Kosovo achieves independence

Kosovo under 1244

UN Security Council Resolution 1244 adopted in 1999 dictated the withdrawal of Yugoslav military and paramilitary forces and authorized the establishment of KFOR and UNMIK in Kosovo, but did not define the province's final status.

“Standards before status"

UNMIK announced a “standards before status” policy in 2002, followed by a Standards Implementation Plan a year later that was endorsed by the UN Security Council. The plan specified the standards to be achieved for a multi-ethnic, stable and democratic Kosovo.

Ahtisaari proposal

In 2005, Norwegian diplomat Kai Eide was named UN Special Envoy for Kosovo to review progress achieved on standards with the goal of preparing Kosovo for final status discussions. Later that year, former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari took on the role of UN Special Envoy  to broker discussions on final status.

htisaari presents his proposal to Oresident Tadic of Serbia in Belgrade 2 February 2007.  (UNSEK)

Mr. Ahtisaari presents his proposal to President Tadic of Serbia in Belgrade 2 February 2007. (UNSEK)

The Ahtisaari proposal presented to Belgrade and Pristina in 2007 addressed Kosovo’s future constitutional arrangements, ways to protect its communities and their rights, decentralization, the role of an international civilian and military presence, protection of religious and cultural heritage, and economic and property issues. A timetable was proposed for implementation once the settlement came into force.

The proposal specified that Kosovo would have its own national symbols, the right to conclude international agreements, and the right to seek membership in international organizations. A new Kosovo Security Force would also be established, as well as a domestic intelligence agency.

Belgrade and Pristina officials held several rounds of fruitless talks in Vienna. Ahtisaari delivered his final report and comprehensive proposal on Kosovo’s status to the UN Secretary General, who sent them to the members of the Security Council in March 2007.

Action shifts to contact group

The UN Security Council's initial efforts to reach agreement on Kosovo's status stalled when Russia insisted that any decision had to be accepted by Belgrade and Pristina. Russia also backed Belgrade's rejection of independence for Kosovo, including the Ahtissari proposal for supervised independence. Meanwhile, Pristina rejected any outcome that did not involve independence.

The UN Secretary General shifted action to the Contact Group in August 2007, asking a U. S. -EU-Russia troika to undertake "active engagement" with Serbia and the Kosovo Albanian authorities to reach an agreement on status by the end of the year.

Serbian and Albanian positions proved irreconcilable. The Security Council was unable to reach any conclusions when it met to discuss Kosovo status. Russia called for continued negotiations, while the U.S. and EU argued that the potential for negotiations had been exhausted and more talks would not make any difference.

New international actors

As Russia split with the other Contact Group members over Kosovo, the U.S. and key European states formed an International Steering Group (ISG) for Kosovo in February 2008 to help guide its democratic development. These states saw formation of the ISG as envisioned in the Ahtisaari proposal and consistent with the objectives of Security Council resolution 1244. The ISG focused on good governance, multi-ethnicity and the rule of law.

The ISG approved Dutch diplomat Pieter Feith as the International Civilian Representative (ICO) for Kosovo. The EU also designated Feith as the EU Special Representative for Kosovo, and established an EU Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) to deploy in Kosovo.

Independence
The "NEWBORN" obelisk unveiled at the celebration of the 2008 Kosovo declaration of independence proclaimed earlier that day, 17 February 2008, in the capital, Pristina.

The "NEWBORN" obelisk unveiled at the celebration of the 2008 Kosovo declaration of independence proclaimed earlier that day, 17 February 2008, in the capital, Pristina.  (Courtesy of Cradel)

 

Kosovo Serbs protest in Kosovska Mitrovica. (Srdjan Ilic/AP)

Kosovo Serbs protest in Kosovska Mitrovica. (AP/Srdjan Ilic)

The Kosovo Assembly adopted a declaration of independence in February 2008. The declaration accepted the Ahtisaari proposal, an international civilian presence to supervise its implementation, the EU-led rule of law mission, and NATO’s continuing security role.  Serbia, backed by Russia, termed the declaration illegal.

As of September 2013, 106 UN member states had recognized Kosovo’s independence. This included the U.S. and 22 EU member states (UK, Germany, France, and Italy among them). Kosovo had also joined the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Council of Europe Development Bank.

The border crossing at Jarinje between Kosovo and Serbia is set ablaze on July 27.

The border crossing at Jarinje between Kosovo and Serbia is set ablaze on July 27.  (UNHCR)

 

In the first weeks after the declaration, Serbs burned border posts in north Kosovo and Kosovo Serbs pulled out of the Kosovo Police Service and Kosovo institutions at the instigation of Belgrade. Serbs occupied the UNMIK courthouse in Kosovska Mitrovica, which led to a violent confrontation with UNMIK and KFOR, leading to the death of an UNMIK policeman.

Meanwhile, Serbian authorities sought ways to extend their governance to areas of Kosovo inhabited primarily by Serbs. Serbia sponsored local elections and parliamentary elections in majority ethnic Serb areas of Kosovo.

Kosovo’s new constitution, verified by International Civilian Representative Feith, took effect June 15.

After Independence

The EU Rule of Law Mission Kosovo (EULEX) deployed with international and national staff in December 2008. Serbia agreed to EULEX’s deployment after working out a six-point agreement with the UN that would provide greater autonomy to Kosovo Serbs. Pristina rejected the points. Nonetheless, the Security Council approved these arrangements in the UN Secretary General’s “reconfiguration” of UNMIK. EULEX slowly extended its role to the Serb majority municipalities in north Kosovo. UNMIK was sharply reduced in 2010 but, at Belgrade’s insistence, continues to exist. KFOR continues to maintain security with about 5,000 troops as of 2014.

On Wednesday the 16th of February 2011, General Enrico Spagnoli, Commanding General for the formation of the Kosovo Security Force (KSF) attended the KSF final fire fighting exercise at KFOR HQ fire fighting station.   General Enrico Spagnoli from KFOR welcomed Brigadier General Imri Ilazi and Colonel Skender Hoxha from KSF.  This fire fighting basic training course started on 31st of January 2011 with 13 candidates from the Civilian Protection Regiment of KSF. During the graduation ceremony the fire fighting certificates were presented to all the successful KSF candidates.

On Wednesday the 16th of February 2011, General Enrico Spagnoli, Commanding General for the formation of the Kosovo Security Force (KSF) attended the KSF final fire fighting exercise at KFOR HQ fire fighting station. General Enrico Spagnoli from KFOR welcomed Brigadier General Imri Ilazi and Colonel Skender Hoxha from KSF. This fire fighting basic training course started on 31st of January 2011 with 13 candidates from the Civilian Protection Regiment of KSF. During the graduation ceremony the fire fighting certificates were presented to all the successful KSF candidates. (NATO/ACO/PAO)

 

In 2009, the Kosovo Security Force (KSF) was launched. The KSF did not replace the Kosovo Protection Corps which was disbanded several months later. KFOR was charged with mentoring the KSF and bringing the force to full operational capability. NATO established a NATO Advisory Team to mentor and advise the Ministry of the Kosovo Security Force on force operations. Kosovo authorities have also been implementing the provisions of the Ahtisaari proposal.

Kosovo authorities announced in March 2014 plans to start a 10-year process to establish an army, with 5,000 soldiers and 3,000 reservists.

 

2010 Assembly elections - first after independence

The resignation of President Sejdiu over a constitutional issue led to a breakup of the governing coalition, and a vote of no-confidence that prompted the holding of Assembly elections in 2010.

December 20, 2010. An election official walks along stacks of ballot boxes at the Count and Results Center in Pristina following the December 12 parliamentary elections in Kosovo. Any boxes showing irregularities were quarantined for further investigation. (IFES/Maia Lyons)

December 20, 2010. An election official walks along stacks of ballot boxes at the Count and Results Center in Pristina following the December 12 parliamentary elections in Kosovo. (IFES/Maia Lyons)

PDK again came in first with 32.11% of the vote, followed by LDK with 24.69%, the Self-Determination Movement (Vetevendosje) running for the first time with 12.69%, Alliance for the Future (AAK) with 11.04%, and New Kosovo Alliance with 7.29%. 

A European parliament observer team reported that serious allegations of fraud had been brought to its attention. The European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations said that the elections had been orderly, but there had been breaches of procedure and irregularities. American Ambassador Dell was quoted as saying that he had personally observed ballot stuffing.

2011 presidential election
Pacolli's has short-lived presidency
President, 22 February - 30 March 2011. (Kosovo presidential website)

President, 22 February - 30 March 2011. (Kosovo presidential website)

The Assembly elected Bahgjet Pacolli president in February. He resigned five weeks later after the Constitutional Court declared the election to be unconstitutional due to the absence of a quorum.  No fault was found in his actions.  (Pacolli became first deputy prime minister in Thachi's government.) 

Jahgaga elected president
Atifeta Jahjaga, Kosovo's President. (Kosovo presidential website)

Atifeta Jahjaga, Kosovo's President. (Kosovo presidential website)

Atifeta Jahjaga was elected as a consensus candidate in April 2011. She was the first woman, first non-partisan, and youngest candidate ever to be elected president. Jahjaga was previously Deputy Commander of the Kosovo Police Service. 

Thaci accused of war crimes

Former Swiss prosecutor and politician Dick Marty prepared a report for the Council of Europe in 2011 claiming that Prime Minister Thaçi had led a mafia network involved in the drug trade, and was linked to the 1999 kidnappings of Kosovo Serbs and others who were killed in Albania for their organs.

The COE adopted the report and called on Kosovo and Albania to investigate. Former chief prosecutor of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia Carla Ponti first made the organ trafficking charges in a 2008 book.  Thaçi rejected the charges.

EULEX organized a Special Investigative Task Force (SITF) to investigate the accusations.  The SITF recommended that a special court be set up to address the issue.  In April 2014 Kosovo's parliament approved establishment of a special court under Kosovo law with international staff that would meet outside the country to handle such sensitive cases. The SITF issued a status report on July 29, 2014.

Belgrade-Pristina dialogue sponsored by EU

Serbia and Kosovo have engaged in bilateral talks sponsored by the EU since 2011, most recently at the level of prime minister.  Serbian President Nikolić and Kosovo President Jahjaga also met in the EU-facilitated dialogue in Brussels in February 2013.  Initial agreements were achieved on:

  • Freedom of movement across the administrative border for persons and cars.
  • Belgrade giving Pristina copies of land registries and documents on births, deaths and marriages in Kosovo
  • Mutual Recognition of university degrees.
  • Belgrade acceptance of Kosovo Custom stamps saying "Customs of Kosovo"
  • End of trade embargo, allowing trade between Serbia and Kosovo
  • Integrated operations at crossing points in north Kosovo
  • Representation of Pristina at regional organizations
  • Liaison officers exchanged between Belgrade and Pristina stationed in EU missions

At the tenth round hosted by EU Foreign Affairs and Security High Representative Ashton,  Prime Ministers Dacic and Thaci initialed a 15-point First Agreement of Principles Governing the Normalization of Relations (text in English follows text in Albanian, from Pristina Express) on April 19, 2013.  Belgrade agreed to give up its parallel institutions in Kosovo, especially in the north, in return for receiving protections for the Serbs proposed in the Ahtisaari proposals.  In addition, Belgrade agreed not to block Pristina's progress toward EU (and international) acceptance.  An implementation committee with EU participation was established.

Ashton has been meeting periodically with Dacic and Thaci to resolve outstanding implementation issues.

Serbia's Liaison Officer in Pristina

 

D

Dejan Pavicevic (International Radio Serbia)

Serbia's Liaison Officer in Pristina, Dejan Pavicevic, arrived in Pristina in June 2013.  He has described his job as talking to everyone, including international community representatives, Albanians, representatives of NGOs, and solving specific everyday problems and implementing the Brussels agreement. 

2013 local elections take place throughout Kosovo
Problems in Serb-majority north Kosovo in first round

Mayors were elected in 10 municipalities in Kosovo in the November 2013 first round of voting, and run-offs were to be held December in a second round for 25 more. 

There were significant irregularities marring the elections in the Serb-majority municipalities in north Kosovo, complicating this important aspect of the April 19 Agreement..  Extremists attacked and destroyed the ballot boxes at three polling centers.  OSCE staff facilitating the elections had to leave for their safety.  The elections took place normally in Serb communities elsewhere in Kosovo.  (A re-run of the voting in the three polling centers took place peacefully on Nov. 17, facilitated by OSCE, with security  provided by Kosovo Police, EULEX and KFOR.)

 

2013 local elections proceed smoothly during second round

The second round of local elections was peaceful and orderly.   Incumbents lost heavily, showing that voters wanted change.  Over two-thirds of municipalities changed hands.  PDK took 10 cities, including Prizren.  LDK took 9, including Peja, Gjilan and Ferizaj.  AAK won only in 3.  Paccoli's AKR won 2 for the first time.  PDK splinter IQM, led by Fatmir Limaj, won in Malisheva.  The Serbian List, backed by Belgrade, took 9 municipalities.  The SLS, the first Serb party to accept the Ahtisaari package in 2008, won in only one municipality. 

Shpend Ahmeti (Radio Free Europe)

Shpend Ahmeti (Radio Free Europe)

Shpend Ahmeti, a former civil society leader running on the Vetevendosja ticket won in Pristina, becoming the first non-LDK mayor in the capital city.  He won more than three times his own party's votes, suggesting more a personal than a party win.  His party will not control the municipal assembly, and will have to work with the mainstream parties it has long attacked. 

Mimoza Kusari election poster (Twitter)

Mimoza Kusari election poster (Twitter)

In another first, Mimoza Kusari became the first woman mayor in Kosovo, winning election in Gjakova. 

PDK remains leading party in 2014 Assembly elections

Prime Minister Thaci's PDK remained the largest party with 30.71% of the vote (winning 36 seats), followed by Mustafa's LDK with 25.74% (31 seats), Kurti's Self-Determination with 13.52% (16 seats), Haradinaj's AAK with 9.62% (11 seats), and Limaj's Civic Initiative for Kosovo with 5.24% (6 seats).  Paccoli's New Kosovo Alliance with 4.66% of the vote failed to reach the entry threshold. The remaining 20 seats in the 100-member Assembly were allocated to national minorities (Serb, Roma, Ashkali, Egyptian, Bosniak, Turkish, and Gorani.)  Voter turnout dropped from 47% in the previous Assembly election to 41%.  Serbia for the first time urged Kosovo Serbs to vote, but their turnout was low.

The election process was marred by the murder following the election of a candidate from the PDK, Elvis Pista, in the town of Orahovac.

Although the OSCE Mission in Kosovo no longer has an executive role in Kosovo's elections, it did play technical and advisory support roles for the process in the north. 

The EU Election Observation Mission reported that these elections were transparent and well-organised, and consolidated progress made in the 2013 municipal elections.

Mitrovica flashpoint
June 2014 clash at bridge over the Ibar
Bridge over the Ibar (Wikipedia Commons)

Bridge over the Ibar (Wikipedia Commons)

Ethnic Albanians in south Mitrovica trying to break through police lines clashed with Kosovo police and EULEX officers at the Ibar bridge on June 22, 2014, in one of the worst incidents of civil unrest since Kosovo's independence.  Police had to ask for assistance from KFOR, who positioned armored vehicles to block access to the bridge.  Protest organizers were responding to north Mitrovica Serbs placing what they called a peace park of concrete pots and eath in place of a barricade removed from the bridge the week before.