Tag Archive: Kosovo


US ambassador to Kosovo hired by construction firm he lobbied for

  • The Guardian, Monday 14 April 2014 11.53 EDT
Christopher Dell with Kosovo PM
Christopher Dell with Kosovo PM Hashim Thaci in 2009. Dell took joined Bechtel when he finished his career at the State Department. Photo: Office of the Kosovo PM

A US ambassador to Kosovo, who lobbied for the construction of a $1bn road through the war-torn country, has taken up a post with the American construction giant that secured the lucrative contract.

Christopher Dell, a career diplomat nominated by Barack Obama to represent the US in Pristina, was employed by the Bechtel Corporation, which he helped win a contract to build a highway to neighbouring Albania.

Dell took on a role as an African country manager with Bechtel late last year, months after ending a three-decade career at the State Department.

His employment at Bechtel, America’s largest engineering and construction firm, has ignited a debate over the controversial road-building project, named the “Patriotic Highway”.

Pieter Feith, the senior EU diplomat in Kosovo when the contract was secured, criticised the way the US ambassador pushed through the deal, and has called for an inquiry. Feith accused Dell of withholding information about the Bechtel contract, and lobbying Kosovo to agree to what he describes as an ill-advised deal with a US company, which placed enormous pressure on the fledgling country’s budget.

It is routine for western ambassadors to push the business interests of companies from the countries they come from. But it is unusual for a former diplomat to land a job with a major corporation after using their sway to secure lucrative government contracts.

After he was appointed ambassador in 2009, Dell had huge influence in Kosovo, where the US is widely viewed as a supervising power and is feted for its role in securing independence for the tiny Balkan state. A statue of President Clinton adorns the capital, Pristina, and boulevards are named after George W Bush and other US officials.

As the International Civilian Representative in Kosovo between 2008 and 2012, Feith was the other major figure in the country, entrusted with wide-ranging powers by the US and EU, including the ability to overrule Kosovan officials. For several years, Feith and Dell served side by side, the two most senior foreign officials supervising Kosovo’s campaign for recognition as a sovereign state following the 1999 war.

At the time Dell was encouraging Kosovo’s government to sign the highway contract, Feith said he had grave concerns about awarding the enormous contract to a consortium consisting of Bechtel and its partner, Turkish firm Enka. Feith believed the deal risked undermining Pristina’s finances.

Feith said he clashed with Dell over the logic of an impoverished, nascent country undertaking such a huge infrastructure project, and instead argued that the money should be spent on tackling Kosovo’s unemployment rate, which stood at 40%.

Feith also said he asked to see details of the contract, which he believed was part of his mandate, but was denied access by the US embassy. “Information was withheld, and all of a sudden we were presented with a fait accompli of this contract being concluded and being a liability on the budget,” he told the Guardian.

The Bechtel-Enka deal was signed in April 2010, despite concerns from the IMF, the World Bank, EU diplomats, Feith, and the Kosovan government’s own legal adviser. Dell and the State Department declined requests for comment. Bechtel defended its employment of the former ambassador and said any suggestion that his appointment was improper was “unfair and offensive”.

But Andrea Capussela, who served as head of Feith’s economic department in Kosovo and was a vocal critic of the road-building scheme, said: “Ambassador Dell’s employment at Bechtel raises a rather serious question mark over the whole project.”

“This contract was irrational for Kosovo, and caused considerable damage to it,” he added. “The State Department would do well to investigate this.”

Feith declined to comment on Dell’s employment at Bechtel. However, he did say a wider inquiry into the probity of the highway deal was warranted, although he did not specify which organisation would conduct such an investigation.

“We have been involved in the fight against corruption in Kosovo, and anything that can help, ex-post, to clarify, elucidate or provide transparency about what has happened is beneficial for the future of the young state,” he said. “If there is an investigation, I would welcome it.”

The government in Pristina argues that the Patriotic Highway has connected northern Albania and Kosovo, replacing crumbling mountain roads with a four-lane highway, and will provide an economic injection into the region. However, critics point out that its costs have more than doubled from the original estimate.

The initial offer was to complete the Kosovo section of the highway for $555m (€400m). The price subsequently rose to $916m (€660m), to pay for 102km of road. In the end, the project cost $1.13bn (€820m) for what turned out be only a 77km stretch of highway. By comparison, Kosovo’s total government budget in 2012 was €1.5bn.

 

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Bechtel Delivers Second Stretch of the Kosovo Motorway Ahead of Schedule and Within Budget

Completion Marked With Launch of Motorway Safety Campaign

By Marketwired .  July 13, 2012 02:48 PM EDT

LONDON — (Marketwire) — 07/13/12 — Bechtel and its joint venture partner, Enka, have completed an additional 2.8 miles (4.5 kilometers) of the Kosovo motorway bringing the total distance completed to 26.4 miles (42.5 km). The new section, which opened today, connects to the stretch of motorway delivered in November 2011 which goes from Morinë at the border with Albania to Suhareka. The motorway now extends to the Dule interchange in Northern Kosovo. The latest stretch of motorway was built in less than a year, ahead of schedule and within budget.

“Each day we are getting closer to our dream of achieving the Kosovo motorway, thanks to Bechtel-Enka. The motorway is already making a huge difference to the lives of Kosovans with reduced journey times but people should drive safely too,” said Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi.

To mark the opening of the new motorway section, Bechtel and Enka, together with the Kosovo government, launched a new safety campaign along the Kosovo motorway with the slogan: “Yes to Safety, No to Speed.” The week-long campaign aims to encourage responsible driving on Kosovo’s first motorway and includes postcards and promotional cars along the route displaying the safety message.

“Safety is one of our core values. We hope our motorway safety awareness campaign will make drivers think twice about driving safely and not speeding on the new motorway,” said Mike Adams, president of Bechtel’s civil infrastructure unit.

When complete, the full 63.4-mile (102-km) motorway will extend from Morinë to the north of Kosovo’s capital, Pristina, and will serve as the centerpiece of Kosovo’s national transport system, helping to promote trade and economic development in Kosovo and throughout the region. The motorway is scheduled for completion in 2013.

 

 

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How alike are Crimea and Kosovo?

AP

Vladimir Putin’s key argument justifying Crimea’s secession from Ukraine and annexation by Russia following Sunday’s referendum is the West’s acceptance of Kosovo’s declaration of statehood in 2008.

With the strong support of the United States, the ethnic Albanian-dominated Kosovo seceded from Serbia despite Serbia’s strong objections. At the time, Russia argued that the Kosovo declaration was a serious breach of international law.

Here’s a look at Crimea and Kosovo:

How are Crimea and Kosovo similar?

Both Kosovo and Crimea have a majority who belong to an ethnic minority. Just as Kosovo Albanians feared Serbian repression during the autocratic rule of late Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, Russians living in Crimea feared the Ukrainian nationalists who came to power in Kiev in February.

Both the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo and the ethnic Russians in Crimea voted overwhelmingly in favor of secession, while the Serbian minority in Kosovo and the Ukrainian and Tatar minorities in Crimea mostly boycotted the votes.

There was foreign military intervention in both regions with NATO intervening in Kosovo and pro-Russian troops seizing control of Crimea ahead of the vote.

What are their main differences?

NATO intervened in Kosovo in 1999 only after significant evidence of Serbian abuses against ethnic Albanians, including mass killings and deportations. Pro-Russian forces intervened in Crimea with no major abuses or violence reported against ethnic Russians.

The West didn’t annex Kosovo after driving Milosevic’s forces out of the former Serbian province, but sent in peacekeepers. Russian troops, meanwhile, took control of Crimea before its referendum was held.

 

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Earth Watch Report  –  Flooding

18.03.2013 Flash Flood Kosovo Multiple area, [Izbica River areas] Damage level
Details

Flash Flood in Kosovo on Monday, 18 March, 2013 at 11:17 (11:17 AM) UTC.

Description
Kosovo An 11-year-old ethnic Albanian girl drowned in the Izbica River in the village of Srbica near Kosovska Mitrovica. The Ibar River overtopped its banks and caused a bridge to collapse. The bridge connects the village of Kutnje with Leposavic and around 50 households are now cut off from the world. Children and adults were unable to go to school and work on Friday morning. The situation in Leposavic is improving and water is slowly withdrawing. Several villages are left without electricity and Leposavic Mayor DragiSa Vasic has visited the citizens in the flooded area. Civilian protection teams and local residents are struggling to prevent water from reaching houses in the villages of Vuca, JoSanica, Tvrden, Krnjin, LeSak and Vracevo. The situation is improving in the Zvecan municipality. Several households in the village of Doljane have been completely flooded. Returnees’ homes in the villages of Berkovo and Dragoljevac have been flooded and local roads are under water.

The most difficult situation in the Istok municipality is in the returnee village of Zac. Downtown Pec is completely flooded. Serbian police (MUP) Emergency Situations Sector Chief Predrag Maric says that the situation in Serbia is stabilizing and that water levels are stagnating. He added that the situation was much more dramatic on Thursday. The situation in central Serbia is critical in NiS, Kraljevo, Sabac, Novi Pazar and Prijepolje. The Emergency Situations Sector gas sent specialized teams, 20 members and six boats to the flooded areas, the Serbian police released on Friday. The water levels increased due to heavy rain and snow. Emergency flood defense has been declared on the RaSka River in southwestern Serbia. Regular flood defense has been declared on the Sava River near Sabac and Sremska Mitrovica, on the Veliko SrediSte Dam near VrSac and on Lim, MiloSevka and Seljasnica Rivers in the town of Prijepolje.

Kosovo: Flash Floods DREF Operation Bulletin (MDRKV006)

Report

from IFRC

Published on 18 Mar 2013 — View Original

CHF 147,193 has been allocated from the Federation’s Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to support the National Society in delivering immediate assistance to some 600 families (3,000 beneficiaries). Unearmarked funds to repay DREF are encouraged.

Summary: Due to heavy rainfall in Kosovo that started on 14th March 2013 and lasted for more than 24 hours many villages in several municipalities have been flooded. Majority of these affected areas are situated in the rural and poorer part of Kosovo. Some villages were isolated as well due to the damaged and/or not accessible bridges. Rivers that flooded were Drini I Bardhe, Klina, Bistrica, and Lushta. The sudden cold wave with low temperatures and strong winds all over Kosovo has worsened the situation of the affected population. According to the information received from the Red Cross branches and emergency departments in the affected municipalities, an estimated 890 households have been affected by the flooding.

The most affected municipalities are Klina/ Klina, Skenderaj/Srbica, Peja/Pec, Istog/ Istok, Kamenice/Kamenica, Gjakova/Djakovica, and Mitrovice/Mitrovica. There are shortages of food and other essential goods, as the population was not prepared for such a heavy rain especially since there was not such a harsh winter. The situation is complicated also by the fact that many families have also been evacuated and cannot return to their homes as those are still under water. The flooding has caused damage to houses and personal belongings, causalities in livestock, damages in agricultural land and equipment.

 

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Black market for body parts spreads among Europe’s poor

‘When you need to put food on the table, selling a kidney doesn’t seem like much of a sacrifice’

By DAN BILEFSKY

BELGRADE, Serbia — Pavle Mircov and his partner, Daniella, nervously scan their e-mail in-box every 15 minutes, desperate for economic salvation: a buyer willing to pay nearly $40,000 for one of their kidneys.The couple, the parents of two teenagers, put their organs up for sale on a local online classified site six months ago after Mr. Mircov, 50, lost his job at a meat factory here. He has not been able to find any work, he said, so he has grown desperate. When his father recently died, Mr. Mircov could not afford a tombstone. The telephone service has been cut off. One meal a day of bread and salami is the family’s only extravagance.

“When you need to put food on the table, selling a kidney doesn’t seem like much of a sacrifice,” Mr. Mircov said.

Facing grinding poverty, some Europeans are seeking to sell their kidneys, lungs, bone marrow or corneas, experts say. This phenomenon is relatively new in Serbia, a nation that has been battered by war and is grappling with the financial crisis that has swept the Continent. The spread of illegal organ sales into Europe, where they are gaining momentum, has been abetted by the Internet, a global shortage of organs for transplants and, in some cases, unscrupulous traffickers ready to exploit the economic misery.

$250K for lungs
In Spain, Italy, Greece and Russia, advertisements by people peddling organs — as well as hair, sperm and breast milk — have turned up on the Internet, with asking prices for lungs as high as $250,000. In late May, the Israeli police detained 10 members of an international crime ring suspected of organ trafficking in Europe, European Union law enforcement officials said. The officials said the suspects had targeted impoverished people in Moldova, Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.

Spain’s economic crisis turns middle-class families into squatters

“Organ trafficking is a growth industry,” said Jonathan Ratel, a European Union special prosecutor who is leading a case against seven people accused of luring poor victims from Turkey and former communist countries to Kosovo to sell their kidneys with false promises of payments of up to $20,000. “Organized criminal groups are preying upon the vulnerable on both sides of the supply chain: people suffering from chronic poverty, and desperate and wealthy patients who will do anything to survive.”

The main supply countries have traditionally been China, India, Brazil and the Philippines. But experts say Europeans are increasingly vulnerable.

An estimated 15,000 to 20,000 kidneys are illegally sold globally each year, according to Organs Watch, a human rights group in Berkeley, Calif., that tracks the illegal organ trade. The World Health Organization estimates that only 10 percent of global needs for organ transplantation are being met.

Greek bank worker plunges to death from Acropolis

Nancy Scheper-Hughes, the director of Organs Watch and a professor of medical anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, said the attempt by poor Europeans to sell their organs was reminiscent of the period after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when chronic joblessness created a new breed of willing sellers.

Trade in organs in Serbia is illegal and punishable by up to 10 years in prison. But that is not deterring the people of Doljevac, a poor municipality of 19,000 people in southern Serbia, where the government refused an attempt by residents to register a local agency to sell their organs and blood abroad for profit.

‘Blood group A’
Violeta Cavac, a homemaker advocating for the network, said that the unemployment rate in Doljevac was 50 percent and that more than 3,000 people had wanted to participate. Deprived of a legal channel to sell their organs, she said, residents are now trying to sell body parts in neighboring Bulgaria or in Kosovo.

“I will sell my kidney, my liver, or do anything necessary to survive,” she said.

Hunched over his computer in Kovin, about 25 miles from Belgrade, Mr. Mircov showed a reporter his kidney-for-sale advertisement, which included his blood type and phone number.

“Must sell kidney. Blood group A,” the ad said. “My financial situation is very difficult. I lost my job, and I need money for school for my two children.”