First multiethnic B2B conference in Mitrovica
For the first time since the 1999 conflict, Albanian and Serbian business representatives gathered together on 10th of December 2014 in North Mitrovica to attend the first multiethnic Business Conference in this region. The conference was organised by SPARK and International Business College Mitrovica (IBCM), in cooperation with the Business Advisory Centre Mitrovica North (BACMN), and held at the IBCM north campus.
The business conference addressed major challenges the business sector is facing in Mitrovica region. Three main topics were set focusing on obstacles and opportunities regarding the cooperation between North and South businesses, the possibilities of import and/or export and development of successful organisational management, and finally the access to funds. A presentation was held on different support programmes for businesses.
Around 40 business representatives, 30 guests from other relevant sectors to the business community, as well as government officials were present, such as the president of the Kosovo Chamber of Commerce and the Deputy Mayor of North Mitrovica. International community was represented by members of USAID and OSCE.
In order to have clear follow-up goals for future meetings, a survey was conducted during panel discussions asking participants about their main concerns regarding the business sector. Participants from the business community expressed their dissatisfaction with the level of support provided by the government. They also stated having concerns about the political pressures on cooperation, institutional inefficiency, and lack of knowledge about tax policies and customer regulations. According to the survey, participants think this kind of conference should be held at least once in a quarter of the year. That the conference is useful to its guests is supported by Mr. Nenad Stojakovic, Director of Holiday Plus Agency. He stated that the conference helped him establish contacts with his colleagues from the southern part of the Ibar river. He truly hopes this cooperation will continue and improve significantly.
The town of Mitrovica is literally divided by the Ibar river, having a majority of Serbs settled in northern part of Mitrovica. This part of the population does not recognise Kosovo as an independent state, and has its own administration. On the other hand, south of the river is settled by Albanians. Many of both ethnic groups never cross the river to the other side.