One engine of interethnic integration appears to be the desire for all-too-elusive employment in Kosovo.
By Safet Kabashaj for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 06/06/12
Job fairs were held in Pristina and Gracanica. [Safet Kabashaj/SETimes]
The potential for genuine employment may turn out to be a highly effective tool in Kosovo's tricky process of interethnic integration. A campaign by the Kosovo Business Alliance to create jobs in the Serb-dominated municipality of Gracanica, near Pristina, attracted strong interest from local Serbs.
Nebojsa Peric, political adviser to Gracanica Mayor Bojan Stojanovic, told SETimes that the Kosovo Business Alliance initiative in effect replaces calls to Serbs for integration. "It represents a practical step from the Albanian community -- Albanian businessmen -- to give a hand and opportunity to people living in this locality, the Serb community."
For the fourth year in a row, the Kosovo Business Alliance, in co-ordination with central and local governments, organised a two-week employment fair urging companies to create jobs. The purpose is to reduce unemployment in the country, which has the highest rate in the region. Gracanica was included for the first time this year.
The public response seemed to support the alliance and government's decision to include Gracanica in the programme, according to Behxhet Gaxhiqi, an adviser to the minister for labour and social welfare.
"The willingness of the owners of Albanian companies and the interest shown from the community in Gracanica fully justify this initiative," Gaxhiqi told SETimes.
More than 100 people browsed job opportunities during the four-hour employment fair in Gracanica on May 29th. Around 100 positions were offered from ten companies. More than 90% of Serb companies based in Gracanica were unable to offer new jobs. In contrast, 95% of companies in the fair were owned by Albanians.
"Companies offering jobs are owned by Albanians, which shows that for people and businesses, ethnic background does not represent an obstacle. Their personal interest is more important," noted Peric.
Agim Shahini, head of the Kosovo Business Alliance, is optimistic about the Serb response to the fair. "Employment is the only way for minority integration into society and gaining confidence in Kosovo state institutions," he told SETimes.
"We are encouraged by the fact that people in Kosovo are realising that their future and welfare lies in joint work beyond ethnic differences which might exist between the management and workforce in a company."
Job seekers at the fair proved that the need for a paycheck is bigger than the obstacle of working only along ethnic lines.
Jelena Arsic, 31 was among those trying to find a job. Arsic said she must find work in order to better provide for her children. "In that way, I could offer them better welfare, education and orient them in the right way," she said.
Besa Security Company, with 20 vacant positions, was among those offering the most job opportunities at the fair. Jetmir Uka told SETimes that more than 20 people, mostly Serbs and Roma, applied with the company he represents.
"Even today we have Serb workers in our company, and the experience with them was the basis for seeking other minority people to recruit to work with us," said Uka.