Kosovo Independence

Kosovo UÇK monument

With the end of the NATO mission on June 10, 1999, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1244, which provides the basis for international law, the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and the stationing of the international military presence, the Kosovo Forces (KFOR)under the leadership of NATO. As a direct consequence of the conflict, however, a power vacuum initially spread in the interregium between the withdrawal of Serbian security forces and civil administrative structures and before the UN set up the police, judiciary and administration. In this vacuum there were violent attacks against Kosovar Serbs (as well as against other minorities). While hundreds of thousands of Kosovars returned to Kosovo in a short space of time, 200,000 Serbs left Kosovo in the summer of 1999 in an opposing refugee movement, mostly for Serbia. According to ETHNICITYOLOGY, these movements, reinforced by the opposing Albanian-Serbian flight and expulsion, led in fact to a Kosovar-Serb enclave in the north of Kosovo, which was already predominantly Serbian before the war. Mitrovica ethnically divided along the river. In spite of the UN administration, northern Kosovo remained effectively under the control of the Serbian state, while Kosovar life in the south was increasingly reduced to a few enclaves outside the big cities.

The emerging UN administration UNMIK, headed by a Special Representative of Secretary-General, SPSG, had three goals: Firstly, the temporary (hence “interim administration”) administration in Kosovo, secondly the establishment of Kosovar administrative structures and thirdly, support in working out a final solution to the status conflict. UNMIK was divided into four pillars. The first, led by the UNHCR, initially focused on humanitarian aid and was later responsible for the judiciary and police; the second was the actual civil administration; the third, under the auspices of the OSCE, dealt with building democratic structures based on the rule of law; the fourth, which was given to the EU, was responsible for reconstruction and economic development. A central role of UNMIK consisted in the assumption of justice and police by international lawyers and the UNMIK police,

Once basic institutions were in place, UNMIK began handing over its first competencies to local self-government in 2001, with the first local elections in 2000, parliamentary elections one year later, and the first presidential elections in early 2002, in which the consensus candidate of the most important Albanian political groups was held, Ibrahim Rugova won. The gradual transfer of power to the president, government, parliament and local authorities took place under the condition that certain functions were held in international hands and that the SRSG had the right to intervene (the so-called “reserved powers”) in the event of undesirable developments. This transformation process was based on the approach of achieving certain (democratic) standards before the opening of status negotiations (“Standards before Status”).

The riots across Kosovo in 2004 forced the international community to change direction prematurely. The drowning of three Albanian children in the Ibar River and the emergence of rumors about the alleged involvement of Kosovar Serbs in the incident resulted in an escalation of interethnic violence directed against the Serbian population of Kosovo and other minorities. In March 2004, 19 people were killed and more than 1,000 people injured. Numerous religious buildings and homes were destroyed, and an estimated 4,000 people were displaced. The riots highlighted the fragility of inter-ethnic coexistence in Kosovo and led to a change in strategy led to status negotiations on the part of the international community.

In 2005 the UN appointed Martti Ahtisaari as Kosovo special envoy for the status conflict. After several unsuccessful rounds of negotiations in 2006 with the delegations of Serbia and Kosovo, Ahtisaari presented his solution plan for a supervised independence of Kosovo, the Comprehensive Settlement Proposal, in February 2007. The plan provided for far-reaching minority (protection) rights, i.e. the institutionalization of positive ethnic discrimination for the Kosovo Serbs combined with a strongly decentralized state structure based on the Scandinavian model of local self-government. At the same time, international institutions with executive competence should centrally control and help shape the transition to an independent, multi-ethnic and peaceful state of Kosovo. The conflict resolution proposal ended like others before: with the approval of inclusive far-reaching concessions by the Kosovar Albanian side – the parliament in Prishtina approved the plan in April 2007, one month after Ahtisaari presented it to the UN Security Council – while Belgrade rejected it. Belgrade’s blockade, which fundamentally rejected the independence of Kosovo,Troika negotiating team from the USA, the EU (represented by the German diplomat Wolfgang Ischinger) and Russia, which ended in November 2007 with no results – a failure from the start.

On February 17, 2008, the parliament in Prishtina proclaimed the independence of the Republic of Kosovo, supported by a broad coalition of Western states, above all the USA and the absolute majority of the EU member states. In April the parliament passed the constitution of the new state, based on the Ahtisaari plan, which had been drawn up with Western help. With this, Kosovo and its western partners implemented the UN mediator’s peace plan bypassing the UN Security Council, in which the Serbia allies Russia and China blocked such a solution.

In the preamble to the constitution of Europe’s youngest state, it says:

We, the people of Kosovo, are determined to shape the future of the state of Kosovo as a free, democratic and peace-loving country that will be home to all its citizens; committed to building a state of free citizens, a state that guarantees the rights of every citizen, civil liberties and the equality of all citizens before the law; committed to a state of economic well-being and social prosperity; Convinced that the state of Kosovo contributes to regional and European stability through the creation of good neighborly relations and good neighborly cooperation; convinced that the state of Kosovo will be a worthy member of the international peace community; Intending to integrate the state of Kosovo into the Euro-Atlantic processes; solemnly adopt the constitution of the Republic of Kosovo (translation: Manfred Sauer).

Balkan Insight chronicles the recent history of Kosovo from the Racak massacre in January 1999 to the murder of the Kosovar Serb politician Oliver Ivanović in January 2018.

Kosovo UÇK monument