Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Dusting off the Blog - KLA Takes Police Hostage in Macedonia

It has been awhile since I posted anything regarding Kosovo.  My family and I moved back to the US in 2013 but I've never stopped watching the news and have kept in contact with my extended family in Kosovo.  The old adage about "the more things change, the more they stay the same" is so true when applied to Kosovo.  Like the continued allegations of corruption of the EULEX mission or anti-government protests over corruption.

But there was one piece of news caught my eye today and I couldn't help but dust off this blog to share.  Early this morning, people wearing KLA uniforms took a police station in Macedonia and held the police officers hostage for a few hours.  The men reportedly called for unification of an Albanian state before releasing the hostages.  Kosovo police say there is no evidence of illegal border crossings and government opposition in Macedonia has accused the government of fabricating the story to take attention away from growing criticism of illegal wiretapping and corruption.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Explosion at Kosovo Power Plant Kills Two, 13 Injured

A hydrogen tank explosion at the Kosovo A power plant has killed at least two person and injured at least 13.  There are unconfirmed reports of more deaths and injuries.  The explosion was heard and felt all the way in Pristina, 10 kilometers (6 miles) away.  Already not producing enough electricity to be self-sufficient, the closure of the plant following the explosion will just add to Kosovo's electricity shortage woes.

Friday, September 21, 2012

West Nile Virus Strikes Kosovo - Local News from Kosovo

The mosquito-born West Nile Virus has claimed its first victim this past week and another two suspected deaths are being investigated as being related to the virus in Kosovo.  The disease which is making a debut for the first time in the Balkans claimed three victims in Serbia last month where there were at least 35 confirmed cases.  While up to 80% of infected persons will not suffer any symptoms, extreme cases of the virus can lead the swelling of the brain tissue, coma, and eventual death.  For those that do contract the virus, common symptoms mirror that of the regular flu.

Now to the local news, this week there has been a large focus on the proposed travel of a large delegation from the Kosovo Government to the US for the UN Assembly meeting which would require 200-300,000 Euros from the limited Kosovo budget.  The proposal and cost of sending such a large delegation (20-30 people) to the UN has been met with large skepticism by the opposition parties in the press.

Announced in the news today after reports earlier in the week of being spotted in Kosovo, Naser Kelmendi, who is on the US blacklist, was arrested by Kosovo Police on Thursday (20 September).  Kelmendi, who is a Bosnian citizen, is reported to be one of the biggest drug bosses in the Balkans.

The results of the Kosovo census have been revealed.  Excluding municipalities in the north of Kosovo who refused to take part in the census, the population of Kosovo has been declared to be 1,739,825 inhabitants.  The last known official count of the population of Kosovo was held in 1981 with 1.5 million persons.  In 1991, Albanians boycotted the census and the population was estimated to be 1.9 million.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Kosovo Granted Full Sovereignty

Last Friday, the Kosovo Parliament passed legislation officially ending supervised independence.  Members of the International Steering Group on Monday declared Kosovo fully independent.  Even with the end of supervised independence, the Kosovo parliament officially approved the extension of the mandate of EULEX through 2014 and the Deputy KFOR commander stated that NATO troops would remain in Kosovo for another 5-7 years.

With the end of supervised independence, many have been asking "what's next" or "what does it mean" and perhaps most importantly, Is Kosovo ready and what are the remaining challenges

In other news, Serbian war crimes prosecutors say that they have a witness to the alleged organ trafficking by the KLA.  In an interview on Serbian TV on Monday, the witness described removing the heart of a Serbian captive and how he was trained in organ harvesting.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

UN Secretary-General Visits Kosovo - Vetevendosje Strikes

Today the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki Moon of South Korea, will visit Kosovo.  This is the first high-level visit from the United Nations since Kofi Annan visited in 1999.  As preparations were underway for the visit, Vetevendosje paid a visit to the UNMIK Mission HQ to spray-paint the word "Fair" after the word UN near the main entrance of the compound.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Worrying Kosovo Infant Mortality Rate

International and Kosovo health officials are concerned about the rate of infant mortality in Kosovo despite it dropping over the past 10 years.  The rate is still higher than it should be with 17.1 deaths in 1000 births.

The lack of a true proper healthcare system and other factors such as poverty and education all contribute to the higher infant mortality rate in Kosovo.  

We recently witnessed how frustrating dealing with the public hospital in Pristina can be when a friend of ours gave birth to a baby boy with a serious congenial heart defect that should have been detected by the gynecologist during pregnancy, a mistake that has infuriated the neonatologist at the Pristina Hospital.  Because of the failure of the prenatal doctor identifying the heart defect, we have been struggling for two weeks to find a charity to assist sending the baby to another country and pay for the 150,000 Euro operation that will help to save the little boy's life as the medical treatment cannot be found in Kosovo.  Luckily an Italian charity has come through and our friend's baby had surgery this morning in Tirana, Albania where an Italian doctor traveled to perform the operation.

Update - 12 July 2012 - I am saddened to report that despite receiving the much needed surgery in Tirana, our friend's baby passed away in the early hours of the morning.  It is extremely frustrating to think that had the prenatal doctor identified the heart defect as it should have been and the medical care he needed been available in Kosovo he may still be with us today.  It took more than two weeks to be able to get the baby into the desperately needed surgery because of funding and travel considerations and I can't help but keep thinking that it was two weeks too long.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Supervised Independence of Kosovo to End in September 2012

Yesterday, the International Steering Group for Kosovo agreed to end the supervised independence of Kosovo in September.  The steering group is made up of 23 European countries, the United States, and Turkey.  The Steering Group said that Kosovo had made significant steps to implementing the Comprehensive Settlement Proposal (CSP) which included laws for cultural and religion heritage protections and community rights. 

What does the end of Supervised Independence mean for Kosovo?  Well, the International Civilian Office (ICO), headed by Peter Feith, which hold executive authority to oversee independence will be closed down in September.  The European Rule of Law Mission (EULEX), KFOR (NATO's Kosovo Force) and UNMIK will still remain in Kosovo. 

In other news, Italian Member of Parliament Pino Arlacchi has sent a series of questions to the European Commission on the progress of EULEX investigations who stated that UNMIK and EULEX "has something to hide".  Arlacchi has been requesting status reports on 11 cases handed over to EULEX from UNMIK which cited criminal conduct involving more than 60 million Euros related to the privatization of Kosovo's electricity. 

Also, the sale of Post & Telcomm Kosovo (PTK) has restarted after it was stopped last year amid allegations of corruption and harmful contracts.  The sale is in the pre-qualification stage where companies can express interest in purchasing the company.  The Kosovo budget greatly relies on the sale of PTK which is expected to bring in between 300-600 million Euros.