UN takes steps to address Kosovo's electricity emergency

21 April 2003

The top United Nations official in Kosovo has announced a series of emergency measures to deal with the province's electricity problems, including €17.3 million (euros) to repair power plants.

"Kosovo's power plants are like an old Zastava that are 20 to 40 years old with no investment. Last year it was also struck by lightening and suffered land slides in the Mirash coal mine," Michael Steiner, the chief of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) said last Friday.

Mr. Steiner said the state of the plants, combined with the fact that a lot of people have not paid their bills, including Kosovo institutions that owe €13 million, "has created a difficult situation."

He said he authorized the appropriation under the Security Council resolution giving him responsibility, "to ensure conditions for normal life for all inhabitants of Kosovo." The money will be taken from last year's surplus of the Kosovo Consolidated Budget, he added.

"My aim is to have a load-shedding schedule of four hours on and two hours off or even five hours on, one hour off from today," Mr. Steiner stated, adding that the focus should not merely be on the present situation. "We must also think of next autumn and winter."

The UNMIK chief reiterated that without immediate repairs to the plant and coal mine, Kosovo will produce virtually no electricity next winter and the necessary repairs must start immediately to ensure availability by time the cold season sets in. He briefed the authorities on all the required steps, which he said UNMIK was ready to cooperate on.

"I've now done my part but people must contribute by saving energy and by paying their bills," Mr. Steiner said. "People are fed up and we are fed up."