Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Great Questions!

I got two interesting questions in my email the other day.  The first was would I feel safe in Kosovo if I wasn't with the UN and the second one was about unemployment and if it is visible...below is my answer.  Thanks for the questions...they were really good!

I would like to come back to Kosovo after I leave just to see how it has fared after the status is determined. I don't discourage people from visiting although sometimes this situation is volatile. The events of this past weekend were tragic but it shows you just how quickly things can go wrong here when a large group of people are encouraged towards violence. I have been asking my mother to come visit me for a week just so she can see what it is like...it can be difficult to describe Kosovo at times. It's modern but it also kind of old fashioned.

Unemployment is very high. I've heard figures as high at 70% although sometimes it is reported at 50%...whatever it is, it is high and it is visible. Each day I pass men waiting on the corners of streets. They sit there in groups of 8-10 with a tractor hoping that someone will come hire them for a day of work. Not only is unemployment high but the people that are employed earn very little. The UN pays its workers quite well but that is because the idea of the jobs is temporary. A normal police officer will make 250 Euros a month and a teacher/doctor can make as little as 150 Euros. The economic picture of Kosovo is pretty depressing and I know many people are hoping that once the status is finalized, foreign investors will come in and things will get better...but that will probably take a long time.

Around 800 Serbs gathered in the town of Strpce near Brezovica to protest against the Ahtisaari proposal.  The demonstration lasted about 30 minutes and was peaceful with no incidents reported.
As I mentioned yesterday, the blame game has commenced in Kosovo.  Local media is calling for the resignation of UNMIK officials such as the police commissioner, Stephen Curtis, and the deputy commissioner (there are a couple from what I know so I'm not sure which one).  A report on the events of the demonstration is expected in two weeks according to Kosovo PM Agim Ceku, who has been busy laying blame on the international police.

There are conflicting stories about the number of dead.  Two have officially died of their wounds.  Vetevendosje released information that a third seriously injured person had died but officials at Camp Bondsteel , KPS, and the Pristina University say that it is not true.  Information has been released instead that a third person is in a coma.

Vetevendosje is promising more protests in the coming month.  They state that their objective during the protest was not to target the government building or UNMIK but the "luxurious vehicles which are a materialization of the hard work of the people of Kosovo".  If they knew anything about the UN vehicles...they'd quickly find out that they aren't luxurious nor were they purchased from money from Kosovo.  Instead they were a donation from the country of Japan as part of their contribution to the Kosovo peacekeeping mission.  As for the government official's vehicles, well, that may be another story but it still does not give Vetevendosje the right to destroy property, whatever they say the intended target is.

Finally, the local newspaper Epoke e Re carries an interesting tale about how an international police officer supposedly tried to kill Albin Kurti but a protestor was able to steal the officer's weapon.  Um, right...