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

In the empirically oriented analyses of the EU’s field-level contribution to the management of the Kosovo-Serbia crises, EUNPACK WP 5 has focused on a selection of sites in Northern Kosovo, including the bridges in Mitrovica. The choice of the latter relates to the fact that Mitrovica has a mixed Kosovo-Albanian and Kosovo-Serb population that is fairly clearly divided by the river Ibar and the bridges across the river have been a source of tension, albeit to differing degrees.

This policy paper presents data on the public perceptions among the population in Northern Mitrovica of the EU’s role in local crisis management.  The first part of this brief provides a short historical overview of the development of the particular crisis in Mitrovica, focusing on the northern part of town and the EU’s engagement in managing this crisis. The second part presents methodology and data; key findings are presented in the third section.  

We make the following policy recommendations regarding the EU’s engagement in North Mitrovica:

  • The EU needs to improve the communication about its work in Mitrovica and support for the population in the north;
  • The Serbian language, including the Cyrillic alphabet, should be used as widely as possible to engage the local population in North Mitrovica to offer recognition of the Serbian language and culture as valuable resources to be maintained and developed in Kosovo;  
  • EU actors should be more low key about the reconstruction of the Main bridge. The population in North Mitrovica continues to view the EU’s engagement in crisis management as misguided and imbalanced – favouring one side in the local conflict, i.e. the Kosovo-Albanians. The Main bridge continues to be avoided by the majority of Kosovo-Serbs in North Mitrovica, which means that high-profile publicity about efforts to reconstruct and re-open the Main bridge may, in fact, be counterproductive. As “leisure and fun” are among the main reasons for Kosovo-Serbs to cross the bridge, it might be more useful to support the setting up of a big movie theatre in South Mitrovica, close to the Main Bridge, for example, which would show films in Serbian.