About that coal in Kosovo

In comments to the post on Kosovo, Alex Harrowell asked the following reasonable question:

“How can you have something that’s both a “mineral resource grab” and an “economic black hole”?”

The short answer: you can, because it’s Kosovo.

Here’s why. There has been no serious investment in those mines since the Yugoslav economy hit the skids in 1986.

A modern coal mine is not a hole in the ground full of guys with picks. It’s a major industrial installation. You have huge drills, borers, grinders, driers, fans, pumps, you name it. A big coal mine uses as much power as a good-sized town. A big modern coal mine uses cutting-edge, state-of-the-art materials technology and software. It’s not guys digging coal any more. It’s guys operating and maintaining big, complicated machines that dig coal. In the United States, the majority of coal miners have four-year college degrees, and need them.

(Here’s another interesting statistic: in the last 50 years, the number of US coal miners has dropped by 68%. However, the US’ total coal production has gone up by 83%. You have less than a third as many miners producing nearly twice as much coal; per capita output has gone up nearly sixfold.)

Now Kosovo does indeed have a lot of coal. They aren’t huge deposits by world standards, but they’re pretty big — the biggest in the region, and (I’m told) fifth or sixth biggest in Europe.

Furthermore, it’s not bad coal, for lignite. It’s got some sulfur, but lignite usually does; it’s not particularly dirty, nor is it buried inconviently deep. When you put the whole package together — size of deposits, quality of deposits, ease of access, environmental issues — it looks pretty good. Not as fantastic as some partisans claim, no, but still a major coal field that’s well worth exploiting.

But.

There’s been no major investment in over twenty years; and twenty years is a long damn time, in that industry. I say “over twenty years” because even back in the 1980s, the Kosovo coal fields were the ugly stepsister of Yugoslav energy. The Albanian-dominated regional government didn’t have enough money to make major investments, and the federal government felt it was already throwing enough money at Kosovo. So we’re really talking more like thirty years, or even more. The miners today are using equipment and techniques from the 1960s and ’70s.

And not only was there no investment, but the mines suffered a decade of actual disinvestment in the 1990s. Slobo fired all the Albanians in 1989-90, and there weren’t enough Serbs to replace them. Then there was no point in investing in a mine running at just 20% capacity, especially since Serbia was under embargo and the coal couldn’t be exported anyway. So, like almost everything else in Kosovo in the 1990s, the mines went to hell. Deferred maintenance; neglect; management by political appointees; massive corruption. Productivity and efficiency, already low, actually went backwards for ten years.

Things have improved a bit since 2000 — UNMIK has sponsored some modest investment, especially in safety equipment — but not much. The mines are still running with antiquated equipment and at very low levels of productivity and efficiency. Bringing them up to date will require hundreds of millions of euros of investment.

Further. Because the mines are using crappy old equipment — and are grossly overstaffed — it’s costing them way too much to produce coal. Kosovar coal should be very competitive on world markets. Instead, the mines are losing money. It costs them more to mine and process the coal than they can get by selling it.

All that said, the mines should be an attractive investment. A billion dollars of investment? That’s well within the reach of a large modern mining company. The technology is off the shelf. The workforce is there. And once the investment is made, the mines could be some of the most productive and profitable in all Europe.

However.

One, who in their right mind would invest a billion dollars in Kosovo right now?

Two, the ownership of the mines is disputed. They were, after all, state-owned. The Kosovar state claims them; so does Serbia. Until that issue is settled, nobody’s going near them.

Three, go back and look again at that productivity statistic. Any investor would want to increase productivity, which is great, except that it will inevitably involve firing large numbers of workers. The province as a whole may benefit, but that’s in the long run. In the short run, it means pushing more unemployed workers onto the market in an overpopulated state that already has painfully high unemployment and is politically volatile. Even if a new investor is willing to do this, it’s very questionable whether the Kosovar government would allow it. This problem is far from unique — it’s been acted out all over Eastern Europe in the last fifteen years — but it will be particularly fraught in Kosovo.

Four, the Kosovar government has not taken this problem seriously. The Ministry of Energy and Mining? He’s a guy named Ethem Ceku. He has a degree in history. His qualifications to be Minister? One, he was in the KLA; and two, he’s the younger brother of Prime Minister Agim Ceku. [Update: this is incorrect. Ethem Ceku and Agim Ceku are not closely related. I apologize for the error.]

And five, if you really want to make those mines profitable, you have to export most of the coal. Since Kosovo is landlocked, that means railroads. Right now there’s one rail line that can carry coal trains, and it runs… north into Serbia. D’oh! (There’s also a line that goes south to Macedonia, but it’s not in great condition and was not designed to carry heavy coal trains.)

So, somebody’s going to have to spend a lot of money building a heavy rail line, either south into Macedonia or east over the mountains to Albania. Good luck with that.

In sum: Kosovo’s coal mines are both a bonanza and a black hole. At the same time.

Final point: modern coal mining is not just a simple question of digging out the coal. It’s more like a game of Tetris in reverse. Modern coal mines use all sorts of advanced techniques — computer imaging, complicated software, incredibly advanced drills — to get the maximum possible coal out. The Kosovar mines aren’t using any of that stuff. So not only are they very inefficient, but they’re actually wasting coal and damaging the mines.

Still: the coal is there, and one day someone will exploit it. But not soon.

When? I have no idea. So many variables!

But I’ll be amazed if it happens within five years, and surprised if it happens within ten.

[Update: one commenter pointed out that a new mine is scheduled to be dug near Obiliq, and is supposed to be in operation in 2012. Digging a whole new mine gets around some of the difficulties given above. However, no license has been granted, no contract has been signed, and not a single shovelful of dirt has been turned yet. So I would call the Obiliq plan speculative at this point, and I’ll still be amazed if it’s producing within five years.]

60 thoughts on “About that coal in Kosovo

  1. Dear Mr. Doug Muir, you article is interested but very pesimistic gotta say. I htink you must get more details on this specific topic before getting down to your table and writting an article interesting to read for many Europeans and maybe more than that but written in a pesimistic way which scares to death those who might have an interest in the Mines.
    I am suprised to read that Mr. Ethem Ceku is the younger brother of Prime Minister Ceku. Get your facts right cause that ain’t so. They are not related!
    Kosova is the biggest coal basin in the Balkans and I think in Europe too, not in the 6th place as u were saying. The quality of coal does not allow one to transport it and export it outside Kosova, it is for internal use only because if it’s transported abroad its quality will be null and as such the coal will be useless, so why concentrate on telling stories about railroad and similar stuff when this clerly tells you that transporting coal is not the option because of its quality? I think you need to put some more thought on this one.
    And I guess you will be amazed to learn that by 2012 a foreign investor (likely a big energy company) will start producing coal from a new coal mine in Obiliq which will be used for a 2100MW power plant to be built by 2014 by the same investor. I guess you did not follow for a long time now developments in this field in Kosova.
    Get some study and tell us something true and reflective, not something pesimistic and outdated.
    Cheers!

  2. This question has nothing to do with the mines being up-to-date, profitable etc.
    A mineral resource maybe necessary for the wellbeing of the larger economy but that doesn’t necessary mean that its production is a significant share of the GDP of a region.

    This doesn’t even answer questions about Dutch disease and the fact that the leaders will purposely destroy other industries to make sure that no other powerbases will develop so they can stay in power

  3. Interesting article.
    I like the atittude with which you have written this.
    One area i agree with you is about the people that are filling ministrial, positions sometimes are not qualified to do so.

    As far as railroad goes, Kosovo is also connected to the south with Macedonia and has a good railroad network within Kosovo.

  4. Dear Doug Muir,

    There is an error in your analysis, and I believe it’s a relevant one:

    Et’hem Ceku is not the younger brother of the Prime Minister Agim Ceku. You seem to mislead, maybe unintentionally, people in believing that he was appointed Minister simply because of his family ties.

    Second, he has a degree in history but he and his family have been running successful businesses for many years. This means that he does have some managerial skills, and as a matter of fact he has been praised by the World Bank people in Kosovo.

    In addition, Kosovo does have railway connections with Macedonia, which is part of the railway line that goes to Serbia (the one you mentioned in your analysis). So, again, a small yet relevant inaccuracy.

    Overall though your analysis is good. It is however slightly too negative in comparison with the reality. The situation on the ground in Kosovo provides excellent investment opportunities because if the mining industry was well developed then there would be no investment opportunities or “someone” else would have already invested.

    Many thanks,

    Fidel

  5. Not a bad article overall, with some factual inaccuracies. The future of Kosovo’s mining/energy sector is not as bleak as Mr. Muir might suggest, but not as bright as we would all like. Clearly, there is a need for competence in the Ministry of Mining and Energy, however, to be fair, UNMIK is just as responsible for the lack of progress. It is a corrupt and bureaucratic organization that spends way too much to accomplish almost nothing. If the billions of dollars UNMIK has spent thus far were invested in Kosovo’s economy, right now we would be discussing the shining economic star in the Balkans.

    Nevertheless, the fact that four large energy consortiums have placed tenders for the construction of a 3 billion Euro power plant is very encouraging. Also, Phelps Dodge’s commitment of $500 million for copper mining is refreshing. Further, there is a highway being built connecting Prishtina to Albanian port of Durres, which can be utilized for export of anything, including coal, out of Kosovo. U.S. is doing just fine without a great railroad system but good highways.

    Once independence is granted to the people of Kosovo, the investments are likely to pour in at a better rate. Although, to ensure such investments, Kosovo needs to rid itself of most of its current political elite, as many of them are corrupt (not unlike any other country in that area starting from Slovenia up north, to Greece down south).

    Good luck to Kosova and all the countries over there.

  6. “In the United States, the majority of coal miners have four-year college degrees, and need them.”

    They do? The engineering and supervisory people probably would, but not the miners themselves. Coal mining traditionally was one of the best-paying occupations for people with limited education. That’s undoubtedly changing as the work becomes more complex, but it still seems unlikely in the extreme that the majority of miners would be degree holders.

  7. Hello all,

    One, you’re all right — Ethem Ceku is not the brother of Agim Ceku. My bad; I am sorry. I’ll go back and correct it tomorrow.

    Two, Kosovo does not have the “largest coal basin in Europe”. That’s the Donetz Basin in Russia. Poland’s Silesian deposits are the second largest. So Kosovo can’t be higher than third.

    Three, there’s nothing wrong with the quality of the coal. It’s lignite, and very wet, but otherwise fine.

    Four, the new mine in Obiliq… I debated whether to mention this or not, but the article was getting long. The 2012 date is /not/ firm, but speculative. I will be very surprised if it actually happens.

    Five, the rail line to Macedonia is (I am told) not capable of carrying heavy coal trains.

    As to exporting by highway, this is not impossible, but it’s not the best way to move large amounts of coal long distances.

    Doug M.

  8. Corrections made — thank you, commenters.

    “Overall though your analysis is good. It is however slightly too negative in comparison with the reality. The situation on the ground in Kosovo provides excellent investment opportunities because if the mining industry was well developed then there would be no investment opportunities or “someone” else would have already invested.”

    This reminds me of a joke. An economist sees a $100 bill lying on the sidewalk. What does he do?

    He walks on past, of course. If it were worth picking up, the market would have done it already.

    I didn’t discuss UNMIK because, well, that’s just a huge can of worms. Certainly the UN administration has not covered itself in glory. Perhaps another post sometime.

    Phelps Dodge won a license to mine copper in November 2005 but as far as I know they haven’t started yet. I’m sure our commenters will correct me if I’m wrong about that!

    Similarly, the highway to Albania has not yet broken ground. The agreement was signed in October and work is supposed to begin this spring. The official date for completion is June 2009 but nobody believes that for a moment. Summer 2010 seems more plausible, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes longer than that.

    Doug M.

  9. Doug,
    a very good article. However, the inaccuracies were mentioned above. (Because two people have the same last name, it doesn’t mean they are related 🙂

    Also, you make the assumption that all the coal has to be dug in mines. You confuse the zinc mines (Trepca) with the coal mines. Actually, the coal in Kosova only needs to be excavated, because it is almost at surface level! This is a good thing for potential investment.

    Further, I like that you point some facts that show how Kosova was treated as a colony by Belgrade. Which, in turn gives more credence to the argument for an independent Kosova.

    Good luck

  10. Greetings Doug,

    Just a note to thank you for your prompt reply and subsequent corrections.

    Also thanks for the $100 bill joke. That was really funny!

    Finally, I wanted to say that you wrote a good piece, and because it was a good piece I decided to comment.

    Fidel

    P.S. While I was writing my comments, two people had already posted theirs so the Et’hem Ceku issue was repeated over and over again. Apologies!

  11. “Also, you make the assumption that all the coal has to be dug in mines. You confuse the zinc mines (Trepca) with the coal mines. Actually, the coal in Kosova only needs to be excavated, because it is almost at surface level!”

    Some of the coal is near surface level and can be strip-mined; some is deeper and must be excavated.

    To simplify — the open pit mines suffer less from obsolete equipment (though it’s still a big problem) and more from environmental problems.

    The zinc is indeed something else again, though the pattern is similar.

    Doug M.

  12. I share Doug’s view on this – I think he has the balance right, even if he (nor anybody else) has all the stats at his fignertips. Having said that I reckon he’s done a good job in compiling what he has. Pat on the back, I can be a critical git sometimes so I like to temper that with the occasional compliment:)

    Its odd how even this topic cant be discussed with much detachment though. What we usually get are either supporters of Kosovo independence or those ardently against it forming (rather unholy) an alliance claiming that Kosovo’s mines (or any other mineral) are full of quality coal that will made good profits on the world market.

    Of course the reality is less important.

    Instead the motives of the people are the issue. Kosovo independence supporters want to prove at all costs that Kosovo is a viable state so they play up any potential positives. For them anything negative is ‘pesimistic’. Joining them are the domestic patriots who never let facts get in the way of getting emotional about something (like their mirror images, my friend mentioned below).

    Those against indepdence are divided into two overlapping groups. The first are those who are determined to prove that Kosovo has great resources and the West wants to pilage them. The second are again the domestic types who think that anything from Kosovo is great (I had a discussion with a Kosovo Serb uber patriot once who flatly denied that Kosovo was an impoverished region, he wouldnt hear of any criticism – although did mention Kosovo wine, after the mines, when I pressed him on Kosovo’s future potential, which I must admit I’ve never heard of).

    I belong to a rather detached third group who isnt interested in positive nor negative assesments just real ones…

    From the Serbian / Kosovo perspective the mines (and other economic issues regarding ownership) will be resolved at an international level once Kosovo status is resolved. But it is a fact that disputed ownership is one of the biggest ‘NO NOs’ for foreign investors. So Kosovo Albanians can try to sell at a bargain basement price or try to broker a deal with Serbian companies that claim ownership or a stake in whichever company then sell later. Unfortunately most Serbian interests in Kosovo are state owned and so the state wont co-operate…

    A connected issue is the functioning of Serbian companies in Kosovo – like Telecom Srbija which regularly have their transmitters switched off. Its obvious that this type of atmosphere in Kosovo (and thus business climate) is poor for business. UNMIK panders to populist Kosovo Albanian sentiment and blocks potential investment from Serbia. After UNMIK the Kosovo government will do exactly the same – although perhaps the Serbian and Kosovo government could arrange some kind of compromise – which would of course mean that the Serbian government will be accused of recognising Kosovo independence and that the Kosova government will be accused of treachery in dealing with Serbia.

    Its a fact that the way it tends to work (at least in the Balkans) is that local economies cannot compete in the global or European marketplace. Thus you have Merkator or Agrokor in Serbia and Maxi in Bosnia. Thus the best place to complete are in neighbouring markets.

    So the fact that for political reasons it will be unacceptible to trade with Serbs or Serbia in Kosovo can only hinder the economic situation there.

  13. A small post script to my earlier comment. With respect to the mineral/coal reserves in Kosova, please keep in mind that Serbia grossly underestimated the natural resources in Kosova, so that the rest of the SFRY would not object to Serbia taking most of what was excavated/mined from Kosova. There’s an old saying in Serbia: Trepca radi, Beograd se gradi (Trepca works, Belgrade gets built). So the true deposits of coal/minerals are yet to be determined accurately. Unfortunately, those underestimated figures are still used and some day some lucky investor will get much more than it bargained for.

    The underestimation also had to do with the federal budget, which always made the smallest allocations to Kosova. The whole idea was for Serbia to keep Kosova’s natural resources a secret from the rest of SFRY, sot that Serbia would not have to share its colonial booty taken from Kosova. Letting Kosova benefit from its own resources was, of course, out of the question under the Serb/Yugoslav rule.

  14. Any international energy or mining corporation operating in Kosovo would do so only with guarantees from the US that the US tax-payer would underwrite their investment.
    I doubt that this will happen.

    Furthermore, any international company profiting from the extraction of mineral resources from Kosovo will (one day) find themselves sued by the Serbian government who are and will always be the legal owners of those resources. This is not merely me voicing my opinion, I am talking about international law and property rights.

    There is no rosey future for Kosovo’s Albanians. Most will leave to work in the EU and elsewhere leaving Kosovo to rot.

  15. I was in Kosovo last summer, I thought (I’ve seen)I was prepared for poverty but I’ve never seen anything like it in my travels. The country as a whole is gross and the people disgusting. I can’t comment on the roads/railways but good luck finding workers’ for those mines, that have commonsense let alone a degree. The only work those people know is sex slavery, drug/gun smuggling, and the opening of gas stations. They should concentrate on new agriculture methods and move away from primative ways that I don’t think my great great grandfather used in Indiana 150 years ago.

    Just to comment on the reply about how the US does fine with roads instead of railways “Hellooo” The US is well the US. Even if the UN built a Los Angeles style freeway towards Albania, how’s Albania going to build a road?? Wheres the money going to come from Osama bin Laden??

  16. Yes albanins are dirty and only know crime. Slobo should have been allowed to finish them off. Muslims are not your friends.

  17. I see that my comment vanished into cyberspace – pity.

    Micheal ‘any international company profiting from the extraction of mineral resources from Kosovo will (one day) find themselves sued by the Serbian government who are and will always be the legal owners of those resources. This is not merely me voicing my opinion, I am talking about international law and property rights.’.

    A key issue which wont go away. Another key issue is the issue of regional investment. Kosovo can expect most investment from its neighbours and not from further afield – including Serbia. Except that it is politically unacceptible for money to come from Serbia at the moment. This generally condoned activity – even by UNMIK (look at the way telekom Serbia isnt allowed to operate in Kosovo) shows economic immaturity which wont impress business circles or ensure that Kosovo companies be sold at a high price. The more competitors the better and greenfield investment (presumably if Kosovo gains indepdence then investment from Serbia will be seen as greenfield’ is very welcome to a struggling economy.

    Tell that to Albin Kurti.

    ‘There’s an old saying in Serbia: Trepca radi, Beograd se gradi ‘

    Funny I never heard the saying. Dont you mean that ‘theres an old saying in Kosovo’ (oops you slipped up!)

    ‘The underestimation also had to do with the federal budget, which always made the smallest allocations to Kosova.’

    Not true Kosovo received the largest allocation from the regeneration Farduk budget. Try reading a few more books and not repeating propoganda.

  18. First, with regard to “‘There’s an old saying in Serbia: Trepca radi, Beograd se gradi ‘ Funny I never heard the saying. Dont you mean that ‘theres an old saying in Kosovo’ (oops you slipped up!)” — No slip!! Kosova would not have a saying in Serbian. My uncle who lived in Belgrade told me about that saying.

    Second, while a big part of the federal budget was allocated to Kosova, according to Serb sources, much of it went to support the police and military forces sent there from all other parts of former Yugoslavia to supress demonstrations by the Albanians there who were seeking non-second-class-citizen treatment (1968, 1981, etc). The other part of the allocation went to investement in areas of the Kosova economy, the proceeds from which went directly back to Serbia (i.e. Trepca) as opposed to being reinvested in Kosova.

    Third, Telecom Serbia was kicked out of Kosova because it was operating illegally. It did not follow the proper tender route, which must be followed by all other companies. Why should Telecom Serbia receive special treatment.

    And final, none of your comments have anything to do with coal. Don’t let your hatred of others poison your thoughts regarding every issue. There is no need to throw the whole kitchen sink at specific issues. Putting down the Albanians has nothing to do with coal (side note – have any of you been to Kraljevo or Krusevac or Cacak – wow).

  19. Hey guys —

    I just went through this thread and deleted a couple of comments.

    This is an open forum, and not usually moderated; but it’s not for screaming insults at each other.

    Play nice.

    Doug M.

  20. Thanks for the article and research Doug. Very level. Also, thanks for correcting an earlier comment of mine. Kosovo is probably 5th for coal reserves in Europe.

    The technology and transportation comments seem right on the mark. Coal isn’t light and it takes a lot of it to make a Euro on the work. A highway to transport coal across the lawless wilds of Northern Albania is absolutely ridiculous. Transportation is a problem.

    As for KRS’ spin on Kosovo, ivestment, like Michael and Bgannon note is a real problem. Kosovo is a sink with no stopper for investment. Ivestment is what built Pristina, subsidized the mining winemaking and other businesses, and built transportation facilities. All with no return in ivestment and a per capita lifestyle that was only better than that of the people in Albania proper (they actually left Albania for Kosovo!). It’s the brutal truth and, as you can see, it has people like Carl Bildt worried too (see his post).

    Kosovo does have agriculture and mining. However, it can’t sustain itself on those alone and won’t compete against Europe, Asia or even Latin American countries, due to location, resources and size. It just ain’t sustainable as a country. Independent Kosovo is just a step towards a larger Albania. Now, Albania would like that Serbian Coal. This is Balkanization UN/EU style.

    Thanks again Doug.

  21. “A highway to transport coal across the lawless wilds of Northern Albania is absolutely ridiculous. Transportation is a problem.”

    Transportation /is/ a problem, and using a highway to transport coal is generally not a great idea. However, the highway will certainly be built — probably by 2010, certainly by 2012 — and it will get plenty of traffic.

    “The lawless wilds”? Todd, it’s not the Congo. I’ve been to Albania. It has problems, but nothing too unusual for a country less than a generation out of deep totalitarianism. I’m currently living in the Caucasus, which is a damn sight more lawless than Albania.

    “It just ain’t sustainable as a country.”

    Actually, I’m inclined to agree. However, I’d say exactly the same thing about Montenegro and Macedonia. For that matter, Serbia’s not looking so good either — smaller even than Bulgaria, declining population, few resources.

    “Independent Kosovo is just a step towards a larger Albania.”

    Oh, twaddle. The Kosovars have little interest in this and the Albanians of Albania have none. The only ones still hopeful about Greater Albania are some Albanians in Macedonia.

    “Now, Albania would like that Serbian Coal”

    The Serbs took it by force from the Turks in 1913, and lost it by force in 1999.

    Inter armes silent leges, Todd. It’s not Serbian any more, and never will be again. Whether you celebrate this or deplore it, that’s the fact.

    Doug M.

  22. Hi,

    Very interesting discussion everyone, of course coal, and energy generally, is important. But I’m not exactly sure how valuable all that coal will be in the future if the global warming question begins to loom larger, even if the class of coal to be found in Kosovo is relatively less polluting than some other types.

    However, what we are interested in here is the economic development of Kosovo, and whether this would be better facilitated by remaining with Serbia, or by going it alone.

    I tend to favour the latter view, and I do so for two primary reasons, institutional and demographic.

    Lets take the latter first. Kosovo (like Albania, Turkey and Morocco) has what seems to be a very favorable demographic profile right now, fertility is dropping steadily towards replacement level and all these countries are about to experience the demographically driven high growth process which has become known as the demographic dividend.

    This of course contrasts dramatically with the pretty preoccupying demographic outlook which is generally to be found across most of the East European transition societies, and in particular in this instance Serbia – which may well be facing population meltdown – as I try to indicate in my shrinking Serbia post.

    Now I mentioned this to Doug, and he was rather skeptical about what I was saying, and since I feel that the views he expressed are probably fairly widespread I hope he will forgive me if I repeat his arguments here.

    Essentially Doug argued:

    1/ That fertility is not even close to replacement — “I think it’s around 2.7 TFR, and then it’s still a very young society. ”

    2/ That Kosovo’s growing population is not necessarily a good thing. Kosovo is the most densely populated rural region in Europe.

    3/ That growing population is a boon if you can leverage it, a curse if you can’t. Kosovo looks more like “can’t”…at least at the moment.

    Now on (1)This fertility number is in fact very good news since it means that they have the whole demographic dividend process out there in front of them. This is the big difference with Serbia and the rest of Eastern Europe, where they had the DD without achieving a modern growth regime. Now, the ‘transition’ economies like much of western Europe face the demographic penalty phase, without having gotten rich first. In other words all of this is an example of the law of unintended consequences in operation, since history may turn out to be very kind to Kosovo, while it may be very cruel to Serbia.

    Of course we might like to ask what kinds of social and educational policies the Yuoslav federal government was operating in Kosovo way back then, which meant that the modernisation process was so slow.

    On (2) density I’m afraid doesn’t have much to do with it, the UK is pretty densely populated, as is Japan.

    “A growing population is a great thing ”

    Well it may be, or it may not be, it depends. If it is growing like Nigeria it certainly isn’t. What matters isn’t density, or growth rate, but age distribution. This is the most recent discovery of economic science.

    And on (3) his would be just the point, this is why they need their own state, independence, and the ability to create their own institutions. Since the future of Serbia seems bleak indeed, if Kosovo can’t break loose from Serbia they are going to be stuck. As we know only to well here in Catalonia, having your institutions and communication outlets controlled by your larger neighbour can turn out to be rather like trying to get economic growth moving with one hand tied behind your back.

    What Kosovo needs is its own institutions so that it can carry out the reforms which will attract the investment and technology.

    So I think the main message I am trying to get across here is that while coal may be useful the 21st century is surely set to be the century of human capital par excellence,and those who know how to leverage human capital effectively will fare far better than the resource-biased economies (which tend to be simply ‘developing’ ones, ie those which are permanently developing without ever seeming to break lose). In this sense history has dealt Kosovo a very interesting hand, it now remains to be seen whether the Kosovars are up to the challenge of taking advantage of it.

  23. ‘Second, while a big part of the federal budget was allocated to Kosova, according to Serb sources’

    And according to Croatian, Slovenian, Kosovo Albanian, (Communist), English and German sources too. Books on the topic have been written in all thouse languages. Alcock is a good British author worth reading. (In other words forget the ‘serb sources’ rubbish, it is well documented)

    ‘much of it went to support the police and military forces sent there from all other parts of former Yugoslavia to supress demonstrations by the Albanians there who were seeking non-second-class-citizen treatment (1968, 1981, etc). ‘

    You mean the ‘nationalist demonstrations’ right? I like the way you omitt or add certain words! When you say ‘much of it’, how much exactly? From when Farduk was created back in the 50’s. Was money for the police or army budget even taken from Farduk?
    Or are you talking about a seperate issue?
    I think you have some reading to do.
    I suggest you type FARDUK into Google. Yep I’ve had this argument before.

    ‘Telecom Serbia was kicked out of Kosova because it was operating illegally.’
    Right, except the problem is that Telecom Serbia preceeds UNMIK on the territory of Kosovo and Kosovo isnt officially an independent state. Legally its a little questionable to kick somebody from a place they were operating for many years when you have only been there 5 minutes!

    As you and I know the only reason UNMIK are doing this is because they believe it will curry favour with Kosovo Albanians. This dispute like the other legal ones will eventually be taken to an international court and resolved.

    ‘Don’t let your hatred of others…Putting down the Albanians’…

    Just because I think you are not particularly bright and factual it certainly doesnt mean I hate your ethnic group. 🙂

    Besides, if you read carefully you will see the case I mentioned involved a Kosovo Serb friend of mine.

  24. Good comments Doug M. and Edward. I would just like to add a few words regarding Kosova’s future.

    First, don’t forget the Kosovar Diaspora. While, certainly, there are a number of Kosovars involved in illegal activities across the EU and USA, majority of them that we don’t hear about (from Serb propaganda) are successful businessmen and professionals with significant influence where they reside. Just like many have been able to influence the EU and US policy toward Kosova in the past, they should be able to utilize their contacts and financial resources to also promote investment in Kosova. If a person has a background in economics, he can realize that any country can develop so long as it has some resources (i.e. labor, capital, natural resources, etc.). Kosova has quite a bit to offer. This leads me to the second point: the management of those resources.

    Kosova, like all the countries in the Balkans, lack leadership that is not corrupt. While corruption is no stranger to the Western countries, there, it is an exception, whereas in the Balkans, it is the rule. So Kosova’s economic future and attraction of foreign investment will depend on Kosovars’ willingness to rid itself of corrupt leadership. All transitional economies went (or are going through) that. It’s a phase that all those countries have to go through – I wish it was not true, but that is the case.

    Thus, I’m not as pessimistic as some of you regarding Kosova’s future (or Serbia’s for that matter) because while it will be a hard road, Kosovars have shown to be great entrepreneurs when given the opportunity to excel. It remains to be seen what the future entails, but I agree with Edward and Doug M. that Kosova has a brighter future without rather than under Serbia.

    On a different note, regarding unification with Albania, an independent Kosova will be like a divorced person. Kosova will want to enjoy its freedom for a long time before it is ready for another commitment. And if unification ever happens, Kosova will probably have the most kick-ass prenuptial agreement ever….just in case.

  25. Albanians are known drug dealers, pimps and killers. There society is based on blood feuds. Ask interpol about the albanians! The society is based on theft and crime and the europeans know it. To ignore this truth is sad because the next threat to europe is from albanians and hardcore muslims in Bosnia. Who do you think traffics the drugs into England, Italy, Sweden, Germany etc. etc. Albanians! To ignore this fact will be fatal.

  26. Doug M.

    Northern Kosovo isn’t wild? That’s funny. They’ve shown the following in the past decade:

    1. they have no border control;
    2. they have guerilla training camps using modern military equipment;
    3. the borders along Macedonia and Serbia have both fed guerilla wars ending in EU, NATO, or UN intervention.

    It’s a porous gun and drug smuggling, sex-trade operating, guerilla supporting area. That isn’t controlled. I’d call it wild but to some, like politicians and lawyers, it’s a matter of definition. I suppose if you compare it to where you are operating now, maybe it’s like France to you.

    Doug M. says: “Oh, twaddle. The Kosovars have little interest in this and the Albanians of Albania have none.”

    – That’s easy to say but the activity allowed (according to you) says something entirely different. The fact that Serbia and Macedonia both have minorities that are adjacent to Albania and trying to carve themselves off points to a diffent conclusion – the Twaddle’s on you to support your claim. There’s no evidence to support your inclination that Albania doesn’t have a longterm plan.

    “Inter armes silent leges” is what the UN was supposed to end. Part of the UN ideology was that international borders are fixed so that countries would stop trying to plunder other countries through war. You obviously believe otherwise. That’s where most people stand. I think that international borders must stand and different ethnicities must learn to live together. Past “human rights” abuse claims isn’t enough to trump borders. If it is, Kosovo Albanian claims to Serb enclaves and contiguous territories between them are void too.

    Under your banner, we may has well throw the UN away and the U.S. should incorporate Iraq as a territory. It was won it through war and with that military capability; the U.S. can take other key counties as well. Of course, I don’t believe this but under your “Inter armes silent leges” banner, that would be allowed (OK).

    The new highway will be a great transportation gateway route to the Port and then Europe. It will keep Interpol busy anyway.

  27. Dear Doug,

    I kindly ask you to remove the above racist post. It is the most racist comment I have read or heard in a very long time — absolutely no question whether it amounts to racism or not. As a matter of fact it is racist in two counts: (a) ethnic (or racial); and (2) religious.

    Many thanks,

    Fidel

    P.S. Can you ban certain users or IPs?

  28. “Todd”,

    Doug was talking about northern Albania. Hence, all your rubbish about ‘guerrillas’ is nonsense.

    Also, remember this, Kosovo’s borders were well defined within former SFR Yugoslavia and Kosovo had a seat in the constitutional council with the right of veto. Since that country no longer exists and because of the war crimes (some of the worst Europe has seen since the end of WW2) Kosovo is on its way towards independence. At the end of the day, your opinion does not matter. The people who matter (Ahtisaari & Co.) are dealing with it and I am inclined to think that he and his partners are more clever and intelligent than you and know what solution is best.

    Another counter-argument is that the UN’s role is not to stop the “wheel of time”, i.e. to freeze international borders and allow no border changes ever again. The UN has appointed Ahtisaari and therefore UN it doing its job according to its rules and you are no one, absolutely no one to tell them what to do and how to do it.

    Goodnight and goodbye.

    Fidel

    P.S. Doug, my previous post was about the comment by “Salid, the terrible racist”.

  29. Thanks “Fidel.”

    Good point. One persons border crossing murderous mercenaries are other peoples heros. Iraq and Afganistan are other good examples of that.

    BTY: I know my vote isn’t counted at the UN. I have a representative there. Ahtisaari doesn’t have a vote either and it’s not over yet.

  30. The principle of territorial integrity has been a successful deterrent to state-on-state violence: if the international community will condemn you and then embargo you for your invasion, and then ignore and decline to invest in your conquest even as a fait accompli, what one government can plunder out of its neighbor is limited indeed.

    What it hasn’t been a successful deterrent against is insurrection. If the government is oppressive enough, or your desire for self-rule is strong enough, it does matter if the only kind of indepedence you’ll ever get is the de facto kind. Or in other instances (Transnistria), some people will settle for being the biggest fish in a very small, very murky pond, if they can get away with it. And in Africa, the insistence on territorial integrity may well be a factor towards escalation of violence: if you establish regional rule, we’ll ignore you, but if you can capture the capital, our diplomat will be in touch with you shortly.

  31. “Northern Kosovo isn’t wild?”

    …you said northern “Albania”?

    “they have guerilla training camps using modern military equipment”

    Uh, what?

    There were such camps in northern Albania in 1996-99. They’ve been closed for nearly a decade now.

    “It’s a porous gun and drug smuggling, sex-trade operating, guerilla supporting area.”

    Well… no. You’re just babbling here, Todd. Sorry.

    Northern Albania is a poor, backwards region with a lot of problems. But it hasn’t been a center of gun smuggling since the war ended. The drug trade ignores it because it’s a dead end (I mean, it borders Kosovo and Montenegro. Think that one through.) And while the sex trade may recruit there, that’s true of every poor rural area in eastern Europe.

    It’s like we’re talking about the Everglades, and you start yelling “South Florida! Drug smugglers everywhere! Anti-Castro terrorist movements! Cocaine dealers with Glocks! Republicans stealing elections!” Well, you might find some of those things in Florida, but /not in the fucking Everglades/. You’re just spouting stereotypes here.

    Here’s the key fact about Northern Albania: since Communism fell, the northern third of the country has lost about *half* of its population. If you’re talking adults between 20 and 40, it’s probably more like two thirds. When Communism collapsed, all those mountain farming communes and mining towns lost their subsidized jobs, their markets, and their reason to exist. The economy fell backwards towards subsistence farming and herding, and everyone who could, left — for Shkoder, for Tirana, or to work as mechanics and dishwashers and nannies and bar girls in Italy and Greece.

    What’s left is an underpopulated area that’s really poor. In the 1990s they had a lot of problems with rival clans shooting at each other, and for a while some areas were skiffy for foreigners — you could be robbed, carjacked or kidnapped. But that has calmed way down in recent years. You can drive all over northern Albania today and experience nothing worse than some really scary potholes.

    “Lawless wastes”. Sheesh.

    Doug M.

  32. [Greater Albania]

    “That’s easy to say but the activity allowed (according to you) says something entirely different.”

    I’m sorry, what? What activity?

    “the Twaddle’s on you to support your claim. There’s no evidence to support your inclination that Albania doesn’t have a longterm plan.”

    Dude. “Make the other guy prove the negative” is so high school.

    There is no evidence that the leadership of either Albania or Kosovo wants to join in a Greater Albania. There is a fair amount that they don’t — viz., public statements to that effect by the leaders of both states. You can choose to disbelieve those (because all Albanians are liars, I guess) but the burden is on you to prove the positive, not me to prove the negative.

    But here: I’ll put my money where my mouth is. I will bet $500 of my money against $100 of yours that Albania and Kosovo will not be united in a single state any time within the next ten years.

    Ten years, five-to-one odds.

    Come on. Take my money.

    “‘Inter armes silent leges'” is what the UN was supposed to end… Past ‘human rights’ abuse claims isn’t enough to trump borders.”

    Okay, first, WTF with the scare quotes? The abuses of the Milosevic regime in Kosovo are abundantly well documented. You can argue about just /how/ bad they were, but there’s no question that they were vast and gross. From 1990 to 1999, Kosovo had a de facto apartheid regime enforced by a brutal, corrupt police state.

    Second, the UN doesn’t allow border changes through violence? So the Bangladeshis are still part of Pakistan; the Eritreans are still under Ethiopia; the Kurile islands belong to Japan; and there’s still a country called South Vietnam. Hmmm.

    I have a lot of respect for the institution of the UN. But “nothing trumps borders” means no independence movement anywhere can ever be allowed to succeed. That is, on its face, stupid.

    Doug M.

  33. Doug.
    I don’t think it is worth it to argue with Todd. He obviously doesn’t know what he is talking about. He doesn’t have any knowledge of any issues that we are discussing here. And, he clearly has an anti-Albanian bias. He opposes Kosovo’s independence and will use any argument, which makes him look stupid.

    Best

  34. In the vein of supporting Doug M.’s comment re the creation of greater Albania, please take a look at the current debate going on in Kosova and Albania regarding having one soccer/football team represent both countries…neither of them want it! Read up on that. If the two countries don’t even want to play soccer in the same team together, why the heck would they want to join in other respects.

    And yeah, I double what Doug M. offered as a bet. Take it man, 10 years, 10 to 1 odds.

  35. Hi Doug!

    You can’t build a bridge from scratch in ten years. I said LONGTERM. 10 years isn’t long and I think you know it. The bet is condescending as is the other comment you make. I expect it from the Albanian quarter didn’t expect it from you. So there you have it.

    “So high school?” Well, if I owned a crystal ball, I’d tell you when it will happen. At this time Albania knows it isn’t the right time to push, so of course they will make statements to the negative.

    “WTF with the scare quotes?” That’s terrible posturing. That is the easiest way to ensure you can follow the blog.

    No new countries have been established unilaterally by the UN. Kosovo would be the first.

  36. Greetings Doug,

    How ‘deja vu’ is this discussion? One starts discussing about mining industry in Kosovo and ends up arguing about the stereotypes and racist comments of others.

    In support of Doug’s argument about “greater Albania” or “ethnic Albania”, has anyone read the report of the International Crisis Group titled “Pan-Albanianism: How Big a Threat to Balkan Stability?”

    Well, “Todd” you talk about stereotypes and “prove the negative” arguments, however one should read actual reports of people who have done research on the subject and have come up with sensible conclusions. If you read the above report you will find out that the only people who believe or want others to believe in “greater Albania” are the opponents of new Kosovo, as Joseph R. Biden, Jr. would call them.

    The opponents of Kosovar independence have no other arguments, so they rely on myths and “prove the negative” arguments similar to “greater Albania.”

    I told you before, I will tell you again, your opinion on this matter is irrelevant. And so is mine. The people who matter have proposed a “supervised independence” for Kosovo today. And, as a US diplomat once said in Kosovo: “One is either pregnant or not pregnant” — hence, either independent or not.

    Greetings to all people of goodwill in the world.

    Kindly your,

    Fidel Pardussi

  37. “The bet is condescending”

    So, you don’t think there’s even one chance in ten it will happen within ten years.

    Got it.

    “I said LONGTERM.”

    Because Albanians, whatever they may say now, are _secretly planning_ to have a Greater Albania in twenty or thirty years. Because they’re like, you know, master criminals.

    Got it.

    “condescending”

    Yes. Let’s be clear: I adjust my level of debate to the person being debated. You’re posting a lot of stuff based on prejudice and preconception: northern Albania is a lawless waste (it’s not; I’ve been there), Albanians really want Greater Albania (they don’t), and so forth.

    So, yes, I am condescending to you. If you don’t like it, raise your game.

    “No new countries have been established unilaterally by the UN. Kosovo would be the first.”

    Actually, several new countries have been established by the UN: Cameroon, Micronesia, Palau. All the former UN Trust Territories? They required General Assembly resolutions to gain sovereignty.

    (Except for the Pacific ones, which required Security Council resolutions. Ah, but you knew that.)

    It’s moot anyway, because you’re wrong — Kosovo is being administered by UNMIK, but an independent Kosovo would not be “created by the UN”.

    This gives the strong impression that you don’t know what you’re talking about, Todd. No offense.

    Doug M.

  38. Well Doug, if you can’t stand to be challenged on your assumptions of fact, the cheap way to bring the argument down is the be condescending, propose the impossible, and support to original assumptions with more assumptions. The fact is that Albania either supported military training on its land or had no control of the north. I’ve seen nothing that indicates that they’ve cracked down on illegal acitivites there.

    I don’t take offense to it. Hell, with a few exceptions, the Albanian quarter here doesn’t contribute anything but that.

    I’ll look at the references you provided to see if those countries were ripped from a sovereign nation by the UN. There is a difference between administer and cede all ties.

    Thanks.

  39. Todd:

    “Well Doug, if you can’t stand to be challenged on your assumptions of fact, the cheap way to bring the argument down is the be condescending, propose the impossible, and support to original assumptions with more assumptions.”

    He has respobnded fairly to your assumptions of fact. Greater Albanian nationalism is a deasd letter–there is going to be no Greater Albanian state because no one wants none. Border challenges made by violent action have been recognized by the UN, if sometimes after a delay.

    You responded the same way when I pointed out that Serbia–or, at least, inner Serbia without the autonomous provinces–was a have-not area of the SFRY and a net receiver of transfer payments. Bad technique, Todd. Bad.

  40. Good point Randy. It was bad form on my part on your two questions on another post.

    I’ll leave it at that.

    Thanks.

  41. Doug M.

    You have agreed that Albania had guerrilla camps that fed wars to adjacent states:
    “Lawless wastes” is your quote.

    “master criminals” is you quote.

    Cameroon was an imperial French and British Colony as a UN trustee.

    Palua: administered by UN as a trustee; voted not to join Micronesia (which it was not a part of).

    Korea: Armistice Agreement

    Vietnam: Paris Accords recognizing each other

    Bangladesh: War of secession – this is close.

    Tibet: Gunpoint agreement: also close.

    None these were sovereign nations with a UN Charter that were forcibly separated by the UN against a member state’s objection.

  42. Doug tells us

    “the key fact about Northern Albania: since Communism fell, the northern third of the country has lost about *half* of its population. If you’re talking adults between 20 and 40, it’s probably more like two thirds.”

    While many of these Albanians may have gone to Tirana and Italy, many will have crossed into Serbia with guns looted from the Albanian army and morphed into “Kosovars.”

  43. “Michael”,

    Unsurprisingly, yet more lies and fabrications. You lie about Albanians moving from northern Albania to Kosovo but somehow (surprise, surprise) provide no proof. Why don’t you provide any figures or are you another one of those people who don’t feel comfortable with figures because they can’t back them up with real, hard proof. I ask you, how many of the “many northern Albanians” have become Kosovars?

    Let me ask you another questions. Why don’t you mention the thousands and thousands of Serbs from Croatia and Bosnia who have “morphed” (using your phrase) into “Kosovar Serbs”? Entire villages (or as Americans call them “towns”) were built to house Serbs from Croatia and Bosnia.

    Finally, if I were an Albanian from northern Albania and I had the choice of Tirana or Italy on one hand and war-wrecked Kosovo on the other, the former would win hands down. But then people like you don’t like to think logically.

    Doug, I am surprised how people consistently attack you for refusing to become a victim of their fabrications and theories with no evidence and no proof.

    Well done to you and keep up the high level of integrity that you have shown so far.

    Yours sincerely,

    Fidel Pardussi

  44. Fidel

    Nothern Albania is the poorest part of Europe’s poorest country. Why do you doubt that Albanians would cross the now non-existent border and occupy comfortable Serbian houses and apartments. In any civilised part of the world this type of behaviour would stopped by the police. But in Kosovaria the notion of law and order and property rights are not understood as we in the rest of Europe understand them.

    Serbians in Kosovo have suffered the same fate as native Americans did in the 19th century. Murder, scalping and life in reservations is all that awaits them while foreginers claim their land as their own.

  45. Fidel

    Nothern Albania is the poorest part of Europe’s poorest country. Why do you doubt that Albanians would cross the now non-existent border and occupy comfortable Serbian houses and apartments. In any civilised part of the world this type of behaviour would stopped by the police. But in Kosovaria the notion of law and order and property rights are not understood as we in the rest of Europe understand them.

    Serbians in Kosovo have suffered the same fate as native Americans did in the 19th century. Murder, scalping and life in reservations is all that awaits them while foreginers claim their land as their own.

  46. But in Kosovaria the notion of law and order and property rights are not understood as we in the rest of Europe understand them.

    Are you sure about that? Enemies of the people, which Serbians are, are normally liberated of their property

Comments are closed.