The city of Mitrovica is a microcosm, characteristic of the situation in the entire Kosovo. Once one of the richest cities in the former Yugoslavia, it is now a city divided into two parallel worlds by the river Ibar.
The Serbs live in the northern part of the city and the Albanians in the south. The bridges over the Ibar, which earlier connected the two parts of the city, now constitute a border. Due to feelings of distrust and resentment, the city has been parallelized in its development since the conclusion of the war in 2000.
After five years of sovereignty, the Kosovo-Albanian expectations of progress have been dampened because of the problematical ethnical and economical situation in Kosovo. The initial euphoria which accompanied the founding of the Kosovo state has turned into a general skepticism in face of the political stalemate.
In the Serbian section the sensation of uncertainty is prevalent. The Serbs here feel abandoned and exploited by the Serbian government in Belgrade, which follows their own interests in their desire to achieve membership in the European Union. Most Serbs would prefer to leave the region altogether before they would willingly subject themselves to a Kosovo government.
A collaboration of both sides, which is essential in order to stabilize the situation, is hardly conceivable. The bad blood caused by the conflict in the 90’s, the perceptions of perpetrator and victim, is too strong. The individual experiences of terror and suffering are much too fresh to be easily forgotten.
Jasper Walter Bastian