Sunday, December 28, 2008

Happy Holidays

With Serbia refusing to accept goods with a Republic of Kosovo customs stamp, the Kosovo government has announced that they may start barring goods from Serbia. Honestly in times of troubled economy I don’t see how the tit-for-tat restrictions on goods will benefit Serbia or Kosovo but that’s what’s new :) Well, that and Kosovo has said that it may bar Serbian officials from coming into Kosovo.

Allegations of corruption in the United Nations are nothing new however reports have emerged that UN and local officials squandered and stole some 400 million Euros destined for the energy sector. Another scathing article featuring information from former UNMIK employee Jim Wasserstrom states that the UN is not serious about cleaning up its act regarding misconduct and corruption.

Meanwhile, the roles of UNMIK and EULEX continue to be defined amid the confusion as to who does what. News sources report that UNMIK will continue to represent Kosovo abroad while Kosovo government officials say “Ni” and that Kosovo government officials will be representing Kosovo. Serbia has stated that it will intervene in the UN if EULEX fails to properly carry out its mandate. In the meantime, EULEX has taken over its first two organized crime cases in the municipal courts. The transition of the court in North Mitrovica has resulted in demonstrations on Christmas morning with Serbian justice workers protesting their inability to return to work.

MTCowgirl’s Interesting Articles/Commentary
As usual, a small disclaimer :) These articles do not necessarily reflect my personal opinion but are posted for informational purposes only as I found them “interesting”.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Is EULEX Neutral?

The debate whether or not EULEX will be able to maintain neutrality over Kosovo’s independence still continues with both a former UNMIK SRSG and former Kosovo PM stating that the mission will not be status neutral. Besides becoming operational in Kosovo, EULEX has announced that they will open an office in Belgrade in the near future in order to “establish ties” with neighboring countries.

It’s the time of year when the streets of Pristina start looking like an expat ghost town as droves of us head home for the holidays.  The funny thing like last year is that there are all sorts of Christmas decorations and even “Merry Christmas” signs all over the streets of Pristina…odd for a place where most people say they are Muslim.  Of course the term “Muslim Lite” is always applicable in Kosovo (check out the first of my interesting articles for the newest on Kosovo’s moderate Muslims!) but it’s still really, really, really strange that they are “celebrating” Christmas!  Naturally the Muslim Albanians are not celebrating the “real” Christmas but rather its just the commercial Christmas of trees, lights, Santa, and giving gifts…and maybe an excuse to have another day off from work *grin*  Anyways, I’ll be returning home to the US for a few weeks but if anything interesting happens and it reaches my ears, I’ll be sharing it with you :) 

The weather has been pretty moderate for December.  We just had the one really big snowstorm and then nothing significant since then.  It rains every once in a while.  With the warmer winter temperatures, the power situation has been pretty good.  It only has gone off every once in a while for 30-60 minutes at a time…hardly worth the effort of going outside to turn on the generator!

MTCowgirl’s Interesting Articles/Commentary
MTCowgirl’s Kosovo News

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

EULEX Officially Launches

It has actually happened! EULEX has finally become “operational” on 9 December 2008 in Kosovo after much speculation on the date and their capability.  Of course, you have to question just how operational EULEX is based on the fact that most staff are going into empty offices with no desks, chairs, much less a computer.  What’s even more amusing is that a friend who walked into his new empty office is due to work in IT and he doesn’t even have a computer.  As the saying goes, “nothing to do and all day to do it”!!!
There does seem to be some confusion about the “take over” from UNMIK.  Keep in mind that EULEX is a law mission, not a political one.  EULEX has only taken over the police and justice portion of the UNMIK mission meaning that the political component of UNMIK still remains in Kosovo.  The deployment of EULEX does not mean that all the UN staff are packing their bags and leaving Kosovo…which means you can expect this cowgirl to continue blogging from and about Kosovo for some time to come :o )

MTCowgirl’s EULEX Deployment News
A little news on the deployment of EULEX in Kosovo
MTCowgirl’s Kosovo News
MTCowgirl’s Interesting Articles/Commentary

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Cowgirl is Angry

I have often laughed at the antics of Vetevendosje and their often brilliant ideas of how to get their point across like depositing a ribbon-wrapped toilet to the gate of the UN Mission HQ (now EULEX HQ) but after yesterday, the cowgirl is a bit angry.  I didn’t even really mind the last demonstration when Vetevendosje sprayed the UN with sewage water and threw rotting bags of garbage over the fence…but for me yesterday they crossed a line of decency.  So what has the cowgirl so worked up?  The defacing of the blast barrier outside the former UNMIK HQ that was so nicely decorated by the children of Kosovo and the international community!  If I was one of the youngsters who spent my International Children’s Festival day working my little heart away on my piece of the wall I would cry to see that Vetevendosje came along and spray-painted over my work of art.  The defacing of the children’s artwork demonstrates a clear lack of respect, not towards the UN or EULEX because we all know that it’s not there, but for the children of Kosovo whose art is now destroyed.  Vetevendosje, you should be ashamed of yourselves!

MTCowgirl’s Interesting Articles/Commentary

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

EULEX Delayed

EULEX has delayed its official start date rumored to be 9 December in supposed response to the massive demonstration called by Vetevendosje today.  Vetevendosje and several NGOs are preparing a cold welcome for EULEX due to the approval of the six-point proposal that Kosovo rejected and that EULEX will deploy under Resolution 1244 with a neutral status towards Kosovo’s independence.  Kosovo PM Thaci has stated that the EULEX mission would be debatable if it was not fully deployed in all of Kosovo from Day 1 and warned against non-deployment.

MTCowgirl’s Kosovo News

Friday, November 28, 2008

UN Security Council Approves EULEX

The UN Security Council has given their support and approval of the six-point proposal for the deployment of EULEX under the umbrella of UNMIK.  It’s is unclear at this time how the two missions will work together but EULEX expects to begin working next week on 2 December.  EULEX is expected to gradually work up to full deployment in all of Kosovo.

The three German “spies” suspected of being responsible for the bomb attack on the EU ICO office in Pristina are due to be released due to a lack of evidence and flown back to Germany.  The German government has admitted that the three men are intelligence officers.  While the debate rages over suspected German spy involvement in the blast, a previously unknown group calling themselves “Army of the Republic of Kosovo” has claimed responsibility for the attack.  In an interesting article, reporters state how the blast is said to have chafed the bond with Germany.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

First Snow

Shortly after the new day began, it started snowing for the first time this winter in Pristina. By morning, the city was covered with a thick sheet of about six inches of snow and it seems to be staying. Of course I had to revert to childhood and romp around in the snow with Smokey as well as build a snowman on my terrace :) You’ll find pictures in my Kosovo Photo Album.

Three German nationals have been arrested in conjunction to the explosion at the EU ICO building in Dragodan last week.  There has been speculation in German media that the trio might be spies working for the German Intelligence Service however the German embassy has stated that they were in Kosovo under personal capacity and did not have diplomatic immunity.  However little information is available in regards to a motive and KPS is remaining tight-lipped on the details of the case.

The EU continues to deploy people to Kosovo and is anticipated to officially take over police and justice duties from UNMIK on 2 December.  Still there are questions of whether or not EULEX will be fully operational by the 2 December deadline and whether or not the UN Security Council will agree in their meeting on Monday for deployment of the EU mission under the umbrella of the UN.  Rumor has it EULEX is pushing to be fully deployed by the end of December in order to utilize their budget for 2008.

MTCowgirl’s Interesting Articles/Commentary
MTCowgirl’s Kosovo News

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Recommendations from the Cowgirl

It has been a little while since I talked about restaurants in Pristina and I have a couple new favorites such as Basilico and New York Bagel Restaurant. Both are located downtown by OSCE on Fehmi Again Street (going towards Dragodan) so very convenient for lunch and dinner. Basilico has delicious Italian-inspired dishes in a crowded but comfortable setting. New York Bagels offers real NY-style bagels in all the favorite flavors as well as bagel sandwiches.  Plus if you order more than 10€ worth of bagels you can get free delivery!

Also traveling around different parts of Kosovo, I’ve noticed a few nice restaurants outside Pristina.  The coolest one I’ve visited so far has been Restaurant Illyricum in Gjakove.  Decorated with traditional garb and flags from the tribes of Illyria, the restaurant also serves authentic dishes from days of old.  Also with interesting decor was Art Design Restaurant in Pec/Peja.  The food was very nice and I liked the artwork depicting families and life in Kosovo that hangs in various locations around the restaurant.
It’s also a little late to share this information now that the summer is gone and BBQ season is officially over, but next summer when you decide to grill with friends and need ice, call the Ice Man for free delivery of bags of ice.  The Ice Man’s English isn’t great but you can usually get the message through.  The ice is sold by the kilo and I think the minimum order for delivery is five kilos.

Oh, and I nearly forgot but if you are looking for a place to spend Thanksgiving and want some traditional food head to Pacific Rim Restaurant & Wine Bar in Dragodan.  Tom and Lali will be cooking up a special meal for Turkey Day for any homesick Americans!

I’ve updated my Restaurant Guide to include the contact information for all these restaurants so go out and give them a try!

I also have to recommend going to Peja/Pec to Skender Imami for a custom tailored leather jacket.  I’ve heard of the leather tailor for quite some time and finally just got around to purchasing my own tailored and custom designed jacket.  Based on the prices I’ve paid for leather coats elsewhere, I got the jacket tailored to fit me for basically nothing!  And it only took a week from when I ordered to get the jacket!  I would be completely useless in giving directions to Mr. Imami’s shop but they have a clothing store near the KPS HQ in downtown.  Give them a call (044 255 149 / 039 422 621) for directions.
Oh, and being a girl, I can’t help but also recommend a jewelry shop in the old part of Prizren!  If you are shopping for silver or gold, I would suggest popping your head into Kaqinari (044 644 390) which is near the fountain square.  Prices are based on the weight of the item and out of the various shops I visited, Kaqinari seemed to have a good selection of modern and traditional designs.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Day of Protests

The Kosovo government has put forth a four-point proposal to counter the UN-EU six-point proposal for the continuation of UNMIK and the deployment of EULEX in Kosovo. However Vetevendosje does not agree with the Kosovo government proposal and has called for a demonstration today. In addition to the Vetevendosje protest, 15 different NGOs and local organizations will protest everything from money for widows to recognition as a political party (War Veterans). Plus there will be a demonstration in Mitrovica over the continued tension over the reconstruction of an Albanian house in the village of Brdjani.  The demonstrations are scheduled to begin at 1200 CET and are due to be peaceful. 

MTCowgirl’s Interesting Articles/Commentary

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Explosion at EU ICO

Yesterday around 1740 hours an explosive device was thrown over the wall and exploded at the EU International Civilian Office in Dragodan.  There were no injuries and minor material damages.  Disagreement over the six-point proposal and doubts over the EU mission in Kosovo has increased tensions in Kosovo and rumored to be a reason for this first attack on EU premise in Kosovo.  Both EU and Kosovo leaders have condemned the attack as well as the US ambassador in Kosovo warned leaders to be cautious of the rhetoric they use.  The Kosovo Liberation Army has threatened war over EULEX if the territorial integrity of Kosovo is threatened.

Kosovo authorities have shut down another health clinic in connection to the illegal kidney transplant clinic in Pristina.  The second clinic was reportedly offering artificial insemination and one person may have died after receiving inadequate treatment.  An Israeli man has been arrested in connection with the case and police are searching for a Macedonian worker who is alleged to have worked at the clinic.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Six Point Proposal

So it’s all over the news and people are probably wondering, what the heck is this six-point proposal thing?!  With Belgade and Pristina bickering of the extent of the EULEX mission, the six point proposal was presented by the UN and EU as a sort of compromise. The six-point proposal is the plan for EULEX to deploy under the umbrella of UNMIK with a neutral status towards Kosovo’s independence.  It also outlines administrative divisions between the North of Kosovo and other Serbian enclaves.  It is said that now the EU and UN are pressuring Kosovo to accept the new plan for EULEX deployment.

Naturally with most politics there are conspiracy theories and lots of opinions.  Today’s I’ll focus on what the news is saying and what opinions are being offered on the six-point proposal.

MTCowgirl’s Six Points Articles & Opinions

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

UN Security Council Delays Kosovo Debate

The planned debate on Kosovo in the UN Security Council due to take place today has been postponed by the request of two unnamed members. Meanwhile the Kosovo government has rejected the possibility of a “status neutral” in a press conference yesterday.  However former UNMIK SRSG Bernard Kouchner has called on the Kosovo government to accept the plans for the administrative division of Kosovo between EULEX and UNMIK.  It is still expected that EULEX will be operational in December although there are many questions as if the estimate is realistic.

MTCowgirl’s Interesting Articles/Commentary

Monday, November 10, 2008

Kosovo Hostel – Illegal Organ Transplants

Okay, it’s not as freaky as the movie hostel where rich Eastern Europeans pay to kill poor unsuspecting American backpackers but an illegal organ transplanting facility has been discovered near the Pristina airport. Over the past week following the discovery of the clinic, several arrests have been made in conjunction with the private clinic from the doctors to the Secretary of the Ministry of Health. Donors reportedly were flying in from all over the world as well as patients.  The investigation was started after a Turkish man was stopped at the airport with no money arousing suspicions.

The conflict in Northern Kosovo over the reconstruction of a house belonging to Ai Kadriu, an Albanian, in the village of Suvi Do between Mitrovica and Zvecan continues into its second week with reports of stone throwing on Sunday.  Last week following violent clashes between Serbs and Albanians, police prevented reconstruction of the house and the Kosovo Police detained Kadriu.  Questions in regards to Kadriu needing a permit for the reconstruction have been raised.

MTCowgirl’s Kosovo News
Articles here are more political in nature in regards to the UN/EU Missions or Kosovo Government
MTCowgirl’s Interesting Articles/Commentary
Disclaimer (as always!): These articles do not necessarily reflect my personal opinion regarding Kosovo and/or independence. These are cultural articles or opinion pieces printed in regards to Kosovo and the region which are of interest.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

EULEX to be operational by December (?!?!?!)

Could Kosovo be on the UN Security Council agenda this Friday? If it is, EULEX just might possibly have a fighting chance to be operational by early December.  With less than half of it's expected force deployed, EULEX will likely need to deploy at least a couple hundred people per week, send them through a week-long induction session, get them to their jobs, and perform a "hand-over" of the work from UNMIK to EU (or maybe it will just be a handing over of the files and a "good luck" handshake?!)  For some time EULEX has been struggling not only with deploying staff but also filling positions...only two weeks ago it was reported that EULEX still needs to fill four of five posts! 

Meanwhile the European Parliament might move to block funding for EULEX if it is not fully deployed through all of Kosovo.  There have been talk of a "watered down" version of EULEX in the north of Kosovo as part of an agreement between EU and Serbia.  Serbia has stated that EULEX would be acceptable under certain conditions such as being "status neutral" and dropping the implementation of the Ahtisaari package.

Today's recommended article is called Tourism in Kosovo? Ha ha ha?  I have to put in my two cents on the article...the author is pretty much right on the money!  After a nice day in Gjakove this past weekend, I find it a shame that Kosovars are letting go of traditions like the traditional "Plisa" (Smurf hats, I know that will get some hate mail but hey, that's what outsiders call them folks!) makers in the old city.  The architecture of Gjakove's old town could easily be compared to that in Sarajevo's Ba�ar�ija but the Plisa makers have gone and been replaced by shop after shop of modern clothing...or worse gaudy formal dress peddlers who take high fashion to an extreme and beyond to a place where it no longer looks nice but just like someone has simply become a "serial fashion victim" (but I digress!  Back to the wiping out of cool old culture!).  Honestly Kosovars, there's nothing interesting about seeing those modern shops or having a coffee in some hip, smoke-filled cafe in the old city but bring back the traditional Plisa makers or women selling hand-knit table linens and you just might bring in people from outside who would enjoy Kosovo's culture!  But alas, it's a lament that probably will never come to fruit as the younger generations don't seem to give a flying rat's buttocks about their slowly disappearing cheers, enjoy your macchiato in the cool new cafe, and did you see that fantastic dress down the street (yeah, the leopard print one with all the ruffles and sequins?!  To die for...literally!) :P

Monday, November 3, 2008

Been Saying It For Awhile!

Nah, nah, nah! :P I've been saying it for a while and finally one of the local new sources has caught on to the fact that "Rich Foreigners Keep Kosovo Rental Prices Soaring" and talks about the difference between the "local" rate and "international" rate for apartments particularly in Pristina.  Since the arrival of people from EULEX, it actually has only gotten worse because it seems that some locals believe that EULEX people were just born yesterday and will pay whatever they ask (and as it seems, some will!)  But thankfully some of you have read the information and experiences here and know the three important questions to ask and the approximate reasonable prices for Pristina :o)  So remember to negotiate and don't get suckered in by unscrupulous landlords looking to make a quick profit off your ignorance!

MTCowgirl's Interesting Articles/Commentary
Note: These articles do not necessarily reflect personal opinion but are relevant to Kosovo and the current situation and/or cultural information.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Armed Fight Breaks Out in N.Mitrovica

An armed fight broke out this afternoon in North Mitrovica, first in a small village and later in the ethnically mixed Three Towers area.  According to the news, five Serbians were injured in a scuffle with Albanians although other reports are that only two Serbs or no one was injured.  The incident reportedly occurred when the Albanians crossed into the north to make repairs on their homes although Serbian politicians have called their actions "provocation" (how repairing a house is provocation I'm not quite sure but that's what was said!)  According to witnesses, there was automatic gunfire although most official accounts say that only wooden and medal sticks were involved.
A member of the European Parliament has rebuked the idea that the EULEX mission will be "status neutral" as it is dependent on the Kosovo constitution and Ahtisaari package.  Meanwhile it looks like EULEX is planning on deploying under UNMIK in North Kosovo after opposition from Serbians on the legitimacy of the EU mission without the approval of the UN Security Council.

The US has signed a deal to send 80 police officers to the EULEX mission and decided to withdraw their 220 officers from UNMIK as of 30 November.  Most of the officer's will just "switch patches" and change over from UNMIK to EULEX however many are turning down EU offers due to a pay-cut and less benefits than EU members.  While both will have weekends off, Americans will accumulate 1.5 days of annual leave each month while their EU counterparts earn 2.5 days.  There also will be no CTO time accrued which means that it takes longer for Americans to build up enough time to go home and then add the rising cost of airline tickets and the end result is it simply does not seem to be worth it to many people who have families stateside to stay in Kosovo.

MTCowgirl's Kosovo News

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Montenegro Recognition Sparks Violence

Neighboring Montenegro has officially recognized Kosovo's independence sparking violent protests against the recognition in which 34 people have been detained in relation to the violence. While small in size, both Macedonia and Montenegro's recognitions are supersized important. With such a loud and violent reaction to the recognition, some people wonder if this is the last chapter in the ticking time-bomb of the Balkans.
UNMIK officials have completed a move from the old Mission HQ and will officially turn the compound over to the EULEX mission sometime in the near future. The UN will base its future operations from the Administrative HQ located between Pristina and FKP (Fushe Kosova/Kosovo Polje nicknamed thus for those who have political sensitivity) in the Industrial Zone. It is expected that the EULEX mission and some Kosovo government institutions will gradually move into the compound over the next few months. The upside of the move is that the Admin HQ is pretty far for the Vetevendosje protestors to walk and in the future when they are in the mood to toss tomatoes, we won't be an easy target anymore :o)

MTCowgirl's Kosovo News
MTCowgirl's Interesting Articles/Commentary

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Macedonia Recognizes Kosovo

After months of speculation and missed dates, neighboring Macedonia has finally recognized Kosovo's independence. The move resulting the expulsion of the Macedonian ambassador by the Serbian government. Portugal has also recognized Kosovo. Hungary and Latvia has also agreed to accepting passports from Kosovo.
MTCowgirl's Interesting Articles/Commentary

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Really How Much Worse Could It Get?

Traffic has always been a headache in Pristina. Basically think psychotic kamikaze drivers swerving in and out of lanes from behind semi-trucks over laden with dirt or garbage, the frequent slow moving tractor or Kosovo Harley, and the annoying first-day auto school drivers who attempt highway driving after spending an hour behind the wheel and you have a picture of Kosovo traffic.  After independence the Kosovo government started pouring millions of Euros into expanding the roads and many of us though "Yea! Traffic will get better because really how much worse could it get?"  And so we cursed ourselves in thinking that expanding the roads and making them better would somehow ease the pain of driving.  The one-lane frontage roads that are designed for bus stops, slow moving traffic, and visiting businesses has now become a two lane autobahn in which local (and the occasional ill-behaved, inconsiderate jerky international) drivers believe they can pass all the other traffic stuck on the two-lane main road by driving up on the sidewalk despite nearly plowing down any unfortunate pedestrians who might think that they have the right to enjoy the nice new stone sidewalks :oP  So I guess we have our answer to "how much worse can it get" because it can definitely get much, much worse!
So I have to ask (facetiously of course) "Hey, Mr. PM Thaci, how is that 24/7 electricity promise going?"  My friend very smartly responded that there is 24/7 electricity in Kosovo, just not in all locations :o)  Of course the reason why I'm being smart goes back to the promise that Haschim Thaci made during his election campaign that if he got elected that there would be 24/7 power because some professor was smarter than everyone else before him and figured out a way to keep the power on all the time...and of course like most campaign promises it was nothing more than just bullcrap :P  So now as the weather has started cooling off, the power problems are starting to become evident again.  Granted it is not yet very cold (still in the 50-60�F range) but the electricity is going off regularly for an hour since the temperature dropped.  I can't help but wonder how the people in the small villages in the middle of nowhere will fare this winter!

With the reconfiguration it seemed like a good time to collect clothing from people who are leaving the mission so last week I kicked off another "Dj Vegas & Friends Clothing & Toy Drive" to help families in need in Kosovo.  Friends in the Gnjilane region are working on finding families that are in need of assistance and in early November we will go out for distribution. 

MTCowgirl's Interesting Articles/Commentary

Monday, October 6, 2008

UN Court in Mitrovica Reopens

The infamous UN Court in Mitrovica re-opened eight months after specialized units stormed the building following the occupation by Serbian protestors in February of this year.  A few international prosecutors and judges entered the building for the first time on Friday and the court officially will open today.  Serbian communities in Gracanica and Mitrovica held demonstrations on Friday against the reopening of the court, EULEX, and minority returns. 
There is continued news about the rejection of the nomination of Naim Mala to be Kosovo's ambassador to Switzerland.  Switzerland has reportedly expressed concern over Mala's dual Swiss-Kosovo citizenship.  There are rumors that Switzerland has stated that he is "not welcome" due to his criminal record however these reports were denied by the Swiss foreign minister who says that there is only a problem with diplomatic immunity due to Mala's dual citizenship.  There is speculation that the fuss over Mala's nomination comes from political opposition within Kosovo and has been fueled by the Kosovo media.

MTCowgirl's Kosovo News
MTCowgirl's Interesting Articles/Commentary

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Fighting the Kosovo Krud

Yes, yes, I am still alive (although it feels like barely at times!) After a sudden shift in the temperature last weekend lots of people came down with the flu including yours truly.  Then during the recovery from flu I managed to develop a nasty throat infection from which I am still recovering.  We like to call it the Kosovo Krud...the bi-product of the pollution and other nasty stuff we inhale in Kosovo.

With the campaign for the US elections in full swing, policy towards Kosovo has been in the headlines particularly in reference to where Presidential-hopeful Obama stands in regards to Kosovo's independence.  With statements on both sides of the fence, Obama's camp issued a statement clarifying that he supports Kosovo independence.  Both his running mate, Joe Biden, and personal advisor, Richard Holbrooke, have been long and strong supporters of Kosovo independence so it comes as little surprise to see the clarification come out.

Yesterday there was an explosion in Sunny Hill near a casino as two criminal gangs fought it out on the streets of Pristina in the wee hours of the morning.  The explosion comes in midst of reports of how Kosovo has some of the cheapest narcotics in the region and police arresting arms smuggling gangs as well as the continued news on fuel smuggling in the north of Kosovo.

The number of countries recognizing Kosovo has gone up to 46 with the tiny Pacific country of Samoa officially recognizing.  Serbia has taken the issue of the legality of Kosovo's independence to the UN and a debate is expected on Serbia's request.  The president of Albania has said that Kosovo should become a member state of the UN.  Meanwhile, the US Ambassador in Serbia has stated that Kosovo's status is resolved (which no doubt will make him popular there!)  And a report has been issued by a Kosovo human rights group stating that independence was "good for Serbs" in Kosovo and that ethnic tensions have decreased.

MTCowgirl's Kosovo News
MTCowgirl's Interesting Articles/Commentary

Monday, September 8, 2008

How Time Flies!

The old saying about how "time flies when you are having fun" has to apply to the past few weeks that I haven't had a chance to update the site.  There continues to be speculation about the composition of the reconfigured UNMIK mission and debate on whether or not the EU will be ready to take over at the end of November.
On 28 August there was a "scuffle" in North Mitrovica in which seven people were injured and two UN vehicles were damaged.  There has been lots of talk about the Kosovo government enforcing rule of law in the north of Kosovo.  The Kosovo government has stated that they will not use force in the north...I somehow think that it's a bit surprising that it even was reported but evidently someone suggested it at some point or else it wouldn't have been news!

Recognition of Kosovo's independence may come sometime this month, speculated to be 23 September, however there are questions about whether or not Skopje will request Kosovo's recognition of their constitutional name (Republic of Macedonia) and border demarcation in exchange...and that has upset Kosovo politicians.

MTCowgirl's Kosovo News
MTCowgirl's Interesting Articles/Commentary

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Apartment Hunting In Pristina

Ah, I meant to say hello earlier but alas, it slipped my mind!  Let me give a warm greeting to the new American contingent who arrived early last week.  I got to go flat hunting with a friend who was previously here and boy-oh-boy are people seriously trying to rip-off the internationals!  Eastern European friends say that it's worst when you are from the US, Germany, or other Western European states...they really want to stick it to us for some reason :(  We looked at a one bedroom place where the guy was asking 700 Euros and I had to hold back the laughter...did we really look like we were born yesterday???  Unless you possess fantastic bargaining skills I would estimate that a flat in Dragodan where the landlord isn't really trying to take you for a ride would be around 500 Euros for two bedrooms.  For a one-bedroom pad (which is a little harder to find with the mega buildings) it shouldn't cost you more than 350 Euros all inclusive.
Make sure that you sign that rental contract and specify who will be paying what (all inclusive is best so you know that you won't get stuck paying someone else's power bill!) And the three most important questions to ask in Kosovo when looking for an apartment are 1.) Is there a generator 2.) Is there a water tank (don't fall for the "oh we have water all the time, don't worry" line!) 3.) Is there central heating?  And naturally, if you don't want the landlord coming into your apartment uninvited, make it clear to him from the very beginning that you like your privacy and while you are renting the place, it's yours and he and his family should have permission to enter the place!

I think I have previously expressed my dismay (ranted, raved) at people traveling the wrong way down the one-way streets in Dragodan where I last week I decided to tell a few of the law-breakers what I thought of their illegal travels...I got very similar answers from both that just had me shaking my head (blood pressure rising...must control Fist of Death!)  The first guy I stopped expected me to back-up out of a line of parked cars so he could pass.  I did so but partially blocked the end of the lane and rolled down my window to have a "friendly chat".  I asked the law-breaker if he realized that it was a one-way street and that he was going the wrong direction.  The reply I got had me fuming..."it's okay," he tells me, "I just live down the street a couple of houses".  My response to him was "if you live on this street then you should know better than to drive down it the wrong way" :-P Gaaaaa, how does living on the street justify breaking the traffic laws?!  It's almost as good as telling the police that pulling them over is "against their human rights" (read 28 May's entry for that story!)

The big news in Kosovo today is that UNMIK and the EU have signed an agreement that paves the way for the UN mission to begin transferring assets, buildings, but not authority in police & justice over to the EU mission.  The document signed is not what the media has heralded it to be but more of a technical agreement between the two organizations.

The EU is due to bring more staff in the coming months (currently only approximately 350 of planned strength has been deployed) as the UN continues its downsizing exercise to bring it staffing levels to 30% of the current mission.  100 new EULEX staff are expected to deploy to Kosovo each week until the full 1900 international staff are on the ground.  The planned timeframe for the reconfiguration with the eventual handing over of authority is four months.  Serbia's foreign minister stated the UNMIK was "making a mistake" in turning over policing in Kosovo to the EU mission without the consent of the Security Council.

MTCowgirl's Kosovo News
MTCowgirl's Interesting Articles/Commentary

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

UNMIK Begins Downsizing

The spokesman for UNMIK has stated that the mission will downsize by 70% starting yesterday.  Staff are expected to begin receiving contract termination notices and those whose contracts are expiring will not be renewed.  It is expected that the 70% downsizing will happen progressively over the next four months and then a follow-up mission of UNMIK will begin with the remaining staff.

The news paralleling South Ossetia to Kosovo continues with great debate if the two are alike or not.

Kosovo and Georgia: What Gives?!
These articles are mostly commentary expressing the viewpoints from around the world. Articles posted do not necessarily reflect my own opinion.
MTCowgirl's Kosovo News
MTCowgirl's Interesting Articles/Commentary
And since it has been a little while, disclaimer time! These articles posted do not necessarily reflect my personal opinion but they are related to Kosovo in some way and information sharing is the name of the game :)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Kosovo Lives

The BBC has been running a series of articles on people living in Kosovo from Albanians in the North to a trio of displaced Slovenian-Serb women in Ferizaj.  The articles are quite interesting and give a good perspective of the various problems that face people living in Kosovo.
UNMIK has a new Principal Deputy SRSG in the form of South African Nicholas Haysom who arrived last week to help guide the mission's reconfiguration.  Mr. Haysom met with Kosovo officials shortly after his arrival to discuss the reconfiguration and cooperation with the Kosovo government.

There are rumors in the media that the new SRSG, Lamberto Zannier, is in conflict with the EU and Kosovo government particularly in regards to suggestions for bringing Serbian KP (Kosovo Police, I don't know, for some reason and it was explained to me but I forgot exactly why...but they aren't called KPS anymore...something to do with independence...) officers under the umbrella of UNMIK and relations with parallel Serb structures.  In fact, last week it was reported that Zannier could become persona non grata in Kosovo should he continue.

The Kosovo passports have received more recognition in the past week with the US saying that they will accept the documents as well as Turkey and Sweden.  Kosovo has also received formal recognition of their independence from Columbia and Belize.

With the conflict in Georgia over South Ossetia, there are numerous parallels and articles referencing Kosovo's bid for independence.  Some question whether or not it is payback for Kosovo or maybe could South Ossetia become like Kosovo?  Other's say that Georgia, not South Ossetia, is like Kosovo and maybe we could apply a Kosovo Model to South Ossetia.

MTCowgirl's Kosovo News
MTCowgirl's Interesting Articles/Commentary

Friday, August 1, 2008

Reconfiguration Delayed

The new SRSG of UNMIK, Lamberto Zannier, has announced that the reconfiguration of the mission has been delayed and will not be completed until late November or early December.
Last week in the Security Council meeting, Zannier conceded that his powers have been drastically reduced following the Kosovo constitution going into effect.  Meanwhile the UN Security Council has continued to be deadlocked on the issue of changing the mission's mandate to allow the EULEX mission to take over police and justice from UNMIK.  Increasingly there is tension between the two organizations as highlighted by the recent disagreement over the sacking of the Head of Customs by the Kosovo Government.

The Kosovo Government has started issuing Kosovo passports to its citizens and UNMIK has acknowledged that it has stopped printing the travel documents previously given out.  Some countries, such as Slovakia, have stated that they will not recognize the new Kosovo documents but will continue to accept those issued by UNMIK.  Kosovo travelers may still face problems in Europe as it is not yet fully clear how countries who have not recognized independence will deal with the new documents.  Problems were reported at the Macedonian border but Macedonians officials have denied the media reports that Kosovars were denied entrance based on travel with the Kosovo passports.  Serbia said that they will negate Kosovo entry stamps in passports and crossing the border from Kosovo into Serbia will continue to be an issue in which travelers will most likely be forced to continue travel via Kumanova to have a Serbian entry stamp in their passports.

The power situation of late has for lack of better description "sucked big time" with most of Pristina being provided 3:3 (3 on, 3 off) although KEK's website says that the situation is supposed to be better (24/7 my behind!).  It does make me wonder what the winter will be like if there isn't enough electricity supply for the summertime.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Serbia Arrests Karadzic

After years of being one of the most wanted people in Europe, Radovan Karadzic was arrested late Monday evening in a suburb of Belgrade.  Karadzic served as president of the breakaway Republic Srpska.  His top general Mladic still remains at large after nearly 12 years on the run.  The arrest was welcomed a sign that Serbia is still willing to work with the West despite differences on Kosovo's independence.  Some wonder what comes next, if the arrest will help Serbia join the EU, if someone has a lot of explaining to do, or perhaps it's just too late to really make a difference.

Kosovo's corruption watchdog has released a damning report of the government's over-spending on non-essential areas, corruption, and conflict of interest.  One example of the government's lack of fiscal responsibility is the spending of Euro 1.3 million in three months on lunch/dinner by government officials.  The total yearly budget of the Kosovo government is a mere Euro 700 million.

MTCowgirl's Kosovo News
MTCowgirl's Interesting Articles/Commentary