Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Klecka Trial - Update

A bit more news has come out about the dismissal of the testimony of Witness X, Agim Zogaj, this afternoon.  Following the testimony being thrown out by the panel of judges, the defendants were released from detention.  The nine defendants were arrested in March 2011 whereas Fatmir Limaj was placed under house arrest last fall.

It is still not known if the case will proceed as most sources say that a decision will be taken in the next few days however in Radio Kosova it is said that the prosecutor, Salustro, is not going to drop the case and will try to prosecute on other written evidence.

Breaking News - Klecka Trial

Breaking news this morning out of Kosovo...

The testimony of the Klecka prosecution's star witness Witness "X", Agim Zogaj, has been thrown out by the court.  Information is limited at this time but reportedly the decision was made minutes after the court proceedings began this morning.

It is not known if the prosecution will continue its case without the testimony of Zogaj.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Local News from Kosovo

Edita Tahiri Draws Fire over Expenditures
Edita Tahiri, Deputy Prime Minister and Lead Negotiator for Kosovo, has drawn fire and calls for her resignation following the spending of 50,000 Euros for 36 female staff members to take a three-day trip to Tirana in celebration of International Women's Day.  In addition to the travel expenses, the women also received a daily stipend of 209 Euros, nearly a month's salary for many people in Kosovo.

Grand Hotel Woes Continue
Last week I wrote about the problems that Grand Hotel was facing with employees not receiving wages.  Shortly afterwards, it was announced that the Kosovo Privatization Agency was considering to withdraw the agreement with the current owner and put the hotel up for bidding again.  Now, Limak Company, who runs the Pristina International Airport, reportedly has expressed interest in the hotel.

KEK Announces Increase in Prices
Kosovo Electric Company has raised the ire of many consumers by announcing a rate increase of 23% starting 1 April.  Already consumers have been complaining about the increase in bills from January to February when the worst of the winter weather hit Kosovo.  The regulatory agency that oversees KEK threatened to fine the company if they stuck with the rate increase and proposed to instead increase the rate at 7.6%.

The number of beggars increases
Honestly it is a yearly phenomenon but this is the first year that I can recall any local news source paying attention to the number of beggars increasing when the weather started warming up.

I have long advocated giving the street beggars, particularly children, items that cannot be "taken away" from them like candy bars, drinks, anything besides money although both Troy and I have recently broken our own rules by "adopting" a few Roma children and their mother who regularly beg near our offices.  It isn't much but they are always appreciative of the couple of Euros we give them over the course of the week and the occasional candy bar we buy from the nearby supermarkets when we see them out.

Serbia to Hold Elections in Kosovo

Serbia has announced that it will hold local municipal and parliamentary elections in the North of Kosovo in May.  The issue has become a hot topic for debate in the media.  Serbia says that it is their right under UN Security Council resolution 1244 to hold the elections while Kosovo says the elections are a violation of the integrity of Kosovo.

But then today, Serbia appeared to give into international pressure against the elections and President Boris Tadic has stated that Kosovo will be excluded from the national parliamentary elections but that local municipal elections will still be held in areas where the elected officials have reached the end of their term.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Local News from Kosovo

Being in Kosovo, I have the chance to browse through the local newspapers and pick up news items that most would never see.  If I can find the time, each week I would like to try to have one blog titled "Local News from Kosovo" quickly giving a blurb about what I have found interesting over the week in the Kosovo news.  So to steal the line from Ryan Seacrest "dim the lights and here we go"...

F Mobile refuses to sign contract with Ministry of Economic Development
The mobile phone company, F Mobile, has refused to sign a contract with the Ministry of Economic Development after winning the tender.  F Mobile has defended their refusal to sign the contract on the grounds that the Ministry would require the illegal importation of Apple iPhone 4S by the contract.  

Grand Hotel Fails to Pay Employees
The employees of the Grand Hotel in Pristina have threatened to go on strike after the owners have failed to pay salaries for the past eight months.  The employees have reached the agreement that if they do not receive payment by 12 March, they will "block" the hotel until they are paid.

In addition to the back wages owed to the employees, it is reported that Thermakos, a supplier of central heating, has turned off the heating to the Grand Hotel after its unpaid debt reached 82,000 Euros.

Ferizaj Municipality Purchases 82,000 Euros worth of vehicles
The Kosovo government has a limited budget and has long been criticized for purchasing luxury vehicles, spending massive amounts of money on telephone & services, and basically allowing government officials to treat the Kosovo budget like their own little petty cash fund.

Now, the Head of the Ferizaj municipality, Bajrush Xhemajli, has come under fire for spending 82,000 Euros on vehicles in a time that the Kosovo government has been instructed to reduce spending.

8 March -  International Women's Day
Thousands of women and girls gathered for a peaceful demonstration in Pristina for a variety of issues on International Women's Day.

The main focus was to raise awareness for women's rights and against domestic violence which is a common yet ignored part of Kosovo society.

A network of NGOs and the Women's Alliance for Kosovo called for accelerating the trial process of Ramush Haradinaj.  Haradinaj is currently standing trial again in the Hague after being previously acquitted due to lack of evidence.  The first charges were filed against him seven years ago on 8 March.

Kosovo Government Prepares to Privatize Brezovica
The Kosovo Government has taken steps to begin the privatization process of the Brezovica resort area in addition to plans to create a new Brezovica area. 

A conference to gather interest for investment in the new ski resort area which is planned to be adjacent to the current ski resort is planned in 2012 although no date has yet been decided.  The master plan for the new resort is to have it be much bigger (reported to be 5X) than Mavrovo in Macedonia (which would absolutely thrill this snowboarder!)  The plan also includes to have slopes for beginners (lacking at the current resort which has only two black runs) as well as runs for experts.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Municipal Officials Arrested & Serbian Elections in North

Four officials from the Vushtrri/Vuńćitrn municipality were arrested yesterday following an investigation into illegal property seizures, abuse of office, and organized crime.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has agreed to a standby loan for Kosovo after suspending loans last year after a payraise to the public sector by PM Haschim Thaci.  The loan worth US$141 million is designed to help Kosovo attract foreign investors.

Following the announcement of Serbia's candidate status in the European Union, Serbs in the North of Kosovo blocked the movement of EULEX.  Today, it has been reported that the blockade has ended and EULEX has announced that they have freedom of movement again.

A major news item has been the announcement that Serbia is considering running local and parliamentary elections in the North of Kosovo.  The elections, expected to be held in April or May, are designed to cover the "entire territory of Serbia, Kosovo included". 

MTCowgirl's Kosovo News

MTCowgirl's Interesting News/Commentary Articles

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Footnotes, Diaries, and Politicial Mudslinging

Some of the biggest news coming out of Kosovo recently has been the agreement reached between Serbia and Kosovo on how Kosovo will be represented in international organizations.  The compromise reaches removes the phrase "Republic of" before Kosovo and puts an asterisk following with a footnote stating ""This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSC 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence."  And with that, UNMIK has stated that it shall only attend regional conferences "if necessary".

However, the footnote is not the only focus lately in the local media.  Two big issues that the international coverage has failed to pick up on has been the continuation of the Klecka war crimes trial and the political mudslinging between the Kosovo political parties that I thought I would get to miss this election year!  The articles I will link to are from local news sources in Albanian but Google Translate does the job if you need a translation :)

So the Klecka's basically in the news almost every day here.  I have mentioned it a few times before but here is a bit of an update.  The defense attorneys continue to question the admissibility of the diary of Witness X, Agim Zogaj.  Questions have been raised over the fact that Zogaj only signed statements in English, a language he reportedly did not master, and no Albanian translation of the statements was provided to him.  Further to the requests regarding the prosecutor, Salustro, it has been reported that the defense has sent a request to the Head of EULEX to request the lifting of his immunity to answer questions about allegations in Witness X's diary that he was threatened by Salustro.

Ah political mudslinging!!!  You would almost think that you were in the US during election season but let's not forget that Kosovo should soon be gearing up for presidential elections in the next year or so!  It seems to have started with political disagreements about accepting the footnote which was seen by many Kosovo politicians to diminish the Declaration of Independence.  Following very public disagreements in parliament and the media, it is reported that the US Ambassador, Christopher Dell, called two of the largest parties, LDK and Vetevendosje, anti-American and anti-European.  Then Thaci gave a speech in Lipjan where he said that if Ibrahim Rugova saw LDK he would weep and if Ramush Haradinaj saw AAK he would laugh at the current leadership.  Naturally the parties have came back and called Thaci everything from irresponsible to a poor leader.

Taste of Home

Recently, we discovered a taste of home in the Tusido Cafe located on the lower level of the Pristina Football Stadium.  The first time we walked into the restaurant, Alan Jackson was blaring over the sound system via a satellite radio station.  We then proceeded to gobble down Buffalo Chicken sandwich wraps that reminded us of being back home.  One menu item that we can't wait to try are the Buffalo Wings.  Based on the chicken served in the wrap, the wings are the spicy tidbits of chicken we are used to being served back home in the US.  And while we haven't tried the breakfast yet I hope to get down there one morning as they offer skillet breakfasts and pancakes.

A pet peeve of mine, restaurant bathrooms, proved not to be an issue with the super clean and tasteful decor of the bathrooms at Tusido.  While the smoking section does impede on the non-smoking section, we didn't find that we left the restaurant reeking of cigarettes, a huge plus in Pristina!

Stop by the location at the Pristina FC Stadium, visit online, or give them a call at 038 233 666