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Prishtina

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Argentinian Busking His Way Around the World

Matias spent a week in Prishtina as part as his world travels, before heading to Montenegro, then Albania and across to Italy.

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US-backed Kosovo land-swap border plan under fire from all sides

It may ease their way into the EU, but ethnically homogeneous states are a recipe for disaster. I know from my family history

Agron Bajrami

The Balkans are boiling again. This time it’s because speculation is rife that Kosovo and Serbia may finally end their dispute and normalise their relations. Kosovo’s president, Hashim Thaçi, and his Serbian counterpart, Aleksandar Vučić, are said to be close to an agreement that would help stabilise the Balkans and open the doors for both countries to join the European Union. Negotiations are happening under the mediation of the EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

Ten years after Kosovo declared its independence, the last chapter of the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia would be closed.

It sounds like a fairytale. Two leaders who were on opposing sides in the 1998-1999 war that left thousands of Kosovar civilians killed, tens of thousands of homes burned and destroyed, more than a million people expelled and displaced – and which ended only after Nato intervened – would have suddenly conquered their hatreds and enmities for the sake of a better future for their people. A breakthrough at last?

On the contrary, it could turn into a nightmare. The deal under consideration is sometimes called a “border correction”, or an “exchange of territories”. Neither Thaçi nor Vučić have given much detail, but it seems that the agreement would see part of Kosovo’s northern territory, with a majority Serb population, joining Serbia; meanwhile part of southern Serbia, a region commonly known as Preshevo Valley, whose population is majority Albanian, would join Kosovo.

This land swap would result in fewer Serbs living in Kosovo and fewer Albanians in Serbia. Both countries would become more “ethnically pure”. Many people would have to leave their family homes and birthplaces. In short, there would be an exchange of populations, not just territories.

Why would Brussels even entertain the notion of supporting a plan that so deeply contradicts European values?

Charles Kupchan, former adviser to Barack Obama and now a professor at Georgetown University, has described the tentative plan as “peaceful ethnic cleansing”. Supportive of the land-swap idea, he believes “pragmatism needs to trump principle”. I beg to differ.

Creating ethnically homogenous territories and states (in short, getting rid of minorities) is hardly a new idea. In Kosovo, throughout history, it’s happened many times. And it has always left deep wounds that simply won’t heal. Almost every Kosovar has family stories to vouch for this. Here are mine.

The first goes back to the dying years of Ottoman rule in the Balkans. In 1877-8, my mother’s family was among tens of thousands of Albanians expelled from their homes in the village of Berjan i Poshtëm (Donje Brijanje in Serbian), located in today’s southern Serbia. Even now, during family gatherings, elder cousins recall the stories their grandfathers told – of houses, fields and graves they had to leave behind. Their expulsion was ethnic cleansing, made irreversible by the 1878 Congress of Berlin.

Another family story is from my late paternal grandfather. As a child, I would watch his tearful eyes and hear his deep voice trembling while he recalled a night in 1927 when he, his father and his elder brother had to leave their house and pastry shop in the town of Pravishte – now Eleftheroupoli, in eastern Greece. It happened as a consequence of a Greco-Turkish Lausanne agreement on population exchange. This was not their homeland, but it was all they had to provide for the family back in Kosovo. They were given only a few minutes to pack, there was no violence, everything was peaceful, as my grandfather would describe, years later. But it was ethnic cleansing, nonetheless.

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Supporters of the Kosovo Self-Determination Party hold a banner reading ‘no bargaining on national lands’ during a protest against Thaçi’s proposal. Photograph: Petrit Prenaj/EPA

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Just a few minutes to leave was also what many Kosovar Albanians were given by Serb military and security forces, in March 1999, when Slobodan Milošević’s campaign of ethnic cleansing was in full swing. It was repressive, violent, bloody and criminal. Many were killed, most were expelled. Over a million people were turned into refugees, including almost all my mother’s family, descendants of those expelled from southern Serbia, 120 years earlier – as were many relatives on my father’s side, descendants of those who’d had to abandon the pastry shop in eastern Greece. I ended up as a refugee myself, in Macedonia. We were all victims of ethnic cleansing, and it took Nato’s intervention to reverse that.

I don’t think those supporting the Kosovo-Serbia land-swap idea aren’t aware of the risks. They just ignore the obvious. Ethnic cleansing is a crime, peaceful or not. Apart from being morally unacceptable and ultimately anti-European, the plan would also cause huge, long-term political and security instability across the entire region. If Kosovo and Serbia are allowed to swap territories and people, how could that be denied elsewhere? Many communities in the region dislike the state they live in: Serbs and Croats in Bosnia, Muslims in Serbia, Albanians in Macedonia, or even Hungarians in Slovakia and Turks in Cyprus.

That’s why many oppose the “solution” that is seemingly under consideration. In Kosovo, the land swap has been rejected by a majority of parliamentary parties as well as by the governing coalition. Kosovo’s status and borders derive from its independence in 2008, based on a plan proposed by the former Finnish president, Martti Ahtisaari. That solution was found by the international court of justice to be in accordance with the law.

The border deal is also unacceptable for many western countries – notably Germany and the UK. Angela Merkel has made clear she rejects any border changes in the Balkans. “This has to be said again and again, because again and again there are attempts to perhaps talk about borders, and we can’t do that,” she warned in August.

So the real question for the EU is this: why would Brussels even entertain the notion of supporting a plan that so deeply contradicts European values, that is rejected by European capitals, and unwanted by most people on the ground? Federica Mogherini can and should provide some answers.

 Agron Bajrami is editor in chief of Koha Ditore, Kosovo’s leading newspaper

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Protesters decry high number of workplace deaths in Kosovo

Protesters marching through Mother Teresa Boulevard. | Photo: Plator Gashi

With 93 yellow hard hats, each representing a lost life, protesters in Prishtina demanded a halt to workplace deaths in Kosovo and better conditions for workers overall.

Bearing numbered safety helmets, a few dozen protesters marched through Mother Teresa Boulevard to the government building in Prishtina, demanding improved working conditions on construction sites, and accountability for the 93 recorded cases of workplace deaths in the country in the past five years.

Called “The buildings are yours, the lives are ours,” the protest concluded with participants placing all the helmets on the guard rails that surround the government building.

“And if the government, or somebody else, decides to remove the helmets without our permission, they can be considered collaborators with the people responsible for these cases,” said Kushtrim Mehmeti, organizer of the protest, who emphasized that helmets will be added to for every future case.

Mehmeti, who is part of Beyond the Wall, an NGO based in Skenderaj that focuses on civic activism, said that the protest aims to convey the miserable conditions that workers deal with in Kosovo, and voice that there has been no progress towards solving the problem.

“As long as there is no result, something is going wrong. I request all people that are responsible for these deaths that they do something,” he said. “We’re in October, and 18 individuals have died [this year], and by December we may have [a statistic of] two deaths per month. I do not know how 2019 will be.”

He said that one of the most noteworthy shortcomings is the low number of inspectors who evaluate whether workplace conditions are up to par. According to Mehmeti, inspectors also often fall prey to bribery, which hinders improvement.

“One of the most concerning things is that the number of inspectors is 42. With 42 inspectors, they aim to cover the whole of Kosovo. We demand that there are more inspectors before 2019, and have more security for inspectors when they go and do their job, they shouldn’t be bought with a lunch, or a hamburger,” Mehmeti said.

Helmets near the Kosovo government building. | Photo: Kallxo

Jusuf Azemi, head of Independent Syndicate of the Private Sector of Kosovo, said that country has had the highest number of workplace deaths in the region in the past years.

“Every year we have a tremendously high growth [in workplace deaths]. Most of them didn’t even have work contracts, and as such they have no institutional support,” he said.

Azemi said that, despite the presence of the Law on Labor in Kosovo, it is oftentimes not respected, and that institutions fail to open their ears to the advice and suggestions of the syndicates.

“We have said it before, our workers are being treated like slaves. I am convinced that in other countries in the region or elsewhere, if they had this figure, the minister [of labor] and maybe even the prime minister would recognize that these are human lives and we are losing them because we are not careful,” he said.

He said that change is only possibly through direct actions from responsible institutions, and that there are few positive signs of change at the moment.

“We receive the cases, we talk about it for a few days and we forget them. The worst is that many of them are breadwinners, and when their life ends, their families in a way also lose the right for social assistance, cases happen and we do nothing about them,” he said.

“We have followed these cases, and if they are won in court, they only got a symbolic sum of support and everything ends with that.”

Mehmeti invited protestors to join future gatherings in support of workers in Kosovo, saying that they will be more assertive.

“I say that this is a war situation, 18 people die in 10 months, something is not going well, I do not know why they consider this normal, and it is an extraordinary situation,” he said. I do not think that our future actions will be as peaceful as the one today, they will become rougher, and we ask that our lives are protected.”

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Gallery: Kosovars celebrate country’s second pride parade

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In photos: Music, dance and rainbow flags accompany citizens in Prishtina’s centre as they march for the country’s second ever pride parade on Wednesday.

Hundreds of citizens from Kosovo and the region gathered in the centre of Prishtina for the country’s second pride parade on Wednesday, marking the end of Pride week’s events organised by the Centre of Equality and Liberty for LGBT in Kosovo, CEL.

Waving scores of rainbow flags, activists and allies of the LGBTQ+ community convened at Skenderbeu Square, making their way down Nene Tereza Boulevard, chanting the slogan of this year’s parade, “in the name of freedom,” as they reached Zahir Pajaziti Square.

Lendi Mustafa, activist from the LGBTQ+ community in Kosovo, said that the aim of the parade is to increase the visibility of this community’s members, and appealed for institutions to recognise the issues that this community deals with.

“Today, in the name of freedom, we invite all state institutions to not deny our identity, to offer equal opportunities and fulfil their responsibilities regarding human rights in order to work towards a diverse society,” he said.

He said that another goal of the parade is to represent individuals who cannot enjoy a decent life because of the pressure they face in relation with their sexual identity.

“We came together to show that we are becoming empowered, and we have hope that we will enjoy demands, we will remain united until the end. We will be your voice,” Mustafa said.

According to Blert Morina, director of CEL, the title of this year’s parade was chosen because “being a member of the LGBTI community in Kosovo means that you’re going to face double discrimination, social pressure, most of the time institutional discrimination so it’s important to talk and see what could be done better.”

This is the second parade that has been held in the capital for LGBTQ+ pride, but it is not the second time that LGBTQ+ activists have marched in Kosovo. Before 2017, activists organised a number of marches marking the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, IDAHOT.

Among the participants this year were Mayor of Prishtina Shpend Ahmeti, Minister of European Integration Dhurata Hoxha, several members of the Kosovo assembly and representatives from foreign embassies.

After a public invitation, Adelina Ismajli, a famous pop star who has been prominent in Kosovo’s mainstream music scene since the 1990s, joined the parade just minutes after one of her songs was played through the speakers, wearing the rainbow flag and greeting enthusiastic fans.

Tension flares in Kosovo over possible land swap with Serbia


Thousands of supporters of Kosovo’s opposition Self-Determination shouting slogans and waving flags of the world countries march through toward Skanderbeg Square on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018, in Kosovo capital Pristina. Thousands of people in Kosovo are protesting their president’s willingness to include a possible territory swap with Serbia in the ongoing negotiations to normalize relations between the two countries. (Visar Kryeziu/Associated Press)

September 29 at 12:42 PM

PRISTINA, Kosovo — Tension flared in a familiar section of the Balkans as thousands of people marched Saturday in Kosovo’s capital against a possible territory swap with former war foe Serbia, while the Serbian government put its troops on alert after special police were deployed to Kosovo’s Serb-dominated north.

Serbia reacted after Kosovo’s special police moved into an area around the Kosovo side of the strategic Gazivode Lake, Marko Djuric, director of Serbia’s Office for Kosovo and Metohija, said.

Kosovar President Hashim Thaci visited the area near Serbia’s border Saturday, a move that temporarily redirected attention away from the large opposition protest in Pristina. A security unit was dispatched to the area for the president’s stop, Kosovo police said.

Serbia’s Djuric said special troops must not be deployed unannounced to northern Kosovo, where the country’s ethnic Serbian minority population is concentrated. Serbian media said Belgrade has complained to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

Serbia does not recognize Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence, but their governments have been in European Union-mediated negotiations for seven years. The two sides have been told they must normalize relations as a precondition to EU membership.

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Thaci has said a “border correction” could be part of the discussions. Some Serbian officials have suggested an exchange of territories could help end the dispute.

One idea that has been floated by politicians in both countries involves exchanging predominantly ethnic Albanian Presevo Valley in southern Serbia with Kosovo’s Serb-populated north.

However, the idea has faced opposition from Germany and other EU nations, which have said they fear a Kosovo-Serbia trade could trigger demands for territory revisions in other parts of the volatile Balkans.

Thousands of supporters of Kosovo’s opposition Self-Determination Party marched peacefully through the capital of Pristina on Saturday to protest any potential change of borders. The protesters held national Albanian flags.

Opposition leader Albin Kurti said he considered Thaci a collaborator with Serbia and called for fresh elections.

“Such a grandiose protest is our response to the deals from Thaci and Vucic,” Kurti said.

Thaci has rejected both border revisions based on ethnicity and a possible land trade.

But he has not clarified how Serbia could be persuaded to give away the Presevo Valley without something in exchange.

Three weeks ago, Serbian leader Vucic visited the lake in northern Kosovo that Thaci traveled to Saturday.

NATO-led peacekeepers in Kosovo, a force known as KFOR, called for calm and restraint. They said they would continue monitoring the situation along the Serbia-Kosovo border with ground patrols and helicopters.

Thaci’s office issued a statement acknowledging his visit to a border crossing and the lake.

“During the weekends the head of state usually goes to Kosovo’s beauties,” the statement said.

The governments in both Pristina and Belgrade have said they hope the EU-mediated talks will result in a legally binding agreement.

“Talks (with Serbia) that continue will be on peace and stability,” Thaci said Saturday.

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The Poisoning Starts Again

Killing the insects, which kills the wildlife that feed on the insects. Last year there were dead birds that had eaten the insects, on the ground surrounded by starving cats, that would not attempt to eat the bird, yet people will inhale this poison. People in the street, will not have the protection of hazmat suits.

Causing cancer to those that inhale the air. If if it safe for humans then why are the those that are spraying it wearing hazmat suits? Why spray on a Saturday evening in the centre of Prishtina, when the city centre if full of people?

They ban fireworks against pollution and then spray poison on the ground!!! Mosquitos breed in stagnant water and that is where they should be killing the larvae, not spraying the centre where there is no stagnant water and the mosquitos just fly away.

Last year there were just as many mosquitos after the spraying as there were before it. It is the people they are poisoning with their glyphosate, which causes cancer and is banned in many countries.

According to Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, a U.S. law firm representing hundreds of plaintiffs suing Monsanto for allegedly causing their cancer, the following countries have banned or placed restrictions on the use of glyphosate:

  • Malta: Malta began the process of instituting countrywide ban of glyphosate. However, Environment Minister José Herrera backtracked in January of 2017, saying the country would continue to oppose glyphosate in discussions but would fall in line with the European Union and wait for further studies. In November of 2017, Malta was one of nine EU countries to vote against relicensing glyphosate. The country also signed a letter to the EU Commission in 2018 calling for “an exit plan for glyphosate…
  • Slovenia: Slovenia was one of six EU member states to sign a 2018 letter to the European Commission citing “concerns” about the risks associated with glyphosate. The letter called upon the Commission to introduce “an exit plan for glyphosate…”

Last year 6 more countries in the Middle East banned it.

So why hasn’t the U.S. banned glyphosate?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been conducting its required 15-year re-registration review of glyphosate since 2009. The agency was supposed to re-approve or ban the chemical by the end of 2015. But after the IARC panel of 17 scientists unanimously agreed glyphosate was a probable human carcinogen, the EPA was forced to take its review of the chemical more seriously.

Banned everywhere, but as sales of insecticides  plummet, the US sells it to Kosovo cheap, just like the banned medicines that are being sold in pharmacies in Kosovo. Kosovo lives don’t matter to them.

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Nesër, e shtunë, 4 gusht fillon faza e katërt e Dezinsektimit
Hapsinor në Komunën e Prishtinës . Kjo ditë është zgjedhur pas të gjitha pregatitjeve teknike dhe operative nga ana e Komunës dhe kompanisë kontraktuese dhe pasi që parashikimet klimatike sigurojnë në javë me mot stabil dhe pa reshje , për arsye se reshjet e ulin dukshëm efektin e dezinsektimit. Në rast të reshjeve të shiut , puna ndërpritet për të vazhduar ditën në vijim kurr kushtet atmosferike janë të favorshm

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Tomorrow, Saturday, August 4th begins the fourth stage of dezinsektimit
Space in the municipality of pristina. This day has been selected after all technical and operational projections on the side of the municipality and the contracting company, and since climate forecasts provide a week with stable weather and without precipitation, for reasons that the precipitation clearly decrease the effect of dezinsektimit. In Case of rain precipitation, the work is terminated to continue the following day never the atmospheric conditions are favourable.
Based on these data, kedhe this herw will be dezinsektohet the surface of 6200 hectares, including rural areas where there is high potential of development of these insect.
Even this year will be used safe preparatet registered for use in the countries of the European Union and the United States of America.
The Dezinsektimi will take place every day starting at 19:30 by 23:30, according to the dates below the specific neighborhood.04.08.2018: City Park, Aktash, qyteteza Payton, City Centre, neighborhood neighborhood, Vellushe (Blocks-house of elders), tophane

05.08.2018: Dardania, lakrishte, Arberia, shkabaj, ulpiana, industrial area, barracks adem jashari

06.08.2018: New Prishtina (Veternik, qendresa, Nic neighborhood), hill of valor and vneshtat

07.08.2018: Sun Coast, hospital neighborhood, kalabria, kolovice and new kolovicë

08.08.2018: Taslixhe, velan, gërmi, Mat, sofali, taukbashqe

09.08.2018: Hajvali, barilevë, prugovc, brnica of eperme and lower Bernice, besi, White,, teneshdoll of vranidoll

The Citizen s’ co-operation in this process is of a particular importance to the success of this process. So pray all citizens for co-operation so that this activity is as successful as possible. During the time of dezinsektimit, citizens have to keep the windows closed, not to put insects in and limit the exits through the spaces where the dezinsektimi is being conducted at least an hour. Also appealed to the associations associations, for caution added during this period. Monitoring this activity on the part of the pristina municipality will be constant, and in co-operation with citizens we will give the maximum for a more effective coefficient.

The Municipality of Prishtina

Cars to be barred from entering Prishtina starting Wednesday

Public transportation in Prishtina. | Photo courtesy of Radio TV 21.

Prishtina will adopt an emergency ban on cars and coal to address ‘hazardous’ levels of air pollution.

Deputy Mayor of Prishtina Selim Pacolli announced that cars will be barred from accessing the center of Prishtina starting at 6:00 am on Wednesday. The ban, part of an agreed plan between the Municipality of Prishtina and the Ministry of Environment, will be in force every day between 6:00 am and 10:00 pm until further notice.

All cars will be banned from circulating in downtown Prishtina, with the exception of buses managed by the public enterprise ‘Trafiku Urban,’ which will be offering free rides during this emergency period.

“We will only block the access of vehicles. Only the center will be blocked for vehicles because it is the most affected part. Public transport within this timeframe will be free of charge. This decision comes into effect on January 31 until another decision is made,” Pacolli said.

The emergency plan to “alleviate” the city from high levels of pollution that have been reported in the past few days will affect the main boulevards Bill Clinton, Deshmoret e Kombit, the roundabout in Ulpiana, and Ilir Konushevci Street.

The plan also includes a ban on the sale of coal within Prishtina city limits.

Muhedin Nushi, the city’s administration director, said that at least 40 inspectors will be monitoring and preventing any sale of coal in Prishtina.

Cars coming from outside of the city will have to use alternative roads and will not be able to access the city center. Nushi said that the plan would also affect private bus companies, which will also have to use alternative roads.

“Buses with transport routes from other places will use alternative roads if there are any. These are emergency measures, it is for the good of the citizens. We are going through an emergency phase to improve the situation,” he said.

Nushi asked citizens to not use vehicles at this time, but said that the decision does not include parking spots.

“We have not designated parking spots for vehicles, we ask for understanding so that vehicles are not used at this time. We will discuss the measures against people who do not respect the rules, but as of now there are no punitive measures,” Nushi concluded.

The extraordinary conference was called after citizens and officials sounded an alarm over hazardous levels of air pollution

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Suspected Kosovo organ-trafficker arrested in Cyprus

Moshe Harel, who heads an international israeli ring selling body parts

A man suspected of trafficking in human organs has been arrested in Cyprus. Israeli national Moshe Harel faces extradition to Kosovo, where he is accused of luring kidney donors from Turkey and the ex-Soviet Union a decade ago.

Harel is accused of promising up to $14,500 in payment to donors, with the extracted organs reportedly being sold on to mainly Israeli recipients for as much as $120,000. Some donors were reportedly never paid.

Interpol and Russia had issued international arrest warrants for Harel. His extradition is now being requested by the authorities in Kosovo – a province of Serbia that declared independence in 2008, but remains unrecognized by the UN and a number of countries, including Cyprus.

“Based on an international arrest warrant the suspect M.H. was arrested a few days ago in Cyprus. He has been a wanted person since 2010,” Baki Kelani, a spokesman for Kosovo police, told Reuters.

Harel is accused of being one of nine people involved in the organ-trafficking ring, run from a clinic in a residential area in Pristina. Their alleged activities were discovered in 2008, when a Turkish man complained of pain at Pristina airport after his kidney was removed.

In 2013, the director of the clinic, Lutfi Dervishi, and his son Arban were sentenced to eight and seven years respectively for their part in the group’s activities. Both men later went into hiding.

Dervishi was captured last year and retried, along with several others involved in the case. The trial is still ongoing. His son and a Turkish doctor, Yusuf Sonmez, are still on the run.

Kosovo is no stranger to cases of alleged organ harvesting, and local authorities have been particularly sensitive to accusations of the kind, ever since a former UN prosecutor accused the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) of harvesting human organs from Serbs captured and killed during and after the 1998-99 conflict. KLA leaders, now influential politicians, denied the charges and called them a ploy to challenge the province’s independence.

An EU-commissioned inquiry led by an American prosecutor concluded in 2014 that “this practice did occur on a very limited scale and that a small number of individuals were killed for the purpose of extracting and trafficking their organs.”

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THE CAPITAL’S RESIDENTS ACCUSE THE SERBIAN MINISTER OF TORTURING THEM DURING THE WAR

The capital's residents accuse the Serbian minister of torturing them during the war

Minister of Agriculture in the Government of Kosovo, Nenad Rikallo, is accused of torturing Pristina citizens during wartime, KTV reports.

Residents of the building in Dardania’s Kurri have confessed to KTV the tortures that Rikallo has said and the fact that he has always appeared in uniform and armed.

Although nearly two decades have passed, Fexhrije Beqiri can remember the face of Nenad Rikallos, appointed Minister of Agriculture in the government of Ramush Haradinaj.

The Beqiri family lives on the seventh floor of this building at Dardania’s back for several decades. On the same floor, number 45, Nenad Rikallo also lived.

Everything that remembers Mrs Beqiri from Rikallo, then young, is torture and maltreatment against Albanian residents.

“Everything has a boa, it’s been boo guys have put the boys off the fun stairs. I’m so sorry they can not do it. They told me that we could get blacker than these, “says Mrs Beqiri.

Her son, Celebration, has fresh experiences of two torture scenes from Rikallo, one of which includes running a gun to his already-felt father.

On each floor of this building there are residents who recall the horror experienced by the entire Rikallo family.

“Nenad served as a representative of the Red Berets, a paramilitary with his brother Goran. His dad Radishavi was very lenient officer in Serbian police, “said Celebration.

Those who agree to speak and recall have seen the new minister, always in uniform.

Residents here have been shocked when they saw Rikallon being ranked among the new government ministers and demanding his immediate departure.

Rikallo is part of the Serbian List and until recently served as a member of the Central Election Commission.

He did not respond to KTV’s calls for comment on the charges.

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Advice to the diplomats of Prishtina

Albin Kurti, candidate for prime minister from the opposition party Vetevendosje, June 9, 2017. | Photo: AP Visar Kryeziu.

 

Unsolicited advice to Prishtina’s real elite huddling at the Arberia White House.  

Anguished and despairing, last night the diplomats bilateral and multilateral of Prishtina asked for my advice. I saw them this morning in the US embassy. This is what I told them.

In the 2014 elections your predecessors made a mistake, and the effects are now burning your hands. So listen carefully.

Their mistake was to stop Vetevendosje from committing the mistake of joining a coalition government led by a segment of Kosovo’s elite.

Their reasoning, if you wish to call it that way, was that Vetevendosje’s elevation to the executive power would have prevented further progress in the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue and obstructed the implementation of the agreements already reached.

You know the effects better than I do. The dialogue stuttered, and was even temporarily boycotted by the elite. The agreements remain unimplemented, and are now even more unpopular than they were before. And Vetevendosje doubled its share of the vote.

Besides the incompetence and corruption of the last government, they also won all those votes because you excluded them from government. Of course Vetevendosje added a dose of populism and extravagance to its appeal as the only real opposition. But you cannot complain, because it was obvious that they would do that, as well as because when the police illegally arrested them, you didn’t raise a finger.

What would have happened had you allowed Vetevendosje into the government? Well, it’s simple. The dialogue would equally have stuttered, but any progress made would have relied on genuine popular political support in Kosovo: it would have been real, not fictional, progress. The same goes for the implementation of the agreements. But what matters more is that Kosovo would have debated those issues, and this would have been a much-needed school of democracy, which is the management of political conflict: a school of open, reasoned debate on difficult policy questions. So you and Kosovo would not have been worse off than you currently are.

But in parallel Vetevendosje would have been tainted by its association with the elite. This would have been bad for Kosovo, but good for you. Vetevendosje would never have doubled its votes yesterday. It would have either split, between radicals and moderates, or began an insensible transformation into another elite party, for the temptations of theft and impunity are hard to resist and not all of Vetevendosje can be assumed to be saints. You would now have a Vetevendosje well on the way toward normalization.

‘Now you see the mistake?’ I said at this point. ‘Yes!’ they answered. ‘Good—I encouraged them—but now listen even more carefully because it becomes a bit more difficult.’

Having doubled its vote, Vetevendosje is now better protected from the risk of being infected by the elite. Whatever the numbers, it is likely to be the politically dominant partner of any coalition with the elite. So, such coalition could quietly manage the gradual exit of the extant elite and prepare Kosovo for a better form of politics. Mark those words: ‘quietly’ and ‘gradual’: I am talking of a transition, as an alternative to social unrest, which you fear, and to implacable justice, which they would deserve.

You would not obtain much regarding the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, of course. But: (1) who cares? The dialogue is a fiction anyway (the only thing that matters is EU accession, which will solve all problems but is too far away); (2) you would have no progress anyway, with a twice-as-big Vetevendosje opposition.

What you and Kosovo would obtain is a better, cleaner, and more responsive government, and possibly a change in the popular mood: discontent could turn into hope.

Of course, maybe none of this will work. But you have no other option, frankly. If you keep Vetevendosje out and bless yet another elite-led government, you risk an uprising anytime soon, and probably another wave of migration, probably bigger than in 2014.

You are not, let’s face it, the brightest minds of your foreign services. But you would really look stupid if that happened.

So, throw the reports you are writing to your capitals into the bin, and for once give them truthful analysis and brave advice. You can afford it: your hopes for a brilliant career are now forgotten if you find yourselves in Prishtina, and you can allow yourselves to take risks. Indeed you must, if you want to rescue your career.

This is what you must do. First you split both coalitions of the elite: you break them up. Then you pick some parts of the elite (you choose which ones) and put them together with Vetevendosje into a coalition government, with a healthy majority. The parts you don’t use you throw into opposition, and you send their names to the Hague court, saying that they can be indicted and convicted. Before you do any of this you call in a few more NATO troops and send them with tanks to patrol the villages of the to-be-discarded elites, lest they fall into the temptation of shooting some clueless EULEX official. When you have finished you retire to your embassies and let Kosovo politics run its course.

For that will be enough. The elite parts that will have been saved will play by the rules, because they will have seen that the discarded ones went to jail, and the obligations of high office will concentrate Vetevendosje’s mind on social and republican issues. And all will be well, if all won’t go wrong. But it’s a risk you must take.

Prishtina Insight

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