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  Kosovo's linchpin: overcoming division in Mitrovica

As the first anniversary of the end of the Kosovo war approaches, the divided city of Mitrovica has emerged as the linchpin of Kosovo’s future status. If the international community cannot re-establish Mitrovica as a single city, Belgrade will be emboldened to continue its pressure to partition Kosovo into ethnic Serbian and Albanian regions and efforts to preserve a united Kosovo will fail.

A new report by the International Crisis Group (ICG), entitled Kosovo’s Linchpin: Overcoming Division in Mitrovica, reviews the stand-off between Kosovo Serbs and Albanians in this northern Kosovo city and analyses the tensions between them that have erupted into violence several times in recent months. There are many weaknesses in the international community’s approach to the Mitrovica problem, and the report cites them: 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 among international military and civilian officials working there.

ICG recommends that the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) articulate a public vision and strategy for Mitrovica that will promote confidence among Kosovo Serbs and Albanians that the international community has the will and resources to help them recreate Mitrovica as a single city where both communities can live together.

The report also identifies a package of political, economic, and military carrots and sticks that UNMIK and KFOR can implement to help break Belgrade’s control over Mitrovica. These measures would raise the confidence of Serbs that their security will be protected and their political and cultural identity respected, while facilitating the return of Albanians and preventing Mitrovica’s division from hardening into de facto partition.




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