Kososvo’s Linchpin: Overcoming Division In Mitrovica
Mitrovica has become the linchpin of Kosovo’s future united status. The stakes are high. If the international community cannot re-establish Mitrovica as a single city, efforts to preserve a united Kosovo will also fail.
Trouble has plagued Mitrovica – the city in northern Kosovo effectively divided between a northern Serb portion and a southern Albanian one – since NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR) arrived in June 1999. Tensions in the city over the past few months have periodically erupted into violence. The situation has crystallised many of the weak points of the international approach in Kosovo: lack of vision for the future; inability to protect the security of minority groups or to promote real reconciliation between Albanians and Serbs; insufficient human and financial resources among international administrators; and poor co-ordination, as well as finger pointing, among both international military and civilian officials in Mitrovica.
Senior UN and KFOR officials are working on plans for improving co-ordination among military and civilian officials in Mitrovica and there are some tentative signs that the efforts of the new UN administrator and others are beginning to take hold. But the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) needs to articulate what it has so far failed to: a public vision and strategy for Mitrovica that will give both Serbs and Albanians the confidence that the international community has the will and resources to help them recreate Mitrovica as a single city where both communities can live in security, tolerance, and prosperity.
Mitrovica needs, in the context of that articulated vision, a package of political, economic, and military carrots and sticks aimed at breaking Belgrade’s control over Mitrovica. These measures should be designed to give the Serbs confidence that they can live safely and that their political and cultural identity will be respected in a united Kosovo, while assuring the Albanians that they can return to Mitrovica and that the division will not harden further into de facto partition.
1. UNMIK should articulate a public vision and strategy for Mitrovica that gives both Serbs and Albanians the confidence that the international community has the will and capacity to help them recreate it as a single city.
2. UNMIK should expand the “zone of confidence” to include all of Mitrovica city, ending the current division along the Ibar River but also preventing Albanians from flooding in behind the zone and harassing Serbs.
3. UNMIK should insist upon improved co-ordination among all elements of the international presence in Mitrovica, a more aggressive posture toward violations of public order and other security problems by international police, and full backing from KFOR.
4. KFOR should reinforce its contingent in Mitrovica with U.S. and British units.
5. KFOR should identify individuals and groups which are acting under Belgrade’s control or in other ways inconsistent with current international regulations governing Kosovo or with efforts at reconciliation; exclude them from political life of the region; and, if they persist in their activities, expel them from Kosovo.
6. KFOR should move the headquarters of the Kosovo Protection Corps outside the boundaries of Mitrovica city.
7. UNMIK should expand the co-ordination authority of Mitrovica’s regional administrator and provide him with additional human, financial and security resources.
8. Within an expanded zone of confidence, the UNMIK administrator should re-establish a joint city administration step-by-step, beginning by co-locating the offices of Serb leader Oliver Ivanovic and his Albanian counterpart, to be followed by re-opening on a joint basis such city services as the fire brigade.
9. UNMIK should put forward a political program for Mitrovica and the region to the north that, regardless of how the issue of Kosovo’s final status is decided, will guarantee local power-sharing arrangements for the Serbs on such issues as running their own schools, health care, social services, and a guaranteed share of representation in the organs of local self-rule and in the police force.
10. The UNMIK administrator should open a market to re-establish blocked trade ties between the two parts of the city.
Pristina/Washington/Brussels, 31 May 2000