By: Ermira Babamusta and Diane Gold/
December 2015–Chicago recently welcomed President of the Republic of Kosovo, Atifete Jahjaga, on her first official visit to the U.S. Midwest since her groundbreaking win in 2011 catapulted her into the international spotlight as the youngest female world leader to be elected, and also the first female head of state in the modern Balkans.The President, traveling with a delegation that included Ms. Hykmete Bajrami, the Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr. Arben Limani, Director of the Executive Secretariat of the Board of Directors at Privatization Agency of Kosovo, Ms. Vlora Citaku, the Kosovo Ambassador to the U.S., legal, economic and media advisors, and a group of IT Business leaders was in Chicago November 12 to participate in a multilateral trade conference entitled, “Global Opportunities with Kosovo: Synergies with Israel & Illinois.”
The Macedonian delegation was represented by Mayor of Struga, Mr. Ziadin Sela and Mr. Nebi Hoxha, President of the Economic Chamber of North-West Macedonia, accompanied by Mr. Kasem Zendeli and Mr. Mendi Qyra.
The morning conference, held at the law firm McGuireWoods, LLP, focused on multilateral trade between Kosovo, Illinois, and Israel. The conference was cosponsored by the America Israel Chamber of Commerce, Chicago (AICC), in partnership with the Albanian Association of Businessmen, Intellectuals and Activists, the Albanian-American Women’s Association of Chicago, and McGuireWoods LLP, and chaired by Daniel Shure, former President of the AICC.
President Jahjaga opened the conference with a speech stating “Over the years, Kosovo has drafted laws that are in line with best EU standards and that facilitate economic development under the conditions of a market-led economy. We have adopted the Euro as local currency and consequently our country does not run any currency management risk or exchange rate risk. The government continuously reviews fiscal policies and plans to introduce financial and non-financial incentives to boost Foreign Direct Investment. Our labor market is very competitive, the labor law is very business friendly, and we have the lowest operational costs in the region.”
“Our vision is to strengthen cooperation with the world, in particular with our friends like the US and Israel, in order to develop our economies and unleash our tremendous capacities for development and innovation.”
For this reason, I have brought with me a number of businessmen and businesswomen from Kosovo’s sector of Information and Communication Technology as we want to devote a big part of our efforts to establish our primary cooperation in the field of technology and innovation,”Her remarks were followed by panel discussions related to investment opportunities in Kosovo, how to do business in Chicago and Illinois, and synergies with Israel.
Following the morning conference, the delegation visited Chicago’s tech incubator, 1871, a hub for digital start-up companies. President Jahjaga then met with the leadership of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
In addition, Chicago Deputy Mayor Steve Koch met with Minister of Trade and Industry, Hykmete Bajrami and her staff, along with Mr. Shure.
The day ended with a private dinner organized by the Albanian-American Women’s Association of Greater Chicago at Tutto Italiano, owned by Albanian restaurateur, Val Dervishi. Lumturije Asanoski, Vice President of the Women’s Association added “This event provided a platform for Kosovo to showcase its investment opportunities to both the Albanian and Kosovar communities here in the U.S.”
“The dinner was a huge success. It was imperative that our community of business-savvy, Albanian and Kosovar women proudly represented and hosted the first female president of the modern Balkans, President Atifete Jahjaga.”
“As an attorney and advocate of women’s rights, I felt especially privileged and honored to speak at the dinner before Madame President Jahjaga. She’s the epitome of a successful woman. She truly inspires me.”
When asked about the America Israel Chamber of Commerce, Chicago’s involvement, Michael Schmitt, Executive Director, explained, “The mission of our Chamber is to facilitate and increase bilateral trade between the U.S. and Israel. We are fulfilling our mission by helping build the multilateral trading system between the Republic of Kosovo, the United States and Israel.”
Added, Mr. Shure, “Albanians have much in common with Jews and Israelis. Through many years of oppression, a large diaspora and Kosovo and Israel both being young countries there are shared experiences that bring us together. We hope to use the experience of building Israel’s economy since independence to help build Kosovo’s economy and to increase multilateral trade between the U.S., Kosovo and Israel,”
“The conference was tremendously successful as a springboard for further dialogue. It also served to introduce Americans to Kosovo and successfully position them as the “new face of modern Europe,” said Diane Gold, Media Relations Consultant to the AICC.
“Chicago opened its doors to Kosovo for economic and political investment from the U.S. and Israel. Kosovo welcomes investments from United States and its friends and now is the perfect time since the new state of Kosovo has put in place the democratic standards of state building that protects investors and trade.” said Skënder Karaçic, Director of the Albanian Businessmen, Activists and Intellectuals. “The Trade conference was organized very well and very professionally by the America Israel Chamber of Commerce, Chicago with support from the Albanian community,” he added enthusiastically.
“A great deal of interest was generated and we now have many people interested in seeing first-hand the opportunities in Kosovo. We plan to organize a business mission for these people in the next year”, said Shure.”I think that the investment conference was an important step in the effort to bring stability and prosperity to a part of the world which desperately needs it. It is the right thing to do from a humanitarian and human standpoint” according to Robert Higdon Jr., Partner at the law firm Williams Mullen, and former Federal Prosecutor at the Department of Justice. “In short, I want to see these people who I have come to love do well and prosper. I believe that our three countries, Kosovo, Israel and United States and other freedom loving countries around the world, have a common interest in encouraging the economic development of a stable and free Kosovo. And so, I am pleased to work with a number of entrepreneurs and investors who share those views and who want to see economic success for the people of Kosovo as quickly as possible.”