Saturday 24 March 2018

Kosovo considering debt write-off

A police vehicle burns during a protest in Kosovo's capital Pristina.
A police vehicle burns during a protest in Kosovo's capital Pristina.
Kosovo's new finance minister Avdullah Hoti.
Protesters react to tear gas during a demonstration in the centre of Pristina. Newsdesk Newsdesk

Kosovo may write off the debts racked up by citizens before 2009.

In a move to tackle widespread emigration to Western Europe, its new government said it is considering cancelling any debts owed to the state before the end of 2008.

Non-payment of utility bills is widespread in Kosovo, which is still plagued by electricity shortages since it seceded from Serbia in 2008.

Finance minister Avdullah Hoti said his government was considering cancelling all unpaid taxes, customs duties and utility bills from this period in a bid to “give the country a fresh start”.

"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," he said.

"We feel it is necessary to have a fresh start with the new government," he said.

Read More: Croatia wipes away the debts of its poorest citizens

The move comes just days after Croatia wiped out the debts of 60,000 of its poorest citizens, totalling more than €273 million owed to several banks, utility companies and the Croatian tax office.

Just two months in office, the government has been rocked by some of the worst civil unrest since Kosovo declared independence in 2008.

Read More: Police thwart Kosovo car bomb bid

It is also grappling with a dramatic surge in the number of Kosovars smuggling themselves illegally into the European Union.

Poverty, unemployment and corruption are the main drivers of a sudden spike in the number of Kosovars trying to reach western Europe, slipping over the border between Serbia and EU member Hungary under cover of night.

Since September last year, more than 30,000 have been caught by Hungarian authorities attempting to pass through the country to get to Germany, Switzerland and other more affluent countries.

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