Kosovo – what about north Mitrovica?

Defining the boundaries and relationship between the two Mitrovicas will require acceptance of the fact that North Mitrovica is perhaps the most zero-sum issue of all and that it cannot be simply left to Pristina to decide. 

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By Gerard M. Gallucci

Most everyone is now talking about a possible deal emerging between Belgrade and Pristina concerning north Kosovo that recognizes its “peculiarity.” (It’s openly discussed even in Pristina.) Such an “Ahtisaari Plus” outcome would accept that the north Kosovo Serb-majority municipalities will not be part of Kosovo in the same way as are the southern Serb enclaves. The EU must be careful not to push too fast or too far as the conflict between Serbs and Albanians – deep and zero-sum – cannot be papered over with show-piece meetings between leaders. (One can understand Nikolic’ frustration with his recent meeting with Jahjaga. The Kosovo president, unelected and without any real power base, apparently did nothing more than repeat talking points – drafted by the US Embassy? – about Kosovo independence and sovereignty.) The Quint and Belgrade must also be sure to gain the understanding (if not full agreement) of the northern Kosovo Serbs as their peaceful resistance on the ground could scuttle any arrangement. But a plan leaving the north unmolested by Pristina, with links to Belgrade and still an integral part of Kosovo could work.

Other issues remain. Implementable, status-neutral approaches on economic issues including customs, telecoms, energy, water and socially owned property (including Trepca) must be worked out. Returns need to be treated globally rather than used by one side as a way to gain territory, as has occurred in north Mitrovica with NATO and EU assistance. What to do with North Mitrovica itself also remains.

Serb-majority North Mitrovica is the only Kosovo city with a sizable mixed population including Albanians, Bosniaks, Turks, Roma, Gorani and others. Living there are many who fled other conflict areas in Kosovo and the Balkans. As the other three Serb-majority municipalities in the north, it has a local government elected under Serbian law. (The Quint and Albanians call these “parallel” but there has never been any other local administration in the north – except in a limited sense the UN – since 1999.) Two central questions will need answers: North Mitrovica’s borders and its relationship (if any) to South Mitrovica.

North Mitrovica has been defined since 1999 as the part north of the Ibar River. The UN administration there retains responsibility for that area under UNSCR 1244 despite efforts by the South Mitrovica municipality and Pristina to assert control. Those drawing up the Ahtisaari Plan consulted UNMIK on what the boundaries might be as part of a compromise. The Ahtisaari boundaries put the western Albanian-majority villages on the north shore – Suvi Do, Vidomiric and Vinarce – in South Mitrovica. North Mitrovica went to a line along “Doctors Valley” and the Suvi Do Bridge and included the heights of Brdjani. Serbs live in the western villages and Albanians live in the more urban area along the east side of the Ibar’s north shore – Bosniak Mahalla – that would remain part of North Mitrovica. This would make both Mitrovicas multi-ethnic (as of now, there are no Serbs left south of the Ibar) and give them reason to cooperate closely on practical matters. But that would have required mutual acceptance and good neighborly relations. Without those, the more natural border between the two remains the Ibar but this will need to be agreed.

The Ahtisaari Plan also included the outlines of a joint board for the two Mitrovicas. The Albanians supported this as they saw it as a way to gain some degree of control over the north. For the same reason the north Mitrovica Serbs reject it. A forum to bring the two sides of the Ibar together to discuss common issues makes sense (and might include the other three northern towns). But giving such a body executive or blocking authority would probably be unacceptable to the northerners.

The Ahtisaari Plan already includes special features for North Mitrovica, including for a hospital and university. But defining the boundaries and relationship between the two Mitrovicas will require acceptance of the fact that North Mitrovica is perhaps the most zero-sum issue of all and that it cannot be simply left to Pristina to decide. The Albanians still want it all.

Gerard M. Gallucci is a retired US diplomat and UN peacekeeper. He worked as part of US efforts to resolve the conflicts in Angola, South Africa and Sudan and as Director for Inter-American Affairs at the National Security Council. He served as UN Regional Representative in Mitrovica, Kosovo from July 2005 until October 2008 and as Chief of Staff for the UN mission in East Timor from November 2008 until June 2010. He has a PhD in political science, taught at the University of Pittsburgh, University of Arkansas, George Washington University and Drake University and now works as an independent consultant.

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31 Responses

  1. Fadil


    if you speak for Albanians that “want it all” it is very simple. The solution exists, very simple one, and that is the SAME as municipalities in south Serbia with Albanian majority – nothing less and nothing more. Pretty fair solution. So i believe its the time withdrawing form Ahtisari and propose to northerners the same rights as Albanians in Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja. I don’t believe that Serbian leaders should reject such proposal they already implemented for their own citizens.

  2. Fadil

    As for “institutions” in the north of Kosovo – there are no parallel institutions but illegal ones. Its known that UN representative CLEARLY stated that holding of local elections of Serbia in Kosovo is VIOLATION of UN SC R 1244 thus “institutions” created from such “elections” are ILLEGAL. Of course not to mention Kosovo Constitutions by which such “institutions” of Serbia do not exist at all. One should highly appreciate tolerance of Kosovo institutions on such severe breach of its Constitution and laws from northerners and even Serbs living in the south.

  3. Steven Meyer

    The existence of “parallel” institutions in the north may or may not be a sustainable aspect of life in northern Kosovo, but it is not a violation of Security Council Resolution 1244. There is nothing in 1244 to either prohibit or permit such organizations. Annex 1 talks about intermim institutions decided by the Security Council. But, it does not prohibit either Serbian or Kosovar involvement. In the context of the Kosovo issue, Resolution 1244 may be the most frequently cited, but least read and understood, of all documents.

    1. Fadil

      Professor Meyer,

      I urge you reading again UN SC R1244 and paragraph 11 in particular, which clearly states that UNMIK organizes and holds elections in Kosovo. In one of sub-paragraphs you would read that UNMIK transfers its administrative tasks to KOSOVO INSTITUTIONS and NOT to that of Serbia, hence only UNMIK or Kosovo institutions may hold elections in Kosovo.

      Secondly, UN representative in Kosovo, known as SRSG, CLEARLY stated that holding of elections of Serbia in Kosovo, local ones, is VIOLATION of UN SC R1244.

      Having these facts one may realize that so called institutions of Serbia in Kosovo are ILLEGAL ones since such “institutions” were created based on illegal activity.

      If one starts interpreting things as you do then Serbia has rights to create its own Assembly in Kosovo, its own Kosovo government of “autonomous Kosovo and Metohia”, its own courts etc.

  4. Mirel

    Mr.Gallucci speaks in principle and in theory, but the situation in the ground is far different.
    We have 40 thousand millioners in North who own 3-4 houses in Belgrade(according to Ivica Dacic),who have no intention to pay taxes neither to Prishtina nor to Belgrade.This is the hard truth,and what are they using is just the pretext.They have been pampered for 14 years and now u excpect they behave according to the law?I wouldnt be happy to pay taxes after 14 years being tax free.

    I dont think there is any sympanthy for an avarage serb in Serbia who is struggeling to have ends meet,for 40 thousand millioners( in euro) in North who refuse any compromise and make the lifes of the 8 millions serbs more difficult by denying acces to EU funds and assistance.

    Regardless whether Nikolic,Dacic,Jahjaga or Thaci agree or no,Ivanovic,Pantic and others will say NO.
    Its reminds me Republic of Knin who serbs refused even Z4 plan which gave them practically self gonverment and ended up driving their tractors in Belgrade.

    But I agree that Nikolic,Dacic,Jahjaga and Thaci should meet and compromise,as it looks economic authonomy for North,integrated the security and finances under Prishtina or with the OK from Prishtina and education and health care to Serbia,in return for Serbia not to block Kosovo in UN and enter in EU.
    They are going to agree and northen serbs are going to say NO and the only way is a Storm 2.0,but this time serbs have millions in their bank accounts and several homes in Serbia.It is going to be better for Serbia too accepting 40 thousand more millioners.

    1. Gerard Gallucci

      The notion that the average northern Kosovo Serb has “millions” in Belgrade banks is simply ludicrous. Just as it would be to say that south of the Ibar is full of rich people. But the formula of Pristina simply being “okay” with separate north Kosovo security and finances could be a formula for compromise.

      1. Fadil


        Seems like northern Serbs are being aware more and more that life within Kosovo is not so bad. Here is news about 3000 Serbs that asked services from “potemkin” (as you like to say) administration or the only LEGAL institution in the northern Kosovo – Kosovo administrative office. Its in Albanian but google translate may help understanding it.


  5. Declan

    The institutions in the North are not parallel, they are displaced. (e.g. the University, Hospital). The people working there were driven from their homes and jobs 13 years ago. The few radicals in the EU shouldn’t reward the ethnic cleansing of Serbs into displacement. I think someone needs to inform them of this.

    1. Fadil


      Don’t worry so much about informing EU officials. They know PERFECTLY the situation in the ground since they are there. They already know that you say lies here. Nobody expelled Serbs from the north, in contrary Serbs from the north expelled more than 10,000 Albanians and usurped their houses and flats. Serbs from the north killed more than 10 Albanians there, wounded many of them and terrorized all Albanians in the north.

      Now is time to remove so called “parallel institutions”, which in fact are illegal ones and for that is aware even Serbian Tomislav Nikolic. Unfortunately remains to be convinced some bigger Serbs than Serbs themselves, as Mr Gallucci for example.

      The last news of addressing of president Nikolic in regard of removing of parallel, Serbia’s institutions from Kosovo: http://www.b92.net/info/vesti/index.php?yyyy=2013&mm=02&dd=14&nav_category=11&nav_id=686977

  6. PEN

    @Gerard M Gallucci;

    As you quite rightly illustrate in your piece the Albanians want it all. They have time and again proved their intolerance and racism by refusing to compromise and share the space that is Kosmet. I don’t doubt that there are some ordinary Albanians of good will who would be willing to live and let live. But the doctrinaire and extremist element who amply demonstrate their outlandish attitudes on this forum, drown out the moderates. This has ultimately nothing to do with UN Security Council Resolutions, annexes, or paragraphs. It is to do with erasing your enemy’s presence from the land. Even during the worst years of the pre-war Milosevic regime, the Albanians were never driven from their homes, had their cemeteries desecrated, their mosques vandalised and their children terrorised. Now however, as you quite rightly point out, the only multi ethnic places left are where the Serbs still have a semblance of self rule. Pristina once had a population of thousands of Serbs. Now there are none. These are incontrovertible facts. The Serbian people of the north will not pack up and leave nor will they be terrorised by the goons in Pristina. And that’s what sticks in their craw.

  7. Mirel


    A person who owns 3-4 houses in Belgrade in my opinion is a millioner.Ivica Dacic ones said that people in North own 3-4 houses in Belgrade.Have you missed the episodes of B92,or just you dont like to talk about them,because showing what is really going on in North?

    If you dont pay taxes for 14 years and sell to albanians in South oil and other things,you easily can become a millioner in 2 years.
    Serbs in North dont want to pay taxes,period and thats why they are trying to brake ANY agreement between Serbia and Kosovo.I dont blame them.Is like asking people from New Hampshire to pay state taxes.
    Blocking Serbia’s way to EU for the sake of 40 thousands pampered millioners is insane.Thats why Dacic and Nikolic without diplomacy are saying to Northens: we are tired of you!
    The North Issue will end soon,economic authonomy from Prishtina in exchange for Serbia not blocking Kosovo way to UN and Germany and other powers not blocking Serbia’s way to EU.
    Pantic,Ivanovic and other are just some pampered scum,who supposed to go in jail,but probably the agreement will be that those”mayors”( which in fact are multimillioners) will be mayors but will get their salary from Prishtina.

  8. Declan

    In case I wasn’t clear before, the institutions in the North are displaced from other parts of Kosovo (e.g. the University of Pristina and it’s staff, the main hospital and it’s staff). True, the North had more Albanians than Serbians, most of the people living (Serbs. Roma, Gorani) in the North were displaced from other parts of Kosovo. A property exchange has occurred between most of the Albanians from the North and Serbs from Pristina, Vucitrn and a few other areas. But being displaced does not mean that these institutions are parallel.

    The funny thing is that Fadil’s comments attempted to twist mine around, just like he attempts to “criminalize” the tragedy of displaced people, jobs and institutions by labeling them “parallel”.

    Funny Mirel should mention taxes. Over 22,000 illegally occupied Non-Albanian properties in Kosovo for over a decade and none of the occupants had to pay property taxes or utilities. Thousands of these properties were rented out to members of the international community and others and rent collected by Albanians. When Serbian’s receive positive decisions from the HPD/KPA they get their keys (after the Albanian is evicted) and are handed a property tax bill for the entire period that the property was illegally occupied.

    1. Fadil

      I did not say there are “parallel” institutions in the north of Kosovo since, in fact, such “institutions” are ILLEGAL. UN representative in Kosovo said this MORE than clear. If you read carefully UN SC R 1244, Serbia CAN NOT have a SINGLE function, institution or presence at all in the territory of Kosovo. Every presence of Serbia in Kosovo is ILLEGAL.

      One should appreciate tolerance of Kosovo institutions on Serbia’s severe breach of UN SC R1244 and Kosovo laws.

  9. PEN


    You raise some good points. Particularly highlighting the usurpation of Serbian property and land by the Albanians. This tedious emphasis on the last remaining pocket of freedom for the Serbs of Kosovo in the north, and the insistence on branding their lives as ‘parallel’ or ‘illegal’ is a way of deflecting attention from the shambles and fraud that is Albanian run Kosovo. I have strongly suspected for some time now that mirel and fadil are nothing but mouthpieces for the goons in Pristina. Shine a spotlight on most of their comments and dissect them a little, and they rapidly turn to dust.

    1. Fadil


      Just curious when your DREAMS will stop. Maybe today’s statement of your prime Dacic may help you a bit. He said: “There is no way going back. Is there alternative for actual politics of Belgrade? Are we going to get back sovereignty over Pristina by military? We don’t do that because at the moment WE CAN’T DO THAT. We don’t fight with Pristina but with NATO and EU”. Serbia, he continued “can’t be alone, against international community while our friends are far away to help us”.

      So PEN, if little Milosevic (Serbian prime Dacic) stopped dreaming, the question is when people like you will do THE SAME.

      Actually, as Steven Meyer said in previous article, people like you just continue self destructive and self inflicting activity. If that doesn’t hurt you just go ahead. If you want weakening of Serbia just continue.

      Dacic’s statement: http://www.b92.net/info/vesti/index.php?yyyy=2013&mm=02&dd=15&nav_category=640&nav_id=687254

      1. Troll Hunter

        Fadil, You are the very definition of a troll. You hide under the bridge and spring out with your crazy exaggerations and lies to try and scare away serious discussion. You should be banned.

        1. Fadil

          Actually those who should be banned are clones, appearing here in specific moments. I would appreciate, however, telling to public what is that “lie” i presented here since every thing I present here is based on strong evidence.

          So the serious discussion here should be based on very simple approach – JUSTICE AND EQUALITY. Just treat people in just and equal way and everything can be solved.

          Some people want to say that a group of people i.e Kosovo northern Serbs, should be treated as special species and reward them even though they caused suffering to another group. In other side, those who suffered, like Albanians in south Serbia, should be denied from gaining of the same rights or even less as Kosovo northerners!!!!

          This is NOT justice, this is NOT equal treatment of people but this is RACIST and fascist approach.

  10. PEN

    @Troll Hunter;

    I can only imagine the moderators at Transconflict choose not to delete fadil’s rambling nonsense because probably like the rest of us they find him an amusing distraction. Perhaps you’re new here. If so you’ll soon realise his hilarious rants are a regular feature. I swear he’s the first to post a response to anything labelled ‘Kosovo.’ I wouldn’t take him seriously. Nobody else does.

    1. Fadil


      You don’t need to take someone seriously but I think you should accept the reality and stop dreaming. This is a good advice and the best thing for all of people living in troubled Balkans. The good thing is awareness of people like Serbia’s prime Dacic or even president Nikolic. They are becoming aware that either will continue self destructive and self – inflicted activities or start actin rationally. Unfortunately people like you, the worst extremists, will not grasp that.

      If “nonsense” for you is asking FEAR treatment of people and EQUALITY then indeed there is nothing to discuss with people like you. Actually nobody should debate with people like you at all. The only thing of debate here is showing to the world with what kind of people Albanians had to deal with. The second thing is that proponents of Serbian extremists don’t have a single argument.

  11. Galluci! The Ahtisaari plan is one and can not be implemented differently in one part of Kosovo or in an other part of it. Yes, kosovars want it all as it is directly connected with Kosovo Integrity.

    Kosovo is an reality which cannot be changed by a small comunity in north of it. Of course the Rule of Law is not working pretty well there and the truth is that the territory is controlled by the crime barons. But on this you are among the persons considered responsible for the actual situation.

    However there is not rush to solve this situation. Rush is stipulated by the government of Serbia which want to take as much as it can before the recognision of Kosova independence will have the final UN blessing. On the other side it is on the Belgrade interest to establish good regional relations before the EU status.

    Kosova as well is interested to have a normal situation for the tiny comunity in N.Mitrovica. But Kosova has a lot of other things to realize before aplying for EU status. Under this ground it has enough time to treat this issue with patience and without rushing.

    Important is that the solution will need to respect the Kosova integrity and Human Rights in this region. It should ensure that the Rule of Law will be applied in this tiny territory as well as in the rest of Kosova state, as it is stated in Ahtisaari plan.

    Changing or updating this plan is not on the willings of an other country including Serbia. Kosova has declared the independence which didn’t violate the international law. Thus the international comunity (and not Serbia) may request changes considering that they must be legitimated by the apropriate Kosovar institutions.

  12. Declan

    Actually guys the displaced institutions in the North are not technically illegal. For example, the University was finally recognized by UNMIK in a UN Regulation in 2002, as it became clear that non-Albanian students couldn’t return to Pristina. The same goes for the schools and hospital as well. The judiciary as well, if you look closely at the FRY-UNMIK agreement signed by SRSG Hans Hakkerup and Nebojsa Covic.

    There has been a violation of the Kumanovo Agreement, as 900 members of the Serbian security forces still need to return to Kosovo.

  13. To repeat, North Mitrovica is the area defined by the UNMIK Administration there (UAM) established by UNMIK AD 2002/26 and reaffirmed by AD 2007/12. This was subsequent to an agreement between UNMIK and Serbia. The local Serbian municipality coterminous with UAM is neither less nor more legal than any other in Kosovo under UNSCR 1244. Indeed, if one were to have a scale of “legality” under 1244, the UDI government in Pristina would be at the top of the list as it was established outside the ambit of 1244. But none of this is the point. The point is that north Kosovo and North Mitrovica have been, in fact, separate from the rest of Kosovo since 1999. Belgrade appears to be offering a formula by which the area north of the Ibar can be part of both Kosovo and Serbia using a modest elaboration of the Ahitisaari Plan. Such an elaboration seems necessary because the north remains functionally part of Serbia in a way that the rest of Kosovo is clearly not and because the majority population in the north cannot simply be forced to accept rule by Pristina.

    1. Fadil


      The question of municipality of Mitrovica north was very clear. Could you tell use here LEGAL BASIS on which the so called “North Mitrovica” was established and “mayor” Krstimir Pantic is elected?? Just to recall you that SRSG CLEARLY Stated that local elections of Serbia in Kosovo are PROHIBITED since that would be VIOLATION of UN SC R1244.

      As for “UDI institutions” in Pristina, could you tell us a SINGLE reaction for the legality of such institutions i.e UN SC, UN General Assembly or UN SRSG in Kosovo. As i pointed out SRSG VERY CLEARLY made a statement for Serbian “institutions” in Kosovo. Your personal view in this regard is not relevant at all.

      As for the north of Kosovo, it will not be forced to accept ruling from Pristina but that is happening by dialogue. The north, of course, should be just as any other part of Kosovo. Every other solution will trigger demands from other groups in Balkans.

  14. Correction: To repeat, North Mitrovica is the area defined by the UNMIK Administration there (UAM) established by UNMIK AD 2002/26 and reaffirmed by AD 2007/12. This was subsequent to an agreement between UNMIK and Serbia. The local Serbian municipality coterminous with UAM is neither less nor more legal than any other in Kosovo under UNSCR 1244. Indeed, if one were to have a scale of “illegality” under 1244, the UDI government in Pristina would be at the top of the list as it was established outside the ambit of 1244. But none of this is the point. The point is that north Kosovo and North Mitrovica have been, in fact, separate from the rest of Kosovo since 1999. Belgrade appears to be offering a formula by which the area north of the Ibar can be part of both Kosovo and Serbia using a modest elaboration of the Ahitisaari Plan. Such an elaboration seems necessary because the north remains functionally part of Serbia in a way that the rest of Kosovo is clearly not and because the majority population in the north cannot simply be forced to accept rule by Pristina.

  15. PEN

    Quite so. The north functions as an integral part of Serbia irrespective of spurious ‘borders’ and NATO’s occasionally pointless sabre rattling. There will be no exchange with Presevo. The region will remain de-facto Serb territory. As you quite rightly emphasis the so-called government in Pristina is neither legal nor representative according to the arrangements hammered out at the end of the conflict. There will be a fudge of sorts to allow all and sundry to move on. Though I can’t for the life of me understand this Serbian government obsession with joining the EU. Many of us in the UK can hardly wait to bail out. I realise the economic incentive, but it really leaves Belgrade at the mercy of her antagonists in Berlin, London, and elsewhere.

  16. Moses

    THE LAW. Under UN Security Council Resolution 1244 UNMIK has the authority in Kosovo. Under UNMIK Resolution 1999-24 the applicable law are the laws and regulations promulgated by the SRSG, pre-1989 laws and post-1989 laws that are found not to be discriminatory.

    The ICJ in it`s judgment recognized 1999-24 and the constitutional framework as the legitimate laws in Kosovo. It didn`t recognize the UDI as legal, it simply found that the statements by the Albanian assembly members in their private capacities were not violating 1244.

    The laws that were promulgated by the Kosovo assembly post-UDI were not promulgated by the SRSG and are thus NOT legitimate. So, everything that the Albanians have been doing since the UDI are not legal either, if it hasn`t been within the framework established by UNMIK or promulgated by the SRSG. The UAM is actually the legitimate institution in the North while the perversion created by Pristina in the North is not.

    The Law Baby, the Law.

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