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.