19 Mar 2013 08:00
In the north of Kosovo lies a town that is divided by the river Ibar. Serbs call it Kosovska Mitrovica, Kosovo Albanians define the city as Mitrovicë.
Since the beginning of the Kosovo conflict and especially after the Republic of Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in February 2008, Mitrovica has been the center of heavy tensions between ethnic- Serbs and ethnic-Albanians. Kosovo Serb officials refused to take orders from the Albanian authorities and started to blockade the Mitrovica bridge over the river Ibar so that a direct crossing from one part of the city to another is quite difficult and insecure for the town’s inhabitants.
Ethnic-Serbs control the north of Kosovska Mitrovica, ethnic-Albanians inhabit the south of Mitrovicë.
Before the Kosovo wars the Roma Mahala in the south part of Mitrovica, was home to more than 8,000 Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians (RAE). After the conflict Roma were considered to be collaborators with the Serbian military. Albanians set the Roma Mahala on fire. After every single house was destroyed, the Roma had to flee.
Today the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo, EULEX, is operating in the country. About 3,200 police and judicial officials are under the organization’s control. The EULEX mandate has been extended until 2014.