Thursday, December 9, 2010

Kosovo Pre-Election

Kosovo has been busy gearing up for the 12 December elections but not all has been going smoothly.  A Bosniak member of the Central Election Committee (CEC) was assassinated in his vehicle in the northern town of Leposavic.  Additionally, it has been reported that several parties have breached the election campaign rules in Kosovo.  Most of the breaches are in reference to involving children in the campaign process by either bringing children into political appearances or blocking regular school hours for campaigning.  It also has been reported that 60,000 Euros have been spent by the political parties for campaigning with more than half of the amount being spent by Haschim Thaci's PDK party.

The EU-ICO representative, Peter Feith, has announced that the elections will be "heavily monitored" by EU, international, and local NGOs.  France 24 news painted a rather pessimistic and grim outlook for Kosovo post elections but one could hold more hope than their guest expert that the elections will bring needed change and hope for the future.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hopefully Fixed!!!

Whew...I just finished going back and correcting the old posts that showed up blank.  Hopefully I got all of them :)

In the news, with the upcoming elections, Thaci has been called out by the European Parliament for Kosovo representative, Ulrike Lunacek, over his promise that Kosovo would have visa liberalization within 15 months of his re-election.  Thaci has also promised to raise salaries which directly violates Kosovo's agreement with the IMF over the amount of Kosovo's GDP that goes towards salaries.  Of course, this wouldn't be the first time that a politician has made false promises but I'm not sure if they have been so publicly refuted!

28 November marks Flag Day in Kosovo.  Several Vetevendosje activists were arrested in Lipjan during the celebrations for replacing the state flags of Kosovo with Albanian flags.  Vetevendosje activists in Gjakova prevented other members from being arrested and said that the police of "insulted the activists, the whole movement and leader Albin Kurti, calling him a pro-Serb element."  Ummm, yeah, isn't this the same guy that's running on a platform of Albanian unification and Greater Albania???

After news emerged about Enver Sekiraqa living free in Ireland, he reportedly has been arrested and is being held by Irish police.  However, Kosovo may face difficulty over extraditing him to stand trial for crimes committed in Kosovo as there currently is no extradition treaty between Ireland and Kosovo.  Does this all sound a bit familiar?

Al-Jazeera has published an interesting article about how Kosovars tolerate fake marriages to obtain residency and citizenship abroad.  According to the article, Kosovar men often divorce their Kosovar wives, go abroad and marry Westerners until they get residency.  Then they divorce their second wives and bring their Kosovar families abroad with them.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Well, it looks like something went wrong when I was adding my historical posts and many of the older ones showed up blank.  I'll have to go back and try to update them again...

Friday, November 26, 2010

Done Re-Posting Historical Posts!

Whew, it took awhile but I am officially finished posting all my historical posts dating back to 2002!!!  I'd like to welcome any new visitors to the blog and hope that I can continue updating on a regular basis!!!  As I said a few days ago, with the upcoming elections and talks with Serbia...these are exciting times for Kosovo and the future is wide open!!!  Now that the historical posts are done, I will be adding my Kosovo Photo Albums to share :)

A representative from Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) will be conducting a fact-finding mission in Kosovo at the end of November.  The focus will be on the political situation and the positions of the communities in Kosovo (if you remember, Serbia is encouraging all Serbs to boycott the election in December). 

The results of the vote in Rahovac has been certified by the Election Commission.  As a result of the AAK complaint about missing votes, a re-count was held and the results corrected to show LDK and AAK leading in the number of votes with PDK in third place.  A run-off election between LDK and AAK will be held now in the coming weeks.

More than 150 election experts from Europe have arrived in Kosovo to monitor both the campaign and voting process for the 12 December snap elections.  In other election news, LDK head Isa Mustafa has joined in criticism of Acting Kosovo President Jakup Krasniqi regarding Krasniqi's involvement in campaigning for PDK while holding office.  Mustafa has stated that Krasniqi is breaching the Kosovo constitution and called for PM Haschim Thaci's resignation in wake of the Rahovac election.  Also in the news, AAK has announced that they expect leader Ramush Haradinaj to return to Kosovo before the selection of the post of Prime Minister.  Haradinaj is currently awaiting retrial in the Hague for war crimes although he was previously acquitted of the same charges.  It was added that AAK expects the Haradinaj trial to be concluded by March if not earlier.

MTCowgirl's Kosovo News

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Updating Continues!!!

Well, today I was able to finish uploading posts from 2006.  I have included a few posts from earlier years but am still not finished with 2004-2005 yet...but hopefully soon!!!

Bajram Asllani, a convicted terrorist wanted in the US, has hit the news again.  For those that don't remember, EU judges rejected a request from the US to extradite Asllani for trial in the US as Kosovo does not have any extradition treaty with the US.

MTCowgirl's Kosovo News

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Shots Fired at EULEX Vehicle in Downtown Pristina

This morning, a window in an EULEX vehicle was reportedly shot out not far from the downtown Police headquarters.  The possibility that the window was damaged by a rock is also being explored.  It is not yet known if the vehicle or the senior police official in the vehicle were specifically targeted.  No one was injured in the attack.

In other Kosovo news, extraordinary mayoral elections following the resignation of the mayor in July for personal reasons in the town of Rahovec/Orahovac did not result in a clear winner and run-offs are expected.  LDK beat both PDK and AAK out by a small margin.  AAK has presented documents which they claim prove that they had a larger percentage of the votes cast than what was reported and are stating that they should be participating in the run-off instead of PDK.

Also in election news, Acting President Jakup Krasniqi has been asked to stop campaigning ahead of the 12 December snap elections by a Kosovo NGO which believes his involvement in a political party could be a violation of the Kosovo constitution.  While being under investigation is not an indication of guilt, senior international officials and Kosovo-based groups have criticized the number of candidates appearing on the election rolls that have pending court cases.  A group of Serbian political parties have jointly published a list of candidates for the east of Kosovo.  While Serbia has encouraged a boycott of the elections, the Kosovo government and some Kosovo-Serbian political parties are urging participation lest the community be left without full representation in the new government.

After being arrested back in July on charges of corruption, Kosovo's Central Bank governer Haschim Rexhepi has been released on bail of 20,000 Euros.  The trial for Rexhepi is expected to start within the next six months to a year.

After leading a revolt against the Serbian Orthodox Church, the ultra-nationalist and renegade Arch-Bishop Artemije has been stripped of his ranks by the church and escorted by police out of the monastery that he and his supporters broke into to hold mass.

Moving Time...

It seems like it is time for transition again.  Thanks to my dad, I found that I could continue blogging about Kosovo without having to pay for web-hosting and a domain name each year (yea, Dad!)  I am sure that regular followers have noticed that I have not been blogging quite as frequently as I once did and that can be attributed with life interfering with the "quality" time I spend on the internet :)  So far I have managed to add all my blog posts from 2008-Present and I will continue to add previous year posts over the next weeks (they go back quite a ways...this blog was started in 2001, my first year living in Kosovo!!!)

There have been quite a few major events since I last blogged including but not limited to the melt-down of the Kosovo government and upcoming snap elections on 12 December 2010 (which will be the first since the 2008 declaration of independence!!!)  These are interesting and exciting times in Kosovo and for regular followers I promise to try to do better at updating the information here :)

MTCowgirl's Kosovo News

MTCowgirl's Interesting News Articles/Commentary

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Attack of the Crazy Cat Lady!

Well, technically she didn’t have any cats but while driving home for lunch today, Troy and I were attacked by a woman of questionable mental health who has been on a stone throwing rampage against EULEX vehicles in Pristina.  Quite cunningly, the woman placed several large stones in the roadway causing a backup of traffic as normal vehicles had to swerve around them.  Then it appeared that she laid in wait for an EULEX vehicle to pass and bam, she throws a rock at your window!  So far she has managed to break the windows of 3-4 EULEX vehicles this week and allegedly smashed the windows of a KPS vehicle last month.

Troy was able to detain the woman until EULEX Security and KPS showed up but as usual in Kosovo, it seemed like KPS was reluctant to do anything (you know, paperwork is such a headache!) and from appearances, the woman will probably be smashing out more windows from EULEX vehicles in the near future.  An interesting side note is that the woman had a pile of stones pre-selected for her attacks on top of a cardboard UCK sign and had note attached to some of the rocks…

Kosovo Begins Exhuming Suspected Mass Grave

Kosovo authorities have begun an investigation into a suspected mass grave near the northern Kosovo town of Vushtrri.  The site, an abandoned coal mine, is thought to contain the bodies of Serb citizens allegedly killed by ethnic Albanians in 1998.  This is reportedly the second attempt at exhuming the grave as the work in the first attempt was halted due to a landslide.  Kosovo authorities also plan on investigating another suspected grave but it must first be cleared of landmines before work begins.

Typically close neighbors with good political cooperation, Kosovo and Albania appear to be headed to their first disagreement over plans to build a hydro-electric powerplant in the south of Kosovo.  Reportedly, Albania is concerned that the Kosovo plant will divert needed water from Albania’s hydro-electric plants and affect their power production.

There are many hopes in Kosovo following the International Court of Justice decision on the declaration of independence.  One such hope is that the decision will boost tourism and economic development in Kosovo.  I can only hope that tourist who are interested in Kosovo wait until all the road construction is done!!!  I can only imagine the first impression of a person traveling to Peja/Pec would have if they left the airport and suddenly find themselves traveling halfway to Peja/Pec down a dusty non-paved road or even more fun, getting stuck in traffic at the monster roundabout at the Mitrovica bridge and Bill Clinton!  Kosovo has a LOT of tourism potential but as I have said before, the people here still need to realize the potential and start taking care for their wonderful nature (so that means no more graffiti and throwing trash anywhere you want!!!)

MTCowgirl’s Interesting News Articles/Commentary

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Wedding Season

The months of July & August have been deemed “Wedding Season” due to the large influx of Kosovo expats who flood back in their shiny BMW, Audi, and Mercedes and evenings punctuated with automatic “happy fire” from weddings.  Celebratory gunfire is just one of those things that probably will never be considered against the norm in Kosovo.  Occassionally people do get injured by stray bullets but I imagine that until a child is tragically killed there won’t be much public outcry against the AK-47 “happy fire”.  Despite the negative aspect of celebratory gunfire, a neat thing about Kosovo weddings is the vehicle procession.

It is hard to give true justice to a Kosovo wedding vehicle procession in describing it but I’ll try…basically, you gather all your relatives and friends who have vehicles.  You decorate the lead vehicle with the biggest (and I mean BIG!) Albanian flag you can find and some plastic flowers/streamers if you can find some.  All the other vehicles that will follow the lead vehicle will put bath or dish towels under their windsheild wiper to signify that they are part of the wedding party.  If your guests have a sunroof, someone must be poking out of the sunroof, dancing to the traditional Albanian music blaring from everyone’s car stereos.  If you don’t have a sunroof, you are obligated to either sit on the windowsill of the moving vehicle, put your arms out the windows, or dance in place in the car.  Don’t forget to honk and flash your lights at oncoming traffic…  Like I said, it’s hard to give the experience justice for those who have seen a wedding procession here!

ICJ Ruling Leads to More Questions than Answers?

The recent International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling on Kosovo’s declaration of independence seems to have lead to more questions than answers in the aftermath of the court’s non-binding opinion.  There have been both humorous takes such as If Kosovo can secede, what stops Mexifornia from declaring independence from the US and more serious articles such as “New Politicial Situation” according to Karabakh President. Whether the international court and players like it, people are seriously looking at the court’s opinion and asking “how does this relate to me” or “how can I use this to my advantage?”

Of course, depending on who you ask,  the ICJ ruling can and cannot be applied to other frozen conflicts around the world from Indonesia to the Russian Federation republics.  Here is a collection of various articles from both sides on the issue:

Thursday, July 22, 2010

ICJ Issues Opinion on Kosovo & ICTY Rules on Haradinaj Acquittal Appeal

The International Court of Justice, the highest court of the United Nations, has issued a non-binding opinion on the declaration of independence by Kosovo stating that international law does not prohibit declarations of independence and therefore Kosovo did not violate international lawwhen unilaterally declaring independence from Serbia in 2008.  Kosovo is expecting a rash of new recognitions following the ruling which has bolstered its stance that there is no further need for status negotiations with Serbia.  Serbia on the other hand has warned that the ruling will lead to a dangerous precedent of unilateral declarations of independence and destabilization of troubled areas.  Almost immediately following the announcement of the decision, there were a few bursts of fireworks (at 4:20pm it was a little hard to see them but I am sure there will be more tonight as the celebration in Pristina starts to kick in!)

In other very important news, the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia (ICTY) has ruled that Ramush Haradinaj and Idriz Balaj must re-stand trial for war crimes following their acquittal.  Judges dismissed the charges against Haradinaj and Balaj for lack of evidence and prosecution cited witness intimidation.  In the appeal, the Tribunal President said that the trial judges failed to see the significance of intimidation which lead to a “miscarriage of justice“.  It is still unclear if the alleged intimidated witnesses will testify during the new trial which will take place in front of a new panel which still has yet been chosen and date set.  Haradinaj was taken into custody following the announcement but Balaj was not present in court and so far has not been taken into custody.  Both the Kosovo government and KLA Veterans Association issued statements of support for Haradinaj and concern that the retrial harms the political process in Kosovo.

As a follow-up to the news about the arrest and release of suspected terrorist Bajram Asllani, a panel of EULEX judges has upheld the decision not to extraditehim to the US stating that the Kosovo legal code does not permit extradition to other countries when the alleged crime has been committed in Kosovo.  The case is now being referred to the Kosovo Supreme Court.  It is not yet known if Asllani will face a similar situation regarding the 2009 court conviction for terrorism by Serbian courts as that information appears to be just given as a side note in most news rather than a disturbing fact to be corrected.

EULEX has continued its fight against corruption in Kosovo by putting focus on the Post and Telecom Company(PTK).  EULEX and the anti-corruption task force conducted raids in Pristina and Peja last week in various locations including the company’s top official, Shyqyri Haxha.  In addition to accusations of embezzlement, the company is under scrutiny for fraudulently issuing a contract to the Dardaphone Company “Z Mobile” for a multi-million Euro contract.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

EULEX Arrests Health Ministry Official for Corruption

The fight against corruption by EULEX continues with the morning arrest of the former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health and current advisor, Ilir Tolaj, for tax evasion.  A joint task-force of EULEX and the Kosovo Police anti-corruption force are reported to have searched three different locations including the University Clinic of Pristina.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Blast Kills One in North Mitrovica

A blast ripped through a crowd of Serb demonstators in the North of Mitrovica on Friday killing one and injuring 11 others.  The protestors gathered to demonstrate against the opening of a civil registry office in the North by the Kosovo government.  Blame for the incident has been laid at both doors with “carelessly armed Serbs” being blamed by the Kosovo Interior Minister, Bajram Rexhepi, and the Serbian National Council calling it a terrorist action by “Albanian separatists”.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Shoot-Out Leaves Four Unidentified Albanians Dead

Four unidentifed men (Albanians from Kosovo & Macedonia) were shot and killed near Vitina/Viti on 21 June under unknown circumstances.  Five people arrived at the Vitina police station in a vehicle that was bullet-ridden.  Three people were declared dead-on-arrival and a fourth died after being sent to the hospital.  As the shooting occurred in a village near the border with Macedonia there is speculation that the incident may be related to the recent crack-down on arms traficking in the area by ethnic Albanians.
The Kosovo Albanian man, Bajram Asllani, arrested last week for extradiction to the US to face terrorism charges has been released by an EULEX judge who ruled that Kosovo did not have a valid treaty for extradiction to the US.  While the prosecutor examines the judge’s decision and decided to appeal or not, Asllani will be required to report to the police twice a week.

MTCowgirl’s Interesting News/Commentary

Life at the Speed of Several WTFs a Minute

Traffic in Pristina is always a popular subject to blog about even more so after the declaration of independence when the Kosovo government promptly ripped up all major roads and brought traffic to a grinding, bumpy halt in all directions.  The newest WTF moment occurred on the Monday morning commute to work for most people.

The two-lane bridge to Mitrovica has been closed and is due to be tore down.  With Bill Clinton Boulevard ripped up and down to two lanes and all the traffic being diverted into that mess, most people who travel the 5-7kms to work were stuck in traffic for nearly two hours on Monday morning leading to a collective WTF moment for most of the international community.  Evidentally traffic planning does not exist or is not a particularly strong suit for the Ministry of Transportation.  In addition to the closure of the Mitrovica highway bridge, roadblocks have been placed on one of the roads forcing all traffic from downtown to divert into the road construction on Bill Clinton Boulevard and all traffic coming from FKP (Fushe Kosova/o Polje) to also divert into the nightmare!

Besides the impossible traffic situation, I had a WTF moment today when I read that the “Brotherhood and Unity” Monument near the Kosovo Government Building has been selected to be destroyed and replaced with a moment and square dedicated to Kosovo Albanian hero Adem Jashari!  The “Brotherhood and Unity” monument was dedicated in 1961 and is commonly referred to by the internationals as the “Fork Monument” as the three pillars representing Serb, Albanian, and Montenegrian peoples.  It seems that history or cultural preservation is not a consideration for the Kosovo government which has also approved a move to tear down the historic Union Hotel to pave way for a square dedicated to Ibrahim Rugova…a mere two-three blocks from the “Brotherhood and Unity” monument.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Update – Kosovo Terrorism Arrest

The man arrested yesterday in Mitrovica has been identified as Bajram Asllani, 29, who went by the nickname of “Ebu Hattab”.  According to the charges, Asllani is suspected of plotting attacks against Americans and non-supportive Muslims in Kosovo.  Asllani is accused of participating in a conspiracy including eight other defendants.  He was reportedly working with suspects in North Carolina to secure funds to purchase land in Kosovo to create a weapons storage area and training camp.
This is not the first terrorism charge for Asllani.  He was conviced by a Serbian court in absentia in 2009 and sentenced to eight years in confinement but being that he was in Kosovo, it appears that he never was extradited to serve his sentence.  Also in 2007, Asllani was placed under house arrest by Kosovo authorities.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Kosovo & Murphy’s Law

Troy & I couldn’t handle the heat anymore and broke down, purchasing a 270 Euro air-conditioner wall unit for our flat.  Some friends called us wimps, told us we were getting soft because after all, we’ve lived in Las Vegas and Florida…but man, we have air-conditioning in both of those places when the temperatures spike over 80F!  Even Smokey, a long-haired Kosovo Shephard (that’s what I call him, in all actuality, he’s a mutt!), has been looking about as miserable as we’ve been feeling.  I suppose the coolest place in the house has been the shower stall in our bathroom because I walked in the other night to find him curled up sleeping inside the shower :)

So back to the story, we broke down and bought an air-conditioner!  Yes!!!  Since the installation required drilling into the walls, we asked our landlady if she would find someone to install the unit for us.  So she brought three workers that she trusts to inspect and then the next day install the air-con.  Good!  Yesterday, the three-man crew worked for a few hours in the evening to mount the unit on the wall and hook up the compressor outside.  Excellent.  The room cooled down fantastically the hour or so that we ran the air-con after they left.  As we climbed into bed in our new cool room, I noticed that there was water dripping from the bottom.  Suddenly as if the air-con knew I was watching, a cascade of water flowed down the wall and electrical cord straight into the power outlet!  Hesitating slightly (I didn’t want to elecrocute myself…oh, that’s another story to share!) I ended up unplugging the air-con.  After a quick inspection, we discovered that the workers had installed the drainage pipe so that the water must flow uphill in order to go drain outside…hmmm!  Needless to say, we have asked for the crew to come back tonight to fix the drainage so that it goes downhill and outside :)

The whole thing about worrying about getting electrocuted reminds me of a recent conversation with friends about the daily police reports on activities and occurences in Kosovo.  There seems to be a rash of electrocutions while bathing lately.  According to the reports, a short in the electrical wiring of the water heaters goes through the water tank and pipes to the shower and eventually showers electricity-laden water on the person taking the shower.  How freaky is that?!  Before we were just worried about the landlords installing the tanks inside the shower stalls but now we have to wonder if the electricity will just flow with the water?!  Yikes!

Kosovo Makes Terrorism Related Arrest

The Kosovo Police arrested a Kosovo Albanian man in the Mitrovica region today upon the request of the United States in coordination with EULEX Justice.  The unidentified suspect is wanted for extradition to the US to stand trial in North Carolina for two charges of “the provision of material support or resources to terrorists” and “support for terrorism and conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim, or injure persons or damage property in a foreign country.”

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Kurti Found Guilty of Obstructing Official Persons – Other Charges Dropped

Albin Kurti was found guilty of obstructing official persons and sentenced to nine months but was immediately released for time already served (jail and house arrest following the February 2007 riots).  The other charges of participating in a crowd committing criminal acts and inciting violence were dropped.  Kurti acted as his own lawyer and told the court that he did not recognize them.  The panel of judges was made up of one local judge and two international EULEX judges.

TheVetevendosje political platform has started emerging following his announcement about running for the 2011 parliamentary elections which largely has been overshadowed by his arrest and accusations of police brutality by the KPS.  Vetevendosje appears to be running on a campaign of establishing what has been referred to as “Greater Albania” and the annulment of the Ahtisaari Package for Kosovo.

The activities of human traffickers in Kosovo has come under scrutiny again following a report by the US Department of State which termed Kosovo as a “center for human trafficking“.  The report focuses on women trafficked from Eastern Europe for prostitution and Roma children who are trafficked for begging.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Hot, Hot, Hot!

It has become beyond hot in Kosovo these days with temperatures in the high-80′s to low-90′s F.  While the temperatures are bearable in other locales, one fact that makes Kosovo a bit unbearable during the summertime is the lack of air-conditioning.  Most apartments and many restaurants lack any type of air-conditioning which makes the dog days of summer pretty miserable.  Even Smokey has been looking so miserable that we have contemplated shaving him with our clippers to give him some small bit of relief!

In addition to the temperature outside, the political climate has been heating up.  Of course the continuing saga of corruption in the Thaci government goes on but also yesterday KPS arrested Vetevendosje leader, Albin Kurti, whose trial was postponed last month to today.  Vetevendosje has claimed police brutality (as usual) and went out in search of vehicles to overturn (also normal).  A total of 2 EULEX vehicles and 4 KPS vehicles suffered damage.  Surprisingly after refusing to engage in politics in the past, Kurti announced that his Vetevendosje party will run in the 2011 elections for parliment which should prove to be interesting campaign to watch to say the least (I wonder if their rallies will include turning over vehicles and vandalizing property with spraypaint?!)  This announcement coupled with the arrest of Kurti has lead to accusations that the arrest was politically motivated…but in all actuality, Kurti has so far failed to appear in court since the spring and was due to appear in court in the morning and also had an outstanding arrest warrant which was failed to be carried out earlier…so is it really politics or just KPS finally getting their act together and executing an arrest warrant within 48 hours of a court hearing?

How about some interesting news/commentary articles on Kosovo???

MTCowgirl’s Interesting News/Commentary

Monday, May 31, 2010

Protestors Clash with EULEX, KFOR During Kosovo-Serb Elections

Riot police and KFOR kept protestors from each other on opposite sides of the Ibar Bridge in Mitrovica over the weekend as Serbia held elections in the North as tensions flared.  Albanian demonstrators gathered in the South while Serbs gathered in the North at the infamous Mitrovica bridge, a symbol of the city’s division while police used tear gas to keep the two from clashing.  The result of the Serbian election is said to be for the Serb Party for Progress lead by Tomislav Nikoliq.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Kosovo Hotel Hits News and Takes A Hit

Kosovo has a lot of tourist opportunities but when there is news about Kosovo, it’s rarely about the beautiful nature or in this week’s case, it questions if one of the landmark hotels is the Worst Hotel in The World (Grand Hotel).  But honestly, while it doesn’t flatter or help Kosovo’s tourism, the article is pretty much spot on in regards to opinion and reality at the Grand Hotel.  The rooms are completely overpriced, shoddy in appearance and decor, and the outside atmosphere is less than impressive.  However, there currently is a multi-million Euro renovation on-going (aka drills, jackhammers, and other loud noises to wake you in the early hours or keep you up at night!) and there are rumors that the group owning the Sheraton Resorts in Turkey will purchase the hotel and make it a Sheraton francise out of Turkey…that would be interesting to say the least!!!

But back to the nature in Kosovo…it’s awesome!  Everyone who comes to Kosovo should go spend a day exploring Rugova Canyon near Peja/Pec.  It is some of Kosovo’s best nature and a real treat to get out of the dusty cities.  Renting a small wood cabin only costs 25 Euros per night and you can have some fantastic fresh grilled trout along the river.

The trip to Boge Ski Resort is an adventure in itself as you wind along the small dirt road that seems to never end.  Curious cows and sheep watch you as you make your way up into the mountains giving you a feel for what it’s like to live in “real” Kosovo…or the way basically everyone who doesn’t live in the city lives :)
For those looking for a short jaunt outside Pristina, a visit to the Gadime caves is a must.  And you 100% need to get the older gentleman who gives the tours.  Not only is his English better than the other guides but he is a real hoot and gives an informative, humorous tour of the caves.  A constant temperature (5C) during the year, a light sweater is recommended for those who get chilled easily.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Radical Islamist Detained in Kosovo

Kosovo Police detained five men described as being radical Islamists in a suspected violent plot.  The two Kosovar Albanians and three Kosovo Bosnians were later sentenced to 30 days in jail.  While the details of the plotted attack have not been made public, a large amount of weapons, bulletproof vests, computers, and binoculars were seized during the arrest.

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

Friday, May 14, 2010

EULEX Posts Local Jobs

Get those pens ready!  EULEX has posted its latest call for applications for local jobs and the deadline in 27 May 2010!  It is rumored that EULEX will only do calls for applications 3-4 times a year for international jobs and possibly less for local positions.
For the application, visit EULEX’s Local Job Site and a list of the jobs currently available is located at the Local Job Descriptions/Synopsis page.  Best of luck!!!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Four Killed in Border Shoot-Out

Four people have been killed in a shoot-out with Macedonian police at the Kosovo border area.  Macedonian police reportedly tried to stop a van suspected of carrying arms when the occupants opened fire.  The police returned fire and killed four passengers in the van which turned out to be carrying a large amount of weapons and explosives.  This is the second such case in the past week or two with arms smuggling from Kosovo into Macedonia.  The Kosovo-Macedonia border area is notorious for being a smuggling route for weapons and was the focal point for an armed conflict in 2001 which threatened to break into a civil war in Macedonia between ethnic Albanians and Macedonians.  Already NATO has expressed concern over the recent smuggling seizures and shoot-outs.

The fall-out over the raid of the Kosovo Ministry of Transportation by EULEX authorities continues.  The coalition government between LDK (Democratic League Party) and PDK (Democratic Party – yeah, I know.  They basically have the same name!) is reportedly shaky after the investigation into alleged corruption by the Ministry was revealed by EULEX.  Kosovo Prime Minister Haschim Thaci has accussed EULEX of making a media circus and of intefering with the judicial system.  The acting chief prosecutor, Johann van Vreeswijk,  for the case has defended EULEX’s actions by saying that the raid was conducted in proportion to the seriousness of the case and that it has been so ordered by the judge.  He also warned those involved in corruption and organized crime to “start sweating” and expressed dissatisfaction at Thaci’s remarks that EULEX was conducting a “political war”.

More news has come out on the mass grave discovered near the Kosovo border in Serbia.  The grave thought to contain approximately 250 remains was discovered under a parking lot and building in the town of Rudnica.  The building and parking lot in the small village were constructed in 1999 should have raised suspicion according to an investigative journalist and the Serbian war crimes prosecutor has stated that EULEX gave a key tip to assist in the location of the grave.

MTCowgirl’s Kosovo News
  • Mass grave find shows Serbia slowly facing up to the past
  • Kosovo bans Serbian buses and public transportation from Gracanica due to licensing
  • Serbia issues notices on 150 Kosovars suspected of war crimes
  • Serbian telecomms re-established in Kosovo

Monday, May 10, 2010

Serbia Finds Mass Grave

Serbia has announced that it is deploying investigators to the administrative line with Kosovo to investigate a mass grave reported to hold the remains of some 250 persons.  The mass grave was located in a pond near the town of Raska as Serbian war crimes prosecutors worked with EULEX.  Investigators failed to find the suspected grave two years ago in the area where it is believed that up to 400 people were buried during 1998-1999.

In response to statements criticizing EULEX for the search of the Ministry of Transportation by Kosovo government officials, the Chief Prosecutor has come back that EULEX would not have conducted the searches or be looking into the matter unless they had evidence of corruption.  The local news has been full of articles denouncing EULEX for making a “media spectacle” from leading PDK politicians, including Prime Minister Thaci.  According to Kosovo law, if found guilty, Fatmir Limaj could face up to 55 years in prison for corruption or misuse of funds as alleged.

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

Friday, April 30, 2010

Tensions Rise as Serbs Left without Communications

Tensions are continuing to rise as Kosovo Serbs are left without their normal Serbia-provided telecommunications in enclaves around Kosovo following the destruction of sites by the Kosovo Regulatory Agency.  Four communication sites and a police station in the north of Kosovo have been attacked  following the actions of the Kosovo government in apparent retaliation.

The action has been interpreted as putting pressure or forcibly integrating Kosovo’s Serbian population into the Kosovo institutions.  After disabling the Serbian-providers, Kosovo reportedly was handing out free SIM cards to populations left without any telephone service.

In addition to the mobile phone service, it has been reported that Serbian TV and radio stations with licenses to operate in Kosovo has also had their equipment destroyed during the cut-off by the Kosovo Regulatory Agency.  The Serbian population in Gracanica has vowed to protest daily until their services are re-established and Serbia is calling the move a “violation of human rights” and reportedly has petitioned to EULEX to defend the rights of Serbs in Kosovo and is going to petition to UNMIK.

MTCowgirl’s Kosovo News

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

12 Injured During Kurti Arrest Attempt

12 people were injured during an attempt by Kosovo Police to arrest Albin Kurti following a funeral on Monday.  Kurti was spotted leaving the funeral in a vehicle which KPS attempted to stop but the driver accelerated and ran over three officers resulting in slight injuries to the officers.  The vehicle was later stopped and the driver was arrested following the incident.  Vetevendosje activists also pelted KPS with stones.  The hearing was postponed for the ninth time today after Kurti and his defense lawyer failed to appear in court.

Big in the news this weekend was a move by the Kosovo Regulation Authority on Communications against telecom services by Serbian companies in Kosovo.  The Kosovo authority announced that it was shutting down the Serbian services as they are not licensed and have been deemed to be operating illegally in Kosovo following independence.  The move has angered Serbian residents of which approximately 40,000 rely on the Serbian mobile phone systems for service.

The news continues on the difficulty of the Serbian families returned to the Zac village near Istog after several nights of harassment.  Both the Kosovo government and UN have condemned the incidents.

MTCowgirl’s Kosovo News

EULEX Police Raid Kosovo Ministry of Transporation

As part of an ongoing investigation of the Special Prosecutor’s Office, EULEX police in plain clothes reportedly searched the offices of the Ministry of Transport and escorted staff from the premises today.  The Ministry of Transport and its head, Fatmir Limaj, have been the focus of many corruption allegations in the media in the past months.  It has been reported that the head of ICO, Peter Feith, has on occassion presented a case for the removal of Limaj to Kosovo PM Haschim Thaci regarding the alleged corruption but Thaci was said to be “unconvinced” by the evidence presented.  So far, no official charges have been presented against Limaj or anyone in the Ministry of Transport.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

EULEX Struggles to Maintain Reputation

While the Albin Kurti Comedy Tour continues with it’s eighth postponement (or is the ninth?  I’m quickly losing track!) and complaints that the Kosovo judiciary is weak, EULEX now is scrambling to maintain it’s reputation and integrity after 16 Romanian police officers and their bus driver were caught smuggling alcohol and tobacco out of Kosovo.  Macedonian Customs officials found 314 cartons of cigarettes and 133 liters of alcohol hidden in the officer’s bags and the trunk of their bus.  EULEX has launched an internal investigation into the officers who were fined by the Macedonian authorities and released.

A group of Serb returnees the Zac village near Istog have been facing protests by Albanian villagers and reportedly were stoned upon their return to the village.  The Albanian villagers have alleged that the returned families participated in the 1999 war.  Fearful for their safety, the Serb families reportedly are considering returning back to Central Serbia which does not bode well for Kosovo’s establishment of tolerance and a multi-ethnic society or the soon-to-be forced repatriations from Western European countries of asylum seekers from the 1999 war.

MTCowgirl’s Kosovo News

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Albin Kurti Comedy Tour

Despite re-opening the case for the February 2007 riots against Vetevendosje leader, Albin Kurti, EULEX has failed to hold a court hearing due to the defense lawyers refusing to cooperate and the failure of the Kosovo Police to execute an arrest warrant for Kurti.  The announcement of the trial’s postponement have become more of a normal occurence rather than a surprise.  The trial against Albin Kurti looks more to be turning into a drawn out demonstration of a lack of willingness of Kosovo officials (both police and justice) for stepping outside their personal politicial beliefs and opinions and getting down to doing their job.
Yes, there is a petition with 175,000 signatures against the EULEX case against Albin Kurti but in refusing to cooperate or recognize the legitimacy of the court proceedings is quite like the stand taken by both Slobodan Milosevic and Karadic against ICTY.  So does that mean that because we don’t like the case being prosecuted we can just refuse to show up at court and throw eggs at the appointed defense lawyers who are just trying to do the job they’ve been given?  I somehow don’t think that this attitude would fly in a normal functioning society!  Albin Kurti is missing an opportunity to show the international community that as proclaimed by the masses he is innocent of wrong-doing but refusing to show up in court does not go far in conveying that message.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Joy of Being an International in Kosovo

The weather has quite sucked today with pouring rain.  Naturally traffic backed up because quite simply with all the pollution in Kosovo, the roads become quite slick when the water hits the fine coal dust from Obilic and the local population often fails to adjust their driving speed and skills to the changing weather conditions.  Even more interesting, there often is an attitude of “this is my world, you are just living in it”

A good example of this is the accident that my husband Troy had today while sitting at a red light.  Normally when you are third in line at a red light you don’t have to worry about any traffic hitting you but alas, someone managed today which probably should be recorded in some record book somewhere in the category “Seriously?  I mean seriously?!”

So sitting third back in a line of traffic, Troy got hit in the front passenger panel by a vehicle trying to cut in from the side.  With a median in the way and the huge blue EULEX patrol sitting in line, the man driving didn’t have anywhere to go and evidently was too impatient to wait for traffic to pull up so he proceeded to drive into the side of the EULEX car.  Now the story interestingly enough does not end there!
After proceeding to scratch the side of the Patrol, the offender made eye contact with Troy, backed up, and then left acceleration marks as he took off the opposite direction!  Probably the first time I’ve heard of a person leaving tire tracks away from the scene of the accident.  Oh yeah, and the story continues from there.  EULEX Security shows up and so does KPS.

KPS tells the three international police officers that they do not believe the accident happened the way that they have been told, oh yeah except the guy who caused the accident fled the scene.  Naturally telling a carful of police officers that they are lying went over well.  So continuing in the accident report, Troy and his colleagues managed to get the license plate of the vehicle that hit them.  But of course, KPS has an answer for that too and says that their vehicle registration database is inaccurate so they probably won’t be able to find out who caused the accident.  So basically, hit & run accident, KPS doesn’t feel like doing any work and there probably will be no outcome for the report.  In short, if you want to drive like a kamikazi and play bumper cars in traffic, do it in a KS-plated vehicle and flee the scene of the accident because KPS won’t believe the person reporting the accident and won’t investigate the license plate because their database is supposedly so outdated that all the information must be wrong :P

Friday, April 9, 2010

Kosovo Government Reshuffles

Rumored to be in response to recent criticisms over corruption, on 31 March six (6) Kosovo ministers were sacked and replaced within the Kosovo government by the Kosovo PM Haschim Thaci (the Kosovo President, Fatmir Sejdiu denies involvement in the reshuffle).  Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprising, is that the minister alleged to be the most corrupt, Fatmir Limaj, remains in place with no changes.  The ministers of culture, health, justice, and the general director of the Kosovo Police Service were all fired with little official explanation although it is rumored to be for low performance.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Corruption in Kosovo

For a while now, corruption has been big in the headlines of Kosovo news.  An unnamed minister is accussed of stealing millions of Euros and when Kosovo PM Haschim Thaci was presented with the evidence, it is reported that he was “unconvinced“.  This has resulted in opposition leader, Ramush Haridinaj, to cry foul and lead to speculation that the high level government corruption starts with Thaci himself.

The sudden focus on tackling corruption can stem from several sources.  One is the reluctance of foreign investors in Kosovo who are scared away by the high level of corruption not just in business but also the top levels of the Kosovo government.  Another reason is that it has been two years since Kosovo declared independence.  The main focus of politics before now was the declaration of independence itself and creation of a consitution.  Now the Kosovo people have their independence and are looking to focus their attention on other pressing political matters that affect their daily lives.

For years, watch groups have issued report after report on the rampant corruption in Kosovo but now it seems people are finally starting to pay attention and demand action.  It will be interesting to see what the future holds for Kosovo politics.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Minor Earthquake Rattles Kosovo

A minor 4.8 magnitude earthquake centered near Istog/Zubin Potok (depending on the source) occurred yesterday at approximately 1435 hours.  Minor building damage has been reported at schools and the Mitrovica Districit Court and Police Station prompting the closure of the buildings until a safety inspection can be carried out.  Both UNMIK and EULEX evacuated staff from buildings for some time after the quake.

NATO and KSF have reported that the temporary freeze on cooperation has ended following a disagreement on KSF display of weapons at a KLA Commemoration ceremony.  According to a statement released by KFOR, KSF will continue to be able to carry weapons at ceremonial occassions with the agreement of the KFOR commander.  KFOR also reiterated that KSF does not have a military or defensive role as that task is being handled by NATO at this time.

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

Monday, March 8, 2010

NATO Withdraws Support for KSF

Following the involvement of armed KSF members in the 5-7 March Nights of Fire, a commemoration of the Kosovo Liberation Army, NATO has announced that it has suspended its support of the Kosovo Security Forces.  Reportedly, KSF had agreed with NATO to participate without weapons but later violated the agreement when members of a honor guard appeared armed in violation of the agreement and the non-military status that KSF was founded upon last year.  NATO also protested the usage of its flag during the commemoration as the organization has taken a neutral stance towards Kosovo’s declaration of independence.  Kosovo leaders have reacted to the announcement calling for clarification and chiding NATO in saying “nobody should expect Kosovo not to behave like a sovereign state“.

On the lighter side, I’m happy to welcome London Taxi Service to the streets of Pristina.  Now officially my favorite taxi service, London Taxi Service has taken the streets of Pristina by storm, drawing both praise and criticism.  Taxi drivers from established companies have complained because the municipality has done little to curb illegal taxis and they accussed the municaplity of giving preferential treatment because of the alleged company ownership by the President’s son.  But all the politics aside, I have found London Taxi Service to be both very prompt and just as affordable as all the other legitimate taxi services.  Plus there’s something special about pulling up to your house or dinner in the stylish London cabs!  Give them a call at 044 300 300 :)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

French FM Calls VOA Reporter “Insane”

The Society for Families of Kidnapped and Missing Persons in Kosovo have accussed former UNMIK SRSG and current French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, of insulting Serb victims after he called a Voice of America reporter “insane” following questions on alleged organ trafficking.  According to news on the incident, Kouchner responded to a question on alleged organ traficking in Kosovo by laughing at the reporter and telling the reporter he was “sick” and that “People who talk about things like that are bums and murderers“.  The incident has been reported to the International Federation of Journalist and the Serbian association of journalists have requested an explanation from France concerning Kouchner’s unprofessionalism.  Perhaps most shockingly in Kouchner’s response, he appeared to have little knowledge of the case of human organ traficking at the infamous “Yellow House” which is reported to have happened while Kouchner was SRSG in Kosovo.

MTCowgirl’s Kosovo News

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

7% of Kosovo lives in more than Extreme Poverty

A recent study has shown that 150,000 people in Kosovo live on just 0.45 Euros per day or 14 Euros per month. This puts 7% of Kosovo’s population living below the line of extreme poverty which is considered to be those living on just 0.93 Euros per day. In the survey, when asked how much they needed to live each month, 52% said that they could live on 120 Euros per month, eight times what they are currently receiving.

MTCowgirl’s Kosovo News

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Kosovo Celebrates 2nd Year of Independence

For now the streets are unnaturally quiet and clear of traffic but as people begin to stir later, Kosovo will see one of its biggest street parties of the year as they celebrate the 2nd anniversary of the declaration of independence.  As usual, with celebrations in Kosovo celebratory gunfire (aka “Happy Fire”) is expected and the US Embassy has issued an advisory cautioning citizens to take precautions.

MTCowgirl’s Independence News
While the power situation in Pristina has been stable with virtually no power outages this winter, residents of Prizren and Vucitrn have not been so lucky.  The past couple of days groups of up to a couple hundred protestors have gathered to demonstrate against KEK’s disconnection of their power.
MTCowgirl’s Kosovo News