Trip report

In brief:

Landed at Pristina airport.
Met coordinator of the independence negotiation team.
Met prime minister
Dinner with Veton Surroi, who gave me his new book.

Met Speaker of the Assembly
Met probable next President of Kosovo
Visited President Rugova’s grave, to pay our respects

Left for Macedonia: foolishly took the icy twisting track over the hills to avoid the recent landslide, though guided by Polish and Lithuanian troops

Met with Mayor of Skopje for late lunch, with my boss having also arrived
Met with leader of the 2001 uprising
Met with US ambassador
Dinner with President Crvenkovski
Midnight drink with my former assistant

Breakfast with EU Special Representative
My boss gave a speech to the youth wing of the main opposition party
Met with Deputy Prime Minister in charge of European integration
Final lunch with Mayor of Skopje again
Boss returned to Brussels; I drove back north to Kosovo, taking the more sensible route (though it does take you past souvenirs of the 2001 war)

Got to Pristina in time for a meeting with someone who is not currently allowed to engage in public political activities, so we talked about mutual friends and topics of common interest

Met with UN Secretary General’s Special Representative
Dinner party with i) EU Special Representative, ii) government minister widely tipped as next leader of main government party (leadership currently vacant after death of Rugova) and iii) main opposition party’s leading intellectual. The restaurant offered us squid in strawberry sauce. We were almost all sufficiently intrigued to try it. It was OK.
Went back to my colleague’s house to watch the recording of Kosovo’s main political talk-show from earlier in the evening. His girlfriend is the presenter.

Visit to Dečani Monastery, heavily guarded by Italian soldiers (not in photograph). Long drive across Kosovo’s central plain to the point where the Montenegro mountains loom over it.

Met with Father Sava Janjić, well-known “cyber-monk”. The monastery is completely isolated from the nearby town, to the point that the locals keep taking the roadsigns to it down. Father Sava argues, with some justice, that the monks had opposed the Milošević regime but are still being made to pay for its mistakes, despite having given shelter to Albanian refugees in the 1999 conflict. A very difficult situation, often forgotten in easy talk of ethnic reconciliation in Pristina.
Decani 1Decani gateDecani ChurchFr SavaSultan HamidFresco
Drove to airport. Airport covered in fog. All flights cancelled.

Back to Pristina.
Swiftly scheduled meeting with leader of largest opposition party.
Early night.

Swiftly arranged visit to northern Kosovo city of Mitrovica, divided between Serbs an Albanians.
Met UN official in “charge” of area.
Met hard-line Serb leader
Met moderate Serb leader

Stopped on way back to look at site of 1389 Battle of Kosovo

Guarded by soldiers from two countries which managed an amicable divorce:
FlagsFlags again

Plane home took off late, but at least it took off. They had to hold my connecting flight in Budapest for me and my luggage only got back this morning. But a good trip.

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