Starting on January 1, 2024, Kosovo passport holders can travel to Schengen Area for 90 days without having to apply for a visa before the trip. However, based on the experience of neighbouring countries, visa waiver agreements can impact an influx of tourists to the borderless Schengen area, and Kosovar experts on the matter are warning respective authorities.
According to Arian Zeka, the Executive Director of the American Chamber in Kosovo, citizens of the Western Balkan country would finally get to move freely, thus maintaining close family ties with the diaspora, in addition to visiting for other purposes, such as tourism, education as well as business.
However, Zeka raises concerns that visa liberalisation can result in increased migration activity which, consequently, can impact the workforce, as European countries are dealing with labour shortages across many sectors.
“This [migration] will affect the further shrinking of the labour force in Kosovo, and consequently also the reduction of consumption in Kosovo. On the other hand, the situation can make it difficult to consume economically; it is one of the pillars of the country’s economic economy,” Zeka explained.
Burim Piraj, General Manager of one of the leading companies in the country, shares the same concern as his 30-year-old business can suffer a workforce shortage no later than next year.
However, Piraj is maintaining his optimism, noting that his company has been preparing for such days by hiring more female workers above 35 years old as younger workers might shoot their shot in the EU as well as increasing the number of employees by ten per cent, and managing the situation by improving working conditions.
“Local business owners have to increase their minimum wage to €400, in addition to implementing the eight-hour shift and offer weekends off, in order to keep their workers satisfied,” Piraj called on his peers.
In addition, he advises other business owners to be punctual on their obligations, such as paying workers’ salaries on time and providing health insurance before September, so they don’t suffer huge losses in January 2024.
On the other hand, the EU might experience a surge in its workforce, with Kosovars, among the youngest population in Europe.
According to an EU Commission spokesperson, the body is working with Western Balkans partners to introduce the Youth Guarantee in these countries’ economies, which, when implemented, increases the support to young people and offers quality education, training, and employment opportunities.
This raises another concern for Kosovo, as visa liberalisation might increase the risk of brain drain or skilled workers heading to Europe.
Seb Bytyci, a Researcher at Winchester University, noted that the government should improve the public sector and push for an increase in life quality in Kosovo.
“As per skilled workers, especially in deficit sectors, higher salaries and offering benefits like health insurance can improve the situation,” he said.
A recent study by SchengenVisaInfo.com for Migration in the Kosovo of Post Visa Liberalisation revealed that 37.7 per cent of respondents have plans to move to the EU after visa liberalisation, with the main reason for such migration being hopes for a better life quality as 78.8 per cent of respondents said.