Kosovo Reckoning: Reconstruction pledges leave Kosovars cold

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The Independent Online
THE international community yesterday promised more than $2bn for Kosovo reconstruction, but argued that Kosovars should pay a quarter of the cost of rebuilding their homes.

After hearing an account of the devastation wreaked on the war-ravaged province, the world's richest nations promised a total of $2.082bn. However, officials of the World Bank and the European Union, which called the international conference yesterday, conceded that this new figure includes money already announced, some of which has already been spent.

Yesterday's meeting in Brussels won the support of the West's most powerful states for three emergency tasks to see 700,000 returning refugees through to the end of the year. These include $45m to fund the UN administration in Kosovo, $200m to meet basic humanitarian needs and 300m euros to start reconstruction work.

Officials were unable to give a breakdown of the $2.082bn pledge by nation, but so far the European Commission has promised 523m euros this year, the United States $500m, Japan $200m, Germany 350m marks, the UK pounds 91m and the World Bank $60m.

James Dobbins, special adviser on Kosovo to Bill Clinton, said that "while the damage is less than expected, the needs are greater". The economy of Kosovo was "criminalised" through years of "waste and mismanagement", the central structures of civil society - from police to waste collection - absent.

Estimates prepared by consultants for the World Bank paint a picture of a land devastated first by Serb ethnic cleansing, then by Nato's bombing campaign. Of 206,150 houses identified in 1,400 villages, around 120,000 have been damaged in an orgy of destruction. They will cost an estimated 1.12bn euros to repair.

However, the international community will leave Kosovars to foot a substantial proportion of the bill. The European Commission believes that of the 1.12bn euro total, only around 700m euros should be given to help house reconstruction, of which a maximum of 300m euros is likely to be made available by the end of the year.

Aid workers will embark on a process of "winterisation" under which Kosovars will be living in partially renovated shell homes through the coldest months. Under the project there could be as little as one bedroom allowing five square metres of space per person, one living-room, a kitchen area, a bathroom/lavatory and an entrance lobby.

Repairs needed for schools are put at 20m euros, with hospitals damaged to the tune of 4m euros, 9.6m euros needed for rural electricity infrastructure, 4.8m euros for water supplies.

Thirteen bridges have been destroyed, requiring 9m euros-worth of repair and a further 10m euros will be needed to return Pristina airport to full working order.

Worse, according to Francois Lamoureux, a senior European Commission official, Kosovo today, in effect, does not possess any "institutional structures". One of the priorities is to establish a 3,100-strong international police force including 1,800 civilian police, 205 border police and 10 special units of around 115 men which will deal with civil disorder. The US has pledged to send 450 police to help, 20 of whom will reach Kosovo this week.

Yesterday's conference, which comes ahead of a summit of world leaders on Friday to launch the reconstruction of south-eastern Europe, was declared a success by the World Bank. Christiaan Poortman, the World Bank's south- east Europe co-ordinator, said: "The most immediate, urgent requirements have been met. In addition we have found that donors are willing, in anticipation of a full reconstruction programme to be unveiled in the autumn, to contribute $2bn. A very good start has been made."

Mr Dobbins added: "I think everybody is inclined to be very generous with respect to Kosovo."