PRISTINA, (AP) - Authorities in Kosovo put a winery, a road construction company and more than a dozen other enterprises up for sale Friday, hoping to boost productivity and create jobs in this economically depressed province.
This is the seventh time the Kosovo Trust Agency has tried to sell the enterprises, which were once owned by their workers and managers under the system set up during communist-era Yugoslavia. The privatization agency is hoping 27 new companies will be created when the sales are complete.
Privatization is among the most sensitive issues in Kosovo, which was placed under U.N. administration in 1999 following NATO air strikes that ended a Serb crackdown on independence-seeking ethnic Albanians.
Authorities are eager to sell assets and companies to open investment opportunities in the impoverished province.
The Kosovo Trust Agency, the U.N. entity responsible for privatizing the enterprises and putting them on a solid legal footing, wants private entrepreneurs to assume the risk of modernizing the industries. The enterprises are inefficient and dilapidated after years of neglect.
Past efforts at selling such assets have been stymied because it is still unclear whether Kosovo will become independent or remain part of Serbia-Montenegro, the successor state of Yugoslavia. Serbia's authorities have fiercely opposed the privatizations, and some of the past sales have failed because private industry has expressed fears that the ownership will be disputed.
Earlier this year, the U.N. mission set new rules for the privatization process. With the new rules, the agency has earned the legal right to sell and determine the new owners of the companies.
The agency hopes the new powers will avert concerns from investors concerned that a change in the political landscape would rob them of their assets