Christian May and Harry Cole report on their recent trip to Kosovo.
There has been much talk of late about whether the UK could either afford or handle “another Kosovo". Given that Tony Blair was prepared to commit 50,000 UK soldiers to a ground invasion, it’s clear that we couldn’t think along the same lines were we faced with a similar situation today. In light of the deteriorating situation in Libya, commentators began referring to the Kosovan experience either to advocate or criticise any idea of military intervention.
It was at this time, less than ten days ago, that Dan Hamilton, Director of Big Brother Watch and intrepid traveller, led a group of us for a four day trip to Kosovo, taking in the capital city, Pristina, the deeply troubled city of North Mitrovica and even neighbouring Macedonia, for Sunday lunch.
Kosovo and Serbia are set to hold their first formal talks since the former declared independence three years ago. Under the guidance and watchful eye of the European Union (the other flag that flies a lot in Kosovo – though it will never be as popular as the Albanian, US or British flag) the two sides will begin talking about “normalising” lives for their respective people. At present, the conflict between Albanians and Serbs makes life extremely difficult for all Kosovans; preventing them from joining various economic bodies or even having their own country dialling code.
Thanks to Dan’s planning, we had an excellent itinerary and we were fortunate to meet a broad range of Kosovan-Albanians, Serbians and diplomatic figures. On our first afternoon we met Qamile Morina of the Democratic League of Dardania – a leading opposition figure who fears desperately for the future of Kosovo’s young people, in a country where (as she put it) there “is no rule of law.” She wasn’t talking about street-level crime, but rather the corruption of the institutions and the judicial system that makes life so hard for businesses and civil society. Why would an international investor risk their millions when, due to a back log of hundreds of thousands of court cases, there is no guarantee they would be able to get their money back out?