KosovaLive360

EULEX stands ready to support the independence of the Constitutional Court

 

The Head of Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), Ms. Alexandra Papadopoulou, met today for an introductory meeting the Constitutional Court President Arta Hajrizi-Rama. They discussed the importance of continued support between the judiciary and EULEX, noting that the rule of law is the key to the success and prosperity of Kosovo’s European aspirations.

“EULEX stands ready to support the independence of the Constitutional Court and provide assistance that will further strengthen this institution,” said Ms. Papadopoulou.

OSCE Mission supports safety of journalists in Kosovo

The outgoing Head of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo, Jean-Claude Schlumberger, hosted today the chairpersons of the Association of Journalists of Kosovo, Shkëlqim Hysenaj, and of the Journalists’ Association of Serbia registered in Kosovo, Budimir Ničić, to donate 50 sets of vests and jackets bearing the word ‘PRESS’.

During a time of recurring protests in which journalists face difficult situations and in some cases have suffered injuries, the journalists’ associations requested the Mission provide them with protective gear. These vests and jackets will help journalists to report safely by distinguishing them from the crowd.

“Journalists in Kosovo do not have an easy job, and are often challenged to the extent that they face serious situations. The work of journalists becomes even more dangerous when reporting on protests and violent demonstrations. To be able to report more safely, they need to be identifiable,” said Schlumberger.

Schlumberger encouraged the chairpersons of journalists’ associations to continue to support the work of media and safety of journalists in the future. “Today we are providing you with vests and jackets with visible “PRESS” insignia. I hope they will help you in your work, but at the same time I also hope there will not be many such occasions for you to report from,” added the Ambassador.

In the coming months, the OSCE Mission will provide journalists’ associations with a Guide on Safety of Journalists during Reporting on Protests, with advice and know-how to report from protests and violent demonstrations. The guide will help journalists avoid injuries and/or damage to equipment while working.

The OSCE Mission in Kosovo is mandated with the protection and promotion of human rights, democratization, and public safety sector development. It helps safeguard freedom of the media and freedom of expression and supports media development.

EU helps Kosovo to move forward with decentralisation of social services

 

After two and a half years an EU Office funded project “Support to Strengthening the Mechanism for Implementation of Social Services Decentralisation” has come to an end.  The project was a complex undertaking to help central and municipal institutions to improve the quality of social services delivered to those in need as well as prepare grounds for effective decentralisation of social services in Kosovo. The main partner and beneficiary of the project was the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare (MLSW).

Sustainable growth and social consensus requires a broad range of services that help those in need to overcome difficulties they face. Social services are based on core European values including solidarity, dignity and respect for human life. You can judge the quality of the society on the way it takes case care of its weakest. The EU will continue to support Kosovo authorities and Civil Society to achieve in this sector,” said Deputy Head of Cooperation, Libor Chlad.

The European Commission has stressed for several years now in its Reports for Kosovo the need for Kosovo to move on with decentralisation of social services and encourages the competent institutions, particularly the municipalities, to fulfil their obligations with regard to the delivery of quality social services to those in need.

In particular, the project strengthened the implementation mechanisms required to meet the objectives for social service delivery, social service standards as well as monitoring and evaluation of social services provision and secondly to build capacity and resources and support the development and implementation of local strategies and action plans for social service provision at municipal level. By helping the Ministry to meet these objectives, the EU funded project has in fact facilitated implementation of actions defined in the Ministry’s Sectorial Strategy 2009-2013.

Below we list some of the results of the project:

  • A new social services database has been developed and the project provided the MLSW with policy support and guidance on social sector financing; legislation; minimum quality standards; mechanisms for the licensing of non-state providers; and the monitoring and inspection of government and non-government service providers.
  • The capacity of social sector agencies such as the General Council on Social and Family Services (GCSFS); the League of Centres for Social Work (LQPSK); the Government Commission of Social Welfare, Social Inclusion and Decentralisation (GCSWSID); and the Collegium of Directors of Health and Social Welfare (CHSW), located within the Association of Kosovo Municipalities (AKM) have been strengthened. The capacity of the GCSFS to fulfil their mandate for the licensing of social sector staff and the development of the social work profession has been enhanced.
  • Three sets of occupational standards for licensed social workers were drafted and submitted to the National Qualifications Authority of Kosovo (NQA) for approval. Based on the occupational standards, five vocational training modules have been elaborated which meet NQA criteria for accreditation. CGSFS trainers have been actively involved in the delivery of some Project training activities together with international experts.
  • Seven sets of minimum quality standards for social services were drafted using a participatory approach involving all key stakeholders. To support the implementation of the standards, a training program was designed and delivered to licensed social workers, residential care staff and staff from day care centres for children with disabilities. Minimum quality standards are gradually being introduced into municipal centres for social welfare and licensed service providers. The monitoring of compliance with standards is the mandate of the MLSW Monitoring and Inspection Unit which was also supported by the Project.
  • The competence and professional capacity of social sector planners and managers from municipalities and central government was enhanced with the provision of a comprehensive program of management-level training. Training addressed issues such as needs-based planning; funding of social services; costing, budgeting and financial management; quality assurance; outsourcing and social contracting; service development; and monitoring and evaluation of service delivery. Approximately one hundred and twenty directors and managers from all municipalities participated in each of the four rounds of training.
  • Licensed social workers from all municipalities and NGOs participated in a training program of three two-day workshops, delivered in six locations for six cohorts. Training was designed as a refresher course for experienced social workers and covered topics such as the Social Work Principles and Practice, Minimum Quality Standards and social work with Families, Children, People with Disabilities and Elderly Persons. Certificates were awarded to two hundred and fifty-seven licensed social workers who completed all six days of training in cooperation with MLSW.

The combination of institutional capacity building and human resources capacity building has successfully provided a strong foundation for the future development of a quality service system capable of meeting the needs of the population of Kosovo.

 

Piecing together Kosovo’s ancient past might bring people together in the future

The ancient history of Kosovo is often fiercely debated, which often leads to anger, confusion and division.  Professor Edi Shukriu, a member of the Academy of Science and Arts of Kosova, is doing her best to set the record straight.

Born in Prizren to a Catholic mother and a Muslim father, Shukriu has always been aware of the many layers of culture in Kosovo, and she refuses to give one narrative more credence than another.

“Everyone from Kosovo likes to start from ‘O’. This is problematic for archaeology,” Shukriu said.

She pointed out that “Kosovo” is the Serbian spelling for the country, so some people tend to focus on history in the context of Serbia and Kosovo, not what came before.

But Shukriu said ample evidence has been unearthed in fieldwork and research by her, and by others, that show the cultural history of Kosovo is substantial, and transcends any modern debates.  Shukriu has studied the civilizations of Rome, Illyria, Dardania and Turkey — all predate, by the more than a millennium, the cultural claims, myths and struggle for ownership of history between ethnic Albanians and Serbs.

“In general, I like heritage. I was never educated to separate one heritage from another. Albania is my heritage, Serbia is my heritage, and Rome is my heritage too,” Shukriu insisted.

Shukriu’s father was a director of archaeological studies in Prizren. Her house was near Sinan Pasha Mosque and Prizren fortress. Her home also was very old and had had many previous residents before she was born.

“It was a combination of my father’s influence and growing up in a city with a rich history that motivated me to study archaeology.” Shukriu explained.

Shukriu is a respected academic around the world. She has authored and co-authored many books and academic journals, along with published works of poetry and creative writing. Today, however, Shukriu has her mind strictly on archaeology for Kosovo and answering the questions surrounding these ancient sites.

Ulpiana, on the edge of Prishtina, is an ancient site that has been known for nearly 60 years, and Shukriu has invested many hours there.

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Remnants of Roman columns

The Ulpiana dig dates from the Roman and Byzantine eras. It functioned as a Roman Empire crossroads, especially leading to the east, and later was a crossroads on Byzantium’s route west.

The site was near a prominent mining area known for its precious metals, stones and fertile land.  During the Roman occupation, Ulpiana was one of the most traveled routes between Rome and Constantinople, according to the site’s project director, Milot Berisha.

Berisha explained that until Shukriu and her team arrived at Ulpiana in 2006, there were “systematic excavations of a preventive character,” done by the government in the days of Tito and Milosevic. Finding any type of historical evidence that refuted the Serbian historical narrative of Kosovo during those years was a potential problem.

One site in the vicinity of Prishtina is a prime example of the preventive excavations. The Tjerrtorja, where the iconic figurine of Prishtina’s goddess was found, was first excavated in 1953.  After the goddess and a few other smaller pieces were discovered, the land was quickly privatized and a textile factory was built over the excavation site. Neither Berisha nor Shukriu believe that there will be any further excavation of the Tjerrtorja, since the factory still stands on the site.

The Tjerrtorja is not an isolated example.

Many excavations were halted throughout Kosovo, meaning much of the country’s history remains unseen and unstudied. Berisha noted that during the war, most Kosovar archaeologists were kept on the perimeter of any type of dig that happened under Serbian occupation, and weren’t allowed to examine any of the findings. That was one of the main reasons that sites like Ulpiana remained mostly untouched for more than a half century.

Berisha was studying at a university in Tirana at the time of the war.  Shukriu, on the other hand, found herself in the middle of the conflict. She was teaching at the University of Prishtina at the beginning of Serbia’s increased dominance of Kosovo. Shukriu recalls many professors, herself including, getting fired for refusing to teach under Serbian curricula. Shukriu said she was also beaten by Serbian police.

“They hit me on the hands and struck my body with clubs. I was bleeding and had several bruises. We were still very calm and peaceful, to save things from happening again,” Shukriu said.

“Serbs still haven’t asked for forgiveness… but the war was not one-sided. There were Albanians killing Serbs who had nothing to do with the deaths of families, and there were Serbian students with knives calling for the death of Albanians at the University of Belgrade,” Shukriu explained.

Immediately after the 1999 war, Shukriu worked in the government with the intention of creating the framework of positive reactions between Serbs and Kosovo Albanians.

“We wanted to respect democracy, and respect what the Serbians had,” she said.

edi shukriu

Archaeologist Edi Shukriu

Shukriu was a member of the Assembly of Kosovo for eight years, co-chair for the department of culture for UNMIK for two years. For four years, she also served as the President for the Committee of Culture, Youth, and Sport of the Assembly. She was the founder of the Women’s Forum of the Democratic League of Kosovo and currently serves as the Democratic League’s Vice President. Due to Shukriu’s political connections, she has been able to get the Ministry of Culture, Youth, and Sport to support the various archaeological expeditions.

“Dr. Shukriu is an example of someone who used their political influence for good,” said Berisha.

In 2006, ground was broken at Ulpiana.  Shukriu and her team began unearthing the ancient Roman and Byzantine municipium, near the ethnic Serb enclave of Gracanica.

Ulpiana photo 4

One of the fortifications found at Ulpiana

Ten years later, Berisha and his team have uncovered several different structures at the excavation site. They have found a basilica with an octagonal baptistery, another basilica that was fortified at some point, city walls, city gates, large burial grounds, bones, and more.

“Only 3 percent of the city has been uncovered. There is still a lot of work that we have to do over the next few months,” explained Berisha.

The site is under the protection of Serbs, though this is not an issue as Berisha and other archaeologists at the site speak Serbian and even employ Serbians to help with the excavations. The project is fully funded by Kosovo’s Ministry of Culture, Youth, and Sport. In fact, the Minister Kujtim Shala has been to the Ulpiana site several times.

“He expects great results from this place,” said Berisha, smiling as he stared out at the diverse group of people actively working to uncover and restore beautifully preserved masonry and floor mosaics.

“Our goal is not to say one group is right about history and the other is wrong, we are simply trying to uncover the truth of what life was really like before our ancestors showed up. Roman history is everyone’s history,” Berisha added.

“Serbian culture and Albanian culture cannot be divided,” Shukriu said, explaining that there is too much work to do and so much to discover, it is possible for cultures to coexist in peace, no matter what bad blood lingers from the past. “The war is over. It has been over. We need to focus on bringing people together,” Shukriu added.

“We have not wanted to politicize the site. The Minister likes that we are promoting a ‘common heritage’ among the people,” according to Berisha.

Thanks to their efforts at repairing relations between ethnic groups has, the Ulpiana site has had “multi-ethnic camps” during the past three years.  These camps bring together Serbs, Albanians, Roma, Gorani.

“The workers here have no problems with each other. I can speak clearly to all groups represented at our site, and as you can see they have all done great work,” Berisha said, pointing to the revealed ruins.

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Archaeologists and other workers unearth precious bits of Kosovo’s ancient history in Ulpiana.

The problems lie with natural obstacles. Water and erosion have worn most of the ancient Roman ruins away, so Berisha and his team are working against the clock to preserve the site, since only 3 percent has been discovered.

Berisha is working with the Ministry to make the Ulpiana site into Kosovo’s first archaeological park. He hopes that it will be ready to be open to the public by the end of autumn.

Shukriu wants to see more cooperation with businesses and specific archaeological excavations, in order to generate more notice and interest.

“We had wanted to build a hotel nearby Harilaq, since it is so close to the airport. We had hoped that people would stay at that hotel and want to go see Harilaq since the two would have been so close,” she explained.

Despite some initiatives not going as originally planned, Shukriu, Berisha, their students and volunteers, are diligently laying the framework of an accurate and evidence-based historical narrative.

“Milot is very passionate about the site. He comes here even when people aren’t working. Cold or hot, he is here. He is very dedicated, it is an inspiration to all of us,” said Arianit Buqenca, a professor of archaeology in Prishtina.

“Dr. Shukriu is one of the best minds that Kosovo has,” added Valon Shkodra, a former student of Shukriu who is a curator at the Ethnological Museum of Kosova in Prishtina. “She is strong and she can work with many different people.”

(Houston Vick was a reporting intern at KosovaLive this summer in collaboration with Miami University in the United States.)

 

Head of EULEX Meets With President Thaçi

 

Today, Ms. Alexandra Papadopoulou met with Kosovo President, Hashim Thaçi, her first official meeting in her capacity as the head of the European Union’s Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX).

“I had an excellent first meeting with President Thaçi. We reinforced our joint commitment to pull together our expertise and resources in order to support the Rule of Law. The new mandate starts a new chapter for EULEX and Kosovo.  We will all continue to work in even closer partnership with our partners in the European Union and the international community,” said Ms. Papadopoulou.

The Head of Mission and President Thaçi discussed issues of mutual interest, in particular fighting political interference in the judiciary.

Ms. Papadopoulou, a senior Greek diplomat with extensive experience in the Balkans, has previously served in Kosovo as the Head of the Greek Liaison Office in 2000. Her most recent appointments include serving as the Permanent Representative of Greece to the European Union in Brussels, as well as Director General for EU Affairs in the Greek Foreign Ministry during Greece’s 2014 Presidency of the EU.  Additionally, Ambassador Papadopoulou has served as the Deputy Permanent Representative of Greece to the United Nations, as well as the Head of the Greek Liaison Office in Skopje for over five years.

 

Baseball is making its pitch in Kosovo

A small white ball soared through the air and descended toward the ground. This time, the ball didn’t land in Yankee Stadium in New York, it landed in the middle of a football field in Obiliq. The players weren’t wearing matching uniforms and baseball caps, and they all weren’t men. Women, children, and men of all ages were out in the field, learning a sport that didn’t exist in Kosovo five years ago.

But early July, Kosovars were learning as much as they could about this American game. Wooden baseball bats and leather gloves covered the field. Baseballs were sprinkled across the grass. These were seeds of a future sport for Kosovars.

“Baseball encourages all different kinds of people to play,” said Altin Balidemaj, a Kosovar participating in a baseball game in Peja. “Fast people can play well and slow people can play well. There is a chance for everyone who plays to help out.”

Balidemaj had never heard of baseball until the Kosovo Baseball Initiative (KBI) came to Peja for the first time, two years ago.

KBI is a project of Global Baseball, an international organization dedicated to teaching the game of baseball to kids and others around the world. KBI is in its fourth year and the organization grows significantly each year.

KBI had its first camp in Gjakova in 2014 after a series introductory events in the first two years. The camp lasted one week and consisted of KBI coaching different groups of schoolchildren on the basic fundamentals of baseball throughout the week. The event had more than 240 students participating throughout the week. There was a lot of hesitancy at first, as many of the children and teenagers had never seen or held a baseball bat or glove.

According to Osman Gashi from the Ministry of Culture, Youth, and Sport, “The expectations were low, but there were great results.”

Today, more than 200 kids are actively participating and learning the game further, according to Michael Johnstone, Director of KBI.

“It is chaotic, but beautiful,” said Johnstone. “Through baseball, many of these kids have found an avenue for hope.”

baseball photo 3

Johnstone is an American who began his coaching career in California. He is a former teacher and that career took him to Austria, where he taught at the Austrian Christian School. His baseball background was quickly discovered, and he was approached with the opportunity to play in the Austrian Baseball League. After four seasons in the ABL, he returned to California where he became a coach for Global Baseball. There, he worked on coaching development. Johnstone recalls his experience as “teaching coaches how to coach” before becoming the European Director of Global Baseball and launching the KBI.

KBI has spent the last three summers holding camps all over Kosovo to teach people the basics of baseball. Though many organizations tend to focus on coaching children, the KBI does not discriminate. In Obiliq last week, there were boys and girls, young adults, and older men learning and playing alongside each other.

“Baseball is just so new and unknown to Kosovars that we want to be as inclusive as possible because we don’t know which demographic is going to like it more. Sure, we want to focus on kids because they can make the game popular by growing up with the game, but we want as many people as we can to participate so we can get this off the ground,” Johnstone explained.

In Obiliq, a young woman stepped up to home plate with a bat in her hands and stared down the American coach pitching, while Johnstone and Czech Republic National Team head coach Mike Griffin helped improve each batter’s swing. The young woman flailed at the ball and missed, swinging too early. She looked over at Johnstone, mildly frustrated that she missed the ball. Johnstone pointed at his eyes.

“Watch the ball all the way until it hits the bat,” he instructed.

On her next swing, she connected and a loud whack echoed through the air. The ball went over the heads of the first line of defenders. The others gave frenzied chase.

The batter made her way all around the bases and scored. She grinned as her feet landed on the pile of plastic wrapping that functioned as home plate.

“Our coaching philosophy is centered around making small, individual adjustments to a players swing or throw. Kosovars have natural hand-eye coordination, which is key in baseball,” Johnstone explained. “In baseball, oftentimes making the smallest of adjustments can lead to some great results.”

Johnstone and the other American coaches working with KBI aren’t the only people who coach Kosovars. Taulant Devolli is a 25-year old Program Assistant at the IPKO Foundation who has dedicated most of his free time over the past several years to establishing baseball in Kosovo. Devolli learned the art of coaching from Johnstone and the KBI.

“One of my favorite things about coaching is the look on people’s faces when they learn how to do something right,” Devolli said. “There is no better feeling than hitting a ball perfectly and running as fast as you can around the bases.”

Devolli has recently established Kosovo’s first baseball club, the Peja Mustangs. He said the process has been long, but worth it.

“We weren’t very selective in the beginning. At that point, we just wanted people to play. Now, the people who have learned, want to play more, and we now have much more support than we did in the beginning.” Devolli explained.

Devolli began playing baseball 10 years ago when missionary David Helmick came to preach the Gospel and teach baseball. When Helmick returned to the United States, he left behind the gloves, bats, and balls for Devolli and his friends to continue practicing.

baseball photo 1

Devolli said at that point he had his epiphany ,

“Man I really wanted to do baseball!” he said emphatically.

The conversation brought back memories to Devolli. Memories, as he described, of many of summer days as a young man playing baseball with his friends on one of their farms.

“What I love about baseball is that it is the perfect mix of a team effort and individual effort. It gives you the opportunity to show your own, personal abilities. I think it’s good for kids to learn to support themselves individually, and baseball is a great way of teaching you that,” he added.

Despite being one of the founders of Kosovo Baseball and one of the more skilled hitters in the country, Devolli is still learning the specifics of the game. In Obliq on a July day, Devolli hit a ball deep into the field.  He wanted to score on his hit, ignoring the barrage of the words “Ndalo!” and “Stop!”  He was stopped just before reaching third base, by a defender who tagged him with the ball.

“Out!” Johnstone pumped his arm in the air like a baseball umpire, a member of the officiating crew in a baseball game.

“The key is to run until you are safe! Not until you get out!” Johnstone said with a chuckle.

“What can I say? I thought I had it!” Devolli threw his hands in the air and everyone burst into laughter.

Devolli isn’t the only pupil Johnstone and the KBI have “coached to coach”. Besarb Bërbatovci, a student at the University of Prishtina, is also working to foster the growth of baseball among Kosovars.

“It is a sport everyone will like!” said Berbatovci.

Though optimistic about the future in Kosovo, he is realistic about its immediate future in Prishtina.

“We can get many people who want to play, that is not the problem. Many times, we can’t get the facilities we need. In other cities, it is a bit more manageable, but not here in Prishtina. It’s not very spacious. There is a lot of unorganized building,” he explained.

Finding a place to play is usually one of the biggest challenges for KBI. They will often rent football pitches that they can fashion into an improvised baseball diamond, but use by football teams is high, making it difficult to reserve a field for the day. The only baseball field is on the United States military base Camp Bondsteel, a considerable distance from Prishtina.

Despite the distance, the KBI has enjoyed events with the U.S. military at Camp Bondsteel. While lack of a true baseball diamond can cause some frustration during the planning and logistical phase, Johnstone said that it can be used as an advantage.

He explained that the lack of facilities has created a network between KBI and the people who run the fields they rent to use. By building relationships with the people who run the fields they use, KBI has had better luck finding more places to play.

Johnstone hopes that his work in Kosovo will provide opportunities to connect with other organizations. He is also working to have an exchange between baseball clubs from other nations to come to Kosovo to play, and to help coach. Czech Republic coach Mike Griffin indicated the possibility of the Czech Republic’s baseball team coming to Kosovo in the next few years.

Baseball field graphic

KBI provides its own baseball gear through donations from various churches in the United States. But they are still short of adequate equipment and this limits their ability to play regulation baseball right now.  Batters need helmets to protect their heads from errant pitches. Due to the diversity of people playing, there are many different sizes of helmets that are required for player safety.

There aren’t many places in Kosovo to find baseball equipment.  Shipping gloves, bats, and balls from the U.S. or anywhere else is very expensive.  Many times, Devolli is forced to pick up the check when it comes to supplying the Peja Mustangs with equipment or a field.

“I pay for everything, ” Devolli said.“We just need the sport to get more popular and there will be more support. The government was skeptical about us at first because there wasn’t much interest in the beginning.”

The language barrier has been a challenge for Johnstone and Taylor Pica, an American intern with Global Baseball who is in Kosovo for the first time.

“The language barrier can be really tough. Rules that are like instinct to me aren’t like that for them, and sometimes it’s really hard to explain the specifics of the rules,” said Pica, after a player misunderstood the rules of running the bases.

“I know without even thinking that you’re not allowed to run past a base runner in front of you. But everything about this is brand new to these guys, and it takes a lot of patience trying to explain the rules when you don’t speak much Albanian.”

The KBI’s translation solution comes in the form of players who also act as interpreters. Ndrec Domgjoni, referred to by KBI coaches as “ND”, is a young man from Gjakova who has been playing with the KBI for two years. Since the sport has gotten more popular with each camp conducted by KBI, there is a higher demand to communicate with a large group of people.

“I really love baseball because it brings different people together.” Domgjoni said, citing the diverse group that was playing on the field at that moment.

A pressing question about Kosovars playing baseball is whether parents and others will become fans. In Obiliq, several older men were learning how to play, so there seems to be some interest.

“There is a certain sense of pride from parents and grandparents for doing this,” Johnstone said, based on his interactions with family members who come to the camps.

“My father is very proud of me,” said Domgjoni. “My parents are excited that I am one of the first people to do something new here in Kosovo. They are happy that I am one of the people helping it grow.”

When Domgjoni wasn’t discussing his experience with the KBI, he was all over the field, translating or coaching. Though Domgjoni is 17 and has only been playing two years, he provided almost as much as help as a career coach. Domgjoni has proved to be a valuable asset for KBI, making it far easier for the American coaches to get their instructions across.

“I don’t know where I would be without ND’s help,” said Pica.

KBI has just finished its summer tour, which began June 27 in Gjakova. Sessions followed in Peja, Gjilan, and Mitrovica.  The tour’s final stop was a three-day coaching clinic in Prishtina, with an additional afternoon session in Obliq on the first day.

Johnstone and other coaches have returned to the United States, but Kosovo’s work with baseball hasn’t stopped with their departure.

Devolli and Berbatovci, among many more, continue to host camps, practices, and eventually games.

Recently, three of the six clubs were approved as NGOs by the Ministry of Culture, Youth, and Sport, and the other three are awaiting final approval. Once sanctioned, they will be eligible for team play.

Financially, all the clubs are required to set up a bank account with funds before they are recognized through the Ministry, along with copious amounts of paperwork. For most clubs, the regular players saved enough money over the past few years to set up the accounts.

“We don’t want these clubs just to be ‘paper clubs’. We want there to be interactions between the clubs in Kosovo after we get them registered,” said Johnstone.

Another large goal for KBI is establishing a baseball federation in Kosovo. In August,, the International Baseball Federation was planning a a summit, and one of the topics of discussion will be whether to grant Kosovo with a federation. Earlier this summer, Johnstone thought that getting a federation in August was “very probable”. Since the conclusion of the Great Kosovo Baseball Tour and the recognition of three clubs with three more on the way has increased the prospects of getting a federation greatly. Having a federation creates opportunities for international competition, tournaments, more funding, and more clubs.

“A lot of the successes we have had are due to the work and dedication that guys like Taulant and Besarb have put in order to make this possible here in Kosovo. These guys have never played an actual baseball game and they are already some of the most passionate baseball players I have ever seen,” Johnstone added.

The KBI has partnerships with Christian sports organizations, such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Gloves 4 God.

“Faith motivates us,” said Johnstone, “but we aren’t just here to preach, we’re here to coach baseball, too. Our main goal isn’t to force anyone to convert, but if someone decides they want to learn more about the Gospel, that’s great too,” he added.

KBI and its partners along with information, pictures, videos, and important events are all listed at www.kosovobaseball.org.

The girl in Obiliq who hit a home run is just one example of how quickly Kosovars have picked up the game of baseball. Many players who attended the workouts already knew how to swing for the best contact.  This year, Devolli got a feel for pitching when the KBI visited Peja. Johnstone, Devolli, and others mentioned that they are always “looking for the next step”.

To Devolli, the next step is easy — just playing the game.

“Kosovo wants to play baseball. It will be interesting to see how the next few years go,” he said. “I can’t wait to play my first game.”

(Houston Vick was a reporting intern at KosovaLive this summer in collaboration with Miami University in the United States.)

Apostolova succeeds Žbogar in both EU positions in Kosovo

The new Head of the EU Office in Kosovo and the EU Special Representative, Nataliya Apostolova, has taken up her posts today, 1 September 2016.

Ms. Apostolova, a Bulgarian national, has served both in her national diplomatic administration and in the European External Action Service for over 25 years. Most recently, she was the Ambassador and the Head of the EU Delegation in Tripoli, Libya.

Prior to that, Ms. Apostolova held a post in Cairo, Egypt, as Deputy Head of the EU Delegation. She was posted as a Bulgarian diplomat in the Permanent Representation of Bulgaria to the World Trade Organisation in Geneva and in the Permanent Representation of Bulgaria to the EU. Her career in the European Commission, at the Directorate General for Enlargement, was closely associated with the Western Balkan region.

In the following days and weeks, Ms. Apostolova will be meeting most senior Kosovo officials and other stakeholders in Kosovo, as well as introduce herself to the media and the general public.

Ms. Apostolova succeeds in both positions Slovenian diplomat Samuel Žbogar.

RSF condemns grenade attack on Kosovo public broadcaster

 

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns a grenade attack on Kosovo’s state-owned radio and TV broadcaster RTK in Pristina yesterday and calls on the authorities to bring those responsible to justice.

Unidentified individuals threw the grenade into the courtyard of RTK headquarters last night when several employees were still present. The explosion damaged its antennae but caused no injuries.

Police said the attack appeared to have been the work of Kosovar activists opposed to Kosovo’s cession of 80 square kilometres of territory to Montenegro as part of a plan to redraw the border between the two countries.

The subject of great tension between Kosovo and Montenegro since the autumn of 2015, the proposal is due to be submitted to a vote by Kosovo’s parliament on 1 September.

“We firmly condemn this attack on a public broadcaster that guarantees freedom of expression and we call on Kosovo’s authorities to ensure that those responsible for this act of intimidation are brought to justice,” said Pauline Adès-Mével, the head of RSF’s Europe-Balkans desk.

Kosovo is ranked 90th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World PressFreedom Index.

U.S. Embassy: Another assault on Kosovo’s democracy

The U.S. Embassy has condemned last night’s grenade attack on the premises of Radio-Television Kosovo as another assault on Kosovo’s democracy and hard-won progress toward Euro-Atlantic integration.

“A small, faceless group has now added an attack on media freedom to its assault on democratic principles and Euro-Atlantic values.   Kosovo is better than this.  The American Embassy fully supports the efforts of Rule of Law institutions in Kosovo to investigate these crimes. We stand with the people of Kosovo in rejecting those who would rather use tactics of terrorists than those of a free, democratic people,” reads U.S. Embassy in Kosovo press release regarding last night’s attack on the premises of Kosovo’s public broadcaster.

OSCE strongly condemns attack on public broadcaster in Kosovo

The Head of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo, Jean-Claude Schlumberger, and the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović, today condemned last night’s attack on the premises of Radio Television Kosovo (RTK) in Prishtinë/Priština.

An explosive device was thrown into the yard of the RTK premises, close to its transmission antennas. Fortunately, no one was injured in the explosion.

“I am appalled by the attack on RTK at the time when there were still people working inside the building. This appears to be an act of intimidation and I condemn it in the strongest terms. It’s an attack on an important public institution and on freedom of expression,” said Ambassador Schlumberger.   

“I call on law enforcement bodies to investigate this case as soon as possible and bring the perpetrators to justice,” he added.

Mijatović, expressing relief that no one was injured in the attack, said:

“This is a clear attack on free media and on society as a whole, one that I condemn in the strongest sense of the word. I trust that this incident will be swiftly and thoroughly investigated.”