Ancestral home to Serbs and homeland to Albanians
Memorial at Gazimestan, dedicated to the Serbian knights killed at the 1389 battle at the Field of Blackbirds, outside Pristina. (USIP/Ted Feifer)
The very name of the province reveals its double character, seen as ancestral home by Serbs and homeland by Albanians. Serbs call it Kosovo, and Albanians Kosova.
The NATO-led military presence KFOR (Kosovo Force) has been in Kosovo since 1999. KFOR has dropped from an initial high of 50,000 to about 5,000 troops today. Italy, the U.S., Germany, Turkey and France (in descending order) are the largest troop contributors, together with 25 other NATO and non-NATO states. At the insistence of the international community, Kosovo has accepted a continued international presence.
UNMIK, which provided international administration following the 1999 War, transferred most of its responsibilities to the International Civilian Office/EU KFOR Special Representative and EU Rule of Law Mission EULEX. The EU has extended EULEX’s mandate to 2014, restructuring it and reducing the mission to 2,250 staff. Most of its regional offices will be closed, and mobile teams will operate out of Pristina. UNMIK was sharply reduced in 2010, retaining a limited reporting and political observation function.
VETËVENDOSJE!-led protest against government violence and police brutality - 23 October 2012. (VETËVENDOSJE!)
VETËVENDOSJE!, (Movement for Self- Determination), now the third largest party in the Assembly, has actively criticized the limitations on Kosovo sovereignty before and since independence.
OSCE Mission in Kosovo
The OSCE Mission in Kosovo is the largest OSCE field operation. It formally continues to be a component of UNMIK, and is mandated with building democratic institutions, and promoting human rights and the rule of law. Ambassador Jean-Claude Schlumberger took office as the Head of OSCE Mission in Kosovo in 2012.
Farid Zarif, an Afghan diplomat, has been the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative and head of a much-reduced UNMIK since 2011. UNMIK continues to exist at the insistence of Serbia.
Infrastructure shortcomings still pose major constraints: electricity and heat supply problems continue, especially in the winter. In 2012, the Kosovo government sold the Electricity Distribution Company (KEDS) to the highest bidder, a Turkish consortium Limak Yatirim Enerji and Calik Enerji Sanayi for 26.3 million Euros. The Institute for Development Policy in Pristina, has publically voiced concern that the KEDS privatization lacked transparency. There is also fear the Turkish consortium will have a monopoly. Soon after the KEDS privatization, Kosovo's Energy Regulatory Office raised electricity bills by 8.9% in a country where 16% of citizens live on $1 per day, and face an unemployment rate between 40% and 45%.
Shut-offs of electricity by the Kosovo Energy Corporation (KEK) over reported non-payment of bills, especially to Serb villages, continues to cause controversy. In january 2013, for example, KEK disconnected 220 commercial sites in the Prizren area from power, stating that these consumers have never paid their bills, tialing 20 million Euros.
Implementation of investment and maintenance consistent with the electricity transmission development plan 2010-2019 seeks to make Kosovo's transmission system more reliable. Nevertheless, Kosovo's system operator still does not participate in regional mechanisms to plan and remunerate electricity transit, due to differences over the country’s status. The resulting lack of control threatens the stability of Kosovo's power system and causes Kosovo to lose out on transit revenue.
As of 2010, 74% of Kosovo’s population subscribed to mobile phone services. Fixed phone penetration is among the lowest in Europe.
Kosovo and Macedonia began border demarcation talks in 2008, mediated by the Office of the International Civilian Representative. A border agreement was concluded in 2009.
Statistics for crime in Kosovo dropped following the war but sporadic violence continues against Serbs and Roma by some of the Albanian majority, and between Albanian political factions. Extremist Serbs in the divided city of Mitrovica also have resorted to violence. In 2012 Kosovo Serbs in north Kosovo barricaded the main roads after the authorities in Pristina installed customs officers at the Jarinje and Brnjak border crossings with Serbia. Three Serbs and one KFOR soldier were injured in clashes when KFOR attempted to remove the barricades.
Two EULEX vehicles carrying six customs component staff on regular rotation to Gate 1, near Zvecan in north Kosovo, came under fire from unknown attackers on September 18, 2013. One Lithuanian EULEX member was killed and three wounded. The wife of Kosovo Mitrovica mayoral candidate Oliver Ivanovic was attacked by Serb extremists in their home in early September 2013. Ivanovic, who is the secretary of the Ministry for Kosovo and Metohija in the Serbian government, has urged Kosovo Serbs to participate in the November 3 local elections resulting from the April Agreement, and not boycott them as advocated by Serb extremists. Attacks have continued on the homes of Serb candidates running in the Mitrovica elections. In January 2014, Dimitrije Janicijevic, a Serb from the Liberal Party, defeated in the race for mayor but elected to the municipal council of Mitrovica North, was murdered by Serb extremists.
Hidden arms are a reality. The UN Development Program estimated in 2003 that there were 330,000-460,000 small arms held by civilians in Kosovo. Illegal weapons caches are periodically seized by KFOR.
Lack of Prospects
Kosovo has an unemployment rate of 45%, the highest in the Balkans. It also has the youngest population (70% younger than 35), and the highest youth unemployment rate (40% of those unemployed).
Many of Kosovo's large young population, as elsewhere in the Balkans, see their best employment hopes abroad, due to the lack of opportunities and the depressed economic situation.