Thursday, August 31, 2006

Kosova Airlines Launches Website & Power Cuts

Kosova Airlines has launched a new website that allows the booking of flights with payment via credit card.  The airline offers flights to different destinations in Switzerland and Germany for around 220 Euros round-trip.  During the summer the airline also charters flights to Egypt for travel agency Reisburo Prishtine. 
If you are experiencing problems with Vala 900 mobile phone service take your SIM card out of the phone, rub it for luck, and put it back in :)  Since Monday night a lot of people are complaining about the SMS service.  Messages are sent to other Vala numbers but the message is never received.  The problem seems to be continuing and even services like 551 which returns a message with the credit balance is not working.
The temperature took a plunge yesterday, sharply dropping from the 70-80's down into the 50's.  It seems that summer is officially over and I scrambled through my closet to find a sweater to wear this morning as the temperature was struggling to reach 60�F today.

Along with the dropping temperatures, KEK has taken Kosovo B offline for repairs resulting in more power outages for Gracanica. It is sad but Gracanica will probably be in a C-area for a long time.  KEK does not issue power bills within the limits of Gracanica but expects the citizens to pay for their power bill and have opened an office in downtown Gracanica.  Unlike any other electrical company in the world, KEK expects the citizens to read their own meters and tell the electric company how much power they used and pay for it.  I don't think that would fly in the US but here, why means that KEK doesn't have to hire people to read meters :P

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Explosion in North Mitro Injures 2 Internationals

An explosion, reported from a hand grenade, ripped through the Dolce Vita cafe in North Mitrovica on Saturday night injuring nine, including a British UN police officer and a "heavily pregnant" Danish woman.  KPS quickly responded and apprehended an ethnic Albanian teenager who was believed to be fleeing the scene.  Following the bomb blast, a few hundred Serbs gathered to protest the incident and a Albanian vehicle was stoned, injuring a 57-year old woman.  The Serb residents of Mitrovica are demanding that the main Ibar bridge, a symbol of the division between the two communities, be closed until the status of the province is decided. 
Serbian government officials are condemning statements made by UN Special Envoy Ahtisaari that essentially there is already a solution to Kosovo (independence) and that it only needs to be enforced.  Some Serbian officials are even declaring that Albanian extremists took Ahtisaari's comments to heart and the attack was a response.  It is rumored that the Serbian negotiation delegation may request for Ahtisaari to be replaced as the recent comments seem to take away his neutrality for negotiating the solution.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Serbian Schoolteacher Beat in Multiethnic Community

A Serbian schoolteacher was severely beaten by two Albanians in broad daylight yesterday.  Vuko Danilovic was escorting 30 children for OSCE's multiethnic community program in Decani when he was approached by two Albanians in the main square after buying ice-cream for the children.  The first man allegedly began cussing at Danilovic and started striking him.  The second soon joined in and beat Danilovic to the ground in an apparent ethnically-motivated attack.  Danilovic and the schoolchildren were taking part in an OSCE program aimed at bridging the gap between Albanians and Serbs who live in secluded enclaves.  After the attack, the schoolchildren, out of fear for their safety, and Danilovic, for medical treatment, were taken to Montenegro.  Danilovic is reported to have suffered severe bodily harm and is now deaf in one ear.
In other news, Albin Kurti and 64 members of the "Self-Determination" group were arrested yesterday after barring entry to the Assembly Building in protest against the UN Special Envoy Marttii Ahtisaari's visit to Pristina to meet with Albanian leaders.  Ahtisaari is visiting with leaders ahead of the next round of talks in the hopes that some progress can be made after repeated failures in talks on decentralization, minority rights, and protection of religious/cultural heritage.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

HLC Issues Statement Criticizing PM and TMK Commander

The Humanitarian Law Centre released a statement critizing PM Agim Ceku's visitation of convicted war criminal Selim Krasniqi after the 10 August conviction for war crimes.  Ceku reportedly also made a public statement that "Kosovo needs men like Selim Krasniqi".  The Centre also warned TMK commanding officer, Sulejman Selimi, that his visit to the convicted war criminals showed that the organization supported its members who were convicted of war crimes and does not contribute to the process of building democratic institutions. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Meningitis Outbreak Spreads

The outbreak of meningitis in Kosovo has spread to more than 400 reported cases.  High temperatures have fueled the outbreak according to local medical professionals who say that the water in Kosovo swimming pools is not as clean as it should be and that often the water in village wells is contaminated.  The outbreak in meningitis in Kosovo has been reported to be viral in nature, not bacterial, so the UNMIK Health Clinic is not recommending the vaccine as it would be ineffective against the disease anyways. 

Thursday, August 17, 2006

New SRSG Apppointed

Joachim Rucker, the current head of the economic reconstruction pillar, was appointed by Kofi Annan to be the sixth Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG - bet you always wondered what that meant!)  Rucker, a German, has also worked in Bosnia-Herzegovina and has overseen much of the privatization process in Kosovo in addition to battling the high unemployment rates.  Rucker believes that he will be the last SRSG to serve in the Kosovo mission and has already stated that partition of Kosovo is not an option.   
In other news, the Kosovo Police Service (KPS) have taken over from international police at the borders of Kosovo this week, except for the northern border with Serbia.  The northern border is still controlled by international officers and KFOR troops.  Nearly 500 international police officers have been deployed to the area north of Mitrovica to do what is called "enhancement" policing.  Basically it is community policing and is part of an effort to make the minority community feel safer.

The Washington Post printed an editorial about Greater Albania.  While rather one-sided there is some interesting questions raised about the politics of the region.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Passing of a Friend

It is with great sorrow that I inform those who have been in Kosovo that Muhamet Ribari passed away tonight at 22:00 hours after a battle with cancer.  Muhamet was undergoing treatment in hospital at Ausburg, Germany.  Muhamet worked at the UNMIK MHQ Gym as a receptionist and personal trainer since 2000.  He was an energetic and friendly person and will be sorely missed by all those that knew him.

Collection boxes placed in the Pristina UNWind Gyms helped raise 3700 Euros to aid his family pay medical bills and assist with the funeral arrangements.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Outbreak of Meningitis Confirmed & New Rumors about Bonita Water

An outbreak of Meningitis was confirmed today.  There are 70 children reportedly sick from the easily transferred illness known as the "kissing disease".  The UN Health Clinic has issued a pamphlet (spelled panphlet in the email *hehe*) about the illness and urged to take precautions.  While a vaccination exists, it is doubtful that many people in the mission have the vaccination unless it was compulsory for living in dorms at universities or likewise.
Also Bonita water is under investigation by the UN Health Clinic for suspected bacterial contamination.  The Kosovo water is rumored to be the source of 30-40 cases of illness at KFOR's Film City camp.  KFOR supposedly conducted a test of the water and found it to be contaminated.  The UN is independently testing before issuing any statements concerning the water.  This is not the first time the water was rumored to be contaminated.  Approximately four years ago, rumors circulated that testing indicated levels of human DNA in the water and an email was issued by the head of the World Health Organization.  The email was later retracted and an apology issued but still many people refuse to drink Bonita.  For me it is a matter of personal taste.  I don't like the way it tastes, or doesn't seems to have been processed so much that there is little to the water besides wetness.  Most of the people in my office like Rosa or Prolom water which is imported from Serbia or Zagori from Greece.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

KLA Commander and Associates Convicted of War Crimes

Today, KLA commander Selim Krasniqi and two of his associates were convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison for the detention and beating of an Albanian alleged to have been collaborating with Serbs.  The crimes were said to have been committed between June and July 1998 in a prison setup in the basement of a school in the village of Drenovac. 
The UN went on alert in case the Albanian population did not take the verdict well.  PM Ceku had already made statements alluding that if a guilty verdict was given and the Albanian population demonstrated or violence broke out that the local government and KPS would not protect the UN as the defendants were "war heroes".  Fortunately, all was quiet after the verdicts were given.  Three convicted and sentenced, one acquitted, and one suspect was not found.

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Minority Rights Group International Reports on Human/Minority Rights in Kosovo

"Nowhere in Europe is there such segregation as Kosovo. Thousands of people are still displaced and in camps. Nowhere else are there so many 'ethnically pure' towns and villages scattered across such a small province. Nowhere is there such a level of fear for so many minorities that they will be harassed simply for who they are. And perhaps nowhere else in Europe is at such a high risk of ethnic cleansing occurring in the near future - or even a risk of genocide." (MRGI, 2006). 
British-based Minority Rights Group International released a report on the failure of the international community to effectively secure or uphold human and minority rights in Kosovo.  The report explains how UNMIK, KFOR, and other international organizations failed to learn lessons from the past and failed to rely on the expertise of those in the organizations.  The report also discusses how the segregation, discrimination, and intimidation of minorities in Kosovo has become so entrenched in Kosovo that it practically is law.

Meanwhile, the latest round of talks again failed to produce many results.  The Kosovo Serb delegation did boycott the session on minority rights while the Belgrade delegation refused to discuss the issue as minority rights is directly tied to the final status.  The talks proceeded despite the request for postponement by Serbia.

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Happy Dance

I am doing a happy dance since I returned from Greece Sunday night.  The water in my flat is finally fixed so that I don't scald myself whenever I try to take a shower!  Emin brought a plumber or person calling themselves a plumber over on Friday morning and they drilled into the wall to fix the pressure valve for the cold water.  Oh, so considerately, the plumber and Emin decided not to clean up the mess of drilling into the tile and bricks so the bottom of the bathtub was covered with bits of tile and brick dust when I got home.  I did a little hopping-mad dance for a couple of minutes but am overall happy that the water problem is fixed.  Whatever the water tank guys did when installing the new pipes and tank really messed up the water in my flat.  Then we discovered that the pressure valve was broken.  It has been a trial but I'm glad it's over now!  Now if I could just get the tiles put up, the house would be nice!
The Southeast European Times posted an article about Making Kosovo Sustainable which addresses the problems that Kosovo politicians will face if they are granted independence.  The article discusses how many politicians ignore the economic problems that will come from independence and focus solely on resolving the status...not what comes afterwards.

Another round of talks between Serbian and Albanian negotiators on decentralization began yesterday.  It is reported that the Kosovo Serbian delegation will boycott today's meeting set to focus on minority rights because they contend that as Kosovo is still part of Serbia, Serbians are not a minority.  The Belgrade portion of the Serb negotiation team will attend.  The UN chief envoy has demanded that both sides cooperate but to me it seems like telling two errant children to stop fighting.

Thursday, August 3, 2006

Serbia Request Postponement for One Week

Serbia has requested to postpone the next round of talks for one week.  The talks were scheduled to start on the 7th.  Rumors are that Serbia would like to drop the issue of minority rights from the agenda of the next meeting.  So far, little progress has been made in regards to minority rights or protection of cultural/religious sites. 

In the news, the Wall Street Journal published an article arguing that Kosovo is not ready for independence.  Unfortunately the full-text of the article is not available unless you subscribe to their website.  The BBC posted an article today describing the anxious wait for the negotiations to finish.  It is one of the few articles I've come across that talks to both sides of the debate, Serbs & Albanians.

Of course, one thing that is often forgotten is that the Serbs are not the only minority that allegedly suffers from discrimination in Kosovo.  There are Turkish, Bosniak, and RAE communities in Kosovo that live in difficult circumstances.  The Turkish population finds itself in a quagmire as they technically did not chose a side during the conflict...neutrality did not sit well with the Albanian population.  The Bosniaks speak a dialect of Serbian that puts them at odds just because of their language, never mind the fact that they are Muslim (guess that means that religion isn't actually a problem!)  The Roma, Ashkalia, Egyptian (RAE) community lives in temporary housing for the past seven years, struggling to survive through flooding and fires in their temporary shelters.  Most of them lost their homes following the NATO bombing as celebrating mobs burned down homes in retribution for supposed wrongs committed by other communities.  Whatever the solution, compromised or forced, I do not foresee an easy time for minorities in Kosovo.

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Ultranationalists in Serbia Speak Out

The leader of the Serbian Radical Party, an ultranationalist group in Serbia, stated that if Kosovo became independent Serbia would fight to get it back.  Far more conservative, Prime Minister Kostunica has stated that Serbia will not give up Kosovo in order to gain EU membership.  The next round of talks are scheduled for the 7-8th of August.  Mediators hope to focus on local reform and minority rights during the talks. 
In other news, the International Crisis Group has issued a report that states that Kosovo should have its own army if it gains independence.  The report has raised a great deal of debate on both sides as to why Kosovo should or shouldn't have an army.  ICG cites economic and stability factors for creating an army.  In addition to the creation of a Kosovo army, ICG calls for KFOR to remain in Kosovo after the status is resolved in order to ensure external protection (from Serbia maybe?!) and to a "lesser extent" internal stability.  ICG also says in their report that full demilitarization is not a practical idea and suggests an army of between 2-3000 personnel.

ICG also state that the army should be multi-ethnic (like KPC is supposed to be) but personally I think that it is wishful thinking on their part.  KPC (Kosovo Protection Corp or TMK in Albanian) is supposed to be multi-ethnic as well but they always are flying the Albanian flag outside their facilities...does that garner trust and cooperation with minorities?  I think not!  Granted KPC boasts that they are comprised of 7% minorities but go on to admit that they have had difficulty gaining the trust of the Serbian community.  To many, KPC basically became a legitimized version of the KLA, integrating many of the "freedom fighters" into the fold.  While integrating the fighters was part of the idea, mostly KPC was to serve as a sort of National Guard of Kosovo to serve in times of emergency/disasters.

While the next article is about Albania, it kind of gives you an idea about Kosovo as well because many of the people live the same way.  The description of how organized crime is very accurate.  While the article is full of humor and sarcasm, it is a very interesting read and partly true :)