Kosovo. Violent protests raged in the capital Priština for several days in January against a minister calling Kosovo Albanians “barbarians” after trying to prevent Serbian pilgrims from visiting a monastery. More than 20 police officers and almost as many protesters were injured in the riots that occurred when the police deployed water cannons and tear gas. The minister, one of three Kosovo Serbs in the government, was forced to step down.
According to COUNTRYAAH, Pristina is the capital of Kosovo which is located in Eastern Europe. Parliament voted in August to set up an EU-backed war criminal court in the country to investigate suspicions of crimes committed by Kosovo Albanians during the 1998-99 war. The opposition loudly opposed the decision.
Steps towards normalizing relations with Serbia were taken during the EU mediation, with hopes by both parties to approach membership in the Union. In a settlement, the Kosovo Serbian minority in northern Kosovo promised promise of increased autonomy and otherwise the parties agreed on energy and telecommunications issues and on how to handle the symbolically important bridge in Mitrovica. The opposition protested against the settlement and in September prevented Prime Minister Isa Mustafa from speaking in Parliament by bombarding him with eggs. Three opposition parties also initiated a name gathering against the agreement and demanded a referendum on the settlement. Tear gas protests were carried out several times in Parliament and by the end of the year, seven members had been arrested by police.
At the end of October, a Stabilization and Association Agreement was signed with the EU. It was considered a milestone on the long road to membership of the Union, not least because five EU members still had not recognized Kosovo’s independence.
Kosovo’s contemporary history
Kosovo’s contemporary history is the country’s history after 1990. Kosovo was part of Yugoslavia until the dissolution of the federation in 1992. In 1990, the Kosovo Parliament declared the area a republic in Yugoslavia. In 1991, they declared themselves an independent state, the Republic of Kosovo, but remained under Yugoslav rule, from 1992 as part of Serbia and Montenegro.
From 1996, the conflict between the Albanian guerrilla UÇK and security forces from Serbia and Montenegro intensified, and it developed into full war from 1998 to 1999, with massacres and ethnic cleansing. June 10, 1999, the war ended and Kosovo came under UN rule. In 2006, the Serbia-Montenegro state union was abolished. Kosovo continued to be a part of Serbia until 2008, when the ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo declared the independent Republic of Kosovo.
The UN established in 1999 that Kosovo is an integral part of Serbia and Montenegro (now Serbia), but the UN administered the area from 1999 pending a definitive solution. The Kosovo Albanians wanted full independence, while the Serbs were willing to fight with arms in hand to keep the province.
The UN has strongly influenced Kosovo’s development. From 2002 to 2004, the international community’s approach was formulated as “standard before status”. This meant putting the issue of Kosovo’s political status on hold and first focusing on achieving certain international standards. These included building democratic institutions, improving the public sector, establishing a rule of law and ensuring freedom of movement for all citizens. Following a new wave of violence in March 2004, against the Serbs, the international community realized that the question of Kosovo’s status could not be postponed indefinitely.
Norwegian diplomat Kai Eide was the UN Secretary-General’s special envoy to Kosovo in 2004 and 2005. After Eide presented his report in autumn 2005, the UN Security Council decided to launch international negotiations to determine Kosovo’s future. New special envoy was Finnish Martti Ahtisaari. In the summer of 2006, for the first time, the leaders of Serbia (President Boris Tadic and Prime Minister Vojislav Koštunica) officially met with their Kosovo Albanian counterparts Fatmir Sejdiu and Agim Çeku. The parties took diametrically different positions.
In 2007, Ahtisaari presented its plan, which in practice meant an independent Kosovo; the province should have its own constitution and state symbols, its own armed forces and independent space in international organizations. The plan also established Kosovo’s “multi-ethnic character” and contained guarantees for the Serbian minority. It also contained a schedule for the independence process, and the words used were “supervised independence”.
Serbia immediately rejected the plan and brought the matter to the UN. Russia blocked decisions that supported Ahtisaari’s plan, while Serbia’s demands were rejected by the other permanent members of the UN Security Council. Kosovo’s National Assembly decided to support the plan, but the Serbian population boycotted the elections and did not participate in the National Assembly.
Two new organizations took over after the UN: an EU mission named EU LEX, after the Latin word for “law”, and the ICO (International Civilian Office). The task of EULEX should be to monitor aspects related to law and justice, with the right to independently investigate particularly difficult cases such as war crimes, organized crime and interethnic violence. The ICO, led by the ICR, the International Civilian Representative, was the EU’s special envoy and was to monitor the Kosovo government’s compliance with the Ahtisaari plan, even though it had never been recognized in the Security Council. While the Serbian side had Russian support, US support was central to the Albanian side’s aspirations for independence.
In the fall of 2007, Hashim Thaçi became the new prime minister in Kosovo. He was previously the leader of the Kosovo Albanian Liberation Army UCK and in 1999 was responsible for cooperation with NATO during the Kosovo operations. Thaçi leads Kosovo’s Democratic Party PDK.