faster sell-off of the province’s socially owned companies, Associated Press reports.

Soren Jessen-Petersen, the province’s chief U.N. administrator, said the move would speed up privatization and secure employment opportunities in the economically troubled Kosovo, where unemployment runs at over 50 percent.

In the past, the Kosovo Trust Agency, a U.N.-run office charged with selling hundreds of enterprises – a term used for enterprises owned by the workers and managers under the system set up during communist-era Yugoslavia – was tasked to determine the owner and the status of each enterprise. That was a lengthy and complicated process that brought privatization nearly to a halt.

With the new rules, the agency can make clear and final ownership determinations after a sale of assets.

“Now with this change … we no longer have to establish ownership before the sale of the socially owned enterprise,” Jessen-Petersen said.

A special court will continue to adjudicate in ownership disputes. However, it will no longer prevent the sell-off of the companies.

Privatization is among the most sensitive issues in Kosovo, which was put under U.N. protection in June 1999 following a NATO air war that pushed Serb forces out of the province after they cracked down on ethnic Albanians seeking independence.

The process of privatization is complex in part because it is unclear whether Kosovo will become independent or remain part of Serbia-Montenegro, the successor state of Yugoslavia.

Serbia’s authorities have fiercely opposed the process of privatization.

Many of the companies are overwhelmingly inefficient and often dilapidated after years of neglect and ethnic conflict in the province.