Kosovo and Serbia reached the Conclusions of the EU Chair on the Removal of Barricades and Revitalization of the Bridge in Mitrovicë/a, on 22 July 2014, in Brussels. The aim was to revitalise and functionalise the Bridge, in the view of free movement.
Prior to this agreement, the city of Mitrovicë/a had become a ground of frequent incidents and tensions between Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serbs. Right after NATO’s intervention in 1999, the Main Bridge in Mitrovicë/a eventually became a symbol of division between the northern and the southern part, consolidating the “de facto” partition along Ibër/Ibar river.
In 2007, then UN Special Envoy for Kosovo’s status process, Martti Ahtisaari presented an outline of the proposal (Comprehensive Proposal for the Kosovo Status Settlement- CSP) on Kosovo’s status to both parties. This plan foresaw the establishment of North Mitrovicë/a municipality (Serb-majority municipality); which also included the delineation of cadastral zones between North and South Mitrovicë/a.
When Kosovo declared independence in 2008, the north of Kosovo got more and more separated from the southern part. For Kosovo Albanians, the main bridge in Mitrovicë/a, was viewed as a mean to connect with the northern part of the territory, while for Kosovo Serbs, it represented a frontier.
According to the agreement of 2014, the EU plan for the bridge foresaw some elements:
-Respecting the Kosovo Law;
-Conducting a technical evaluation of Ibër/Ibar Bridge static structure stability by EU; and
-Drafting the project for revitalization of the Bridge.
By March 2015, for the purpose of revitalizing the bridge, the so-called “Peace Park”; which consisted of potted trees, was removed. The “Peace Park”, planted in June 2014, had replaced the barricade in the form of large piles of concrete and gravel. Although it was perceived as a “soft barricade”, it continued to hinder the free movement in the same manner.
On 25 August 2015, Kosovo and Serbia reached an arrangement for the opening of the bridge, the WG Freedom of Movement/Bridge Conclusions.
Accordingly, they agreed:
- That the contractor will close both sides of the bridge by fixed bridge barriers and construction site fence on 15 October 2015;
- To open the Bridge for all traffic by summer/not later than end of June 2016;
- To revitalise the main street (King Peter Street) into a pedestrian zone, in line with the same timetable (by summer/not later than end of June 2016); and
- To define the maps of the administrative boundaries of cadastral areas in Suhadolli/Suvi Do and Kroi i Vitakut/Brdjani through a Memorandum of Understanding between relevant ministries and the two municipalities by 10 October 2015.
However, the revitalization was not completed in June 2016, as it was foreseen by the agreement.
In an attempt to make progress, on 5 August 2016, Kosovo and Serbia agreed on a new implementation plan, aiming to resolve the different interpretations on the previous conclusions. Now that the full implementation was in sight, parties expressed their prospects on having the Mitrovicë/a Bridge to become a symbol of normalisation between Kosovo Serb, Kosovo Albanian and other communities in Kosovo, and to facilitate contacts between all people of North and South Mitrovicë/a.
By the new implementation plan, Kosovo and Serbia agreed to revitalize the bridge and King Petar Street by 14 August 2016; to open the Bridge for all traffic on 20 January 2017; and to commit to the previous conclusions on defining the administrative boundaries between South and North Mitrovicë/a by 14 October 2016.
Today, although the construction works on the main bridge and its surroundings are completed, the main bridge is not opened for all traffic due to the lack of consent on the issue of defining the administrative boundaries between two municipalities. The status of Suhadoll/Suvi Do and Kroi i Vitakut/Brdjani is still contested.
The existing ambiguity on the delineation of cadastral zones between South and North Mitrovicë/a, has interfered with the implementation of the agreement, leaving this issue open to question.