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news 03 Aug 17

Kosovo Delays Action to Avert Coal Shortage

Kosovo's government has deferred a decision to expropriate houses in an area that was needed for coal mining in order to avert a potential energy crisis. 

Die Morina, Visar Prebreza
BIRN
Pristina
The Kosovo Energy Corporation mining coal. Photo: Karl Mathiesen

The Kosovo government announced on Wednesday that a decision to expropriate eight houses in the village of Shipitulla in central-eastern Kosovo will be taken on August 11, after the Kosovo Energy Corporation, KEK failed to fully complete the resettlement of residents in order to start digging coal there.

Over 100 people illegally built houses in the area in order to benefit from compensation after the KEK announced that it wanted the residents' land.

The KEK needs the land because other mining areas have been exhausted and Shipitulla remains a coal field that the Corporation could use.

Reuters reported on July 27 that "Kosovo is on the verge of an energy collapse with its power corporation holding only two-weeks worth of coal reserves".

"The problem is there for all to see in the village of Shipitulle where large and rusted excavators, resembling Transformers, stand idle. They can't get to the coal, even though there is lots of it," Reuters said in its report.

The villages of Shipitulla and Hade have identified by the authorities as ‘areas of interest’ for coal mining since 2004.

The KEK chose Shipitulla, which did not have so many houses - but between 2010 and 2015, more than 100 homes were built in the area, all illegally.

When the KEK first announced the expropriation, there were 99 houses in Shipitulla.

Some 120 further houses were built in the area over the subsequent three years. No state institutions prevented the constructions.

The executive director of the KEK, Abern Gjukaj, said in a letter on June 29 to the mayor of the Obilic municipality, in which Shipitulla is located, that the expropriation of eight houses would enable the KEK to operate for two more months.

Gjukaj added that if these specific houses were not evacuated, there was a risk that electricity production would draw to a halt.

On August 10 there will a public debate, and if it does not result in an agreement between state institutions and the Shipitulla residents, then the government must deal with the home-owners.

Depending on the outcome of the debate, the government will make a decision on August 11 about how the expropriation will be carried out and if residents will be forced to leave their properties.

Meanwhile, the KEK has the opportunity to negotiate with the residents about the terms of their displacement.

Kosovo’s outgoing Prime Minister Isa Mustafa has said that the government will do everything necessary to ensure that the country does not face electricity problems.

“It is necessary for the ministry of finance to take all measures on property evaluation in order for, when the public debate is over, the government to immediately make the final decision on August 11,” Musafa said on Wednesday.

Despite the KEK’s suggestion that the country is facing an emergency situation, acting minister of economic development Blerand Stavileci has said that any panic is misplaced because the government will take action.

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