At Pristina’s dreary bus station, a small notice pinned to a scuffed white wall lists 10 reasons why Kosovans shouldn’t abandon their country – first among them is that Kosovo will cease to exist without its people. It is a sobering reminder of what has been happening in Europe’s youngest nation since the beginning of 2015.
On 17 February Kosovo celebrated the seventh anniversary of its declaration of independence from Serbia, yet the parties were muted affairs; since the beginning of the year tens of thousands of Kosovans have fled, seeking better lives and futures in EU nations such as Germany and Hungary.
The numbers leaving have slowed in recent weeks, perhaps because many realise that repatriation is the most likely outcome, yet on the streets of the capital there is a sense of fragility for a nation many fought so hard to establish.“I think the exodus is over now, but it might happen again... We have to be prepared for that,” one young Kosovan playwright told me.
Unemployment in Kosovo – population 1.8 million, average age 27 – is roughly 45 per cent, while endemic corruption has undermined development; in January thousands took to the streets to protest at the state of their country, hurling rocks and petrol bombs at government buildings. Many of the windows smashed at the time are yet to be replaced.
Next to the American School of Kosovo, in Pristina, a large sign reads “REBORN”. On the “B” is scrawled ‘There is Hope’. Rather than a message of optimism, it reads like a determined prayer in the face of yet more adversity.Reuse content