Life in Kosovo: Kosovo’s Economical Potential

Another episode of the BIRN-organised “Life in Kosovo” programme was broadcast on Kosovo public television, RTK, on June 7, looking at economic life in the region.

RTK, Pristina, June 7, 2006.

The issues raised in the discussion ranged from Kosovo’s economic potential to the sectors of the economy that offered the best prospects.

The debating panel comprised Albin Kurti, leader of Levizja Vetevendosje (movement for self-determination); Mimoza Kusari, head of American Chamber of Commerce in Kosovo, Avni Zogiani from Cohu (rise); and Baton Haxhiu, director of Express, a daily Kosovan newspaper.

At the outset, the predominant view of the panellists was that economic situation in Kosovo is poor and there were problems associated with fiscal policy.

Albin Kurti, who is currently running a campaign for a boycott of all products that come into Kosovo from Serbia, said that poverty here was growing and would not be halted unless local products were promoted.

“Our fiscal policy is only good for Serbia,” said Kurti. “Only by boycotting Serbian products can our economy begin to develop.”

Kusari Serbian products were cheaper than local ones because they are not properly taxed when they are imported. She disagreed that a boycott was the solution.

“Very little, or nothing at all is being done for proper economic development,” added Kusari.

Haxhiu said that civil society should put more pressure on international authorities and the Kosovo government to change fiscal policy.

“The root of the problem is that Kosovo institutions and ministers are building a corrupt political system,” said Haxhiu.

The debate also examined how Kosovo could extricate itself from the current economic situation.

Kurti said it was all the fault of political leaders and that his movement aimed to overthrow the system by revolutionary means, then hold a referendum on independence.

He said after this, he and his followers would seek to develop agriculture and invest in energy resources.

Zogiani suggested that there was unlikely to be a revolution, and unless there were practical solutions the situation would only get worse.
“As we wait for this revolution,” he said,
“politicians will create an inferior economy.

“We need to exert pressure on these men and show that they are not working properly.”

Kusari said that “the only factor that can save our economy is direct investment from abroad”.

Media training for Kosovo human rights workers

Jeta Xharra, Kosovo BIRN Director, held a training session for 17 young human rights activists in Vucitern/Vushtrri on July 15, focusing on how to communicate with the media and pitch stories of human rights interest.

Labinot Berisha, coordinator of anti-trafficking projects within the youth department of the ministry of culture, said the session would help contribute to more sensitive coverage of issues such as child labor, and victims of trafficking and abuse”.
The event was organised in partnership with Management & Development Associates and was held in the Kosovo Police Service school. The activists who took part in the session were:
– Bujar Thaci, Institute of Social Policy
– Linda Loshi, Handicap Kosova
– Majlinda Pirkuqi, human rights volunteer
– Rrezarta Dreshaj, human rights volunteer
– Nerxhivane Haziri, human rights volunteer
– Albana Bytyci, human rights volunteer
– Sylejman Maloku, human rights volunteer
– Bashkim Pacarizi, Kosovo Youth Network
– Labinot Berisha, coordinator for anti-traficking projects, Department ofYouth, Ministry of Culture
– Bekrije Maxhuni, human rights ambassador
– Yllza Jusufi, human rights volunteer
– Besa Shala, human rights volunteer
– Gyltene Retkoceri, human rights volunteer
– Violeta Zefi, human rights volunteer
– Kaltrina Osmani, human rights volunteer
– Arta Buzhala, human rights volunteer
– Manushaqe Vila, human rights volunteer

BIRN Kosovo: Mythologising History Debate

Kosovo television, RTK, broadcast a BIRN-organised debate on July 19 on how politicians in the Balkans mythologise historic events, looking specifically at the Battle of Kosovo, June 28, 1389 – local Serb celebrations of which were this year attended by Serbia’s prime minister Vojislav Kostunica.

RTK, Pristina, July 19, 2006.

The debate follows the publication of an in-depth report from Gracanica,

Gazimestan and Pristina which concluded that the event has become less politicised since Slobodan Milosevic’s infamous attendance of the 600th anniversary in 1989, at which he delivered a fiery nationalistic speach.

Panelists in the debate were Rada Trajkovic, vice-president of Serb National Council; Jelena Bjelica, editor-in-chief of the bi-monthly Kosovo Serb newspaper Gradanski Glasnik; Ylber Hysa, vice-president of ORA, the Albanian opposition party; and Kaqusha Jashari, president of Social Democratic Party of Kosova.

Bjelica said that “the fact that Kostunica does what Milosevic did, visiting Kosovo on [the anniversary of the battle] and saying ‘this is Serb land’ – knowing how many dead and displaced this type of politics has caused – shows that Serbian society hasn’t yet been able to deal with its past”.

Trajkovic said “I feel very uncomfortable that we look at this [anniversary], as something strictly associated with Milosevic and use it to criticise Serb society….What I want to talk about is how little freedom I have today to walk freely in Kosovo as a Serb, enter a shop and speak in Serbian”.

Bjelica responded with a question, “Why is it possible for me as a Serb to live in Pristina and enter a shop without any consequences?
Because I am prepared to say ‘Good day’ in Albanian and you are not.”

Hysa stressed that, despite Kostunica’s visit, the anniversary celebrations this year were more restrained than in previous years, “
Serbs…are looking at this day with more realism and calmness than some years ago.”

Discussing the need for Kosovo communities to commemorate events without antagonising other groups, Hysa said it was very important that Kosovo Albanians celebrate independence in a way that does not resemble a “rowdy booze-up”, so so that it is really experienced as “a moment of freedom rather than as a threat to anyone else”.

The debate was moderated by Jeta Xharra, BIRN Kosovo Director, while the in-depth report was compiled by BIRN’s multi-ethnic investigative team, Krenar Gashi and Tanja Matic.

BIRN Kosovo television debates go on air

BIRN this week launches ‘Life in Kosovo,’ a new series of current affairs television programmes for broadcast on RTK.

The first debate, going out on Wednesday October 19 at 22.45, deals with the mood in Kosovo following publication of UN Special Representative Kai Eide’s report on future status talks for the territory.

Emphasis is on prospects for compromise between Albanian and Serb positions, with Kosovar politicians posed tough questions on the upcoming negotiations by members of the public.

Participants include Lufti Haziri, minister for local government, Teuta Sahatqija, a deputy from the ORA party, Professor Enver Hoxhaj, a PDK party deputy and Oliver Ivanovic, head of the Serbian List for Kosovo and Metohija.

BIRN Kosovo director Jeta Xharra will chair the debate.

First TV Debate aired

BIRN Kosovo aired the first in its series of TV debates, “Life in Kosovo,” on October 19 on the public service station RTK.

Four politicians from different parties were invited to debate and answer citizens’ questions on final-status negotiations for the province in light of the recent report on standards by the UN special envoy Kai Eide.

They were Lutfi Haziri, minister for local government, Enver Hoxhaj, of the Democratic Party of Kosovo’s parliamentary caucus, Teuta Sahatcija, head of the ORA party parliamentary group, and Oliver Ivanovic, leader of the Serbian List for Kosovo and Metohija.

BIRN Kosovo Director Jeta Xharra, chaired the debate in which question were put to the guests in the form of short reportages by various concerned citizens. The next debate in the series will be aired on 9 November, and will look into the issue of Kosovar identity.

This project is supported by the Balkan Trust for Democracy. For further information, contact BIRN Kosovo Director Jeta Xharra.

Work on regional TV documentary on Kosovo continues

Work continues on BIRN’s documentary film project, which explores the regional context for, and consequences of, determining Kosovo’s final status.

Over the past four weeks, producer Lode Desmet has worked with BIRN country directors in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia and Kosovo itself in filming, research and interviewing.

Interviews have been conducted with a range of stakeholders in Kosovo’s forthcoming talks. They include Adnan Terzic, the Bosnian Prime minister, Dragan Cavic, President of the Republika Srpska, Sali Berisha, Albania’s Prime Minister, Edi Rama, mayor of Tirana, leading Macedonian Albanian politicians Arber Xhafferi and Teuta Arifi, and Artemija, Serbian Orthodox Bishop of Raska-Prizren.

For more information, please contact Anna McTaggart.

BIRN Kosovo TV Debate Opens Oxford University Seminar

A discussion on Kosovo’s future at St Antony’s College, Oxford University, opened on 8 December with a screening of the first debate in BIRN’s “Life in Kosovo” TV series, in which a number of high profile politicians answered citizens’ questions on final status negotiations.

Dr Richard Caplan, Lecturer and Official Fellow at the university’s Department of Politics and International Relations wrote to BIRN that:

“There happened to be a delegation of some 25 deputy permanent representatives to the EU visiting Oxford and they watched the debate and took part in the discussion that followed. Many of them commented on how impressed they were with BIRN’s high level of journalistic

The “Life in Kosovo” debate series, aired bi-weekly on RTK and sponsored by the Balkan Trust for Democracy, aim to open up a discussion on taboo issues in Kosovan society, such as the question of Kosovan nationality versus Albanian ethnicity, the existence of party-affiliated intelligence structures and the presence of corruption and nepotism in public institutions.

For more information, contact BIRN Kosovo Director Jeta Xharra.

BIRN Kosovo Documentary Completed

The final edit of BIRN’s documentary film on the regional context for Kosovo status negotiations is now complete.

Post-production, narration and sub-titling will be finished by the end of the month, with premier screenings scheduled for January 2006.

More information will be forthcoming on these screenings, due to take place in the countries/territories covered by the film – Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro, Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Screenings are also being organised in Brussels, London and Sofia.

The film will be broadcast by TV stations throughout the Balkans, while distribution further afield is also being arranged.

This project is supported by the Swiss Foreign Ministry. For more information, contact BIRN Regional Network Director Anna McTaggart.

Balkan Voices: What next for Kosovo?

A documentary reflecting the concerns and hopes of Balkan citizens on the eve of crucial talks over the final status of Kosovo is to be screened at the Front Line Club in London on January 9.

Produced by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN, and directed by the award-winning film-maker Lode Desmet, the 85-minute documentary – entitled Does Anyone Have A Plan? – focuses on seventeen ordinary people from Kosovo, Serbia and neighbouring countries in the run-up to the negotiations.

In the film, the subjects’ questions about the implications of the talks – which, it is hoped, will go a long way to finding a solution to the conflict between Serbia and the Kosovo Albanians, and stabilising the region as a whole – are put to important local and international political figures.

The latter include EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, senior US state department official Nicholas Burns, Serbian president Boris Tadic and Kosovo premier Bajram Kosumi.

Kosovo is the last unresolved dispute in the Balkans. In the summer of 1999, Serbian troops left the entity and NATO forces moved in. Since then, it has been largely administered by the UN, although still formally part of Serbia and Montenegro.

Serbian, Kosovo Albanian and international officials are to start negotiations on the future of the region in early 2006, with the Albanians wanting independence and the Serbs prepared to concede no more than a high degree of autonomy.

The film is subtitled in English and all local languages. It will be broadcast throughout the region by leading TV stations in January and February. International distribution is also being planned.

This project was supported by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, Political Affairs Division for Human Security.

BIRN Kosovo hosts hot debate on violence against journalists

A BIRN Kosovo TV debate aired on January 18 saw police and other public officials argue vigorously with local journalists on the issue of recently increased violence against the latter.

For the first time in BIRN’s Life in Kosovo series, aired on RTK, a live audience of 40 people participated in the debate, challenging guests with questions raised by concrete cases of violence against journalists.

Panellists included Fatos Bytyci, President of the Association of Professional Journalists of Kosova, AGPK, Rekfi Morina, spokesperson for the Kosovo Police Service, KPS, Fatmire Terdevci, an investigative journalist from daily Koha Ditore, Afrim Ahmeti, head of command for the central Pristina police station, Petrit Selimi, Director of MediaWorks, and Sabit Rrustemi, spokesperson for the Gjilan municipal authorities.

For a full report on the debate, click here.

This project is supported by the Balkan Trust for Democracy. For more information, contact BIRN Kosovo Director Jeta Xharra.