Kosovo, which belonged to the Roman Empire from the time of August, was inhabited during antiquity by Illyrian tribes. The Albanians, who looked like descendants of the Illyrians, were forced out of the lowlands by immigrant slaves in the 500s. During the Nemanjić family, in the 13th century, Prizren became the capital of a Serbian kingdom and Peć the capital of the Serbian patriarch. Therefore, in the Middle Ages, many Orthodox churches and monasteries were built in Kosovo, and these included extensive land estates. Economically, Kosovo was of great importance with its production of wool, wine and silk. The whole of Kosovo became part of Emperor Stefan Dušan’s Greater Serbian Empire 1331–55. The Albanian people are mentioned specifically in the emperor’s legislation. At the Battle of Kosovo Polje (Trast Field) in 1389 and in the continuing uprisings against the Turks, both Serbs and Albanians participated.
From the 1600s, a Serbian emigration from Kosovo took place, while the Albanians began to convert to Islam. The Albanians moved down into the lowlands, where the arable land was converted to pasture, and into the cities. The remaining Serbs were Islamized. In 1878, the so-called Prizren League achieved a late national revival among the Albanians.
During the Balkan wars, Serbia conquered Kosovo, which it retained when an independent Albania was created in 1913. To see more information other than history, please visit Abbreviationfinder to learn more about climate, population, government, and economy for the country of Kosovo. At the same time as the Serbs claimed that the Kosovo Albanians were actually Albanized Serbs, a campaign was run against them. About 50,000 Albanians and Turks are estimated to have been imprisoned and as many emigrated to Turkey and Albania, among others. Serbian and Macedonian colonists acquired land owned by the Turkish state, major landowners and parishes. After Belgrade was captured in October 1915, Bulgarian, German and Austro-Hungarian forces in early November went on offensive in Kosovo against a numerically inferior Serbian army. The Serbs suffered defeat several times and returned in early December to Albania, which was neutral, from where they were transported by mainly Italian vessels to Corfu.
After the Second World War, Kosovo became a province within Serbia, the largest of the six sub-republics of the newly established Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia. The 1974 Constitution of Yugoslavia gave Kosovo far-reaching autonomy, effectively equating the province with the republics of the Yugoslav Federation. Continued unrest, including 1981, was severely defeated by the Republic of Serbia, to which Kosovo still belonged. Serbia abolished most of the province’s rights in 1989–90. Under Slobodan Milošević’s Serbian nationalist rule, the Serbian minority gained all power in Kosovo and a Serbian campaign was launched. This led the Albanians to establish a parallel underground society with their own schools, clinics and institutions. Through especially the Kosovo Democratic Alliance, LDK (Lidhja Demokratike e Kosovës) under the leadership of Ibrahim Rugova, the Kosovo Albanians sought peaceful means to fight the mass redundancies and violations of human rights exercised by the Serbian authorities.
As no progress was made, more hard-working groups gained greater influence. Most important of these was the Kosovo Liberation Army (Ushtrisë të çlirimtare të Kosovës, UÇK), a guerrilla group formed by Albanians in particular Switzerland and Germany and who wanted to forcibly establish an independent Albanian Kosovo. A series of attacks by UÇK against Serbian police and government officials, as well as against Albanians who cooperated with the Serbs, escalated the fight for Kosovo. In 1998, pure war broke out in the province, since the outside world tried in vain to get Milošević and Rugova to reach an agreement and despite financial sanctions against Yugoslavia, which since spring 1992 consisted of only Serbia and Montenegro. In the fighting, Albanians suffered severe defeat with many dead and tens of thousands of refugees to neighboring countries as a result.
Following a decision by the UN Security Council, OSCE observers were posted in November 1998 and January 1999 in Kosovo. Yugoslavia then increased its military presence and continued the attacks on the population. At a meeting of the French Rambouillet in February 1999, the Kosovo Albanian side accepted a proposal for an international transitional regime for three years, followed by a referendum that would determine the future of the area. Yugoslavia opposed the proposal – when the Kosovo Albanians were in the vast majority (nearly 90 percent of the population of Kosovo), a referendum would almost certainly lead to independence.
The war and the process of independence
After the OSCE observers were withdrawn and diplomatic efforts failed, NATO launched a series of bombings against military targets in Yugoslavia in March 1999 to force an agreement. At the same time, the Yugoslav violence against the civilian population of Kosovo intensified and hundreds of thousands of Kosovo Albanians were forced to flee, within Kosovo or to neighboring states Albania, present-day Northern Macedonia and Montenegro, at the same time killing over ten thousand people.
In June, however, Slobodan Milošević gave up and the Yugoslav armed forces withdrew. It was replaced by an international peace force, KFOR (Kosovo Force) and many refugees were able to return. KFOR began with some trouble disarming the UÇK guerrillas, which many Albanians saw as heroes, while the peace force had problems with protecting the Serbian minority and the Romans from Kosovo’s revenge attempts. A number of mass graves were also discovered in the wake of the conflict.
The UN Security Council adopted a resolution (number 1244) with guidelines for the future of Kosovo. Formally, Kosovo would continue to be a province within Serbia; in practice it came to be governed by the international community in the form of a provisional board, UNMIK (United Nations Mission in Kosovo). However, the intention was that power would gradually be transferred to the people of Kosovo. One step in this process was the elections held (and all of which were largely boycotted by the Kosovo Serbs): first local elections in autumn 2000, followed by parliamentary elections in the autumn thereafter, again municipal elections a year later and again parliamentary elections in autumn 2004. In all elections LDK largest party and party leader Rugova had been elected president in November 2001.
However, the 2004 elections were held in the shadow of the most serious unrest in Kosovo since the 1999 war, following (unconfirmed) information that Serbian youth in the divided city of Mitrovica in the north chased three Kosovo Albanian boys in the river where they drowned. During a few days of unrest in March, 19 people were killed and nearly 1,000 injured. Serbian houses and Serbian Orthodox churches were set on fire and the violence also spread to Serbia, where protesters in turn went to mosques.
Following the March events, the UN decided to speed up a decision on how to govern Kosovo in the future to avoid the people’s frustration leading to new unrest. The economic situation in Kosovo was difficult, as no one wanted to invest there as long as uncertainty prevailed in the future and meanwhile, hopelessness and even lawlessness in the area grew.
Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari was appointed by the UN to lead talks between Serbia and Kosovo on the future status of the province. Negotiations were held in Vienna and started in February 2006 – somewhat delayed when Rugova died shortly before. Ahtisaari’s mission was not easy as the parties were so far apart. While the Kosovo Albanians could not settle for less than independence for Kosovo, Serbia could only imagine far-reaching autonomy for Kosovo within Serbia.
After several rounds of negotiations, Ahtisaari presented a final report in March 2007. He felt that Kosovo should be given independence but only after a period of international surveillance, when democratic social institutions were built. The proposal also included comprehensive protection for minorities; for example, both Albanian and Serbian would be official languages and the Kosovo Serbs would have far-reaching autonomy. While the Kosovo Albanians accepted the plan, the Serbs said no. A new round of negotiations in the autumn of 2007 led no one, as Russia also vetoed a slightly revised proposal in the UN Security Council.
Therefore, in February 2008, Kosovo unilaterally proclaimed its independence, in accordance with a promise from former guerrilla leader Hashim Thaçi since he and his party PDK came to power after the November 2007 parliamentary elections, although Kosovo was quickly recognized by the United States and the majority of the EU, among others. countries (including Sweden), many countries, such as the Russian Federation and China, stood outside.
By the end of the 2010s, 114 countries, including 23 EU members, had recognized Kosovo’s independence. Kosovo has, however, found it difficult to get new recognition, while Serbia is actively working to withdraw as many countries as possible, something that has succeeded in several cases. Admittedly, Kosovo has been allowed to participate in high-level regional meetings (if one does not use its flag) and has been allowed to join international organizations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, but not the UN. In international law, Kosovo is thus still hanging in the air.
One problem for the new state has been that it lacks control of the Serbian-dominated northern part, around the city of Mitrovica. The Serbs here have stubbornly refused to approve of Pristina’s supremacy and established their own institutions, linked to and even supported by Serbia. When, in February 2012, they conducted a referendum, labeled by the Pristina government as illegal and invalid, to accept Kosovo’s authorities or not, virtually all of them voted no.
In 2011, with the help of the EU, talks began between the governments of Serbia and Kosovo. These culminated in spring 2013 in an agreement between the two countries to normalize their relations. Among other things, Serbia acknowledged Pristina’s supremacy over four Serbian-dominated municipalities in the north against giving them extensive self-government. Although nationalists on both sides objected to the agreement, which was later adopted by the Belgrade and Pristina parliaments, this was seen as a breakthrough in relations between the countries and a step on the road to future EU membership for both. In November, for the first time, joint municipal elections were held throughout Kosovo (the Serbs in the north had previously held their own elections) and although there were some unrest in the north and the voices were relatively large, they could be conducted in a reasonably satisfactory manner.
In December 2010, new elections had been held to Parliament. PDK again became the largest party with one third of the votes and Thaçi gained renewed confidence as prime minister. However, the electoral movement was characterized by popular protests against widespread poverty, unemployment and corruption, which led to the success of several new parties, such as the Albanian-nationalist dissatisfaction party Vetëvendosje (‘Self-determination’), which received just over 12 percent of the vote.
Shortly after the election, the Council of Europe, in a report, singled out Thaçi as leader of a mafia-like league, the Drenica Group, made up of prominent members of the liberation movement UÇK. The group was said to have smuggled weapons, drugs and human organs during and after the 1998–99 Kosovo war. Thaçi and PDK dismissed the allegations as false. Another prominent former UÇK member, Ramush Haradinaj, twice prime minister, was acquitted both in 2008 and 2012 by the War Criminal Tribunal in The Hague for alleged war crimes during the war.
In April 2014, following strong pressure from the EU, the Pristina Parliament decided to set up a special court to investigate war crimes that may have been committed by UÇK. The court, which is governed by the Kosovo judiciary but is located in The Hague for security reasons, was established in 2017 and was able to begin its work in 2019. One of the first to be called to the court was Haradinaj.
When Kosovo appointed a new president in 2016, Thaçi was elected by Parliament, resulting in widespread protests as Thaçi lost in popularity. However, the vote was marked by the opposition’s loud objections inside and outside the parliament house and was interrupted on several occasions due to tear gas attacks during the ongoing election process. Thaçi had hoped to be able to continue as head of government after the new election forced in June 2014 following disagreements within government and parliament, but following demands from several parties and a six-year government crisis, the post went instead to LDK leader Isa Mustafi (born 1951), former mayor in Pristina, while Thaçi was promised the 2016 presidential post.
But disagreement even within the new government, a coalition between LDK and Thais’s PDK, as well as widespread protests from the opposition, led in June 2017 to its resignation. The triggering factor was a controversial border agreement with Montenegro, an agreement that the EU required to be approved in order to give the countries visa-free access to the Union. When Parliament, after several deferred attempts, voted in favor of the agreement, it led to a fresh election after the opposition rejected the agreement and brought a declaration of confidence against the government, which was forced to resign.
This time, it was three months before a new government could take office, a coalition led by controversial AAK leader Ramush Haradinaj and including PDK, AKR and Nisma as well as representatives of minorities. Haradinaj, who for a brief period in 2004 was prime minister, had twice been tried before the War Criminal Tribunal in The Hague, charged with war crimes but acquitted. In June 2019 he was called to the newly established Special Court in The Hague which investigated war crimes by the UÇK guerrillas during the 1998-99 Kosovo war and then chose to resign. New elections were announced again, until October 6, 2019.
Following the agreement with Serbia in 2013, Kosovo began negotiations with the EU and in April 2016 a so-called Stabilization and Cooperation Agreement (SAA) came into force, a first step on the road to EU membership. This means enhanced cooperation with the EU and Kosovo receiving assistance and also financial assistance to carry out the necessary reforms in all areas. Kosovo is still Europe’s poorest country and even though the proportion of poor people falls even closer to one-fifth below the poverty line.
Since 2016, new legislation has also been introduced in a number of areas, notably in the legal and administrative sectors. However, a large number of legislative proposals have not been considered, as too few MEPs have been present at the polls. Lack of trained staff and other resources has also sometimes made it difficult to implement adopted laws. Moreover, since independence, the EU has a so-called legal mission, EULEX, in Kosovo with the task of helping the country to create a functioning judiciary, police and customs system. Since the summer of 2018, Kosovo has assumed responsibility for the judiciary, but a somewhat deranged EULEX remains, at least until the summer of 2020.
Many companies have been privatized, but many remain in state ownership. One problem is that the state-owned companies pay higher wages than they are able to private. The companies have often found it difficult to get investments due to poor infrastructure and uncertain access to electricity.
Unemployment has decreased but remains high: just over 30 percent (but higher for women, and half of young people lack work). A large number of working-age Kosovans have left Kosovo to seek work abroad. Some in the 2010s also applied to Islamist terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State, although a law was passed in 2015 that provides severe penalties for those who “join or encourage participation in foreign armies or police forces”. Like many other countries, Kosovo now has problems dealing with returnees from the Islamic State and their children. In the fall of 2019, four Kosovans with links to IS were sentenced to long prison sentences for planning terrorist acts, both in Kosovo and abroad.
Kosovo is also still the only country in the Balkan Peninsula that lacks visa-free access to the EU. One request from the EU for Kosovo to get such was that a controversial border agreement with Montenegro was adopted, which also happened in March 2018 despite widespread protests. However, the EU has nonetheless hesitated to sign a visa-free agreement, as several Member States believe that despite certain efforts, Kosovo has not done enough to deal with organized crime and widespread corruption.
Tough strikes against these were high on the agenda for the new government following the autumn 2019 elections, a coalition between the opposition parties Vetëvendosje (VV) and LDK, which, however, could not take office until early February 2020 with the VV leader Albin Kurti as prime minister. The two parties each received about 25 percent of all votes and were considered to stand for a renewal and rejuvenation of politics, a policy that would not only benefit themselves and their clans but the entire country (see also Politics).