February 17 marked two years to the day when Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leadership unilaterally declared independence from Serbia. Since then, 65 countries, including the U.S. and most of its EU allies, have recognized Kosovo. Serbia, obviously, and a majority of the world's countries have not, including UN Security Council members, Russia and China, keeping Kosovo out of the UN. Regardless, Kosovo's Albanian majority partied Wednesday on the anniversary. But a closer look at the state of Kosovo begs the question what exactly were they celebrating?
Kosovo has a lot of problems, and that may be understating it.
Kosovo's two million people, mainly ethnic Albanians, are Europe's poorest, stripping Moldova of that dubious title.
Like most sub-Saharan states, Kosovo has a young population. Around 65 percent are under 30, and most want out, hoping to head to Europe for a job.
Jobs are hard to come by in Kosovo. Unemployment stands at 40 percent.
Here's one more eye-popping stat: People in Kosovo earn 1,760 euros, not a month, but a year. By comparison, the average annual EU income is 24,000 euros.
Few if any taxes are paid. So where does the government in Pristina get its money? From foreign donors.
Since the end of the war with Belgrade in 1999, Kosovo has devoured some four billion euros in aid.
Donor aid accounts for 15 percent of GDP!
And they need more.
Finance Minister Ahmet Shala has said Kosovo will ask donors for more aid to plug up this year's budget gap.
Speaking to Reuters, Deputy Prime Minister Hajredin Kuci that Kosovo will need foreign donors for another three to five years.
Stating the obvious, Marko Prelec, of the Brussels-based think-tank International Crisis Group, "Kosovo is in danger of turning into a persistently impoverished country and this can go on for decades."
In the past, the Informant has reported about the mother of all U.S. bases, Bondsteel, whose existence is rarely if ever commented on by the U.S. or Western European press. This despite the fact it is reportedly the biggest U.S. military base to have been built since the Vietnam war.
It also happens to be strategically situated along the planned path of the Albanian-Macedonian-Bulgarian Oil (Ambo) Trans-Balkan pipeline, a project to connect the oil-rich Caspian Sea region to the rest of the world.
The initial feasibility project for Ambo was done by KBR, that's Kellogg, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of everyone's favorite corporation -- especially Dick Cheney -- Haliburton. By the way, KBR built Camp Bondsteel.
There are some other goodies in Kosovo as well, namely the vast Trepca mines, some of the richest mineral deposits in the world.
After Hitler captured them in 1940, the mines supplied German munition factories with 40 percent of their lead.
Miraculously, during 37,000 sorties by NATO bombers in 1999 Trepca remained untouched, whereas other branches of industry were destroyed with deadly precision.
This is major war bootie.
Shortly after the invasion, NATO troops swooped in, took control of Trepca, which were later turned over to the Washington Group, a large U.S. defense contractor with partners in France and Sweden. At least the looting gets spread out a bit.
This is one of the few detailed English-language accounts out there about Trebca.
Another topic not talked much about in the West is the fate of hundreds of Orthodox churches sprinkled about Kosovo, considered by Serbs the cradle of their faith.
Dozens of churches and monasteries have been either badly vandalized or reduced to rubble.
Even today, NATO troops, Italians are stationed outside the 13th-century Decani monastery near Pec to protect from vandals what is a UNESCO heritage site!
Too late to act, the EU acts.
A Greek diplomat has been appointed to help restore and protect Serb heritage sites in Kosovo.
In a joint EU-Greek statement, Ambassador Dimitris Moschopoulos "will facilitate the development of integrated conservation policies for religious and cultural heritage and will actively engage in increasing awareness of and respect for cultural heritage."
Greece is one of five EU states to buck the pressure, and refuse to recognize Kosovo.
And, at least judging by public comments, neither have Serb officials.
Serb Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said will insist on fresh talks with the Kosovo Albanians once the UN International Court of Justice issues its "opinion" on Kosovo's declaration.
Western media love to note the "opinion" is just that and not a judgment, and, therefore, carries no legal weigh. Meaning, even if the judges do the right thing and admit Kosovo has not international legal right to secede from Serbia, it will mean nothing.
The West has forced this mess, rejecting all Serb offers of greater autonomy to the Kosovar Albanians.
Now, they are literally paying for that mistake.