Prepared by: Ridona Berisha
Municipality of North Mitrovica
The order of the Mayor of North Mitrovica, Erden Atiq, to cast free a facility in the Bosniak neighborhood, which had been previously used by Serbia’s parallel institutions, has raised concerns about the possibility of escalating tensions. The Serbian List has considered it as a continuation of the Kosovo government’s policy to make life difficult for Serbs in the north, warning that they will not obey the order to vacate the facility. The decision was made on August 22nd and was preceded by a report submitted by North Mitrovica to the Deputy Chairman of the Serbian List, Igor Simiq, requesting the release of the property. After the decision was made, municipal inspectors also visited the property and posted the decision along with a protocol listing the reasons for the eviction request, including the lack of property ownership documentation, among other things. Consequently, the current users have been asked by the Serbian List to provide the necessary usage documents.
In another statement, the Municipality of North Mitrovica has stated that the eviction from the facility is requested because they plan to carry out some renovations on that property.
“We, as the Municipality of North Mitrovica, have expressed our willingness to offer support and job opportunities to any institution that provides services in the interest of the citizens of Kosovo,” the municipality’s statement said.
In this facility, houses that take place are the so-called Office for Kosovo in the Government of Serbia, the Directorate of the Pension and Disability Insurance Fund, the Administrative District of Mitrovica in Kosovo, and the Social Work Center from Vushtrri.
The Serbian list refuses to implement the decision
The Serbian List has warned that they will not comply with the ultimatum from the Municipality of North Mitrovica, insisting that this issue should be resolved in the Brussels dialogue.
“We want to publicly convey a message of refusal to the ultimatum from the Pristina regime, demanding that this issue be resolved in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, which is conducted under the mediation of the European Union, in the context of establishing the Community of Serbian Municipalities, as envisaged in the agreements of 2013 and 2015.”
Meanwhile, the Director of the Office for Kosovo in the Serbian government, Petar Petkoviq, has stated that these institutions provide services to all citizens regardless of ethnicity – Serbs, Albanians, Bosniaks, Gorans, Roma, Turks, and others. According to him, 40 families rely on the employment provided by these institutions.
The Decision is Opposed by the EU and the USA
This order of the Municipality of North Mitrovica was made a few months after the agreement was reached in Bratislava between Kosovo’s Deputy Prime Minister Besnik Bislimi and the EU’s Special Envoy for Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, Miroslav Lajčák, aimed at de-escalating the situation in the north. However, according to the EU, the decision to remove parallel structures is in contradiction to the requirements for de-escalation.
The EU spokesperson, Peter Stano, stated that this decision goes against efforts to reduce tensions in Kosovo-Serbia relations and calls for these issues to be addressed within the framework of the EU-facilitated dialogue.
“We are concerned about the impact that the recent decision of the administration of the Municipality of North Mitrovica may have on the security situation, regarding the use of public and communal spaces and buildings, which, among other things, requires entities led by Serbia to vacate their spaces if they do not submit the requested documentation in a timely manner,” Stano said.
The United States has also expressed concerns and called for coordination in such decisions that could affect security in the northern part of the country.
“We assess that these actions, which have not been coordinated with the international community, are in contradiction to our demands to avoid actions that could escalate tensions or be perceived as escalatory,” stated the U.S. Embassy’s reaction. They advised the Government of Kosovo to refrain from taking any actions that could escalate tensions.
Following these reactions, the Municipality of North Mitrovica postponed the implementation of the decision for 14 days.
Visar Syla, the Chief of Staff to the Mayor of North Mitrovica, stated that “space and time should be given for the submission of documentation or anything else related to the officials who have worked there.”
After the elections held on April 23rd, which were boycotted by the Serbian majority, leaders of Albanian parties were elected for the first time. Their placement in municipal buildings with the assistance of the Kosovo Police led to tensions and clashes with protesters.
In Leposaviq, Zubin Potok, Zveçan and North Mitrovica, which are predominantly inhabited by a Serbian majority, parallel structures supported by Serbia are in operation. Similar entities exist in the southern part of the Iber River. The parallel municipality of Prishtina, which has its headquarters in Gračanica, is the largest such entity in Kosovo and is funded by the official Belgrade.
The issue of parallel structures has been discussed in the ongoing negotiations between Kosovo and Serbia in Brussels. The government of Kosovo has consistently complained that Belgrade is not adhering to agreements for their dissolution and is obstructing the full integration of Serbs into Kosovo’s institutions.
*This article is published as part of the Western Balkans Regional Initiative against disinformation. Western Balkans Anti-Disinformation Hub: exposing malign influences through watchdog journalism.