Articles on the Bosnia Conflict



Bosnia-Herzegovina Journal #11:
Macedonia and Kosovo
By Peter Lippman
January 2, 2013

2012 Journal index

Journal 1: Sarajevo. September 25
Journal 2: Tuzla. October 11
Journal 3: Srebrenica. October 13
Journal 4: Bratunac, Višegrad, Elections. October 26
Journal 5: Krajina - Banja Luka. November 6
Journal 6: Krajina - Kozarac, Prijedor. November 12
Journal 7: Guilt, Responsibility, and Politics. November 20
Journal 8:Travnik, Mostar, Animal Farm. December 13
Journal 9
: Activism in Sarajevo, Return to Srebrenica, Prijedor Revisited, December 19
Journal 10:
Krila Nade; The Missing; Tycoon Arrested; March 1st Coalition, December 26
Journal 11: Macedonia and Kosovo, January 2, 2013
Journal 12: The Roma of Kosovo, January 11, 2013
Journal 13: A Visit to Germany, January 29, 2013

Previous journals and articles

To contact Peter in response to these reports or any of his articles,

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Leaving Bosnia in November, I flew to Skopje, Macedonia. I spent some days there visiting friends and catching up, and then went to Kosovo for another few days. This report is about those visits, and about things I heard and saw in those places. I had not been to Macedonia or Kosovo for six years.

Some of the names in this report have been changed to protect people’s privacy.


I arrived at Alexander the Great International Airport on a Tuesday evening. As I was getting off the plane I immediately received a voice-mail message in my cell phone that said, “Welcome to Macedonia, the cradle of civilization.”

The population of Macedonia is around a couple million, with approximately one fourth of that number being Albanian, and most of the rest Christian Slavs. There have long been tensions between the two ethnic populations, with some flare-ups in the past dozen-odd years. Driving home from the airport with my old friend Gzim, I immediately asked if things were peaceful in Macedonia. He said, “Yes, they are, for now.”

That “for now” is significant, because during the year 2012 there were sporadic incidents of violence between Albanians and Macedonians. Churches were torched; five Macedonians were killed in one mysterious incident; Macedonian police shot two Albanians in another. Nothing like a war is threatened, but neither are relations friendly. (For more detail on this situation see Macedonia: Ghost of Ethnic Conflict Returns, December 28, 2012.

Arriving home, I chatted with Gzim and his wife Drita. They explained to me that the Macedonian government was currently in the midst of a grandiose reconstruction project in the capital, where they were spending hundreds of millions of euros. The term “facelift” would be an understatement of the extent of this project, called “Skopje 2014.” In a huge way, they said, the project was a form of propaganda for the VMRO, the leading Macedonian nationalist party.

As “transitional” countries go, Macedonia is in a tricky situation. It is a small and poor country that aspires to join NATO and the EU. Right next door is Greece, already a member of those two structures. For reasons that adhere more to populist politics than to rationality, Greece opposes Macedonia’s membership. The reason given is that Macedonia chooses to call itself Macedonia. And because this name is associated with Greek history going all the way back to the fourth century BCE, the use of the name by “Slavic usurpers from the north” betrays Macedonia’s “aggressive territorial ambitions upon part of Greece.”

The historical region of Macedonia covered territory that, after the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, fell to Greece, Yugoslavia, and Bulgaria. Yugoslav or Vardar Macedonia became part of post-World War I Yugoslavia, and during the Tito era became one of the six republics of Yugoslavia. After the Yugoslav federation broke up in the early 1990s, the new state named itself the Republic of Macedonia. In 1993 it was accepted into the UN as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, or FYROM. Greece, when it is not calling Macedonia “Skopje,” insists upon this name being used as the country’s official name. I don’t know of any other country that is primarily referred to by initials containing a reference to another country that no longer exists.

Over the past few years, Macedonia’s nationalist government has promoted an increasingly populist and chauvinist, Slavic Macedonian atmosphere. To some extent this is a standard vote-getting strategy for domestic consumption, but it is also partially a response to Greece’s resistance to the acceptance of Macedonia into the European political and military infrastructure.

In the next few days, walking through various parts of Skopje, I would witness, with some astonishment, what Gzim and Drita were talking about.


The next morning, with eagerness, I walked into the old section of Skopje, to the northeast of the Vardar River. The Bit Pazar and the old Čaršija are located there. Coming into the neighborhood from the east, first I entered the Bit Pazar – literally, the “flea market.” There’s a covered section where mainly produce is sold, and then there are stalls purveying all kinds of other items. In the covered section, just to give a sample, I saw a vast area selling only red bell peppers. Seeing so many red bell peppers all together made me happy because it represented a culinary priority in that culture – so superior, in that way, to our cuisine.

Likewise, there were huge piles of leeks, cabbages, tomatoes, and onions. There were large bins displaying various kinds of rice, and in the next stall, beautiful big red bags of paprika and cayenne that would take most of us in the US years to consume. Nearby were great chunks of white cheese, and another stall with large bins of several different kinds and colors of olives. One man in a corner stall was selling plastic bags. The aroma, not really describable here, seemed to beckon anyone who was interested in preparing to make a typical southern Balkan meal.

Scene in the Bit Pazar, Skopje

The outside part of the Bit Pazar contained the products that we know from a department store, but each in its own stall. So you could buy shoes, razors, radios, bars of soap, packs of cigarettes, music CDs, t-shirts, hair curlers, fireworks, and so on and on, each from a different stall in the same area. One stall, a riot of red and black, sold patriotic Albanian t-shirts and flags. The Bit Pazar and Čaršija are dominated by Albanians, and the hundredth anniversary of the establishment of the Albanian state was approaching.

Whenever I have been in the Bit Pazar I have noticed the music – Macedonian, Albanian, Serbian, Bulgarian, Greek, and Turkish, playing in the stalls. I have felt that I am somehow in the geographic, or at least ethnographic center of the Balkans. I could see living there for a spell.

From the Bit Pazar I wandered into to the old Čaršija, or market area, and this feeling was only reinforced. I spoke Serbo-Croatian with the Albanians and Macedonians. I apologized to one shopkeeper for not knowing Albanian, only to learn that he was a local Turk. Many shopkeepers in the neighborhood, young and old, are prepared to sell things in five or six different languages, and to switch from one to another on the slightest hint that might be called for.

The streets were lively, although there were no tourists. At the very entrance to the Čaršija there was a man sitting on a stool, getting ready to play the ҫifteli, a traditional Albanian long-necked, two-stringed instrument. He was a middle-aged man, serious, wearing a traditional plis, a white felt cap shaped like half of an egg. There was a container for coins in front of him and, nearby, a glass of tea. I made a donation and he allowed me to photograph him. We talked, he told me that his name was Nevaip.

The Čaršija is arranged of several straight pedestrian streets paved with smooth-worn stones; as you walk down those streets you pass an ancient stone mosque here and there, or some other stone building constructed in the Ottoman period. There is an entire block of stores selling fancy wedding dresses, and another street of jewelry stores. One shop catered to women who covered their hair in a fashionable way. A back street is home to blacksmiths and metal workers. There, you could buy shovel heads, axes, pails, and home-made tin woodstoves. A man worked at a grinder, sharpening a scythe blade, outside his shop.

Jewelry store in the old Čaršija, Skopje

Every block was also home to a couple of casual restaurants where you could eat stew or grilled meat; there were also tea and coffee shops where men hung out. If the weather was dry you could see a couple of older men in black berets sitting at a table outside.

An oddity in the Balkans: I saw a storefront with the brightly-colored logo, “LGBT,” and the simple title, “Support Centre.” You would not see that in Bosnia or Serbia. Other than this detail, it seems that in the Bit Pazar and the Čaršija things have not changed, perhaps, since the 1950s.

There is little development of infrastructure in Skopje’s Albanian section. Skopje’s ethnic populations used to be much more mixed, with Albanians and Macedonians living in the same neighborhoods. But in the last fifteen-odd years, the two communities have been separating. Macedonians have been moving south of the Vardar. Albanians have been buying property in the neighborhoods of Ҫair and Butel, where Macedonians have moved out, leaving their old houses. The Albanians tear down those houses and put up new ones.

There is another Albanian neighborhood nearer to the river and the center of town, in a more convenient location. It has more of a run-down aspect, because the municipal government has not allowed people there to receive permits to build or improve their property. So everything is worn and decrepit there. “They want us to leave,” says Gzim.

Now the Albanian and Macedonian students go to separate schools. They used to go to the same schools, but took separate classes because of the language.

Gzim tells me that some Albanians in Macedonia are attaching to a conservative brand of Islam. He says that this is more of a trend in Macedonia, but not in Albania. He calls adherents to this conservative religion the “Taliban” of Macedonia, and says that their numbers are growing. They are sending their girls to elementary school wearing scarves.


I walked to the western end of the Čaršija and approached the ancient Kameni Most, the stone bridge over the Vardar. As I arrived, I saw that huge changes had taken place. First, a statue to Philip II of Macedonia was under construction, the finishing touches being implemented behind a rusty corrugated steel barrier. Then, just before the bridge, on one side of the entrance there was a statue of Saints Cyril and Methodius, and on the other side, a statue of Saints Naum and Kliment. These saints are ninth-century Christian missionaries. The former were Greeks from Thessaloniki, and the latter two were local Slavs. Philip II, father of Alexander the Great, lived nearly a millennium before the Slavs arrived in Macedonia.

Statue of King Phillip II, Skopje

To the left of the bridge, still on the same side of the river as the Čaršija, was an imposing, baroque-style Museum of Archeology. To the right of the bridge on the same side of the river were a couple more new, grand buildings. One housed the Ministry of the Interior. In front of one of these buildings there was a monument to Karposh, who mounted a rebellion against the Ottomans in the 17th century. Defeated, he was executed on the Kameni Most.

I felt slightly dizzy as I saw the lovely bridge surrounded by extravagant architecture that rendered the whole scene nearly unrecognizable.

The Kameni Most (Stone Bridge) over the Vardar, Skopje, Macedonia. New Archeology museum in background

I walked across the familiar old bridge, passing a couple of people selling CDs and cigarettes. I arrived at the grand plaza on the bigger, newer side of Skopje. I found it dotted with one statue after another. The Emperor Justinian was there, establishing (pre-Slavic) Macedonia’s early Byzantine credentials. Czar Samuel, 11th century conqueror of most of the Balkans, was there. Statues of the rebels Damjan Gruev and Goce Delčev cemented Macedonia’s hajduk, anti-Ottoman history.

Main square of Skopje, dominated by statue of Alexander the Great

Alexander himself reigned over the plaza on a horse rampant, and I have not mentioned another dozen-odd statues. I wouldn’t be surprised if Washington, DC had fewer statues than this 2500 square meter plaza and an adjacent park. A replica of the Arc de Triomphe stood off to the side, looking like an afterthought. Altogether, the ensemble of statues reminded me of an antique store filled with kitsch.

Replica of the Arc de Triomphe, just off the main square, Skopje

Compounding the tackiness of the scene, a large, permanent digital advertisement screen, which must have been some thirty feet long and twenty feet high, was mounted to one of the buildings. It prominently advertised local travel agencies and high-tech outlets.

Albanians, at least one quarter of Macedonia’s population, don’t exist in this idealized portrayal of Macedonian history and society. The only Albanian represented there was Mother Teresa, but her ethnicity was not mentioned.

In the glorious pantheon of Macedonian history, stretching twice the length of the Slavic presence on this territory, the timeline apparently ends right around 1940. The only mention of the Partisan era was to insinuate that Tito’s regime was an oppressor of the identity of the Macedonians. Other than that, the Tito era never happened. And the VMRO, Macedonia’s reconstituted, ruling nationalist party, is glorified as practically the founder of the nation.

A block away from this main commercial square stood a large park with more statues: the anti-Ottoman rebel Pitu Guli, the Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko, and an expansive monument to the VMRO, the resurrected Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization. This party, dominating Macedonian politics today, named itself after the anti-Ottoman rebel movement that was founded in the late 19th century.

This leading political clique of Slavic Macedonia thus completes its credentials, ranging from ancient times to pre-World War II, constructing a national mythology that excludes Albanians and Partisans, and ignores Macedonia’s intertwined history with Bulgaria as well. In tying part of its identity to Alexander the Great, Macedonia’s profligate government spites Greece while simultaneously shooting itself in the foot by spending half a billion Euros on ridiculous construction, money that could be going to schools and factories.

Gzim tells me that there was less corruption in Macedonia during the socialist period than there is now – that now the government will, for example, announce that a statue or some construction project is going to cost ten million Euros, when the real cost would be five million. Then that extra five would go partially for kickbacks, and the rest directly into the pockets of the politicians. As in Bosnia and Serbia, the link between nationalism and corruption is a firm one.

For an extensive and very informative article on government support of culture in Macedonia, see Macedonian Culture Strategy: Milestone or Wish List?” from November 15th, 2012.

This article mentions that seventy percent of Macedonia’s cultural monuments are in “critical condition,” with some “practically decomposing.” The medieval frescoes in Macedonia’s churches are a world treasure. There, just for one example, is a place where Macedonia could better spend its scarce funds.

Additionally, an excellent article that just came out explains the politics behind the above-described project in very clear terms. It describes the political system as being “
held hostage to the egos of a few leaders who consider the country their property,” those leaders being “clusters of influential people, often well planted on both sides of the thin line that separates legality from crime.” The “clientelist” networks dominated by profiteer-politicians are distinguished not by any particular ideology or state-building agenda, but by their lust for riches and power. This applies to the political infrastructures dominating both the Macedonian and the Albanian sides.

The article describes the crafting of a national narrative that I have introduced above, commenting that the massive construction project on the Macedonian side is too expensive to undertake in a recession period. This can lead to further unrest. But, the article concludes, “When the political fight is left to warlords, it is not surprising that there is no respect for laws or civil liberties. Rules are made for those who are under them, not for the rulers.”

Patronage Politics Push Macedonia to a Precipice, December 28th, 2012.


I took an early bus from Skopje across the border to Kosovo, less than an hour away. Going into Kosovo, the scenery for the first half hour or so was unremarkable, not changed much since my previous visits. There were some dilapidated shacks and offices near the border in Blace, projecting the air of a neglected outpost. Soon afterwards the road, bordering on a canyon, entered a pleasant, undeveloped mountainous area.

About a half hour before the capital, Prishtina, there were signs of a kind of parasitical development that promises nothing productive. Boxy, glassy buildings with cheap metal siding lined the road, offering construction materials, new cars, and furniture. Here and there stood a gleaming hotel.

The scene read “foreign assistance” mixed with “remittance from the diaspora.” Later I was told that many Kosovar Albanians in the diaspora were building houses in Kosovo, leaving them empty, and coming back once a year to visit.

I remember that last time I was in Kosovo, in 2006, the country was discussing a declaration of independence. This declaration finally took place two years later, in February of 2008, and to date nearly one hundred states have recognized Kosovo (the most recent recognition coming from Pakistan, just last week). Of the EU members, 22 out of 27 states recognize Kosovo. Significantly, Serbia and Russia have not recognized Kosovo, and probably never will, or not for a long time.

Newborn sign, erected after Kosovo's proclamation of independence, 2008

There was euphoria on the streets in Kosovo when independence and statehood were proclaimed. But during my last visit I spoke with one man who said to me, “I don’t care about independence; I just want a job. Now, our economy is so poor that the only thing we are really exporting is money [for imported goods].” I would add that another significant export from Kosovo is people.

In Prishtina, I spoke with my friend Loran, the nephew of Gzim. He brought me up to date on political developments in Kosovo. Loran and all his relatives, many cousins, some uncles and aunts too, were all subject to the occupation and attacks by Serb forces in the late 1990s. Most of them were temporarily displaced; it’s fortunate and rather remarkable that they all survived that period, though not all of their properties were found intact after the war.

I spent some time in Kosovo in 1998 and 1999 during that turbulent period, and wrote about it: see from 1998; from 1999; and various other reports whose links you can find if you scroll down towards the bottom of this page:

When NATO was intervening and bombing many parts of Yugoslavia in the spring of 1999, around 800,000 Albanians fled Kosovo for Montenegro and Macedonia, in response to heightened persecution from Serb forces. Those forces destroyed several hundred villages and killed thousands of Albanians.

Loran told me something I had not heard before about that period. The NATO intervention started in late March of 1999, and mistreatment of Albanians, which had been going on all along, immediately increased in a premeditated bid to rid Kosovo of its majority Albanian population. But, Loran told me, the expulsions stopped in May of that year, before the end of the intervention and the defeat of the Serbian forces. At that time, Loran said, “
the Serbs stopped killing and expelling Albanians from Kosovo. They started registering us, instead.” Apparently it was deemed acceptable by the Serb authorities to retain a certain disempowered minority of non-Serbs within the province.

Loran also told me that, among the Albanians when he was growing up, “no one really believed that Yugoslavia was going to last for a very long time.” I remember speaking to young people in Kosovo, as long ago as the early 1980s, and hearing resentment of the discrimination and mistreatment they experienced at the hands of the Serbian rulers of their autonomous province. Some of them advocated the creation of Kosovo as a seventh republic within Yugoslavia – but I never heard promotion of Kosovo as an independent country at that time. However, Loran said, “The elders told us that Yugoslavia was not going to last forever.”

Present-day, semi-independent Kosovo has been engaged in state-building, but it faces a raft of problems. The poor, unproductive economy, with little to export, is one of them. Corruption among the leaders is another. Bad relations with neighboring Serbia is a third problem. The relationship between Kosovo’s government and Albanian majority, on one hand, and its minorities – especially its Serb inhabitants, on the other, are a particularly difficult problem. In the south, Serb enclaves are for the most part living in cooperation with the government. But in the north, the Ibar River acts as an unofficial border between the main part of Kosovo and a primarily Serb-inhabited region.

This area has repeatedly been the scene of violence between Serb separatists who refuse to recognize the sovereignty of Kosovo, and Kosovo’s authorities. And the status of northern Kosovo has served as a political issue to be manipulated by the Serbian government in Belgrade.

Because of ongoing instability, NATO has retained a military force, KFOR (Kosovo Force) in Kosovo. Over the years this force has been reduced to the point where it now numbers around 5,500 troops. The UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) has created and enforced civil administration procedures. After Kosovo’s declaration of independence, UNMIK reduced its role in favor of EULEX, the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo. EULEX deploys several thousand European police and judges in Kosovo, and concerns itself with security and defense policy.

These international institutions have in some degree constituted a protectorate, their intervention in domestic matters compromising Kosovo’s sovereignty. That is why I call Kosovo semi-independent, in addition to the fact that, without Russia’s consent, its prospects for admission into the UN are nil. However, in the past year international supervision was declared to be over. And under international pressure, relations with Serbia are making very tentative steps forward as negotiations have been resumed and an agreement has been reached on bilateral supervision of the tense northern border of Kosovo.

For an overview of Kosovo’s international position, see the recent article, Kosovo: Year of the Historic Handshake, December 28, 2012.

Pro-Vetevendosje graffiti, Prizren, Kosovo

Over the years, the movement for self-determination Vetëvendosje (full name in Albanian: Lëvizja Vetëvendosje!) has played an interesting role as gadfly, a fighter against corruption and against the compromise of Kosovo’s sovereignty both by Serbia and the international officials who they see as giving that sovereignty away. Led by former student activist (and for two years political prisoner in Serbia) Albin Kurti, Vetëvendosje started as a grassroots movement, and a few years ago it transformed into a political party. During its movement years it was often in the headlines for fomenting unruly demonstrations in which projectiles were thrown and people were arrested. Kurti himself seemed to be in jail or under house arrest by the Albanian authorities just about as often as he was free. The organization has also been very creative in its use of graffiti and political theater.

I have mentioned Vetëvendosje because people in Kosovo have strong opinions about it. They either love Vetëvendosje or despise it. In any case, I think that the organization brings up very important issues and it is correct to mistrust Kosovo’s leaders, Serbian leaders, and international officials who they see as too willing to compromise on important issues. For these reasons, I tried to learn what people I met with thought about Vetëvendosje.

Some people call Vetëvendosje “nationalists” or “extremists.” Loran told me, “Vetëvendosje says that they are in favor of uniting with Albania, but they are not serious about it. This is just rhetoric.” Commenting on Vetëvendosje’s indoor-outdoor practices, he said, “It is not ok that they are in Parliament, but still organizing rowdy demonstrations...Vetëvendosje opposes negotiations with Serbia. But negotiations are needed. It shows that we are serious. And the European Commission has taken steps to bring Kosovo closer to the EU, even though our sovereignty is not complete. Maybe this took place because we have been willing to negotiate.”

For more information on Vetëvendosje, see its English language home page.

Loran criticized the leaders of Kosovo for corruption, saying that money that comes into the country “is all going into the pockets of the politicians.” He added, “Most of the development money in Kosovo comes from the diaspora. Some of it comes from money laundering.”

On local administration in Prishtina, Loran said, “The mayor of Prishtina was chosen because he was popular, not because he was capable. He rejected a 30 million euro offer from the European Commission to build a sports complex behind the shopping center, simply because his party would not have control over the property.”

I bought a SIM card for my cell phone so that I could arrange meetings. Unlike in several other countries where I have done so, I was required to register my identity as owner of that phone number. In Bosnia, Croatia, Germany, and England you can walk into any cell phone store or a corner market, or even a kiosk, and purchase a phone number for the equivalent of a few dollars. In Kosovo I had to show my passport and fill out a form that even asked my father’s first name. Loran explained that the government has decided on this measure in order to cut down on crime. I told him, “I guess they don’t like the competition.”

Loran spoke of a lack of hope in Kosovo, saying that more Kosovars are now seeking asylum in Europe. He himself is thinking of leaving Kosovo. It would be hard for him and his wife, he said, but in the long run, it would afford a better life for his children.


For a recent article on militant Islam in Kosovo and in Macedonia, see Fissures in the Faith: Rise of Conservative Islamists Alarms Kosovans, December 24, 2012:


I spoke with my old friend Erëblir Kadriu. I met him when I came to Kosovo immediately after the NATO intervention. Then, he was a skinny high school kid, but a very intelligent and helpful one, and already an activist – among other things, a member of the regional PostPessimist Network. He helped me set up interviews with various activists.

Over twelve years later, Er
ëblir is the same guy – just not skinny anymore. He spent five years in the United States, finishing his high school and undergraduate studies. Then, he returned to his native Kosovo – a patriotic and optimistic act – and became a teacher. Later he received a master’s degree in psychology and education at Cambridge. He is considering pursuing PhD studies.

You can see that this puts Er
ëblir in an area of interest very similar to Belma and the staff of Krila Nade in Sarajevo, whom I wrote about in my last report.

Today, Er
ëblir wears many hats; his list of undertakings is impressive. He works as a guidance counselor at American School of Kosovo; runs the American Advising Center-EducationUSA Center in Kosovo; teaches social psychology and research methods at the
University of Prishtina; and does research in educational activities for students. Erëblir also works with an NGO called IPE, International Progressive Education.

IPE provides information about state building and civil society, and supports research on educational issues. The NGO is involved in research on training teachers in this work. One study that it has implemented asked students about their perception of a good teacher. Another study dealt with teachers' experience in curriculum reforms in Kosovo. IPE also plans to conduct a study on school violence.

Together with colleagues from the American School and IPE,
Erëblir organizes an event called the “Kosovar and Regional Student Conference on Social Issues.” Participants are a mixed group of young people including local Albanians, Serbs, and Americans. The most recent conference took place this year in Kosovo, on December 7th and 8th. Young Serbs from North Mitrovica and Serbia attended. Students presented reports on social issues such as economics, education, privatization, gender issues, and religion.

Erëblir told me, “People who attended from different parts of the region became good friends with each other after a few days. On Friday and Saturday the activities were at the school dormitory. People went bowling together.”

Regarding the research that IPE shares with teachers, Erëblir says, “The teachers learn and say, ‘These are great techniques, but we can’t practice them in classes of up to 45 students.’ …There is a disconnect between the theory and the practical. People attend the trainings but then they are blocked because of the large classes, also because of problems with resources. For example, it is difficult even to photocopy something for the students. A class lesson has to go to the school principal for approval. And some school maintenance projects even have to be approved by the municipality. It takes forever, for example, just to fix a broken window.”

Some aspects of Kosovo’s educational system are carryovers from the Yugoslav system of the Tito era. In my report on Krila Nade I mentioned the pedagogues that were present in Sarajevo’s schools. They are present in Kosovo as well, but are becoming less important there. There is a new educational strategy now that involves having a psychologist, a nurse, a doctor, and a social worker in each high school. Erëblir tells me that there is a new framework for the curriculum as well. New courses include health education. But there is a lack of resources for implementing the changes.

Erëblir says, “The official count of students per classroom is around 36. But it is not true. There are as many as 50 students in some classes.”

We talked about broader issues of economics and corruption in Kosovo as well. Erëblir told me that “Kosovo has a high percentage of the population that is under 30 years old, but they are leaving. People are losing hope. Youth unemployment is around 70%, while overall, it’s around 50%.”

“It is a ghetto feeling here. People want to leave. The only places they can go without a visa are Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Turkey. They can’t go to Bosnia without a visa. There is a special document that they can get to go to Bosnia and Greece.”

Regarding the economic situation, Erëblir told me, “Kosovo’s economy has to be focused on agriculture. We produce potatoes, tomatoes, and apples.” Kosovo’s biggest trading partners, both for export and import, are Macedonia, Serbia, Germany, and Turkey. “But the local Kosovar producers are giving up. Our farmers could grow and produce our own vegetables. We are importing tomatoes from Macedonia, and we don’t need to. The farmers can’t compete with these imports, and financial stimulation for domestic agriculture is small to non-existent.”

Along with the poor economy comes corruption – partly a cause, and partly a result. Erëblir mentioned the Hotel Grand as an example, saying that the deputy prime minister of Kosovo was involved in the corrupt privatization of that hotel.

“There was a scandal with the Minister of Internal Affairs,” Erëblir continued. “That Ministry entered a tender for printing Kosovo’s passports. They paid 14 million euros to an Austrian company. There was a woman who transferred ten percent of that tender back to some people from the Ministry. Upon inquiry into this kickback, she said, ‘I will tell the names of the people who engaged in the corruption, but you have to provide me with witness protection.’ EULEX refused to do this. …was it because it would ‘destabilize the government.’” (For more on this scandal, click here.)

“Kosovo is a ghetto. There is uncontrolled construction going on here, without any plan. If there were an earthquake, everything would fall down like dominoes. There is corruption, and no enforcement of the laws.

“Then there was a new highway construction project, and the government wouldn’t tell the public how much it cost. Vetëvendosje published the figures, how much the international corporations Bechtel and Enka were being paid.”

I asked Erëblir his opinion on Vetëvendosje. He said, “Now I am closer to Vetëvendosje than I was before. I see that nothing is changing, and we need radical changes. I have given everything a chance, but in some aspects, things got even worse. Some people automatically associate Vetëvendosje with nationalism, but don’t want to take a look at what they are offering. Vetëvendosje wants the right to a referendum on unification with Albania. This is prohibited in our constitution. It is having the right to a referendum that is key. If people are not in favor of it, then they can vote that way. In any case, we are not going to wage a war to reunite with Albania. There has already been enough war.”

Q: Does Vetëvendosje want EULEX to leave?
A: “No, Vetëvendosje says they should stay, but as partners. And we need the foreign judges who are present in our court system to stay as well, but as equals.”

For my final question, I asked Erëblir, “Do you have hope?”
“I’m always hopeful,” he responded. “Remember, I was in the PostPessimists - we were beyond pessimism, but not yet optimistic.”

Old and new, Prishtina


The Missing
In my previous report I wrote about search for Bosnia-Herzegovina’s missing persons and Jasmin Odobašić’s work in this field. I mentioned that he had been removed from his position as head of the Sector for Operational, Legal, and Financial Affairs in the Missing Persons Institute in 2010 after having publicly criticized his colleagues. Odobašić appealed his removal. In a recent decision, the Appeals Council of the Bosnian Court found that he should be returned to his position in the Institute, and should be awarded thirty months’ back pay.

Formation of Srebrenica’s Municipal Assembly
In my eighth report, I mentioned with alarm some news about the formation of Srebrenica’s municipal assembly. It had been announced that the SDP and SBB (respectively, the social-democrat party of Zlatko Lagumdžija and the party of Fahrudin Radončić) were planning to form a coalition with the Serb-controlled parties in Srebrenica, thus nullifying the entire effort to elect Ćamil Duraković as a candidate from a coalition of parties that do not deny the fact that genocide took place in Srebrenica. Well, the municipal assembly was finally formed, on the last day of 2012, and no coalition was formed. The several parties involved – both Serb- and Bosniak-dominated – agreed to form a government with no opposition.

This unusual arrangement could mean that “instant coalitions” will form whenever it is convenient; it could also mean that the parties will all cooperate in the best interests of the people of Srebrenica. Time will tell.

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