Ambassador Hovenier’s Remarks at the AmCham General Assembly

Ambassador Hovenier’s Remarks at the AmCham General Assembly,  January 20, 2022  

Arian, thank you for the introduction, and more broadly, thank you for your leadership as Executive Director.  Likewise, let me express my thanks, and those of my government to Ilir Ibrahimi for his service as President of the Board of Governors of the American Chamber of Commerce.  While I just arrived and did not get much of an opportunity to experience your leadership, I understand you brought energy, creativity, and pragmatism to the job.

I want to thank all of the members of the American Chamber of Commerce for inviting me to speak tonight.  I regret that given the current COVID situation, I am making these remarks virtually, rather than in person with you.  I ask for your understanding, and I look forward to having the chance to engage with you all in person to advance our priority agenda to foster trade and prosperity for Kosovo and the United States.

I am particularly pleased to have this opportunity to speak to you in my first few weeks as Ambassador to the Republic of Kosovo. Strengthening and deepening our economic ties and commercial relations, which will result in greater prosperity for Americans and Kosovans, figures among my highest priorities.

I would like to congratulate the current Board of Governors on a successful year of activities and wish the incoming Board a productive year ahead.  Please let my team, especially Valerie Tucker, who serves as the Embassy’s representative on the Board, know how we can support you as you advocate for the interests of the business community.

2021 was a good year for the Kosovo economy.  As we all know, the private sector is the key driver of economic growth.  In my meetings with the Government of Kosovo, I plan to stress the importance of a dynamic and vibrant private sector.  I will also stress the need to strengthen dialogue with the business community, and to leverage the investment power of the diaspora.  While the public sector is great at achieving many goals, it is important to step away from certain sectors of the economy and let the private sector do what it does best.

One of our Embassy’s top priorities is supporting Kosovo’s European and Euro-Atlantic trajectory.  Kosovo is a small market on its own, but it has the potential to be a hub for trade and investment in southeast Europe. We support initiatives that create more efficient cross-border trade and lead to a more competitive and inclusive Kosovan economy.  Transparency, efficiency, and accountability in public institutions creates an enabling environment for private business to prosper.

On the other hand, rule of law challenges and perceived political instability constrain Kosovo’s investment climate.

Local businesses and foreign investors need to know that they won’t lose valuable time and money in an inefficient court system, that their production won’t be interrupted by electricity blackouts, and that critical infrastructure is protected from cyber threats.

Our team is working hard to support commercial justice, energy security and diversification, and cybersecurity to bring the predictability and transparency the private sector needs to thrive.

Economic and social recovery from COVID-19 is at the forefront of everyone’s mind.  Kosovo’s economy has been relatively resilient over the course of the pandemic, but as we build back better, you have an opportunity to reshape the economy into one that is more inclusive and agile.  Consider the diversity and inclusion of your staff and the vulnerability of your supply chains to shocks like public health crises and climate change.

And on the topic of COVID-19, the Omicron variant is present and spreading rapidly in Kosovo.  Promoting and enforcing mitigation measures like masks, social distancing, and vaccination among your staff and customers is in your interest.  Your businesses have a role to play in protecting the community, and healthy people create healthy markets.

Thank you again for the opportunity to speak here today.  I look forward to getting to know you all and wish you all a successful year ahead.