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Unemployed young men in Kosovo. Photo: ESI

Unemployed young men in Kosovo. Photo: ESI

Cutting Kosovo's lifeline

September 2006

What is the new era into which Kosovo is moving? Ask any diplomat or international official, journalist or analyst, and the answer is likely to be the same: Kosovo is moving into a post-status era.

However, policy debates in Kosovo which focus almost exclusively on status and Kosovo's future as in independent state fail to take into account another change that is already affecting Kosovo society profoundly: the end of the era of mass migration. In September 2006, we released our report Cutting the lifeline. Migration, Families and the Future of Kosovo arguing that migration needs to be at the centre of current debates on Kosovo's future.

The report contained unwelcome messages for EU member states and Kosovo's own policy makers alike: it had become a basic necessity to identify ways in which rural Kosovars can find temporary work abroad. At the same time, the Kosovo state cannot afford to remain absent from rural areas. Migration and remittances have been a lifeline, but they have not brought about development. They have simply substituted for the lack of any effective development policies. They have thus helped maintain the status quo. In doing so, they have preserved one of Europe's oldest and most conservative institutions: the patriarchal Balkan family.

Kosovo therefore needs a social and institutional revolution in its countryside. One starting point for this has to be a reflection on patriarchal family structures and on the status of rural women.

The report challenged some conventional wisdoms about contemporary Kosovo and provoked a much-needed wider debate.

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