News 23 Mar 15

North Kosovo Land Row Stalls Post-War Rebuilding

Competing claims from Albanians and Serbs over land in Mitrovica in northern Kosovo have prevented the reconstruction of houses for people seeking to return after the 1990s conflict.

Una Hajdari
BIRN
Pristina

 

The bridge dividing the town of Mitrovica.

Local mayors in the divided town of Mitrovica are to appeal to the Koosvo government to intervene after the four-year dispute over land rights in Kroi i Vitakut, an Albanian-majority neighbourhood in a Serb-dominated area of the municipality, boiled over again in recent weeks.

Competing claims to the land have obstructed the reconstruction of houses for returnees from both communities.

“Houses in Kroi i Vitakut, where Albanians lived before the war, are not being rebuilt because we have had problems from the Serb community. For four years, workers haven’t been able to build the houses,” said Nazmi Ismaili, the head of the North Council, which represents Albanians there.

Last week, a worker operating an excavator at the site was attacked with stones and forced to flee.

This provoked retaliation as Albanians blocked the construction of a collective housing building also being built in the area, funded by the Serbian government for Serb returnees to Mitrovica.

The problems have continued since 2012, when the Ndihmo Edhe Ti (You Can Also Help) fund set up by former Mayor Avni Kastrati collected 1.3 million euro from Kosovo Albanians for the reconstruction of around 200 houses there.

But the Serb representatives in the municipal assembly insist that there isn’t a permit for the construction of those houses.

Kroi i Vitakut is north of the Iber River and is under the jurisdiction of the Serb-majority municipality of North Mitrovica. The south of the town has an Albanian majority. However both insist that they own property on the other side.

Ismaili argued however that no brand-new houses were actually being built.

“These funds are being used to rebuild homes that were damaged during the conflict in the country during the 1990s. These are the houses of people who used to live there, but who were forced to move to the southern part [of Mitrovica] or further away,” he continues.

The mayors of the two municipalities, Goran Rakic of North Mitrovica and Agim Bahtiri of the southern part, met on Friday and decided to form a working group and send their conclusions to the Kosovo government this week, in the hope of finding a solution.

The area has seen continuous tensions since the war and has often been the scene of explosions and clashes between the two communities. Kroi i Vitakut and Tre Rokaqiejt – the two Albanian-inhabited neighborhoods in Serb-dominated North Mitrovica – have been the centre of most of the escalations in the north of the town.

 

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