Thursday, December 17, 2009

Wheels Up Tomorrow

I’ll be departing Kosovo for the holidays tomorrow but never fear, I’ll update while I’m away!
Kosovars have again jumped into the holidays with a surprising vigor.  Lights, trees, and even Santa Claus-es sporting monkeys have popped up all over Pristina in the past week or two.  IPKO constructed a huge Ice Castle near the Grand Hotel and passed out free snacks last weekend which was supposedly a sight to see with people getting runover by crowds for ballons and other freebies.  As I coined the phrase last year…it’s Kommercial Kristmas time in Kosovo again!

On a more serious note, MTCowgirl’s Kosovo News

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Super Frustrated!!!

Ga, I’m super frustrated today.  I was so excited that this weekend we were going to go out and distribute the clothing and toys we have gathered during the Dj Vegas Toy & Clothing Drive but the minister in the Ministry of Labor & Social Welfare fell through with the list of families this morning because he has been too busy preparing year-end reports!!!  DOH!  Anyways, we compromised on him preparing the list for mid to late January when I come back from holiday leave so we will still go out but I was really hoping to have everything to the families for the holidays :(

Plans to privatize the Brezovica ski resort have been announced this week.  EU Special Representative Peter Feith has stated that the privatization will be transparent with input from the EU, Serbia, and Kosovo.  With the lifts scheduled to open later this month it will be interesting to see what will happen with Serbia’s plans to invest more than 40 million Euros in the resort and what any company that may buy Brezovica ski resort will plan to do to update the infrastructure and hotels.

So, I will be going home to the US for the holidays but as always I will keep updating as I always do.  Reflecting back on my eight and half years in Kosovo, I have to say that because I have lived here so long it really has started to feel like home.  I’ve seen so many changes since I arrived in Kosovo back in 2000 for the first time and then again in 2001 to begin working but at the same time, the more things change here the more they stay the same!  Streets that were once congested because they were narrow have been widened and are now super-congested because there are more cars (and really, really nice ones at that!)  So, yes the power still goes out every once in a while, the streets are coated with brown slime, the air stinks of coal heating but when I think about it, it just wouldn’t be the Kosovo I have grown to love without those things!!!  I guess Kosovo is just one of those places you love to hate and like fungus, it grows on you :)
Happy Holidays to everyone and for those traveling to see your loved ones, have a safe trip!

MTCowgirl’s Kosovo News

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

EULEX Celebrates One Year Anniversary

Today EULEX celebrated its one year anniversary of its official deployment in Kosovo.  Head of Mission, Yves de Kermabon (affectionally known by staff as YDK) said that the mission has done well but challenges remain.  Serbia took the opportunity to make statements that say they will continue supporting EULEX as long as it stays “status neutral” as the mission was deployed under UN Security Council Resolution 1244.  EULEX has announced that it will open a temporary office in northern Kosovo while a permanent office will open later in the spring.

I didn’t have a chance last week to discuss something that’s been all over the Kosovo news.  About a week and half ago, a Kosovo politician stood up in parliament and announced that he had proof of corruption and organized crime in the Kosovo government, namely Thaci’s PDK party.  After that, a DVD was revealed with a man named Nazim Bllaca admitting to committing murders of Albanian and Serb citizens while working for the former Kosovo Intelligence Service (SHIK) under the direct order of Thaci.  Shortly after the statement in parliament, Bllaca alleged that an assasination attempt was made against him and after that EULEX arrested him for the crimes he had committed or was present.  Later, in order to preserve the judicial process from political interference, EULEX excluded the Kosovo police and local prosecutors from the case and forbid Bllaca from speaking with the media.

The hearing on the legality of Kosovo’s independence is underway in the International Court of Justice.  An advisory from the panel of 15 judges who have been hearing arguments for and against Kosovo’s independence from various countries is expected within a few months of the two weeks of arguments which are to wrap up at the end of this week.

Finally, one last notice about the Dj Vegas Toy & Clothing Drive.  It will wrap up tomorrow evening with drop-off points at UNMIK and Amelie Espresso Bar who kindly let us put a collection box in the restaurant.  Odyssea Bakery is also very generously baking cakes for the 30 families (10 from each ethnic group) who have been selected by the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare.  Next week I will have stories and pictures from the distribution that will be on Saturday.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Toy & Clothing Drive

Dj Vegas & Friends are at it again collecting toys, clothing, school supplies, and food for families in Kosovo.  An UNMIK SRC sponsored event last week helped raise nearly 200 Euros.

There seem to be a lot of questions this year so for a little background, Dj Vegas & Friends is a group that I started up approximately five years ago to collect voluntary donations from mostly UNMIK and UN Agency staff during the winter months.  Essentially the group is a collection of private individuals who donate their time to make food packages and then go out to distribute the assistance to families or villages…we are not an official charity organization or anything like that.  And of course there are always those who want to politicize everything in Kosovo, so to pre-empt any of those concerns about who gets the assistance and how do we pick the familes, blah, blah, blah :P ~  The group has always visited Albanian, Serb, and Roma families.  Normally the list of villages/families are given to us by the Ministry of Labor & Social Welfare or a NGO called Center of Hope International (COHI) and equal assistance for all Kosovo ethnic groups is always stressed.

The collection will round up on 10 December and volunteers are scheduled to go out to distribute the assistance on 12 December with the help of the Kosovo Ministy of Labor & Social Welfare supplying information on families/villages who need help.  Anyone wanting to donate in the next week can email for information/drop-off locations :)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Kosovo Votes

Despite Vetevendosje’s “Mos Voto” (Don’t Vote) campaign, Kosovars including Serbs turned out in large number to vote in the municipal elections yesterday.  The mayor-incumbinent Dr. Isa Mustafa from the LDK party was re-elected.  Once the tally was announced, the fireworks celebration began around 2230 hours with the grand finale nearly busting out my windows at 0100 hours and completely traumatizing Smokey.
The poor dog!  Kosovo is for sure not a place for a dog who is terrified of automatic gunfire or fireworks as both seem to be linked to most Kosovo celebrations.  Luckily I have been working on cleaning and organizing the storage room in my house which is one of his favorite hiding spots when the “bad” loud noises begin.

In recent weeks, I have realized that I needed to write about a few places that deserve a recommendation.  Two of course are restaurants :)   The first one I kick myself for not writing about earlier because it is really a jem in Pristina.  It’s a sandwich/salad bar called Amelie located on Fehmi Agani almost kitty-corner from OSCE.  Amelie serves up some of the best sandwiches on fresh bread, I highly recommend the Salmon Sensation or the Roast Beef sandwiches and the salads are also generous sized and delicious :)

The second food recommendation is for Izzy’s Deli (038 716 006, 044 209 090) on Adrea Gropa Street off of UCK Street.  It’s kind of hard to describe how to get there but if you are walking towards the Kosovo Government Building on UCK Street, you will make the first right after Police Avenue.  Look for the APPK sign and Izzy’s Deli is just in the next building.

Finally the last recommendation I have is for a hospital.  Due to some health problems, I was referred outside of the normal UNMIK/EULEX medical clinics and I had a very good experience in one of the local hospitals which surprises many internationals after seeing the Pristina Hospital compound.  The Lindja Hospital at the entrance of Gracanica is clean and the doctors have international experience.  The doctor I was referred to spoke good English and was very professional.  Overall what could have turned out to be a nightmarish experience turned out to be a good experience.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Job Hunters Get Your Pens!

The long awaited 10th call for international positions (seconded and contracted) with EULEX was released online this week.  Applications are being accepted for approximately one month until 27 November 2009.  The applications are sent first to Brussels and then the mission receives a cleared list of candidates from Brussels to call for interviews.  EULEX has a policy that if they can take a seconded person for a position they will take that person first over a contracted person.  There are rumored unofficial hiring guidelines to take candidates in the order of:  EU-nation seconded, 3rd contributing seconded, EU-nation contracted, 3rd contributing contracted, other contracted…of course as I said this is the “unofficial” guideline and if questioned I’m sure EULEX officials would strongly deny this practice *wink, wink*

Through the grapevine I have also heard that EULEX is going to start downsizing its local staff as they reportedly hired too many on in the beginning so the likelyhood of any announcements coming out for local positions doesn’t seem very good.

So for the weekend party crowd, check out the Funk & Funk bash at Odyssea Bistro on Saturday night (from 2130 hours) and the Pub Quiz on Sunday at 91 to benefit the dog shelter :)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Kosovo Seeks to Improve Image

Kosovo has started a new ad campaign designed to improve the image of the young country.  The first aired international ad aims at luring international investors and battle its reputation of corruption and instability.  Designed by Saatchi & Saatchi will be aired in six stations in Europe and the US at the cost of 5.7 million Euros.

Big in the news recently has been the signing of an agreement between Macedonia and Kosovo regarding the demarcation of the border.  Some groups in Kosovo are unhappy with the arrangement and have been holding protests but mostly it has been hailed as a step forward for establishing good relations between the neighboring countries.

For weekend warriors looking for fun, check out the Funk Party at Odyssea Bistro (2200 hours) and on Sunday, check out the Pub Quiz action at 91 of which the proceeds go to benefit the Kosovo Animal Shelter.

Also, Dj Vegas & Friends have kicked off their annual Toy & Clothing Drive.  Donations are currently being accepted at UNMIK MHQ – UNWind Gym although another external collection point may be established soon for everyone.
MTCowgirl’s Interesting Articles/Commentary

Monday, October 19, 2009

Did I Say Winter?

Ummm, I should have saved yesterday’s post for today when I said “Winter Arrives” because this morning when I woke up I was greeted with a fresh thin coat of snow on the neighbor’s roof.  I think the words “Holy Crap, it snowed last night” popped out of my mouth :)   It seems that winter has truly arrived early and fall really did only last one day!

On Sunday there will be a Pub Quiz to benefit the Kosovo Animal Shelter at 91.  I had a blast at the last quiz I attended and the questions were very well-rounded (in other words I didn’t feel like a complete social reject!)  I think the cost is still 1 Euros per person so for sure it won’t break the bank and all the money goes for a good cause :)
MTCowgirl’s Interesting Commentary/Articles

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Winter Arrives

Fall lasted about one day this year…I guess we could joke that “fall was on a Saturday” :)   Luckily I had the chance to take a drive up Mount Sara to see all the fall colors before it started snowing Monday :)   We confirmed the existence of the snow via IPKO’s live webcam on the mountain.  But as I mentioned in my last post, there are many questions about what will happen up at the ski resort this winter.  If I somehow was reading the mind of International Crisis Group, I was pleasantly surprised to find their report on Strepce and it’s status as a possible “Model Serb Enclave

The new Bill Clinton statue has been placed on the corner near his huge banner.  The official unveiling/inaguration has been postponed from last Friday to November as the big man himself is due to attend.  Unfortunately compared to the gianorous poster on the side of the apartment block the three (3) meter statue looks fairly tiny and with the vehicles parked up on the sidewalk the statue is easy to miss.

MTCowgirl’s Kosovo News

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Summer is Over!

It seems that summer is officially over in Kosovo with the temperature dropping down in the low 40′s, possibily even 30′s overnight last night.  The rainy/mud season has now begun although there is rumor of snow by the end of the week.  Of course as a snowboard nut, I won’t be too disappointed if the snow comes early this year!

The ski resort at Mount Sara (Brezovica is actually the name of the village near the resort, not the mountain!) usually opens towards the end of December but when there is enough snow sometimes they will start running the lifts as early as 1 December…so fingers crossed!  There is talk this year of problems with the electricity on the mountain for the ski lifts as KEK is trying to secure a payment of more than one million Euros from the resort for past electricity.  Some speculate that the electricity to run the ski lifts will be cut-off although that move would seem counter-productive because if the lifts aren’t running, the resort won’t be making income and therefore KEK won’t get any money…but alas, not all things in Kosovo run on common sense!

I’m looking forward to next Thursday (22 October) as ZZ Top will be performing in nearby Skopje at the stadium.  Tickets were only around 17 Euros each but have to be purchased down in Skopje as I have not heard of anywhere in Pristina selling the tickets.  I know recently someone asked me how to find out what events are going on around town and there isn’t really any good source for entertainment news in Kosovo at this time.  Most parties and events are promoted via email chains and by word of mouth.
So, probably I should give a bit of news about Kosovo…so here it is…

MTCowgirl’s Kosovo News

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Schoolchildren Hospitalized for Alleged Gas Poisoning

On the 1st, over 100 14-15 year-old  schoolchildren were hospitalized in Kosovo Polje/Fushe Kosova due to alleged gas poisoning.  There still is no confirmation as to what made the children sick but reports of a “bad smell in the air” have been discussed.  The day before this major incident, a small number of children from the school were hospitalized for similar illness.

Life for the international community in Kosovo continues and the old addage of “same $hit, different day” seems to pop-up quite frequently.  From the outside, there seems to be little change except perhaps the color and size of the vehicles :)   It will be interesting to see what reviews EULEX receives upon its completion of its first year of “operational capacity” which is still hotly debated partly due to what is described as a hugely burecratic and beyond slow procurement process which has led to delays in purchasing and receiving equipment necessary to complete sensitive police tasks.  This leads me to post some interesting news/commentary articles which I have recently found.  As always, these articles do not necessarily reflect my personal opinion however I found the arguments or information presented interesting.

MTCowgirl’s Interesting News/Commentary

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Back in Special K

I am back in “Special K”, a nickname dubbed by a friend for Kosovo, after a nice week-long cruise of the Mediterranean.  I’m happy to say that Divine Cleaning Service took great care of Smokey.  It was nice to come back and not have to toss him in the bathtub and he seemed to really take to the “pet specialist” that Divine sent to take care of him.  I also signed up for regular cleaning service and all I can say is WOW!  The girl that came over made the house look like new and I doubt that my tiles have ever gleamed so bright :)   I have to say that I could easily get spoiled with not having to clean house on the weekends!!!

Kosovo is gearing up for the municipal elections and billboards with pictures of the various political leaders have popped up all over the place before they technically were allowed so it will be interesting to see if the two big parties will be charged with violating electoral law.  The fight between Ramush Haradinaj and Haschim Thaci continues with Ramush’s party accussing the Thaci government of stifling the media.  EULEX has also started a PR campaign for “Supports Kosovo integration to the European Union”.  I will try to get a few pictures over the weekend when I am out and about.

MTCowgirl’s Kosovo News

Friday, September 18, 2009

New Blog

Well, I think I am finally done moving over my 2009 Kosovo blog into this new format.  I apologize in advance if some of the links don’t work and some of the formatting is not the most astetically pleasing.  I’m still working out minor kinks during the transfer and learning how to use a new software package :)   But hopefully in the end, this transition will make it easier for everyone to find information on Life in Kosovo and a viewpoint on some of the happenings over the past eight years I’ve been living here.

Last night, I went to the Embel Rita Circus which has been located behind the Pristina Sports Stadium for the past few weeks.  I’m not sure how much longer the circus will be in town but they seem to still be generating quite a bit of interest.  Tickets range from 5-10 Euros which is nothing really.  I have some pictures and videos which I will try to post soon :)   I think this is the first time I can remember the circus coming to Pristina so no doubt it has been a real treat for the children to see elephants, llamas, and of course tigers!
I will be offline starting tomorrow and probably will not be updating for about 10 days.  I’m finally realizing the dream to travel different places in Europe by going on a cruise that starts on Sunday.  But if I do happen to find a computer with decent internet service, I’ll update if I can :)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Vetevendosje Demonstrates

With the signing of the information-sharing protocol between EULEX and Serbia last Friday, Vetevendosje along with 20-some other organizations demonstrated in Pristina in front of the EULEX Police HQ. The some 500-600 demonstrators reportedly demanded the resignation of Kosovo PM Haschim Thaci. So far there have been no reports of violence against EULEX despite the speculation but EULEX vehicles are scarce on the streets of Pristina this past weekend with EULEX Security doing active patrols in their “airport follow-me” decorated vehicles to look for unsecured vehicles. Unfortunately for the demonstrators, the weather has taken a turn for the worst with a thunderstorm rolling in which literally will put a damper on the protest.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Calm Before the Storm

Rumor has it that at 1700 hours today, the protocol between EULEX and Serbia on the sharing of information for cross-border organized crime is expected to be signed.  Vetevendosje reportedly has organized massive street demonstrations with several other groups.  There is speculation and rumor that Vetevendosje plans on reacting violently and will burn EULEX vehicles on the streets.  So far today has been very quiet and feels just like the calm before the storm.

I have to say thanks to Sam and the crew from UNDP for organizing a fantastic quiz night at 91 last Sunday.  They managed to raise more than 250 Euros to benefit the animal shelter.  The next quiz is tentatively scheduled for 20 September.  The quiz questions are quite broad and well done so I would encourage everyone to come out and give a Euro (just one Euro!) to participate in the quiz.  There was a bottle of whiskey and a few gift certificates up for grabs in this last quiz.

One of the companies that was offering gift certificates is a new company called Divine Cleaning Service.  I’ve been seeing brochures around and checked out their website which has a lot of information about their services.  I’m very interested in their pet service which according to their office manger (who speaks excellent English!) means that I get to leave Smokey at home and someone will come every day to feed and walk him while I’m on vacation.  I plan on using the service while I am gone on my next holiday which is from 20-27 September (and unfortunately for you dear readers, I’ll be on a cruise ship so I probably will not be offering many updates during that week!)  But back to the pet service, I’ll report back on how Smokey fared and what the service is like when I get back!

It is always nice to stumble across a non-political article about Kosovo.  One of the reasons for initially starting this blog was to help my family understand a little better what it was like to live here and that yes, there was public transportation and I was not riding a horse to work :)   Sofia Echo recently published an article called “Kosovo: A Curious Attraction” that gives a nice overview of Kosovo from a foreigner’s perspective.

It appears that EULEX won the legal battle against whoever put up the fake EULEX website as the hosting account is suspended this week.  Had I been a little bit smarter and faster, I should have taken some screenshots of the pages because as I said, someone put quite a bit of work into the site!  Luckily I was able to find a cache of parts of the site.  To give everyone an idea what the site said, here’s an excerpt from the Fun Facts:  “Peter Feith is the ultimate authority in deciding what the Ahtisaari plan (and in a sense the Kosovo constitution) means. So if King Peter, after getting drunk or getting hit by a bus, decides that the plan makes Kosovo part of Japan, it is so decided…“  And one of the links that stated “Harvested Serbian livers and kidneys for sale.  Shop EULEX Smart: Croats sell them for a 10% discount!  Livers are Going Very Fast; Reserve Yours!

It has been suggested a couple of times that I slightly change my blog from it’s current format into a standardized blog which I may be doing soon.  So pardon any mess that may occur over the next weeks as I begin transitioning the pages :)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

EULEX Continues Getting Slammed

Last Thursday, 27 August, Vetevendosje struck again and slashed the tires of some 30 EULEX vehicles in the Dragodan and Tophane area.  A fake albeit very well-made copycat EULEX website has popped up recently (  I’ve heard that EULEX is trying to have the website shutdown so who knows how long it will be up, but it’s worth a look and a chuckle as you read (I particularly liked the “Fun Facts” section on the bottom right of the page *hehe*) On Sunday, 6 September 2009, there will be a quiz night at 91 Pub from 1900 hours to raise funds for the Kosovo Dog Shelter which is always in need of support.  Several different prizes have been arranged by the organizers and it is only 1 Euro per person.

Thinking of the dog shelter, I’m happy to say that the Spazmutt is doing well.  I think my landlady is starting to slightly warm up to him after all this time although the daughter of the family is still absolutely terrified and seems to think that his only goal in life is to eat her.  It’s interesting how there seems to be a culture of fear in regards to dogs in Kosovo.  The other day when walking Smokey several of the neighborhood boys wanted to come pet Smokey but one of the adults on the street was very stern in telling them no and that the dogs are bad.  Funnily enough a few of the girls in the neighborhood had just finished petting him a little ways up the road.  But I think in walking Smokey on the street and letting the kids pet him (of which he is very patient to the point of letting some of them pull and play with his tail) has helped in dispelling some of the fear that the adults seem to have difficulty conquering and imbed in the children in regards to animals.

A week or so ago, someone contacted me about finding a good hairdresser.  After having some truly horrifying and artistically interesting haircuts in Pristina, I managed to find a very good hairdresser in the Ulpiana area.  For information and telephone numbers for some of the hairdressers and beauty salons, visit my Kosovo Tips page :)

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

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Vetevendosje Strikes Again

The Self-Determination Group (Vetevendosje) struck out at EULEX yesterday, damaging 26 vehicles and injuring three KPS officers.  Many of the vehicles were overturned and nearly all had their windows smashed out in the Pristina municipal parking (of course there are signs everywhere saying that the Pristina Municipality is not responsible for damage caused to vehicles while in the lot…but somehow this rates up a little higher than a hit&run fender bender in a parking lot in my book!).  The EULEX police spokesperson quickly condemned the attack saying that while the organization supports the democratic right to demonstrate the act of criminal damage is unacceptable.  Vetevendosje gave the reasoning of the recent signing of a cooperation agreement on organized crime between the Serbian Ministry of Interior and EULEX for the criminal damage.  It has been quite some time since Vetevendosje organized a demonstration like this and the first time that the group has attacked EULEX.  As usual, Vetevendosje later alleged police brutality and stated that one of its members was being treated in the local hospital.  Rumor has it that KPS initially did not want to intervene to stop the destruction of the vehicles but finally did so on the insistence of EULEX management.

In a separate and unrelated demonstration in the North, EULEX police clashed with demonstrators protesting the rebuilding of Albanian houses in the north of Kosovo.  Daily protests continue over the rights of Albanians to rebuild in the north of the Ibar where a Serbian majority resides.

MTCowgirl’s Kosovo News

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Is KFOR On Its Way Out?

There has been numerous rumors and stories on the proposed downsizing of NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR) over the past year.  Recently it has been reported that a total withdrawal of KFOR may occur within the next four years.  The rumors of a downsizing of KFOR by the beginning of next year has been confirmed and the force is due to be reduced to 10,000, a reduction of some 4000 troops.  Speculation is that with increasing pressure to provide more troops in areas such as Afghanistan, NATO could take troops withdrawn from Kosovo and transfer them to other conflict areas.

MTCowgirl’s Kosovo News

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Oink Update!

Is it poetic justice? The first confirmed case of swine flu in Kosovo is a national who temporarily works in the UK and returned home for holidays.  So rather than the numerous internationals working for organizations in Kosovo bringing the “thousands of diseases” into Kosovo as recently claimed by the local media it actually has been a Kosovar working abroad that has brought the virus.

With Macedonia soon joining the white zone for Schengen visa, there is a possibility that Kosovars would be required to apply for a visa to enter the southerly neighbor.  Macedonia would receive instruction from the European Commission and would likely act on its advice in regards to travel of citizens of Kosovo and Albania who still require visas to travel within Europe.

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

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Oink, Oink!

Smokey and I are back home in Pristina after a short-break home in Las Vegas and the doggy-prison (kennel).  As usual, Smokey got tossed in the bathtub and was washed immediately as he usually doesn’t smell great (ok, he reeks something terrible!) when he gets home but they do take fairly good care of my puppy when I can’t :)

Journalism is a word that could be used loosely when talking about news in Kosovo.  The latest laughable article found warns the locals in Kosovo about the dangers of associating with the international community because we evidently are carrying swine flu.  I’m sure there was strong factual evidence behind the claims so all I have to say is “oink, oink” :o )

In other news, a demonstration outside the government building by the veterans of the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) turned violent when protestors lobbed Molotov cocktails and explosive devices across the fence.  Traffic downtown was also disrupted due to a sit-down protest by members of the KLA in the middle of one of the busiest roads (Pristina-Podujevo).

Kosovo politicians are under the impression that they will be able to join the UN within the next five years.  However considering the fact that to-date even Palestine has not been able to join as a full-member due to regional politics, it is unlikely that it will happen unless Serbia acknowledges Kosovo’s independence.  But according to some Kosovo government officials, Serbia may soon recognize Kosovo and even urge the UN to close its mission…but again, that’s journalism in Kosovo :)

MTCowgirl’s Kosovo News

Monday, June 22, 2009

KEK To Cut Power

An announcement has come out from KFOR that the Kosovo Electric Company (KEK) is planning on cutting the power to Gracanica from 0600 – 2359 hours every day.  The timing of the electricity cut to one of the largest Serbian enclaves comes right before the Vidovdan (St. Vitus) celebrations and the anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo Polje.  KEK is hoping to settle the issue of outstanding bills not paid since 1999 and a possible collective settlement of 26 Euros/month per household but given the timing one can’t help but wonder if someone needs a “KEK in the @$$” for taking a decision to cut off the power right before such significant celebrations!

Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon of the UN has addressed the UN Security Council on the situation in Kosovo.  The report was complimentary to the EULEX mission and their reaching operational capacity in April.  The Kosovo government on the other hand did not seem to be presented in a very positive light with the divisions still remaining between the communities.  The full report can be read online through the UN Security Council reports.

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

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

KFOR Celebrates 10 Year Anniversary

KFOR (Kosovo Force) marked 10 years in Kosovo today with a celebration in the Pristina camp of Film City.  The KFOR commander pledged to continue supporting Kosovo despite the talks of troop reductions and the suggestion of pull-out (which was decided against).

UNMIK continues to downsize with approximately 300 staff leaving at the end of June bringing the total number of staff to approximately 500 by 1 July 2009.  The UN Security Council is set to discuss Kosovo on 17 July as the 1244 resolution still remains in place requiring the UN to maintain a mission, albeit much smaller, in Kosovo.

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

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Good Eats

While it has been around for a while, I recently discovered Liburnia Restaurant behind Procredit Bank off UCK Street.  Rumored to have the best pizza in town, the menu was fairly impressive and I thoroughly enjoyed the broccoli and cheese dish!  Open just for a couple of months, Geba Bar is a new sushi and sashimi bar in Dardania.  The interior is modern and swanky with a two large aquariums embedded in the front of the bar.  Unfortunately for those that don’t like raw fish, Geba currently does not offer any cooked items.

The nightlife in Pristina is grand as always.  Karaoke has seemed to go mainstream now with several new locations to belt out your favorite tunes.  Both new sushi bars (Geba & Sushi Bar) offer karaoke whenever a customer has an urge and 212 Club in Pejton is hosting karaoke nights on Thursdays starting at 11pm.  Unfortunately rumor has it that the former place to go for karaoke, Tokyo, no longer has a system and is trying to cater to a more upscale dinner crowd.  I haven’t been for a while but there was always a good crowd up there on the weekends so hopefully the party crowd will move on to the new places!  There is usually a group that gather up at Pacific Rim in Dragodan on Wednesday evenings for cocktails and karaoke which is often good fun :)   In addition to the new karaoke options, a few other recently discovered places to hang out include Dubliner Irish Bar (near the Grand Hotel) and Why Not Bar (Pejton near Bill Clinton).  Why Not Bar features a fantastic live band on the weekends and Dubliner has an authentic dark pub-ish feel to it.

But alas, Kosovo is not all fun and games so on to the news!!!

MTCowgirl’s Kosovo News

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wide Awake in the Middle of the Night

The weather has finally warmed up enough to open the doors and windows in the night to let the fresh Pristina air (did I just say that?!) in at night.  But with the fresh air comes the noises of the city, like Jeff Dunham’s Walter so succinctly put it Pristina is a city that “needs a frickin’ nap”.  First there was the neighbor’s car alarm which intermittently was going off , then a concert up until midnight somewhere in the city that allowed the noise to flow up the hill of Dragodan and provide me with what seemed to be a front-row seat to some sort of Albanian rap music (I can die happy now!), and then finally the street dogs of Dragodan started up with a chorus of barking, fighting, and howling.  Armed with a half-empty bottle of water I went out on the balcony to look for the offending dogs but alas, they were too far away to scare off, so I gave them a stern look and said “Shut Up!”  Now finally at 0200 the city has quieted down and perhaps I will be able to crawl back into my bed and attempt sleeping again!

There has been quite a bit of news since I last updated.  Work and having an active social life has made updating a little bit harder but things are starting to slow down now that UNMIK had done the initial downsizing so hopefully I will be able to keep everyone updated a bit more regularly again :)

One of the more recent and interesting news tidbits comes in the form of the former Kosovo Prime Minister Agim Ceku being expelled from Columbia following a request to execute an Interpol warrant stemming from Serbia where Ceku is accused of war crimes against Serbs and non-Albanians during the 1998-1999 war.  In response to the expulsion, Kosovo has requested Interpol to dismiss warrants originating in Serbia against Kosovo citizens.

Violent protests continue over electricity cut-offs in villages and the reconstruction efforts of Albanians in the north of Kosovo.  Last Sunday some 26 people were injured when a clash over electricity in 14 Serbian villages which are requesting Serbia to provide them with power as they do not wish to pay their Kosovo electric bills.  In the north, nearly every day protestors clash with the police and are tear gassed by EULEX police, who have been praised for the handling of the situation.

And finally, two bits of news about the Kosovo government and police, last Wednesday a call from a “Western country” was placed to the Kosovo government threatening that several bombs had been placed in the Kosovo government building prompting police condones and evacuation of staff.  The week before that some 47 kilos of heroin and thousands of Euros disappeared from the secured KPS evidence room and now two KPS officers have been suspended pending an investigation.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Global Economic Crisis Starts Hitting Kosovo

When, not if, the effects of the global economic meltdown would hit Kosovo has been a topic for discussion since headlining across the rest of Europe and the US.  Many believed that the summertime was when the real effects would show when migrant workers started returned from abroad and possibly fail to secure visas to return abroad for work due to demand for jobs.  However, it seems that already Kosovo is beginning to feel the economic pinch with remittances from abroad starting to drop.

When first arriving in Kosovo some eight years ago I joined the group that wondered why there were so many Western Union offices in such a poor place.  The answer was found in that the mass exodus from Kosovo during the fighting left many people in Western Europe who were able to secure work and support their non-working families in Kosovo.  Just like migrant workers from Mexico in the US, Kosovars go abroad in Europe and send a good portion of their wages back to Kosovo to their families accounting for a substantial portion of Kosovo’s income.  With unemployment still at approximately 40-50%, hard times are likely to soon fall upon Kosovo unless the government finds a way to pull a white rabbit out of its hat.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Alive & Kicking :)

Despite the fact that I haven’t been able to update that much lately, I am still alive and kicking in Kosovo :)   Life has been hectic and coupled with recent events in UNMIK, work is a bit crazy.

Last week, UNMIK send letters of termination to some 450 staff members, mostly national.  The sudden termination, letters issued on Thursday with a last working day of Friday, was due to a deadline set by NY for the last payment of termination indemnity which the national staff previously went on strike about last month.  Despite calls for the withdrawal of UNMIK from Kosovo, the mission is currently just scaling back to approximately 500 staff members by the end of June 2009 as per UN Security Resolution 1244, the UN is required to maintain a presence in Kosovo until such time that the resolution is changed or discharged by the Security Council.

Last week EULEX announced that it had achieved 100% operational capacity.  What operational capacity exactly means is still up for debate with a few letters of criticism over logistics and other difficulties faced by police officers coming out and circulated to the international EULEX staff.  In other EU news, a delegation from the European Parliament has told Kosovo that they no longer need UNMIK as EULEX is now operational.

Friday, March 20, 2009

UNMIK National Staff go on strike

The national staff of UNMIK went on strike today at 0930 hours CET to protest against decisions taken by NY HQ in regards to contracts and termination indemnity for staff who have chosen to remain working with UNMIK rather than leave for other jobs.  The idea is to protest until NY rescinds its decision and agrees to grant longer contracts with an option for indemnity should UNMIK decide to terminate the contract earlier than expected.

I nearly forgot to mention the opening of a new restaurant in downtown Pristina – Sushi Bar (044 218 998, Old Cactus Bar, near the Grand Hotel).  Due to differences, the cook from Tokyo and one of the waiters have moved on and opened their own restaurant downtown which is quickly becoming a favorite place for sushi.  During the weekends, there is open mic karaoke.  The food is excellent (try the salmon!) and we are keeping our fingers crossed that their sake supply will come in soon!  I have updated my Restaurant Guide with the new information and some additional phone numbers I’ve picked up.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

How Time Flies!

Wow, it’s hard to believe that nearly a month has passed since I last wrote.  I am reminded now of the saying “the more things change the more they stay the same”.  UNMIK continues to downsize while EULEX is operating in police & justice…yet nothing really feels different…people are just wearing different uniforms and there are more flats with “For Rent” signs than usual.  With the downsizing of UNMIK, rumors are many about the fate of the employees.  A protest over the extension of contracts may occur later today or tomorrow on behalf of the UNMIK national staff.

The power situation has been great other than the fact that I discovered my landlady trying to save money by switching off the fuses in my flat after I left for work every day.  How much she thought she was saving by turning off my refrigerator, hot water heater, and one heater each day I have no idea!!!  I finally got fed up and had a discussion with her son explaining that I’ve noticed that the power in my flat was going off every day at approximately the same time and I was aware there were no power outages at the time.  Miraculously the next day there was no planned outage in my flat ;)

In sad news, I saw a report that an eight-year-old boy was attacked and killed by a pack of wild dogs earlier this week near Kamenica.  This is not the first time that a child has been killed by dogs in Kosovo and with the huge number of strays I am sure that it won’t be the last.  Of course, those wanting to assist with the stray dog issue can contact the Kosovo Animal Shelter (email or by telephone at +377 44 126 439 or +377 44 199 061) to donate time, food, and funds!

The weather continues to be winter-like with small snowstorms every few days.  That means I get more time to enjoy snowboarding in Brezovica with my friends so you won’t hear many complaints from this snow-bunny!

MTCowgirl’s Kosovo News

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Kosovo Celebrates

Yesterday, Kosovo Albanians celebrated the one year anniversary of the declaration of independence from Serbia.  Many people stretched the celebration out to start on the 16th by closing shops early with essentially everything closed on the 17th.  The street party was massive and Smokey was emotionally traumatized by the huge fireworks displays, automatic gunfire, and smaller private celebrations that lasted for hours.  The celebration this year seemed to top that of the actually party that was held as people were able to plan much more in advance unlike last year when the date for declaring independence was not well-known.

MTCowgirl’s Independence Articles
Other Kosovo News

Thursday, February 12, 2009

KEK in the Butt

Ha, I couldn’t help it. There were power problems (fuse kept blowing out) last night in a restaurant we were visiting and a friend piped up with “Someone needs a KEK in the butt” :) Classic!!! Actually, the power hasn’t been this bad this winter (reportedly production is up 30% compared to other years) so there have not been long power outages in Pristina.  Some of the smaller villages have been worse off but the power situation does appear to be improving slowly.

Kosovo has some wonderful nature such as Rugova Valley and Brezovica.  I have been trekking up to Mount Sara (Brezovica is actually the name of the village, not the mountain) on the weekends and taking snowboarding lessons.  Compared to back home in the US, learning and renting equipment here is next to nothing.  A ski rental will cost you 10€ a day and lessons are somewhere in the range of 10-15€ per hour.  A day pass on the ski-lift (you do have to pay again if you switch lifts) is 10€ or a single trip is only 3€ which is nice if you just want to ride up to the top to take some pictures and come back down again.  There aren’t really beginner slopes at Brezovica, the main slope is actually a black run, but it’s all good.  During your breaks from skiing/snowboarding, I can recommend stopping at Cakson for some hot spiced wine or Pizzaria Tina which has fantastic pizzas albeit in an extremely smoky environment.

On the downside of Brezovica, it is just absolutely jam-packed on Sundays and there is little to no crowd control at the ski-lifts.  The line is basically a push-and-shove fest to see who can come in from the side or push their way to the front.  I actually got my arm stuck between two people trying to hold onto the jacket of my instructor as they pushed in from the side and trapped me.  Another time I saw an interesting argument between a Albanian youth and a Polish KFOR soldier.  The youth attempted to cut in line in front of everyone and the soldier told him to get to the back of the line.  The youth then proceeded to start threatening the soldier who was backed up by three other Polish soldiers (all in uniform).  The next thing you know everyone in line is yelling at the youth about cutting in line but he didn’t care and just kept pushing forward.

The last thing that I saw really made me wonder about people in Kosovo and what people can get away with…a black Jeep Grand Cherokee with tinted windows was trying to push its way through a crowd of people waiting for the ski-lift.  People were moving out of the way the best they could with skis strapped to their feet and its possible that one person accidentally or intentionally hit the back of the vehicle with his ski pole.  The next thing you know two guys got out of the Jeep and attacked the skier, throwing him to the ground punching and kicking him in front of all the people at the ski lift.  The worst thing about it was that people were just “Hey, Hey” and didn’t move to help the guy that was being beaten-up and then the two guys just got back into the vehicle and drove off.  Ummm, hello!!!

MTCowgirl’s Kosovo News

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Kosovo Serbs Protest KSF

Kosovo Serbs organized demonstrations today in the north of Kosovo, blocking roads and traffic. The Serbs participating say that the security force threatens their safety. They also demonstrated against EULEX customs which began registering goods coming into Kosovo last week.  The demonstrators don’t want EULEX to set-up the customs point until an agreement is reached with Belgrade.

On Wednesday, the president of Kosovo named the head of the Kosovo Intelligence Service as Bashkim Smakaj, a former KPS officer. While relatively young, 32, Smakaj served as a colonel in the Kosovo Police Service.

MTCowgirl’s Kosovo News

Monday, January 26, 2009

Kosovo Security Forces Off to Rocky Start

Last Thursday, the new Kosovo Army called the Kosovo Security Force (KSF) launched but things did not get off without a hitch. A grenade was reportedly thrown on the roof of the KSF barracks in Peja/Pec and so far no one has claimed responsibility for the attack in which no injuries occurred. Then former members of the KPC/TMK, predecessor of KSF that incorporated a large number of former KLA fighters, protested the fact that they were not offered positions in the new army but other civilians were being given jobs. With the economy suffering, many former fighters fear they will not find work. A small side-note can be added that when the process for selecting people for KSF began, it was found that little to no background check was done previously and many were disqualified for ties to criminal groups or criminal records.

The smack-down between Ramush Haradinaj and Hashim Thaci is continuing.  The two former KLA-commanders and political rivals have been pitted against each other since Haradinaj’s acquittal by the Hague last year.  The latest in the news is Haradinaj accusing the government of Thaci of losing Kosovo day-by-day.  Haradinaj is also strongly opposing the decision not to hold general elections in Kosovo this year.  It will be interesting to see just how this fight will get or how ugly it might become.  Of course, Haradinaj might just be a little peeved that he lost out on being Kosovo’s Man of the Year to both Thaci and Albin Kurti (see below).

MTCowgirl’s Interesting Articles/Commentary

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Kosovo Army Begins Operations

The Kosovo Security Force became operational today bringing an end to the Kosovo Protection Corps (TMK/KPC). The KSF will be lightly armed and will be comprised of 2500 members of the various ethnic groups of Kosovo. It is expected that the new army will be under the supervision of NATO. Serbia has vowed to fight against the formation of KSF diplomatically and is expected to take the verbal battle to the United Nations.  NATO is additionally ready to consider suspending the security zone between Serbia and Kosovo should it be requested.

Two damning reports on Kosovo have emerged this week.  The Council of Europe’s anti-torture committee has condemned the Kosovo Police Service for police brutality and Human Rights Watch stated that there have been no improvements in human rights since independence.

Meanwhile, it has been decided that only local elections will be held this year in Kosovo but general elections will not take place for two years.  The Ahtisaari plan for Kosovo’s independence called for elections within nine months but the constitution which came into effect in July 2008 states that elections cannot be held for two years.  Disagreements between the Kosovo political parties forced the decision into the hands of the European Union’s International Civilian Office which supports holding local elections and the decision that parliamentary elections could be held off until 2011.  However the two largest opposition parties in Kosovo have joined forces in rejecting the postponement of elections calling the decision totalitarian.

MTCowgirl’s Interesting Articles/Commentary