Photo from the archives. EPA-EFE/Djordje Savic

Ibar Bridge to Reopen, North Mitrovica Assembly Requests

The new assembly of the northern municipality has approved the request to reopening the bridge over the Ibar – closed since the end of the war – a move condemned by Kosovo’s main Serbian party.

The assembly of the municipality of North Mitrovica, on the proposal of member Aida Ferati-Doli, on Friday approved a request for the reopening of the main bridge over the Ibar river to traffic, although the Belgrade-backed Lista Srpska Party deemed the decision illegal.

The speaker of the assembly, Nedzat Ugljanin, told Kosovo media that they are seeking only to restore something that existed 20 years ago. He added that the decision would now be sent to security structures to enforce implementation.

“According to … the proposal of Aida Ferati-Doli, who asked the assembly to include this decision on the agenda … we have decided on the free circulation of vehicles in the space on the bridge. This does not depend on the assembly but on the security structures,  on the Kosovo Police, EULEX and KFOR,” he declared.

Thirteen assembly members voted in favour of the decision, one abstained and one was against.

The 16 previous assembly members from Lista Srpska were replaced in December last year, after they resigned. They quit as part of the collective withdrawal of Serbs from the institutions of Kosovo in the north in protest against Prishtina’s decision to outlaw Serbia-issued vehicle license plates.

Lista Srpska condemned the approval for the reopening of the bridge over the Ibar. On Facebook, it warned that the eventual opening of the bridge will undoubtedly cause incidents.

“Lista Srpska strongly condemns the illegal and illegitimate decision of the illegal parliamentary majority in North Mitrovica to open the city’s main bridge for motor traffic, which violates the Brussels agreements and directly threatens peace in this area,” the party said.

According to the party, the decision will have great negative consequences for peace, security and coexistence in these areas, and it asked KFOR and the international community not to allow its implementation.

“We demand that KFOR, EULEX and the representatives of the international community urgently prevent implementation of this decision, give space for the resolution of open issues in dialogue and in this way preserve peace in these areas,” it said.

On June 18, 2014, ethnic Serbs set up a new barricade named ‘Peace Park’ on the main bridge of the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica, Kosovo. Ethnic Serbs in Kosovo on the same day, June 18, dismantled a barricade in the hotspot town of Mitrovica that had been standing for three years, taking another step toward integrating their enclave with Kosovo institutions. The removal of the obstacle on a bridge that had separated the town’s Serbian north from its Albanian south followed 08 June parliamentary polls, the first not boycotted by the region’s Serbs. The Serbs erected the barricade, along with many others, in 2011 to block Pristina from asserting its authority over the north, home to Kosovo’s largest Serb enclave. Photo: EPA/VALDRIN XHEMAJ

Since the war in Kosovo, the bridge over the Ibar has divided Mitrovica into two parts, a southern part with an Albanian majority, and a northern part, with a Serbian majority. Today, they are two separate municipalities.

An agreement on revitalization of the Mitrovica bridge was reached on August 25, 2015 by the former prime minister of Kosovo, Isa Mustafa, and President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic. 

The time determined by this agreement for the opening of the bridge was January 20, 2017, but since then nothing has happened.

A man walks near the concrete wall in North Mitrovica, Kosovo, 05 February 2017. An agreement was reached on 04 February 2017 between Kosovo’s government and local Serb leaders to demolish the concrete wall near the main bridge of the ethnically divided city of Mitrovica, that was constructed in 2016. The ethnic Serb minority responsible for building the wall claimed it was a barrier against landslides. Photo: EPA/VALDRIN XHEMAJ
This article has been edited on April 28, at 17:29. The initial title stated “Decided”, and was amended to “Requested”, as the final decision is a responsibility of the security institutions. 
28/04/2023 - 17:14

28 April 2023 - 17:14

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