Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Police use tear-gas to disperse Serb rioters

Yesterday, police and NATO peacekeepers used tear-gas against approximately 150 Serb reservists during a violent protest at the Mutovid checkpoint between Kosovo and Serbia. The protestors were hurling rocks and bottles at the police. The security forces reportedly charged the crowd with riot shields before firing off the tear-gas. It was reported that up to 18 KPS officers were injured in the incident at the border. In a separate protest in North Mitrovica, protestors burned a picture of moderate EU-leaning Serb president Boris Tadic and EU flags.
With all the events in Kosovo, there is a ton of information being published daily. Naturally there is an exponential number of commentaries...as usual, I am posting not because the views presents are similar to my opinion but because I found the article interesting and believe that in order to understand things you need to know all you can about what people think of certain situations :)

With that said here are MTCowgirl's Interesting Articles/Commentary

Monday, February 25, 2008

Pictures Uploaded!!!

Okay, I finally uploaded most of my Kosovo Independence (or Independance to some) Day photos.  There will be more to come over the next fews days but enjoy these until I finish!

With the continued protests in Serbian and in other Serbian expat communities, you can help but wonder what does Kosovo mean to Serbia as the Serbs struggle with Kosovo's independence and the border begins creeping south. The Serbian government is calling for the US to annul Kosovo independence as Kosovo marks its first week of independence.

While most countries have responded to Kosovo, some are having difficulty deciding what to do. Switzerland's parliamentary committees have come out in favor of recognizing Kosovo but questions have been raised about the affect on relationships with Serbia and the country's famed neutrality. Canada still has not presented their position in Kosovo and some are arguing that Canadian recognition could backfire. So it seems that Kosovo recognition is a tricky question

As countries react to Kosovo's independence, there is a question of what happens next? Now that Kosovo has its state symbols, the authorities will be responsible for issuing their own passports to citizens. With some countries refusing to recognize Kosovo's independence, Kosovars are likely to face even more difficulties traveling abroad as citizens of the independent, mostly-recognized state than previously with the UN-issued documents.

It also appears that the honeymoon period for Kosovo's independence is over. The power situation was nearly 24/7 as promised by Kosovo PM Thaci following the declaration but over the weekend, the power started going off for short periods of 30 minutes to a couple of hours depending on location. The common joke is "I thought everything was going to be better after independence!" when the power goes out :)

MTCowgirl's Interesting Commentary/Articles
Other Kosovo News...
  • Russia will not use force over Kosovo
  • Violence erupts in Vienna during anti-independence demonstration
  • Kosovo survival dependent on other countries
  • US Ambassador: This better not happen again
  • EU withdrawl will not divide Kosovo

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Riot Girls are a big hit on You-Tube

In a surprise hit on YouTube, two Serbian woman can be seen looting chocolates and clothing from stores in Belgrade following the riots last Thursday. In response to the attacks on the US Embassy, the US had demanded that Serbia do a better job protecting the embassy and diplomats and also has begun evacuating non-essential staff to Croatia.  In the meantime, Serbia has launched an investigation into the rioting and is working on identifying those that attacked the embassies.  The body of the rioter found in the US Embassy was identified as a young Serbian man from Kosovo whose family fled in 1999.

In addition to the evacuation of US Embassy staff from Belgrade, the EU has began to remove its staff from northern Kosovo in fear of their safety and the EU representative has asked the Serbs to begin cooperating.
Yesterday marked the 6th day of demonstrations against Kosovo's independence in northern Kosovo.  On Friday, demonstrators hurled rocks, glass bottles, and firecrackers at UN police stationed at the famed bridge that separates the two sides of Mitrovica.  In all actuality there are two other bridges that can be used to cross to the other side but the main bridge in the middle of town is highly symbolic.  The protests and violence are all part of a well-orchestrated plan to sabotage Kosovo's independence according to one article in BBC News.

Independence movements around the world are ignoring the "it won't set a precedent" discussion.  Indians in Kashmir believe they have gained a boost following Kosovo's independence as Bosnian Serbs are threatening secession.  There are additional questions of "if Kosovo, why not Palestine" or what about Tamil movements in Sri Lanka?

MTCowgirl's Interesting Commentary/Articles

Friday, February 22, 2008

Mixed Responses from the World

The world has responded to Kosovo's declaration with a varying degree of recognitions and condemnations. China and Taiwan clashed over Taiwan's acceptance. Pro and anti-Kosovo demonstrations have been held all over the world by expat communities living abroad. Canada has said much by remaining silent while the US bears the brunt of Serbian anger over its recognition of Kosovo.
Kosovo Serbs in Mitrovica say they will demonstrate every day at 12:44pm, in reference to UN Security Council Resolution 1244. Yesterday around 150 Serbian reservists demonstrated at Gate 3, Podujevo, setting tires on fire and throwing stones and NATO and KPS officers. The US, as well as Slovenian, embassy in Belgrade has been attacked nearly constantly each night by Serbs angry with what they see as renew imperialism.

Out with the old and in with the new it seems! Since the end of the NATO bombing campaign, the bombed out MUP jail building has stood as a ghostly reminder of the Kosovo conflict. The building, officially belonging to the Serbian government, was never demolished as the government refused to give permission. However, now the Ministry of Internal Affairs is moving in to begin demolition on the building next week. Does anyone else get the feeling they were just waiting for the UDI to go ahead??? :)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

NATO Called to Evacuate KPS from Border Stations

1700 CET: A total of 14 international police officers and four Albanian KPS officers were evacuated by Danish and Romanian KFOR from the border with Serbia today. Five of the international officers were temporarily detained by Serbian police in the buffer zone but were later released with their weapons to be evacuated by KFOR. No injuries have been reported in the two incidents at Gate 1 & 31 but both crossings are said to be destroyed. Gate 1 was reportedly burnt to the ground and Gate 31 destroyed by an explosion. KFOR has taken control of both border crossings and currently there is no movement in or out of Kosovo.
1530 CET: It has been confirmed that Gate 31, Banja, was also sacked. Estimates of the crowd is between 1000-3000 people and they are said to be well organized

1400 CET: Kosovo Police Services (KPS) called NATO to evacuate officers from border stations with Serbia after nearly 1000 protestors stormed and burnt down one of the border crossings and attacked another near Zubin Potok. Gate 1 at Jarinje has been burnt to the ground and a KFOR spokesperson said that they would intervene. I will post more info as it becomes available

Monday, February 18, 2008

Let the Games Begin!

There were several large protests in Serbian enclaves and North Mitrovica today with thousands of Serbs in anti-independence demonstrations.  The protests ended peacefully with no reported incidents.  In an unusual show of solidarity, the three major political parties in Serbia have called for massive protests on Thursday.  Some Serbian KPS officers have put themselves under the jurisdiction of Belgrade in protest against the independence declaration.
Most businesses are closed today in an expected three days of celebrations, possibly starting counting today as the first real day.  Essentially everything except for restaurants and larger supermarkets are closed and in the morning the streets were nearly as empty as they were following the March 2004 riots...after a wild night of fireworks and gunfire it is very eerie! Yesterday, two people were injured by celebratory gunfire.  An on-duty KPS police officer was shot in the hand and another person was shot in the head by stray bullets.  Today, shell casings from AK-47s and even Luger 9mm could be found littering the streets of Pristina.
Naturally Kosovo is all over the news.  If you don't know what's going on, you are living under a rock!!!  But here is some of the latest and greatest from the world's newest (somewhat recognized) nation!

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

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Kosovo Declares Independence

2245 CET:  The wild street celebrations started around 1530 today when Thaci declared Kosovo "independent, sovereign, and democratic".  Celebratory gunfire could be heard around Pristina and in the middle of downtown a friend witnessed a local neighbor rattling off half a clip from an AK-47.  In about 15 minutes, a one million Euro fireworks display is expected to go off in Pristina in a culmination of the evening's festivities which included a concert from the Kosovo Philharmonic Orchestra.

The declaration sparked violent protests in Belgrade where youths attacked the US and Slovenia Embassys and clashed with riot police.  There were explosions in the flashpoint town of Mitrovica when hand-grenades were thrown at UN and EU targets.  At least one grenade exploded but did not cause any injuries, only material damage to an OSCE vehicle parked inside.

1130 CET:  Kosovo PM Thaci is expected to appear before parliament today at 1500 hours CET and ask for official permission to declare independence and naturally it is expected that there will immediate approval.  The streets and vehicles are decked out with Albanian, US, UK, German, and EU flags.  Despite the return of winter with freezing wind and new snow, Albanians hit the streets last night celebrating with music, fireworks, and dance near the Grand Hotel.

Who knows what will happen once Kosovo declares independence...one author quotes the Serbian labor minister in saying that this is a "prelude to chaos" while others believe that Kosovo's breakaway is the final chapter in the breakup of former Yugoslavia.  So far the pre-independence celebrations rather remind me of when a person turns 16-years-old and sudden becomes something between a teenager and adult...awkward and wild, maybe not so sure of what will come next in life but just really, really happy to reach that point.

Yesterday people were driving down Police Avenue half-hanging out their car windows, waving huge Albanian flags (Kosovo still has no flag of its own), and just cruising the main streets...of course when you have more than 50% unemployment I suppose that there isn't much else to do besides cruise the streets.  Perhaps Kosovo will not descent into chaos but life will be tough.  Some people mistakenly think that all will be fluffy puppy dogs, sweets, and rainbows but they have another thing coming.  Independence will not solve the many social and still ethnic conflicts that exist in society...only time and education will help...and anyone who hasn't tore through an intersection once the light turns green knows that if it is one thing that Kosovars lack it is patience!

After spending more than 6 1/2 years in Kosovo, I am glad that I have the opportunity to see the status resolved even if it is one-sided.  It seems that there are still lots of issues to be resolved by the international community but there are high hopes for Kosovo.

While the EU deployed its up to 2000-strong mission to Kosovo, the UN has not clarified its position on Kosovo yet and despite EUMIK's deployment, UNMIK still must maintain its police & civilian mission until otherwise instructed.

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

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day :)  Kosovo shopkeepers were busy this year as the local population swarmed onto the streets to celebrate and purchase gifts for loved ones in a previously little celebrated holiday.  Some attribute the change to a new ability of the local population to purchase goods that were before considered very luxury.
The power situation has been pretty rough in Kosovo over the past several days.  In fact despite promises for 24/7 power after the elections and new promises for constant power following independence, Kosovo's government declared an energy crisis and KEK is warning that it will cost taxpayers 2 million euros to import enough power for five days.  People living in Pristina can expect to have 4 on: 2 off or even 3:3 when the situation is dire...surrounding towns will be slightly worse off...and villages can expect to have around a total of 4 hours of power each day.

Lately the news makes my head spin in regards to Kosovo's independence declaration.  There are so many conflicting reports about what will actually take place this Sunday.  Will it be an intent to declare or an actual declaration...at this point, I really can't tell and anyone who reads the news as I do is probably just as confused about what is going on.  The UN has issued a warning to staff to be vigilant and to not take part in any celebrations in their official capacity and Serbia's PM has asked Kosovo Serbs to stay put and reaffirmed that Belgrade will never recognize the declaration. Meanwhile, some Serbs in the north are ready for a fight should Kosovo try to rein in north of the Ibar river. Russia is saying that any recognition of Kosovo's independence will violate international law, is illegal, and hopes to call an emergency session of the UN Security Council in the next few days.

Other Kosovo News...
  • Despite obstacles, Kosovo can only go up, according to an article in Reuters regarding Kosovo's post-indepedence economy
  • Greek Minister says Europe still divided on Kosovo
  • EU in countdown to launching EUMIK mission (I don't know if this will the the actual name but it's a catchy one that Vetevendosje came up with and plastered all over the stoplights in Pristina...Jo EUMIK, meaning No, EUMIK!)
  • EUMIK is due to start deployment on 17 February

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Ticking of the Clock

It seems that the clock is ticking on Kosovo's independence.  It is expected that Kosovo's parliament will sign a declaration of intent to declare independence on 17 February.  The actual declaration is due to take place in early March.  The timing of the decision is interesting as it looks to be set to take place right before the meeting of the EU and on Sunday which would give more than 100 countries a chance to recognize Kosovo's independence before the UN in NY woke up and Russia could call an emergency session of the Security Council to block the move.  There are fears that jovial mobs of Albanians celebrating may attack fleeing, angry, and scared Serb communities who are expected to make a mass exodus from Kosovo following independence despite Kosovo PM's assurances and pretty speeches about how Kosovo Serbs should stay.  This may not be the actual case but don't think there won't be any celebrations because there will be a big party in Pristina with a fireworks display and while not frequently admitted, lots and lots of celebratory gunfire!

Serbia is protesting the expected recognition and already Serbian hardliners are lashing out in anger against an art exhibit of a Kosovo Albanian in Belgrade.  Hardliners clashed with police and the exhibit was closed.  Additionally an explosion rocked a Slovenian owned shopping center resulting in material damages, no injuries and a second threat was called into another Slovenian center.  Some Serbs are calling for a boycott of Slovenian products due to the recent Slovenian takeover of the EU presidency and the support the organization has been giving to Kosovo's independence.

Kosovo Serb politicians are also torn about what to think about the possible EU mission to Kosovo.  Rival factions have differing opinions from boycott to welcoming the mission.  Meanwhile it appears that the recently elected government of Serbia could collapse due to the loss of Kosovo and infighting about the SAA pact with the EU which is supposed to be considered a separate issue but in the minds of the people difficult to distinguish.

Other Kosovo News...
  • As Albanians complain about poor education, minorities face even more struggles with education in Kosovo
  • Independence moves spur fear on the streets for Serbs in Kosovo
MTCowgirl's Interesting Articles/Commentary...