Kosovo is a region in southeastern Europe. In antiquity, the Dardanian kingdom, and later Roman province of Dardania was located in the region. It was part of Serbia in the Middle Ages, during which time many important Christian monasteries, some of which are now UNESCO World Heritage sites, were built.
The Battle of Kosovo in 1389 is regarded by Serbs as a defining moment in their history and identity. In the 15th century, the region was conquered by the Muslim Ottoman Empire and remained under Ottoman rule for the next five centuries.
After the First Balkan War (1912-1913), Kosovo was incorporated into the Kingdom of Serbia. The constitution of Yugoslavia, created after World War II, recognised the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija (Serbian: Аутономна Покрајина Косово и Метохија, Autonomna Pokrajina Kosovo i Metohija) within the Yugoslav republic of Serbia.
Long-term severe ethnic tensions between Kosovo's Albanian and Serb populations have left Kosovo ethnically divided, resulting in inter-ethnic violence, including the Kosovo War of 1999. The Kosovo War ended with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia accepting that it would give up the exercise of its sovereignty pending a final status settlement. Under UNSCR 1244, governance passed to the United Nations in 1999.
In 2008 the Republic of Kosovo (Albanian: Republika e Kosovës; Serbian: Република Косово, Republika Kosovo) declared itself an independent state. It has control over most of the territory and has partial international recognition. North Kosovo, the largest Serb enclave, is largely under the control of institutions of the Republic of Serbia or parallel structures subsidised by Serbia. Serbia does not recognise the secession of Kosovo and considers it a UN-governed entity within its sovereign territory, a position supported by a number of other countries.
During antiquity, the area which now makes up Kosovo was inhabited by various tribal ethnic groups, who were liable to move, enlarge, fuse and fissure with neighbouring groups. As such, it is difficult to locate any such group with precision. The Dardani, whose exact ethno-linguistic affiliation is difficult to determine, were a prominent group in the region during the late Hellenistic and early Roman eras.
The area was then conquered by Rome in the 160s BC, and incorporated into the Roman province of Illyricum in 59 BC. Subsequently, it became part of Moesia Superior in AD 87. The region was exposed to an increasing number of 'barbarian' raids from the fourth century AD onwards, culminating with the so-called Slavic migrations of the 6th to 7th centuries. Archaeologically, the early Middle Ages represent a hiatus in the material record, and whatever was left of the native provincial population fused with the Sklavene colonists.
The subsequent political and demographic history of Kosovo is not known with absolute certainty until c. 13th century AD. Archaeological findings suggest that there was steady population recovery and progression of the Slavic culture seen elsewhere throughout the Balkans. The region was absorbed into the Bulgarian Empire in the 850s, where Christianity and a Byzantine-Slavic culture was cemented in the region. It was re-taken by the Byzantines after 1018, and became part of the newly established Theme of Bulgaria. As the centre of Slavic resistance to Constantinople in the region, the region often switched between Serbian and Bulgarian rule on one hand and Byzantine on the other until the Serb principality of Rascia conquered it definitively by the end of the 12th century. An insight into the region is provided by the Byzantine historian-princess, Anna Comnena, who wrote of "Serbs" being the main inhabitants of the region (referring to it as "eastern Dalmatia" and the "former Moesia Superior"). The earliest references to an Albanian population is derived from late eleventh century Byzantine chroniclers, who consistently located the Arber around the hinterland districts of Dyrrachium, modern Durrës.
The zenith of Serbian power was reached in 1346, with the formation of the Serbian Empire. During the 13th and 14th centuries, Kosovo became a political and spiritual centre of the Serbian Kingdom. In the late 13th century, the seat of the Serbian Archbishopric was moved to Pec, and rulers centred themselves between Prizren and Skopje, during which time thousands of Christian monasteries and feudal-style forts and castles were erected. When the Serbian Empire fragmented into a conglomeration of principalities in 1371, Kosovo became the hereditary land of the House of Branković. In the late 14th and the 15th century parts of Kosovo, the easternmost area of which was located near Pristina, were part of the Principality of Dukagjini, which was later incorporated an anti-Ottoman federation of all Albanian principalities, the League of Lezhë.
In the 1389 Battle of Kosovo, Ottoman forces defeated a coalition of Serbs, Albanians, and Bosnians led by Lazar Hrebeljanović. Soon after, Lazar's son accepted Turkish vassalage (as other Serbian principalities had already done) and Lazar's daughter was married to the Sultan to seal the peace. By 1455, it was finally and fully conquered by the Ottoman Empire.
Ottoman Kosovo (1455–1912)
Kosovo was part of the Ottoman Empire from 1455 to 1912, at first as part of the eyalet of Rumelia, and from 1864 as a separate province (vilayet). During this time, Islam was introduced to the population. The Vilayet of Kosovo was an area much larger than today's Kosovo; it included all today's Kosovo territory, sections of the Sandžak region cutting into present-day Šumadija and Western Serbia and Montenegro along with the Kukës municipality, the surrounding region in present-day northern Albania and also parts of north-western Macedonia with the city of Skopje (then Üsküp), as its capital. Between 1881 and 1912 (its final phase), it was internally expanded to include other regions of present-day Republic of Macedonia, including larger urban settlements such as Štip (İştip), Kumanovo (Kumanova) and Kratovo (Kratova).
The Serbian position is that archives reveal an overwhelming Serbian demographic majority in Kosovo, which was reversed by the end of Ottoman rule, as Banac summarised: "Ottoman raids, plunder, slaving forays, as well as the general devastation caused by constant wars uprooted large numbers of Serbs even before the Great Serb Migration". This was followed by the transplantation of Albanian pastoralists from the highlands of Albania to the fertile valleys of Kosovo. However, Anscombe highlights that the most common archives – those derived from the Ottomans – do not clarify unequivocally the 'ethnic' character of the region's inhabitants, because the Ottomans classified their subjects along religious lines (millets). Anscombe suggests that records show that the demography of Kosovo was very much mixed, and that both Serbian and Albanian ethnic groups dominated at different times. Moreover, they seem to indicate more cases of Albanians rebelling than any other ethnicity in the region. Mainstream historiography clarifies that "there is no conclusive evidence that a people unambiguously identifiable as "Albanian" constituted the majority of the population in Kosovo prior to the Ottoman occupation". Even the relatively "pro-Albanian" history written by Noel Malcolm concedes that "the region probably had a predominantly Orthodox Christian and Slavic population from the eight to the mid-nineteenth centuries". Allowing for the possibility of some connection between the region's inhabitants prior to successive Slavic/ Serbian inflows, the Albanians who 'returned' to Kosovo in modern times were certainly not the same people, having intermarried extensively with Vlachs, Slavs, Greeks and Turks. Whilst there is little evidence of ethnic Albanian institutional presence in medieval Kosovo, they were often baptised into Orthodox Christianity and subjected to a process of "Serbianisation". Prior to Islamification, the Albanians might have existed as pastoralists inhabiting Balkan highland areas, like the Vlachs, engaging in a symbiotic existence with the predominantly agricultural Slavs who inhabited the valleys and plains.
Kosovo, like Serbia, was occupied by Austrian forces during the Great War of 1683–1699, but the Ottomans re-established their rule of the region. Such acts of assistance by the Austrian Empire (then arch-rivals of the Ottoman Empire), or Russia, were always abortive or temporary at best. In 1690, the Serbian Patriarch of Peć Arsenije III apparently led a group of 30 or 40 thousand people from Kosovo to the Christian north. In 1766, the Ottomans abolished the Patriarchate of Peć and the position of Christians in Kosovo further deteriorated, including full imposition of jizya (taxation of non-Muslims).
Although initially stout opponents of the advancing Turks, Albanian chiefs ultimately came to accept the Ottomans as sovereigns. The resulting alliance facilitated the mass conversion of Albanians to Islam. Given that the Ottoman Empire's subjects were divided along religious (rather than ethnic) lines, Islamicisation greatly elevated the status of Albanian chiefs. Prior to this, they were organised along simple tribal lines, living in the mountainous areas of modern Albania (from Kruje to the Sar range). Soon, they expanded into a depopulated Kosovo, as well as northwestern Macedonia, although some might have been autochthonous to the region. However, Banac favours the idea that the main settlers of the time were Vlachs.
Many Albanians gained prominent positions in the Ottoman government; 42 Grand Viziers of the Empire were Albanian in origin, including Mehmet Akif Ersoy (1873–1936), an Albanian from Peć who in 1921 composed "İstiklâl Marşı" (The Independence March), the Turkish National Anthem. As Hupchik states, "Albanians had little cause of unrest" and "if anything, grew important in Ottoman internal affairs", and sometimes persecuted Christians harshly on behalf of their Turkish masters.
In the 19th century, there was an awakening of ethnic nationalism throughout the Balkans. The underlying ethnic tensions became part of a broader struggle of Christian Serbs against Muslim Albanians. The ethnic Albanian nationalism movement was centred in Kosovo. In 1878 the League of Prizren was formed. This was a political organisation that sought to unify all the Albanians of the Ottoman Empire in a common struggle for autonomy and greater cultural rights, although they generally desired the continuation of the Ottoman Empire. The Balkan League was dis-established in 1881 but enabled the awakening of a national identity among Albanians. Albanian ambitions competed with those of the Serbs. The Kingdom of Serbia wished to incorporate this land that had formerly been within its empire.
Kosovo during the 20th century history has largely been characterised by wars and major population exchanges. The region formed a part of numerous entities, some internationally recognised, others not.
The Young Turk movement took control of the Ottoman Empire after a coup in 1912 which disposed of Sultan Abdul Hamid II. The movement supported a centralised form of government and opposed any sort of autonomy desired by the various nationalities of the Ottoman Empire. An allegiance to Ottomanism was promoted instead. An Albanian uprising in 1912 exposed the empire's northern territories in Kosovo and Novi Pazar, which led to an invasion by the Kingdom of Montenegro. The Ottomans suffered a serious defeat at the hands of Albanians in 1912, culminating in the Ottoman loss of most of its Albanian-inhabited lands. The Albanians threatened to march all the way to Salonika and reimpose Abdul Hamid.
A wave of Albanians in the Ottoman army ranks also deserted during this period, refusing to fight their own kin. Two months later in September of the same year, a joint Balkan force made up of Serbian, Montenegrin, Bulgarian and Greek forces drove the Ottomans out of most of their European possessions.
The rise of nationalism unfortunately hampered relations between Albanians and Serbs in Kosovo, due to influence from Russians, Austrians and Ottomans. Kosovo's status within Serbia was finalised the following year at the Treaty of London. Soon, there were concerted Serbian colonisation efforts in Kosovo during various periods between Serbia's 1912 takeover of the province and World War II. So the population of Serbs in Kosovo fell after World War II, but it had increased considerably before then.
An exodus of the local Albanian population occurred. Serbian authorities promoted creating new Serb settlements in Kosovo as well as the assimilation of Albanians into Serbian society. Numerous colonist Serb families moved into Kosovo, equalising the demographic balance between Albanians and Serbs.
First World War and birth of Kingdom of Yugoslavia
In the winter of 1915–16, during World War I, Kosovo saw the retreat of the Serbian army as Kosovo was occupied by Bulgaria and Austria-Hungary. In 1918, the Allied Powers pushed the Central Powers out of Kosovo. After the end of World War I, the Kingdom of Serbia was transformed into the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians on 1 December 1918.
Kosovo was split into four counties, three being a part of Serbia (Zvečan, Kosovo and southern Metohija) and one of Montenegro (northern Metohija). However, the new administration system since 26 April 1922 split Kosovo among three Areas of the Kingdom: Kosovo, Raška and Zeta. In 1929, the Kingdom was transformed into the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and the territories of Kosovo were reorganised among the Banate of Zeta, the Banate of Morava and the Banate of Vardar.
In order to change the ethnic composition of Kosovo, between 1912 and 1941 a large-scale Serbian re-colonisation of Kosovo was undertaken by the Belgrade government. Meanwhile, Kosovar Albanians' right to receive education in their own language was denied alongside other non-Slavic or unrecognised Slavic nations of Yugoslavia, as the kingdom only recognised the Slavic Croat, Serb, and Slovene nations as constituent nations of Yugoslavia, while other Slavs had to identify as one of the three official Slavic nations while non-Slav nations were only deemed as minorities.
Albanians and other Muslims were forced to emigrate, mainly with the land reform which struck Albanian landowners in 1919, but also with direct violent measures. In 1935 and 1938 two agreements between the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and Turkey were signed on the expatriation of 240,000 Albanians to Turkey, which was not completed because of the outbreak of World War II.
Second World War
After the Axis invasion of Yugoslavia in 1941, most of Kosovo was assigned to Italian-controlled Albania, with the rest being controlled by Germany and Bulgaria. A three-dimensional conflict ensued, involving inter-ethnic, ideological, and international affiliations, with the first being most important. Nonetheless, these conflicts were relatively low-level compared with other areas of Yugoslavia during the war years, with one Serb historian estimating that 3,000 Albanians and 4,000 Serbs and Montenegrins were killed, and two others estimating war dead at 12,000 Albanians and 10,000 Serbs and Montenegrins. It is not disputed that 1941-1945 tens of thousands of Serbs, mostly recent colonists, fled from Kosovo: estimates range form 30,000 to 100,000. Post-war Serbian claims that there had been large-scale Albanian immigration range from 72,000 to 260,000 people (with a tendency to escalate, the last figure being in a petition of 1985) but these claims are disputed by other historians (some of them Serbian) and contemporary references to large-scale migration in Axis documents do not exist.
Kosovo in Communist Yugoslavia
The province as in its outline today first took shape in 1945 as the Autonomous Kosovo-Metohian Area. Until World War II, the only entity bearing the name of Kosovo had been a political unit carved from the former vilayet which bore no special significance to its internal population. In the Ottoman Empire (which previously controlled the territory), it had been a vilayet with its borders having been revised on several occasions. When the Ottoman province had last existed, it included areas which were by now either ceded to Albania, or found themselves within the newly created Yugoslav republics of Montenegro, or Macedonia (including its previous capital, Skopje) with another part in the Sandžak region of Šumadija and Western Serbia.
Tensions between ethnic Albanians and the Yugoslav government were significant, not only due to national tensions but also due to political ideological concerns, especially regarding relations with neighbouring Albania. Harsh repressive measures were imposed on Kosovo Albanians due to suspicions that there were Kosovo Albanian sympathisers of the Stalinist regime of Enver Hoxha of Albania. In 1956, a show trial in Pristina was held in which multiple Albanian Communists of Kosovo were convicted of being infiltrators from Albania and were given long prison sentences. High-ranking Serbian communist official Aleksandar Ranković sought to secure the position of the Serbs in Kosovo and gave them dominance in Kosovo's nomenklatura.
Islam in Kosovo at this time was repressed and both Albanians and Muslim Slavs were encouraged to declare themselves to be Turkish and emigrate to Turkey. At the same time Serbs and Montenegrins dominated the government, security forces, and industrial employment in Kosovo. Albanians resented these conditions and protested against them in the late 1960s, accusing the actions taken by authorities in Kosovo as being colonialist, as well as demanding that Kosovo be made a republic, or declaring support for Albania.
After the ouster of Ranković in 1966, the agenda of pro-decentralisation reformers in Yugoslavia, especially from Slovenia and Croatia succeeded in the late 1960s in attaining substantial decentralisation of powers, creating substantial autonomy in Kosovo and Vojvodina, and recognising a Muslim Yugoslav nationality. As a result of these reforms, there was a massive overhaul of Kosovo's nomenklatura and police, that shifted from being Serb-dominated to ethnic Albanian-dominated through firing Serbs in large scale. Further concessions were made to the ethnic Albanians of Kosovo in response to unrest, including the creation of the University of Pristina as an Albanian language institution. These changes created widespread fear among Serbs that they were being made second-class citizens in Yugoslavia by these changes. In the 1974 Constitution of Yugoslavia, Kosovo was granted major autonomy, allowing it to have its own administration, assembly, and judiciary; as well as having a membership in the collective presidency and the Yugoslav parliament, in which it held veto power.
In the aftermath of the 1974 constitution, concerns over the rise of Albanian nationalism in Kosovo rose with the widespread celebrations in 1978 of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the League of Prizren. Albanians felt that their status as a "minority" in Yugoslavia had made them second-class citizens in comparison with the "nations" of Yugoslavia and demanded that Kosovo be a constituent republic, alongside the other republics of Yugoslavia. Protests by Albanians in 1981 over the status of Kosovo resulted in Yugoslav territorial defence units being brought into Kosovo and a state of emergency being declared resulting in violence and the protests being crushed. In the aftermath of the 1981 protests, purges took place in the Communist Party, and rights that had been recently granted to Albanians were rescinded – including ending the provision of Albanian professors and Albanian language textbooks in the education system.
Due to very high birth rates, the number of Albanians increased from 75% to over 90%. In contrast, the number of Serbs barely increased, and in fact dropped from 15% to 8% of the total population, since many Serbs departed from Kosovo as a response to the tight economic climate and increased incidents of alleged harassment from their Albanian neighbours. While there was tension, charges of "genocide" and planned harassments have been debunked as an excuse to revoke Kosovo's autonomy. For example in 1986 the Serbian Orthodox Church published an official claim that Kosovo Serbs were being subjected to an Albanian program of 'Genocide'.
Even though they were disproved by police statistics, they received wide play in the Serbian press and that led to further ethnic problems and eventual removal of Kosovo's status. Beginning in March 1981, Kosovar Albanian students of the University of Pristina organised protests seeking that Kosovo become a republic within Yugoslavia along with human rights. The protests were brutally suppressed by the police and army, with many protesters arrested. During the 1980s, ethnic tensions continued with frequent violent outbreaks against Yugoslav state authorities resulting in a further increase in emigration of Kosovo Serbs and other ethnic groups. The Yugoslav leadership tried to suppress protests of Kosovo Serbs seeking protection from ethnic discrimination and violence.
Disintegration of Yugoslavia
Inter-ethnic tensions continued to worsen in Kosovo throughout the 1980s.
The 1986 Memorandum of the Serbian Academy warned that Yugoslavia was suffering from ethnic strife and the disintegration of the economy into separate economic sectors and territories, which was transforming the federal state into a loose confederation. In February 1989 in protest, the Trepca miners began a hunger strike before the official abolition of the autonomy of Kosovo.
On 28 June 1989, Slobodan Milošević delivered the Gazimestan speech in front of a large number of Serb citizens at the main celebration marking the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo. Many think that this speech helped Milošević consolidate his authority in Serbia. In 1989, Milošević, employing a mix of intimidation and political manoeuvring, drastically reduced Kosovo's special autonomous status within Serbia and started cultural oppression of the ethnic Albanian population. Kosovo Albanians responded with a non-violent separatist movement, employing widespread civil disobedience and creation of parallel structures in education, medical care, and taxation, with the ultimate goal of achieving the independence of Kosovo.
On 2 July 1990, the self-declared Kosovo parliament declared Kosovo a republic in Yugoslavia and on 22 September 1991 declared Kosovo an independent country, the Republic of Kosova. In May 1992, r. Ibrahim Rugova was elected president. During its run, the Republic of Kosova was recognised only by Albania; it was formally disbanded in 2000, after the Kosovo War, when its institutions were replaced by the Joint Interim Administrative Structure established by the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).
The conflict had been going on since the early 1990s, when Slobodan Milošević, the former Yugoslav President, reduced Kosovo's autonomy, which the province has had since 1969. Kosovo Albanians protested and proclaimed the independent Republic of Kosovo, which, however, was only recognized by neighboring Albania, and refused to cooperate with authorities. Milosevic responded with the dismissal of all Kosovo Albanians in the local area and other harassment, which led to violence between Serbian military and Albanian inhabitants of Kosovo in the mid-1990s.
In 1995 the Dayton Agreement ended the Bosnian War, drawing considerable international attention. However, despite the hopes of Kosovar Albanians, the situation in Kosovo remained largely unaddressed by the international community, and by 1996 the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), an ethnic Albanian guerilla group, had prevailed over the non-violent resistance movement and had started offering armed resistance to Serbian and Yugoslav security forces, resulting in early stages of the Kosovo War.
By 1998, as the violence had worsened and displaced scores of Albanians, Western interest had increased. The Serbian authorities were compelled to sign a ceasefire and partial retreat, monitored by Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) observers according to an agreement negotiated by Richard Holbrooke. However, the ceasefire did not hold and fighting resumed in December 1998. The Račak massacre in January 1999 in particular brought new international attention to the conflict. Within weeks, a multilateral international conference was convened and by March had prepared a draft agreement known as the Rambouillet Accords, calling for restoration of Kosovo's autonomy and deployment of NATO peacekeeping forces. The Serbian party found the terms unacceptable and refused to sign the draft.
NATO intervened by bombing Yugoslavia between 24 March and 10 June 1999, aiming to force Milošević to withdraw his forces from Kosovo. This military action was not authorised by the Security Council of the United Nations and was therefore contrary to the provisions of the United Nations Charter. However, other law experts disagree, stating "if NATO action is designed to ensure humanitarian relief for the people of Kosovo or merely to help them to repel armed aggression, one could argue that Security Council authorization may not be necessary." Combined with continued skirmishes between Albanian guerrillas and Yugoslav forces the conflict resulted in a further massive displacement of population in Kosovo.
During the conflict, roughly a million ethnic Albanians fled or were forcefully driven from Kosovo. Altogether, more than 11,000 deaths have been reported to Carla Del Ponte by her prosecutors. Some 3,000 people are still missing, of which 2,500 are Albanian, 400 Serbs and 100 Roma. Ultimately by June, Milošević had agreed to a foreign military presence within Kosovo and withdrawal of his troops.
Since May 1999, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has prosecuted crimes committed during the Kosovo War. Nine Serbian and Yugoslavian commanders have been indicted so far for crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war in Kosovo in 1999: Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milošević, Serbian President Milan Milutinović, Yugoslavian Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Šainović, Yugoslavian Chief of the General Staff Gen. Dragoljub Ojdanić, Serbian Interior Minister Vlajko Stojiljković, Gen. Nebojša Pavković, Gen. Vladimir Lazarević, Deputy Interior Minister of Serbia Vlastimir Đorđević and Chief of the Interior for Kosovo Sreten Lukić. Stojiljković killed himself while at large in 2002 and Milošević died in custody during the trial in 2006. In 2009 Milutinovic was acquitted by the Trial Chamber; five defendants were found guilty (three sentenced to 15 years imprisonment, and two to 22 years); and in 2011 the remaining defendant, who had been in hiding when the main trial started, was found guilty and sentenced to 27 years. The verdicts are under appeal. The indictment against the nine alleged that they directed, encouraged or supported a campaign of terror and violence directed at Kosovo Albanian civilians and aimed at the expulsion of a substantial portion of them from Kosovo. It has been alleged that about 800,000 Albanians were expelled as a result. In particular, in the indictment of June 2006, the accused were charged with murder of 919 identified Kosovo Albanian civilians aged from one to 93, both male and female.
In addition, the Office of the Serbian War Crimes Prosecutor has secured final judgements involving the conviction of 7 persons, sentenced to a total of 136 years imprisonment for war crimes in Kosovo involving 89 Albanian victims. As of June 2012, a trial of 12 defendants for an alleged massacre of 44 Albanian victims in Čuška (Alb: Qyshk) is ongoing.
Six KLA commanders were indicted in two cases: Fatmir Limaj, Isak Musliu and Haradin Bala, as well as Ramush Haradinaj, Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj. They were charged with crimes against humanity and violations of the laws and customs of war in Kosovo in 1998, consisting in persecutions, cruel treatment, torture, murders and rape of several dozens of the local Serbs, Albanians and other civilians perceived unloyal to the KLA. In particular, Limaj, Musliu and Bala were accused of murder of 22 identified detainees at or near the Lapušnik Prison Camp. In 2005 Limaj and Musliu were found not guilty on all charges, Bala was found guilty of persecutions, cruel treatment, murders and rape and sentenced to 13 years. The appeal chamber affirmed the judgements in 2007. In 2008 Ramush Haradinaj and Idriz Balaj were acquitted, whereas Lahi Brahimaj was found guilty of cruel treatment and torture and sentenced to six years. Notices of appeal are currently being considered.
UN administration period
On 10 June 1999, the UN Security Council passed UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which placed Kosovo under transitional UN administration (UNMIK) and authorised KFOR, a NATO-led peacekeeping force. Resolution 1244 provided that Kosovo would have autonomy within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and affirmed the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia, which has been legally succeeded by the Republic of Serbia.
Many Serbs (and Roma) left with the Serb forces, or as a result of attacks and occupation of Serb properties in the aftermath of the conflict. Estimates of the number of Serbs thus displaced range from 65,000 to 250,000 Given that the 1991 census recorded only 194,000 Serbs living in Kosovo, the higher estimates, if based on fact, must include Roma, Serbs displaced within Kosovo, and perhaps other elements. It is generally agreed by both Serbs and Albanians that the number of Serbs remaining in Kosovo is in the range of 100,000-120,000, although in most urban centres other than North Mitrovica and Kamenica the Serb population is now negligible. Although, since 2004, the Kosovo Government has been the largest funder of returns projects for displaced persons, the number of such returns remains relatively low, partly due to continued fears of possible violence or harassment.
International negotiations began in 2006 to determine the final status of Kosovo, as envisaged under UN Security Council Resolution 1244. The UN-backed talks, led by UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari, began in February 2006. Whilst progress was made on technical matters, both parties remained diametrically opposed on the question of status itself.
In February 2007, Ahtisaari delivered a draft status settlement proposal to leaders in Belgrade and Pristina, the basis for a draft UN Security Council Resolution which proposes 'supervised independence' for the province. A draft resolution, backed by the United States, the United Kingdom and other European members of the Security Council, was presented and rewritten four times to try to accommodate Russian concerns that such a resolution would undermine the principle of state sovereignty.
Russia, which holds a veto in the Security Council as one of five permanent members, had stated that it would not support any resolution which was not acceptable to both Belgrade and Kosovo Albanians. Whilst most observers had, at the beginning of the talks, anticipated independence as the most likely outcome, others have suggested that a rapid resolution might not be preferable.
After many weeks of discussions at the UN, the United States, United Kingdom and other European members of the Security Council formally 'discarded' a draft resolution backing Ahtisaari's proposal on 20 July 2007, having failed to secure Russian backing. Beginning in August, a "Troika" consisting of negotiators from the European Union (Wolfgang Ischinger), the United States (Frank G. Wisner) and Russia (Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko) launched a new effort to reach a status outcome acceptable to both Belgrade and Pristina. Despite Russian disapproval, the US, the United Kingdom, and France appeared likely to recognise Kosovar independence.
Under the Constitutional Framework, Kosovo had a 120-member Kosovo Assembly. The Assembly includes twenty reserved seats: ten for Kosovo Serbs and ten for non-Serb and non-Albanian nations (e.g. Bosniaks, Roma, etc.). The Kosovo Assembly was responsible for electing the President, Prime Minister, and Government of Kosovo, and for passing legislation which was vetted and promulgated by UNMIK.
Provisional Institutions of Self-Government
In November 2001, the OSCE supervised the first elections for the Kosovo Assembly. After that election, Kosovo's political parties formed an all-party unity coalition and elected Ibrahim Rugova as President and Bajram Rexhepi (PDK) as Prime Minister. After Kosovo-wide elections in October 2004, the LDK and AAK formed a new governing coalition that did not include PDK and Ora. This coalition agreement resulted in Ramush Haradinaj (AAK) becoming Prime Minister, while Ibrahim Rugova retained the position of President. PDK and Ora were critical of the coalition agreement and have since frequently accused the current government of corruption.
Parliamentary elections were held on 17 November 2007. After early results, Hashim Thaçi who was on course to gain 35 per cent of the vote, claimed victory for PDK, the Democratic Party of Kosovo, and stated his intention to declare independence. Thaçi formed a coalition with current President Fatmir Sejdiu's Democratic League which was in second place with 22 percent of the vote. The turnout at the election was particularly low. Most members of the Serb minority refused to vote.
The Serbian Liberal Party (SLS), led by Slobodan Petrovič, is the dominant force in all Serb-majority municipalities south of the River Ibar, and is a coalition partner in the Kosovo Government. Turn-out in local elections in these municipalities approaches turn-out in most Albanian-majority municipalities. North of the River Ibar the picture is different. Turn-out in local elections organised under Kosovo applicable law is almost zero and the de facto authorities in these municipalities continue to reject Kosovo's Government.
Declaration of independence
The Republic of Kosovo declared independence on 17 February 2008 and over the following days, a number of states (the United States, Turkey, Albania, Austria, Croatia, Germany, Italy, France, the United Kingdom, the Republic of China (Taiwan), Australia, Poland and others) announced their recognition, despite protests by Russia and others in the UN. recognise the independence of Kosovo and it has become a member country of the IMF and World Bank as the Republic of Kosovo.
The UN Security Council remains divided on the question. Of the five members with veto power, US, UK, and France recognised the declaration of independence, and the People's Republic of China has expressed concern, while Russia considers it illegal. , no member-country of CIS, CSTO or SCO has recognised Kosovo as independent. Kosovo has not made a formal application for UN membership yet.
The European Union has no official position towards Kosovo's status, but has decided to deploy the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo to ensure a continuation of international civil presence in Kosovo. , most of the member-countries of NATO, EU, WEU and OECD have recognised Kosovo as independent.
, all of Kosovo's immediate neighbours except Serbia have recognised the declaration of independence. Montenegro and Macedonia announced their recognition of Kosovo on 9 October 2008. Albania, Croatia, Bulgaria and Hungary have also recognised the independence of Kosovo.
The Serb minority of Kosovo, which largely opposes the declaration of independence, has formed the Community Assembly of Kosovo and Metohija in response. The creation of the assembly was condemned by Kosovo's president Fatmir Sejdiu, while UNMIK has said the assembly is not a serious issue because it will not have an operative role. On 8 October 2008, the UN General Assembly resolved to request the International Court of Justice to render an advisory opinion on the legality of Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia. The advisory opinion, which is legally non-binding but had been expected to carry "moral" weight, was rendered on 22 July 2010, holding that Kosovo's declaration of independence was not in violation of international law.
ICJ advisory opinion on Kosovo's declaration of independence
Accordance with International Law of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence In Respect of Kosovo was a request for an advisory opinion referred to the International Court of Justice by the UN General Assembly regarding the 2008 unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo. This was the first case regarding a unilateral declaration of independence to be brought before the court.
Kosovo was the poorest part of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY), and in the 1990s its economy suffered from the combined results of political upheaval, the Yugoslav wars, Serbian dismissal of Kosovo employees, and international sanctions on Serbia, of which it was then part.
After 1999, it had an economic boom as a result of post-war reconstruction and foreign assistance. In the period from 2003 to 2011, despite declining foreign assistance, growth of GDP averaged over 5% a year. This was despite the global financial crisis of 2009 and the subsequent eurozone crisis. Inflation was low.
Kosovo has a strongly negative balance of trade; in 2004, the deficit of the balance of goods and services was close to 70 percent of GDP, and was 39% of GDP in 2011. Remittances from the Kosovo diaspora accounted for an estimated 14 percent of GDP, little changed over the previous decade. Most economic development since 1999 has taken place in the trade, retail and construction sectors. The private sector which has emerged since 1999 is mainly small-scale. The industrial sector remains weak. The economy, and its sources of growth, are therefore geared far more to demand than production, as shown by the current account, which was in 2011 in deficit by about 20% of GDP. Consequently Kosovo is highly dependent on remittances from the diaspora (the majority of these from Germany and Switzerland), FDI (of which a high proportion also comes from the diaspora), and other capital inflows.
Government revenue is also dependent on demand rather than production; only 14% of revenue comes from direct taxes and the rest mainly from customs duties and taxes on consumption. In part this reflects low levels of production as shown in the current account; but in part it reflects very low direct taxation rates. In 2009 corporation tax was halved from 20% to 10%; the highest rate of income tax is also 10%.
However, Kosovo has very low levels of general government debt (only 5.8% of GDP), although this would rise if Serbia recognised Kosovo and an agreement was reached on Kosovo's share of SFRY debt (which Serbia estimated in 2009 at $1.264 billion and which it is currently servicing, though Kosovo is putting money into a separate account to take account, on a conservative basis, of potential liabilities). The Government also has liquid assets resulting from past fiscal surpluses (deposited in the Central Bank and invested abroad). Under applicable Kosovo law, there are also substantial assets from privatisation of socially-owned enterprises (SOEs), also invested abroad by the Central Bank, which should mostly accrue to the Government when liquidation processes have been completed.
The net foreign assets of the financial corporations and the Pension Fund amount to well over 50% of GDP. Moreover, the banking system in Kosovo seems very sound. For the banking system as a whole, the Tier One Capital Ratio as of January 2012 was 17.5%, double the ratio required in the EU; the proportion of non-performing loans was 5.9%, well below the regional average; and the credit to deposit ratio was only just above 80%. The assets of the banking system have increased from 5% of GDP in 2000 to 60% of GDP as of January 2012. Since the housing stock in Kosovo is generally good by South-East European standards, this suggests that (if the legal system's ability to enforce claims on collateral and resolve property issues is trusted), credit to Kosovars could be safely expanded.
The United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) introduced an external trade office and customs administration on 3 September 1999, when it established border controls in Kosovo. All goods imported to Kosovo face a flat 10% duty. These taxes are collected at all Customs Points at Kosovo's borders, including that between Kosovo and Serbia. UNMIK and Kosovo institutions have signed free-trade agreements with Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania and the Republic of Macedonia.
The euro is the official currency of Kosovo. Kosovo adopted the German mark in 1999 to replace the Serbian dinar, and later replaced it with the euro, although the Serbian dinar is still used in some Serb-majority areas (mostly in the north). This means that Kosovo has no levers of monetary policy over its economy, and must rely on a conservative fiscal policy to provide the means to respond to external shocks. Officially registered unemployment stood at 40% of the labour force in January 2012, although some estimates have put it as high as 60%. The IMF have pointed out, however, that informal employment is widespread, and the ratio of wages to per capita GDP is the second highest in South-East Europe; the true rate may therefore be lower. Unemployment among the Roma minority may be as high as 90%. The mean wage in 2009 was $2.98 per hour.
The dispute over Kosovo's international status, and the interpretation which some non-recognising states place on symbols which may or may not imply sovereignty, continues to impose economic costs on Kosovo. Examples include flight diversions because of a Serbian ban on flights to Kosovo over its territory; loss of revenues because of a lack of a regional dialling code (end-user fees on fixed lines accrue to Serbian Telecoms, while Kosovo has to pay Monaco and Slovenia for use of their regional codes for mobile phone connections; no IBAN code for bank transfers; and no regional Kosovo code for the internet.
A major deterrent to foreign manufacturing investment in Kosovo was removed in 2011 when the European Council accepted a Convention allowing Kosovo to be accepted as part of its rules for diagonal cumulative origination, allowing the label of Kosovo origination to goods which have been processed there but originated in a country elsewhere in the Convention. Since 2002 the European Commission has compiled a yearly progress report on Kosovo, evaluating its political and economic situation. Kosovo became a member of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund on 29 June 2009.