For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.
Republic of Kosovo
Area: 10,887 square kilometers (4,203 square miles), slightly smaller than Connecticut.
Nationality: Adjective--Kosovo national.
Population (July 2009 est.): 1.8 million.
Ethnic groups: 88% ethnic Albanians, 7% ethnic Serbs, 5% other (Bosniaks, Gorani, Roma, Ashkali, Egyptians, Turks).
Religion: The majority ethnic Albanian population, as well as the Bosniak, Gorani, and Turkish communities, and some of the Roma/Ashkalia/Egyptian communities are adherents of Islam. The ethnic Serb population is largely Serb Orthodox. Approximately 3% of ethnic Albanians are Roman Catholic.
Languages: Albanian (official), Serbian (official), Roma, Turkish (official only in municipality of Prizren), Bosniak, English.
Education: Adult literacy rates (2007 est.): 91.9% (men 96.6%, women 87.5%). Enrollment (2003 est.)--96% of children ages 7-15 enrolled in primary school.
Health: Infant mortality rate--23.7/1,000. Total fertility rate, births per woman (2003 est.)--2.9. Life expectancy (2003 est.)--75 years.
Constitution: The Kosovo Assembly approved a new constitution on April 9, 2008. It came into force on June 15, 2008.
Branches: Executive--president (head of state); prime minister (head of government). Legislative--unicameral Assembly (120 seats, 4-year terms; 100 seats generally elected, 10 seats reserved for ethnic Serbs, 10 seats reserved for other ethnic minorities). Judicial--Supreme Court.
Subdivisions: 33 municipalities.
Political parties: Albanian Christian Democratic Party of Kosovo (PShDK) [Mark KRASNIQI]; Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) [Ramush HARADINAJ]; Alliance of Independent Social Democrats of Kosovo and Metohija (SDSKIM) [Ljubisa Zivic]; Autonomous Liberal Party (SLS) [Slobodan PETROVIC]; Bosniak Vakat Coalition (DSV) [Sadik Idrizi]; Citizens' Initiative of Gora (GIG) [Murselj HALJILJI]; Democratic League of Dardania (LDD) [Nexhat DACI]; Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) [Fatmir SEJDIU]; Democratic Party of Ashkali of Kosovo (PDAK) [Sabit RAHMANI]; Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) [Hashim THACI]; Kosovo Democratic Turkish Party (KDTP) [Mahir YAGCILAR]; New Democratic Initiative of Kosovo (IRDK) [Xhevdet NEZIRAJ]; New Democratic Party (ND) [Branislav GRBIC]; New Kosovo Alliance (AKR) [Behxhet PACOLLI]; Popular Movement of Kosovo (LPK) [Emrush XHEMAJLI]; Reform Party Ora [Teuta SAHATQIJA]; Serb National Party (SNS) [Mihailo SCEPANOVIC]; Serbian Kosovo and Metohija Party (SKMS) [Dragisa MIRIC]; United Roma Party of Kosovo (PREBK) [Haxhi Zylfi MERXHA]; Democratic Action Party (SDA) [Numan BALIC]; Independent Liberal Party (Kosovo Serb) [Slobodan PETROVIC; Serbian National Council of Northern Kosovo and Metohija (SNV) [Milan IVANOVIC]; Democratic Party of Bosniaks [Dzezair MURATI]; Serbian Democratic Party of Kosovo and Metohija (SDS KiM) [Slavisa PETKOVIC]; Social Democratic Party of Kosovo (PSDK) [Agim CEKU].
Suffrage: Universal at age 18.
GDP at PPP (2008): $5.3 billion.
Per capita GDP at PPP (2007): $2,452.
GDP composition by sector: Agriculture 20%, industry 20%, services 60%.
Agriculture: Products--Fruits and vegetables (potatoes, berries), wheat, corn, wine, beef.
Industry: Mineral mining, energy, telecommunications, forestry, agriculture, metal processing, construction materials, base metals, leather, machinery, appliances.
Income and employment (2008): 45% of the Kosovo labor force is unemployed; 35% of Kosovo's citizens live below the poverty line, and 15% live in extreme poverty.
Kosovo has been inhabited since the Neolithic Era. During the medieval period, Kosovo was the center of the medieval Serbian empire and saw the construction of many important Serb religious sites, including many architecturally significant Serbian Orthodox monasteries. It was the site of a 14th-century battle in which invading Ottoman Turks defeated an army led by Serbian Prince Lazar.
The Ottomans ruled Kosovo for more than four centuries, until Serbia reacquired the territory during the First Balkan War in 1912-13. First partitioned in 1913 between Serbia and Montenegro, Kosovo was then incorporated into the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (later named Yugoslavia) after World War I. During World War II, parts of Kosovo were absorbed into Italian-occupied Albania. After the Italian capitulation, Nazi Germany assumed control over Kosovo until Tito's Yugoslav Partisans entered at the end of the war.
After World War II, Kosovo became an autonomous province of Serbia in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (S.F.R.Y.). The 1974 Yugoslav Constitution gave Kosovo (along with Vojvodina) the status of a Socialist Autonomous Province within Serbia. As such, it possessed nearly equal rights as the six constituent Socialist Republics of the S.F.R.Y. In 1981, riots broke out and were violently suppressed after Kosovo Albanians demonstrated to demand that Kosovo be granted full Republic status.
The Kosovo Conflict and NATO Intervention
In the late 1980s, Slobodan Milosevic propelled himself to power in Belgrade by exploiting Serbian nationalism and the question of Kosovo. In 1989, he eliminated Kosovo's autonomy and imposed direct rule from Belgrade. Belgrade ordered the firing of most ethnic Albanian state employees, whose jobs were then assumed by Serbs.
In response, Kosovo Albanian leaders began a peaceful resistance movement in the early 1990s, led by Ibrahim Rugova. They established a parallel government funded mainly by the Albanian diaspora. When this movement failed to yield results, an armed resistance emerged in 1997 in the form of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). The KLA's main goal was to secure the independence of Kosovo.
In late 1998, Milosevic unleashed a brutal police and military campaign against the KLA, which included widespread atrocities against civilians. As Milosevic's ethnic cleansing campaign progressed, over 800,000 ethnic Albanians were forced from their homes in Kosovo. Intense international mediation efforts led to the Rambouillet Accords, which called for Kosovo autonomy and the insertion of NATO troops to preserve the peace. Milosevic's failure to agree to the Rambouillet Accords triggered a NATO military campaign to halt the violence in Kosovo. This campaign consisted primarily of aerial bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (F.R.Y.), including Belgrade, and continued from March through June 1999. After 78 days of bombing, Milosevic capitulated. Shortly thereafter, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1244 (1999), which suspended Belgrade's governance over Kosovo, and under which Kosovo was placed under the administration of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), and which authorized a NATO peacekeeping force. Resolution 1244 also envisioned a political process designed to determine Kosovo's future status.
As ethnic Albanians returned to their homes, elements of the KLA conducted reprisal killings and abductions of ethnic Serbs and Roma in Kosovo. Thousands of ethnic Serbs, Roma, and other minorities fled from their homes during the latter half of 1999, and many remain displaced.
Kosovo Under UN Administration
The UN established the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), under the control of a Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG). In 2001, UNMIK promulgated a Constitutional Framework that provided for the establishment of Provisional Institutions of Self-Government (PISG).
Under UNMIK's guidance, Kosovo established new institutions (both at the municipal and central levels), held free elections, and established a multi-ethnic Kosovo Police Service (KPS). The KLA was demobilized, with many of its members incorporated into the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC), a civilian emergency services organization. UNMIK gradually turned over more governing competences to local authorities.
In March 2004, Kosovo experienced its worst inter-ethnic violence since the Kosovo war. The unrest in 2004 was sparked by a series of minor events that soon cascaded into large-scale riots. Kosovo Serb communities and Serbian Orthodox churches were targeted in the violence.
After many years of international administration, Kosovo Albanian authorities continued to press the international community to begin a process to define Kosovo's future status.
In October 2004, Kosovo held elections for the second 3-year term of the Kosovo Assembly. For the first time, Kosovo's own Central Election Commission administered these elections, under Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) guidance. The main ethnic Albanian political parties were the same as in the 2001 elections, but with the addition of the new party ORA, led by Veton Surroi, and two new Kosovo Serb parties: the Serbian List for Kosovo and Metohija (SLKM) led by Oliver Ivanovic, and the Citizens Initiative of Serbia led by Slavisa Petkovic. In contrast to the previous Kosovo Government, this election produced a "narrow" coalition of two parties, the LDK and AAK. The December 3, 2004 inaugural session of the Kosovo Assembly re-elected Ibrahim Rugova as President and Ramush Haradinaj as Prime Minister.
In March 2005, Haradinaj resigned as Prime Minister after he was indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY); Haradinaj voluntarily surrendered to authorities and traveled to The Hague to face charges. (Haradinaj was acquitted of all charges on April 3, 2008.) The Kosovo Assembly subsequently elected Bajram Kosumi (AAK) as Prime Minister; Kosumi's resignation in March 2006 led to his replacement with Agim Ceku. After President Rugova's death in January 2006, he was replaced by Fatmir Sejdiu.
Kosovo's Status Process
In 2005, a UN envoy, Norwegian diplomat Kai Eide, was appointed to review progress in Kosovo. Eide reported that there was no advantage to be gained by further delaying a future status process.
In November 2005, the Contact Group (France, Germany, Italy, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) produced a set of "Guiding Principles" for the resolution of Kosovo's future status. Some key principles included: no return to the situation prior to 1999, no changes in Kosovo's borders, and no partition or union of Kosovo with a neighboring state. The Contact Group later said that Kosovo's future status had to be acceptable to the people of Kosovo.
The Ahtisaari Process
In November 2005, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan appointed Martti Ahtisaari, former president of Finland, to lead a future status process. Special Envoy Ahtisaari's diplomatic efforts addressed a broad range of issues important to Kosovo's future, including decentralization of local government, protecting Kosovo's cultural and religious heritage in Kosovo, economic issues, and safeguarding the rights of minorities. Over the course of 2006 and early 2007, Ahtisaari brought together officials from Belgrade and Pristina to discuss these practical issues and the question of status itself.
Ahtisaari subsequently developed a comprehensive proposal for Kosovo's future status, which set forth a series of recommendations on Kosovo's democratic governance and substantial protections for minorities. Ahtisaari also recommended that Kosovo become independent, subject to a period of international supervision. He proposed that a new International Civilian Office (ICO) be established to supervise Kosovo's implementation of its obligations under the Ahtisaari Plan. A European Union (EU)-led rule of law mission (subsequently named EULEX) would also be deployed to focus on the police and justice sector, while a NATO-led stabilization force would continue to provide for a safe and secure environment. Pristina accepted the Ahtisaari recommendations, but Belgrade rejected them.
On April 3, 2007, Ahtisaari presented his plan to the UN Security Council. Due to Russian opposition, the Security Council could not reach agreement on a new Security Council resolution that would pave the way for the implementation of the Ahtisaari recommendations.
After several months of inconclusive discussions in the Security Council, the Contact Group agreed to support a new period of intensive engagement to try to find an agreement between Belgrade and Pristina on Kosovo's status. A "Troika" of representatives from the European Union, the Russian Federation, and the United States, began this effort in August 2007. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon asked them to report on their efforts no later than December 10, 2007. The German ambassador to the United Kingdom, Wolfgang Ischinger, represented the EU; Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko represented the Russian Federation; and Ambassador Frank Wisner represented the United States.
After an intense series of Troika-led negotiations, including a high-level conference in Baden, Austria, the Troika's mandate ended in December without an agreement between the parties. In its final report, the Troika explained that it explored with the parties every realistic option for an agreement, but it was not possible to find a mutually acceptable outcome.
Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008. In its declaration of independence, Kosovo committed to fulfilling its obligations under the Ahtisaari Plan, to embrace multi-ethnicity as a fundamental principle of good governance, and to welcome a period of international supervision.
The United States formally recognized Kosovo as a sovereign and independent state on February 18. To date, Kosovo has been recognized by a robust majority of European states, the United States, Japan, and Canada, and by other states from the Americas, Africa, and Asia. Shortly after independence, a number of states established an International Steering Group (ISG) for Kosovo that appointed Dutch diplomat Pieter Feith as Kosovo's first International Civilian Representative (ICR).
As part of its commitment to the Ahtisaari Plan, the Kosovo Government rapidly enacted after independence laws on minority protection, decentralization, special protection zones for Serb cultural and religious sites, local self-government, and municipal boundaries.
The Kosovo Assembly approved a constitution in April, and it entered into force on June 15, 2008. ICR Feith certified that the constitution was in accordance with the Ahtisaari Plan. At the time of certification, ICR Feith also congratulated Kosovo on a modern constitution that "provides comprehensive rights for members of communities as well as effective guarantees for the protection of the national, linguistic and religious identity of all communities." More information on the role of the ICO in post-status Kosovo can be found at: http://www.ico-kos.org/. On December 9, 2008, the EU rule of law mission, EULEX, reached initial operating capability by deploying over 1,000 police, judges, prosecutors, and customs officers throughout Kosovo. As EULEX ramped up, UNMIK ended its police role in Kosovo and scaled back its presence drastically, as directed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. EULEX reached full operational capability in April 2009.
As of June 2009, 60 countries had recognized the independence of Kosovo. In May and June 2009, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, respectively, voted to admit Kosovo as a full member.
In 2008, the North Atlantic Council authorized the Kosovo Force (KFOR) to initiate Ahtisaari-recommended tasks to supervise the dissolution of the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC) and to supervise and support the stand-up of a multi-ethnic, civilian-controlled Kosovo Security Force (KSF). The Council also tasked NATO Headquarters to assist the Kosovo authorities in establishing a civilian-led Ministry for the Kosovo Security Force. The Ministry for the Kosovo Security Force was established in August 2008 with the selection of Fehmi Mujota as the minister. The KPC was deactivated on January 20, 2009 and officially dissolved on June 14, 2009. The KSF was activated on January 21, 2009 with Lt. General Sylejman Selimi as the commander and the selection of 1,400 KPC members to join the KSF. KFOR has now begun the process of organizing, training, and equipping the new force, as well as recruiting new volunteers to join the KSF. Initial operating capability for the ministry and KSF is expected in mid-September 2009.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
On June 15, 2008, Kosovo's constitution came into force. Under the Constitutional Framework, the President of Kosovo is the head of state and serves a term of 5 years with the right to one re-election. The Prime Minister is the head of government and is elected by the Kosovo Assembly.
The unicameral Kosovo Assembly consists of 120 seats, 10 seats of which are reserved for ethnic Serbs, and 10 seats for other minorities (4 seats for the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities (RAE), 3 seats for the Bosniak community, 2 seats for the Turkish community, and 1 seat for the Gorani community). Three of the remaining 100 seats are also held by minority members (for a total of 13). All members serve 4-year terms. Jakup Krasniqi (PDK party) is President of the Assembly.
The main political parties in Kosovo include the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), formerly led by Ibrahim Rugova and now led by Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu; Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), led by Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci; and the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK), led by former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj. Kosovo held its first parliamentary elections in November 2001. After significant political wrangling, politicians agreed to establish a coalition government in March 2002, with Bajram Rexhepi (PDK) as Prime Minister and Ibrahim Rugova (LDK) as President. In the same year, the Kosovo Assembly began to function and pass its first laws. Beginning in 2003, UNMIK began transferring governing competencies to these ministries.
On November 17, 2007, Kosovo held parliamentary and municipal elections. These elections were deemed free and fair by international observers. The PDK gained 34.3% of the vote, the LDK gained 22.6%, the New Kosovo Alliance (AKR) won 12.3%, the Democratic League of Dardania (LDD) won 10%, and the AAK won 9.6%. Smaller minority parties also made some small gains. These elections led to a coalition between the LDK and the PDK and to the elevation of Hashim Thaci as Prime Minister of Kosovo. Under pressure from Belgrade, most Kosovo Serbs again boycotted the vote.
In June 2008, UN Secretary General Ban decided to "reconfigure" UNMIK and reduce the size of the UN presence in Kosovo, effectively ending the UN's role as administrator of Kosovo and welcoming EU deployment of its Rule of Law Mission (EULEX). As Ban stated in his report to the Security Council, "UNMIK will no longer be able to perform effectively the vast majority of its tasks as an international administration." The EU has gradually assumed increasing responsibility in the areas of policing, justice, and customs throughout Kosovo.
The Kosovo judicial system started adapting to the new legal charter on June 15, 2008. Supreme Court judges and prosecutors, district court judges, and municipal courts judges already appointed by the SRSG will continue to serve in their posts until the expiry of their appointment. Following the December 2008 transfer of rule of law functions to the Government of Kosovo, the Kosovo Judicial Council (KJC) will propose to the President of Kosovo candidates for appointment or reappointment as judges and prosecutors.
Principal Government Officials
Prime Minister--Hashim Thaci
Foreign Minister--Skender Hyseni
Charge d'Affaires ad interim to United States--Avni Spahiu
Ambassador to the United Nations--none (Kosovo is not yet a member of the UN)
Kosovo's economy has shown significant progress since the conflict of the 1990s; it is, however, still significantly dependent on the international community and the diaspora for financial and technical assistance. Remittances from the diaspora, located mainly in Germany and Switzerland, account for about 14% of GDP and donor-financed activities and aid for another 7.5% of GDP.
Kosovo's citizens are the poorest in Europe, with an average annual per capita income of approximately $2,450. Most of Kosovo's population lives in rural towns outside of the capital, Pristina. Inefficient, near-subsistence farming is common, the result of small plots, limited mechanization, and lack of technical expertise.
With international assistance, the privatization of Kosovo’s socially-owned enterprises (SOEs) has generated around U.S. $563 million since 2004. According to the Privatization Agency of Kosovo, over 9,000 local and foreign investors have expressed interest in the privatization process. Kosovo's three largest exporters are privatized companies: Ferronikeli (nickel), M & Sillosi LLC (flour) and LlamKos (steel). Technical assistance to the Kosovo Electricity Corporation (KEK) has helped improve procedures for billings and collections, increased revenues, strengthened internal accounting procedures and controls, and rationalized budgeting and investment planning. The installation of bulk meters at the sub-station level is facilitating greater accountability for collection performance at the district level. The U.S. Government is cooperating with the Ministry for Energy and Mines and the World Bank to prepare a commercial tender for a new generation and mining project, to include construction of a new power plant ("New Kosovo", formerly titled "Kosovo C") and the development of a coal mine for the New Kosovo plant and the two existing power plants. Privatization of the distribution and supply divisions of KEK is also planned.
Economic growth is largely driven by the private sector, mostly small-scale retail businesses. The official currency of Kosovo is the Euro, but the Serbian dinar is also used in northern Kosovo and other areas where ethnic Serbs predominate. Kosovo's use of the Euro has helped keep inflation low. Kosovo has so far maintained a budget surplus as a result of efficient value added tax (VAT) collection at the borders and inefficient budget execution. In order to help integrate Kosovo into regional economic structures, UNMIK signed (on behalf of Kosovo) its accession to the Central Europe Free Trade Area (CEFTA) in 2006. However, Serbia and Bosnia have refused to recognize Kosovo’s customs stamp or extend reduced tariff privileges for Kosovo products under CEFTA.
In December 2008, Kosovo was designated as a beneficiary country under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program. Under this program, a wide range of products Kosovo might seek to export are eligible for duty-free entry to the U.S. Current Kosovo exports that are eligible for GSP benefits include wood products, charcoal, and dried fruits. Other main exports include mineral products, base metals, leather products, machinery, and appliances. Kosovo’s main export partners are Italy, Albania, Macedonia, and Greece. Imports include live animals and animal products, fruits and vegetables and related products, minerals, base materials, machinery, appliances and electrical equipment, textiles and related products, wood and wood products, stone, ceramic and glass products, and chemical products. The country’s main import partners are the EU, Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey, and Albania. On July 11, 2008, representatives from 37 countries and 16 international organizations met in Brussels for a donors conference, pledging approximately $1.9 billion (including $400 million from the United States), in support of the socio-economic reform priorities Kosovo has expressed through its Medium-Term Expenditure Framework for 2008-11.
Trade and Industry
Kosovo has been laying the foundations of a market-oriented economy for the past nine years but is still struggling to develop viable and productive domestic industries. Kosovo has one of the lowest export/import rates in the region. In 2008, Kosovo imported $2.7 billion in goods and services and exported only $272 million, resulting in a trade deficit of approximately 45% of Kosovo's GDP. This deficit is largely financed through foreign assistance and remittances from Kosovo's diaspora. Kosovo's leading industries are mining, energy, and telecommunications.
Agricultural land comprises 53% of Kosovo's total land area and forests 41%. According to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization, 741,316 acres of land are under cultivation and 444,789 acres are upland pasture. The majority of agricultural land is privately owned (80%), providing subsistence farming for individual households. Although Kosovo's agricultural sector is generally characterized by small farms, low productivity, and the absence of advisory services, agriculture contributes around 20% of Kosovo's overall GDP. Agriculture is the largest employment sector in Kosovo, providing jobs for approximately 16.5% of the population, primarily on an informal basis. The agricultural sector also accounts for 16% of total export value and remains an important creator of national wealth, although Kosovo is still an importer of many agricultural products, which accounted for 24.4% of overall imports ($537.5 million) in 2007. Forestry in Kosovo is minimal; wood-processing and wood products (flooring and furniture) are industry contributors, although not yet in significant numbers.
The Government of Kosovo appointed Skender Hyseni as its first foreign minister. In October 2008, Kosovo opened an embassy in Washington, DC. Kosovo has also opened embassies in nine European countries.
The United States and Kosovo established diplomatic relations on February 18, 2008. On July 18, 2008, Tina S. Kaidanow was sworn in as the first U.S. Ambassador to Kosovo. The U.S. also continues to contribute troops to the Kosovo Force (KFOR) and staff to the ICO and EULEX missions.
During a European Commission-hosted international donors' conference on July 11, 2008 the United States pledged $400 million for 2008-2009 to support, among many other things, helping relieve debt Kosovo may inherit. U.S. assistance in Kosovo continues to support good governance through strengthening civil society and political processes, especially targeting minority communities, and will strengthen economic institutions and help private enterprise grow. On December 19, 2008, President George W. Bush signed the proclamation designating Kosovo a beneficiary developing country under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program. Kosovo also receives similar duty-free benefits for exports to EU and CEFTA countries.
For more information on U.S. assistance programs in Kosovo, click here.
Principal Embassy Officials
Deputy Chief of Mission--Tom Yazdgerdi
Chief of Political/Economic Section--Colleen Hyland
Economic/Commercial Officer--Valerie Bilgri Holm
Management Officer--Gertrude Bagley
Public Affairs Officer--Karyn Posner-Mullen
Defense Attache--Col. John McQueen
USAID Mission Director--Patricia Rader