- KOSOVSKA MITROVICA,
Yugoslavia (AFP) - Among the rubble and headaches inherited by the UN mission
in Kosovo is an industrial area that is one of the jewels in the crown
of the Belgrade regime: a complex that boasts Europe's biggest lead and
- Officially, Trepca, the company running the area, is
still owned by Belgrade and according to the UN workers charged with determining
its future running, it accounts for three quarters of Yugoslavia's mineral
- In this northern Kosovo city on the edges of Trepca's
operation, the mines and factories have taken on larger-than-life dimension.
Some say it makes Kosovo one of the richest regions in the Balkans, others
say it financed the Serbian war effort while still others claim the family
of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is the "real" owner.
- But the UN administration which now runs the Serbian
province has found an area largely run down since Belgrade revoked Kosovo's
autonomy in 1989, and the UN official in charge of Kosovo's northern region,
Martin Garrod, said he was currently trying to identify who owns Trepca.
- "I hope that Trepca will be fully working in the
near future for the benefit of Kosovo and Mitrovica," he said, adding:
"I want to do things legally."
- Garrod said the future of Trepca "is a very, very
sensitive subject.... it's one of my priorities" because of its political
and economic importance and its capacity to create jobs in post-war Kosovo.
He said the company had employed 30,000 people in the past.
- Three groups have laid claim to the mines: the current
Serb management, the former ethnic Albanian management which was fired
in the early 1990s, and a group of ethnic Albanian "private investors".
- Bernard Kouchner, the top UN administrator for Kosovo,
has said that his organisation will act as a caretaker for Yugoslav state
assets in the province. He also said that while he did not have the power
right now to appoint managers to the mine complex, the texts authorising
this would be finished in the next few days.
- As well as the lead, zinc, silver and gold mines and
the chemical, battery acid, glass, china and jewellery factories in the
north of Kosovo, Trepca also has several factories around Pristina, the
- In a recently published book, the former ethnic Albanian
managing director of Trepca, Aziz Abrashi, said the total annual production
of the company in the 1980s was around 200 million dollars. In 1989, exports
accounted for 120 million dollars.
- While 21,571 people were employed by Trepca in 1989,
including 18,300 in Kosovo, the number had fallen to 6,850 in 1995 and
salaries had been sharply cut.
- One of the officials charged with handling the UN reconstruction
effort in Kosovska Mitrovica, French Captain Serge Regnier, said "no
one knows the real value today of Trepca."
- In a suburb of Kosovska Mitrovica, a Trepca factory seems
totally abandoned. Equipment sits rusting and its windows are all broken.
- At the entry gate, a security guard prevents the curious
from entering. "Director Novak Bjelic (of the Serbian management)
is in Belgrade. Nobody can give you any information. Leave now."