Wall comes down in divided Kosovo town

6 February 2017

Yesterday authorities in Mitrovica, northern Kosovo, have pulled down a wall that previously divided the town, after reaching an agreement with Kosovo Serb leaders.

A group of Serbs started construction on the wall in December 2016, close to a prominent bridge that acts as a boundary between the town’s Serb-dominated north and largely Albanian-populated southern part. Although those behind the wall’s construction argued that it was a purely practical measure, the Kosovo authorities called for it to be torn down, claiming that it was built illegally and would divide Serbs and Albanians in Mitrovica.

An agreement to demolish the wall was signed on Saturday by the mayor of North Mitrovica, Goran Rakić, and Kosovo’s environment minister, Ferat Shala. The agreement was signed in the presence of Kosovo’s Prime Minister Isa Mustafa and his deputy, along with the US ambassador nd the EU special representative in Kosovo.

“The agreement between central and local institutions in Kosovo to demolish the wall in North Mitrovica is proof that any problem can be resolved through inter-institutional dialogue when there is a willingness to find solutions,” Kosovo President Hashim Thaçi posted on Facebook following the meeting.

The agreement “will ease tensions in the north of Kosovo, assist the freedom of movement and create an ambiance that will benefit all citizens in North and South Mitrovica”, reads a statement from the EU mission to Kosovo.

December’s wall construction was not the first attempt to provide a physical barrier between the town’s northern and southern parts. Before being torn down in 2014, a substantial barricade formed of stone and sand stopped vehicles crossing freely over the bridge. The members of the local Serb population keeping watch at the site were known as “bridge watchers”.

Source: Balkan Insight