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 reside...so 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
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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.

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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.