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...