Policy brief: Public Perceptions of the EU’s Role in Crisis Management in South Mitrovica

A key challenge for the EU in Mitrovica is the discrepancy between how the population in the now legally divided North and South of Mitrovica perceives the role of the EU in this conflict area. While the population in North Mitrovica is moderately to highly sceptical of the EU’s involvement (see Bátora et al 2017), citizens in South Mitrovica are more positive about the Union’s role. While the EU enjoys relatively high levels of approval in South Mitrovica, life in the town remains relatively segregated, which continues to hamper the normalisation of relations between the people of both municipalities.  The current brief presents findings from a survey on the local population’s attitudes towards the EU in South Mitrovica, carried out in July 2017. The survey builds on the overall research design of the EUNPACK project, which combines institutional analyses of the EU’s crisis management apparatus, with anthropological approaches from peace and conflict studies that focus on the EU’s field-level contribution to conflict resolution in various parts of the EU’s neighbourhood.  

The paper is structured as follows. The first section provides a brief historical overview of the development of the crisis locally in Mitrovica, focusing on the southern part of town and the EU’s engagement in managing the crisis there. The second section presents the methodology and data. The third section contains key findings and policy recommendations.

Building on the data presented here, the following policy recommendations can be proposed for the EU’s engagement with South Mitrovica:  

  • The EU should support locally conditioned dynamics of cooperation, including making sure that medical services and meeting points such as the shopping centre in South Mitrovica (close to the Railway bridge) continue to be accessible and safe to all populations from both parts of town;
  • The EU should (continue to) support civil society organisations’ efforts to establish and run trust-building activities between citizens from North and South of Mitrovica – and across the rest of Kosovo;
  • The EU should focus its support in South Mitrovica on building trust, not only towards institutions in Pristina but also towards governance institutions in North Mitrovica. Parallel structures of governance in North Mitrovica will not be disbanded quickly and local interactions should not be hampered by their existence.
  • The EU should step up the conflict-sensitive approach in its interaction with citizens of Kosovo – and show that it is not only interested in stabilisation between Kosovo and Serbia but also in good governance within Kosovo and Serbia.