Northern Kosovo

North Kosovo
Северно Косово / Severno Kosovo
Ibarski Kolašin
Disputed Region

North Kosovo is marked in orange
Capital North Kosovska Mitrovica (de facto)
 • Serbian Assembly of Kosovo and Metohija Radovan Ničić
 • Serbian National Council for Kosovo and Metohija Milan Ivanović
 • Director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Aleksandar Vulin
 • Total 1,259 km2 (486 sq mi)
  Including: Leposavić, Zvečan, Zubin Potok and North Kosovska Mitrovica
 • Total 72,500
 • Density 58/km2 (150/sq mi)
Time zone UTC (UTC+1)

North (or Northern) Kosovo (Serbian: Северно Косово, Severno Kosovo; Albanian: Kosova Veriore) is a territory in the northern part of Kosovo, with an ethnic Serb majority that functions independently from the remainder of the region, which has an ethnic Albanian majority.[1][2] Ibarski Kolašin (Serbian Cyrillic: Ибарски Колашин; Albanian: Kollashini i Ibrit), a toponym that pre-dates the political partition, is also used to refer to the area. Neither the name nor the boundary has any official status in either Kosovar Albanian or Serbian designation: to Pristina, the borders mark a land which is left alone to function autonomously; to Belgrade, the entire region remains subject to the terms of the Kumanovo Treaty.

Kosovo is subject to a contested constitutional status: it had been defined by UNSCR 1244 as part of Serbia (then called the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia)[3] under United Nations international administration (UNMIK), but its provisional government declared unilateral independence on 18 February 2008 and has since received partial recognition. Most Serb institutions in Kosovo refuse to acknowledge and recognize this, continuing to consider the territory an integral part of Serbia. The Kosovan institutions, in turn, claim the entirety of the territory and oppose any kind of parallel government for Serbs in Kosovo.[4] The entirety of Kosovo is under the effective control of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces which provide security from external and internal threats.

North Kosovo is by far the largest of the Serb-dominated areas within Kosovo, and unlike the others, directly borders Central Serbia. This has facilitated its ability to govern itself almost completely independently of the Kosovo institutions in a de facto state of partition; the authorities in turn choose to observe Belgrade's direct rule which they believe to be the legal authority over Kosovo as a whole. However, despite the region being contiguous with Central Serbia, its location within Kosovo and the subsequent conditions of the Kumanovo Treaty in 1999 mean that UNMIK officials have freedom of movement in North Kosovo whereby they assume supervisory status whilst no institution (e.g. police) is in place to enforce Serbian central directives which apply to the rest of Serbia. Before the 2008 Kosovo declaration of independence, it had been speculated that Kosovo might be partitioned with North Kosovo remaining part of Serbia.[5][6] There are four plans to solve the crisis of North Kosovo.[7] The complexity of the region is on the agenda of the 2011 Pristina-Belgrade Talks. In November 2012, Prime Minister of Kosovo Hashim Thaçi stated that autonomy for Northern Kosovo will never be granted, and the region will always remain a part of the Republic of Kosovo.[8]


North Kosovo consists of the region's three northernmost municipalities, Leposavić, Zvečan and Zubin Potok, plus a relatively small portion of Kosovska Mitrovica municipality (North Kosovska Mitrovica). The latter includes those parts of the city of Kosovska Mitrovica proper that are on the north bank of the Ibar River. It covers around 1,200 km², or 11% of Kosovo's land area.[9] Owing to its border with Serbia proper, North Kosovo is not, strictly speaking, a "Serb enclave" or "Serb exclave".

Before the Kosovo War, the area was predominantly inhabited by Serbs, with a substantial Albanian minority and smaller populations of Muslims and Roma. The 1991 census recorded 50,500 people in the municipalities of Leposavić, Zvečan and Zubin Potok, of whom the vast majority were Serbs, with a small number of Albanians, and other smaller minorities,[9] though the Statistical Office of Kosovo regards the accuracy of this census as "questionable" given that most Albanians boycotted it.[10] The population of Kosovska Mitrovica municipality was predominantly Albanian, with the town itself and two of the nearby villages being ethnically mixed.[11]

The war resulted in major population changes brought about by ethnic cleansing; Serb communities from other areas fled or were driven out, some relocating to North Kosovo. In 2006, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe estimated that the population of the municipalities of Leposavić, Zvečan and Zubin Potok had increased to around 46,000 people, of whom 95.5% were Serbs, 3% Albanians and 1.5% others.[9] Kosovska Mitrovica was split between Serbs and Albanians at the end of the war, with the Ibar River marking the dividing line. The north of Kosovska Mitrovica is now home to approximately 19,000 Serbs and 3,000 members of other minorities. Most of the Roma population was displaced to the north, while small numbers of Turks and Goranis continue to live on both sides of the river. The OSCE has, however, been unable to estimate accurately the population of the municipality.[11]

Such figures would total to an approximate North Kosovo population of 68,000, of which slightly more than 95% is ethnically Serb. Based on a PISG estimate of a total Kosovo Serb population of 112,700,[12] 60% of all Kosovo's Serbs live in North Kosovo. A special bus service operates in parts of North Kosovo to facilitate the movement of non-Serb residents around the territory.[13] The bus operates with an accompanying security presence to ensure the safety of the passengers and permits those residents to more safely enter and leave the North Kosovo area.[13]


The economy of the region was devastated by the war — by 2006, the unemployment rate had reached 77% in Kosovska Mitrovica municipality. The largest employer was the Trepča mining complex in Zvečan which employed 4,000 people at the height of its operations. However, it was shut down in August 2000 due to the severe pollution which it was producing. The economic situation has deteriorated significantly in recent years due to a lack of capital investment, exacerbated by the uncertainty caused by the political dispute over the region's future. The region uses the Serbian dinar rather than the euro used elsewhere in Kosovo.[9][11] Smuggling of goods such as alcohol has become a business in North Kosovo where the customs regulations of the Kosovo authorities are unable to be enforced.[13] The Kosovo customs authorities do, however, attempt to curtail the flow of illegal goods from North Kosovo into the rest of Kosovo and have an elaborate network of surveillance cameras in place in that regard.[13] The smugglers transport goods over the porous frontier between Central Serbia and North Kosovo.[13]


North Kosovo is rich in mineral resources, once known for the Trepča mining complex. In the northern part of the region north Kosovo, there is a ridge of the mountain Kopaonik, with the peak of Šatorica, 1,770 metres (5,810 ft), above of the town Leposavić. The southern boundary is the river Ibar, which divides the town of Kosovska Mitrovica in northern Serbian part and southern Albanian part. On the west by Zubin Potok, the mountain ranges of Rogozna and Mokra Gora with the peak of Berim, 1,731 metres (5,679 ft), which separates one from the other lake Gazivode.

Government, politics and the rule of law


Since 1999, the Serb-inhabited north of Kosovo has been governed as de facto independent from the Albanian-dominated government in Pristina. It uses Serbian national symbols and participates in Serbian national elections, which are boycotted in the rest of Kosovo; and in turn, it boycotts Kosovo's elections. The municipalities of Leposavić, Zvečan and Zubin Potok are run by local Serbs, while the Kosovska Mitrovica municipality had rival Serb and Albanian governments until a compromise was agreed in November 2002, whereby the city has one mayor.

The region has united into a community, the Union of Serbian Districts and District Units of Kosovo and Metohija established in February 2008 by Serbian delegates meeting in Kosovska Mitrovica, which has since served as North Kosovo's capital. The Union's President is Dragan Velić. This union is not recognised by the Republic of Kosovo, or by UNMIK.[14]

There is also a central governing body, the Serbian National Council for Kosovo and Metohija (SNV). The President of SNV in North Kosovo is Dr. Milan Ivanović, while the head of its Executive Council is Rada Trajković.

Local politics are dominated by the Serbian List for Kosovo and Metohija. The Serbian List is led by Oliver Ivanović, an engineer from Kosovska Mitrovica.


The Assembly of the Community of Municipalities of the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija is the assembly of the association of local governments created by the municipal authorities in the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija elected in the May 11, 2008 municipal elections called by the Government of Serbia. It was created in Kosovska Mitrovica to represent the municipalities that defy the 2008 Kosovo declaration of independence.[15] The Assembly is composed of 45 representatives delegated by 26 municipalities.[16]

The principal issue facing the region is its future relationship with Serbia and the Republic of Kosovo. The North Kosovo Serbs have taken a consistently hard line, refusing to cooperate with the government in Pristina or to take up their seats in the Assembly of Kosovo. Their stance has been encouraged by the Serbian government of Vojislav Koštunica and they remain in control of this area with their own structures.

However, Ivanović and other Kosovo Serb leaders have expressed increasing frustration at Belgrade's approach and have voiced their support for a more moderate stance, speaking openly of rejoining the Assembly of Kosovo and taking part in its government. This line has proved highly controversial, as many Kosovo Serbs reject any compromise; in February 2004, Ivanović's car was destroyed by a bomb explosion outside his home in Kosovska Mitrovica.[17][18]

The Serbian government, the Serbian List, the Government of Kosovo and the United Nations all officially oppose the separation of North Kosovo from the rest of the province. However, many Serbs in the region are adamantly opposed to living under the rule of an Albanian-majority provincial government and reject an independent Kosovo. Ivanović has spoken out against partition, pointing out that more than 60,000 (50%) of the Serb population of Kosovo lives south of the Ibar, and that all of the important cultural and economic assets of the Kosovo Serbs are in the south of Kosovo.[19]

Most inhabitants of North Kosovo have boycotted the elections for the provisional institutions held in November 2007 upon advice from Belgrade, putting themselves in an awkward situation, as ethnic Albanian parties are leading in all local elections in North Kosovo.

In February 2007 the Union of Serbian Districts and District Units of Kosovo transformed into the Serbian Assembly of Kosovo and Metohija presided over by Marko Jakšić. The Assembly strongly criticized the independence moves of the Kosovo Assembly and demanded unity of the Serb people in Kosovo, boycott of EULEX and announced massive protests in "support of Serbia's sovereignty over Kosovo." On 18 February 2008, a day after Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence, the Assembly declared it null and void in an open assembly together with the presence of the pro-Serb opposition from Montenegro.

In June, 2008 the Community Assembly of Kosovo and Metohija was gathered to coordinate the efforts of the Serbian community in North Kosovo.

In 2011, former President of Kosovo Behgjet Pacolli crossed into the Northern part of Kosovska Mitrovica. It marked the first time that a high ranking Republic of Kosovo official visited Northern Kosovo. Such a symbolic gesture was accompanied by a heavy security presence.[20]

Rule of law

Law enforcement and green border checkpoints are carried out by KFOR, EULEX and Kosovo Police. According to an International Crisis Group report, covert agents of Serbian police also operate in the area.[21][22] North Kosovska Mitrovica in particular continues to remain a hot spot for organized crime.[21]


Due to Serbian refusal of Kosovo institutions, Serbs in this part of Kosovo act independently in sport. For example, the Football First League of North Kosovo is primarily formed of Serbian clubs from four of North Kosovo's municipalities.

Notable people

See also

  • 2011 North Kosovo crisis
  • Partition of Kosovo
  • Association of Serb municipalities


External links

  • Kosovo section at International Crisis Group
  • Serbia-Kosovo Relations
  • International Crisis Group. NORTH KOSOVO: DUAL SOVEREIGNTY IN PRACTICE, Europe Report N°211 – 14 March 2011
  • Andrew Purvis

Coordinates: 43°29′N 21°27′E / 43.483°N 21.450°E / 43.483; 21.450

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