Those were the words in 2007 from a KFOR soldier. And the same year there was this from a State Dept. TV production officer:

Mr. [Jay] Richter said State Department officers in Kosovo have been appalled by the proclivities the residents there have for littering their streets and dumping garbage in the open.

“There was a feeling that if they could do something as basic as getting people to start taking care of the environment, that would help spur other initiatives that would start to bring their society back,” he said.

Fighting in the region in the 1990s destroyed municipal systems, he said.

“There was so much destruction to the fabric of society. Some people take care of things; not everything is a disaster,” Mr. Richter said. “But from what I’ve been told, there’s not a lot of motivation.

Flash forward to this month:

Officials in Pristina complain that a lack of civic pride is resulting in widespread damage to, and theft of, public property.

Within months of installing 500 garbage bins across Pristina, the municipality has been forced to replace 50 of them after they were destroyed by vandals.

Agim Gashi, director of the city’s public services, said it was a symptom of the lack of civic sense in the city, which is also suffering from a spate of manhole cover thefts. “Those responsible for damaging public property are hooligans,” he said.

The Daqa company from Ferizaj is obliged to replace the manholes and maintain them for 12 months, according contract.

Gashi said he was disappointed that a project which had been demanded by citizens is proving so problematic. “This is a larger problem,” said Gashi, adding that the capital faced similar problems with a range of public property.

“How many manhole covers have we replaced in town and how many continue to be stolen?” Gashi asked. “I am just angry that we have to go back to the same projects and spend the money again.”

Gashi said he feared some people in the community were clearly not interested in protecting their own surroundings. “Everything starts from your home,” he said, noting that the municipality has been trying in vain to create community groups across the capital that would take care of their areas.

“You can’t even find someone from a building where some 40 families live who is willing to protect their environment and the building,” Gashi complained.

It sucks to be taken by surprise by just how primitive one’s people are. Albanians seem to be a constant source of amazement for Albanians. I don’t even want to ask what an Albanian needs a manhole cover for.

Regardless, I thought independence was supposed to fix this kind of apathy among Albanians. So what happened?

Kosovo’s argument that it cannot clear the litter and fix the roads without independence is nonsense. It is, in essence, facing the choice of whether it wants to resemble the bloodied Palestinian territories or glittering Taiwan.

Choice made. What a shocker. And what an interesting basis for comparison by the quote’s author, given that these Muslims ‘aren’t anything like’ those Muslims.

Anyway, things should get better once Kosovo sues Serbia for damage caused by the Albanians’ war, as it’s planning to do. Because they really seem enthusiastic about fixing damage.

So order up another 50 garbage bins and a few hundred more manholes. And repeat again next month. And the month after that…and so on.

Kosova. The gift that keeps on taking.