Majority recognized state in southeastern Europe; capital Priština; area 10,900 sq km/4,207 sq mi; population (2003 est) 2,088,700, of which about 80% are Albanians; Serbs and Muslims are the dominant minorities. A largely mountainous region, it includes the fertile valleys of Kosovo and Metohija and is drained by the Southern Morava River. Products include wine, nickel, lead, and zinc; the chief occupations are farming, livestock-raising, and mining. In 1990 fighting broke out between ethnic Albanians, who were agitating for unification of Kosovo with Albania, and Kosovo Serbs, who wanted Kosovo to be merged with the rest of Serbia. The Serbian parliament formally annexed Kosovo in July 1990, and Serbian troops were sent to the region in 1998. In 1999, after a three-month bombing campaign against Serbia, NATO forces moved in to Kosovo to keep the peace, and the United Nations (UN) took over the civil administration of the province. Kosovo declared independence in 2008.
Government Under its 2008 constitution, the Republic of Kosovo is a multi-party parliamentary democracy. It has a 120-member multi-ethnic legislature, the Assembly of Kosovo, comprising 100 members directly elected by proportional representation and 20 seats reserved for ethnic minorities, including 10 seats reserved for Serbs. The assembly is elected every three years and the prime minister is drawn from the party or coalition which commands a majority of seats. The state president was elected by the assembly before 2013, but directly elected thereafter. The Kosovo government is assisted and supported in the areas of policing, justice, and customs services by the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX).
History Settled by the Slavs in the 7th century, Kosovo passed to Bulgaria in the 9th century and to Serbia in the 12th century. In 1389 the Turks defeated Serbia and its allies in the Battle of Kosovo (which figures prominently in Serbian poetry), and the region remained under Turkish rule until the Balkan War of 1913. Partitioned in 1913 between Serbia and Montenegro, it was included in Yugoslavia after World War I. In 1945, Kosovo became an autonomous region within Serbia, and became a self-governing autonomous province in 1974, after Albanian riots in 1968.
Kosovo loses autonomy In March 1989, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) President Slobodan Milošević encouraged pressure from Serb nationalists in the Serbian and Kosovo parliaments for the ending of Kosovo's autonomy. This sparked riots and fighting by the Albanian community and, in February 1990, Serbia declared a state of emergency. In July 1990, ethnic Albanians in Kosovo's national assembly voted for independence but Serbia declared the vote invalid, dissolved the Kosovo government and parliament, imposed direct Serbian rule, and used ‘emergency legislation’ to sack over 100,000 ethnic Albanian workers in government and the media.
The fighting in Kosovo took place against the backcloth of broader conflict in the Balkans after Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia broke away, in 1991, from Serbian-dominated Yugoslavia. Kosovo's technically dissolved assembly organized an independence referendum in 1991 which received 99% support and the self-proclaimed republic elected as president, in May 1992, Ibrahim Rugova, leader of the centre-right Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), and a 130-member parliament.
Ethnic conflict in the 1990s Armed unrest against Serbian rule continued during the 1990s and escalated from 1997, being led by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), a paramilitary force with 500 fighters at its core which sought unification of Kosovo with Albania. In March 1998, Serbia sent troops into Kosovo, launching a brutal crackdown. Western countries responded by freezing Serb-held assets overseas and banning investment in Serbia. The UN imposed an arms embargo.
The FRY military offensive against the KLA destroyed scores of ethnic Albanian villages and displaced 200,000 (a tenth of the population) as refugees. There were atrocities and war crimes on both sides.
In January 1999, NATO issued an ultimatum to Milošević to end the crackdown. There were internationally-brokered negotiations between the KLA and the FRY in February 1999 at Rambouillet near Paris, France. However, the FRY rejected the peace plan, and stepped up its persecution of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.
NATO's bombing campaign NATO responded in March 1999 with air strikes against Yugoslavia. Serbs retaliated with ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Albanians, leading to a worseing refugee crisis, but after 78 days it yielded and on 9 June 1999, Milošević agreed to withdraw Serbian police and military forces from Kosovo, and the KLA agreed to disarm. On 11 June a 50,000-strong NATO peacekeeping force, Kosovo Peace Implementation Force (K-FOR), entered and took control of Kosovo to keep the peace, while a UN Interim Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK) was made responsible for overseeing the province's civil administration.
After the war Despite some clashes between KLA fighters and Serbs, and revenge attacks by ethnic Albanians on Serbs, which led to over 164,000 Serbs fleeing Kosovo and by August 1999 only 30,000 Serbs being left in the province, NATO's takeover was relatively peaceful. About 600,000 refugees had returned to Kosovo in the first five weeks after the peace treaty was signed.
In July 1999, at a conference on rebuilding Kosovo held in Brussels, Belgium, in July 1999, more than 100 governments and aid organizations pledged over $2 billion/£1.25 billion in emergency aid, and 40 world leaders signed, in Sarajevo, Bosnia, a ‘Stability Pact’ aimed at replacing turmoil in the Balkans with peace and prosperity.
Troubled transition to civilian rule In September 1999, the KLA agreed to transform itself into a civilian guard, the Kosovo Protection Corps, and work under the supervision of NATO's commander in Kosovo. This led Serb members to pull out of the Kosovo Transitional Council (KTC), the body which advised UNMIK.
Members of a new power-sharing council in Kosovo met for the first time in February 2000, although leaders refused to disband their alternative civil structures. Violence continued in the ethnically-divided city of Mitrovica between Serbs, ethnic Albanians, and NATO-led peacekeeping troops, who put the town under a military curfew, sealing off the Albanian quarter.
In August 2000, the Hague-based United Nations International Criminal Tribunal, estimated, on the basis of exhumations, that Serbian forces killed around 5,000 Kosovo Albanians during the occupation in 1999.
Assembly elections Free and fair elections to a 120-member Kosovo legislative assembly were held in November 2001 and overseen by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Around 1 million people, including 90% of the eligible ethnic Albanian population but few ethnic Serbs, registered to vote. The elections were boycotted by the Serb community and were won, with 46% of the vote, by the moderate Albanian-nationalist LDK, led by Rugova, who continued to demand full independence.
In March 2002, the assembly elected Rugova as president and Bajram Rexhepi, of the centre-left Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), which had emerged from the political wing of KLA, as prime minister.
The October 2004 general election produced a hung-parliament, in which the LDK won 47 of the 120 seats. The LDK formed a coalition government, with Ramush Haradinaj, a former rebel commander who belonged to the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, becoming prime minister in December 2004, while the assembly re-elected Rugova as president.
Leadership changes Haradinaj resigned his post in March 2005, after being indicted to appear before the UN war crimes tribunal in the Hague. He was replaced by Bajram Kosumi, of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, who in turn resigned in March 2006 due to criticism from within his party. Kosumi was succeeded by the former KLA commander Agim Çeku. Following Rugova's death in January 2006, Fatmir Sejdiu of the LDK became president in February 2006.
The November 2007 legislative assembly elections saw the LDK fall behind the PDK, led by Hashim Thaçi, who became prime minister in January 2008. The PDK won 37 seats, with 34% of the vote, and the LDK 25 seats, with 23% of the vote. The Serb minority boycotted the poll.
Declarations of independence In February 2007, UN plans for Kosovo's eventual independence were unveiled, but were immediately rejected by Serbia and were substantially revised, in July 2007, to drop the promise of independence, to meet Russian concerns.
In February 2008, Kosovo issued a unilateral declaration of independence. It was recognized by the USA, France, Germany, and the UK, but was rejected by Serbia, Russia, and Spain, while China expressed ‘grave concern’. In June 2008, ethnic Serbs set up a rival administration in Mitrovica. In October 2008, the UN referred the declaration of independence to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and in July 2010 the ICJ ruled that the declaration had been legal. By 2013 more than 100 countries formally recognized the Republic of Kosovo.
The Kosovo assembly approved, in April 2008, a new constitution, which came into effect in June 2008. In response, ethnic Serbs set up a rival assembly and administration in Mitrovica. Thaçi's PDK narrowly retained its majority in the December 2010 parliamentary elections. In March 2011, Atifete Jahjaga, a police officer, became Kosovo's first female president.
Kosovo and Serbia landmark agreement In December 2008, the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) assumed responsibility from the UN for policing, justice, and customs services in Kosovo, with Serbia's approval. By December 2012 NATO had reduced the number of troops in KFOR by two-thirds, to 5,000.
Talks between Serbia and Kosovo began in March 2011. They were mediated by the EU mediation and culminated in April 2013 in a landmark agreement, in April 2013 to normalize relations. Under this agreement, both sides agreed not to block each other's efforts to seek EU membership and Kosovo agreed to give a high degree of autonomy to Serb-majority areas in northern Kosovo.
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