Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Kosovo Authorities Eject Serb Officials

In the past few weeks in an effort to crackdown on parallel structures, Kosovo authorities have been arresting and tossing Serb officials out of Kosovo.  Approximately two weeks ago the Serbian Kosovo Minister, Goran Bogdanovic, was detained and escorted to the border after engaging in political meetings with Serbs.  One point of contention however is that Bogdanovic is actually a Serb born in Kosovo.  Yesterday, five Serb officials were arrested and escorted to the administrative line.

Ethnic tensions are on the rise with the recent explusions of Serb officials from Kosovo and the Kosovo government’s plans to integrate the North.  Authorities in Pristina have been working with the EU’s International Civilian Office (ICO) to come up with a plan to integrate Northern Kosovo and get rid of parallel institutions.  EULEX, which should be noted to not fall in the same category as ICO, has said that the integration plan is not an EU strategy.  UNMIK which has the UN Kosovo Team in the North has stated that it was not consulted in developing the plan for integration.

In other news, EULEX has summoned Vetevendosje leader, Albin Kurti, to court to face charges stemming from the deadly riots in February 2007.  In turn Vetevendosje slammed EULEX for not dealing with parallel structures and lacking will to prosecute Serbs.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Kosovars apply for Serbian passports

Many Kosovo Albanians have applied for new biometric passports issued by Serbia after the application of the white schengen visa rules.  While Kosovo has started to issue new passports, they are not included in the white schengen zone and must obtain visas to travel to Europe.

In other news, Kosovo Montenegrins are working to gain minority status in Kosovo.  There are currently two political parties representing Montenegrins and they are seeking to be officially recognized as a minority in Kosovo and to establish better diplomatic ties between Kosovo and Montenegro.  Serbia recently withdrew their ambassador to Montenegro following the establishment of diplomatic ties with Kosovo.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon delivered his report on Kosovo to the Security Council last week and called on Serbia & Kosovo to focus on cooperation rather than status issues.  Serbian president Tadic will address the council on January 22nd in a meeting focused on Kosovo.  Meanwhile UNMIK has announced that it will further downsize by June 2010 by cutting 60 positions bringing the total mission size to approximately 440 staff.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Where in the world is EULEX?

Strangely when I arrived back in Kosovo last week I started noticing an absence of EULEX vehicles on the streets.  At first I thought that perhaps it was due to vacations but as the trend continued so I started checking with friends what was the story.  As it turns out, the higher-ups in EULEX got tired of paying to fix vehicles after Vetevendosje damaged them so they made a decision to withdraw all their vehicles from public streets and instructed their staff to park in secured locations.  Supposedly any vehicle not parked in a secured location that is damaged after working hours will become the responsibility of the staff member who parked the vehicle in that location.  Pretty much everyone I spoke to was fairly not happy (understatement of the year so far!) as now they must find alternate means of transportation to work (I’m sure Pristina taxi drivers are loving it though!) but according to them, EULEX upper-management is refusing to budge on the new policy which went into effect on 1 January and the term “protecting our investment” has become a new management motto regarding the vehicles.  Now, the huge EU-blue vehicles which used to be a sign of the presence of the organization are now gone leaving people wondering “Where in the world is EULEX?”  It seems that Vetevendosje has succeeded in intimidating EULEX into hiding through their practice of destroying property leaving the score at: Vetevendosje – 1, EULEX – 0

Thinking of Vetevendosje, the organization has recently gone around and defaced the “Kosovo – Young Europeans” billboards by spraypainting a stamp-like phrase saying “Isolated” on all the boards.

On a lighter note, thankfully the fall of wonderful white stuff continues in Kosovo.  Brezovica now has enough snow to begin operations but unfortunately the lifts still are not running for unknown reasons (rumor has it that they are waiting for word from the Kosovo government).  It’s a real disappointment that the mountain still is not open and we are forced to go outside of Kosovo to find a working mountain resort.  Fortunately Kopaonik (Serbia) is functioning and is only a two-hour drive from Pristina.  Mavrovo (Macedonia) was suffering from a lack of snow but did finally have a good snowfall this past weekend which means that it may be open soon.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Kosovo Offers Assistance to Haiti

Kosovo has offered 50,000 Euros and assistance from the Kosovo Security Forces Search & Emergency Unit to Haiti following the massive earthquake that devasted the island.  The former UNMIK head of Administration, Luiz da Costa, is among the confirmed dead following the earthquake along with other UN peacekeepers who had previously served in Kosovo.
Winter seems to have finally arrived in Kosovo with temperatures taking a dip and light snow showers.  The ski resort at Brezovica was rumored to possibly start working on the weekend after a lack of snow forced a delay in the opening.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Unusually Warm Winter

With much anticipation, I was disheartened earlier this week to learn that the unusually warm winter in Kosovo has resulted in a shortage of snow and the lifts at Brezovica are still not running at this time!  Likewise neighboring Macedonia does not have any snow at the Mavrovo resort so it looks like this year’s snowboarding season will have to be spent elsewhere which is disappointing because I really enjoyed spending my winter in Kosovo last year :) 

While there has been a good amount of snow on a few different occassions, the yo-yoing temperatures have resulted in all the snow melting and just a thin covering of snow at the base of the moutain in Brezovica :(

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Cow Causes International Incident?

Ah if only headlines like these appeared everyday life would be so much more interesting!!!  Alas, it is not my witty humor coming out but an actual news piece from Kosovo where a cow allegedly was the cause of cross-border shooting between Kosovo and Serbia in the village of Rasevac.  According to reports, residents of the small Serbian village say that shots were fired from Kosovo on Monday evening around 7pm and bright lights were shown on the houses in the village causing people to arm themselves and pack provisions.

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

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A New Year!

Wow, it’s hard to believe that another year has come and gone.  It will be interesting to see what 2010 holds for Kosovo.  Two big events will come soon with Kosovo celebrating its second anniversary of declaring independence and March will mark 11 years since the beginning of the NATO bombing campaign that halted the war.

As promised I will try to keep you up-to-date with the happenings in Kosovo even though I am currently stateside :)   So here goes…yesterday an unidentified gunman entered a disco in Peja/Pec and opened fire killing one and injuring three people.  No motive is yet known for the attack on the crowd celebrating the New Year.

Possibly part of the phased drawdown of NATO forces, Slovakia has announced that it will be withdrawing its 139 soldiers from Kosovo leaving only a handful behind to work in intelligence.

A Kosovo-Albanian man who was residing in Finland shot and killed his girlfriend at her home and then four others at a shopping center before committing suicide at his home.  The motive for the attack is not yet known but police believed that the killer selected his victims in advance.  It is reported that Kosovo President Thaci sent condolences to Finnish President Martii Vanhanen.  The killer, identified as Ibrahim Shkupolli reportedly moved to Finland in the 1990′s but was unable to gain Finnish citizenship due to his past criminal record for weapon possession.