Saturday, June 30, 2007

Vetevendosje Protests

Vetevendosje (Self-Determination Group) held a peaceful protest today starting at 1400 CET.  The group marched from the headquarters in Pejton to the Grand Hotel where leaders made a couple short comments.  Then the group proceeded to the Government Building where they destroyed pumpkin-headed effigies of the Kosovo Unity Team (Kosovo Albanian negotiators for independence) and then tossed toilet paper over the fence of the government.  Afterwards, the crowd, reported as 600-strong in the media but actually probably more like 300 from what I witnessed, went down Police Avenue to the UN Mission HQ where they threw a wooden framed box over the wall that said "Take this package and go to hell" on the side.  After the protestors left, KPS pushed the package outside the gates about 10m to the nearby dumpsters.
The St. Vitus' Day celebrations went without incident.  The police searched the buses and confiscated "inflammatory" t-shirts.  By our estimates, there were probably around 1000 people at the celebration even though the news reports only said hundreds.  In Mitrovica, a new statue was unveiled but the SRSG did not approve the inscription as it was provocative.  I'm going to try to go see the new statue which is said to be of an angel with some sort of lights.  The SRSG also issued an executive order the day before the celebrations banning the Guard of Tsar Lazar from attending the festivities.

KPS has announced that it has broken up a criminal gang of Serbian KPS officers who were forcibly stopping vehicles in the Kosovo Polje and Gracanica area and robbing their victims of vehicles, cash, and other valuables.  Three officers were arrested and a fourth remains at large.  The group has been operating since 2000 which makes one wonder what they got away with over the past seven years!

Over the past week, I've been reading a series of articles published in English from Sweden.  At best, the articles are very critical of the UN in Kosovo as well as many of the staff.  In regards to the accusations about UN-staff ripping off landlords, I know that the police officers must have a statement signed by their landlords that the bills are paid before they are allowed to check-out.  I am going to check with our office to see if regular UN-staff are required to do the same.  And despite what the author alleges is the UN's ignorance of landlord's claims, the UN does hold a portion of the staff's final salary which can go towards the payment of any landlord claims after the person's departure.  I did feel that the picture the author painted of UN staff was a bit unfair as I know many that are working to make Kosovo a better place and busting their butts to help the local population...sure there are some that don't care about Kosovo but to say everyone is the same isn't right.  I'm also not exactly sure when or where the author stayed in Kosovo but there aren't severe power problems for about the past six months as was described so it makes me wonder if the author wasn't just over-exaggerating many things.  Yes in the past there have been power problems but if the articles were really written last month (25 June is the date displayed), the author wouldn't have experienced continuous power outages other than one day when KEK was working on Kosovo B.  Anyways, the articles are interesting so I'd like to share the articles titled Colonial Kosovo.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Frustrations of Doing Business in Kosovo

Yesterday I decided to go withdraw some money from my local Raiffeisen bank account using the cash machine at UN Admin HQ.  The machine was out of order so I had to go downtown to the Grand Hotel.  By the time I got downtown, I had pretty much forgotten my new pin number.  My old card expired in March so I was issued a new card and given a pin number by the bank.  Now the funny thing is, you couldn't change the pin number before (starting this month it's a new option on the cash machines.)  But because I got the card back when the bank issued you a pin number along with your card, it wasn't a number that had any meaning to me so after not using my card for a month, I couldn't quite remember the numbers in the right order.
Anyways, I tried three times with the wrong pin number and the machine spit the card out and told me that I had to go visit a local branch.  So today, I went to the Admin HQ branch and spoke to the teller.  She informed me that since I had picked up my card at the downtown branch near OSCE I would have to go back to that branch to put in a request for a new pin code and it would take three weeks.  Sorry, three weeks???  And there is no way you could just unlock the card and allow me to use the old pin number???  No, sorry, you have to go downtown.

Sheesh, what's the point of saying that you have branches all over Kosovo if a customer can't take care of their business at any of the branches?  I've been a customer of the bank before it was even Raiffeisen back in the good ol' days of the American Bank of Kosovo...and there was only one branch during that time and it was downtown.  What if by chance the branch downtown burned down???  Would I then be stuck and never be able to get a new ATM card or pin number because the other branches feel incapable of assisting me as a customer?  It seems strange to me that I am allowed to withdraw my money at the bank but they are unable to help me with other bank business at any other branch than the one that I registered with.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Upcoming St. Vitus Celebrations

ran out of time yesterday to finish my Kosovo News here's a little more news for my regular readers!
The anniversary of the 1389 Battle of Kosovo Polje will be celebrated tomorrow.  The critical crossroads of the Balkans were located in Kosovo at that time.  The Serbian forces of King Lazar met those of Sultan Murad in a clash that totaled approximately 40-70,000 men.  Both leaders were killed, Lazar during the course of battle and Murad sometime after the battle.  The details of exactly what happened in the battle are sketchy at best due to a lack of historical records but the Ottoman forces pushed back the Serbian forces.  The defeat ushered in the 500 years of Ottoman rule in the Balkans although the forces eventually retreated from Kosovo, most likely due to the fact that the Sultan was killed and the new one had to return to be crowned.

BIRN features an article titled Moving Beyond Status and the author takes a look at policymakers in Kosovo who have been focusing essential on independence while delaying or ignoring rampant problems in Kosovo.  As I have often said, once the status is resolved, Kosovo faces a continuing uphill battle in areas of social reforms, corruption, and improving the quality of life for the ordinary citizens.

Meanwhile the Serbian PM Kostunica has been warning that US-Serbia relations are deteriorating over the US support for Kosovo's independence.  The US and Serbia re-established diplomatic relations in 2000 following the arrest of Milosevic and Kostunica is warning the US that if it wants to have good relations with Serbia, they need to "respect Serbia's territorial wholeness".

And article in Russia's RIA Novosti argues that a hasty decision on Kosovo's status would ulimately harm both Kosovo and the EU.  The author explores the old issue of standards before status as well as looks into the accusations about Ahtisaari's objectivity.

Indonesia has proposed a solution to Kosovo's status.  It is not know whether or not the proposal is so far just discussion or whether or not there is an actual resolution prepared on its basis.  The proposal is that the UN develops a timeline for Kosovo independence without interfering with the sovereignty of Serbia.  Because Indonesia is dealing with two separatist movements of its own, the country wants to ensure that the UN will not set a precedent for future conflicts.  Indonesia has also suggested that the EU and NATO treat Kosovo the same as other ex-Yugoslavian countries and do not punish Serbia for rejecting Kosovo's independence.  Instead, Serbia should be offered EU membership as an incentive according to the foreign minister.

The Serbian militia group Guard of Tsar Lazar (say that three-times fast!) is thought to be attending St. Vitus Day celebrations on 28 June which has caused KFOR and the UN to worry about escalating ethnic tensions.  KFOR has stated that they are going to be carefully watching the celebrations and warned that no paramilitary groups would be tolerated.

The KLA and Guard seem to be destined for a clash as the Guard is said to have arrived yesterday in Gazimestan after a two-week march from Belgrade and the KLA is threatening to settle "accounts" with the group who they labeled "guard of criminals" and warned KFOR not to try to protect the Guard.
It is also rumored that the KLA and TMK are planning on lining the roadway as the buses of Serb celebrators travel to their enclaves.  It seems to me that indicates nothing but aggression and intimidation but we will just have to see.  Being that TMK is supposed to be a multi-ethnic organization, using common sense I would devise that they would not be permitted to engage in such acts but then as we often say, "common sense ain't so common anymore!"

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Dog Days of Summer

Whew, it's not just's daaaaaaaaaaaamn hot!  The temperatures have been soaring for the past week and everyone is scrambling for the shade and air-conditioning.  This afternoon outside temperatures have reached 98�F (36�C) but luckily the temperatures will start dropping down in the high-20's towards the end of the week. 
Due to maintenance of the Kosovo-B plant, a new power rationing schedule has been put into effect.  A-areas such as Pristina are supposed to have five hours of power and then one off (5:1), B-areas are 4:2, and C-areas get 3:3 for the next day or two.  With few houses with air-conditioning and many of us relying on fans, that one hour in the capital without power means it gets stuffy in the house at night!  Last night we discovered that our water is being shut-off at nights when the power went out and we no longer had the water from the tank.  Talking with friends, I guess water rationing in Pristina has been in effect for several months now which makes sense due to the water shortage problem facing Kosovo.  The water schedule now looks to be off from 10pm - 5am in most parts of Pristina.

MTCowgirl's Kosovo News Update...

Fears or tensions whatever you want to call them are rising as the Kosovo status talks seem to be stalled.  KLA veterans are threatening renewed violence and stating that they have only been in a "ceasefire".  Vetevendosje is preparing for a protest on Saturday which many fear is bad news in light of the past demonstrations that have turned violent.  In an effort to prevent the vandalism of the blast barrier outside the UN Mission HQ downtown, the UN will be having children from around Kosovo paint a mural on the wall.  We are all keeping our fingers crossed that the activist groups will respect the work of the children and not deface the wall anymore.

As with many other Kosovo governments, there are fears that the current coalition will fall due to broken promises.  In my six years in Kosovo, several of the last Prime Ministers have promised independence will be granted while they were in office.  Of the last two, I recall Kosumi promising independence by June 2006 and then Ceku saying December 2006, January, April, May, June, July(???) 2007.  Former KLA leader Hashim Thaci, a often back-scenes political figure in Kosovo compared to the President & Prime Minister but present since the beginning, has stated "The time was yesterday. Today is already too late. Tomorrow is dangerous.�

A local newspaper has again started printing the names of Serbians who served in the military.  The newspaper claims that it is pointing out who was a commander and who was responsible for war crimes, there is no evidence that any of the people listed actually committed any crimes.  A Kosovo newspaper has published similar lists before and in 1999 a young Serbian translator whose name appeared on the list was shot in Pristina.  The newspaper editor, Rexhep Hoti, has stated that "we are giving the names of people in the military and police at the time massacres occurred" and offers no apologies for publishing the list.  Zivorad Zdravkovic from Lipjan whose name appears on the list admits to being in the Serb military as many were during that time due to the requirement to serve upon completion of school but denies ever being involved in any war crimes much less fighting in Kosovo.  It is his belief that the newspaper is just seeking a new way to intimidate the remaining Serbian population.

Meanwhile, KPS arrested several people in Vushtrii/Vucitrn on Sunday for hanging up flyers of the banned Albanian National Army (ANA in English, AKSH in Albanian).  KPS spokesperson Veton Elshani stated that while it was not illegal to distribute flyers, the message contained was a serious threat.  The flyers stated that "The AKSH is here, we wait for you with bullets".

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Closure of Nice Restaurant

I'm very sad to confirm that the Stone House/Ulpiana Restaurant in Hajvali/Ajvalia is permanently closed.  There had been rumors that the restaurant would re-open after renovation but yesterday I found out that the renovations being conducted are not to reopen the restaurant but rather an artist has purchased the property and is turning it into a house!  I'm quite sad because the restaurant was really quite nice to sit in during the summer as they had a fantastic garden.  However, there are a couple new restaurants along the road that I need to try out like Brillant.  I'll let you know how they turn out in the next couple of weeks!

MTCowgirl's Kosovo Update...
Most of the news about Kosovo is that Russia has rejected the new proposal put forth by Western countries for 120-days (4 months) of new negotiations because the proposal states that if no agreement is reached, the Ahtisaari plan would be implemented.  Questions were raised on the practicality to negotiate if Kosovo would know that the plan was implemented at the end of the four month period.  Besides suggesting new negotiations, the proposal calls for parties to refrain from unilateral decisions, a point directed at the Kosovo Albanian leadership.

Members of the Kosovo government are reacting to recent news of further delays and statements made by chief UN prosecutor Carla del Ponte.  Kosovo President Fatmir Sediju criticized Russia for holding Kosovo hostage and requested the Security Council to set a clear date for independence.  Kosovo PM Agim Ceku has stated that "negotiations are over" and Kosovo is refusing to consider any more talks with Belgrade. As for del Ponte's suggestion over delaying the vote on the UN resolution, the Kosovo government lashed out at her with a statement that she has "violated in the most terrible way her mandate"

Analysts are warning that Albanians may revert to violence to express dissatisfaction with the progress on independence and Kosovo leaders are likely to lose face if the status is not decided soon.  Radical group Vetevendosje (Self-Determination) has called for street protests on 30 June.  One analyst even said that there may be uncontrolled riots as March 2004.  Such actions would seriously undermine all the efforts of the Albanians in showing the international community that they are prepared for independence and ready to respect minority fact IMHO it goes to show that there is no black and white or good and evil sides of the conflict in Kosovo.  There is no denying that Serb military forces killed innocent civilians but there was a great deal of revenge attacks on innocent Serbs by Albanians as well.

The EU has issued a warning to the Kosovo government against a unilateral declaration of independence and possible violence.  A spokesperson stated that it would be "a huge step backwards" if there was an "irresponsible" declaration.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Awesome Storm!

Last night we had an awesome lightning and thunderstorm.  The TV channels are still out this morning and one of my colleagues lost a window out of his door due to the high winds.  The sky was like a disco around 2230 yesterday with continuous flashes of light and the low rumbling of thunder.  Smokey seemed to be okay other than trying to crawl on top of me in the bed and then proceeding to go hide under a small bedside table next to me.  I managed to fall asleep around 2330 but woke up several times in the middle of the night to large booms of thunder.
MTCowgirl's Kosovo Update...
Five people were arrested yesterday in a suspected human trafficking ring in Malisevo and Ferizaj.  Weapons as well as fake documents were seized in the raid.  A considerable amount of tritol explosives and a mobile phone detonator were also found.

The EU is looking into the possibility of replacing the UN in Kosovo without a resolution.  Despite some EU officials stating that the UN resolution is "vital" to the creation of the EU mission in Kosovo, some believe that the EU may create a mission without a resolution on the status.

An editorial called "Perhaps it's just best we let bad nations be bad" takes a look at Kosovo Albanian's bid for independence, the NATO bombing, and the politics of the UN.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

More Delays???

Will there be more delays in finalizing the status of Kosovo?  Reports that emerged yesterday that Western countries have drafted a resolution calling for more talks has not yet been confirmed as more than rumor.  However, in response to the rumors, the Kosovo government has indicated that it is not willing to engage in any further negotiations with Belgrade and PM Agim Ceku stated that "there is not going to be a delay over status". 
Former SRSG Bernard Kouchner, the new foreign minister of France, is planning to push forward with a plan to postpone resolution of the status for six months in an effort to win international consensus.  The French proposal at the G8 summit was rejected as it suggested acceptance of the Ahtisaari plan if the six months of negotiations failed to produce any results.

The chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) Carla del Ponte has stated that it is preferable to the court if a decision on Kosovo is delayed as Serbia has been cooperating by arresting those accussed of war crimes.  The two biggest suspects, Karadzic and Mladic, are still at large and believed to be in Serbia or within Serbia's reach.  de Ponte believes that if a decision on Kosovo comes out that is not favorable to Serbia, the country will end its cooperation with the court.  ICTY has a mandate to finish its court cases by 2008 and the appeals process by 2010 and is under pressure to wrap up the court cases.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Four More Months of Negotiations?

Will there be four more months of negotiations between Pristina and Belgrade?  News has emerged that the Western nations have drafted a resolution that suggests another 120-days of talks between the two sides.  The resolution is expected to be sent to Russia today and will be formally introduced mid-week in the UN.  Several diplomats visited Kosovo over the weekend.  US envoy, Frank Wisner, urged Kosovo politicians and citizens to be patient and wait for the UN to adopt a resolution stating that the resolution would "set the state for recognition and will open the door for your acceptance into NATO and the EU".  Wisner met with both the Kosovo President and PM.

Meanwhile, Albanians in Presevo have rallied over the weekend and demanded the succession of three areas of southern Serbia in an effort to join Kosovo.  Approximately 500 people attended the rally.

The UK is investigating Albanians who say they fled fighting in Kosovo but may have actually been from neighboring Albania.  The Home Office requested that the immigrants surrender their passports while their asylum claims are verified.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Flag of Kosovo

The debate about Kosovo's flag continues with an article in BIRN where Albanians say they will not use the state flag but continue to fly the Albanian flag as a national symbol.  Unfortunately no Serbians or other ethnic groups were interviewed for the article to see how they feel about the restrictions on the competition and what they think about the contest.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Last One Left, Turn Off the Lights

This week begins a sad procession of friends leaving the mission.  Over the next month, at least five people that I consider friends will leave Kosovo for home.  As the mission drags on, more and more people are leaving and it makes me wonder if I'll be left in the end to turn off the lights?!  To my friends that are leaving, I hope that we will meet again sometime soon and until then take care!

MTCowgirl's Kosovo News Update...
Russia is protesting being excluded from talks on Kosovo.  A spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry stated that the private discussions between leaders of Western countries leads "one to think that unilateral scenarios for Kosovo's independence are being prepared".

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch has released a report that the UN has undermined its legitimacy due to a lack of accountability.  The report goes on to discuss the lack of remedies for human rights violations by the two organizations.  Despite all appearances of having mechanisms in place to investigate or deal with complaints, the offices are weak with little authority to do anything in regards to citizen complaints.  In 2006, the Ombudsperson Institution was stripped of its ability to investigate complaints against UNMIK or KFOR.  The report also tells the EU mission planners to avoid arrogance and make itself accountable to Kosovo courts.

There are always reports of people being denied exit from Kosovo due to fake or altered travel documents however in an interesting case yesterday, 19 Albanians from Kosovo were arrested by Macedonian police after attempting to cross the border with fake Swedish passports.  I don't recall ever seeing a report of so many people arrested with the same kind of fake document.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Where's Bush's Timex???

I'm not sure if it was a joke but a while back there was an email circulating of a supposed survey of the different watches the leaders of the world wore.  Russia's Putin wore a $40,000 watch...most of the watches were quite expensive until you got down to US President Bush and you saw that he wears a $20-30 Timex.  Anyways, rumors and mystery surround Bush's visit to Albania when a video emerged of the supposed theft of Bush's timepiece.  While Bush is shaking hands, his watch disappears.  The White House denies that the watch was stolen but's quite interesting and those of us in Kosovo wouldn't put it past someone to cheekily slip the watch off a dignitary's wrist ;o)
Meanwhile, Serbian politicians have lashed out at the US policy towards Kosovo stating the the US needs to find another way to express its love of Albanians besides giving away Serbian territory.  Ouch, but well said!  Serbia also has welcomed the resumption of EU accession talks but has linked what the EU contends are two separate issues, Kosovo and Serbia's EU status.

The competition for Kosovo's national symbol is now underway.  Kosovar and foreign entrants have until June 27th to submit their ideas that incorporate the multi-ethnic makeup of Kosovo and create a symbol that "must not utilize the representation of any eagle symbol, particularly with regard to such depictions in the symbols of other states, and must not exclusively use a red and black color scheme, or a red, white and blue color scheme."  The winner of the contest will receive 10,000 Euros with second and third prize receiving generous prizes as well

Monday, June 11, 2007

Blah, Blah

The politicians continue to "blah, blah" about Kosovo.  President Bush in his European tour to Albanian stated that "sooner, rather than later, you've got to say enough is enough, Kosovo is independent".  Bush also stated that he was worried that the expectations of Albanians in Kosovo were not being met and went on to say that there should be a deadline for the UN resolution or else the US would push forward the process in some undetermined way.  He later backtracked a bit on the idea of a deadline and seemed to not remember exactly what he had said in Tirana.
However, Serbia's government issued a statement that Kosovo's future is in the hands of the UN Security Council, not the US and that Belgrade is enjoying the firm backing.  Russia stated they was pleased that now the other G8 countries were taking its arguments seriously and perhaps now realizing that Russia was serious about using its veto powers.

Meanwhile, Kosovo politicians are under pressure to unilaterally declare independence and deliver on the promises that they've made to the citizens over the past years.  The radical Vetevendosje group has called for protests on 30 June because of the delays in the status settlement.

The French plan proposed by President Sarkozy was rejected by most of the G8 countries so there will be no six month plan for delay...but with the continued distance between positions, it would be no great surprise if the status was delayed for that period of time or longer.  Russian president Vladimir Putin will visit Bush in Maine on 1 July.  Kosovo is likely to be a hot topic of discussion.

The alleged mass grave in Serbia has turned out to be not as expected.  Initial reports were that there were 350-500 bodies buried in an abandoned rock quarry in Serbia but after four days of digging, crews have not come across any signs of a mass grave and the government has called off the search in that section of the quarry.  The investigator are still looking in other parts of the rock quarry as witness statements are that four trucks dumped what were believed to be Albanian bodies in the rock quarry.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Kosovo To Run Out of Water In 3 Months

Reports are flowing *har-har* in that Kosovo is going to run out of water in September 2007 unless there is a significant change in the weather and usage habits.  Municipal authorities have stated that the water reservoirs are significantly lower than normal and that water rationing will begin in September with only hospitals and emergency services being provided water.  With that said, when I was out walking Smokey last night at least three of my neighbors were outside with water hoses washing off their sidewalks and the street in front of their homes.  It seems that the local population just doesn't concern itself with the fact that supplies are running short and they will be without water in a couple of months.  The UN could also start cutting down on its water consumption by stopping the washing of the compound parking lots.  Let it be dusty and let there be water at the end of the summer, I say!
Today's MTCowgirl's Kosovo Update!!!
France has proposed that the Security Council delay voting on the Kosovo resolution for six months and allow Pristina and Belgrade to work out a solution.  If no solution is worked out, then the SC can vote on the resolution.  This proposal has not made Kosovo PM Agim Ceku happy and he has warned the West not to "betray" the trust of the Albanians.

Meanwhile, Kosovo negotiatior Veton Surroi says that the SC should vote on the Kosovo resolution Russian veto or not.  Surroi believes that Kosovo will make a move to unilaterally declare independence if the vote is delayed because the Albanian government has "two obligations towards Kosovo citizens - the process of independence, and the partnership with the international community".  While the US has indicated that it will recognize Kosovo should it declare independence, the EU would likely be split.  The Economist briefly looks at how a delay in voting may pan out.

BIRN features an article calling Albanians to show their support for the Ahtisaari plan through peaceful means.  The author warns that unless the government organizes the people to support the plan people like Albin Kurti will mobilize...and create problems that could adversely affect Kosovo's independence bid.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Over the Top

<soapbox>I started off on the soapbox today because I came across one article that really made me uncomfortable.  Of course in the news, you can always find articles that are very one-sided...but this one was a bit over the top with its accusations.
An author writing in FrontPageMag talks about how he saw many UN staff walking around in "full hijab Islamic head coverings" and that worried him because the "U.N. is suppose to protect the Christians who live there if they are attacked".  He even placed a picture of a UN staff member driving in her vehicle who happens to wear a head scarf and dress.  The implication that this UN staff member is unwilling to do her job in protecting minorities is quite undeserving.  And of the many UN staff this reporter says he saw, the staff member that he took a picture of is the ONLY staff member that I know who chooses to wear the head scarf.  In the course of my six years in Kosovo, I have only ever known two staff members who wore Islamic dress.  You'll find many more in African traditional clothing than Islamic!  How one person making a choice to wear the scarf boils down to many people running around in Islamic dress and the UN being unwilling to protect minorities because somehow our religion prevents our objectivity is quite an interesting jump from reality to fantasy.  Further incorrect facts in the authors article made me realize that he really has no earthly idea what he is talking about and probably needs to spend more time in the Balkans learning the facts...and not going around looking for information to support the conclusions he has already drawn up.
And on another point...there is a common misperception that all Albanians are Muslim.  The correct phrase is predominantly Muslim as there are several thousand Catholic Albanians.  In fact, around 4000 Catholic Albanians participated in a youth festival about a week ago held in Letnice, a cool little village near the Macedonian border.  If I remember the story correctly from my visit many moons ago, Mother Theresa, an ethnic Albanian, lived in the nunnery in the village for a time.</soapbox>

Anyways...on to the "real" news...
Albanians in Presevo and Bujanovac municipality have decided to form a joint body to negotiate with the Serbian government to join Kosovo.  Statistically, Presevo is around 85% Albanian but Bujanovac is more 50/50 Serb/Albanian.  The "National Council" will supposedly negotiate directly with Belgrade rather than become an issue in the Kosovo negotiations.

BIRN features an article on the economic viablity of an independent Kosovo.  The author argues that the UN and local government are to blame for the current economic problems because they failed to create good conditions for a stable economy.  The author then goes on to discuss some of the economic possibilities in Kosovo should it become independent.

Serbian authorities are looking into an apparent mass grave of Albanians in Serbia.  The grave may contain as many as 350-500 bodies and could be the victims of the 1998-1999 war.  Reports of four trucks unloading bodies was reported and the possibility of the grave first came to attention a few months ago.

And the new rumors...
So far there has been no progress during the G8 summit in the area of Kosovo.  The US and Russia still remain far apart in their ideas of the right solution.  Estimates are now that a vote could happen after the G8 summit and Russia will veto.  Or...the vote will be delay until after meeting between Bush and Putin at the beginning of July.  In speaking to an officer working on coming over with the EU, the earliest that the EU police mission could come to Kosovo would be around the beginning of August.

The following goes under the rumor corner because I cannot find any news in English...but to share what I've goes!  Russia has stated that there are three stipulations that must be met before they will agree to any resolution on Kosovo.  The first is that Russian troops will come back to Kosovo to protect the Serbian minority.  The second is that Kosovo will be called by its historical name of Kosovo-Metohija.  And the last is that Kosovo will not be allowed to join the UN for a set number of years.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Decision Soon???

The question on everyone's minds lately is whether or not the UN Security Council will make a decision soon about the future status of Kosovo.  If bookies were taking bets on when Kosovo would gain independence, a lot of people would be losing money.  No one really knows what will happen in the next few weeks, months, or even years.  Kosovo PM Agim Ceku when asked when Kosovo would be independent said "Very Soon" while one Kosovo newspaper quoted an unnamed Western diplomat who said that the vote would occur by June 29th.  Meanwhile, the US ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, told reporters that the US expects that the issue will be voted on sometime this week.
The issue of deciding Kosovo's status seems to boil down to a situation much like after you've gone all in at a poker game and you are looking around the table to see what everyone else will do.  Thinking of poker, to a degree the West has been criticized for not taking Russia's threat to use its veto seriously enough...perhaps they thought to call a bluff when the other side wasn't really bluffing.

The situation does make one wonder if the countries who have been pushing to resolve the status are really overly concerned about what the Albanian population wants.  IMHO it's more about "what's in it for me".  For the US, it's the creation of a Muslim-state in the "heart of Europe" and proving that our country and government isn't waging a war on Islam just terrorists (who happen to be Muslim?!)  For Russia, well it goes both ways, they'd probably be happy with any decision because they can apply it in Chechnya or other breakaway provinces who want to rejoin Russia. Indonesians are looking at how the situation can be applied to them and their two provinces that are vying for independence.

MTCowgirl's Kosovo News Update -->
Albin Kurti was indicted yesterday for having a role in organizing the violent protest on 10 February which resulted in the deaths of two protestors.  He also is facing charges for obstructing police and "calls to resistance" according to a UN statement.  Kurti was released some time ago from his pretrial detention but was re-arrested shortly after being placed on house arrest for speaking to the media and leaving his home without permission.

Reuters AlertNet takes a look at What's Wrong with Ahtisaari's Plan and the Jakarta Post looks into how some Indonesians seem to be more concerned about Muslims abroad (Kosovo) than at home (Aceh).  The LA Times features an article on how the future of Kosovo independence cuts two ways, the Albanians get what they want but the Serbs say it diminishes their chances of returning.

When it comes to separatist movements elsewhere in the world, many politicians have said over and over that the Kosovo situation is unique but others have compared Kosovo to say the Kurdish territory in Iraq and drawn many parallels.  No matter what the diplomats or Security Council says, movements around the world are carefully watching the situation and waiting to see if they can apply any decisions made to their own causes.  The Washington Times looks into some of the different groups watching Kosovo.  The leaders of breakaway republics Abkhazia and South Ossetia signed a joint statement on Monday that states that they have "more rights than Kosovo to be recognized independent".  The statement was addressed to the Secretary-General of the UN and Council of Europe as well as the heads of various international organizations in order to "represent Abkhazia's and South Ossetia's position" on the independence of Kosovo.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Rumors, Rumors :)

There are several different rumors floating around recently and who knows how true they are...but here are a couple that have passed by MTCowgirl.  Now remember, these are just rumors and I'm not saying they are true or's just what several little birdies have told me :)
First for the UNPol (aka Civpol), yes I saw the memo that we aren't supposed to refer to you as Civpol officers anymore less we offend someone in NY who hasn't cared what we have called you for the past eight years but I digress...I've heard that those of you who need extensions are going to receive some sort of extension to October 2007.  After October you will go to month by month technical extensions and the two-year limit on contracts will no longer be enforced.

Next is for the mission itself...seems that the UN Security Council doesn't know what to do.  Maybe no one took Russia seriously when they threatened to use their veto.  Since the UK's plan was rejected, new rumors are circulating that there isn't going to be any decision soon and the UN mission will be extended another year and the EU mission will be delayed.  I know that the national (aka local...I'm sure there is a memo about that too) staff have already received one year extensions of their contracts.  Many of the international staff whose contracts expire at the end of June are still waiting to see what kind of extension they will receive.  It's all a hurry-up-and-wait kind of deal.

The Beach Volleyball Tournament and BBQ was a big success.  The members of the Sports Committee really busted our butts to get the event organized and in the end, we had 17 teams registered to play volleyball.  So much for getting the entire tournament done in one day!  We decided in the evening to postpone the quarters, semis, and final for two weeks to allow us to prepare another party and finish off the tournament in the light.  So be on the lookout for more information about our next big party at TSS!!!
In the news, Kosovo Railways is facing a serious theft problem and should it continue they may be forced to shut down.  Thieves are stealing infrastructure from railway ties to platform speakers to sell on the black market.  In the first three months of 2007, thefts have cost the company more than 90,000 Euros in damages and in 2006, the company lost 740,000 Euros to thieves.  A professor of philosophy at the University of Pristina stated that he doubts that the police will be able to stop the thieves but rather an educational program needs to be developed to teach a moral code on public property and perhaps respect for the rule of law.  In the 51 cases of theft, Kosovo police have only solved 7 cases.

There is a long but interesting piece on resolving Kosovo's status in the American political newsletter CounterPunch called How to Make a Bad Situation Impossible: Great Power Meddling in Kosovo

Friday, June 1, 2007

Weekend Events!!!

Dj Vegas is returning to the Phoenix Bar on Friday to mix up the best of the hits from the 70's, 80's, 90's, electronica/dance, and maybe even a bit of country music for my fellow Americans (if you show up!!!)  It may turn into a regular event and I'll keep you posted :)

On Saturday, the SRC Sports Committee is having a Beach Volleyball Tournament followed by a FREE (yup, F-R-E-E!) BBQ.  There are currently 14 teams registered for the tournament with room for 2 more so get your forms in now if you want to play this weekend!!!  The BBQ will begin at 1600 hours and includes everything from food to beer & sangria :)

In Kosovo news, Russia has rejected the joint US-EU resolution put forth in the Security Council.  The resolution introduced by the UK makes some concessions to Russia such as creating a special representative to look over minority returns while continuing to support Ahtisaari's proposal for supervised independence.  However Russia insists that the Security Council must find a solution that is mutually agreed upon and so far Belgrade has rejected Ahtisaari's plan.  It was hoped that a vote would take place this week however now it seems unlikely that there will be any voting before a G8 summit that ends the 8th of June.

Eight people were arrested in an organized crime investigation into business dealings of the Private Bank for Business (BPB) in Kosovo.  One of the eight was identified as the former chairperson of the Board of Directors.  Some of the others were also members of the Board of Directors.  The eight will face possible charges of misusing authorizations and funds.  The individuals are thought to have cost the bank more than 10 million euros in business deals designed for self-profit.  The bank's new management is thought to have insisted on the investigation when the Kosovo Central Bank found irregularities in August 2006. 
In a rather interesting article, Serbia is accusing the West of ethnic cleansing of the Kosovo-Serb population by offering immigration visas to those living in enclaves.  Serb representatives state that NGOs have been touring enclaves and luring away young Serbs by promising and delivering quick immigrant visas to European countries.  According to one Serb rep, in the past year 300 Serb couples have been granted immigrant visas to northern European countries. 

Today is International Children's Day.  I recall stumbling upon a celebration a couple years ago on Mother Theresa Street and being able to capture some of Kosovo's children performing traditional dances in full dress.  It was quite enjoyable and I wonder if there might be another street party.  Unfortunately I haven't seen any advertising...only a brief article on how OSCE is supporting the day.

Yesterday, the Kosovo government announced a two-week contest for the design of a new state symbol, required by the Ahtisaari proposal.  The new symbol must reflect the multi-ethnic nature of Kosovo according to the proposal.  The contest will begin 4 June.  In the meantime, it has been decided that Kosovo will issue passports without a crest but the words "Republic of Kosovo".