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 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 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