Who should get Kosovo

From Kosovo to Germany : Even desirable migrant workers do not get a visa

In a few days, on March 1st, the Skilled Workers Immigration Act will come into force, with which Germany aims to counteract its shortage of workers and to recruit people from outside the EU. There is already a geographically limited forerunner: the so-called Western Balkans Regulation, which has largely opened borders to people from Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia since 2016; all you have to do is show a German employment contract.

The Advisory Council on Integration and Migration and the Kosovar think tank “GAP” have now drawn up an interim balance sheet for Kosovo, the Western Balkan country with a particularly young, rapidly growing population with no prospects, which accordingly made the greatest use of the regulation. For next year, out of a total of only 1.8 million Kosovars, half a million people of working age are expected to have no work - both highly and low-skilled. This is the highest value of all six Western Balkan countries. The per capita income in Kosovo is the fourth lowest on the European continent.

Authorities are suspicious of the process

The balance sheet, which both institutes published on Tuesday and which could also become important in view of the new law, is mixed. Like earlier liberal German labor migration laws, the slow issuing of visas seems to slow them down in practice. The study complains that the duration of the procedure is "currently not sustainable". The federal government urgently needs to increase the staff of the embassy in Kosovo's capital Prishtina. "Only two new employees came between 2017 and 2018, although the number of applications grew rapidly."

The Green MP Filiz Polat had already complained of excessive German distrust in 2018 after a trip to the Balkans. The embassies often suspected fictitious contracts or exploitative employment relationships behind the papers presented. Instead of leaving these exams to the German labor administration, the visa procedures were delayed. The figures presented by the study confirm this: Although nationals of the six participating countries submitted more than 200,000 employment contracts in the first three years of the Western Balkans regulation and the federal agency gave a provisional okay for 80 percent, not even a third of the cases were (31 percent) end up with a work visa for the Federal Republic.

The Federal Government's balance sheet is still pending

Another problem is the lack of coordination between the participating countries of origin and the destination country Germany, the study complains. There is a risk that people will be lured away whose skills are lacking in their home country, while other sectors of the domestic economy are undersupplied. As one possibility, the research group recommends bilateral agreements with the participating Balkan countries in order to take into account the needs of the countries of origin and destination and possibly “say goodbye to very great freedom of movement”.

On the positive side, the paper notes that the nurses who are desperately wanted in Germany would not tear any dramatic gaps in Kosovo. A "brain drain" in the health sector is at most moderately risky, and the country needs "more medical staff than nurses". The situation is currently different for the administration and service sector and for the construction industry in Kosovo.

The SVR team and its Kosovar partner institute emphasize, however, that their results are preliminary. On the one hand, the official database from Kosovo is poor, and there are still no suitable figures from the German side as to how much successful labor migration the Western Balkans regulation has actually brought about. The federal government wants to publish a balance sheet this year. Since the agreement is limited to the end of 2020, it must also decide on this basis whether it will be extended.

Skilled Workers Act: Experts also see hurdles here

Experts are already expecting implementation difficulties for the new skilled worker immigration law. The main hurdle here is likely to be the recognition of a foreign qualification, which the new law prescribes - the Western Balkans regulation does not require this - and which is particularly complicated in Germany. As a result, only 4,000 third-country nationals attempted this between 2012 and 2017.

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