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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

In Kosovo, too, there’s a future for a leftist party of economic and social justice

here’s a future for a leftist party of economic and social justice

Vetëvendosje represents hope for Kosovar citizens who are weary of the coalition of convenience between former warlords and international administrators

Supporters of Vetëvendosje wave Albanian national flags during the party’s closing election campaign rally in Pristina.

Supporters of Vetëvendosje wave Albanian national flags during the party’s closing election campaign rally in Pristina. Photograph: Armend Nimani/AFP/Getty Images

The UK is not the only country to have experienced a snap election in June. In Kosovo, a coalition between the Democratic party of Kosovo, the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo and the Initiative for Kosovo has finished in first place with 34% of the vote. A victory, but not enough to form a government. Sound familiar?

This could be great news for Vetëvendosje, a leftist political movement that introduced the vocabulary of anti-colonialism in response to the post-war neoliberal administration of Kosovo. Vetëvendosje, which translates as “self-determination”, has won more seats in the parliamentary elections than any other political party, taking 26% of the vote.

Although Vetëvendosje will have to choose a coalition partner to form a government, this win is a landmark event, a victory over the “war wing” coalition led by questionable members of the Kosovo Liberation Army. By contrast, Vetëvendosje’s former leader Albin Kurti is an emblem of Kosovar peaceful resistance. Kurti was imprisoned by the Serbian regime during the war, and after his release went back into politics in response to the longstanding political and economic problems of post-war Kosovo.

Albin Kurti, candidate for prime minister and former leader of Vetëvendosje, celebrates on Sunday.
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Albin Kurti, candidate for prime minister and former leader of Vetëvendosje, celebrates on Sunday. Photograph: Hazir Reka/Reuters

Confronting economic despair caused by the privatisation of public enterprises, economic stagnation and Serbian state efforts to undermine Kosovo’s independence efforts, Vetëvendosje emerged in 2004 as an autonomous social and economic justice movement for self-determination. Its critique of the post-war convergence of international and local corruption resonated with Kosovar citizens who had grown weary of a coalition of convenience between former warlords and international administrators. Taking politics to the grassroots, Vetëvendosje activists worked with marginalised citizens, generating a new political vocabulary that provided a systematic critique of what had gone wrong with the postwar administration of Kosovo. Vetëvendosje challenged both the nationalist rhetoric of war heroes and the Serbian state claims on Kosovo.

Electoral victories of inspiring leftist political movements in the Balkans are not unprecedented. In Greece, Syriza’s victory in 2015 sent rays of hope around the region with its anti-austerity politics, an economic and political restructuring that sought to address the EU’s austerity demands. As prime minister, Alexis Tsipras consolidated his power. However, Syriza became indistinguishable from previous mainstream liberal governments in Greece – from giving in to EU pressure to fire finance minister Yanis Varoufakis to shipping refugees back to Turkey following the EU-Turkey deal.

The fate of Syriza should serve as a warning to the jubilant crowds in Kosovo today. Vetëvendosje must address the economic destitution of Kosovo created by years of market reforms and privatisation of public wealth, deteriorating educational infrastructure and social and medical services that have performed worse than the parallel underground institutions that existed under Serbian rule. Its critique of privatisation as “a corruption model, contributing to increasing unemployment, ruining the economy, and halting economic development of the country” must be transformed into policies – from abrogating the Kosovo Trust Agency that has facilitated the privatisation process, to the investigation of the problematic procurement processes that have created a business-political oligarchy.

On sovereignty, Vetëvendosje must also follow through on the principle that started the movement – no external involvement of the EU or other unelected international consultants in deciding the future of the people of Kosovo. Even more important, Vetëvendosje must change its approach to negotiations with Serbia and the EU, in which Kosovo has been treated not as the victim of Serbian-state violence but as the perpetrator. Sticking to its slogan of “No negotiations” without acknowledgments of the Serbian state’s war crimes in Kosovo is important, not only for Kosovo but for all past and ongoing state-sponsored crimes that are silenced through the politics of “reconciliation”.

This should include war reparations and the question of ratification of Kosovo’s borders with Serbia. The new government must make it clear to international brokers that Kosovo cannot be expected to negotiate with a country that refuses to acknowledge its crimes of occupation and continues to deny Kosovo’s right to exist in its official discourse.

Just as important, Kosovo needs a new commitment to its Roma and Serbian minorities that is not guided by the UN/EU institutionalisation of post-war ethnic, racial and religious differentiation, but by comprehensive economic and political integration. The violence against women and LGBTQ communities – a widespread post-war phenomenon – must be tackled seriously and meaningfully beyond the template solutions developed and delivered by EU apparatchiks that have done more harm than healing.

The surveillance and securitisation of Muslim communities through counter-radicalisation projects by previous governments must also come to an end as, with extreme secularist politics and poverty, they have contributed to Islamic State’s recruitment of a handful of fighters from the Kosovar youth.

Demands by the EU should be treated with indifference as long as they do not acknowledge Kosovars as a sovereign people free to choose and charter their own futures. Vetëvendosje represents the hope for which Kosovars have waited for more than three decades. Its slogan “#withheart” has won the over the country’s people. Let’s hope this is the political force that leads the new government in Kosovo and delivers on its promises.

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Albin Kurti – A Message to International Friends

KEK – Nepotism Continues in the Hashim Thaci Family

President Hashim Thaci continues to get jobs family members

 

The cousin of Hashim Thaci, Njazi Thaci is the Operating Director of the Kosovo Energy Corporation and when four positions became available at the energy company and there were over three thousand applicants for the jobs.

However it doesn’t matter how qualified you are for a position, as it is not what you know but who you know, or who your relatives are.

In the latest job hiring in Kosovo Energy Corporation, where more than 3,000 applications were submitted for four announced vacancies, the successful candidates are two family members of the director of Operations Nijazi Thaci, the nephew of the director of finances and the brother of the director of procurement!

This is the reason there was a mass exodus after the fraudulent elections, because they know there is no chance of having a job in Kosovo while Hashim Thaci and Isa Mustafa are in power.

When Isa Mustafa became Prime Minister after losing his position of Mayor to Shpend Ahmeti, it didn’t take him long to find government jobs to his family. When Mayor Ahmeti took up his position the first thing he did was to sell all the municipality cars. He then found that all the employees and all contracts had gone to family and friends of Isa Mustafa. On the other hand as soon as Isa Mustafa became Prime Minister he gave the contract to service the government cars to his son, which paid 1,000 euros per service per car. After an outcry this changed.

Kosovo is the only country in Europe that does not have freedom of movement. The reason given is the corruption, yet the US are protecting Thaci to get a deal with Serbia, so they can fast track Serbia into the EU and away from Russia, all at the expense of the Kosovars.

There is no way forward for the Kosovars while the US continues to turn a blind eye to the corruption and nepotism of Hashim Thaci and Isa Mustafa, giving the excuse that there is no evidence. There is plenty of evidence, but they don’t want to do anything about it.

JLC/FOK

 

 

 

Vetëvendosje Agron Kabashi physically attacked activist

Self-Determination: Agron Kabashi physically attacked activist

Last night, around 23:35, unknown persons attacked activist Agron Kabashi, who had accompanied the vehicle Organizing Secretary, Dardan Molliqaj, says the announcement of Vetëvendosje, transmits Koha.net.

According to the report, the incident occurred in “Muharrem Fejza Road”, the Dardan molliqaj apartment, where Kabashi activist had left Molliqaj and was returning to the car. He says the announcement is hit with metal rods, thus causing him bodily injuries and now lies in the Emergency Center QKUK’së. Also, these people have Kabashi activist threatened and told not to accompany me never Molliqaj. This, according to the notice, indicating that the attack was politically motivated and is an attack on the organizational secretary of the Lëvizjes Vetëvendosjes party.

Police are investigating the case.

Agron’s health condition is good.

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Kosovo Independence Monument Sends ‘No Walls’ Message

Pristina’s NEWBORN independence monument is being redesigned with a ‘No Walls’ message that appears to be addressed to US President Donald Trump as well as Serbs in Kosovo’s north.

Die Morina
BIRN

 

A mock-up of the monument’s new design by Fisnik Ismajli.

The well-known NEWBORN monument in Pristina will change its design on February 17, Kosovo’s Independence Day, as it does every year – this time to incorporate the slogan “No Walls”.

The message comes after a controversy sparked by the building of a wall by Serbs in the north of the divided Kosovo town of Mitrovica, as well as President Donald Trump’s insistence that he will build a wall along the US-Mexican border.

The Serbs demolished the Mitrovica wall this month after coming to an agreement with the Pristina authorities.

“In a world where walls are being built every day, and freedom of movement is becoming ever more limited by narrow minds, while a wall here continuously harms Kosovo’s sovereignty, NEWBORN wants to bring those walls down, for the sake of humanity,” said the creator of NEWBORN, Fisnik Ismajli, who is also an MP with the opposition Vetevendosje party.

“The Institute for Protection of Monuments and Cultural Heritage approved our idea. But we still did not get an answer from the Ministry of Culture if they will cover the expenses,” Ismajli added.

Friday will be the ninth anniversary of the installation of the monument that was created to mark Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia.

It was painted yellow until the fifth independence anniversary, when Ismajli decided to change it every year to send different messages.

In 2013, the monument was painted with the flags of each country that had recognised Kosovo as an independent state.

In 2014, it was painted with the colours of NATO and Kosovo Liberation Army uniforms.

In 2015, after a massive amount of people from Kosovo emigrated to Europe, seeking a better life, Ismajli let people themselves paint on the letters, except for the letter ‘E’, which he painted black, symbolising the word ‘emigration’.

As Kosovo citizens still cannot travel to EU states without a visa, in 2016 the NEWBORN monument was repainted as a sky with barbed wire.

Since the day it was installed next to the Palace of Youth and Sports in Pristina, NEWBORN became one of the first monuments of Kosovo’s modern history to become a tourist attraction.

– See more at: http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/newborn-no-walls-02-15-2017#sthash.LWWISHwa.h2skUfpz.dpuf

Pollution in Prishtina breaks new record

KEK power plants. | Photo courtesy of Ylli Vuciterna

With air marked as ‘hazardous’ throughout the whole weekend, US Embassy data show that the air quality was at its worst since measurement began in March.

The pollution levels in Prishtina set a new record this weekend. The  hourly concentration of micro particles in the air reached the worst levels ever measured at the US Embassy in Prishtina since the US Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, began measuring air quality in March 2016. The last record established on January 1– 505 micrograms per cubic meter of air – was surpassed in the last weekend: with 600 μg/m3 and 606 μg/m3 on Saturday and Sunday evenings respectively.

Throughout the weekend, Prishtina’s air was marked as “Hazardous” and no significant improvement was observed during the morning hours on Monday, either. This is the highest level of pollution determined by the EPA and, according to their Air Quality Index, all Prishtina inhabitants are “more likely to be affected” by the air pollution.

Since Friday, the 24-hour average concentrations of micro-particles in the air have been 10 to 16 times higher than what is considered normal by thee World Health Organisation, WHO, guidelines.

In such extreme conditions, the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning of Kosovo indicated in its “Guide for Protection from Pollution” that everyone should “avoid all physical activity outdoors” and ask members of sensitive groups – such as elders, children and people with cardiovascular or lung diseases – to “remain indoors and keep activity levels low.”

Weather conditions have an influence on the concentration of pollutants in the air. The dense fog that had settled in the capital these days has trapped the micro particles, while the lack of wind also prevented their dispersal.

Even if the meteorological conditions indeed worsen the air pollution in Prishtina, they are not directly responsible of the emission of pollutants from road traffic, household heating system using coal and wood, KEK power plants and other polluting industries.

The Dust Layer

 

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The industrial image of all-running ‘veins’-conveyors full of ‘blood’-coal and ever-expanding mine ‘eating’ the landscape and the houses, that seem too soon fall down the crater of the ‘hungry’ energy-production, is terrifying and exciting at the same time. Even absolutely terrible things are somewhat fascinating and make us freeze looking at them. This giant open mine is one of the largest in Europe’s and 5th world’s reserve of brown coal.

On a bleak spring day we circle around the open pit in search of the old school, casually mentioned in a conversation with the villagers of Hade e Re, or New Hade, the day before. The only building looking like an administrative one happens to be it. The only school in the disappearing village of Old Hade. It is neat, clean and solid from the exterior, but feels desperate, lonely and sad inside. It used to be an island of life and vivacity with more than a thousand pupils attending classes here. Now only 50 are left. This is due to the resettlement program the government started years ago, but never finished.

Dior Preniqi is six. Regardless of his age, he attends classes together with 3rd-graders in Hade’s ramshackle primary school.

“The moment I had to give him to the school, I figured out there’s no one of his age, meaning he would be alone, I was so upset that I actually cried”, – Dior’s mother Leda says, “but he has made some friends and I am glad he follows the study program of 3rd-graders. Now he finds his age’s tasks too easy and demands more hard-core stuff.

The Island of Forgotten Kids

Besa Caka, teaches English at the Old Hade school. She lives in Pristina and has to use the public transport every day. Unfortunately, there is no direct connection, which makes it an even longer journey to her job.

It’s like living on a volcano. You never know what the new day will bring,

Kosovo is a truly extraordinary place: Ibrahim Rugova is considered a national hero, but a living reminder of his work as a teacher is on the edge of extinction, there’s not even a memorial board on the facade.

Besa teaches here for almost a decade and sees the number of students decreases year after year. She does not believe this situation will ever change for good. …Because the ones left will have to leave sooner or later, as the excavation line is very close.” Like an ocean taking its toll from the shore.

“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here”

It was back in 2004 when Hade’s challenge began. Located right on the precious lands of the biggest lignite mine in Europe, the citizens of Hade faced a serious problem with no given alternative than leaving. As the Kosovo’s government made attempts to fix the energy shortage, it has requested the World Bank to make a resettlement program plan, but didn’t communicate to the residents when, where and how they will actually be moved out.

As a result, 158 families who were living closest to the mine were evicted and resettled because of the mudslide threat. The notifiсation came out just one week before. Around 50 families were put into temporary accommodation in two dilapidated buildings in the nearby town of Obiliq, five miles away from Pristina. Twelve years later they still live there.

Dajana Berisha, Executive Director of FIQ — Forum for Civil Initiatives, says those “liberated” pieces of land were never used for the power plant, no one even knows if there’s lignite at all.

Many families are still leaving, others consider doing so, despite their strong desire to stay home where they belong. Around 60 families still stay in the dying village. Lacking proper electricity and water supplies, what they have is hope.

Life in the shadow of a power plant

Vesel and Bahtije Kastrati live just across the street from the power plant for meanwhile half a century. It is a cloudy and rainy day, we are directly invited to join them in the living room and get offered a cup of hot black tea. Just a normal gesture for visitors, even though we are complete strangers. The heat of the liquid quickly spreads through the body and fulfils it for some minutes with a comfortable warm feeling. Unfortunately, not for long, the next moment, no one can keep the feet on the cold floor anymore. It’s freezing in the family’s premises.

Despite of such proximity to the energy producer and an unforgettable view from their windows, the couple has to warm themselves with woods and coal. All the power plant’s central heating goes to Pristina. They nevertheless pay approximately 50 euro for ephemeral electricity and about 500 euro for six months for coal and woods. During the summer they use gas for cooking.

With that salary I managed to raise seven children, three of them live abroad with their families now. There is no chance to get a job here

Vesel worked for KEK in the opencast pit in Bellaqevc (or Hade) for thirty years, he confesses it wasn’t easy as there were no developed mechanics, but he recalls this time as a pretty good one.

He had two heart attacks in 2004, that he didn’t even notice. He thinks it was due to hard working conditions, stress and the environment as well.

 

Both of them agree that it was dustier in the past, the reason might be the newly installed filters inside the power plant towers. However, Vesel and Bahtije suspect the filters get turned off during the night. The noise increases and there’s visibly more steam coming out.

Rinora Gojani, senior researcher at INDEP (Institute for Development Policy) explained that filters reduce the capacity of electricity production that can be put in the grid, thus to get more power and electricity, it’s highly probable that filters are really switched off.

Vesel has been a smoker for all his life, Bahtije hasn’t ever tried. The doctor has examined both of them and the verdict was — their lungs are nearly in the same condition.

Kosovo is without a doubt a smoking nation, and it’s hard to scientifically distinguish between health effects of air pollution and smoking. However, there has been a comparative study for Pristina and Prizren municipalities: both of them have almost the same number of inhabitants (census 2011), cigarette smoking habit is on the same level, but the lung cancer incidence rate is two times higher (35 new cases in 2010) in Pristina municipality than in Prizren area (18 new cases)].

Given, that Vesel worked for more than three decades for the company and the location of their home, which could not be closer to the power plant, it is disturbing and abstruse that the family doesn’t profit from the central heating system, as many others living around the power plant.

Financial and economic sides of the deal are not the only concern. The real external cost also involves health, environment, and infrastructure costs — each of these components states worsens with time. And these are the burden the citizens have to carry along their way.

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Health

The pollution comes from the lignite power generation, outdated technology, misuse of electricity as well as lack of real alternatives, the most polluted area is being South-West. It causes 835 premature deaths each year, lung cancer being in the first place (11.8%) of all malignant disease for the male population in Kosovo.

Annual Health Report 2011 of IPH in Kosovo shows that respiratory diseases are in top 10 most frequent diseases in the country with 22.9% of pathology rate. 53% of children aged between one to five years old are diagnosed with respiratory pathology, about 50% of them sought assistance in the Kosovo Hospitals.

In Kosovo Hospitals Lung disease wards, 21% of the patients of all malignant diseases are diagnosed and treated for lung cancer, moreover, in the University Hospital Centre as a tertiary health care lung cancer is presented with 40.7%.

According to the report issued in 2011 by the Kosovo Institute of Public Health, the three main causes for morbidity in the country are living conditions, bad quality of drinking water and air pollution. Same 2011 year, the report from the Ministry of Environmental and Spatial Planning named energy sector, traffic and industrial production; the main energy pollutants are being lignite-based power plants, which release more than 2.5 tons of dust every hour.

The data collected between 2005 and 2010 shows that around 30% of of KEK workers suffer from respiratory diseases, 6% — from cardiovascular problems, Dr Xhevat Pllana from the Institute of Occupational Medicine in Obiliq shares.

Obiliq municipality to work together with KEK

In environmental law, there is a polluter pays principle, which makes the party responsible for pollution pay for the damage caused to the natural environment. In Kosovo realities, it has turned into population pays principle. The average Kosovar would pay 12.9% of its annual income for electricity, low to middle income — 18%, very low ~ 40%, IEEFA report finds. And this is where electricity becomes a luxury instead of simple commodity.

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Both of the power plants are located in the municipality of Obiliq. The mayor, Xhafer Gashi, who lives with his family in the polluted area, says that the municipality has a genuine cooperation with KEK, even though KEK is managed by the energy regulatory office, or in other words, by the central government itself.

 

Keep it green NGO

Two students, Gezim Pllana and Guxim Klinaku, have established an NGO “Keep it Green” (or “Mbaje Gjelbert” in Albanian) in December 2015 to help deliver environmental messages to a broader public, raise awareness mainly through art. Both of them live in Obiliq and therefore, know first-hand what happens in the municipality. There are seven members at the moment, all of them in their early 20s, to a varying extent participating in the freshly-started NGO’s activities.

“The main idea to create this NGO was to organise a green film festival in the KEK’s yard, we thought about doing it here in particular because according to World Bank statistics, it’s the most polluted city in Europe […], where 33% of residents suffer from breathing problems. We thought about launching an organisation that will deal with the environmental protection and the protection of the residents life,”- Guxim says.

Gezim shortly follows “… the citizens of this city are the ones with the most complains regarding the air and the environment they live, the main purpose was for us to be their voice, their despair to be delivered to the relevant bodies that should respectively be involved in environmental protection. […] until there’s dust in Obiliq, organisation like ours will function.”

The young and promising guys say it’s not only about air pollution, but about permanent danger that the inhabitants are facing, like an explosion at Kosovo A in 2015, when the windows simply flew out, the closest to the explosion houses got completely destroyed .

img_8607Apparently, the citizens of Obiliq are not connected to the central heating system. The electricity produced at the power plants goes directly to Pristina municipality. “[…] This is the worst. We, the inhabitants that live here, that were raised here and who have suffered from the polluted air the most, we do not get the heating and I believe that it should be on the contrary — we should be first to have it, and then everybody else,”- Gezim complains. His feelings are more than understandable; his family has to keep warm with woods.

Luckily, he lives in a private house, but the inhabitants of Plemetia (a very close, polluted area, where minorities live) are obliged to burn fires in the blocks of apartments. The dark, ever-expanding eating machine is still somehow far away, but as soon as it grows and expands, the nearby neighbours will not just fear their health, but the existence of the place they used to live for ages. Like a theory that took existence.

We don’t have sufficient funds to build waste recycling factory or donate to clean the waste, but instead we have a vision on how to act through art”

read more of this in depth investigation and more interviews at

 http//thedustlayer.com/

 

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