Kosovo importing more electricity to meet power shortfall: UNMIK yesterday began importing about 100 megawatts of electricity from Albania, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Greece and Serbia to help meet continuing shortages. Greece alone is supplying 60 megawatts a day. The ability to import more power is expected to improve at the end of January when repairs to a major 400-kilovoltage transmission line is completed.
UNMIK is spending some 149 million deutsche marks (about $79 million) from donors to rehabilitate and maintain Kosovo's power system. But despite extensive repairs, frequent breakdowns of the two main power plants have continued. As of early today, only one unit of Kosovo B power plant was functioning, producing 250 megawatts, about a third of daily needs, while the other was undergoing repairs. The Kosovo A power plant also shut down yesterday for repairs, although one unit was expected to restart later today.
On Saturday, UNMIK begun operating an emergency energy situation centre to act as an information-clearing house. The power company, KEK, has drawn up plans for power rationing when the electricity produced falls below 170 megawatts. Hospitals will not be affected by the rationing.
Pristina Airport to reopen to civilian aircraft: Kosovo's Pristina Airport will be opened tomorrow to civilian aircraft, UNMIK spokeswoman Ms. Nadi Younes said today. Civilian-operated air traffic into the airport was suspended on 20 November last year following a recommendation by the French team investigating the crash of a World Food Programme plane minutes before it was due to land at the airport. The team recommended that a review be carried out of the procedures and terminology in use at the military airfield and how they differed from the civilian equivalent.
The reopening of the airport is vital to the regeneration of Kosovo, according to KFOR spokesman Lieutenant-Commander Philip Anido. In particular, he said, it will allow the flow of humanitarian aid to resume directly into the province and thereby relieve pressure on the main road from Skopje and the border crossing point at Blace.
UNESCO to give 11 tonnes of toys and educational materials: The Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Dr. Bernard Kouchner, and more than 30 children will tomorrow accept a gift of 11 tonnes of toys and educational material from UNESCO, to be distributed to schools throughout Kosovo. The gifts were purchased by financial donations made by the people of Paris and collected by the Monoprix Supermarkets. UNHCR and UNICEF will assist, together with KFOR, to distribute the toys.
Kosovo to impose new service tax beginning 1 February: A hotel, food and beverages tax will come into effect on 1 February. The new tax on the services offered by hotels, restaurants and bars will apply to all places with gross receipts exceeding 15,000 deutsche marks (about $8,000) per month that charge for accommodation, as well as establishments that serve food or drinks with seating capacity for customers. The tax rate is ten per cent of the gross receipts from the services provided. The first payment of the tax will be due on 15 March and the Central Fiscal Authority has been meeting with business people to explain the new tax.
UNHCR operates inter-community bus shuttle: The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Mitrovica operated an inter-community bus service over the holiday weekend, giving more than 500 Albanians and Serbs a chance to attend religious services and to visit Muslim and Christian graveyards on opposite sides of the River Ibar. The special Serbian Orthodox Christmas and Muslim Bajram bus shuttle, with Danish drivers and French KFOR escorts, took place without a hitch. UNHCR had received commitments from leaders of both communities that the bus service would operate in safety over the three-day holiday.
Holiday in Kosovo passes without serious incidents: UNMIK police said today that the celebration of the Muslim Bajram and the Serbian Orthodox Christmas in Pristina and other towns in Kosovo was observed on Saturday without serious incidents. However, police reported that on Sunday a Serb man was shot dead in Gnjilane in front of his house by unidentified suspects speaking Albanian. Several suspects were detained. Also yesterday, a grenade was thrown in Pristina, in the Dardania area, which caused minor damage to a vehicle, a kiosk, and a house. Another grenade was thrown into a house owned by Serbs in Kosovo Polje and damaged the house but no injuries were reported.
UNHCR provides shelter for Kosovars without proper homes: UNHCR has identified 20,000 places in temporary shelters across Kosovo to house people this winter who are unable to stay on their property. Some 6,000 persons have taken advantage of these facilities. The majority are people who do not have satisfactory shelter at home, or their homes were destroyed, or because of the security situation, particularly non-Albanians, such as Serbs and Roma, according to UNHCR spokesman Peter Kessler.