…this time last week I was at one of the most extarordinary diplomatic occasions I shall ever attend.
My Balkans trip was pretty much designed around this one event, a reception to mark Montenegro’s historical independence day, for the first time as an independent state since 1918.
An intense day and a half of meetings in Kosovo followed. The new president is a massive improvement on his predecessor, who had a terrible tendency to bleat on pompously at great length. (He did at least give vistors rocks from Kosovo as souvenirs. I have several.) The new guy speaks a little English and better French. I was rather surprised that he had kept the presidential office very much as a memorial to his predecessor who died in January. (Especially as his predecessor tended not to use the office but to receive guests in his villa elsewhere in town.) We also met, among various others, a French two-star general who enjoyed talking to us so much that his aides practically had to drag him out of the room to his next meeting. Also in the course of the day I bumped into an old friend who used to be a background figure in Fine Gael but has dedicated his life to Kosovo politics for the last few years. I hadn’t seen him since 1998.
Then on Wednesday it was the long five-hour drive with L from Priština to Podgorica. The first hour or so, across the Kosovo plain, is pretty dull. But then you hit the mountains. It has been said that Montenegro, if you ironed it, would in fact be the size of Brazil. (OK, only said once, and by a friend of mine who was trying to be funny, but you get the point.)