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Europe

German Aid for Refugees' Return to Kosovo

The war in Kosovo officially ended five years ago today: Since then Germany has not only sent peacekeeping troops to the province, but also helps to reintegrate people returning to their homeland.

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Thousands of people fled the province during the 1999 war

The German ministry for development and economic cooperation funds the projects, which are aimed at helping refugees to return to a normal life in Kosovo.

"We're making sure that people, who have lived in Germany and want to return home, get the help they need," said Uschi Eid, the ministry's state secretary, after a recent meeting with Kosovo's Labor Minister Ahmet Isufi. She added that the ministry program helps people start their own companies or find jobs in the private or public sector.

Since 2000, about 3,000 people have found employment this way -- 2,220 of them had returned to their homeland from Germany. More than 250 business start-ups received funding from Germany during the first year, with 85 percent of those companies still operating today.

So far, Germany has given about €177 million ($213 million) to Kosovo to pay for a variety of projects. Ministry officials, however, don't just see the help as a way to ensure people have an income, but also as a means to prevent further conflicts -- an important issue in the province, as the most recent ethnic clashes in March showed.

"We know that economic prosperity is a good foundation for development as well as reconciliation," Eid said, adding that her ministry will also continue to pay for projects once funding from the German foreign ministry ceases. Kosovo's Ahmet Isufi agrees with Eid that a secure income helps to prevent violence. "It gives people a feeling of security," he said. "The can reintegrate themselves much more easily and feel more empowered and responsible. This in turn helps to prevent violence."

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