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Pristina Journal: Not the Worst Hotel in the World, Perhaps, but ‘the World Is Very Big’

The city was then swarming with foreigners looking for a place to stay — Western journalists, military officers, aid workers and European officials.

We had all rushed to Pristina to witness the end of Serb hegemony and the birth of what the United States and its European allies hoped would be a prosperous new country firmly anchored in the West and its ways.

A critical part of this plan was a crash program to privatize former Yugoslav state assets like the Grand Hotel. Put up for sale in 2006, it was bought by a murky local company that paid just 8 million euros (a little under $ 10 million at current rates) but promised, as part of the deal, to invest a further 20 million euros.

The promised investment never happened, and in 2012 the Kosovo Privatization Agency canceled the sale — and kept the money it had received. Plans to find another buyer then got snarled in a lengthy legal battle after Behgjet I. Pacolli, a Swiss millionaire originally from Kosovo who is now the country’s foreign minister, announced that a company he owned was suing the government over the original sale.

The hotel is now in liquidation and its assets, which include a valuable collection of modern art, will be sold or put in a museum so that a new owner can be found and the hotel can be refurbished from scratch.

The hotel has more than 500 employees left on the books from the time when Kosovo was controlled by Serbia. The Serbian staff all fled after NATO’s arrival. Around 80 staff, all ethnic Albanians, now show up for work.

Mr. Pacolli estimates that it will cost at least $ 50 million to make the Grand grand again. It is, he added, perhaps not the world’s worst hotel but ranks near the bottom. “It is really terrible,” he said. “How can you stay there? How can anyone stay there?”

Source: NYT > World

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