Kosovo budget for 2000 set at $299 million: A budget of 562 million deutsche marks (about $299 million) in expenditures and revenues has been set for the calendar year 2000, the Chief of Kosovo's Central Fiscal Authority, Mr. Alan Pearson, announced today in Pristina. The Kosovo Consolidated Budget for 2000 will cover the costs of general administration, municipalities and subsidies the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) is making to public enterprises. Investment requirements and the costs of reconstruction are not included. The budget will be financed by domestic revenues of some 362 million deutsche marks (about $193 million) and a contribution from donors of 200 million deutsche marks (about $106 million). Some 20 per cent of the budget is earmarked for assistance to the most needy. The budget also envisages a shift away from paying stipends to public workers to wages. Under the budget, compensation to public sector employees will increase by nearly 50 per cent, to approximately 270 deutsche mark per month (about $144). The domestic revenue base would be strengthened to support the budget. The Hotel, Food and Beverage Tax will come into effect on 1 February and the tax base will be further strengthened later this year with the introduction of wage taxes and withholding taxes on business. UNMIK currently has pledges of 135 million deutsche mark (about $ 72 million) towards the 200 million deutsche mark target. UNMIK is talking to donor countries, including the European Union which has pledged some 70 million deutsche (about $37 million) mark to date, and was confident of reaching the target.
Kosovo Protection Corps leaders sworn: Today, 44 top leaders of the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC) were sworn in a ceremony in UNMIK Headquarters where they took a pledge of honour, committing them to serve Kosovo as a civilian emergency response agency. Among the posts sworn in today are regional commanders; branch chiefs; chiefs of staff, operations, communications, engineering, medical and chemical sections. The remainder of the KPC will be selected in the coming weeks. The agency is expected to be fully operational by September 2000. The KPC has no role in law enforcement, riot control, counter-terrorism or any other task related to the maintenance of law and order. It will consist of 3,000 active members and up to 2,000 reservists and is funded by voluntary contributions from UN Member States. The budget for 2000 is 34 million deutsche marks (about $18 million).
Kosovo enjoys second day of no power rationing: For the second day there has been no power rationing in Kosovo, as local production has increased the power available to approximately 545 megawatts of electricity, UNMIK said today. Kosovo requires 600 megawatts of electricity a day during winter months. The territory is also importing 30 megawatts from Albania, 20 from Macedonia and 45 from Serbia. UNMIK warned, however, that some areas might experience cuts due to local faults in the system. The power production remains highly unstable and susceptible to breakdown, especially when parts of the system are strained by overuse.
UNMIK Police identifies suspect: UNMIK Police have identified one Albanian suspect for the killing of an Albanian male in the village of Surlane in the Gnjilane region on 17 January. The investigation is still ongoing. KFOR report that in Mitrovica yesterday two young boys were hurt when a hand grenade exploded near them in the vicinity of a hospital. Two men were arrested at the site by KFOR soldiers and turned over to UNMIK police. KFOR also reported that between November and January, UNMIK Police confiscated 2000 kg of firecrackers at several border and boundary crossings. KFOR said the firecrackers may seem harmless, but they pose a real danger if thrown at people and or near where KFOR soldiers are patrolling. For the safety of all concerned, the police agencies and KFOR soldiers will continue to confiscate firecrackers, with the intent to ban them entirely from Kosovo.
Kouchner to visit Serb and Albanian community leaders: Head of UNMIK, Dr. Bernard Kouchner and KFOR Commander General Klaus Reinhardt will visit tomorrow Orahovac, accompanied by two representatives of the Serb community, Bishop Artemije and Mr. Trajkovic. In Orahovac, they will meet with local Serb and Albanian community leaders to discuss solutions to issues such as security and humanitarian needs and other confidence-building measures.
KFOR loses 24 soldiers in Kosovo: Twenty-four KFOR soldiers have died on peacekeeping duty since the troops arrived in Kosovo last June, KFOR spokesman Lieutenant-Commander Philip Anido announced today. The latest to die was a Dutch soldier who died of a heart failure following evacuation to medical facilities in Skopje, and an Austrian soldier who died yesterday morning when the jeep he was in was involved in an accident near Doganovic
Humanitarian assistance UNHCR Chief of Mission in Kosovo dies: UNHCR Chief of Mission in Kosovo, Mr. David Riley died on Wednesday night in his apartment in Pristina. Mr. Riley, who was 50, was responsible for much of the successes that Kosovars enjoy today, according to Dr. Bernard Kouchner, Head of UNMIK. He served in a similar post in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Prior to his work in Bosnia he played a lead role in organizing the return of nearly one million Mozambican refugees from their asylum country, Malawi. A former Peace Corps volunteer who served in Haiti and Togo, Mr. Riley joined the UN as a volunteer in Mogadishu in 1981 before joining UNHCR a year later. He is survived by his wife and daughter, in Geneva.
More than 2,300 refugees return to Kosovo this week: UNHCR's International Committee for Migration has overseen the return of more than 2,300 refugees to Kosovo this week, UNHCR Spokesman Mr. Peter Kessler said today. He said some 560 persons would be arriving today at Slatina and Skopje airports from Switzerland, Germany, Austria and France. Some 5,800 Albanians returned to Kosovo this month. The pace is expected to continue into next month.
Over 50,000 emergency repair kits distributed: Some 55,000 emergency repair kits have been distributed under the joint ECHO-USAID-UNHCR programme, UNHCR Spokesman Mr. Peter Kessler said today. He said another 4,000 UNHCR-USAID kits are available and that some 10,000 expanded kits have been distributed across Kosovo. During this month, UNHCR will provide some 1,220 rigid shelter kits in the Mitrovica region.
Democracy and institution building
Payment Authority of Kosovo issues the first licence for a bank to open in Kosovo: The Payment Authority of Kosovo has issued the first licence for a bank -- the Micro-enterprise Bank -- to open in Kosovo, EU Spokeswoman Ms Irene Mingasson said today. The Microenterprise Bank was founded at the initiative of several international financial institutions and investment companies. Microenterprise Bank will provide basic bank services to individuals and small businesses, such as account managing, international money transfers as well as loans to small businesses. Branches of the bank are expected to open throughout the province, including Pec and Prizren.
First group of tax inspectors complete course: On Tuesday there will be a special graduation ceremony for the first group of tax inspectors, numbering 30, who have now completed their training, EU Spokeswoman Ms Irene Mingasson said today. She said the tax inspectors would be working as part of the tax administration, which functions under the Central Fiscal Authority.
Kosovo journalists pledge to improve exchange of information between communities: A group of 10 Kosovo journalists has pledged to improve the exchange of information between the communities in Mitrovica, which has been almost totally interrupted, OSCE Spokesman Mr. Roland Bless. The journalists, who attended a seminar in Rome 19-21 January organized by the OSCE Regional Centre in Mitrovica, also pledged to ensure that political disputes would not interfere with their professionalism. The seminar was hosted by the National Order of Italian Journalists and attended by 5 Albanian, 4 Serb and 1 Turkish journalist.
For further information, contact the Spokesman's Office: tel (212) 963-7161/2; fax (212) 963-7055.