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Wednesday, July 28, 1999 Published at 07:11 GMT 08:11 UK

Business: The Economy

Who owns Pristina?

The ownership of the Grand is at the centre of controversy

By Nils Blythe, reporting from Kosovo for BBC1's Business Breakfast

Arrive in Pristina, Kosovo's capital, and the first thing you notice is dozens of street vendors selling fuel. It comes in jerry cans, plastic drums, even Coke bottles.

Rebuilding the Balkans
Isa Krasniqi had a job making shoes but he hasn't been paid for a year and a half. So he supports a family of 12 by driving to Macedonia each night and bringing back petrol to sell on the streets.

[ image: For some, selling petrol on the road is the only source of income]
For some, selling petrol on the road is the only source of income
He says he makes around £200-£300 ($300-$450) a month, but it is the only way he and his family can survive.

While everyone's lives have been changed by the war, the centre of Pristina is little damaged, at least compared with some of Kosovo's other towns.

Many of the shops are open - although some of those formerly run by Serbs have simply been taken over by returning Albanians.

Business opportunities

Some people are treating the post-war environment as an opportunity to start new businesses while there are no legal restraints.

Nils Blythe reports on concerns over the ownership of Serbian government assets in Kosovo
And with aid agencies and armies in need of interpreters, many young people have found work and have money to spend.

There is an appearance of normality in the centre of Pristina which is remarkable after the extraordinary events of recent months.

The outdoor cafes are open and good coffee is available.

But look beneath the surface and many things are not quite what they seem.

And one of the strangest stories of all is what has happened at the Grand Hotel.

Partying in the hotel

Like most big enterprises in Kosovo, before the conflict it was state-owned and managed by Serbs.

[ image: Major Neale wants aid for the Grand]
Major Neale wants aid for the Grand
But soon after the Nato occupation a group of ex-KLA fighters announced that they were now in charge and started an impromptu party.

The paras arrived to keep some sort of order.

But shortly afterwards the Serb managers left and ethnic Albanians took over the running of the hotel, with the backing of the British army, who have appointed one of their officers to the board.

Major Adam Neale is now trying to organise a loan for them from the UN.

Deutsche Bank economist Klaus Papenbrock draws parallels between the experience of East Germany and Kosovo
"They need a half million mark loan to buy new laundry equipment because if the laundry collapses they won't be able to wash the sheets."

"If they can't wash the sheets the hotel becomes a health risk and it will have to close. And if that closes there won't be any private accommodation within Kosovo so the knock on effect of not having an adequate laundry is quite significant," says Major Neale.

Who owns the Grand?

But who now owns the Grand Hotel - and its future profits - is none too clear. Major Neale says it belongs to the province of Kosovo.

The new chairman thinks it belongs to the employees. But what about the Yugolsav government in Belgrade, do they still have a claim on it?

The new director of the Grand, Zeki Ceku, has no doubts.

"It belongs to the workers - the employees - of this company," he says.

He claims the hotel is using its profits for repairs.

"We are making some money. It's not a lot of money. But when we came here we are filling the gaps and the lack of everything here," he said.

Cheerfully unconcerned about who will ultimately own the hotel and its profits, the young men who took over the bar a few weeks ago are now organising a disco party in the basement.

Pristina is ready to have parties. Albanian music being played till after midnight. Thousands of people are ready to party.

But long after after this slightly surreal party is over, the UN administration is going to have to spend a lot of time pinning down who owns what in Kosovo.

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