Thursday, January 26, 2012

Digging Out

After many a winter in Kosovo, I have to say that I can't remember one where there has been so much snow in a short period of time!  In the past two days, Kosovo has received a couple feet of snow with high winds which has whipped the snow into drifts that come up to my waist (not difficult when you are only 5'4").

The biggest complaint by far has not been the power situation, which in our neighborhood on the outskirts of town near Film City has been fairly constant with the occasional one hour outage, but rather the lack of snowplows clearing the roads in Pristina.  The responsibility for plowing the roads lies with the municipality and the mayor of Pristina, Isa Mustafa, has been getting hit pretty hard with criticism on the local news channels for leaving people stranded.

But the upside to all the snow in Pristina is that there is a ton of snow in Brezovica and the skiing is likely to last well into the spring this year after a dismal season last year.  The conditions on the mountain can be checked from IPKO's Brezovica webcam.

To give an idea of how much snow there has been, check out this fantastic photo from Snow Njeri :)

Downtown Pristina - Newborn Sign

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Vetevendosje Clashes with Police

Kosovo Police clashed with Vetevendosje demonstrators as the Self-Determination Group gathered to block two Kosovo borders, protesting reciprocity measures against Serbia, on Saturday, 14 January.  Many people were injured, reportedly Vetevendosje leader Albin Kurti, as protestors hurled rocks at the police and the police responded with pepper spray, water cannons, and tear gas.  More than 140 people were arrested and around 50 people, mostly police, were injured during the protest.

After the protests concluded, the blame game began with Kosovo politicians criticizing Vetevendosje's methods and Vetevendosje accussing the police of brutality and Prime Minister Haschim Thaci of encouraging the crackdown.  Protesting the use of force against the Vetevendosje demonstartion, 50 NGOs gathered outside the Kosovo government building today.

Many have criticized Vetevendosje's actions likening them to intimidation used in the 1999 war and the EU Rapporteur for the Western Balkans calls them a "provocation promoting isolation "

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year

It has been a while since I here's a quick catch-up!  Plus Happy New Year!  This year will mark 11 years of being in Kosovo.  Many laugh at the notion but I truly do call Kosovo home.  Some have called me crazy after ranting about how bad it is in Kosovo when they find out just how long I have been here...but honestly, they have no idea what bad is in Kosovo.  I am glad to say "Kosovo, you've done good" in the incredible amount of progress I have seen since hitting the ground in July 2001.  Granted there is still a ways to go but I am thrilled that Kosovo has managed to rebuild and grow!

Kosovo, KFOR, and the Serbs continue their back and forth over the roadblocks in the North.  No real viable solution seems to be in sight despite Serbia telling the Kosovo Serbs to remove the barricades and their assurances that freedom of movement will be established. 

In mid-December, a Russian aid convoy captured headlines when it was stopped by EULEX customs officials when entering Kosovo.  EULEX said the convoy would either have to accept an escort, a move seen to get EULEX, KFOR, and Kosovo police past the still present Serb barricades, or pass through a Pristina controlled border point.  A few days later the convoy would be allowed to pass with an EULEX escort.

More than a year after losing his job due to corruption charges, the Director of Kosovo's Central Bank, Hashim Rexhepi, was cleared of all five charges levied against him by EULEX in what was widely criticized as a politically motivated case.