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 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.

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