Did you pay your power bill this month?

Yll Rugova is graphic designer, but for the past few weeks he has seen himself, many of his friends and strangers, undergoing an intensive crash course on energy and finances - and how both can be manipulated.

Yll Rugova is graphic designer, but for the past few weeks he has seen himself, many of his friends and strangers, undergoing an intensive crash course on energy and finances - and how both can be manipulated.

Just like many others, Yll didn’t understand why the Kosovar Energy Corporation (KEK), suddenly (and disproportionately) raised January’s bills, provoking fast reactions on social networks like Facebook and an established calendar of weekly protests held every Friday until things change.

These demonstrations have brought forth a new element in Kosovo’s civil life: a spontaneously coordinated, open group of individuals, the majority of which are 20-30 years old, fighting common struggles and trying to make their voices heard in the most democratic way possible. But that’s not so easy as it sounds.

Rugova, along with many others, felt the need to do something and took action. He doesn’t speak in the name of anybody during his interview with Kosovo 2.0 because the protests are not affiliated or represented by any official body: “This group of people we started is fluid and changes with almost every protest,” he explains, “and no, there is no [political] party involved.”

In remarkable contrast to past demonstrations since Kosovo’s independence, Kosovar citizens are coming out to these protest in a miscellanea of ages, genders and professions to defend their access to basic utilities.

The basics of the problem though are still difficult to understand. Rugova sets up the abc-s of the hike in electricity costs: “The last report from the Kosovo Energy Regulatory Office, said that it was an intentional action. They had to say that the loss during 2012 was higher than it actually was. Some of the consumption made in 2012 was transferred to 2013 in January, so the new bills came with extra energy spent, although that was energy from 2012,” Rugova explains.

On the other hand, there is the question of the tariffs: “If you consume 200KW of energy you pay a small price; if you consume 600KW, you pay a slightly higher price, and if you consume more than 600KW then you pay like a penalty. The problem is that now all the energy that was transferred from 2012 to 2013 has been transferred as a penalty, under this higher tariff,” concludes Rugova, to the situation of thousands of people who have paid “twice or even five times” the energy consumed.

Their demands are clear: a revision of the tariffs, a revision of the new digital devices to calculate the consumption of energy, further investigation into KEK’s January bills, and further investigation of corruption in political institutions.

Check out the Facebook page created by the organizational group to follow up on future actions.

Yll Rugova on energy, politics, and civic activism (video by Arber Jashari). Transcript below.


Who organizes the protests?

These are protests organized by people. Right now we are trying to find the words to define this organizing process. Basically, someone started this on Facebook, someone else made banners, and someone else made calls to the police. It is a collaborative effort of many people. In the spirit of this spontaneous form of organization, we have tried to continue to work in the same way. Ever since we started the people involved have been continuously changing as well. Up until now we haven’t had any people who are members of political parties. 

Why are the protests happening?

The Regulatory Office came out with a very clear explanation regarding this matter and it is obvious that irregularities were done by them in a systematic way, in order to increase income from losses incurred in 2012. In order to do that, a portion of the kilowatts spent in 2012 were transferred to 2013. This is the irregularity that occurred. Now, I don’t understand why they did that and the Regulatory Office never gave any explanation. But the biggest problem occurred because our tariffs are divided in three parts. Up to 200 kilowatts is a low price, 200-400 kilowatts has an average price, and 400KW and above has the highest price, which almost a kind of penalty payment. The kilowatts that were transferred from 2012 to 2013 have mainly been kilowatts that belong to the highest tariff, the most expensive price. 

What are the demands of the protesters?

During the first few protests we tried to channel these demands and came out with some specific demands, which are: not to increase the price of electricity in the following months, to be provided with an explanation about the hike in prices and for the matter to be investigated by the prosecutor’s office, the Regulatory Office, the Assembly and all responsible institutions; and the matter of the bills to be investigated within the Kosovo Energy Corporation. The issue of electricity meters should be investigated as well, and accountable people should be punished. In the meantime we have added some other concerns, such as the issue of corruption in all of Kosovo’s institutions. Because this group is so open and fluid people keep putting pressure on the group to add a demand or to remove one.

What is the final aim of the protests? 

All of these protests that we are seeing, among other things, are also a sort of test for Kosovo’s institutions. We noted and it was confirmed by the Regulatory Office and the Ombudsperson that some form of fraud took place. Right now we want to look into what institutions can do in regards to this matter. We want to strengthen institutions by giving them them an opportunity to face issues head-on, so they can react appropriately. We are dedicated to this matter, we will not give up. We will continue protesting until we get specific results and until all of our demands are met.

The article was originally written in English.
Photo credits: diebmx (thumbnail) & Horia Varlan
The views, opinions and comments published in this blog are not necessarily those of the Kosovo 2.0 editorial staff. Also, the website reserves the right to delete, reject, or otherwise remove any views, opinions and comments posted on the blog stories. All comments that incite and encourage hate speech or discrimination will be moderated.


Write a comment

Shkruaje emrin Shkruaje email adresen

E-maili juaj nuk bëhet publik apo ndahet me të tjerët, fushat obligative janë të shënjuar.