When the lights go off - the issue of power restrictions in Kosovo

Kosovo is full of great potential. It has beautiful nature, mountains, rivers, resources, forests and a land that can offer a lot. I’m always glad to get on a bus and visit Kosovo. However, there’s one thing that still shocks me and, unfortunately, it’s an common phenomenon there. You might know what I’m talking about if I tell you that I make sure I fully charge my phone and my portable battery charger before getting on that bus. 

Power restrictions occur often throughout Kosovo. I’m mostly aware of it when I stay at my friend’s Genti’s place in Mitrovica. When I go visit him I know I won’t be able to leave Mitrovica so easily. Not that I want to, but his family won’t let me! We play music on Genti’s computer all day long and his family enjoys it with us. Sometimes, however, the music stops. We’re out of electricity. The whole neighborhood gets shut down. After a few hours the electricity comes back but then another neighborhood in Mitrovica gets its turn. Unfortunately, this is a phenomenon that does not happen only in Mitrovica but also other parts of the country.

On one occasion, we were walking downtown when all of a sudden the city center ran out of power. It was a strange situation because we were in the dark in the middle of a populated street with buildings around us, and the only thing we could see were street lights from another street in the distance. I guess that street belonged to a different neighborhood. I took pictures of the dark street and posted them on Facebook telling the world about the Kosovo reality. You couldn’t see anything but, then again, that’s what power restrictions are about.

This experience, reminded me of my early childhood in Subotica, Serbia when we had power restrictions. I remember when I was three years old and we would sit in our apartment in the dark, lighting a candle on the kitchen table. That was back in 1993. I remember these scenes happening until I was ten years old. The lights would just go off in the evening and we would search for candles with a flashlight. First, we had to search for the flashlight. Even though I was a child and didn’t know much about politics. However,  soon enough I realized that the electric situation in my country was a result of my country’s political developments of that era.

I remember once I was chatting with Genti on Facebook when I was in Belgrade and I sent him a Youtube link. He told me to wait until they get power again because he couldn’t play the video on his phone, only on the computer, which works on power. And then I felt bad for him and his family. In fact, I felt bad for all my Kosovar friends who go through this. It bothers me because the citizens of Kosovo don’t deserve to be left without electricity in the 21st century. And it’s not only electricity they get deprived of, but also water. To have electricity and water supply is an elementary human right. 

These are not restrictions due to some works on an electrical substation, this is a problem that should be solved on a political level by introducing sustainable energy policy, as well as charging all citizens equally for the costs, instead of overcharging some while others in certain parts of the country remain free from paying (which is another decades-long issue in Kosovo).

I feel that we need to work on these issues together as a region and that all of the Balkans states should take over the responsibility of pursuing joint regional agendas to advance in economic and social aspects in order to achieve prosperity, each in their respective country. In my opinion, this is one of the key solutions to establishing a long-term stability in our much divided and problematic region.


Author: Tomislav Perušić