Mitrovica and the North
Mitrovica has been a flashpoint in Kosovo since the end of the war in 1999. The river Ibar cuts the town, and Kosovo, into a nearly exclusively Serb-inhabited Northern part and a predominantly Albanian-inhabited South.
Mitrovica's main bridge is a thermometer of relations between the two communities. When relations improve, the bridge is open, sometimes even for car traffic. When tensions rise, international troops close it. It has repeatedly been the scene of violent clashes. The riots of March 2004 that subsequently spread all over Kosovo erupted there.
But the story of Mitrovica is not only one of partition. Mitrovica was once Kosovo's most "Yugoslav" city, with Albanians and Serbs working side by side for decades in the Trepca mining and metallurgy giant, one of the biggest companies of socialist Yugoslavia. In no other urban area in Kosovo did so many Serbs speak Albanian.
Trepca is a shadow of itself. Today Kosovo's former industrial centre is a town without production. Mitrovica is a dying town, where one of the most radical industrial collapses of Eastern Europe forms the background to the more visible story of ethnic partition. Economic revival will be extremely hard in any case. Without political de-escalation and a radical image change it will be impossible.
ESI Brussels proposal (2004)