Flying with the Eagles – Part II

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Flying with the Eagles – Part II

30. Mai 2018

After only a few hours of sleep, we collect our things and get ready to depart from Prishtina for 48 hours. Our first destination is Prevalle, where we are scheduled to give our workshop organized by the KDWV and hosted by ProCredit Bank Kosovo on how to conclude contracts with German business partners for a group of approximately 40 company representatives.

The drive is beautiful. The new highway “Ibrahim Rugova”, named after the first president of Kosovo after its independence as well as the last President before it – as organized resistance against the Serb oppression, Kosovo-Albanians had set up parallel political institutions in the 90s in opposition to the institutions of the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija, which were controlled by Serbia. Ibrahim Rugova, political leader in the country for around two decades and well-known for his pacifism and for advocating a peaceful resolution of the conflict with Serbia, was the president of said parallel institutions between 1992 and 1999.

The highway takes us across luscious green plains, the white Albanian Alps bright and shiny in the background against a clear blue sky. We pass through Prizren, allegedly Kosovo’s most beautiful city where the occident meets the orient, the old stone bridge crossing the Lumbardhi river next to the 17th century Sinan Pasha mosque, its minaret reaching high into the sky, and on the hill above it the medieval Prizren fortress.

From Prizren, a terribly winding road takes us into the Sharr mountains and ultimately to Prevalle, where the training center of ProCredit Bank is located, a large alpine hotel style building with a spectacular mountain view.

The workshop is fully booked, and the large room packed with people, and all this on a sunny Saturday morning. My presentation on the basics of German business law is followed by an interactive negotiation scenario between Kujtim and me in front of the audience, both negotiating individual mock contract terms for our respective German and Kosovo-Albanian clients. As a last session of the workshop, Claudio introduces the participants to the legal framework surrounding foreign investments in Germany.

Over lunch, we engage in conversations with some of the attendees. One gentleman is concerned about the developments in Europe, arguing that European countries should be uniting their competences instead of competing with one another. He claims that Europe should be investing in Europe, and not in China and India. Kosovo indeed appears as an interesting place for investments: The costs of energy and labor are low, there are tax exemptions for capital gains, and people are dedicated to work and to succeed. Interesting for German investors: Every second Kosovar appears to speak German due to the past which makes communication as easy as can be. Nevertheless, foreign investors remain reserved, mainly because of concerns regarding the rule of law.

Following the workshop, we jump in our and Kujtim’s car, together with Nora Hasani, and head to Peja where we will meet up with Kujtim’s team before heading into the Rugova Mountains. Our journey takes us back to Prizren, where I notice the German military base and come to realize that the German Bundeswehr is still stationed here, ever since its deployment to Kosovo in 1999. It is scheduled to leave by the end of this year and the base will be turned into a technology and innovation park with the support of the Federal Republic of Germany.

As the green plains and villages fly by, we talk about the Serbian oppression and the war, terrible individual stories and fates, that have left deep scars in the minds and the souls of the Kosovo-Albanian people. Kujtim, who used to be a classic and later a rock musician before starting his career in law, plays some songs by JERICHO, a band that sings about this period of Kosovar history. I am overwhelmed by the pain and we live very emotional moments on this journey. On top of that comes the paradox that had this not occurred, Petrit and I would probably never have met.

We arrive in Peja, Kujtim’s hometown, where we meet up with six members of his team to head up into the Rugova Mountains together. On our way up, we stop here and there to take a look at rock formations, water falls, and riverbeds, breathing in the rawness of the Mountain, before we arrive at our final destination shortly before dawn: a little farmhouse surrounded by wooden weekend cabins on a green mountain pasture. The cabins are of a very authentic alpine wood cabin atmosphere and offer all the comfort one needs when being up here: a nice and cozy bed and a fireplace with a crackling wood fire.

Our hosts spoil us with an amazing outdoor dinner on the barbecue combined with specialties from the farmer’s kitchen: Freshly baked soft and warm buns and green peppers marinated in melted hot sheep butter. Incredible. Melts on your tongue. A long wooden outdoor table by the campfire serves as dinner table under the starlit mountain sky, and the conversations and laughter of young Germans and Kosovo-Albanians echo through the night.

My attempt to go to bed early that night falls short when I start to share my impressions with some of Kujtim’s younger team members at the fireplace late that night.

Sunday, 13 May

We sleep in and meet at our outside family table to enjoy a hearty mountain breakfast served to us by the farmers with deep-fried buns, big chunks of local sheep feta style cheese, yoghurt and homemade blueberry juice that makes your tongue smile.

Following a volleyball game on the premises with Kujtim and his team, we start our hike up near to the Hajla peak right on the border with Montenegro. We walk through a beautiful wilderness with more or less apparent hiking paths to be compensated for our efforts with a heart-opening view from a high mountain pasture of the Rugova Mountains and Valleys.

Upon our return to our “mountain base camp”, we witness the finishing of a homemade “fli”, a Kosovo-Albania specialty prepared in a flat pan with layers of crèpes-style dough and melted sheep butter, cooked from above with iron lids braised in the fire that cover the pan and bake every layer from top to bottom. This goes together with various meats from the barbecue and homemade pickled yellow peppers.

We leave the Rugova Mountains happy and tired and again full of images and impressions. After having settled back into our cars, we do one final stop at the Drin source near Peja, where crisp clear water breaks out of the rock.

Our trip slowly comes to an end as we reach Prishtina, and it is time to say good-bye to Nora as well as to Kujtim and his team. Not easy after these engaging days. We have fallen in love with Kosovo.

Monday, 14 May

Time to head back to Berlin. Petrit and his father pick us up in the early morning and take us to the airport in Petrit’s father’s car. The traffic is so congested that we start worrying about whether we will be able to catch our plane on time. Petrit is as stoic as ever, and of course, we do make it, and head back home on an easyjet plane with some of the people we had met on our way here. Upon our arrival in Berlin, we do a short but concise debriefing session on the train on our way to the office from Schönefeld.

Kosovo on my mind

This trip will be with us for a while. The four of us have formed a very close travel group and grown together over these days.

We have discovered a beautiful and energetic new part of Europe with fantastic people to which we will remain connected, and we have plans for various follow-up events. We have been inspired by this trip in so many ways on a personal, professional as well as socio-political level.

Thank you, Petrit, for initiating this. Thank you, Nora, Tea and Kujtim, for your kindness and hospitality. Thank you everyone else, for making this so special! We have been flying with eagles of Kosovo and are still up in the air.

Über den Autor

Dr. Philipp K. Wagner, LL.M.

Philipp Wagner is a German Attorney based in Berlin and admitted to the New York Bar. Prior to setting up WAGNER Arbitration, he worked in a medium sized German law firm, for many years as partner. He specializes in dispute resolution with a focus on arbitration and has extensive experience in cross-border disputes and business transactions.

Über Wagner Arbitration

Die Kanzlei WAGNER Arbitration hat ihren Sitz in Berlin und ist auf gerichtliche und außergerichtliche Streitbeilegung mit Schwerpunkt Schiedsgerichtsbarkeit spezialisiert. Eine weitere Kernkompetenz ist die Beratung im nationalen und internationalen Wirtschaftsrecht.

Seit der Gründung im Jahr 2013 steht WAGNER Arbitration als kompakte Einheit für ein Höchstmaß an Vertraulichkeit und persönlichem, lösungsorientiertem Engagement. Dank unserer Mehrsprachigkeit und unseres weltweiten und interdisziplinären Netzwerks können wir komplexe Wirtschaftsstreitigkeiten und Transaktionen umfassend auf Deutsch, Englisch und Französisch betreuen.