Friday, June 30, 2006

Jessen-Petersen stays true to his beliefs until the end. In other words, they were really his beliefs, rather than some easy route to pacify the extremists and give himself an easier time on the job.

America will negotiate how much EU will pay Serbia to give up Kosovo. Ok, the link doesn't say that, but it's pretty much the same thing. The funny things is that a price being paid in exchange for indepdendence was being circulated even back in 1998. Back then it would be Kosovo that would pay a $2 billion figure, from what I can remember. The deal stands on shaky moral grounds. It's like some NGOs collecting money to pay up slave masters in some corners of Africa today. Other bargaining chips are war criminals, for which Serbia could get good money but has to ask for Hague to let them alone instead. Sad for them! Serbia could also ask for Kosovo to sign an agreement on not suing them over the war reperations.

110 of the the "last" bodies discovered in Serbia have been returned to Kosovo seven years after they were murdered. Serbia says that's it, but there are more than 2,000 Albanians and Serbs still missing. It should be noted that Serbia has been democratic for most of this time but it has taken them a painfully long time to act.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Weekend in Durrës

Durrës-Kukës-Prishtina-Merdare highway project will bring Kosovo closer to the sea. It is the first serious link connecting Albania and Kosovo allowing Kosovars access to the Albanian Adriatic in at most four hours. The road beyond Merdare will connect with Nis and Corridor 10 which goes into Romania. In Albania the new road will pass through new low-lying fields with tunnels crossing the mountains in the way. This will not only improve travel times from the current six hours through treacherous terrain but also allow year-round travel. Political campaign promises and euphoria have followed this project since at least 2001. However, in the last few months it looks like Albania got more serious on the project. Now a certain South Eastern Europe Transport Observatory (SEETO) will allocate €154 million to Kosovo, €120 million of which will be used towards the construction of the Kosovar portion of the highway. The total cost for the 111 km long Kosovo portion is expected to cost €644 million, money which will be solicited from investors in return for road concessions. Albania will have to spend as much as €440 million on a 117 km long lower quality version. The toal portion for the Albanian part is 170 km, some of which already exists.

International Crisis group recommended internationl community should help Albania constuct this road for the sake of Kosovo's economy back in 2001. Now it is time to put this into action.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

114 Vetevendosje activists and supporters have landed in jail again while blocking the road for Serbia's delegations visiting Kosovo on Vidovdan. Among them is also a member of parliament, his party's only representative. According to RTK, Kostunica was invited by Bishop Artemije to rekindle the hope of Serbs that Kosovo will remain "Serb Jerusalem." Kostunica made it to Gracanica later in the day, where he took the liberty to raise the nationalistic fervor of the aproximately 1,000 gathered Serbs.

There is no better and more important place to repeat that which every Serb should know: Kosovo has and always will be part of Serbia.

This is a slap in the face of PM Ceku and UNMIK, who have tried to paint the visit as personal and religous in nature.

Another high Orthodox cleric, Metropolitan of Montenegro and the Littoral Amphilohije stated today that independence would turn Kosovo into a "long-term powder keg, not only for the Balkans, but for all of Europe." He told Montenegrin daily "Dan" that the "most optimal" solution for Kosovo would be staying within Serbia, with the highest possible autonomy and with the highest guarantes of all human rights for all of its citizens.

Why do Serb clerics delve into politics and then play naive when they find themselves targets of political repercussions?
PM Ceku will maintain his government intact. According to him, the work has been satisfactorily. This is a sad day for the political developments in Kosovo. Not only there were no changes, but the local elections due to be held at the end of summer were postoponed 3-6 months after the status resulution. The trend has been for the three major national parties to lose some support to the smaller, more local parties. However, and despite the outrage about the suspected corruption of government ministers, a Gallup/Index Kosova poll showed that a LDK in disarray, the major coalition partner, had actually gained support, with the opposition ORA and PDK faring worse than their previous numbers.
On a happier note, Contact Groups members consider that the 13 mini-standards set to the Kosovo government for immediate work have mostly been fulfilled.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Serb PM Kostunica is coming to Kosovo to celebrate Vidovdan, a religous feast in the Serb Orthodox Calandar celebrating the loss/victory at the second Battle of Kosovo. Let's see how different his experience will be from Albania's PM.
Gerard Gallucci, UNMIK's man in Mitrovica, expects violence in the north.
I had this article bookmarked since February and I finally got a chance to read it; it is a clean explanation of why Kosovo's situation and reasoning for independence should not be linked to other areas of conflict. President Wilson was not a failure.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

International Crisis Group on its last report on Kosovo from February stated:

[T]here is one area where the international community should consider a more intrusive mission: northern Kosovo, and Mitrovica in particular, where Serb parallel structures defy UNMIK and the provisional government (PISG) alike. Leaving a new Kosovo government to try to incorporate the north would invite a violent breakdown. A transitional international authority there is the only sensible answer.
ICG has stayed with the situation all along giving some very good advice to the parties. Now its office head in Belgrade, says:

Speaking in Washington, Lyon said the Serbian government has decided that it wants the separation of Serbian and ethnic Albanian areas of Kosovo. Evidence of the decision, he said, comes from the increasing number of propaganda pieces in state-controlled media and the rehabilitation of several Milosevic era ideologues. "All the preparations have been completed. And the Serbian government literally can flip a switch and partition Kosovo," he said.

ICG happens to be the group that first recommended broad autonomy for north of Mitrovica making it a center of Serbs in Kosovo. However, Albanians in the Presevo/Presheva Valley have responded to such programs by asking the equivalent for themselves.

In a report on the Presevo Valley, they recommend:

Current wellintentioned development policies are insufficient, and EU visa policies block the release of pent-up demographic pressures. In the medium to long term, the economic situation is likely to be resolved only through large-scale out-migration from the three main municipalities in southern Serbia, hopefully in the context of the overall development of Serbia, Kosovo and Macedonia, as well as a liberalised travel and work regime with the EU.

The balance of policing responsibilities should be shifted to the multi-ethnic force from the paramilitary, nationalist Gendarmerie, which is still in charge of much local security and continues to engage in ethnic provocations.

All quiet on the Kosovo front

At 17, Enis of Roma Mahala hopes to get a permanent job and then start a family. The Roma Mahala in Mitrovica is coming back together again. Mitrovica is behind in this aspect. In other areas, Romas have taken to the silly, yet harmless, Balkan habit of walking up and down the promenade with girlfriends. It must be a sign of their comfort.

There is a slight chance that we could get better reporting on the status negotiations process in the future. Albanian and Serb journalists will spend two days in Vienna (you don't go to Vienna for nothing, do you?) learning the intricacies of negotiations reporting.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Politika interviews Rohan

Politika used to be the mouthpiece of Milosevic. Today it is still owned and close to the government, although it is not as much nationalistic as it used to be. Kinda Politika Lite to go with Milosevic Lite (Kostunica). Through it Serb government conviniently leaks details on the talks, which is always good for those of you interested and able to read cyrillic. The interview below Politika conducted three days ago with Albert Rohan, EU's aide to Annan's chief negotiatior on Kosovo. Some questions at the beginning were omitted by me, as were some parts of some of the answers as noted with ellypsis.

If you wish to defend minorities, then there must be measures taken from the other side as well. For example, we expected the nomination of 11 Serb judges and at the end three or four people appeared. Even they, after a week of work left their working positions because they received such orders.
There are about 500 available positions at KPS and until then applied 13 or 14 people. How is it possible to increase the number of Serbs in the institutions when they don't want to cooperate?
Every month research is done on the security situation and they feel safe in Kosovo. In the question "do you travel," about 80% of the minorities responded "Yes." This is good, but later we hear that a bus transporting Serb students was stoned. Although from the 80 good cases of movement nothing is said nor reported. Therefore it is important for this artificial atmosphere to stop. Then improvements will begin.
It all began with the removal of Kosovo's autonomy and the repression against people of Kosovo. It is impossible to erase these experiences. In Belgrade there is a tendency to begin history from 1999, when unfortunately many crimes were committed against Serbs and when they started to leave.

But history does not start in 1999. When the situation is concerned, it began in 1991. And we shouldn't forget this. Serbia certainly has no right to reestablish its rule in Kosovo. This has to be accepted. If I had to decide for Serbia, with pleasure I would decide for an independent life on the way to EU.

Politika: Isn't Milosevic two meters below ground, and his policy as well?
Rohan: Maybe…

Politika: You mentioned the parallel with Germany. Does this mean that Serbia has to wait 50 years to unite with the southern province as happened with West and East Germany?
Rohan: You can't compare them. In the Germanys lived the same people.

Politika: In the Republika Srpska and Serbia the same people exist. Does this mean that two parts that belong to the same people have the right to self-determination?
Rohan: No! Because in Switzerland, Austria, and Germany live parts of the same people and they don't have the right to self-determination. Austrians can't unite with Germans.

Politka: Another analogy…RS can't unite but it certainly has the right, like Kosovo, to have its own state outside of Serbia?
Rohan: No, this isn't right. Before its formation, RS never was a separate unit in a country.

Politika: Kosovo neither had the status of republic in the SFRJ.
Rohan: The majority of the population of RS before the war and the ethnic cleansing, in the time of ex-Yugoslavia, consisted of Muslim Bosniaks, from 40-46%. Serb republic was created out of ethnic cleansing.

Politika: You don't consider the fact that these data changed after the intervention and the prosecution of Serbs from Kosovo, which a while ago was bigger in number.
Rohan: If you really want to go back in time, then we could say go back 300 years, when there were more Albanians than Serbs.

Politka: We can go back to the era of Car Dusan to prove the opposite?
Rohan: This discussion really doesn't take us anywhere…

Politika: In the discussion table, is there the idea for the division of Kosovo?
Rohan: It isn't. Nobody supports this and it's meaningless. First of all, if the division of Metohia is considered, when it is known that that's where most of the monasteries are, this is the most distant area from Serbia.[…] Contact Group, along with Russia, has rejected the idea of splitting for two reasons. First, this would cause movement of Serbs from the central and southern parts of Kosovo, whereas those that would try to stay would be persecuted. International community simply doesn't have enough forces to prevent this.

Politika: What is Serbs accepted to move to the northern part of Kosovo?
Rohan: North is not half of the Kosovo territory, it's 15-18%. International community in the 21st century can't accept ethnic cleansing, as in the time of the Turkish-Greek period. Anyone is free to move wherever he/she wants, but we can't support something like that. From out contacts with Serbs living in Kosovo, we know that they don't want to move from their settlements. There is another danger here: if we allow something like that, immediately similar pressures would appear in different parts of Macedonia, then in Ulcinj of Montenegro, RS etc. International community won't allow this.

Politika: In your opinion, independence of Kosovo would be good for Serbia?
Rohan: If you consider how much money, energy and time Serb leaders spend on Kosovo, then we can conclude that the solution of this problem of course would allow Serbia to focus on the real problems, and this is the well-being of the citizens.

Politka: Do you think that in Serbia a politician has been born, who would sign the independence of Kosovo?
Rohan: There must have been born, although this doesn't seem to be true. Actually the road could be chosen through which nobody has to sign anything. If Security Council decides something, then nobody has to sign anything.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A two-day conference on the economic and social development of Kosovo was held in Ljubljana. It doesn't look like it was worth the money but it's good nevertheless to hear that there are some people out there thinking even about such petty issues as the economy.

Sali Berisha, Albanian's prime minister visited Kosovo last week for three days. He was made honorary citizen of the cities of Prishtina and Gjakova. He also visited late President Rugova's memorial, Jasharaj family memorial in Drenica, and Peja and Prizren. He had tears in his eyes at all the memorials. In Gjakova he recollected how as a young boy growing up just across the border from Gjakova, in Tropoja, he would seek the highest peaks to have a look at Gjakova down in the valley hoping that one day he would be able to visit it.

Berisha asked Albanians to respect Serbs and promised funds from his government to rebuilt the Serb church in Kosovo Polje. He said that the future of Albanians in the 21st century will be bright. He reiterated the stand that the two countries will meet in an integrated Europe, just days after Albania signed the ascension agreement with the EU.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Detroit Free Press:

While no one disputes Serbia's historical ties to Kosovo, the reality is that Belgrade would have to impose a military occupation to govern the province. Unwilling to face reality, Belgrade has adopted a bargaining strategy that Frode Mauring, a Norwegian who heads the United Nations' economic development program in Kosovo, describes as "crisis maximization." It plays to Serbs' fears about their safety.

The two attacks in the north have been ruled out of inter-ethnic motivation. Whereas the more recent vandalization of a church in Gracanica and the shooting of two Brits driving a car with Belgrade license plates in the Decan-Gjakova road is cause for concern.

Bring on the revolution

Two very good articles regarding the Vetëvendosje movement. The better one - a commentary - comes from Berat Buzhala, Editor-in-Chief of Express, the Kosovan daily newspaper. Anothe one - a report - comes from Krenar Gashi, a student activist and BIRN Kosovo Assistant Editor.

For the greater good

Principles and realpolitik often collide. Taking Kosovo out of the black hole of March 2004 like Petersen did takes astuteness that only a few politicians can possess. Yet many have accused Petersen for being too close to the Hague-indicted Ramush Haradinaj. In fact, some believe that Petersen knew in advance of the indictment but did not stop Haradinaj from becoming prime minister.

But Haradinaj's 100 day government was considered the best 100 days of government that Kosovo has had in its last seven years. During this time Haradinaj began a new dynamic era of making serious efforts to reconcile with minorities and to streamline government. I have argued that only a former KLA commander could have done this rapprochement, including diversion of government funds to pay for the damages to Serb houses and churches done in March. It doesn't matter if Haradinaj was guilty of all he was charged with; he was a way too useful leadership asset to be thrown away just like that, on top of being a liability with the war veterans behind him. War criminals roaming the Balkans are plenty; leaders able to deliver are harder to come by. The West has made deals with much more awful men when the situations needed it. Milosevic was as guilty at Dayton as he was after Kosovo. Yet at that moment he was needed and correspondingly used. Biljana Plavsic continued to serve in the Republika Srbska government and only was taken down when at a convenient moment for NATO only to be appropriately rewarded at Hague with a short sentence and a luxury jail for her post-war cooperation.

The post-war Balkans would be a much happier place if there were more indictees like Haradinaj and Plavsic. Petersen in the midst of it all was more perceptive of the situation then New York or Hague could ever be.

International community has reached an agreement to reach an agreement on November 15.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Ethnic Kosovo

A nice short video.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

"Kosovo" beats "God" in contention. We're only talking about the respective Wikipedia articles here. It should be noted that the quality of "Kosovo" has come quite a long way since last year. I see that now there is also a pro-Turkish section of external links. District names at the bottom of the page are in Serb latin script, Serb freaking cyrillic script, and then Albanian.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

On 2 June Guardia di Financia, the Italian elite crime fighting force helping UNMIK in Kosovo searched Gavin Jeffrey's home, a former head and now consultant to PTK at 30,000 euro a month.

Investigators interrogated him for 5 hours on Tuesday, and ordered Jeffery not to leave Kosovo.

Today PTK board members stated that he is in his homeland while Guardia di Financia is supposedly interrogating him. You can't imagine how depressing it is when internationals are involved in these kinds of crimes. Instead of leading by example, UNMIK personnel has been investigated in all revenue-making public corporations of Kosovo. Jeffrey was investigated with a bunch of, now gone, local executives of PTK back in 2004, but he soon left and established his company as an outside consultant to PTK.

The daily Express reported that calling from Serbia's Mobtel mobile phone operator into PTK's mobile netwtork Vala 900 costs cheaper than from within the network. International calls are also routed through Serbia costing PTK millions. Vala 900 has an agreement with Monaco Telecom to use their international code for international calls, which could be renewed at much better terms since the previous contract with Monaco has expired. Regulators are apparently holding them back from the renewal causing 2 million euro damages a month.

The three Serb-dominated municipalities in the north of Kosova get 500 international and 300 local policemen. The thing is that this manpower could be used much better in other areas with Serb population where there are actual security threats. The number of people living in these municipalities or the level of crime there does not warrant this kind of security, unless another threat is in mind.

Just when we thought that there was some agreement on some of the side issues of negotiations, an unidentified member of the Serb delegation denies the progress.

He denied claims of the chief of Pristina's negotiating team for cultural heritage, Ylber Hysa, who said that representatives of the U.N., the Council of Europe and of the Serbian Orthodox Church, supported his proposal for the forming of a protective zone around the monastery, and accepted the arguments against talks about the security protection of Orthodox Christian sites in Kosovo.

"No agreement has been accomplished, contrary to what Hysa said, and there was no agreement about the protective zone around the Visoki Decani Monastery, since this zone was formed in 2005 by UNMIK.

But there is progress in another front. Raksovic-Ivic and UNMIK's second in command "expressed satisfaction with the 'very good and useful' meeting and added that, besides the usurped property and the return, the talks were about "the problem of public transportation" in Kosovo.
Another UNMIK official is upbeat about security in Kosovo.

Speaking at a regular news conference of international organizations in Pristina, Sandra Mitchell said economic issues, primarily the possibility of employment, were the most important factors that affected the process of return.

In her words, security is no longer a problem "worth mentioning." Under way are 20 return projects, worth EUR30 million.

All these funds, she said, were provided by the Kosovo government. However, there are no financial possibilities for responding to all requests for returning, and this is why aid and engagement of international donors is needed.

Ah, if she only had the money, wonders would happen. Kofi Anan has called on both sides to be flexible. Albanians say that they won't budge from their current 3+1 offer: 3 new municipalities with majority Serb population, an expansion of another one, and a municipality for a monument. The monument in question is a memorial to the the First Battle of Kosovo Field: a stone structure built in the 50's to commemorate the battle, although nobody is sure where the battle exactly took place. I can only imagine the faces on Ahtisaari when Albanians and Serbs are arguing about the merits of the memorial for having it's own municipality.
Slovak President tries to help by offering this invalualbe tip. Gasparovic:
"Kosovo should remain a multi-ethnic region within Serbia, or some kind of autonomy. I cannot imagine that the Serbs who have been forced to leave here, cannot return to their property and relatives."

You know the bad shape of things you are in when Slovaks are lecturing you.
Arrested Vetevendosje protesters have entered hunger strike yesterday. In the morning they were offered food Made in Serbia, which they refused. Later they decided to refuse food altogether. There are about 80 of them in jail.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

UN does not rule out a non-European replacement for Petersen. According to Petersen, there won't be a vacuum in his position and that UN has already been searching for his replacement. The new UNMIK head will arrive two weeks after his departure.

We are advanced on the discussions we have have with New York and they know exactly what kind of cadre we need, and we believe it's a matter of days. There won't be a vacuum in Kosovo."

During the Vetevendosje protests last week 80 people were arrested. 50 of them remain in jail. They were sentended to 10 days in jail for resisting arrest and blocking traffic.

Vetevendosje during their last protest in Prishtina

Monday, June 12, 2006


Chief UN negotiatior Ahtisaari in Mitrovica:

"The essence of the decentralisation is the guarantees for a quiet life for the majority and better conditions for minorities. If the majority does not live better, then the minorities will not have a good life. The aim of this process is that everyone to live in favourable conditions," he said after meeting with ethnic Albanian and Serb families.
K-Serb leaders:
The Serbs, however, threatened the possibility of partition if the final status is unacceptable to them, saying they would organise a referendum.(SEE Times)


Used to be Srbija do Tokija, not it's Srbija kao Nokija. NY Times has caught on the joke.

Some say that the breakup of Serbia and Montenegro, and the loss of Kosovo if it occurs, will produce benefits for Serbia, which they say will be better able to face its own political and economic changes.
Some are responding with a Serbian tradition: black humor. In Belgrade, people say that in the 1990's, the nationalist slogan was Serbia do Tokija, or Serbia to Tokyo. These days, they say, it is more accurate to say Serbia kao Nokia, or Serbia like Nokia. Just like the Finnish cellphones, Serbia comes in a newer and smaller model every year.


Even Kosovars can't beat General Valotto with optimism:
At a military ceremony held at KFOR Command, General Valotto said “I am here to ensure everyone that KFOR will stay in Kosovo as long as its people, the Prime Minister and the President want.”

“I proudly confirm that now, seven years later, NATO has fulfilled its mission. We have a safe environment here. Mutual tolerance and understanding between the parties continues to grow. Kosovar people’s maturity is growing, too, as seen in the recent political events,” Valotto said.

The number of trained local policeman, policewomen, and policeminorities has reached 8,300. In the latest batch:

393 cadets have graduated at the Police School in Vushtrri; of those 92 were from minorities. There were also 55 female officers.
I read somewhere that a Pole complained on Russians about this. Russians would declare everything Polish as Soviet only for them to turn around at the right moment and declare everything Soviet...well, Russian.

Former Kosovo communist official Azem Vllasi said on June 9 that Belgrade's proposal to grant Kosovo a high level of autonomy within Serbia "is entirely unacceptable."

The Serbian proposal offers a 20-year treaty aimed at keeping Kosovo a part of Serbia for the duration of the treaty. Vllasi said the proposal "does not correspond to reality," as for Albanians, the last legal and legitimate framework was the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, adding that "there is no chance" that Kosovo will stay in Serbia.

Tak for lån , Hr. Petersen

UNMIK head, Mr. Soren Jessen-Petersen, has finally made public the fact that he is leaving Kosovo at the end of June. He states personal - most likely family health reasons for leaving. He will be joining his family in Washington. Jessen-Petersen took over two years ago fromhis fellow Dane, Hans Haekkerup Harri Holkeri to become the most beloved UNMIK head.

Outshining Haekkerup Holkeri was not hard. He is remembered as the least effective man to have run UNMIK. He was notorious for taking helicopter flights when visiting out of Pristina, for spending as much time visiting with Belgrade leaders as he did with those in Prishtina, for consulting New York on every matter, and for the March riots which awoke him and his administration from the deep sleep.

But Jessen-Petersen went above and beyond. He engaged the local leaders in a personal level and was able to ask for more out of them in return. Under his leadership Kosovo did not face fewer challenges, just the opposite. There have been two more years with power cuts, two more with unemployment at high levels, and two more years with an economy in shambles and hostage of Serbia - that’s two more years too many.

But Jessen-Petersen was able to get the processes going and recognize that devolution of authority to the local leadership was the way to go. On the ground he was quick to recognize that independence was the only way possible. And that the real issue at hand was the rights of Serb minority under this independence. Going ahead with privatization took guts too, although it was far from a perfect execution.

Among his failures, I would list the ongoing corruption problem and his failure to punish it. Judicial system has also not gotten much attention and remains virtually inoperative. During his reign Serbs for the most part have remained out of the institutions. Today they bluntly declared that their situation has not improved since he took over, although statistics show a remarkably different picture. They are right to expect more.

Because I recognize how tough it is to act and at the same time represent the interests and feelings of UN member states, Jessen-Petersen's bold leadership become the more powerful. On June 12, the 7th anniversary of the entrance of NATO forces, I thank him for the time he took far away from his family and wish him the best of luck on whatever needs his immediate attention.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

I'm back

From Alliance for New Kosovo June Newsletter:

Serbian Group Hires Washington Lobbyist
As final status talks are set to begin this summer, virtually all informed American and European observers are expecting independence for Kosovo by year-end. However, at least one unidentified Serbian group, calling itself Serbian National Council of Kosovo and Metohija, is contesting the decision to the end.

According to B92 radio broadcast from Belgrade, the group has hired a Washington, D.C. law and lobbying firm Venable, LLP, to seek support for Serbian interests in the U.S. The one-page contract was filed with the U.S. Department of Justice as part of a Foreign Agents Registration Act notice.

The firm is to receive $600,000 over a six-month period on a contract that runs into autumn, with an additional $100,000 for every month the contract is extended. The contract was signed by Venable official James Jatras, who testified for the defense at Slobodan Milosevic's war crimes trial at The Hague.

Venable has sub-contracted with public relations firm Global Strategic Communications Group (GSCG) to provide publicity services such as placing paid media, assisting in writing policy statements, and working on op-ed and editorial placement. The Venable firm will also run an American "policy council" for its Serbian client.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


lost, originally uploaded by Agron.