Friday, July 29, 2011

Northern Kosovo Explodes

Last Wednesday (20 July), the Kosovo government introduced a reciprocity ban on goods from Serbia as Serbia does not recognize goods with the Kosovo customs stamp.  Kosovo also implemented a 10% tax on goods from Bosnia & Herzegovina who has not yet recognized Kosovo's declaration of independence.  Serbia and B&H have complained to CEFTA and the European Union on the Kosovo ban saying that it is illegal.

Kosovo Police went into the North of Kosovo to begin enforcing the ban on Tuesday (26 July) and one Albanian police officer was fatally shot.  Ethnic Serbs set fire to the border checkpoints after EULEX police surrendered the borders to the mobs prompting harsh criticism of the mission for failure to establish rule of law in the North.  Serbs continue to protest the Kosovo government's actions by blocking the roads and preventing NATO troops from moving around in the North resulting in the use of helicopters to transport police and troops.  However NATO has taken over control of the two border checkpoints and established a military zone with the warning that the troops have authorization to fire upon anyone threatening property or persons.  European Union, EULEX, and US officials have expressed concern that Pristina acted unilaterally and did not consult them before taking action in the North which has been a flashpoint since the end of the war in 1999.

As KFOR has been withdrawing and reducing troop size due to "increased stability/security" in Kosovo recently, one wonders if KFOR will be able to enforce peace in Kosovo as the renewed violence threatens the stability of Kosovo.  Also, as the sparks fly, people are questioning who stands to gain something by the renewed tensions?  Another article explores how the European Union making a historic mistake is to blame for the continued problems in Kosovo.

Friday, July 1, 2011

EULEX Investigates and Indicts

EULEX has been busy conducting corruption invesigations and filing indictments.  Most recently, EULEX raided the Ministry of Communities and Returns in connection with an investigation into allegations of misappropriation and bribes. Both the ministry offices, a company called "Fimex", and two private homes were included in the raid.

EULEX has also indicted two PTK officials and three employees of the Dardaphone Company for abuse of authority and issuing damaging contracts just days before two companies were selected to participate in the privatization process.  In the same day, EULEX indicted the general director of Customs and another high ranking Customs official for the importation of a large amount of tobacco in 2008.

In another blow to the Kosovo government, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced that they would be terminating the 108 Million Euro stand-by agreement because the Kosovo government had violated an agreement by raising wages for the public sector.  IMF also stated that Kosovo's finances were "severely off track" and the European Union warned Kosovo to exercise fiscal discipline.  In another blow, a report issued the the World Bank on doing business in Southeast Europe shows that Kosovo is the most difficult country in the region to start a business in which does not bode well for a country trying to attract foreign investors!

EULEX has also announced that it initiated and has closed an investigation into the former head of the International Civilian Office (ICO), Peter Feith, for abuse of authority regarding the appointment of the governor of the Kosovo Central Bank.  The allegations revolved around Feith exerting pressure on the panel to appoint the current governor to the position.

Kosovo Muslims Demand New Mosque

Approximately 300 Kosovo Muslims gathered in the streets of Pristina during Friday prayers to demonstrate their desire for a new mosque in the capital city.  The demonstrations and complaints have begun in earnest after the grand opening of the Mother Theresa Catholic Cathedral in downtown Pristina earlier this year.  The protestors say they do not have enough space in the existing mosques in Pristina (which are quite a few mosques which date back to Ottoman times) due to the growing number of practicing Muslims.

Thinking about growing, the results of the Kosovo census are out.  The census puts the number of people living in Kosovo at 1.7 million.  The census was boycotted by the Serb population which is estimated to be at 60,000 people.  The census also lists the population of Pristina as being 198,000 but does not include the number of the large expatriate community which resides in the capital.