Sunday, July 22, 2007

UN Fails to Pass Kosovo Resolution

With Russia remaining firm that they would not approve a resolution that Serbia did not agree to, the issue of Kosovo's status is temporarily leaving the UN Security Council. Negotiations will take place under the supervision of the Contact Group, which Russia is a member but has no veto power. Both Serbia and Russia seemed pleased that the resolution failed and are looking forward to continuing the negotiations. Serbia and more recently Russia questioned the UN Envoy for Kosovo Ahtisaari on whether or not he was truly unbiased.
With the UN failing to push through a resolution, Kosovo's leaders are looking to make a unilateral declaration. The target date set by Kosovo PM Agim Ceku is November 28th, which strangely also happens to be the day neighboring Albania celebrated their independence. Hmmm?!

And please forgive any obvious formatting or spelling errors over the next several weeks as I am home in the US and borrowing computers, I am actually working on the code rather than using a webpage editor. There also won't be any real good personal Kosovo stories but you can check out my travel pages as I am doing quite a bit of jet setting around!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Kosovo to go-ahead with autumn elections

Faced with growing discomfort at the repeated extension of terms, top Kosovo officials have decided to hold elections this fall whether or not the status is decided.  The politicians were elected in 2002 on four year terms but the 2006 election was postponed by the UN thinking that the status would be resolved.  The deadline for the postponement was June 2007 and as that date has passed and opposition leaders are calling for a vote and questioning the legitimacy of the current government, Kosovo leaders are going to present the idea of an election to SRSG Ruecker for approval. 
It comes as no great surprise that Russia has rejected the resolution introduced by the EU/US.  Russia continues to oppose the resolution because the text still holds a hidden path to independence.  Now the big question is, what's next?  The resolution spells out that the negotiations would be carried out by diplomats of the Contact Group (US, UK, Italy, Germany, France, Russia) and the EU.  However, South Africa's ambassador questioned how the EU could negotiate fairly as it has been a strong supporter of independence.  The Security Council is due to debate Kosovo behind closed doors on Thursday.

MTCowgirl's Interesting News Articles...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Blah, Blah Continues

The politicians are continuing to blah, blah about Kosovo...honestly at times I myself feel frustrated that my life is up in the air because of the Security Council so I can only imagine how the Kosovo Albanians feel!  My mom has given up asking me if/when I'm coming home because I never know what to tell her now-a-days.  I go through phases of leaving-Kosovo-4-months, staying-Kosovo-next-summer, no-leave-Kosovo-end-of-year, staying-in-Kosovo, leaving-Kosovo, wait-I'll-stay-there's-no-resolution, no-there'll-be-a-resolution-and-I-go...get the idea???
The US and EU have formally introduced their third attempt at a resolution to the Security Council in an apparent attempt to gauge the mood and possibly test the Russian threat of a veto.  By formally introducing the resolution, it means that there can be a vote within the next 24 hours or possibly not at all.  Diplomats are said to be waiting for Russia's reaction before deciding what to do.

There are rumors on both sides that the Kosovo status will leave the UN.  Several different sources say that the EU is drifting towards solution outside the UN and a couple others say the Kosovo debate will not leave the UN.  There is also discussion that the Contact Group may take over the issue of Kosovo's status.  The idea of the Contact Group taking over would be to allow negotiations between Pristina and Belgrade to continue in the hopes that they could reach a settlement...but that idea is likely to fail as both sides remain diametrically opposed.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Grand Pristina Plans

A group in Pristina is making grand plans following Kosovo's independence.  The website does not really identify the organization but what I gather is that the group along with the Pristina municipality and Kosovo government will build what is called the Tower of Independence near the Skenderbeq statue that resides next to the government building.  The statue combines ideas from famous landmarks around the US and Britain such as Big Ben and Times Square.  The organizers believe the tower will become a tourist destination in Kosovo as well as provided large companies with an opportunity to advertise to the masses.  Planned to be 20 meters high, the tower will feature a digital clock that counts the time from Kosovo's declaration of independence.

It appears that the UN Security Council has reached an impasse and is deadlocked on Kosovo following closed door consultations yesterday where Russia again rejected attempts by Western countries to get a resolution to vote.  Western diplomats now are trying to figure out whether or not they want to press the issue of a vote but with Russia's ambassador commenting on the possibility of the measure passing by saying "the chances of that are zero" things are not looking good.

Stepping up pressure on the international community, Kosovo's president Fatmir Sedijiu has stated that Kosovo is prepared to take "alternative steps" while opposition leader Hashim Thaci is quoted as saying the "role Security Council has weakened".

MTCowgirl's Interesting News Articles....Now don't be writing to me and saying that you don't like what I've posted.  These are real news articles published in international news media outlets and I'm just posting them for everyone to read and form their own opinion!!!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Night of Yowling Cats & Dog Fights

Whew, is was a good prelude to a Monday morning as cats yowled and dogs fought outside on the street last night.  So far I have not heard any evidence of the extermination campaign by the local government.  It's possible that maybe they are not working on the problem in Pristina but out in other municipalities.  There seems to be a few new litters of each species running around the neighborhood.  The little puppies and kittens are adorable but one can't help wonder what will happen to them over time.  The neighborhood kids seem to like animals now and on the weekends I seem to gather a fan club of around 10 kids who like to pet Smokey while he's trying to mark his territory on all the poles and bushes on the street.  I think I've done good in training him that trash cans and car tires are off limits though :)
I am going to be leaving on Friday for a month long vacation.  With the possibility that the mission will be closing down, a lot of UN staff, myself included, are finally trying to use up the leave we've accumulated over the years.  I won't be resting on my laurels though as I bounce from state to state visiting family who all want to see me.  I will however take a week of me-time and join a good friend in Tobago for a week of scuba diving.  You can bet that I'll be taking lots of pictures under and above water!

There was a little bit of interesting news over the weekend.  One thing that happened that grabbed my attention is a shoot-out between unknown suspects and the local police near the north western boundary.  Villagers reported seeing men in Serbian-style uniforms with weapons.  When KPS showed up to investigate, they came under fire.  No injuries were reported and the suspects escaped.  As a response, KPS has stepped up patrols in the area.

The next tidbit of news really grabbed my attention because it stuck me as a bit silly.  Veton Surroi, an opposition party leader and member of the Unity Team, has urged the West to ignore Russia and allow Kosovo to become independent.  Part of the argument is that Russia should not have a say in European affairs...but then one could easily turn around as say, well neither does the US!  There are also reports that maybe the US will bypass the UN regarding Kosovo's independence but that's likely to cause major waves in the international swimming pool.

Kosovo PM Agim Ceku says that he is ready to declare independence and expects some sort of go-ahead during a meeting with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that is scheduled to take place next week.  One interesting quote that I came across from Ceku is "If you start to draw borders in the Balkans where do you stop?" but then I would ask, isn't declaring Kosovo an independent state basically drawing in a new border where one didn't exist before???

It's kind of amusing that as I read over the news about Kosovo and the frustrations of the Kosovo Albanians, I look to my daily desk calendar and see Dilbert's boss saying "You are not allowed to lie, but I expect plenty of omissions, misdirections, exaggerations, unjustified optimism, lost documents, unclear explanations, gray areas and tactical ignorance.  Oh, an say that we have other offers."

MTCowgirl's Interesting News Articles...

Friday, July 13, 2007

Status Delayed!?!?!?!?!?!

It seems like a decision on Kosovo's status will be delayed four to six months following Russia's rejection of the third attempt by the US-EU to get approval for a draft resolution on Kosovo in the UN Security Council.  One thing that I've noticed in some recent news articles is that instead of Kosovo being reported as 90% Albanian, the number has jumped to 95% Albanian.  I'm thinking that this partly is due to Kosovo having the highest birth rate in Europe and another part might be that Serbs have been leaving Kosovo in fears of the looming independence. 

In a somewhat laughable press conference, Kosovo PM Agim Ceku has suggested that the EU sidestep the UN and give Kosovo independence and take over the mission.  Almost immediately Ceku's statements were shot down by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solano who stated that the EU was united in its position with the UN Security Council.  Ceku has stated "we need to stop pretending that the Security Council has the answer to every question" in which Solano responded that the EU doesn't share the same "sort of intrinsic pessimism about the United Nations".

The UN has banned the use of rubber bullets in all peacekeeping missions following reports on the deadly February 2007 demonstration in Kosovo where two Vetevendosje protestors were killed by Romanian riot police firing into the crowd.  A directive issued by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations headquartered in New York temporarily suspended the carriage and use of rubber bullets and bean-bag rounds by UN peacekeeping forces until further notice.  Other UN missions with rubber bullets (East Timor, Ivory Coast, Haiti, Congo, Liberia) have been ordered to secure the suspended ordnances in a safe location until otherwise directed.

MTCowgirl's Interesting News Articles of the Day...

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Status Delayed until 2008?

More news is coming out about the third draft resolution due to come out on Kosovo.  The US-EU resolution glosses over Kosovo's independence and calls for more negotiations between Belgrade and Kosovo.  The resolution also calls on Kosovo to be administered by the EU instead of the UN.  The draft also says that if no agreements are made in the four month of negotiations the UN will take a look again at the situation, meaning that there possibly would be yet another round of UN negotiations for a resolution supporting independence.  But it looks like the talks are already doomed to failure (as before) as Kosovo's government states that independence is the only outcome and Serbia says independence cannot be the outcome. 
Will Kosovo's status be delayed until 2008?  According to Daniel Fried who made statements in Croatia suggesting that there will be no quick solution to Kosovo's status and that most likely the issue would be settled in the months leading up to the April 2008 NATO Bucharest Summit.  This is the first real hint that the status will be postponed beyond 2007 and there is likely to be a bit of posturing by Kosovo politicians.
And thinking of posturing, a few of the Kosovo political parties have issued statements warning that further delays will cause Kosovo to destabilize.  Also in the news, Kosovo PM Agim Ceku's "plea for self rule" to the EU and request to set a deadline for independence.  Ceku has suggested that if the deadline is set and no UN resolution is passed, Kosovo will be allowed to unilaterally declare independence.

MTCowgirl's Interesting News Articles of the Day...
  • Foreign Policy takes a look at why you might have to buy a new atlas.  It's an interesting look at independence movements in the world.
  • Southeast European Times takes a look at the "What if's" in Kosovo.
  • Global Research takes a look at US-Russian relations and the Kosovo issue

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Try, try again!

First let me say thank you to Mr. OW for emailing me about my PIN number problems at Raiffeisen!  I didn't expect to have any feedback at all but was very happy to discover that I was able to apply for a new PIN number at any branch I wanted.  In fact, I walked in today and asked to apply for a new PIN number and the clerk didn't even blink!  So I guess it was just either a matter of the other clerk not wanting to do the paperwork which only took a couple minutes...but anyways, thank you OW and happy reading!
So, with the old mantra of "if at first you don't succeed, try try again", there is an attempt to pass though a new resolution in the UN Security Council which calls for more talks between Kosovo and Belgrade.  Unlike the resolutions that were earlier rejected, this new resolution does not specify any results following the new negotiations.  China, Indonesia, South Africa, and Russia all believe that Kosovo cannot be separated from Serbia without its consent.

Meanwhile, KLA veterans are upping their posturing with new threats of taking up arms if Kosovo does not gain independence.  In a statement in Kosovo newspapsers on 8 July, the letter also warned international organizations, particularly the UN, not to try to block the process.  There was a meeting of Albanian "intellectuals" in Tetevo over the weekend.  Representatives from Kosovo, Albania, and Macedonia attended the meeting with called for national unification of Albanians starting with Kosovo's independence.  If independence was not granted soon, one of the reps said that the NLA of Macedonia would join the KLA and they would win Kosovo's freedom with guns.  Again I pose the same question to the supposed intellectuals asking "who do you expect to fight against?"  It's not like there are any Serbian troops left to fight...are you going to take on NATO who doesn't plan on leaving anytime in the near future???  Hmmmm!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Restless KLA Fighters

BIRN features an article about KLA fighters who are growing restless and threatening to take up arms for Kosovo.  But one would wonder, who exactly do they plan to take arms up against?  Since there are no Serbian military units left, would the KLA target Serbian civilians?  Or would the KLA try to take on NATO, a fight they'd surely lose?  Hmmmm...
An opinion article in Russia's RIA Novosti criticizes recent statements by EU officials and discusses the perceived threat to international law in Kosovo.  The article seems to be a response to recent statements by the spokesperson for Javier Solano who stated that if the UN cannot find a solution the EU may take matters into their own hands.

It appears that there were no conclusive results on Kosovo during the meetings between Bush and Putin.  The presidency of the Security Council has also changed to China at the beginning of July and it looks like decisions on status are going to be put off until September at the earliest.  There is still hope that the US and Russia will be able to reach some sort of agreement but in the meantime leaders are urging Pristina and Belgrade to engage in negotiations.

In a strange snippet in the news, Kosovo police have stepped up security and detained a man who allegedly made threats against US interests in Kosovo.  The man reported that masked men with guns approached him and forced him to act out against the "interests of a foreign state" but the police believe that the report is false and are holding the man pending an investigation.

Another odd item to report is that during yesterday's US contingent medal parade, those giving speeches were instructed that they could not use the word "independence" due to the current tensions.  Ummm, but the holiday is called Independence Day!  So I guess in the age of political correctness, we will no longer be able to refer to our national holiday as Independence Day because it might offend someone's delicate sensibilities in Kosovo.

It is disappointing to report that Kosovo is going ahead with plans to exterminate dogs in Pristina by shooting them.  The government has set aside 10,000 Euros for the program that involves two companies.  One vet interviewed said the best option would be to open a shelter...but duh, there's already a shelter!  Listening to gunshots in the middle of the night is not really therapeutic to citizens who have recently gone through a war.  Plus there are the fact that it is always the friendly dogs that are killed first because the aggressive dogs are less likely to come near humans and more difficult to shoot.  Then if you wound an aggressive dog, the problem is exuberated because now the dog knows that humans will hurt him.  Why the Kosovo government couldn't take the money and invest it in a program to capture and humanely take care of the problem is beyond me.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy 4th of July!

If I wouldn't have been chatting with a friend back home last night, the 4th of July would have passed me by without me even remembering that one of the biggest US holidays of the year was upon me!  So, Happy 4th of July to my fellow Americans in Kosovo who are celebrating with a medal parade today...and also welcome to the new class that arrived in the past week or so!
I noticed that McCafe across from Mission HQ appears to be closed.  It's unfortunate because they did have nice sandwiches and soup for lunch.  Plus it was a great place to sit and relax without getting smoked-out by cigarettes.  I have been told that there is a nice Slovenian restaurant that opened last week near the King Casino.  And thinking of the King Casino, it has been closed down.  Rumors are that the owners were laundering money and also cheating on games.  I've also seen that for some reason the "Swiss" from Swiss Casino sign has been taken down...perhaps it's just Casino now :)

Today I think I'm going to take a step back from the news and politics and discuss life in Kosovo...particularly one of our favorite mission topics: driving!  It's difficult to describe what it is like to drive in Kosovo with all the different nationalities on the road and the unique style of the locals.  But I've been thinking that I've never shared one particular individual local driving style that really makes me wonder where on earth people come up with their ideas!

I live on a one-way street but there is always traffic coming the opposite way.  The KPS officers stationed at the consular offices are more decoration than real police so they usually just watch.  Sometimes it's even the local police that come down the wrong way, stopping in the middle of the road to talk to their friends...never mind any traffic that might be backing up in front or behind!  But the thing that really makes me go "hmmm?!" is there seems to be a belief that if your vehicle is pointing in the right direction, you can drive wherever you want.  I see this over and over on my one way street.  A person will back-up the street, their vehicle pointing the correct direction, but driving in the opposite direction for several blocks.  I mean, if you are really going to go down the street the wrong way, just do it...don't try to make it look like you aren't breaking the law by driving in reverse!

Oh and of course, if you happen to miss your turn, just throw it into reverse and back-up.  If someone comes up behind you, don't move, just wave your hands around and make them back up too until you reach your destination.  This doesn't just apply for city driving but also on the highway if you happen to miss your turn.
Another interesting thing that we come across while driving in Kosovo is that people will just arbitrarily block the road for deliveries, construction, parking, and sometimes even shopping.  You can be happily driving along and suddenly find a huge mound of dirt in your lane for the building that is being constructed pretty much right on the side of the road (Building codes...ha, what building codes!!!  If you can build your structure so close to the road that people have to step out into traffic to get around, you've done a good job of utilizing your land!  But I digress, back to driving!)  You'll have to go around...if there's no traffic coming the opposite way...or maybe a guy backing in the other lane because he missed his turn a block down.  You'll also have to dodge vehicles that suddenly decide to pull over in front of you and often children playing football in the streets (the huge park two blocks away is just too inconvenient I guess!)

And today there was a celebration at the US office in Pristina and clusterf---k is the word that comes to mind when I think about the situation on the street outside.  We made the mistake of trying to drive downtown through Dragodan as we usually do but there were all sorts of KPS units and civilian vehicles going the wrong way up the one way street (of course!!!)

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock

Kosovo still waits for some word of the meetings between Bush and Putin.  The delay in status is putting Western unity on shaky ground, especially in Europe where the EU threatens to split over recognizing Kosovo if they declare unilateral independence.  Meanwhile, Kosovo's PM Agim Ceku has stated that Kosovo will be "forced to move" if unless the international community makes progress or offers an alternative, Kosovo will make a move on its own.  In another statement though Ceku said that there was no alternative other than independence.  In what was described as a "cry for help" SRSG Joachim Rueker has sent a letter to the UN calling on them to find a solution in an optimal amount of time as the situation could spiral out of control.
There is an interesting article by a former Australian government official titled Serbia owed justice in Kosovo that explores Serbia's past back to WWII and touches on the propaganda war that was waged in Kosovo.  As usual, I'm throwing it out there to you readers!

I spent part of the weekend down in Peja/Pec and Decani so I have new pictures to share!  Next weekend I'm planning on visiting the Marusha waterfalls near Djakova/Gjakova and will try to get some more nature to share.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Kosovo Watches & Waits

Kosovo citizens are watching and waiting for news about the meetings in the US between President Bush and Putin.  It is hoped that the two leaders will be able to agree on a solution to Kosovo's status but many analysts believe they are more likely to agree to disagree over many issues from the US-proposed missile defense shield in Czech Republic to the best way to move forward in Kosovo.
The court in the Hague has adjourned for a summer break and former PM Ramush Haradinaj has requested to be allowed to return to Kosovo.  The court previously released Haradinaj for a period of two years following his initial indictment and allowed him to limited activity in Kosovo politics.

Last week I came across a short snippet from a newspaper who alleged that UN envoy Ahtisaari received a bribe of US$1 million from the Kosovo's billionaire Behgjet Pacolli.  Then there was another short snippet where the speaker of Serbian parliament called for an inquiry into the allegations.  Finally an article in Serbianna, which I cannot say is really an unbiased news source for Kosovo, looks a bit deeper into Pacolli's past and other possible bribes made.  As usual, I'm throwing it out there for you readers to take a look at and make your own decision :)