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)

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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.
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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. 

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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.

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