Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Kosovo Kristmas

Merry Christmas...or perhaps in Kosovo we should call it Kristmas!  As my aunt coined the phrase, people in Kosovo are celebrating without the "reason for the season".  Despite the recent spate of power outages, buildings are decorated with millions of Kristmas lights (and yes, that annoys MTCowgirl because she wants to have power at night...she thinks people should just turn off the darn lights and conserve the power...okay, they don't take that much but still!).

Okay, so the Albanians aren't celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ (seems odd that predominantly Muslims would...of course, I'm not forgetting that there is a small Albanian-Catholic community) but rather they are celebrating the Kommerical Kosovo Kristmas (hey, I like that!)  Kosovo Kommercial Kristmas (a new holiday coined by MTCowgirl) is all about giving presents, decorating with lights, and good ol' Saint Nick (doh, Saint Nick???  Ummm...just have to call him Klaus!)...and good ol' Kosovo Kristmas Klaus!
The recent tradition of kelebrating Kosovo Kommercial Kristmas is a new phenonemom that kicked off a little bit last year but this year it was impossible not to notice the lights, Klauses, and general Kommercial spirit.  Honestly, I will have to go out with my camera and try to get some photos over the holidays...it's pretty wild!

Nothing really new is happening and I don't expect that there will be any significant news besides the normal blah-blah about the status and UDI so if I don't blog again before the New Year, Happy Holidays to everyone!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

50 Cent Concert!

To celebrate the launch of IPKO's new mobile phone service, the company brought in rap superstars G-Unit (headed by 50 Cent) for a concert outside in the Pristina Stadium.  I wonder if during the contract negotiation they told 50 that he'd be performing outside in the elements in freezing temperatures?  Anyways, the concert was wild.  It kicked off around 7pm with continuous Albanian rap groups until 9pm.  Finally G-Unit came on stage (I don't think we or the rowdy crowd could handle any more of the local rappers selfless promotion).  They performed before an estimated crowd of 20,000 people crammed into the stadium for about an hour before a very nice fireworks display that ended the concert.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Day of Charity

Yesterday, we kicked off the distribution of toys, clothing, and food to families in need in the Novo Brdo municipality.  We have been given a list of approximately 175 children who are from vulnerable families all around Kosovo and all the different ethnicities.  As this was the first time I've been involved in the actual distribution of the items donated, it was very interesting for me to see how people treated us and how they reacted when we gave them aid.  As we spent all day out around different villages, I think I will create another page for my experiences and stories of the Dj Vegas Annual Charity Toy & Clothing Drive 2007.
At the end of last week, it was hoped that KEK would bring Kosovo-B back online and the power situation would stabilize.  However the power problems continued through the weekend because when KEK brought K-B back online, Kosovo-A went down!  I think of the phrase "you just can't win" when I think of the situation.  I'm still interested to see what will happen when the government changes because there are still people who think that Thaci will be able to deliver the 24/7 power he promised while campaigning!

MTCowgirl's Kosovo News...
MTCowgirl's Kosovo Independence News...(guess I can create a new category of news since there's so much lately!)
  • Kosovo PM says independence a "matter of weeks"...but oops, Kosovo President says days!
  • Serbia says EU Mission unacceptable
  • Canada opposes Kosovo independence
  • Romania will not recognize Kosovo independence
  • Russia warns west on Kosovo independence

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Lights Out in Kosovo

Yesterday morning at 0500 hours, Kosovo B1 went down due to a leaky pipes.  Since Kosovo B supplies nearly 40% of Kosovo's electricity and KEK has essentially spent all their allocated import funds during Ramadan, KEK has instituted emergency rationing of the power.  A-areas will most likely have 3:3 and B/C areas will have 2:4 (that's 2 hours with and 4 hours without!)  It is hoped that Kosovo B will be back online the morning of the 14th and regular power will be restored.

The timing of the power plant going down is interesting because in just about ten days when Thaci takes over as Kosovo's new PM as one of his campaign promises there is supposed to be 24/7 power in Kosovo.  Reportedly, some guy who obtained a doctorate from a university somewhere has studied the management of KEK and come up with a plan that will give Kosovo power all the time by making some changes.  The fact of the matter is that the current Kosovo power plants simply cannot produce enough power to supply Kosovo!  Of course, after 8 years I would think that different managers have already tried to change things for the better so I don't know how this new person will manage unless he has ideas for new power imports! 

Monday, December 10, 2007

Albanians Celebrate & Call for Independence

Today up to 3000 (reports of the actual numbers vary depending on the source) Albanians gathered in Pristina to call for a unilateral declaration of independence by the Kosovo government and urged the international community to recognize them.  The crowd chanted "UCK, UCK, UCK" in reference to the disbanded Kosovo Liberation Army, of which most Kosovo politicians were part of and the Kosovo Protection Corps (TMK) was founded upon its members.  Kosovo politicians are now vowing independence before May 2008, changing from the end of this year.  It is thought that there may be a UDI mid-January. 
Meanwhile Kosovo Serbs are weighing the options and many do not welcome Kosovo independence.  Kosovo Serbs living in refugee camps in Serbia are giving up hope of returning home.  Some Albanians also do not see a future with a multi-ethnic society and there have been isolated incidents across Kosovo against minority populations (a Serbian house was set on fire with the message "Death to Serbs" spray-painted on it in Gjilane).  The Norwegian Refugee Council's Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre has warned that the risk for displacement in Kosovo is growing as the deadline for decisions pass.  Additionally, there are reports that the UN is fearing that Serbia and the Serbs in northern Kosovo will disrupt an independent Kosovo by walking off the job as KPS officers or interfering with power/water supplies.

The UN is not surprisingly quiet on the day that the troika report was due to be released.  American, British,  and EU officials meanwhile have been adding their support to Kosovo's independence.  Cyprus maintains its deadlock with other EU nations regarding Kosovo.   Russia continues to object to a UDI by Kosovo and warns of a "chain reaction".

I enjoyed CNN's Analysis: Kosovo on a knife's edge, especially the conclusion of the article which has been one of my questions for a long time.  Why is it necessary to break up Kosovo and Serbia when both someday hope to join the EU???  Will 5-10-15 years of being apart mend the apparent psychological scars that prevent the two from living together?

Saturday, December 8, 2007

UNMIK, KFOR, and Serbs Clash Over SRSG Visit

Yesterday, UNMIK and KFOR clashed with a group of Serbs in the village of Gorazdevac during a visit of UNMIK's SRSG Joachim Ruecker and KFOR Commander Xavier Bout.  The two officials were evacuated by helicopter following the clash of their security services and the Serb residents.  Approximately 50 people have been detained in connection with the incident which apparently started with one Serbian resident and a French KFOR soldier that resulted in a "free-for-all" according to B92.  Ruecker issued a statement following the incident condemning the fight and blamed Belgrade.  The response from the Serb National Council was that Ruecker is Serb-phobic.

Serbia has requested another round of negotiations with Kosovo to determine the final status.  Kosovo has outright rejected holding any further talks and is still planning on a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI is the new acronym, I guess people got tired of trying to say the entire phrase).  Serbia's PM Kostunica also issued a warning to Kosovo Albanians against an "illegal" independence move and offered to host the next negotiations in Belgrade.

MTCowgirl's Interesting News Articles
  • Kosovo: a divided land where hatred is passed down the generations, Times Online takes a look at the continued ethnic tensions between Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo. 
  • Independence Jitters Grip Kosovo (makes me wonder if anyone will get cold feet?!)
  • Partition Kosovo, Telegraph features an editorial that argues for partition of Kosovo, an option that most independence-backers say is not going to be considered (but sometimes I wonder if Kosovo's independence isn't a bit like partitioning part of Serbia...so basically what's the difference?!)
  • Pope hopes for secure peace in Kosovo
Other Kosovo News

Thursday, December 6, 2007

ANA Stops Bus Near Podujevo

Approximately 2kms from Podujevo, 10-masked men with AK-47s introducing themselves as Albanian National Army (ANA or AKSH in Albanian) stopped a bus with Serbian plates on its way from Dragash to Belgrade.  The men took the keys from the driver, locked the bus, and told the owner of the bus company not to use the route again.  There were approximately 40 passengers (Albanian, Bulgarian, Turkish, Bosniak, Ashkali) on the bus.  Following the stop, the men escaped into the woods and were not located.  Naturally an investigation is continuing...

The International Crisis Group believes that Kosovo will be granted conditional independence in May 2008 if the United States and EU back the decision decisively.  The group urges the countries to act on the Ahtisaari plan despite opposition from Serbia and Russia.  ICG also believes that the EU can start taking over the mission in early 2008 if the transition is approved by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon.

Other Kosovo News...
  • Cold War Deja Vu, the LA Times looks at the stand-off between the US and Russia over Kosovo
  • NATO prepares for unrest, articles have been popping up over the past couple of days on how KFOR is preparing for possible unrest in Kosovo following the troika's announcement on 10 December
  • Additionally, countries backing Kosovo independence are seeking a firm pledge from NATO to maintain current level of operations
  • Richard Holbrooke does an interview with Council on Foreign Relations about Kosovo
  • International Community Fails Kosovo, About.com features an article about US foreign policy
  • Serbia maneuvers to block Kosovo Albanians from speaking to UN Security Council
  • Serbia also has launched an ad campaign against Kosovo independence using quotations from world leaders
  • Ethnic Serbs fear independent Kosovo, the Daily Comet takes a look at perceptions in some of the enclaves
  • Best answer for Kosovo is EU membership, Serbia too, says an editorial in the Guardian Unlimited
  • And finally, Kosovo signals the age of the micro-state, analysts believe that countries will become smaller over time

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Puking Wonderdog

I think a friend cursed me when telling me last night that I hadn't written about Smokey for a while.  Naturally I said "oh, yeah, he's fine!" but when I got home it was a whole different story!  He was his normal happy spastic self when I got in the door, running laps through the hallway and living room, nearly bowling me over when he slams into my knees.  I decided to get a bit of fresh air since the weather was decent last night so we walked down the hill and back up the Dragodan stairs (yes, the whole of Dragodan from light poles to grassy bits all are Smokey's territory as of last night!)  When we got home, he was tired and hungry and dove straight into his food dish.  About half an hour later I heard a horrible gagging sound from the hallway and found a delightful, frothy puddle of doggie puke on the carpet.  He continued to gag through the night, yanking me out of my dreams with nasty doggie burps and gags (it's not a delight to wake up to your dog puking...much less to wake up and step in a puddle of it when you get up in the night!)  So, thanks J for asking about Smokey...he had been quiet far too long without any good stories so I suppose it was time!

There is a brisk breeze today, the kind that makes you think that you walked out of the house without your pants.  Otherwise, the weather has been good this week with no fog since Sunday.  I'll keep my fingers crossed for those that are traveling for the holidays that the cold spell will last and there won't be any fog in the next few weeks when most of the UN-ers are leaving to see their families!

And finally, again some promotion...just want to send a big thank you to all of the people who have donated towards the Dj Vegas Annual Toy Drive.  We've already filled up my big box in just a bit over a week!!!  There's still lots of time and I think we're going to make a bunch of local kids very happy over this holiday season!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Explosion Injuries 7 in Prizren

An explosion at a nightclub often raided by police for suspicions of being a front for prostitution has injured seven people late Sunday evening.  Two of the injured were foreign females and two of the seven people were seriously injured in the blast.  The building originally housed the Kosovo Protection Corp (TMK in Albanian) but later was turned into a strip club/bar.  It is thought that the attack was criminally motivated, a possible fight between different organized crime groups.

I've been hearing a bit about the Macedonian police shutting down a heavily armed Albanian group and finally found some articles with photos.  The weapons seizure is quite impressive and I can't help but think "thank goodness those are secured" as tensions are mounting as 10 December gets closer.  Additionally, KFOR seized replica Serbian uniforms from a group that allegedly was planning on instigating incidents in Kosovo and blaming it on Serbia.

MTCowgirl's Interesting Articles...

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Gangster's Paradise

Actually, the title of the article is Gunrunner's Paradise but anyone who knows anything about Kosovo knows that it's the organized crime groups that run guns, drugs, and human trafficking in Kosovo.  I'm happy to see a locally based news agency write about something like this when most all other media has been focused on the status issue (blah, blah, blah! Does anyone else ever get sick hearing about the failing negotiations and now how they failed???) So kudos to BIRN for reporting on something different and still viable in their Kosovo: Gunrunner's Paradise article!

The Strategy Page focuses on Who's Who in Kosovo, giving a brief summary of different groups in Kosovo from KPS to Serbian paramilitary groups (ie...Guard of Tsar of Lazar (that name truly trips me up when I try to say it!))  The article is very short and I would have liked to see a more in-depth look into the groups but it's a good start!

The trial of Ramush Haradinaj came to an end yesterday with witnesses still citing fear for safety as a reason for failing to testify against the former KLA-commander.  The court has been criticized for failing to protect witnesses who have received death threats and in some cases suffer post-traumatic stress syndrome.
The recent spat of heavy rain and snow has caused substantial flooding in Kosovo.  Four rivers have broke their banks and flooded surrounding villages.  In the larger cities, residents are having to deal with overflowing sewers and raw sewage on the streets.  Surprisingly, with the flooding officials have stated that there may be shortages of water as well as electricity (if readers recall the power plant actually flooded last spring and that caused all sorts of power problems).

And finally, my last tidbit today is self-promotion!  With 44% living at or below poverty level and 14% living in extreme poverty, the winter and holidays can be difficult for families in Kosovo.  For the past several years, through my alter-ego Dj Vegas, I have been holding a charity toy drive to help families in need around Kosovo.  Toys and clothing, new or gently used, are being collected at my office and at several parties over the next few weeks.  Thanks for your support!

MTCowgirl's Interesting Articles...
  • Albin Kurti says Bush lies to Kosovo Albanians
  • Czech News:  Don't treat Thaci as a democrat
  • Serbia prepares rude reception for independent Kosovo

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Upcoming Flag Day

Tomorrow is Kosovo Flag Day...or Albanian Flag Day in Kosovo...Kosovo Albanian Flag Day???  Whatever it is, it's a reason to celebrate and a holiday for the local population.  Also, possibly a reason to go wild and vandalize property so the UN has implemented parking restrictions in downtown for UNMIK vehicles.  Kosovo still does not have it's own flag to my knowledge despite all the press and hype about the contest earlier this year. 

MTCowgirl's Interesting News Articles...
Other Kosovo News...

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Sunkissed & Freezing

I need to sit down and update my travel log with my latest adventures in Thailand (that's where the sunkissed comes in!)  I have to admit that I'm probably the only suntanned person in Kosovo at the moment because the weather is cold, snowy, and freezing!  I guess I was lucky leaving at the beginning of the month as the skies opened up and the fluffy white stuff poured out from above.  The fog has been heavy as well resulting in many flight cancellations (in fact, I got stuck in Istanbul on the way back due to my flight being cancelled after 5-hours of delays due to fog in Pristina!) and a kind of eerie atmosphere when the Kosovo blackbirds take flight!
Besides the funky weather, I missed out on the Kosovo elections of which former KLA-commander Thaci won the biggest portion of votes at 34%.  Having so many political parties vying for power means coalition governments must be formed and it's expected that Thaci's party will form a coalition with former President Rugova's party.  With the lowest voter turnout since the end of the conflict, only 45% of registered voters turned out showing just how disenchanted the local people are with their politicians

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Fire at Municipal Building Leads to Helicopter Evacuation

Yesterday, four UN staff members were rescued by KFOR helicopter from the roof of the Prizren municipal building after a fire broke out in the late afternoon.  An investigation is pending into the cause of the fire which reportedly broke out on the first floor of the Bankos building. 
Could Kosovo's status be put on hold until 2020 in exchange for billions of Euros in aid and an eventual referendum?  BIRN takes a look in Kosovo's Moment of Truth at what the decision might mean for Kosovo.  Kosovo's PM Agim Ceku has already rejected the idea stating that Kosovo's independence is not for sale.  However, given that Kosovo will face tough economic times and possible isolation following a unilateral declaration of independence, other politicians might want to think twice before rejecting the plan so quickly.  However, is the whole 2020 plan just a hoax???  The US State Department denies that there are any new plans for Kosovo's status other than the implementation of the Ahtisaari proposal.

Snippets of other Kosovo News...
  • The Times published an article on Kosovo militias and the threat they pose towards progress and peace.  The article takes a look at militias from both sides of the Kosovo argument in this interesting piece.
  • B92 has an article about how some members of the Serbian parliament questions the multi-ethnic idea in Kosovo
  • Serbia is urging Kosovo-Serbs to boycott the upcoming elections
  • As a response, UN tells Serbia to stop intimidating Kosovo-Serbs who want to vote in the elections
  • A poll of Serbs shows that they believe the coalition government will collapse over Kosovo

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Investigation Reveals Freelance Reporter Lied!

The investigation into the alleged beating of a freelance VOA reporter in Gracanica last week has been revealed that the reporter made a false report to the police.  During the investigation, it was discovered that the reporter was intoxicated, was involved in an incident at a local bar, and to top it all off...was involved in a traffic accident with her vehicle!  The investigation is still continuing...
The employees of the Minor Offense Court have been striking in favor of raising their salaries.  By my experience with the local economy, I would estimate that the employees of the court probably make somewhere in the range of 120-180 Euros a month which is essentially peanuts.  It truly baffles me when I try to figure out how the locals live on their measly salaries.  When I look at the new Mercedes, cell phones, warehouses, and other luxury lifestyle choices of the local population I really wonder how many of them cope!  Of course most internationals are paying between 350-600 Euros a month rent on their accommodations so there is a bit of a compensation if you can rent out a floor of your house.  Anyways...just some meandering thoughts for the day :D

Friday, October 19, 2007

Muddy Season

After a few days of sunshine, the rain has returned.  It looks like we are heading into the "muddy season" evidenced by the fact that while jumping up into my 4Runner this morning I managed to get mud all over my pants leg.  Of course I say "jump" into my 4Runner because at my impressive height of 5'3 + 3/4ths (that 3/4 is very important because its nearly another inch!!!) I can't just get in but I have to perform a little hop & jump routine in order to get into the car :)  But back to the weather, it's muddy season.  There aren't really the standard four seasons in Kosovo but three seasons.  The three seasons are dust, mud, and frozen and refer to the dirt that seems to cover every inch of the roads and sidewalks in Kosovo.
With the dropping temperatures and the typical maintenance problems at the power plants, the new power schedule for Pristina is 5:1 (five on, one off) which isn't that bad although you'll still hear people whining as they've become accustomed to 24/7 power since last year.  C-areas which are mainly villages and minority areas have a 3:3 schedule which means they essential live with power for half of the day.  It is expected that the tender for the new Kosovo power plant will be completed sometime this year but it will still be many years before the power situation gets better as the current power plants are fairly old, poorly maintained, and the quality of the management is questioned by many.  But at least I can say that over the years the power situation has gotten much better and I believe that credit should be given to those that worked hard to repair the plants and better the living situation.  Back in the beginning of the mission, we would go days without knowing when the power would come back on and there was no published schedule.  Now you can be guaranteed that you'll have power at least half of the day and you can also visit the KEK website to see when the power will be on.

MTCowgirl's Interesting Articles...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

VOA Reporter Beaten in Pristina

A freelance reporter for the Voice of America (VOA) was attacked and beaten in her home by a masked man in military fatigues on Tuesday evening.  Vesna Bojicic was allegedly attacked by a masked man who pushed his way into her accommodation and proceeded to beat her, accusing her of bias towards Albanians.  The ethnicity of the attacker is not know but according to Bojicic, the assailant spoke "very good Serbian , which doesn't have to mean anything, but tells a lot". 
With the upcoming elections, Kosovo's politicians have been declaring their net worth.  Almost all of the candidates are worth more than a million Euros each while one has topped the 400 million Euro range.  So far, the public has not been able to receive a disclosure from the politicians as to where the wealth has come from and there have been many allegations of corruption at the highest levels of politics with one source stating that following the "liberation" of Kosovo, "all the leading KLA commanders immediately 'liberated' the most attractive business premises and cafes".

An ex-KLA fighter has been arrested on suspicion of murdering 14 Serb farmers back in 1999.  Mazllum Bytyqi was arrested in 2002 for the same charges but was later released due to a lack of evidence.  KPS now says that new evidence has emerged in the killings of the farmers who were allegedly tending their fields when they were gunned down with an automatic weapon in Staro Gacko.

A new advertising campaign by Telecom Slovenia has stirred some ire when they referred to Kosovo as a state.  In response to criticism, the company released a press statement explaining that the usage of the term "state of Kosovo" was in reference to the market and the company was not interested in the politics but rather their users.  An interesting note at the end of the article is that in new atlases in Austria, Kosovo is already shown as an independent country.

The Albanian National Army (ANA) is stepping up their political rhetoric by issuing a statement that said if by 1 November KFOR, UNMIK, and KPS fail to take control of areas in northern Kosovo controlled by Serbs, they will step in and take control.  North of the Ibar still has many parallel institutions and there has been criticism that the area is still under heavy influence of Belgrade.

A student union of the Pristina University called Student Initiative for Independence Kosovo has announced plans for a peaceful demonstration on 10 December.  The students plan on demanding the Kosovo parliament to declare immediate independence and the demonstration will supposedly last until the parliament does so.  Additional student groups have announced that they will hold similar protests on the same day as they do not belong to the Initiative group.

Other Kosovo News...
MTCowgirl's Interesting Articles...
  • A Serbian writer talks about the calamitous relationships between ethnic groups in ex-Yugoslavia in an article titled "Our negroes, our enemies"...this is probably one of the more interesting articles I've read for quite some time!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Doing Business Kosovo Style

This weekend, my landlady brought over a plumber/electrician/jack-of-all-trades to fix some problems in the bathroom of my flat.  But there was something wrong with the picture when he arrived with the landlady and they began to work in the bathroom.  Then when the landlady asked me if I had any screws and a screwdriver, I figured out what was wrong.  The guy came without any tools or equipment!  How on earth did he expect to be able to fix anything without tools?  Luckily I had the screwdriver he needed and the landlady was able to scrounge up the screws from her flat.  This is not my first experience with workers showing up to a job without the necessary tools.  In fact, slowly but surely my collection of tools has disappeared into the back pockets of all the workers that have shown up at my flat to do something and failed to bring anything with them other than their wallets :P 
Probably my most interesting experience was back when I lived in Gracanica.  Basically, I decided that the hot water tank needed to come out of the shower because I didn't feel like electrocuting myself while bathing.  The hot water tank is located inside the shower area of many a flat in Kosovo and most are probably safe enough but in my old place in Gracanica, the power cord was not contained in the wall but was hanging outside the wall.  So I asked the landlord to bring an electrician or plumber to move the tank into the storeroom next to the bathroom.  Naturally the guy showed up without tools!  I was able to find the variety of different sockets and screwdrivers the guy needed to complete the job.  Unfortunately, I didn't have the necessary brackets or screws however to mount the tank on the wall of the storeroom (silly me!) so the guy decided to leave the hot water tank sitting on the floor of the storeroom upside down!

Now, most elementary children know that heat rises so I'm not exactly sure what the worker expected to happen when he set up the tank upside down...maybe the hot water would magically sink to the bottom of the tank and the freezing cold water would float to the top to heat up??? Yeah, didn't happen...So for a couple of days (before really giving it to the landlord and demanding that the worker or someone else come back to fix the so-called installation) I had warm water for about two minutes into the shower before the heated water was exhausted and the bone chilling water came shooting out of the faucet.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Another Rainy Day

It's another dreary rainy day in Kosovo.  Yesterday one of the generators overloaded at Kosovo A power plant and ignited a fire causing system failures.  There were a couple power outages but it has been barely noticeable.
Many of us are wondering what the power situation will be like this winter as it has been forecasted that the winter will be long, cold, and harsh.  I've donated an old generator to a family living in a C-area for the winter as I expect that the people in the villages are going to suffer with just a couple hours of power a day if KEK does not import power from abroad.  Last winter the situation wasn't so bad perhaps due to the mild weather...Gracanica (C-Area) had pretty much constant power during the coldest month, in fact the power situation has been downright spectacular compared to how it used to be in the beginning of the mission!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Beginning of Fall

2300 CET:  The suspicious package was found to be non-explosive but an investigation is being conducted.

1640 CET:  A bit over one hour after the security alerts went out to the staff, KFOR EOD has responded to Mission HQ to inspect the suspicious package...

1620 CET:  UN Mission HQ has been closed due to the finding of a suspicious package underneath a vehicle.

1525 CET:  For some "ongoing security incident" at Mission HQ, everyone has been asked to leave the compound and the compound has closed.  UN Security is advising everyone to stay away from Mission HQ as well as Police Avenue at this time.  In fact, Police Avenue is closed to all vehicle and pedestrian traffic.  If I find out exactly what is going on, I will update!

I've also noticed a statement given yesterday by KFOR's Commander Xavier Bout de Mamhac.  The French general has given mid-January as a date for Kosovo's status to be settled and said that it was the duty of Kosovo politicians to explain this to the general public.

1420 CET:  Well, yeah, it does look like the protestors here don't like the rainy cold fall weather.  While some reports say there were 1100 demonstrators, only about 150 people actually marched through the city.  It looked almost as if the students were in a hurry to get back to their warm dorm rooms as they didn't even stop in front of the UN Mission HQ to protest but just continued straight on down the road at a fairly brisk pace!

Earlier in the Day...It looks like fall is finally upon us with the rain and clouds that came over the weekend.  Today's grey skies and constant drizzle are certain to put a damper on the planned protest of the Albanian Student Union in Pristina.  The USSH (Albanian acronym) announced that they would be protesting the "the further delays of independence of Kosovo, as well as against the negotiations which threaten independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Kosovo".  Estimates for the demonstration have been put at between 5-10,000 people although many of us doubt that there will quite that many people, especially since previous bad weather protests gathered few people (hmmm, so does that make the Kosovars fair-weather protestors?)

In the news, Kosovo's PM Agim Ceku has again stated that if there is no agreement by 10 December, Kosovo will unilaterally declare independence.  The UK and US are expected to recognize the independence but the EU is likely to split over the the issue, an outcome some conspiracy theorists say is the whole idea behind the US' policy.

Serbia has arrested 56 neo-Nazis during a Kosovo protest in Novi Sad after a fight broke out against anti-fascists who were holding an counter-demonstration.  The demonstration had been banned by the government but organizers went ahead   One liberal parliament leader in Serbia has blasted his fellow lawmakers and demanded the resignation of several key members such as PM Kostunica for their failure to appear at the anti-fascist rally.  The parliament session had to be recessed due to harsh verbal exchanges between the liberals and Kostunica's supporters.

A Swedish diplomat and a Swedish KFOR escort are being accused of illegally smuggling a Kosovar family into Macedonia.  The family was detained at the Skopje airport and being sent back to the Macedonia-Kosovo border for clarification of how they entered Macedonia without receiving entry stamps when the Swedish KFOR convoy took off and crossed the border into Kosovo without stopping leaving the Swedish diplomat stranded.  It is suspected that the Kosovar family entered Macedonia using the auxiliary border crossing at Blace reserved for official KFOR vehicles.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Going Slow in Kosovo

I had to steal my blog title from an article in the Economist. The article discusses the situation in Kosovo and questions whether or not the Hong Kong model would work and the power struggle between the US & Russia.  But overall, the title seems to best describe the process in Kosovo...sloooooooow!  I have heard countless years of declarations and estimations of when Kosovo's status will be resolved or when Kosovo will be independent yet still things remain the same.  This winter should be interesting and I hope to stay here through the changes :)
The conflict in Kosovo has gone all the way to football (soccer).  Serbia has officially opposed the Kosovo Soccer Association playing international matches as a national team.  The Serbian Football Association plans to lodge a complaint with FIFA and UEFA and wants the Kosovo association first to receive permission to play as a national team.

There has been a series of arrests at the Pristina Airport over false documents.  A few KPS officers along with regular civilians, and an airport employee have been arrested in connection to a ring producing and selling Slovenian travel documents.  In total, six people have been arrested in the past week for involvement in the ring.  A KPS Border Police officer is accused of assisting people using the fake documents to cross the border.

Two of the August Dubrava escapees were re-arrested in Pristina on Friday.  During the search operations, several items of interest were confiscated including sub-machine guns and silences in addition to pistols and several boxes of ammunition.  The sister of one of the escapees, a KPS officer, was also arrested under suspicion of aiding & abetting a fugitive along with two Kosovo-Albanians and an Albanian citizen (errr, how would you politically correct identify a citizen of Albanian in comparison to Kosovo Albanian???  Would it be K-Albanian and normal Albanian???  Somehow that doesn't sound quite right!)

Other Kosovo News...
MTCowgirl's Interesting Articles...
  • From Military Disaster to Moral High Ground, an opinion-editorial that looks at Kosovo and Iraq
  • Kosovo PM Agim Ceku states he is ready to forgive but not forget (reminds me of the song by Garth Brooks where he sings that they "bury the hatchet with the handle sticking out" *grin*)

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Banned Albanian National Army Patrols Kosovo

Last night, local TV station RTK aired a report and interview with members of the banned Albanian National Army (ANA in English, AKSH in Albanian).  Some officials have denied the existence of ANA but it seems like after last night it will be difficult to continue to say they don't exist!  In the broadcast, masked men were shown patrolling the main highway near Podujevo near the Kosovo-Serbia border.  The group has previously threatened the UN, Africans, Asians as well as demand the unification of Albanians in Kosovo, Macedonia, and Albania.  According to BIRN, last night's broadcast was the first time the group has been filmed by a local station.
MTCowgirl's Interesting Articles...
Other Kosovo News

Monday, October 1, 2007

Where'd the Time Go???

Yikes, the beginning of October already!  It's hard to believe that time has been passing so quickly!  Already nearly months of new negotiations have passed with no result.  Of course, it was hard to believe that there'd be any agreement when both sides continued to reiterated that they'd accept nothing more than this or that! I've come across a couple interesting news articles...again I want to reiterate that these articles don't necessarily reflect my opinion but they do offer some interesting insights into Kosovo and its people.

MTCowgirl's Interesting Articles!
Other Kosovo Articles

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Kosovo State of Mind

There is something about the Kosovo state of mind that just baffles me a times.  Following the closure of a portion of Bill Clinton Boulevard due to the recent fatal explosion traffic downtown has been a bit of a mess due to diversions.  But the local population, and the occasional head-in-the-clouds international, have a tendency to exuberate the situation even more by being just ...well...plain stupid for lack of better description!

For instance, I needed to turn away from the bumper-to-bumper traffic bypassing Bill Clinton in order to do some errands.  Rather than stop to allow traffic to turn left off the main road, the local drivers coming onto the main road chose to instead pile up one after another which the end result was to completely block the intersection even though there was no room for them on the main road due to the stopped traffic.  To make matters even more...interesting...several drivers became impatient and decided to attempt to go around the car in front attempting to come onto the main road so that the turning traffic had to weave its way through about three lanes of traffic coming onto a one-lane road!  The vehicles in front of me managed to inch forward until they blocked the other traffic.  It's just strange that no one here seems to think of anyone but themselves...in fact they get downright impatient when I stop for pedestrians on the crosswalk or decide not to block an intersection.  I have had instances where I've stopped before an intersection because the traffic is stopped on the other side just to have some numb-nuts come and cut in front of me and block the intersection for the traffic trying to go the other way.  It's almost amazing sometimes to look in the mirror and discover that my hair is not yet snow white after all these years of driving in Kosovo traffic!!!

MTCowgirl's Interesting News
Other Kosovo News
  • US and EU ready to recognize unilateral declaration of independence from Kosovo
  • Kosovo is looking forward, the International Herald Tribune publishes an article by Kosovo PM Agim Ceku
  • Expectations vary among Kosovo citizens, B92 provides quotes from Kosovars about the status

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Gas Explosion Kills One at University

2100 CET:  The official report is that there was an explosion at the Pristina University student dorms during a repair.  Three workers were injured and one later died at the hospital.  One worker remains in serious condition.
1700 CET:  The explosion that was reported downtown was caused by some sort of gas or propane.  There still is not much information to go on but that's what I know so far.

1600 CET:  There is word that there has been another explosion in downtown Pristina at the Pristina University.  Reports are that one person was killed.  Currently there is little information available but I will update as I find out what happened :(

Earlier in the day...
Hitting on the economic situation in Kosovo, Bloomberg takes a look at the bid for independence ties into the hopes for a better economy.  The common thought is that once independence is achieved, foreign investors will pour into Kosovo, there will be many jobs, rainbows, sugared candies, and puppy dogs for all!  In all reality, things are likely to change very slowly and it will take a long time for the Kosovo economy to get out of the slumps it is in now.

I  noticed the complaint by the author about blackouts darkening the city every day but since the beginning of Ramadan nearly two weeks ago, I can't recall a single power outage in Pristina and even before that, it was only when KEK took Kosovo-B offline for maintenance that the power was rationed in Pristina.  Please, folks, don't ever EVER complain about the power situation in Pristina!  If you were out in one of the villages, then okay you can complain about spending several hours a day without power but it absolutely drives me mad to hear a person whine about a 20-60 minute power outage in the capital.  I always think back to how it used to be in Kosovo in the beginning of the mission.  Forget about whining about a short power outage, back then you wouldn't know which day the power would be on!  Constant water shortages, burning piles of garbage on the streets, packs of wild & aggressive dogs roaming the streets...that was the tough life!

MTCowgirl's Interesting Articles...
  • The Daily Star features an interesting article that could be summed up as "look before you leap".  The article explores the perceived "perils" of recognizing Kosovo's independence.
  • Kosovo Board erupts into war of words, lawmakers trade insults and accusations
  • Reuters Factbox breaks down the composition of KFOR
  • Hope for Kosovo's fate fading fast
  • Alice in Blunderland, an editorial piece on the prosecution and trial of Albin Kurti
  • NATO gives Serbia cluster bomb target information for 1999 bombing campaign
Other Kosovo News...

Monday, September 24, 2007

Two Dead in Pristina Explosion

Two people have been killed and 10-11 people injured early this morning (0210 CET) in a large explosion on Bill Clinton Boulevard in downtown Pristina.  Several restaurants and cafes in the area were still open with customers when the blast occurred.  The blast happened at the Sekiraqa restaurant, which looks to be in almost the same location as a previous explosion a couple years ago that blew out the windows of several businesses in the area.  The one block section where the explosion happened is closed off to traffic as the investigation continues. 
In another tragic event, two people were killed and five were injured when a passenger vehicle collided with a tractor near the village of Prilep on Saturday (22 Sept).  Tractor traffic is common on the roadways in Kosovo giving headaches to other drivers due to the slow moving traffic but when the sun goes down, the traffic is quite dangerous as in this case, the tractor had no head or taillights.  It is believed that the vehicle slammed into the back of the tractor as it was not visible in the darkness.

Kosovo students are protesting a ban on headscarves and three students were expelled from local schools last week.  The argument over secular states and religious rights has carried over from Western Europe to Kosovo particularly since some believe that being seen as overly Islamic could damage the province's bid for independence.

In a rare instance of cooperation between Kosovo and Serbian authorities, a Kosovo Albanian arms dealer with ties to suspected extremist groups has been arrested.  Serbian authorities issued a request for assistance to Kosovo police in stopping the sale of weapons to groups in Serbia's southern borders with Kosovo.  The suspect was arrested in Mitrovica by KPS officers and is being held on illegal sales of weapons.  The Sandzak area of Serbia is thought to be one of the new breeding grounds for what has been dubbed "white al-Queda", the term for European Muslims who are being recruited into extremist groups.

Regarding the question of Kosovo's Status...the commander of KFOR has said during a press conference that he does not believe that Kosovo's status will be decided in 2007.  Stating "Everyone in Kosovo was speaking in February 2006 about independence by July. Today we are in 2007 and still with a big question mark ahead of us", the commander added that KFOR is ready for any threats.  Then China's Foreign Minister has said while visiting Belgrade that his country respects the UN charter and supports the talks between Kosovo and Serbia, a statement welcomed by Belgrade.

MTCowgirl's Kosovo News Update...
So okay, everyone has their different opinions but you can't just ignore what other people say or respond "you're stupid" (really, folks, that's not a convincing argument!).  You have to read everything you can to get a better grasp of the situation.  Sure some of these articles are inflammatory and far from being partial, but this is someone's point of view and other people are reading it...so to share some unique points of view, here are what I dub, MTCowgirl's Interesting Articles...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

International Children's Festival

Starting on Friday there was an International Children's Festival held downtown in Pristina.  On Friday, I was lucky enough to catch some of the street parade that passed in front of the UN Mission HQ and was able to get some pictures and video.  As soon as I am able to download them, I will share!  It was really nice to see the children out in their traditional costumes and performing dances during the parade and later on stage in front of the Sports Center.  

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

MTCowgirl Rising

That would be rising from beneath the pile of paperwork that has found its way to my desk over the past couple of weeks!!!  In addition to my normal work, I've been busy with my volunteer work in the UNMIK SRC Sports Committee organizing a football tournament last weekend, a basketball tournament this weekend, and a beach volleyball tournament the week after!  UN folks, look for the UNMIK Broadcasts for registration deadlines and times!
Over the past week the electricity situation has taken a downward turn when KEK took the B-plant offline for maintenance.  However now with the beginning of Ramadan, it looks like some power is being imported because the power cuts have stopped.  With the ABC scheduling, A-areas have 24/7 power, B-areas are supposed to have 5:1, and C-areas will either have 5:1 or 4:2.  The power schedule can be checked on KEK's website each day.  Related to the power situation, I found an article on the Trading Markets website about how the power cuts have affected Kosovo businesses.

Also as expected, the water situation has been bad over the past couple of months.  I don't notice it so much due to a huge water tank at the flat but my other friends in the neighborhood have been complaining about frequent water cuts during the daytime and of course, the normal cuts from 11pm-5am each day.  There are predictions that because we have had a long, hot summer this winter will be long, cold and there will be lots of snow.  That hopefully will help refill the water reservoirs for next year although I do believe that the local population needs to be taught water conservation techniques.

Around Kosovo in the past week or so a couple interesting things have happened.  The first is that KPS discovered a document forger during a vehicle checkpoint last week.  During a vehicle search, officers found numerous passports and other official documents.  Following up with a warrant, the police searched the home of the suspect and found more documents issued by both Yugoslav and UNMIK authorities.  The investigation continues and it seems that KPS is searching for associated suspects.

A memorial to an Albanian murdered in 2000 was demolished by a group of persons driving Serbian-plated vehicles in northern Mitrovica causing concern in the Kosovo parliament.  Several MPs accussed Serbia of being instrumental in the destruction of the Avni Hajradinaj memorial and calling it a bid to destabilize Kosovo.

Vetevendosje is back to defacing property again.  Over the weekend, activists defaced the blast barrier outside UN MHQ stating "UNMIK is manipulating children" evidently in reference to the painting of the blast barrier on UN Ambassador's Day by local children.  Yet other than that, the group has been suspiciously quiet over the past few months since they toss the "Go to Hell" box over the gate of the UN.

And as usual, there has been the typical political banter over the status.  Kosovo PM Ceku has been in the press again stating that Kosovo will be independent by the end of 2007 even if it means a unilateral declaration.  Serbia has suggested that the EU warn Kosovo against a unilateral declaration and also demanded explanations from the US on its policy of supporting a unilateral declaration.  Meanwhile, Kosovo will be presenting a peace treaty during negotiations in London to Serbia that calls for good relations.  Then PM Ceku is in the news again as he has asked for clarification from EU's envoy Wolfgang Ischinger on his statements to Britain's The Independent that Kosovo was no longer being offered supervised-independence.  And of course, we can't forget the Russians who are warning that a unilateral declaration would start a chain reaction!  It's nearly enough to make one's head not only spin but perhaps pop off due to the high velocity that could be attained by trying to keep up with the never-ending onslaught of he-said-she-said...but faithful readers fear not as I will continue to be your personal bobble-head in search of the latest news on Kosovo :)

Finally, what blog post is complete without my MTCowgirl's Interesting News Articles...especially when I've missed nearly two weeks!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Yummy, Yummy in My Tummy

Okay, that's a bit of a goof-ball title for a blog but I think it's a good description of how I feel following the discovery of a newer bakery in Pristina thanks to a good (maybe now my best...hey, bribe me with treats and you've got a friend for life!) friend.  The bakery is called Oddysea and is located kind of across from CPI in Peyton Place.  They serve up really delicious cheese Danishes, cheesecake, cookies, and all the other treats that are guaranteed to make people think "this is going to go straight to my hips"! 

Contrary to some popular belief UN employees do actually work and I've been busy so I haven't had as much of a chance to update on the news from Kosovo...but here are some of the latest happenings:
Last Thursday, a KPS officer serving in Close Protection was murdered in Pristina in broad daylight.  I have on good authority that the officer had previously served on an organized crime/criminal gang taskforce and had made some powerful enemies in Kosovo.  It is also rumored that the officer dated the girlfriend of the owner of one of the Kosovo's casinos (as well as pop-singer Adelina Ismalji) and was instrumental in the closure of the casino...and that the casino owner is in detention and has confessed to the murder.  The local paper Koha Ditore has reported about the murder confession but I am not certain if the person mentioned is the one I was told about from my source.

The UN has set the date for local elections in Kosovo.  The elections will be held on 17 November.  The date could possibly be changed if the UN sees that it is interfering with the status negotiations currently under way.  The elections would only be the third round since the UN took over in 1999 for the 120-seats in the PISG (Provisional Institution of Self-Government).  So far, the last two elections both resulted in coalition governments between the largest three parties in Kosovo however there are a couple new parties that have been gaining momentum in Kosovo.

MTCowgirl's Interesting News Articles 

Monday, August 27, 2007

Massive Cache of Explosives Seized

Kosovo Police Service (KPS) and KFOR troops have seized a massive cache of explosives in western Kosovo.  Acting in an anonymous tip, the 92.6kg of explosives were discovered in two villages near the Kosovo-Montenegrin border outside the town of Pec/Peja.  Two Albanians have been arrested in connection with the cache.
The UN has called for probe into prison break.  UN officials have requested an independent inquiry into how seven inmates at Kosovo's high-security prison managed to escape with the help of prison guards.  The inquiry would look into conditions at the prison and ensure that safeguards are put in place to prevent a repeat of the past weekend's events.  There is little hope that the inmates will be discovered in Kosovo as it is thought that they have already slipped across the porous borders to Macedonia or Montenegro.

Last night, I tried out a restaurant called Mozaik (038 247 634) near the "opera house" off of Ramiz Sadiku street.  It's hard to describe exactly how to get there, but if you were walking on Mother Theresa going towards the government building, you would turn off to the right on a small road once you passed the large statue of the guy with the AK-47.  When you reach the end of that road, turn left and then turn right at the end small road.  Mozaik would be right in front of you as the road jogs off to the side since there is a huge red apartment building in the middle :)  We didn't actually look at the menu since a friend suggested that we order salads and meat to share.  The waiter was quite attentive and the food was fantastic.  The salads were quite impressive especially the creamed spinach and broccoli starters.  The combination meat platter was nice and the grilled veal cutlet I had was cooked to perfection, tender and juicy!  We must have drank about 5-6 bottles of the Hoya de Cardenas wine from Spain which I would recommend to wine lovers...at 12 Euros a bottle, you can't go wrong with this superb wine.  

I also noticed that the Indian Food & More restaurant (038 248 592/044 799 791) was open and grabbed a menu as we walked past.  The restaurant is just off of Mother Theresa on a small road called Korriku (first right going towards the government building after passing the AK47 guy statue).  There is everything from pizza to traditional curry dishes on the menu.  I can't yet attest to the quality of the food but I'm hoping to try it out in the next few weeks.

MTCowgirl's Daily News Break ...
  • The Washington Post takes a look at Albin Kurti who continues to remain under house arrest. 
  • The Wall Street Journal asks if Moscow's support for Serbia is paying off, questioning whether or not diplomatic support has been traded for economic prospects. 
  • A senior Russian leader urges the world to resolve older self-determination conflicts (Palestine, Cyprus, Soviet-bloc) before Kosovo
  • Under-Secretary Nicholas Burns says that US hopes Kosovo will be independent in 2007
  • BIRN looks at how the Bosniak and Goranci communities in Kosovo are struggling

Taking a Breather

Ah, I have to take a breather from the news.  All the political mumbo-jumbo about status and unilateral declarations and partition...blah, it is all making my head spin now-a-days.  It seems like every couple of days there is some new statements by a politician that upsets one side and then there is an onslaught of rhetoric ranging from accusations of NATO creating a puppet-state to how the international community has betrayed the trust of Albanians.
Let's talk about life in general in Kosovo for a change :)  Life isn't easy.  People here seem to age quickly.  When most Westerners are getting ready for early retirement and living the golden life, people in Kosovo are having to worry about all sorts of health problems due to living their lives in an unnaturally polluted environment.  I'm often shocked to hear of the various health problems that face a typical 50-year-old Kosovar.

But not everyone is living a difficult life.  There are plenty of people who seem to be well off.  All you have to do is go out in Pristina and take a look at all the new BMW, Audis, and Mercedes sedans that are running around (often going the wrong way down the one way street which is always guaranteed to grab my attention!)  There seems to be a disproportionate number of people who are filthy-stinking rich and those that are living far below the poverty line in Kosovo.  I would say most people are oblivious to the differences in living standards because few ever step outside the comfort of Pristina...but it's there and a glaring problem that will eventually need to be addressed.

Stepping outside the news about Kosovo's status, the Washington Times featured an article titled Kosovo's grim future which explores a report on how the economy is stuck in misery and the youth are basically faced with criminality as their "solo career choice".  It is an interesting read and I would like to further explore the reports that the article is based on.  As usual, posted for your reading pleasure and opinion formation process!!!

Also, an interesting look into life in Kosovo is an article on the summer tradition of Sunet, a festival held high in the Kosovo mountains.  Held every five years, Sunet is a four day festival during which a mass circumcision of young boys is performed.  Often two villages will combine their celebrations.  Seen as a rite of passage, the traditions roots have been lost in the passing of time yet there still are deep feelings of pride as it symbolizes the unique culture of the villages that celebrate Sunet.  Often even after going abroad for a better life, villagers will return with their children to take part in the festival.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Back in Kosovo :)

After a long but uneventful 24-hour trip from the US, I arrived in the sweltering Kosovo heat yesterday.  Supposedly temperatures are due to spike up into the mid-30�C's (that's 100's for �F folks) later this week.  Yikes!  With the high summer temperatures (I can't remember a hot summer like this except maybe my first year here!) there are all sorts of water shortages.  Whether or not we will run out next month as suspected and reported still remains to be seen but severe water rationing has been put into effect.  Everyone's water is turned off from 11pm-5am each night.  That means the neighbors run outside around 9pm to water their sidewalks :P 
The UN has implemented conservation efforts by informing everyone that they can only have their car washed once a week (we do our part in my office by never getting the cars washed until we can't see out the windows at night from the layers of dust on the inside of the windshield *hehe*)  Yet the whole thing that I don't understand about all the conservation efforts is that the UN will issue a directive about the cars but then they will bring in a water truck during the middle of the day to wash the roads in the compound or water the grass (which is really stupid because the heat & rays from the sun magnify in the water and end up frying the grass!).  I say let the stupid grass die and let's save the water for showering next week!  Or at least bring the trucks in at night when the temperatures are down and you don't end up killing the grass in your efforts to keep them green!  That's real UN-efficiency and UN-thinking for you :o)

While I was on my way back to Kosovo, there was a bit of excitement at Dubrava prison.  Seven inmates escaped on Saturday (18 August) in a apparently well-organized plan that seems to have involved armed "rescuers" and prison guards.  Five guards have been detained or arrested in conjunction with the escape.  One of the inmates has escaped three times prior to this latest escape.  All the escapees have been identified, one is accused of murdering a Russian KFOR soldier.  The charges of the inmates range from acts of terrorism to kidnapping and robbery.  Kosovo's minister of justice visited the prison following the breakout and promised that there will be rigorous changes to prevent a repeat of the weekend escape.  An investigation is ongoing into the escape and KPS is still actively searching for the inmates in a manhunt that involves several hundred officers.  

Current PM Agim Ceku has announced that he will not run for office in the upcoming elections.  In his weekly address, Ceku said that he would not participate in elections held before the status resolution and urged politicians participating to "show individual and institutional responsibility and not let their political differences affect the process of establishing the future status of Kosovo".  The date for the elections will be determined in two weeks at the beginning of September.  The Kosovo government has requested that the elections be held the third week of November.

MTCowgirl's Interesting News Articles
  • Kosovo negotiators receive death threats from ethnic Albanian group
  • What if Kosovo is recognized, an opinion piece in the Sofia Echo
  • The UN's Flawed Kosovo Plan, an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal
  • Kosovo Albanians only coming to Serbia for passports, another article on Kosovo citizens visiting Serbia for travel documents
  • Kosovo celebrates Bill Clinton's 61st birthday - Ha, gotta love it!!! :o)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Kosovo Song Hits the News - Again!

It only took the Serbian government five years to discover the humorous "Kosovo Song" and get upset, demanding an apology from the Norwegian government for the video parody of the Beach Boys' hit Kokomo. Now Croatian Javno seems to have discovered the video more than seven years after it was made! It's interesting to see the video continue to get press after so long...but perhaps that means that it's a classic!
Serbia has proposed the return of their security forces to Kosovo for the first time in more than eight years. Serbian forces have not been in Kosovo basically since the end of the NATO bombing campaign in 1999. Under the UN Security Council resolution 1244, Serbia does hold territorial rights to Kosovo as well as the right to send a limited number of security forces to Kosovo. Following the March 2004 riots, there was discussion of having Serbian forces return but UNMIK and KFOR negotiated with Serbia.

Meanwhile, former Kosovo PM Bajram Rexhepi has suggested that if Kosovo will be partitioned, the Kosovo government would only agree if Presevo Valley was integrated into Kosovo. Rexhepi also stated that he did not believe that the 120-day period of negotiation would bring Belgrade and Pristina closer on their positions which continue to be diametrically opposed on autonomy vs. independence.

UNMIK has kick-started the process for local elections due to be held this November in Kosovo. PDSRSG Steven Schook signed an executive order yesterday that authorized the elections commission to begin preparations for the elections. In a statement, he cautioned that the elections should not interfere with the negotiations on status...which seems kind of like wishful thinking. Citizens are probably more likely to vote for candidates who appear to be able to deliver on the promises of independence which means the current government is going to have to prove that they are on the right track. Already there has been speculation that PM Agim Ceku is on his way out because of failures to deliver independence by his constantly moving deadlines.

And finally, how about MTCowgirl's Interesting News Stories???

Friday, August 10, 2007

Controvery Rages

There is a bit of controversy brewing in Kosovo over the arrest of a minority minister in Gracanica over the alleged assault of a police officer following the issuance of a speeding ticket to the minister's daughter. Whew, that was kind of a mouthful! Branislav Grbic was arrested on the 7th for verbally and physically assaulting an Albanian KPS officer working in Gracanica. Three other officers of Serbian ethnicity were reported to have assisted in the arrest and recorded Grbic, the Minister of Community and Return, making threats towards the officer in question. Following the incident, the Kosovo government called for the suspension of the commander of the Gracanica police station and a government spokesperson stated that procedure was not followed and that the minister had some sort of immunity. There are also allegations of excessive force and there is a possibility that Grbic was intoxicated when the incident took place. Overall, it will be interesting to see if there are any follow-ups in the news!
The three representatives from the Contact Group, have arrived in the Balkans to begin the new 120-days of negotiations. It still is not clear whether or not there will be face to face talks between Belgrade and Pristina. Frank Wisner from the US is again involved in the talks along with German envoy Wolfgang Ischinger, representing the EU, and Russia's Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko. In a meeting with Serbian officials today, the troika was presented with a proposal that offers Kosovo wide autonomy and representation in world organizations. The Contact Group troika is due to meet with Kosovo officials on Saturday who have already threatened to pull out of the talks if independence is threatened. Some deadlines have been tossed out such as 10 December but as before, it is difficult to predict when exactly the status will be resolved.

Meanwhile, in other news, OSCE has issued a statement condemning a Kosovo newspaper of irresponsible and unprofessional reporting. If you recall my blog a few months ago about a newspaper printing names of Serbians living in minority areas and accusing them of crimes during the fighting. A series of articles appeared in Infopress newspaper and gave names and other details about Serbs who allegedly served in reserve units. Even after receiving warnings about the articles, the newspaper published more and more names and articles of the same fashion between 30 May and 4 August.

And finally, KPS has reported an increase in the number of attacks on religious and spiritual sites in Kosovo but states that the attacks are criminally, not ethnically, motivated. There have been 52 attacks on religious/spiritual sites since the beginning of the year and KPS has managed to solve 18 of the reported cases.