Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year

It's hard to believe that we are ringing in another new year in Kosovo. While I'm not actually in mission, I've marked five and a half years of my adult life there which is no small feat. But I do have to admit that in the time I have spent in Kosovo, I have seen many changes...and many for the better. I remember when I first arrived back in the summer of 2000, the water and power was almost constantly off with no regular schedule. But that has changed now and people are rewarded with power when they pay their bills. But things in Kosovo have also changed a bit for the worse, at least from an outsider's perspective. While trying to be European, the politics of Kosovo are strife with corruption and politicians in Pristina seem to ignore the plight of those outside the capital.

Also for several years now, certain groups of the Albanian population have been losing their patience with the pace of UNMIK in resolving the status issue. Those from democratic countries know that democracy does not come cheaply nor does it come quickly. In the US we are still perfecting our democracy with each election...and people in Kosovo can't expect that they can just *snap* and have an instantly working independent country. However, the impatience of the Albanian groups, especially Self-Determination, has created a feeling of unwelcome for many that makes some internationals unwilling to stay the course and continue working in Kosovo. I myself will stay in Kosovo at least until the end of June but I know many people who are leaving. Whether or not I stay past June does partly depend on the attitude of the local population in addition to the fate of UNMIK.

The SRC holds an annual party every year, usually to benefit charity.  This year the SRC held the annual party in conjunction with fundraising for HIV/AIDS education through the UN Health Clinic and other NGOs.  The SRSG Joachim Ruecker attended the event and posed for pictures with the fundraising group and members of the SRC.  From the pictures, you can see that SRSG Ruecker doesn't mind having a Peja beer every once in awhile.  It was a great honor for him to attend the event organized by the SRC and he was generous in making a contribution to our fundraising event along with the members of his staff :)

The fundraisers, a group of volunteers from the Health Clinic and around the UN, with the SRSG

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Status Decision Due in Spring 2007

Of course,it is no suprise now that the status decision has been delayed until 2007. However, the decision may not come as quickly as the Kosovo Albanians hope. The elections in Serbia are scheduled for January 21st and only after the elections are held will Ahtisaari reveal his proposal for the fate of Kosovo. Following that proposal to the UN Security Council, the Council itself must decide what action to take. Does the SC tell Serbia that they must give up Kosovo, a territority that they claim is an integral part of their country and heritage? Does the SC tell the unweilding Albanian majority in Kosovo that they must respect and remain under Serbian rule? All what if questions are being asked in the Balkans now. What if this, what if that? No one really knows what will happen but whatever does, it will have a huge impact not only on Kosovo but the surrounding countries.
The "radical" party in Serbia that politicians fear will take over the country should the status proposal be presented before the election is now stating that the UN or EU takes the Kosovo territory away from them, they will have no reason to continue negotiating to enter the European Union, especially should Kosovo be part of that union. Kosovo politicians are stating that they will be independent and part of the United Nations next year.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Large Weapons Cache Seized

A large weapons cache has been seized in central Kosovo by KFOR and KPS. Three Albanians, including a goverment official have been arrested in connection with the weapons. The government official was identified as Naim Bazaj, a senior advisor to the minister of labor. Bazaj and one of the other detainees are members of the AAK party, the political party of former Prime Minister Ramush Hardinaj who is accused of war crimes.
The seizure has been the largest in Kosovo since the end of the 1999 conflict. The weapons found included anti-aircraft guns, rocket-propelled grenades, anti-tank mines, rifles, and thousands of rounds of various types of ammunition.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Day from Hell

It has been one of those eternally bad days for me today.  The morning started off with a painful charlie-horse (severe cramp) in my calf.  After spending a few moments groaning in pain, I was up and ready to go. 
Went downtown to have lunch with some friends.  When I got back, my vehicle was clamped by Security who informed me that I had been involved in a hit & run accident.  News to me!  Anyways, looking at the pictures that were taken, it does appear that the tire of my vehicle rubbed against the bumper of a taxi who somehow ended up plowing into a road sign on a median.  What I figure happened is that the guy tried to squeeze past me while I was stopped at a crosswalk and rubbed against my tire, up onto the median because he wouldn't fit...and then looking to blame someone else besides his own stupidity.  I actually didn't realize that anything had happened as there was not impact to my vehicle...those big 4Runners are pretty hardy!  So anyways, accused of a hit & run so the procedure is that Security takes away my driver's license until they do their investigation.  Which means that I'm hard-pressed now to deliver the toys tomorrow to Lipjan for the toy-drive I've been doing for the past several weeks. 

Moving forward...after having the license taken away, I got dropped downtown again after work (since I'm not driving now).  I visited a couple friends and then took a taxi home from the Grand Hotel.  When I was getting out of the taxi, I got an SMS.  As the taxi drove off, I reached into my pocket but lo-and-behold, no mobile.  It must have fallen out of my pocket when I reached in to get the money.  Rush inside to borrow the landlord's phone...son informs me that they don't have one but we can go next door and use the grandfathers.  Great!  A couple minutes have passed since I got out of the taxi...the guy can't be too far!  I ring my phone.  It rings, rings, rings, rings and I get my voicemail.  I decide to walk downtown and see if I can find the guy again.  20 minutes pass and I'm downtown.  I stop by the Kukri/Phoenix to borrow a friend's phone but now I'm not available.  Someone has turned off my phone.  I go up to the Grand but I can't find the guy.  So now, my phone has been taken by some unscrupulous taxi driver.  I would have paid the guy to bring the phone back...he dropped me off right in front of the house so it's not like he didn't know where I live!

Now tomorrow I have to go the PTK to deactivate my old SIM card and have them reissue a new one.  The worst part of losing the phone isn't that I have to buy a new one but the fact that I lost all my friend's telephone numbers!  I'll be sending out an email to everyone to ask them to help me out and send their number to me again!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Kosovo: Eternally Dependant?

Part of the railway system in Kosovo last Friday was destroyed when a bridge exploded.  The Freedom of Movement train, primarily used by Serbs, was most likely the target of the blast but it did not reach the bridge before the blast.  Had the train reached the bridge, it would have fallen into the river below. 
Politicians are again in a frenzy of statements saying that Kosovo's status must be resolved quickly, blah, blah, blah.  There was an article in Reuters though titled "UN warns on Kosovo delays, Moscow sees blackmail" that outlines the differences in point of view within the Security Council and negotiation teams.  Of course, the Albanians want nothing short of independence and have threatened civil unrest should they not have their status decided soon.  The Serbian delegation from Belgrade has offered substantial autonomy but insists that Kosovo remain part of Serbia as the Serbs look on Kosovo as the birthplace of their culture.

The Guardian printed an article about a Serbian basketball team in Kosovo that has been playing against Albanians.  The players are from central Serbia rather than Kosovo as some believe that it is too big of a step to be taken at this time to have the Kosovo populations play against each other.
There was a good article on Kosovo in the Washington Post that asks questions about Kosovo and the politics of the peacekeeping mission.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Current President Elected Head of Party

President Fatmir Sejdiu was elected to head the LDK party, founded by late president Ibrahim Rugova.  According to governmental rules, Sejdiu cannot continue serving in both positions as party leader and president.  He must either decline the leadership position in LDK or resign as president. 
Meanwhile, reports are flowing in about armed men in black uniforms and masks operating illegal vehicle checkpoints in Kosovo.  The group was involved in a shootout last week with KPS officers and later identified themselves as the banned terrorist group Albanian National Army (ANA - English, ASKH in Albanian).  The UN identified ANA as a terrorist group in 2003.  Albanian politicians, such as former guerilla leader, PM Agim Ceku is condemning the group's actions and calling them "damaging" to the image and security of Kosovo.  NATO also acknowledged the group's existence and checkpoints but stated that incidents should not be blown out of proportion...whatever that means!  After the shootout with KPS, police returned to the scene and recovered ammunition and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Politically In-correct

Oh yeah!  I have had the song for quite some time now but I just found the video to the "Kosovo Song".  The song is hilarious but the video is way better :)  If I recall correctly, the guys that did the video got in a bit of trouble for being politically incorrect...but hey, lighten up and enjoy!
There also is a video from some American KFOR soldiers apparently stationed at Bondsteel that has some good footage of around Kosovo and the soldiers goofing off.  Again, it may offend those with delicate sensibilities...but if you aren't the type to easily get your panties in a bunch...enjoy!!!

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Pushing Fake Travel Documents in Kosovo

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network published an article about the illegal document peddling that goes on in Kosovo and surrounding countries.  The problem stems mostly from the inability of Albanians to travel to other countries using the UNMIK Travel Document as most countries require a visa.  With old ex-Yugoslav documents, people are able to easily travel to neighboring countries such as Bulgaria, Croatia, Bosnia without a visa. 
Meanwhile, Kosovo PM Ceku has been on a tour to promote independence in Kosovo.  He has visited Russia, Romania, and Croatia in the past weeks to try to build partnerships and gain support for an independent Kosovo.  The visit that received the most press was naturally his visit to Moscow which was dubbed "informal".  Russia is still holding to their statements that they will veto any move for independence in the Security Council and insists that any solution found must be acceptable to Serbia and Kosovo.  That's easier said than done with Albanians insisting on nothing short of independence and Serbia insisting that Kosovo remain part of Serbia.

And yesterday, five Albanians were arrested in connection with the violent demonstrations on 28 November where the government and UNMIK Mission HQ suffered damage.  The figures of how many demonstrators there were depends on the source.  Local media reports that there were 5000 people, UN Security stated that there were 4000, some international media says 3000, and one UNMIK police spokesperson said 2000 demonstrators.  While always difficult to judge the size of a crowd, from what I've seen and have been told, the crowd was around 3000-4000 maybe everyone should settle on the amount of 3500 :o)

Sunday, December 3, 2006


I have been violated!!!  No, don't go was only my house :o)  It is hard to explain but Western culture and Kosovo culture often clash.  Sometimes things happen that just take you by surprise because it just would never occur to you to do something like it.  Anyways, a couple weeks after I moved into my new flat in Dragodan, the landlord asked if his family could borrow the washing machine because theirs had broken.  Naturally I agreed, thinking that they would have theirs fixed in a week or so.  Nope, three months later the family is still using the washing machine in my place and now that the weather has turned cold, they have started to drape their pants, blankets, socks, and whatever else on the banister of my stairs. 
Then the central heating.  When I moved in, the rental agency guy joked that because my landlord installs central heating systems in houses, I was going to have the warmest house in all of Kosovo.  Yeah, right!  With temperatures dropping down to freezing at night, my landlord still hasn't turned on the heating.  I've asked him three times already when he was going to turn it on and each time I got the reply "in a couple of days".  Now I can't trust anything the guy says because evidently he was just blatantly lying to me over the past month and half as to when he was going to turn on the heating.  He also has promised all sorts of repairs to the flat that will be done over the weekends...but none have been started, let alone finished!

But that's not what I feel the most violated, this was a serious violation...the worst kind of violation that you could do to a computer person.  Sometime over the weekend while I was out shopping, one of the family came into my flat and used my computer without permission.  Now they didn't tell me that they had to use my computer, I found out myself when I went to go check my mail and discovered someone else's account on my computer.  Livid is the best description I can come up with as to how I felt at the moment.  Of course, the first thing I did was password protect my account so that if I go idle, it requires a password to get back into the system.  It is seriously beyond my belief that the family is comfortable walking into my flat and using my things!  Invasion of privacy in my book!!!