On February 2nd the United Nations envoy for Kosovo, Martti Ahtisaari, delivered his plan for the future of the breakaway province in southern Serbia. If implemented it could lead to independence for the territory's ethnic Albanian majority, but allow substantial self-government to areas populated by minority Serbs. VOA's Barry Wood recently visited the Serbian part of the divided city of Mitrovica and found university students there fearful and uncertain about the future.
Kosovo is a segregated society. Mitrovica is divided by the Ibar River into an Albanian south and a Serbian north. In the north when you buy coffee with the Euro currency used in the south you receive Serbian dinars as change.
Bojan Vasic is a 22 -ear-old law student at Mitrovica's Serbian language university. He says he worries about the future. "It's really impossible to predict what will happen. My hope is some type of compromise can be reached. Because I'm sure a compromise solution could bring long-term stability, which is really needed in the whole region."
About half of Kosovo's 100,000 Serbs live in north Mitrovica and nearby areas. The university and hospital are economic anchors in a town where nearly half the workers are unemployed.
Vasic points out some landmarks, "This is the so-called Square Sumadia, the only square in this part of the city." He grew up nearby and says he regrets the division of the city and the loss of its multi-ethnic character. He has not dared to cross the river for three years. "I was there with a friend, he's Albanian, and we almost got beaten. Since then I haven't been there. I don't think it's safe for Serbs to go there."
Like Vasic, Vuk Mitrovic is a law student at the university. He comes from Montenegro. He too is undecided about the future. Mitrovic's dorm room bears reminders of his study visit to America some years back. Temporarily comfortable in Mitrovica, both students shudder at the prospect of Kosovo being independent from Serbia. Mitrovic says Serbs must stay because to them Kosovo is holy land.
Vasic says his deepest worry is panic, where Serbs would be forced out of Kosovo in convoys of buses. "If we get a solution that is not a compromise, then probably we'll have a celebration for one side and panic and dissatisfaction on the other. And then disaster. Maybe we'll have convoys and people leaving."
U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari has been to north Mitrovica and very much wants the Serb minority to remain. The United Nations Security Council is expected to vote on the Kosovo status proposal in April.