Survey in multi-ethnic municipalities: Reconciliation needed for the vast majority but the north

Ustraživanje UNDP
FOTO: UNDP

In a recent United Nations Development Programme study carried out in seven Kosovo multi-ethnic municipalities, 88% of respondents said they believe reconciliation in Kosovo is necessary. According to the UNDP, this is „a promising indicator of willingness to reconcile“, however, other figures say otherwise, as 60% of citizens of North Mitrovica believe that reconciliation is not necessary.

Study findings show that people in Serb majority municipalities in Kosovo, except for Strpce, are less likely to feel comfortable in multi-ethnic environment. While 79% of Kosovo Albanians at least somewhat agree that reconciliation is possible in Kosovo, less than half of Kosovo Serbs (47%) believe the same. According to almost half (48%) of respondents, inter-ethnic relations in Kosovo are friendly, while only 13% of Kosovo Serbs share this opinion. Indeed, 36% of Kosovo Serbs consider the relations between different ethnicities in Kosovo as tense compared to 10% of Kosovo Albanians and none of Kosovo’s other communities who share the same opinion.

What are the reasons for the pessimism of the respondents who do not believe reconciliation is possible? 

Focus group discussions revealed that people who do not believe that reconciliation is possible mainly attribute their pessimism to unresolved issues from the 1999 armed conflict and the “unwillingness of the other side to reconcile.” 

More than half of respondents, regardless of their ethnic background, believe that reconciliation means punishment of perpetrators of crimes during armed conflict (70%) and/ or building of good inter-ethnic relations (54%).

Whereas more than half of Kosovo Albanians (52%) and 34% of Kosovo other communities believe that reconciliation also means asking for forgiveness for the 1998-1999 armed conflict, only 14% of Kosovo Serbs agree. Kosovo Serbs are more likely than the other two groups to think that reconciliation means forgetting what happened in the past (41%) and/ or forgiving any wrongdoings (30%).

The majority of respondents in favor of reconciliation, but not North Mitrovica

The vast majority of respondents of all ethnic backgrounds believe that reconciliation is necessary in Kosovo (88%). The only ones that differ from others in this regard are respondents from North Mitrovica, the majority of whom believe that reconciliation is not necessary (60%).

How do you feel living in multi-ethnic societies such as South and North Mitrovica, Kosovska Kamenica, Strpce, Gracanica, Prizren and Istok?

– this was one of the questions posed to the 471 respondents in 12 focus groups held in the last few months within the latest UNDP public pulse analysis.

Whereas the vast majority of Kosovo’s other communities (97%) and Kosovo Albanians (92%) felt at least somewhat comfortable living in a multi-ethnic environment, more than half of Kosovo Serbs (56%) felt either somewhat or very uncomfortable.

Respondents from the municipalities of Gracanica (92%) and North Mitrovica (73%), particularly, claimed to be “somewhat or very uncomfortable living” in a multi-ethnic environment.

On the other hand, respondents living in of Kamenica (100%), Prizren (98%), and Istok (97%) are most likely “to feel somewhat or very comfortable” living in a multi-ethnic environment followed by South Mitrovica (74%) and Strpce (73%).

Kosovo Serbs are most likely to feel unsafe (46%) to go outside, compared to Kosovo’s other minorities (2%) and Kosovo Albanians (7%). While for the vast majority of Kosovo Albanians the reason they feel unsafe is their ethnicity (71%), reasons for feeling unsafe for Kosovo Serbs vary between ethnicity, religion, and language. Kosovo’s other communities claimed they feel unsafe mainly because of their ethnicity (50%) or religion (50%).

The overwhelming majority of Kosovo’s other communities (83%) communicate with members of other ethnic groups often. The majority of respondents (63%) interact with people of different ethnicities at least sometimes on a typical weekday. Only 14% stated they never interact with members of other ethnicities.

However, one in three respondents from the municipality of North Mitrovica said that they typically do not interact at all with members of other ethnic groups, while people living in Prizren feel most comfortable interacting and socializing with people of other ethnicities.

Those who feel that relations between Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serbs are tense vary considerably in their opinion of what makes these relations tense. Whereas 41% of Kosovo Serbs believe that the main reason these relations remain tense is the lack of effort from Kosovo Albanians in terms of integrating Kosovo Serbs in society in Kosovo, only 3% of Kosovo Albanians believe the same.

On the other hand, Kosovo Albanians are more likely to point to the influence of Belgrade (30%), attitude of Serb leaders (24%), or unwillingness of Kosovo Serbs to be integrated in Kosovo society (26%) as the main causes of the tense inter-ethnic relations.

Dissatisfaction with the performance of local governments in Gracanica and North Mitrovica

During the study, data on citizens’ satisfaction with the performance of their municipalities were also collected. A total of 59% of respondents expressed that they are at least somewhat satisfied with the work of their municipality. While respondents living in the municipalities of Strpce, Prizren, and Istok showed the highest levels of satisfaction with the work of local authorities, the vast majority of respondents living in Gracanica (97%) and North Mitrovica (76%) are either somewhat or completely dissatisfied with their municipality’s performance.

UNDP concluded that these findings reveal that “there is a correlation between levels of satisfaction with municipalities’ work and people’s trust in the possibility of reconciliation.”

According to more than half of respondents (55%), the role of the public institutions of Kosovo in promoting reconciliation is very important. The involvement of the international community was also considered as very important by a large share of respondents (47%), as was the role of people in Kosovo (42%).

Respondents are dissatisfied the most with the work of the authorities of Serbia on the promotion of reconciliation (62% very/ somewhat dissatisfied). Only people themselves (58%) and religious institutions (53%) are considered by more than half of respondents to have done satisfactory work in promoting reconciliation in Kosovo.

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