Mitrovicë / Kosovska Mitrovica hosts inaugural Forum annual conference

From 24-28 May 2010, municipal officials and civil society representatives from ten cities will spent a week in Mitrovicë / Kosovska Mitovica, discussing how they solve problems and overcome obstacles in cities in transition.

At the final session of the Mitrovicë / Kosovska Mitrovica conference, delegates from the eight participating cities unanimously agreed that the conference had been an extraordinary endeavour, expressed again their appreciation to their hosts, the Mitrovica Forum, but more importantly to the citizens of both Mitrovicë / Kosovska Mitrovica for welcoming them into their communities and allowing them to share in the experiences of their daily lives in the face of practical and political obstacles beyond their immediate ability to resolve.

In accordance with the mission statement of the FCT, the emphasis in the inaugural conference was on the realization of practical outcomes that would assist Mitrovicë / Kosovska Mitrovica improve the daily lives of their citizens add to the quality of life and enhance engagement between officials, NGOs, and residents of Mitrovicë / Kosovska Mitrovica.

Following extensive multilateral and bilateral deliberations, both in formal and informal sessions, a set of outcomes of the Mitrovica Forum conference and unanimously adopted.

The conference was supported by: Cultural Heritage Without Borders, the Dutch Government Kosovo Civil Society Fund, Kosovo Foundation for Open Society, Minister of Local Government Association, the Municipality of Kaduna, the Municipality of Mitrovicë, Olaf Palme International Centre, Organization of Security and Co-operation in Europe, and the United Nations Development Programe.

Forum Director, Professor Padraig O’Malley, discusses the Mitrovica conference with WBUR on 16th June 2010:


Inaugural Conference of the Forum for Cities in Transition, Mitrovicë / Kosovska Mitrovica

Mitrovicë / Kosovska Mitrovica will host the first ever conference of the Forum for Cities in Transition from 24 to 28 May 2010.

This exciting conference brings together mayors, councillors, police chiefs, business representatives, media and civil society from ten cities from four continents for a working week in the city of Mitrovicë / Kosovska Mitrovica.

The conference delegates will be discussing challenges and successes of municipal administration in cities in transition from conflict. The delegates will talk about how their municipal services function and how to improve them, including issues such as housing, business development, citizens’ engagement, and policing, facilitated by experts from all over the world and of course from Mitrovicë / Kosovska Mitrovica.

The delegates will also experience life in Mitrovicë / Kosovska Mitrovica, visiting projects and sites where citizens have come together to overcome difficulties in their everyday lives. They will be staying in hotels both north and south of the River Ibër / Ibar, and eating and socializing throughout the city.

The programme includes visits to high schools in Mitrovicë / Kosovska Mitrovica, a picnic along the banks of the river, a talent contest of young people and a concert by Mitrovicë / Kosovska Mitrovica’s very own rock school. Conference delegates will be guided through the week by a team of 30 international and local volunteers.

The Forum for Cities in Transition was established in Boston in April 2009 by representatives from Kirkuk, Nicosia, Derry/Londonderry and Mitrovicë / Kosovska Mitrovica. It is an initiative of University Massachusetts, Boston which hosted the founding conference. The University and Northern Ireland Foundation, Belfast are the Secretariat.

Representatives from Beirut, Belfast, Derry/Londonderry, Haifa, Jerusalem, Kaduna, Kirkuk, Mostar and Nicosia will join a delegation from Mitrovicë / Kosovska Mitrovica for this diverse and truly international conference.

Director of the Forum, Professor Padraig O’Malley, calls this inaugural conference in Mitrovicë / Kosovska Mitrovica a historic event for the city.

“When the Forum for Cities in Transition was created, few cities really believed that Mitrovicë / Kosovska Mitrovica could rise to the occasion. Mitrovicë / Kosovska Mitrovica has not only risen to the occasion, it has surpassed all expectations. This will truly put this global Forum on the map – but it will put Mitrovicë / Kosovska Mitrovica on the map as well,” says Prof. O’Malley.

The Mitrovica Forum, comprising nine members from both south and north Mitrovicë / Kosovska Mitrovica, is hosting the conference, with the support of the University of Massachusetts and the Northern Ireland Foundation. Two NGOs for the city, the Centre for Civil Society Development and Community-Building Mitrovica, provide the technical co-ordination for the Mitrovica Forum.

Momčilo Arlov, from CCSD, says, “Opportunities are too few for representatives of cities burdened with post-conflict sensitivities to share experiences of improving the quality of everyday life of citizens. The Forum of Cities in Transition provides us with this exact opportunity.

“We need vision rather than gutless political statements, and courage to initiate genuine change to address urgent community priorities – not artificial initiatives serving the needs of donors and political stakeholders alone. This Forum is not burdened with high-politics, but instead encourages technical dialogue and inter-community cooperation. Our citizens need this Forum.”

Valdete Idrizi of CBM says, “As a citizen of Mitrovicë / Kosovska Mitrovica, I am very excited to be part of such a special, important event. With so many people coming from different parts of the world, our city has a real opportunity to exchange experiences and opinions on how we can make citizens’ daily lives better. This is also a great chance to begin inter-city co-operation with cities from four different continents. I’m really looking forward to it!”


In advance of the conference, young volunteers went out and about to interview a cross section of the community in Mitrovica:

Apostrophe Bar

Asimi (24), waiter

Asimi works part-time as a waiter. “I have had this job since I was very young. As with all other jobs, it was difficult to do in the beginning, but now I manage it very well. It’s not the kind of job that has a nice salary, but I like it. I have another part-time job in the water supply company, where I distribute bills.

“I have to work two jobs, because I also need to help my family. I live in the north part of the city, and in my neighbourhood we don’t have problems with neighbours — we all speak to each other. The problem is that I cannot walk to other neighbourhoods, because Serbian refugees from other cities cause problems.

“In the future, of course, I hope it will be better and that we won’t need transport to travel home — so we can walk without fear that someone will beat you up!”

Ardiana’s Uncle

Faik Hajredini, Koshtova

Faik is from Koshtova. Close to this Albanian village, there is another village called Zupq, where Serbians live. He says that they never had ethnic problems with them; sometimes they even played together.

“In secondary school, I moved to Mitrovica, and there were Serbian students there, too. Sometimes we talked about different issues in both languages, Albanian and Serbian. I can say that we never had conflicts with Serbian students, but the police wanted to stop schooling [in the Albanian language]. Because of that, we were sometimes in trouble; we had to hide our books. In the last year of secondary school, Albanians had to take lessons in private houses, because of the changed regime.

“My first wish for people living here is to unite the city. The second wish would be for the economic situation to be better. And the third wish is, as a country, to join the European Union.”

Banjska Monastery

Banjska monastery was built from 1312-1316 on the Banjska River in the region of present-day Mitrovica. The monastery church, dedicated to St. Stephen, was built on the ruins of an older church that also contained the bishopric seat. The monastery’s founder, King Milutin, intended Banjska to serve as his mausoleum. This is directly testified by his biographer, Archbishop Danilo II, who was the first prior of Banjska. According to the same writer, the founder built Banjska based on the model of Studenica, the final resting place of Stephen Nemanja, founder of the Nemanjic dynasty and King Milutin’s great-grandfather. This is why Banjska’s architectural concept differs from the other works of King Milutin. To this effect, his absolute orientation towards the Byzantium spiritual world resulted architecturally in the adaption of concepts that were a type of late-Byzantium style, while the church of St. Stephen in Banjska was built in the Rashka architectural tradition.

Banjska was damaged for the first time during the Battle of Kosovo (1389) and later, at the end of XVII century, the church was transformed into a mosque, while a smaller Turkish fortified settlement was formed around it. On the eve of the Second World War, Banjska was conserved and returned to the Eastern Orthodox religion.

Catholic Church

Dan Pashk Dani

After living in Germany for twelve years, Catholic priest, Dan Pashk Dani, returned to Mitrovica two years ago.

The minority of Catholic Albanians living in Mitrovica is very small. Before the war in 1999, this minority was about 2,000 people. During and after the war, many Catholics moved away from Mitrovica, to places such as Croatia. As a result, this minority is nowadays a small group of approximately 80 people.

The current Catholic Church of Mitrovica was built in 1975.

According to Dan Pashk Dani, you cannot deny the fact that there are problems in the city of Mitrovica. Yet he is optimistic about the future:

“Mitrovica is a tough bone for all of Europe, but I see hope. Absolutely.”

Crystal Museum

Vjollca Meha, Director of Crystal Museum

“The Crystal Museum of Trepça was built in 1965. Since then, there has been no investment in its upkeeping, so now it is not in such a good condition.

“The new building for the Crystal Museum will be close to the Miner, and it will be just as modern as museums in Europe.

“The following crystals are dated from 1865, but we cannot say which crystal belongs to any specific year.

“In the museum there is a space for crystals from other countries, which were brought here in exchange for crystals from Trepça. We hope that we will continue to collect more crystals, because there are some from the Miner that we don’t have in the museum.

“I hope that very soon we will be in the new building and that it will look like a modern museum.”


I have lived in Mitrovica for 50 years. In the past, Mitrovica was a nice place to live in. When Trepca worked, people in the town lived in happiness and harmony, but now the situation has changed. I can’t recognise anything anymore: people have changed, the city has changed. Everything has changed in ways that I couldn’t have even imagined. Streets are dirty, the economic situation is very bad, and the company that kept this town alive doesn’t work anymore.

I can remember the time when everyone lived together, when we didn’t care about nationalities, only that you were a good person, good neighbour, or a good colleague.

My first neighbour was Albanian, and lived normally — our children were also friends with them and they grew up together. Even now, sometimes I go to visit my neighbour who lives on the south side.

The war didn’t bring any good to anyone, only that it brought us to fight people that we considered to be our friends.

Personally, I think the main reason that this city is divided is because of politicians, because they don’t care about the people who live in this city. If I had the power to change anything, I would make a New Trepca that would be stronger and more powerful than the old one. My opinion is that this New Trepca will unite this town again.

Miners’ Hill


Ferdane lives in the Miners Hill neighbourhood. When she was working, she had various Albanian, Serbian, and Bosnian colleagues. She said that never had problems with her Serbian neighbours.

Ferdane lives on the ground floor, with a Serbian family living on the second floor — they live in the same house and they don’t have problems. She said, “I don’t have any problems with my Serbian neighbours … we sometimes visit each other to drink coffee and talk.”

Rime Church

The church in the village Vinarce is considered to be very old — some sources claim it to be even 600 years old. The documents about the origins of the church have disappeared, and thus the question to whom the church belonged — to the Serbians or to the Albanians — cannot easily be answered.

The fact that the front door is facing to the west indicates that the church was a Catholic church; Orthodox churches are built with the front door facing the east. Also, the name of the village, Vinarce, is related to wine, which suggests that the area was good for planting grapes and wine making. According to an old Catholic tradition, it was common to build a churches in such areas.

The Rime Church is located in an Albanian village, but it has been visited from Serbs for special Christian holidays, like Easter or Christmas.

School Director

Hajdar Shyti, Director

“In 1986, a school was created, on the basis of an earlier school in 1970, named ‘Meto Bajraktari’. At that time, we were working with multi-ethnic Albanians and Serbians.

“After 1999, we had some conversations with them, and invited them to come and work together, but there was not enough interest.

“Now our school is directly managed by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. The name of the school is now ‘School for Persons with Disabilities Resource Center’.

“Special education provision is now better than ever before. We have achieved this with a lot of work through seminars and training programmes, etc. We also have a travelling teacher, who visits schools and returns with school requests. We discuss what we can do, to see if there are other children who can transfer to this school.

“We also have activities like painting, sports, etc., working with some NGOs.”

DAY 1: MONDAY, 24 MAY 2010

0900-1045 Opening Plenary/Welcome (Cultural Center)

  • Valdete IDRIZI (Co-Chair): VIDEO
  • Sadri FERATI (Co-Chair): VIDEO

1115-1300 Site Visit: Water Infrastructure
Delegates organised into two groups, to inspect water pipeline infrastructure, from both ends north and south. Two local speakers familiar with the site will give same presentation to each group.

1400-1430 Site Visit: Discussion

  • Emanuela DEL RE (Chair)

1545-1645 Panel: Municipal Services “Delivering public services in transitional societies”

A panel discussion on the challenges that various municipalities face in their duties to deliver public services in an environment of societal divisions.

  • Richard KOBAYASHI (Edward J. Collins Centre, University of Massachusetts Boston)
  • Rasim VESELI (Mitrovica Municipality)
  • Dragan SPASOJEVIC (UNMIK Administration Mitrovica)
  • Bernd BURWITZ (OSCE)

1715-1800 Parallel City Presentation

DAY 2: TUESDAY, 25 MAY 2010
0900-1045 Site Visit 2: Schools
Small groups of delegates will visit schools to interact with pupils, as well as to learn how the schools system works in the north and south.
1115-1145 Panel Site Discussion
Delegates break away in groups to discuss lessons from site visit
1145-1215 Plenary Site Discussion (Chair: Professor Emanuela Del Re)
0900-1200 Business Round Table
By invitation, the Mitrovica Forum is hosting a business roundtable discussion at the Palace Hotel. Chaired by Yannick Du Pont (SPARK). Presentation by Andre Stein (Monitor Group).
1300-1445 City Presentations

  • Kirkuk
  • Kaduna

1300-1445 Mariska Kappmeier (University of Hamburg): “More than Words: How to Establish Sustainability Out of Group Discussions”<

FCT Mitrovica – Mariska KAPPMEIER

1500-1730 Panel: Housing “Property rights and housing in urban environments”

Adrian Ouvry (Danish Refugee Council)
Photo Adrian Ouvry


Scott Bowen (Executive Director, Kosovo Property Agency): VIDEO
Michael Giffoni (Italian Ambassador to Kosovo and EU Coordinator for North Kosovo): VIDEO
Jennifer Hawthorne (Northern Ireland Housing Executive): VIDEO
Fuad Abu-Hamed: VIDEO
Neophytos Loizides (Queen’s University Belfast): VIDEO
1800-1900 Reception: SPARK “Hard Hat” Cocktail
Keynote speech by Yannick Du Pont (Director, SPARK) and brief remarks by Emanuela Del Re

Venue: Site foundation of SPARK’s new international business school Mitrovicë/Kosovska Mitrovica in the Bosniak Mahala neighbourhood


Day 3: Wednesday, 26 May 2010

1100-1300 Site Visit 3: CRYM Coalition of NGOs by Momcilo Arlov and Valdete Idrizi
Visit to the headquarters of the coalition of civil society and organisations based in north Mitrovicë/Kosovska Mitrovica
1400-1430 Panel Site Discussion
Delegates break away in groups to discuss lessons from site visit
1430-1500 Plenary Site Discussion (Chair: Professor Emanuela Del Re)
1515-1700 Panel: Sustainable Development & Civic Engagement “Civic Leadership & Community Development”

Vukosava Crnjanski (Chair, LINET): VIDEO

Valdete Idrizi (Executive Director of Community-Building Mitrovica): VIDEO
Bert Koenders (Former Dutch Minister of International Development Co-operation): VIDEO
Haki Abazi (Western Balkans Director, Rockefeller Brothers Fund): VIDEO
Momcilo Arlov (Programme Director of the Centre for Civil Society Development): VIDEO
1700-1800 City Presentations

  • Derry/Londonderry
  • Mostar

Day 4: Thursday, 27 May 2010
0900-1100 Site Visit 4: Business Advisory Centres (BAC)
Delegates organised into three groups to visit one of three business advice centres, north and south
1115-1200 Site Discussion
Delegates break away in groups to discuss lessons from site visit

Parallel sessions with Mariska Kappmeier, Peace Psychologist
1400-1600 Panel: Policing “Maintaining cohesion with community-based policing”
A panel discussion on development of Kosovo Police and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI)

Quintin Oliver (International Political Strategist, Stratagem): VIDEO


Lt Colonel Ergin Medic (Deputy Regional Director of Operations, Kosovo Police): VIDEO

Captain Milija Milosevic (Station Commander, Mitrovica North, Kosovo Police): VIDEO

Captain Bashkim Spahiu (Station Commander, Mitrovica South, Kosovo Police): VIDEO

Chris Yates (PSNI, Foyle District): VIDEO

Mark Hamilton (PSNI, North & West Belfast): VIDEO

David Hamilton (Resident Twinning Advisor, Twinning Project-Kosovo Police): VIDEO
1615-1745 City Project Workshops
Delegates break away in own city groups, to discuss and agree a city-based project to be delivered by next year’s annual Forum conference.

Session with non-member cities (Beirut, Belfast, Haifa, Jerusalem, Mostar) on future participation in the Forum (Chair: Professor Padraig O’Malley and FCT Secretariat)

Day 5: Friday, 28 May 2010
0900-1100 Mitrovica Forum Plenary

Yannick Du Pont (Director, SPARK)

Video presentation by Mitrovica Forum: “Economic Development of Mitrovica: Natural Resources & Business Opportunities”:

Economic Development of Mitrovica – Natural Resources & Business Opportunities from Cities in Transition on Vimeo.
Comments by Mitrovica Forum member, Avni Kastrati: VIDEO

Presentation of local business development plan for Mitrovicë/Kosovska Mitrovica:

Jeton Ujkam (Business Forum Representative from Mitrovica Forum): VIDEO

Zoran Golubouc (Business Forum Representative from Mitrovica Forum): VIDEO

Response by Derry/Londonderry, Nicosia, and Kirkuk, including discussion of job creation at the municipal level
1115-1400 Plenary: Conference Outcomes (Chairs: Momcilo Arlov & Valdete Idrizi)

Quintin Oliver: VIDEO

  • City declarations of specific, small-scale projects to be delivered for the Forum Annual Conference 2011 (each city nominates one delegate to make declaration)
  • Selection of host city for the Forum Annual Conference 2011
  • Discussion of a peer-monitoring system by each city
  • Other outcomes

1400-1430 Concluding Comments
Professor Padraig O’Malley: VIDEO

Valdete Idrizi: VIDEO

Momcilo Arlov: VIDEO



Outcomes of the Inaugural Conference of the Forum for Cities in Transition (FCT)Mitrovicë / Kosovska Mitrovica24th – 28th May 2010

At the final session of the Mitrovicë / Kosovska Mitrovica conference, delegates from the eight participating cities unanimously agreed that the conference had been an extraordinary endeavour, expressed again their appreciation to their hosts, the Mitrovica Forum, but more importantly to the citizens of both Mitrovicë / Kosovska Mitrovica for welcoming them into their communities and allowing them to share in the experiences of their daily lives in the face of practical and political obstacles beyond their immediate ability to resolve.

They expressed a special empathy with the daily lives of residents of both communities because they reflected similar situations of residents in many of their own cities. The hospitality of Mitrovicë / Kosovska Mitrovica citizens whom they met in both formal conference sessions and street level encounters, will be long remembered. These experiences will become part of the guiding narrative of the FCT as it moves forward to address the problems and issues that will emerge in regard to the 2011 conference.

Delegates acknowledged the contributions of all members of the organizing committee, the Mitrovica Forum (MF); in particular they expressed unreserved applause for the leadership of Valdete Idrizi and Momcilo Arlov whose persistent year-long dedication to making preparations for an international conference of such ambitious scope was responsible for creating a forum of dialogue, consultation and communication that exceeded everyone’s expectations.

In accordance with the mission statement of the FCT, the emphasis in the inaugural conference was on the realization of practical outcomes that would assist Mitrovicë / Kosovska Mitrovica improve the daily lives of their citizens add to the quality of life and enhance engagement between officials, NGOs, and residents of Mitrovicë / Kosovska Mitrovica.

Following extensive multilateral and bilateral deliberations, both in formal and informal sessions, the following outcomes were tabled as the outcomes of the Mitrovica Forum conference and unanimously adopted:

  • The Derry/Londonderry delegation announced that Derry / Londonderry will host the FCT 2011 conference, subject to the Council’s formal compliance.
  • The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and its Kosovo counterparts have agreed a joint policing partnership under which they will exchange best practice and the PSNI invited a team of Kosovo police officials representing both Kosovo/Albanian and Serbian police officers for a study visit to Northern Ireland.
  • The Haifa delegation will host members of the local volunteer corps from both Mitrovicë / Kosovska Mitrovica — who were engaged in initial preparations for the conference and served as a vital component of accessibility throughout the conference — in Haifa to learn from cross community youth initiatives that have proven successful in bridging community divides in Haifa.
  • The Derry / Londonderry delegates agreed to share their expertise on developing a sports stadium with counterparts in Mitrovicë / Kosovska Mitrovica, a pivotal ingredient of the MF business plan.
  • The Nicosia delegation that visited the Kosovska Mitrovica business center will provide technical assistance and knowledge transfer services to support it in establishing itself and facilitating its operations.
  • The Haifa delegation, which included members who are skilled in water infrastructure management and attendant issues, will share that expertise with Mitrovicë / Kosovska Mitrovica.
  • The Dean of the McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies, University of Massachusetts Boston, Steve Crosby, a conference observer, undertook to initiate steps to try to place Ardiana Osmani and Milos Golubovic, assistants to Mia Marzouk, the MF coordinator, in one of the School’s programs, beginning in September 2011.
  • The Northern Ireland Foundation (NIF), co-secretariat arm of the FCT will confer two special citizenship awards, the highest that the Foundation can award, on Vuk Mitrovic and Sanja Mrkic for their sterling efforts in preparation for and at the event which will be awarded in person in Northern Ireland shortly as part of a study visit to NGOs and the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland.
  • Kirkuk undertook to implement a stalled city wide partial clean- up and waste management operation within environmentally friendly standards.
  • The University of Massachusetts Boston and the University of Mitrovica will  sign a Memorandum of Understanding providing for exchanges of faculty and staff between the two institutions
  • Of the 15 participants from the four non founding cities — Mostar, Beirut, Jerusalem and Haifa — 10 added their signatures to the “Call to Action”. The five others — two from Mostar, two from Jerusalem and one from Beirut, although fully endorsing the document were unable to sign it, because they were attending the conference as officially designated representatives of their cities or in the case of Beirut, the delegate risked legal ramifications.

As reiterated repeatedly throughout the conference and enunciated from the founding of the FCT in April 2009, FCT conference outcomes written on a piece of paper are worthless promises, given in moments of euphoric optimism and the very human desire to please the conference hosts by being good “guests” and leaving gifts for those who have hosted them so unconditionally throughout a long week of intense interaction. Hence, the plenitude of outcomes that went into the final mix.

The effectiveness of the FCT depends on those outcomes being translated into action, by the actions, in this case, of the MF to follow up on every outcome agreed to ensure its implementation.  That responsibility is Mitrovica’s. But that, too, takes more resources.

In response to a plea for assistance in this regard at the MF formal dinner on 27 May, we are pleased to announce that an anonymous donor has a) agreed to pay the first month’s salary of an individual whose time will be solely devoted to this task and has the capacity to engage in a sustained campaign to ensure that every outcome agreed is implemented and b) has undertaken to raise the additional resources to cover a further future period of six months.

That individual will begin work within weeks. We will post their name and otherwise inform all participants of the individual and their credentials that will ensure the quickest jump start possible.

Developmental outcomes:

  • The FCT official documentary team will share its material with the Forum website, as appropriate, after consultation with FCT, and continue to undertake its documentary, contingent on financing, which it hopes to feature at documentary festivals and other media outlets.
  • The Guest Book Project, to which the FCT provided facilities, will share its material with the Forum website and integrate its findings across the cities.
  • The women’s caucus, established during the conference, will draw up a list of suggestions to ensure that Derry / Londonderry 2011 will be gender sensitive and address women’s issues both within and as part of the conference agenda.
  • The Beirut delegation will pursue a practical women’s twinning project involving participating cities.
  • Attracting tourism is part of the MF business plan.  In this regard, a Monitor executive noted that one of the first impressions potential investors get when they visit a city is its physical state. Walls warped with graffiti and expressions of hate and intolerance coupled with garbage strewn streets, convey the impression that the city and its citizens do not care about themselves, create poor and lasting impressions for potential investors and have a negative impact on efforts to develop tourism. He suggested that the participating cities clean up their cities, scrub the walls of graffiti and convey the message that the city cares enough about itself that potential donors might be persuaded to invest in their future.
  • FCT undertook to investigate EU support for developing and implementing the Mitrovica business plan.
  • Mostar agreed to initiate contacts and share how Mostar is using cross-city artistic projects as a way of bringing the cities diverse communities together. It promised to assist Derry / Londonderry in this regard as the latter finalizes its bid to be designated the UK’s City of Culture for 2013.

FCT Secretariat

May 2010