Global perspective Human stories

Kosovo: UN envoy unveils plan to return divided city of Mitrovica to normalcy

Kosovo: UN envoy unveils plan to return divided city of Mitrovica to normalcy

The top United Nations envoy in Kosovo has unveiled a seven-point plan to return the ethnically divided northern city of Mitrovica to normalcy, warning that the situation will worsen if no action is taken.

“If we just leave things as they are, they will slide even further. We need to stop this slide,” Michael Steiner, the Special Representative of Secretary-General Kofi Annan and chief of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), said in a speech last night in Mitrovica.

Mr. Steiner promised the Serb community living in northern Mitrovica that UN police and the international Kosovo Force (KFOR) would keep watch to ensure that there were no incursions from the southern part of the city, which he said was unlikely to happen. Serbs from northern Mitrovica, meanwhile, have begun to join the Kosovo Police Service.

The UN envoy also said that what was needed was a new start for governing all of Mitrovica so that important decisions in the municipality were taken jointly. Common interests needed to be decided at the level of the municipality, while specific interests could be dealt with at a more local level.

“I propose a coalition agreement after the elections, under my auspices, between Serb and Albanian political parties in the Municipal Assembly,” Mr. Steiner said. “That agreement would ensure that, irrespective of size, the communities would have their say on the municipal level.”

As for the upcoming elections, he urged all Mitrovica residents to participate in the polls, warning that without taking part, “the Serb community will have excluded itself from political life for the next four years.”

Mr. Steiner said that he was prepared to move an important part of UNMIK’s administration, the Kosovo Trust Agency, to northern Mitrovica, and to organize a conference of donors and potential investors specifically for the town.

“This is a time when the destiny of Mitrovica is being decided,” he said. “What I have outlined is the way to recover your future.”