Trade minister John Battle, who led the team, said on his return to RAF Northolt: “There are a lot of misconceptions. There was no devastation on a major scale and estimates of infrastructure damage is 10-25%.”
Battle added that a European Union group, appointed to provide a preliminary survey, had reported that 38 000 homes had been damaged, a number only superficially.
Taskforce chairman and Ove Arup & Partners deputy chairman Nigel Thompson said: “Housing won’t be a construction project for UK plc. Half of the refugees are already back in Kosovo, and Albanians are incredibly entrepreneurial. The demand will be for building materials – there is an opportunity for British materials firms there.”
Thompson added: “It is really about how we can go on from what the military are doing. There is no big money to be made out there. No one is going to be signing £50m-100m contracts.”
However, Battle explained that the EU had earmarked £150m over the next year and said he wanted to establish a framework to allow UK consultants to partner with local firms.
Battle said: “The priority is ensuring energy and water supply, which the army has done brilliantly. But Kosovo is suffering from 10 years of neglect and that needs to be addressed. There could be smaller but longer-term opportunities for British companies because there is going to be work here for the next 25 years.”
Thompson said he hoped that the presence of British companies in the region would help them to win work in the reconstruction of Serbia once the political situation was resolved.