Friday, December 23, 2005

In the News: Blood Feuds

Here’s a fascinating article about modern blood feuds in Kosovo.  We hear about these feuds regularly, but not with this much detail and color.  At the same time, you shouldn’t get the impression that these are a daily occurrence.  If you want to read a fascinating, fictional account of blood feuds in Albania, check out a great book called Broken April, by Ismail Kadare.

"Ancient blood feud grips part of Kosovo

Ismet Hajdari | Petrove, Serbia-Montenegro       

22 December 2005 11:59

The centuries-old custom of blood feuds has gripped a part of Kosovo, threatening the lives of people in two clans as it did with thousands of ethnic Albanians in the past.  The feud between the two clans began at the end of November when Fadil Mujota, a 36-year-old father of four, was shot dead at a gas station owned by the Beqaj family in the central village of Belinc.

"Fadil went to Belinc to fill a tank with gasoline. His friends, who were waiting for him in a nearby café, had no time even to put sugar in their coffee when they heard shots and found him covered in blood," said Shaip Mujota, the victim's eldest brother.  The circumstances behind the murder are still not clear, although a main suspect, 16-year-old Arlind Beqaj, has been detained pending a trial. 

The blood-feud system is believed to have re-emerged in Kosovo due to a power vacuum during the United Nations-run province's painful transition from conflict six-and-a-half years ago.  As a result, many Albanians in Kosovo have returned to the laws of their tribal roots in a bid to settle disputes, namely the Code of Leke Dukagjini, an Albanian aristocrat from the era of struggle against Ottoman rule in the 14th century.  The legal system that has since existed in Kosovo, as well as parts of neighbouring Albania, includes the right to kill to avenge murders, or "whoever kills, will be killed".

An estimated 50 murders in the province have been linked to blood revenge between the end of Kosovo's 1998/99 war between Serbian forces and Albanian rebels and the end of last year.  "Kosovo is still in a vacuum between strong traditions of the past and modern values," Naim Maloku, sociologist and professor at the Pristina University, said.  Maloku noted that Kosovo's society is "deeply patriarchal, torn by its inclination toward the West and by its religious past which originates from the East".

"These two civilisations clash, pushing people towards one or another pole and making them oscillate between them," he added.  Last week, six brothers from the 60-member Mujota clan were still receiving condolences from friends and family at their homes in the hillside village of Mollopolce.  The Mujotas, well-known and respected here for their contribution to the ethnic Albanian guerrilla force that fought Serbian forces during the conflict, could hardly hide their anger at the lack of any rule of law.   "Unfortunately, the system does not function. I know that no one can return our brother. God willing, Fadil will be the last victim," said Shaip Mujota.

He said he had given his word of honour, or "Besa" -- a rule declaring that any murderer will not to be killed outside his home -- to the Beqajs and their children, "who have to go to school".  "I am a teacher and I know that going to school is important," Mujota said. "But we have to know why our brother was killed."

Since the killing, the pressure has mounted on both families, aware of the custom that those deciding against vengeance and "honour killings" are seen as cowards and considered unworthy.  Although the Dukagjini code also offers ways for the families to reconcile through mediation by influential people respected by both sides, the two clans are yet to find a truce.  There were no signs of life outside six traditionally high-walled Beqaj houses in the muddy village of Petrove, set in the eerily calm mountainous region.

"We are in a blood feud with the Mujotas," admitted 63-year-old Fehmi Beqaj, the head of the 70-member clan known in the region as successful merchants. 

"We are waiting for the dispute with the Mujotas to be resolved," he said, adding that their gas station and sawmill businesses have been paralysed for weeks.  Beqaj said the "Besa" offered by the Mujotas will last till the third day of the Muslim Bayram holiday in the middle of February.   "Until then, our children can freely go to school, but after it expires, we will be confined to our houses until this dispute is over," Fehmi said, turning down the likelihood the matter could be resolved with the help of police.

The feud is "between the two families and will be settled in accordance with the code ... What God decides, will be," he said. -- Sapa-AFP"

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

In the News: Kosovo could one day be self-sufficient - UN envoy

Kosovo could one day be self-sufficient - UN envoy
Tue Dec 20, 2005 10:44 PM GMT

By Irwin Arieff

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Kosovo has enough natural resources, including low-grade coal, to one day make it economically self-sufficient, the United Nations mediator for the disputed Serb province said on Tuesday.

Veteran diplomat Martti Ahtisaari, who is leading U.N. talks aimed at determining whether Kosovo gains independence or remains a part of Serbia, said economic development would be a top priority in the negotiations.

Kosovo is heavily subsidised by international donors, and "when the international community knows that there are natural resources which are not exploited, you can't expect the world's taxpayers to finance this forever," Ahtisaari told reporters at U.N. headquarters.

"Everyone wants to create conditions in which these can be properly exploited," he said.

If that happens "I think there is in the future the possibility for sustainable economic development in Kosovo," he said when asked whether it could ever support itself economically.


Friday, December 16, 2005

Friday, December 09, 2005

An interesting meeting with my daughter's teacher

My six-year-old is almost through half of her first-grade year in public school in our city.  She’s having a blast, but it’s also being stretched quite a bit.  They begin writing in cursive in 1st grade here and it won’t be long before her writing is much more attractive than my own…which isn’t saying too much.

A couple of days ago we invited her teacher to coffee to just talk about our daughter’s progress.  We chatted about a number of things and then the teachers asked about the difference between “Protestantism” and “Catholicism.”  It was an interesting conversation.  What touched me was when she asked us about prayer.

She mentioned that our daughter know how to pray.  That surprised me for a moment, but then I remembered.  The teacher had been sick in a couple of different instances and we’d prayed for her at bedtime.  Our daughter has obviously been letting her teacher know that we’re praying for her!


This is a significant difference between evangelicals and members of the dominant religious groups.  Among evangelicals, children are taught from a very early age that they too can have a relationship with God, can speak to him and watch him answer prayer.  Our daughter is a great missionary.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

In the News: Serbia hands over remains of 41 Kosovo Albanians found in mass graves

More bodies.  And more bodies.  I’m not trying to dwell on the issue of the returns of remains.  But I do want to give you an idea of how frequently this happens and how little time for wounds to heal may pass before they’re ripped off again.  Imagine in the US, in a state the size of Connecticut, if every few months thirty or forty bodies of murder victims were discovered in New York State.  The citizens of Connecticut would be in a panic.


Text of report in English by independent internet news agency KosovaLive Prishtina [Pristina], 25 November: The mortal remains of 41 Kosova [Kosovo] Albanians killed by Serb forces during the war in Kosova and found in mass graves in Serbia will be handed over this afternoon, the government's information office has announced.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Our first Sunday Service

We had our very first Sunday service yesterday!  Femi came down and preached for us.  Okay, in the interests of full-disclosure, only the oldest and youngest members of our group came.  Gaz happened by and chatted for a moment before continuing on.  We also took our first official “offering” at our first official Sunday service.  Femi reminded us of what the Bible teaches us about the importance of giving and thinking about others.  It’s a little awkward taking an offering in a group of ten…but probably more often for us Americans than for the nationals there.  We’re sooooo preoccupied with who has it, who doesn’t, who’s giving and who isn’t.  We want to begin incorporating aspects of church life into our core group fairly early.  Certain things need to be incorporated in the DNA from the beginning.  Because of the amount of foreign aid that has poured into Kosovo, there is a growing tendency in the population to look outside for support, rather than looking within.  Femi has reported, for example, that if every national in the mother church tithed, for example, they could meet their budget without foreign aid.  This is the goal, to build churches that are “three-self:” self-governing, self-supporting and self-propogating.”

Friday, November 11, 2005

test of RocketPost

I'm testing RocketPost here. It's suppose to be all-that...we'll see. I'm going to try to upload a picture here, which which has been my problem with BlogJet.

Fatmir...random picture

Another visit from my secret friend

One of the joys of being a Christian is knowing that you’re always a player in this immense divine drama.  Behind the scenes God is orchestrating this incredible production that began at the dawn of time.  For some Christians this really isn’t a bonus…it’s scary.  I think it’s a blast (usually).

Today was one of those days.  I got a visit from my friend who lives in a neighboring state.  He comes to town from time to time and when he does, he stops by.  Some of you may remember that he’s the man that picked up a Bible from the Book Fair/Bibleseeding Team here last September.  This is the fourth time we’ve met and each time I learn something new.

Today he again wanted to talk about Christianity and the original faith of the Albanian people.  Okay, originally the Illyrians (the Albanian’s ancestors) were pagans, but the Apostle Paul evidently brought the Gospel to the Illyrians in the middle of the first century (according to Romans 15.19).  As we talked about church history we read that passage together.  He knew that the Albanians had been “Christians” before the Turks brought Islam to Kosova.  For people in this part of the world, “Christian” means Catholic or Orthodox.  He didn’t know, however, that there had been believers among the Albanians (Illyrians) nearly since the dawn of the church.  As we continued to talk he asked me an unusual question.  Are you going to build a church in _____ (his city).  We talked about that for a while…how could it happen, what would the time frame look like.

I still don’t know my friends last name—he won’t tell me.  That’s fine with me, but the reason he won’t tell me is because of his fear of his community and the government there.  After we talked some more he said something that surprised me.  He said he still wouldn’t tell me his last name, but if we built a church in his city he would tell me and he would come.  He also said that there are large numbers of hidden Catholics in his city and that they would come too.

He said, right now it is too dangerous to openly be a Christian.  But if you (Americans) will come and build a church then we will know that we will be safe and that we can come.  I think many people will come.

I don’t know what all this means.  Here is a man from another city in another country who wants us to build a church in his city.  I’m not exactly sure if he’s come to the point where he has surrendered his life to Christ or not (and we talked about it J ), but I wonder, “God?  What are you doing?  What are you telling us?”  God is playing out the drama and we are players as he does so.  He is moving in people’s hearts and calling people back to himself, even if they don’t’ quite realize what they’re asking for.  It’s a good time to be a Christian!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Halloween Fun & Old Castles

We had a good time “celebrating” Halloween this year. My mom has been visiting with us for a week or so, which made it all the more fun. We don’t really do ‘trick or treating’ or anything like that, but we did have a good time making and decorating cookies for the day. Madison finally started back to public schoo, after an almost one-month teacher strike. The teachers are paid so little I can hardly blame them. One month is a lot to make up though.

After we decorated cookies and had a little party, complete with plates, napkins and cupcakes, we took a little field trip. I told the girls that we were headed for a “haunted castle” in . Depending on who you ask Novoberde ranges from very old, to very, very old.

Novoberde is mentioned as early as 1236 AD. It is easily recognized in the distance.

Some of my friends have said that this city, and the fort above, was the largest city in Europe centuries ago. In fact, there was a city of over three thousand people while the rest of the Europeans were still running around in skins. I don’t know if that’s true, but it is definitely OLD.

As we drove up we were confronted by just how old the castle is. I confessed to the girls that it really wasn’t haunted, but it was very old. While I think Madison had visions of Rapunzel, she was still impressed.


They like clambering over the rocks.

Old Gate and Girls

We also had the priviledge of visiting a very, very old mosque. The inscription said that the mosque was built in 1136.mosque outside Madison and a local playmate found their way to the top of the mineret. I was nervous that we were probably violating some cultural norm, but the villagers showing us around were certain that we were okay.

There was also an ancient church on the scene. We don’t know how old it is, though a young boy told me it dated to the 7th Century. That would have been an interesting period of time for Christians in Kosovo. Pressure wouldn’t begin to build between the Catholic West and the Orthorodox East for many years.

Who knows how these people worshipped in this church all those years ago. What did they understand of Jesus Christ, communion, baptism and the Scriptures?

Old Church

We may not be able to do all the North American things on Halloween, but traipsing around thousand-year-old ruins insn’t too bad

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Linked on Google

I made an interesting discovery this morning.  In a small twitch of vanity I Googled “missionary” and “Kosovo.”  The second hit down was with a link to my post “On diplomacy and hand grenades.”  I’ve got mixed feelings about this.  This site is primarily about the war on terror, which is fine.  I have to be honest and admit that when we heard about this hand grenade incident I didn’t really consider it “terrorism.”  When you live in Kosovo it’s “just one of those things” that happens.  Periodically we hear about car-bombings, friends who are police that find anti-tank mines under their cars, other random bombings, etc.  Usually these things are connected with organized crime, adolescent war-hero worship or national aspirations.  I really don’t believe that any of these have to do with Islamic extremism, but maybe I’m just being naïve.  In almost every act involving an explosive there seem to be deliberate efforts to avoid casualties.  Bombs go off in the middle of the night while people are safely away from UN buildings, as a common and specific example.

This last incident with our missionary friends is a little bit different.  The hand grenades were place in such a way that they would detonate when the car moved, obviously with the occupants inside it.  These folks aren’t diplomats, police officers or soldiers.  They are evangelical missionaries sharing the love of Jesus Christ.  They’ve lived in their community a long time and have helped number of people economically, spiritually and emotionally.  Who did it and why remains a mystery.  It certainly was no accident, no mistaken identity.  And it does create a little anxiety, to be honest.  But terror?  Nah.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

In the News: 10 Bangladeshis seek asylum in Kosovo

The word refugee is commonly heard in connection with Kosovo, but not in this way.  In a strange, ironic sort of first, Kosovo yesterday was presented with its first asylum seekers.  That’s right, thirteen people from central Asia are seeking asylum here!

Thirteen people from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan are seeking asylum in the UN protectorate of Kosovo, the UN refugee agency said yesterday.
"Ten people from Bangladesh, two from India and one from Pakistan arrived on a flight from Istanbul on Monday. They have sought asylum in Kosovo," said Shpend Halili, a spokesman for the UNHCR in Kosovo.

"It is an unusual case and a new experience for Kosovo," which has no system for dealing with such cases, Halili told AFP.

Monday, October 24, 2005

In The News: UN council endorses start of Kosovo status talks

Big stuff today from most of the major media outlets.  The UN has endorsed moving ahead with final status talks for Kosovo.  As you know, Kosova is still legally part of “the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro.”  It may not be for much longer, however.  People here are pretty optimistic that they’ll be independent within a year.  It’s going to be an interesting next few months.  Most believe that talks will begin very, very shortly…within the end of the month.  It appears that most of the European countries and the US are more or less leaning towards some sort of conditional independence.  Naturally, the government in Serbia is opposing this ardently.



UNITED NATIONS - The U.N. Security Council on Monday embraced U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's recommendation that international talks be launched to decide whether Kosovo gains independence or remains a Serb province.

"The council offers its full support to this political process, which would determine Kosovo's future status, and further reaffirms its commitment to the objective of a multiethnic and democratic Kosovo which must reinforce regional stability," said a statement adopted unanimously by the 15-nation council.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in anticipation of the council statement, said he would name a special envoy this week to lead the talks and added it was likely to be former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, as expected.

Before the council vote, Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica warned it that Belgrade ruled out a process that could result in Kosovo's becoming a nation.

In a letter, however, Kosovo's prime minister, Bajram Kosumi, told the council that Kosovo's government in Pristina and the vast majority of its people felt the province should be granted independence.

In an apparent shift from past insistence on a complete break with the past, however, Kosumi added that Kosovo would welcome "the continued presence and involvement of the international community in our development."

In an interview with Reuters in Pristina, Kosumi said he expected an international "observation or advisory" mission after talks as "a psychological and practical guarantee for ethnic groups that their rights are observed."

The southern Serb province bordering Macedonia and Albania has been administered by the United Nations since Serb forces, accused of ethnic cleansing in a war with separatist guerrillas, were ousted by NATO in 1999.

Three months of NATO bombing that year forced Serbia's then leader, Slobodan Milosevic -- now on trial in an international tribunal in The Hague on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes -- to withdraw his forces.

Some 10,000 ethnic Albanian civilians died and 800,000 were expelled into neighboring Albania and Macedonia.


More than six years later, Kosovo Albanians are impatient for the independence they thought they had won in 1999. Most are fed up with a U.N. administration perceived as overbearing and unable to revive an economy crippled by war and neglect.

But March 2004 Albanian mob riots against Kosovo Serbs killed 19 people and destroyed hundreds of homes, undermining Kosovo leaders' stated commitment to a multiethnic


Diplomats say the West, though publicly refusing to back any particular solution, is preparing to push for "conditional independence" in talks that could last until spring 2006.

The West has all but written off Serbia's offer of broad autonomy as unworkable as the province's 90-percent Albanian majority flatly reject any return to Serb control, they say.

Kosumi's letter said Kosovo's final status "should be that of an independent state with the borders of Kosovo as they currently stand with neither partition nor cantonization."

Kosovo should be "a multiethnic, democratic and law-abiding place, which exists in peace and cooperation with its neighbors in the region and with the wider world," Kosumi said. "Within this broader vision, we are ready to elaborate more precise details of how Kosovo should be organized in both its institutions and its constitution."

Serbian premier Kostunica, however, called on the council to ensure Kosovo remained part of Serbia.

"I am convinced that the international community, embodied in the United Nations, will not succumb to threats of violence and permit a dismemberment of a democratic state and the undermining of the most basic principles of the international order," he said.

"I am convinced ... that no democratic and free state could accept this under any circumstances," Kostunica said.

Two key U.N. envoys, also appearing before the council, acknowledged Serbs and Kosovars were deeply divided over what the eventual fate of the southern Serb province should be. But they argued that resolving the issue would ultimately benefit both sides and bring more stability to the region.

"We all know that the positions of Belgrade and Pristina on the issue of Kosovo's status are far apart, but it will remain so until and unless it is resolved by an internationally managed process, and the sooner that is done, the better for the citizens in Kosovo and in the region," said Soren Jessen-Petersen, the province's U.N. administrator.

U.N. special envoy Kai Eide said he believed there had been a change in the region and Pristina and Belgrade now had a "shared expectation" that the status talks would begin.

"I am convinced that all will benefit from clarity with regard to what Kosovo will be," he said. "Such clarity will also remove an element of instability, which today hampers the political and economic development of Kosovo as well as of the region."

Saturday, October 22, 2005

In the News: Kosovo Continues to Bury War Victims

We just missed this yesterday on the way to the airport to pick up my mom for a visit.  As I’ve posted before, every few months more Albanian bodies are “discovered” in Serbia and returned to Kosova.  Naturally the rest of the world has long since forgotten the war in Kosova…there have been too many other global tragedies since then.  The people here are reminded several times a year, however, as the remains of their loved-ones are returned in boxes.

Relatives attend the burial of 30 Kosovo Albanians October 21, 2005, who were killed during the 1998-99 war between Serb forces and separatist guerrillas and buried in mass graves 350 kilometres north in Belgrade. The funeral took place in Kosovo Polje, just outside Kosovo's capital Pristina after the remains were returned from Serbia. REUTERS/Hazir Reka

Friday, October 14, 2005

Diplomacy and hand grenades

As I always say, it’s been an interesting week…or several weeks in this case.  The news this week is popping with stories of final status talks while at a colleague’s house a hundred and fifty kilometers away, hand grenades announced a different message.  This week the UN inspector issued a favorable report regarding the “final status” talks for Kosova.  That means, according to various sources, that the diplomatic talks on Kosova’s future will begin shortly.  People here are pleased, though certainly no one will be happy with the final outcome.  It’s impossible to do anything that would please all parties at this point, but that is the nature of negotiations.


While that was going on, we also got word that someone threw a hand grenade into the yard of a fellow missionary in a town about 150 kilometers from here.  The hand grenade exploded about midnight, shattering a number of windows but hurting no one.  Then, the following morning they found another grenade placed by the front tire of their vehicle, rigged to explode when the vehicle moved.  Praise God the second grenade was found and the various authorities were summoned and the grenade removed.  We used to feel, as American missionaries, that we would probably never be hurt except by accident, or mistaken identity…now, not so much.

Car registration...finished.

I finally finished the vehicle registration process on our new Mitsubishi Pajero today.  Having done this once before on the mission-owned Izusu Trooper I understood the process.  Now all I have to do is go back to the insurance company and purchase insurance for Macedonia and Albania, which I couldn’t do without plates

I also visited “the boys” three brothers who frequent our church.  I had never actually been there before for a visit, though I’d dropped them off several times.  As a team we’ve been struck by how much more we need to be in the homes of the people, so it was a good visit.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

A solid week

It’s been one of those weeks where I just feel like saying, “that was god stuff.”  It wasn’t a great, spectacular week.  Thousands didn’t make decisions for Christ.  Miracles didn’t happen.  But the “long obedience in the same direction” was more or less manifest.  Melissa, my dear wife, is off in the States for some much needed doctors consultations, so I’ve been holding down the fort alone.  Like most husbands, I probably don’t realize just how much I rely on my wife until she’s gone on a trip.  I’ve had a number of people tell me over the years that trips a one secret to a good marriage.  I even have one good friend tell me that frequent trips actually “saved” his marriage.  I’m not sure I’d go that far, but my appreciation for my wife sure increases in her absence.

For instance, I got a lot of insight into what her world is like as I took over Madison’s home schooling for the week.  I have new-found respect for all home-schooling parents as they take responsibility for educating their children.  It is easy to forget what you know as an adult.  Five plus five seems so obvious to me!  Two plus eight is clearly the same as eight plus two.  I guess it’s not obvious when you are six years old.  It is a good reminder to “keep the cookies on the bottom shelf”…to make information easily accessible to people in my life.

It was also a surprisingly solid ministry week.  I wasn’t expecting to get much done with Melissa gone.  But on Thursday we took “church on the road” again, this time to the “girls house.”  The two sisters are solid members of our little core group.  There family members…mother, two sisters, and a brother…are not.  The sisters took a courageous step by inviting us to “do church” at their house with their family members.  Solid.  Also, our new “staff translator” came a long for the first time.  After Bible study she and Di went off to supper and had some great conversation.

What’s it take to make a solid week?  Good kingdom investment.  Whether it’s in my daughter education, our core groups developing evangelistic heart or coffee with a team mate.  I don’t have to see miracles (though I want to see thousands come to Christ), but I want to spend more weeks like this, seeing God work in little ways each day.

Friday, September 30, 2005

In the News: Serbia's Policemen arrested in Kosovo & Update on Serbian officer shooting

This is the kind of thing that gives local Albanians the willies. According to this story, which is also posted at Serbianna, two Serbian Interior Ministry police officers were arrested south of Prishtina, where they are prevented by law from operating. Further down the article you’ll read that group calling itself "Serbian Voluntary Guard" claimed responsibility for shooting the Serbian police chief a few days ago. Weird.

I’m not trying to be overtly political in this blog. I do, however, want to get news out to you so you can understand what is happening here AND so that you can be praying for peace in Kosova with understanding.

PRISTINA, Serbia-Montenegro (AP) - Police in Kosovo arrested two members of an elite Serb police unit in the southeast of the province, a Kosovo police spokesman said Friday.

The two Serb officers -- armed and carrying identification issued by Serbia's Interior Ministry -- were arrested near the village of Brod, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of province's capital Pristina and close to a Serb enclave, police spokesman Refki Morina said.

Kosovo police confronted the two men, who were identified as member of an anti-terrorist unit known as the "Gendarmerie," Morina said. He said one of the men tried to draw his gun, but was stopped by Kovovo police.

A police spokeswoman in Serbia confirmed the arrests, but could not provide further details.

Kosovo has been administered by the United Nations and patrolled by NATO-led peacekeepers since 1999 after the alliance pushed the Serb forces out of the province. Under the deal that ended the war, Serbia's police and army are prevented from operating in Kosovo.

The arrest occurred in the area which has seen a spate of attacks in recent weeks, including the shooting and wounding of a Kosovo Serb police chief Wednesday.

Police in Kosovo offered a reward Friday for information on the shooting and wounding of Col. Dejan Jankovic, the highest ranking Serb member of Kosovo's police force.

They offered a euro5,000 (US$6,000) reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the gunmen who wounded Jankovic, the recently appointed police commander for the eastern part of the province.

Jankovic received light injuries in his hand when his car came under fire in the southern part of the province.

A previously unknown group calling itself "Serbian Voluntary Guard" claimed responsibility for the shooting, in a written statement sent to local media. The group said they have shot Jankovic "because he has betrayed his people," and warned other Serbs not to work in Kosovo's predominantly ethnic Albanian institutions.

This disputed U.N.-run province remains divided between its independence-seeking ethnic Albanians and minority Serbs. Talks to resolve the disputed province's status are likely to start by the end of the year.

Another trip in vain - Who can understand the process here.

Well, I just got back from my second attempt to import the Pajero.  I went on Tuesday for my first attempt.  On Tuesday I was told that regardless of what year the Pajero was actually produced in, I had to change the “year of production” to 2005 because that is the year it was first registered.  When I tried to explain that it produced in 2004, but was a year model 2005 they replied calmly, yes, but it was first registered in 2005, therefore you have to write 2005 as the production year.  “Ya but….”  Okay it doesn’t’ matter.  Finally the bring an English speaker over to me to explain why I have to put 2005 down for the production year.

            Finally I said, “I understand what you’re saying…perhaps I don’t understand the process.”  “Ah ha,” he agreed.  “Who can understand the process here?”

            So, having corrected the official document to read 2005, I headed back today to continue the process.  When I arrived, the customs office was closed.  My customs agent, who promised he’s be back on Friday until 4 pm, was no where to be found.  When I called him on the phone he said, “Oh Jeff, the traffic is so bad…maybe I will come, maybe I will not.”  Not to be deterred, I got to the customs official and explain my problem.  “I’ve come from Gjilan and the customs agent isn’t here.  Can I continue the process without him?”  “No,” I am told.  “We don’t accept documents after 3:00.”  Looking at my watch, it was 3:30.  Even had my agent been there, my trip would have been in vain.

            Just another day in Kosovo.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

In the News: fake blood at the parliment

Saw this lovely protest on the news last night.  It was sponsored by Kurbi’s “Self-determination” movement.  This is, I think, the most visible protest yet that they’ve made.  On the news all the poor government workers had to step over this giant pool of fake blood on their way into the building.  Something that this article doesn’t mention, however, is that fence that surrounds the building is covered in the pictures of those who are still missing from the war.  There are a little over 3,000 ethnic Albanians still missing from the war (and an unknown, though much smaller number of Serbs missing).  Their pictures remind everyone entering and leaving the parliament about the cost of that war. 


Ethnic Albanians Protest Planned Kosovo-Serbia Talks

29 September 2005


One hundred ethnic Albanians have protested outside the Kosovo parliament against planned talks with Serbia on the province's future.

The protesters want the mostly ethnic Albanian province to be an independent country. They spilled fake blood on the steps leading to the building, saying it symbolized those who died in the 1998 to 1999 war with Serbia.

The demonstration came one day after Kosovo's Albanian-dominated parliament approved a plan to create a team to talk with Serbia on the province's political status. Kosovo is legally part of Serbia. But it has been under United Nations administration since 1999, when Serbian forces withdrew after a campaign of NATO air strikes aimed at ending Belgrade's crackdown on ethnic Albanians.

The province's Serbian minority and Serbia want it to remain part of Serbia.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

In the News: Gjilan police chief shot and wounded

This kind of stuff is really infuriating.  Here the chief of police in Gjilan, a Serbian man, is shot and wounded down near Kaçaniki, where Di Ullrich used to live.  That’s also the region where a month ago two Serbian men were killed in drive-by shootings.  These are acts of thuggery and terrorism and accomplish nothing.  They do incredible damage to the international image of Kosovo, especially during this sensitive time as final status talks loom.


By Shaban Buza

PRISTINA, Serbia and Montenegro, Sept 28 (Reuters) - The most senior Serb police officer in Kosovo was shot and wounded on Wednesday in the third such attack in a southern pocket of the majority-Albanian province over the past month.

Dejan Jankovic, 30, the chief of police in Gnjilane, was wounded when his vehicle came under fire near in the southern region of Kacanik at around 6.00 pm (1600 GMT), Kosovo police spokesman Refki Morina told Reuters.

"He was injured in his arm and taken to Pristina hospital," said Morina. His injuries are not life threatening.

Kosovo's Albanian-dominated government condemned Wednesday's shooting. "Such attacks send a bad message, which the government and people of Kosovo find unacceptable," it said in a statement.

There are several hundred Serbs within Kosovo's 7,000-strong multi-ethnic police force. Jankovic was promoted to the rank of regional commander two weeks ago, becoming the highest ranking Serb in the force.

The attack follows the killing of two Serb men and wounding of a Serb policeman in drive-by shootings on Aug. 27 and Sept. 10 in the region of Strpce, a few kilometres west of Kacanik. The area lies at the foot of Kosovo's mountainous border with Macedonia.

What was that?

I was just skyping Di at 9PM this evening.  All of a sudden her whole house shakes and the dogs start barking.  I hear a boom.  I wonder what it was?

Monday, September 26, 2005

In the News: Independence, if not through dialogue, through war (Lajm)

Wow.  This is a little big scary, but not surprising.  I think there are probably segments of the population that have dreams of a renewed war against Serbia.  I don’t know any of them personally, however.  As we saw last March it doesn’t take a majority will or intention to create a mess for the majority.  I hope the large political parties, LDK, PDK, AAK, etc., can keep a lid on the LKÇK.  They could have a profound effect on negotiations which are just around the corner. 


Lajm reports on the front page that the logic of war is still present in Kosovo. The paper notes that the National Movement for the Liberation of Kosovo (LKÇK) is trying to convince the biggest political parties that war is the best way to achieve the aspirations of Kosovo citizens. The biggest political parties however think that these ideas are premature; they support negotiations but not negotiations on independence.

In the News: Belgrade's plan unrealistic

Foreign parties are beginning to weigh in on Belgrade’s plan for ‘independence with out sovereignty.”  So far the reception has been pretty cool. 

Belgrade’s Plan on Kosovo is Unrealistic -

26 September 2005 | 10:12 | FOCUS News Agency

Belgrade. The plan of the Serbian authorities on the Kosovo issue, according to which Serbia will maintain its sovereignty in the region and Kosovo will get legislative, executive and judicial power, is more a description of Belgrade’s wish for Kosovo rather than a realistic resolution of the future statute of the region, foreign experts stated, cited by the Serbian newspaper Blic. “This proposal represents Belgrade’s desire to keep the current condition of Kosovo, which is unacceptable as the international community has already noted”, Daniel Server, director of the Balkan Initiative at the Washington Institute stated. He indicated that it was too early to determine Kosovo’s future statute. In his words, the region will be defined after complicated negotiations, which will soon begin. Belgrade, Pristina, Washington and Brussels will lead the negotiations.
The British analyst and expert for the Balkans Tim Judah believes that the intentions of the Serbian authorities are to take negotiation stand before negotiations have actually started. “Serbia wants to formalize the current statute of Kosovo”, Judah said and added that Albanians would reject such proposal.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

In the News: Serbia explains its position

Interesting article today.  This has been bounced around over the weekend a little bit.  Personally, I can’t see this being accepted by the local people. However, it has some significant concession that are interesting as a opening position for negotiations.  Kosova would retain executive, legislative and judicial power.  That’s pretty significant.  It would also remain a demilitarized zone; if that means no Serbian troops in the province then that would be positive.  However, I don’t think local people are going to accept anything less than full independence and sovereignty.  Things have moved too far in six years to go back.  Stay tuned for more developments.

Serbia Explains Its Kosovo Status Position


Belgrade's contact person for Kosovo shed light on the essence of the formula "more than autonomy, less than independence" that Serbia has been promoting for months as a possible solution to the province's status issue.

(AP, Blic - 23/09/05; AP, Reuters, AFP, DPA, RFE/RL, Radio B92, Beta - 22/09/05)

Kosovo would get its own authorities, while Serbia would retain state and territorial sovereignty over the province, Sanda Raskovic-Ivic, the head of Serbia's Kosovo co-ordination centre, said Thursday (22 September), explaining the essence of Belgrade's vision for the province's future.

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and others have been suggesting for months that the outcome of any talks to determine Kosovo's future status should amount to "more than autonomy, less than independence".

"The Albanian side in Kosovo gets executive, legislative and judicial power," Raskovic-Ivic said in an interview with the Serbian daily Danas published Thursday -- shedding light for the first time on the meaning of that formula. "Under UN Resolution 1244, the Serbian state is guaranteed international and territorial sovereignty."

In Belgrade's view, Kosovo should become a demilitarised zone and Serbia should retain control over borders, customs, fiscal and monetary policies. Furthermore, it wants defence and foreign affairs policies to be centralised -- implying that Kosovo and Serbia would share a defence minister, foreign affairs minister and a seat at the UN.

The province's ethnic Albanian majority is hoping that the talks to determine Kosovo's future, which are expected to begin later this year, will lead to full independence from Serbia.

"We shall get both independence and sovereignty," Raif Gashi, political adviser to Kosovo Prime Minister Bajram Kosumi, told Belgrade-based daily Blic on Thursday. "The people of Kosovo shall decide. The whole world is acquainted with the fact that 90 per cent of people in Kosovo want independence. There is no compromise over that issue."

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's special envoy for Kosovo, Kai Eide, is expected in the coming weeks to present his report on the province's progress in implementing a set of internationally endorsed standards laid down as a precondition for opening status talks. The standards encompass eight areas, including democratic institutions, rule of law, human and minority rights, economic development, freedom of movement and property rights.

UNMIK chief Soren Jessen-Petersen suggested Thursday that the initiation of the negotiations would likely be approved by the UN after Eide submits his report, as the organisation recognises that Kosovo cannot remain under its administration forever. While acknowledging that none of the standards has been fully met, Jessen-Petersen told the AP that the province has made sufficient progress for the process to determine its future to be launched.

"I am very confident that by the end of the year, status discussions will be under way," the UNMIK chief said. There is a general understanding within the international community that, even under the best circumstances, Kosovo would have had an extremely difficult time achieving the standards, he added.

Annan is widely expected to ask former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari to lead the international community's delegation in the talks. He would be assisted by three deputies representing the EU, the United States and Russia, which are members of the Contact Group for Kosovo.


Friday, September 23, 2005

In the News: Kosovo has made enough progress for final status talks to start

We will see how this works out.  Last week it was also in the papers that Kai Aide, the diplomat responsible for studying progress on the standards, decided to delay the release of his final report for a couple of more weeks.  Over the weekend Serbia also announced what it means its by “limited sovereignty” proposal.  Under their proposal Kosovo would remain integrated into a unified military, police and border control system, but with an independent legislature, executive and judiciary.  I can tell you this, any proposal that puts soldiers from Serbia-Montenegro inside Kosovo’s borders is a non-starter.


UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The United Nations and its members recognize Kosovo cannot remain under UN administration forever, so talks on deciding its final status will likely get approval as expected, the top UN official for the region said.
Soren Jessen-Petersen said Thursday that the tiny region has made enough progress toward a series of eight benchmarks - including steps toward democracy and multiethnicity - that were necessary for talks to begin. He stressed that none had been fully met and Kosovo still had a long way to go.

"I am very confident that by the end of the year, status discussions will be underway," Jessen-Peterson said. "I think it is more and more understood that this is a process, there has been a lot of progress, there are still shortcomings."

Kosovo officially remains part of Serbia-Montenegro, the union that replaced Yugoslavia. It has been under UN and NATO administration since a 78-day NATO-led air war that halted a Serb crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists in 1999.
The province's majority ethnic Albanians want full independence, but the Serb minority insists Kosovo remain part of Serbia-Montenegro.

A UN special envoy is expected to make a recommendation to Secretary-General Kofi Annan later this month on whether to recommend a start of status talks.

Jessen-Petersen's comments reflected a growing consensus that the talks will get the green light even though the benchmarks have not been fully met.
He said a growing understanding that Kosovo cannot remain in its current state had essentially led governments to think differently about how they viewed progress.

In the New: ITU responds to UNMIK: Code for Kosovo refused

This is a bummer, though I can understand.  The ITU is the organization responsible for establishing “country codes” for telephone numbers.  Every country has a “country code” which is the prefex you add if you’re calling someone in, say Canada or Great Britain. Right now all of Kosovo’s land-line phones, the regular, normal, ubiquitous house phones still use the country code for Serbia & Montenegro.  I’m a little surprised that UNMIK is the one making the request since UNMIK doesn’t seem normally interested in helping Kosovo accumulate the trappings of statehood, of which an independent country code would be one. 


Express reports in its leading front-page story that the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has turned down UNMIK’s request for a telephone code for Kosovo. The paper says that according to the ITU, the only possibility to get a code for Kosovo is to reach an agreement with Serbia on this issue.

Reliable sources in UNMIK told the newspaper that a senior ITU official had informed the SRSG on 9 September that despite all the efforts he couldn’t get the consensus of all ITU countries to designate a special code for Kosovo.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

In the News: Six Foreign Firms Interested in Upgrading Kosovo Power Plant

Since the end of the war foreign aid organizations have invested/given/thrown away 700-900 million euros in the local power plant.  But today, the electricity situation is very similar to when we first arrived 3 years ago.  When asked recently about how those monies were spent, the utility did not know.


Yesterday my landlord and I were handed announcements by an electric company employee.  KEK had recently installed new ‘telephone poles” in our neighborhood, where new power lines have been strung.  Now, in order to make the connection to the pole, each home owner has to pay to buy the “connectors’ for the utility to install.  The guy handing out the pamphlets didn’t know how much that would cost.  What a circus.

PRISTINA (Serbia and Montenegro), September 19 (SeeNews) - Six foreign companies have shown interest so far in investing in the planned upgrade of a 800-MW coal-fired power plant in the U.N.-run southern Serbian province of Kosovo, a government official said on Monday.

"A U.S.-based company, a Bulgarian one, one from Russia, an American-Italian consortium, the Czech electricity producer CEZ and [UK-based] Alferon have shown interest in Kosovo A," the Kosovo Deputy Minister of Energy and Mining, Agron Dida, told SeeNews.

He added the ministry planned to open negotiations with potential investors by the end of the month.

Kosovo has yet to decide whether it will offer a concession on the power plant or sell it, the spokesman of the Kosovo's power utility KEK, Paloke Berisha, said.

Earlier this year, Alferon was selected a provisional winner in a tender for the sale of the ferro-nickel plant Ferronikeli by the Kosovo Trust Agency (KTA), the body charged with the restructuring of state-owned companies in the province. KTA is making now the background checks of Alferon's 33 million euro ($40.03 million) offer.

"Alferon is ready to make the investment, because Kosovo A supplies the energy needed for Ferronikeli's operations," Dida said.

Rusal, a Russian aluminium group, is also interested in investing in the power plant, Berisha said. Rusal bought Montenegro's sole aluminium smelter, Kombinat Aluminijuma Podgorica (KAP), for 145.5 million euro in cash and investments in July.

Kosovo's 10-year energy strategy, approved in August, callls for the province to upgrade three of the five power-generating units at Kosovo A. The investments needed for the revamping each of the three 200-MW units are estimated at 56 million euro, Dida said.

Kosovo has been administered by the United Nations since 1999 when a NATO bombing campaign forced Serbia to withdraw its forces from Kosovo and halt repression of the ethnic Albanian majority seeking independence for the province. The unresolved political status of Kosovo is considered a major obstacle to the province's plans to attract foreign investors.

In the News: Kosovo Among Most Business Friendly Counties

Good news for foreign investment…there is usually precious little of it.


PRISTINA (Serbia and Montenegro), September 19 (SeeNews) - The business environment of the U.N.-run southern Serbian province of Kosovo is ranking among the most friendly in Eastern Europe in a study based on the World Bank's Doing Business Index, the U.S. office in Pristina said on Monday.

The study was prepared by the Kosovo-based economic research company Integra under the direction of the Kosovo Cluster and Business Support (KSCB) project, which is financed by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. office said in a statement.

"This report will encourage much needed foreign investment by educating the global markets as to the true nature of Kosovo's business environment. It also gives policymakers and business interest groups better intelligence as to where they should focus their efforts for future improvements," the USAID's Kosovo mission director, Ken Yamashita, said in the statement.

The World Bank's doing business index ranks 155 economies worldwide. The report tracks a set of regulatory indicators related to business startup, operation, trade, payment of taxes, and closure by measuring the time and cost associated with various government requirements.

Kosovo, legally part of Serbia and Montenegro, was put under U.N. administration in 1999 following NATO bombings on Serbia to halt Serb repression of the ethnic Albanian majority in the province.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

In The News: Two Serbs shot dead in southern Kosovo

This is really sad news. The area around Strpce has seen periodic violence for a long time. A comparatively multi-ethnic town, it’s been the site of a number of killings in the last two years. The municipality in which I live has a large number of Serbs in and around it and there have been few, if any, acts of violence (with the exception of the March ’04 riots).

The foreign powers have outlined eight “Standards” which Kosova must meet if it wants to continue on to final status talks. Right now, the progress in reaching those standards are being carefully reviewed by international inspectors. One of the standards “freedoms of movement.” That is, the freedom of the population to move about freely without undue concern for their safety. These murders are a blow against freedom of movement and will certainly be held up as evidence that Kosova is not ready for additional autonomy.

Please pray for calm and for wisdom on the part of the national and international leaders here.

PRISTINA, Serbia and Montenegro (Reuters) - Two Serbs were killed and two wounded on Saturday night when their car was shot at in southern Kosovo, a local political leader and police sources said.

Serbs have been the target of frequent attacks in Kosovo by the ethnic Albanian majority since the end of the 1998-99 war, which led to the withdrawal of Serb forces from the southern Serbian province and the arrival of a U.N. administration.

The four Serb men were fired on from another car shortly after 11 p.m. (2100 GMT) as they drove near the town of Strpce near Kosovo's southern border with Macedonia, town mayor Stanko Rakovljevic told Reuters.

"They were shot at from a Mercedes which had followed them," he said. The Serbs were driving a car with the old "PR licence plates denoting Pristina, rather than the U.N.-imposed "KS" plates used by the ethnic Albanian majority.

A police source confirmed the killings. The condition of the two wounded men was not immediately clear.

The killings are the worst since a Serb teenager was shot dead in June last year in the Serb enclave of Gracanica, for which two ethnic Albanians have been charged.

It comes as a U.N. envoy prepares to submit a report next month on whether Kosovo has made enough progress on democracy and minority rights for negotiations to begin on its "final status".

Thursday, August 25, 2005

In The News: Serbia To Return Bodies Of 84 Ethnic Albanians To Kosovo

We regularly hear from UN friends, “Why can’t they (the Albanians) just get over it and move on?”  They are usually Americans or Europeans, who’s understanding of history is not much deeper than a pizza.  At any rate, this last month the Serbian government is returning 84 more bodies of Albanians killed in the war.  About every six months or so they “discover” a new batch of bodies.  These are then shipped back to Kosovo where the remains are claimed by the family members. 

Usually the are placed in a big tent, rows created from the cardboard boxes which each contain the remnants of a loved one.  Then weeping crowds of people walk through trying to recognize a rotting tennis shoe, a bloody shirt, some bone fragments…anything that might give them a clue as to the fate of their brothers, sisters, fathers or mothers.  So every six months or so, the scab is ripped open again for the nation to see.  At last count there are still over 3,400 Albanians missing.

It’s a little hard to get over.


PRISTINA (AP)--Serbian authorities Wednesday were returning the bodies of 84 ethnic Albanians killed during the 1998-99 Kosovo war - the largest single return of war dead in the province.

The bodies, which were exhumed from a mass grave on the grounds of a police training center just outside Belgrade, will be handed over to their families and U.N. officials in the border area of Merdare, 25 miles north of the provincial capital, Pristina.

The remains are believed to be those of ethnic Albanian civilians killed by Serb forces during the war and removed from Kosovo in an apparent cover-up attempt by former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. NATO launched a bombing campaign in 1999 to halt the crackdown of his troops on independence-seeking ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. Since then the province has been administered by the United Nations.

Authorities in Serbia said that, out of 836 bodies of Kosovo Albanians found in mass graves in Serbia, 566 had been identified and nearly 500 returned to their families. The remaining 270 bodies were expected to be identified by the end of the year.

The families have repeatedly demanded that all the war dead exhumed be returned immediately. Nearly 3,000 people were still listed as missing.

Hundreds of bodies recovered from mass graves in Kosovo and Serbia were to be identified through the matching of DNA from bone samples with that of the relatives of missing people.

Earlier this year, Serbian and Kosovo officials resumed talks aimed at establishing the fate of ethnic Albanians, Serbs and others who vanished during the war - one of the most sensitive and emotionally charged issues between the two former foes.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires