North Mitrovica Mayor, Erden Atiq, Photo: Facebook account of Atiq

Expanded Institutionalism: North Mitrovica Mayor Erden Atiq

The Mayor of North Mitrovica, Erden Atiq, told Kallxo Përnime show that he has implemented institutionalism in a municipality where, according to him, previous local governance institutions have “used segregating politics”.

Having served as mayor of the northern Kosovo Serb-majority municipality of North Mitrovica for almost a year, Erden Atiq states that he has reformed the municipality’s institutions and halted unauthorised construction projects.

“One of the best things I have done is expanding institutionalism in the municipality, starting with state symbols. We have tried to make some capital investments and cooperate with the Serbian community,” Atic told the Kallxo Përnime Show on March 8, 2024.

Enough residents of North Mitrovica have signed a petition for the dismissal of Atiq, paving the way for potential upcoming new local elections. Atiq emphasised that previous mayors “have operated more as administrative offices and not as institutions of the Republic of Kosovo”. 

Atiq took office after the controversial local elections in April 2023. He stated on the March 8 broadcast that as mayor he has had to adopt “security protocols almost like the Prime Minister and President and have to operate in the field with close protection and armoured vehicles”.

 “In late June 2023, the Municipality building was attacked with a military grenade,” Atiq further stated.

Kosovo Serbs boycotted local elections in Kosovo held in April 2023. As a result, the four Serb majority northern municipalities of North Mitrovica, Zvecan, Leposavic and Zubin Potok saw mayors from ethnic Albanian parties elected to office on tiny turnouts of only 3 to 5 per cent.

These electoral results triggered demonstrations which became violent.  Protests escalated into clashes with the Kosovo Police and with NATO’s peacekeeping mission KFOR, several members of which were injured.

Asked about the initiative for the reconstruction of damaged houses during the Kosovo war in 1998-1999, Atiq claimed that this initiative comes from the government of Kosovo. Atiq emphasised that Srspka Lista, the Belgrade backed party representing Kosovo Serbs, had acted to hinder the project. 

“These people [those with homes damaged during the war] did not have access to the municipality directorates due to the segregation done by Srpska Lista,” he claimed.

”Before, there were no chances for reconstruction,” Atiq said, adding that, according to “countless witnesses…  the previous executive and deputy mayor, Adriana Hodzic, sent the inspection and asked for building permits”.

Atiq also mentioned that the municipality has not yet issued permits for reconstruction due to a lack of staff for this task.

 “We are in the process of recruiting officials who issue permits. There are approximately 250 requests for building permits of all kinds,” he claimed. 

Atiq also claimed that the municipality has stopped thirteen construction projects that did not have legal permits issued by Kosovo institutions and were financed by Belgrade.

“It’s a political project. Belgrade invests, and Serb residents, sometimes even from Bosnia and Croatia, come there and are given these apartments to use them for 3 years” he said, describing the phenomena as a “kind of colonisation, and it’s normal that I have stopped them”. 

Prishtina Insight has not been able to independently verify this claim.

 “Who is financing these (constructions without Kosovo issued permits) is a problem of larger political dimensions, surpassing the municipality and the mayor,” Atiq added. 

In September 2023, the government issued an Administrative Instruction, which regulates the way citizens can dismiss a mayor through a petition. According to the Instruction, the petition must be signed by at least 20 percent of all registered voters in the relevant municipality. The collection of signatures against ethnic Albanian mayors started in mid-January. The Central Election Commission, CEC, has confirmed that 20 percent of the needed signatures were gathered in each of the four northern Serb majority municipalities. 

For the mayor to finally be dismissed, 50 per cent of the votes plus 1 from the overall list of voters is needed. Otherwise, a second initiative can only be taken one year later.

On March 8, CEC approved April 21 as the date for the vote on the removal of four Albanian mayors of municipalities in the majority Serb north. 

The probability for the process to fail is high. According to CEC data from the 2019 local extraordinary elections, which Kosovo Serbs from the north did not boycott, the turnout exceeded 50 per cent only in Zubin Potok, where it was 51.07 per cent. In North Mitrovica the turnout was 39.38 per cent, in Leposavic it was 42.53 per cent, and in Zvecan 45.30 per cent.

and 12/03/2024 - 13:35

12 March 2024 - 13:35

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