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COUNTRY PROFILES


PROFILE

Country Facts

Area: 10,887 sq km
Population: 2m (estimated)
Capital City: Pristina (capital - population: 600,000 estimated)
People: Albanians (88%), Serbs (6%), Bosniaks (3%), Roma (2%), Turks (1%)
Languages: Albanian, Serbian, Bosniak and Turkish
Religions: Islam, Serbian Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism
Currency: Euro
Legal Status: Kosovo is independent, supervised by the international community following the conclusion of the political process to determine Kosovo’s final status envisaged in UN Security Council Resolution 1244.
President: Atifete Jahjaga
Prime Minister: Hashim Thaçi (PDK)

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ECONOMY

GDP: EUR 4.8 billion (2011)
GDP per head: EUR 2,385 (2010)
Major Industries: Agriculture, mining and micro-enterprises
Trading partners: EU – 47%, Albania 27%, Macedonia 10%. Rest of the World – 32% (2008)

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HISTORY

Old Serbia and Kosovo: 13th and 14th Centuries
For most Serbs Kosovo is an important part of their cultural and religious heritage. The Serbian Orthodox Patriarchate was established in Kosovo during the 13th Century and the territory was also the site of the 1389 defeat of the Serbs by the Ottomans, a battle that has taken on mythical importance for the Serbs.

Ottoman Rule: 1389-1912
For most of the subsequent 500 years both Kosovo and Serbia were parts of the Ottoman Empire, although in different administrative regions: the Christian Orthodox vilayet of Serbia in the north and the Muslim and majority ethnic-Albanian vilayet of Kosovo in the south. During the 19th Century, Serbia became progressively independent of the Empire while Kosovo remained firmly within it. In 1912, a by then fully independent Serbia annexed Kosovo during the Balkan wars, which ejected the Ottoman Empire from Europe. As a result of the armistice, the state of Albania was formed. Kosovo remained in Serbia, despite having a majority Albanian population.

Yugoslavia: 1912-1989
For much of the 20th Century, Kosovo's Albanian majority - the only significant non-Slav population in Yugoslavia - campaigned for greater autonomy. In 1974, in response to street protests, the territory was given Autonomous Provincial Status, giving it some of the status of a Federal Republic alongside Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia, Montenegro and Macedonia (e.g. taking a turn as rotating Yugoslav President, but, significantly, without the right to secede from the Federation).

In the late 1980s, Serbian President Slobodan Miloševic used Kosovo to help cement his grip on power. Each of the 6 Federal Republics and two Autonomous Provinces within Yugoslavia (Kosovo and the ethnic-Hungarian majority province of Vojvodina in northern Serbia) had a vote in the Federal Presidency Council. In 1989, in breach of the 1974 Constitution, Miloševic revoked both Kosovo's and Vojvodina's autonomy. He now controlled four votes in the Council (Serbia, Kosovo, Vojvodina and Montenegro) meaning the other Republics could not outvote him. This was a major factor in the violent breakup of Yugoslavia.

Repression and Conflict: 1989-1999
In response to their loss of autonomy, and their expulsion from employment, education and the healthcare system, the Kosovo Albanians began a campaign of peaceful resistance, setting up parallel institutions mirroring those imposed on them by Belgrade. In 1991, in a referendum organised by the parallel institutions, they voted overwhelmingly for independence. In 1992, secret elections led to the appointment of Ibrahim Rugova as Kosovo President. His party, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), which dominated the underground parliament, declared independence on 28 May 1992.

The Kosovo Albanians anticipated that the international community would settle Kosovo's status along with the end of the war in Bosnia. But the Dayton Accords, which ended the war in 1995, did not touch on Kosovo. The frustration of the Kosovo Albanians led to the formation of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) which began a low-level campaign of shootings and murder against Serbian security forces. During 1998 the conflict escalated. Serbian forces began a program of systematic reprisals and village clearances against the Kosovo Albanians. Approximately 250,000 fled their homes.

International Intervention

Belgrade's policy of reprisals and village clearances eventually led to NATO's intervention in 1999. Throughout 1998, the Contact Group (an informal grouping of those countries who have a significant interest in and commitment to the countries of the Balkans comprising France, Germany, Italy, Russia, UK and US, as well as representatives of the EU Presidency, Commission and Council Secretariat) had led diplomatic efforts to find a peaceful, negotiated solution to the violence, but these were rejected by Miloševic. On 23 September 1998 the UN Security Council adopted resolution 1199 which highlighted the impending humanitarian catastrophe, and demanded a cease-fire and the start of real dialogue. In response, Miloševic agreed to reduce force levels in Kosovo and to admit an international verification mission to the province. Throughout December 1998 and January 1999, the operations of Serbian security forces intensified. On 15 January 1999 a massacre in the village of Raçak left 45 Kosovo Albanians dead, making clear to all that the prospect of a humanitarian catastrophe was real.

In a further attempt to resolve the crisis peacefully, the Contact Group summoned Serb and Albanian negotiators to Rambouillet in France in February 1999 to agree an interim settlement for Kosovo. The talks failed. Albanian negotiators eventually agreed to sign the Rambouillet plan but Miloševic refused. With a renewed Serbian offensive underway in Kosovo, talks were adjourned on 19 March. US Envoy Richard Holbrooke flew to Belgrade on 22 March 1999 in a last ditch attempt to persuade Miloševic to negotiate and prevent further suffering on the part of the Kosovo population and the risk of military intervention.

In the face of growing human rights abuses, NATO had no choice but to act to prevent a humanitarian crisis. NATO air strikes on Kosovo and Serbia began on 24 March 1999 and continued until 9 June 1999. Following NATO's intervention, the Serb armed forces massively intensified a policy of ethnic cleansing, driving over 850,000 Kosovo Albanians out of Kosovo and into neighbouring countries. On 10 June, Miloševic agreed to withdraw Serb troops from Kosovo, leaving the way open for international peacekeepers and allowing those who had fled to return to their homes. Since then, more than 200,000 Serbs and other non-Albanians have left Kosovo. The majority are now located within Serbia and Montenegro.

Following the conflict, the UN adopted Security Council resolution 1244, which authorised the establishment of the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and deployment of a NATO-led security force (KFOR). It placed Kosovo under transitional UN administration while remaining technically part of Serbia pending the outcome of a political process to resolve its final status.

Kosovo Status Process

In 2005, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and the UN Security Council, in consultation with the countries of the Contact Group, commissioned a comprehensive review of the situation in Kosovo. Led by Norwegian Ambassador Kai Eide, the review concluded that the status quo in Kosovo was unsustainable and recommended that the status process envisaged in Security Council resolution 1244 begin. Former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari was appointed as the UN Special Envoy for Kosovo.

President Ahtisaari oversaw 15 rounds of direct talks between Belgrade and Pristina, while experts from the Special Envoy's office met the parties separately on 26 occasions. Some measure of agreement was reached on technical issues (such as protection of the rights of minorities), but the parties remained diametrically opposed on the crucial issue of status. After 15 months of painstaking negotiations, Ahtisaari presented his proposals to Belgrade and Pristina on 2 February 2007, and, following a period of intensive consultations, concluding on 10 March, to the UN Secretary General on 26 March.

His proposals provide for independence for Kosovo, supervised by the international community. They are compromise-based, falling short of the maximum positions of both sides and, in the UK's view, strike the right balance between recognising the aspirations of the vast majority of Kosovo's population while providing extensive safeguards for non-Albanian communities, especially the Kosovo Serbs. President Ahtisaari's covering letter set out why supervised independence was the only viable solution for Kosovo's future and why other alternatives (substantial autonomy within Serbia, a continuation of the status quo) were untenable.

In transmitting the proposals to the Security Council, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon expressed his full support for the Special Envoy and his proposals. On 3 April, President Ahtisaari presented his proposals in person to the Security Council in New York. From 24-29 April the Security Council sent a mission to Belgrade and Kosovo.

From 30 April to 20 June there were intensive negotiations in the Security Council to find a way forward with broad support in the Council for a resolution paving the way for implementation of the Ahtisaari proposals. But despite circulating several drafts specifically crafted to accommodate the concerns of other Council members, the co-sponsors – UK, US, France, Belgium, Italy and Slovakia - announced on 20 July 2007 that it had proved impossible to secure a resolution. Discussions in the Security Council were put on hold and the issue returned to the Contact Group.

On 1 August the Contact Group launched a final period of negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina in the interest of leaving no stone unturned in the search for a solution. The initiative, led by a US-EU-Russia Troika, was welcomed by the UN Secretary-General. The Troika process concluded on 10 December with a report to Ban Ki-Moon which concluded that agreement between the parties could not be reached.
Following nearly two years of painstaking talks, it was clear that agreement between Belgrade and Pristina on the crucial issue of status was truly out of reach. In the absence of any agreed alternative, the UK consistently made clear that the UN Special Envoy’s Comprehensive Proposal for a Kosovo Status Settlement was the only viable way forward.

On 17 February 2008, Kosovo declared itself independent. The declaration committed Kosovo to implement fully UN Special Envoy Ahtisaari’s Comprehensive Proposal, which includes extensive minority safeguards and international supervision. On 18 February, EU Foreign Ministers agreed conclusions drawing together the EU’s reaction. The EU has agreed a range of political and practical assistance to Kosovo (deploying a police and rule of law mission and Special Representative; assisting with economic and political development). Member states remain free to decide on their relations with Kosovo in line with national practice.

On 18 February, the Foreign Secretary announced that the UK would recognise Kosovo as a sovereign, independent state. In addition to the UK, the US, 22 of the 27 member states of the EU (excluding Romania, Spain, Cyprus, Greece and Slovakia) and an increasing number of other countries have recognised Kosovo.
On 22 July, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) published its Advisory Opinion confirming that Kosovo’s Declaration of Independence did not violate international law. The Foreign Secretary welcomed the ICJ’s decision and called for States who had not yet recognised Kosovo to do so.

Contact Group

The Contact Group is an informal grouping of those countries who have a significant interest in and commitment to the countries of the Balkans. It comprises France, Germany, Italy, Russia, UK and US, as well as representatives of the EU Presidency, Commission and Council Secretariat.

070927-Sep 07 CG statement (http://www.fco.gov.uk/resources/en/pdf/pdf19/fco_kosovocontactgroup270907)
060920-Sep 06 CG Min statement (http://www.fco.gov.uk/resources/en/pdf/pdf17/fco_kosovo_ministerial_sept_2006)
31 Jan contact group (http://www.fco.gov.uk/resources/en/pdf/pdf19/fco_kosovocontactgroup310106)

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INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

Relations with Neighbours

Kosovo is a member of various regional bodies, such as the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) and Southeast European Co-operation Initiative (SECI). In its declaration of independence, Kosovo pledged 'to establish good relations with all [Kosovo's] neighbours'. It is recognised by all of the successor states to Former Yugoslavia with the exception of Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Kosovan Relations with the International Community

Kosovo is recognised by over 80 countries, including 22 EU Member States. There are currently more than thirty international Embassies, resident liaison offices, diplomatic offices, or Representatives in Kosovo, as well as several non-resident Embassies and liaison offices. The Republic of Kosovo has twenty resident embassies abroad. Kosovo is a member of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), International Development Association (IDA) and International Finance Corporation (IFC)).

Relations with the UK

The UK was among the first countries to recognise the independence of the Republic of Kosovo, on 18 February 2008. Kosovo and the UK have strong bilateral relations.

Inward

-- 9-11 January 2012: Kosovo Minister for Education, Rame Buja, visits UK. Attends World Education Forum 2012. Meets Minister for Education.
-- 20 October 2011: Kosovo Foreign Minister, Enver Hoxhaj, visits UK. Meets Foreign Secretary
-- 5 September 2011: Kosovo Minister for European Integration, Vlora Çitaku, visits UK. Meets Minister for Europe
-- 13 July 2011: Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Kosovo delegation for the EU facilitated dialogue with Serbia, Edita Tahiri, visits UK. Meets Minister for Europe

Outward

-- 14-18 November 2011: British Group Inter-Parliamentary Union (BGIPU) Delegation led by The Lord Bowness CBE DL
-- 23-24 June 2010: Minister for Europe visits Kosovo. Meets Kosovo leadership and senior international community figures. Visits Mitrovica.
-- 3-5 June 2010: Prince Michael of Kent leads delegation of British business owners on visit to Kosovo organised by British Chamber of Commerce in Kosovo (BCCK).

Cultural Relations with the UK

The British Council Office in Pristina has a number of projects in Kosovo. These focus on a range of themes, including intercultural dialogue, integrating employment and skills, creative collaboration, and trust in public services.

Diplomatic Representation

Britain has an Embassy in Kosovo’s capital, Pristina, which deals with a wide range of issues, including political and project work, liaising with other government departments, and consular and visa issues. More information on the UK’s diplomatic representation in Kosovo can be found on the FCO’s official website for the British Embassy in Kosovo:
http://ukinkosovo.fco.gov.uk/en/ (http://ukinkosovo.fco.gov.uk/en)
The Republic of Kosovo is represented in the UK by its Embassy, situated in Central London. The Embassy is currently run by Ambassador Dr Muhamet Hamiti.

The Embassy can be contacted at:
embassy.uk@ks-gov.net (embassy.uk@ks-gov.net)

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GEOGRAPHY

Kosovo lies in south east Europe, bordering Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Albania. About the size of Wales and roughly diamond-shaped, much of the terrain is rugged and surrounded by mountains. The Sharr/Šar Mountains, one of the region's most popular tourist and skiing resorts, are located in the south and south-east, bordering Macedonia. The highest peak, Gjeravica/Djeravica-Luboten, reaches almost 3000m above sea level. The Bjeshkët e Nemuna/Prokletie or Albanian Alps divide Kosovo from Albania in the south-west while Kopaonik Mountain in the north, borders Serbia. The central region of Drenica and the eastern part of Kosovo are mainly hilly. Between these hills and the surrounding mountains are 2 plains - the Rafshi i Dukagjinit/Metohija basin in the western part of the province, and the Fushë Kosovë/Kosovo Polje plain in the eastern part. The White Drin runs from western Kosovo toward the Adriatic and the Ibri/Ibar snakes across the north of the province. The climate is continental with warm summers and cold and snowy winters.

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POLITICS

Kosovo's leaders first took on post-war administrative responsibilities for Kosovo in January 2000, with the creation of the Joint Interim Administrative Structure (JIAS). In May 2001, a Constitutional Framework for Provisional Self-Government was adopted. This set out, under the overall authority of the UN SRSG, the competencies of the local authorities (such as education, environment) and the reserved competencies of UNMIK (such as external relations, security). Following free and fair elections in November 2001, the Kosovo Assembly was established. In March 2002 the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government (PISG) were formed with Ibrahim Rugova as President and Bajram Rexhepi as Prime Minister. The PISG played a key role in the Final Status Process.

After the 2004 elections, in which Rugova was re-elected, his party, the LDK, and the AAK formed a new coalition, which resulted in Ramush Haradinaj being appointed Prime Minister. Haradinaj resigned as Prime Minister when he was indicted for war crimes by ICTY (the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia) in March 2005; he was later acquitted in April 2008. Bajram Kosumi replaced Haradinaj following his indictment, but, in a shake-up following the death of Rugova in January 2006, Agim Çeku, former Kosovo Protection Corps commander, became Prime Minister.

For the fourth time since the 1999 conflict and the first time since independence democratic elections took place in Kosovo on 12 December 2010. Following reports of some irregularities Kosovo’s Electoral Complaints and Appeals Panel ruled that reruns of the elections should take place in several municipalities across Kosovo. These reruns took place on 9 January and 23 January. The Central Electoral Commission endorsed the election results on 7 February.

The current Government is led by Hashim Thaçi who is serving his second term as Prime Minister. The second Thaçi coalition is made up of his party, the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), Behgjet Pacolli’s New Alliance for Kosovo (AKR) and three smaller minority parties (KDTP, JP and SLS). The President of Kosovo, Atifete Jahjaga, is a consensus candidate elected on 7 April after Pacolli stepped down after 35 days when the Constitutional Court ruled that his election had breached the constitution.

The Kosovo Assembly has 120 seats, 20 of which are reserved for non-Albanian minorities. Ten seats are reserved for Kosovo Serbs, four for the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities (RAE), three for the Bosniak community, two for the Turkish community and one seat for the Gorani community. Minority parties collectively secured four additional seats in the 2010 general elections due to a higher percentage of votes.

The largest Kosovo Serb political party, Independent Liberal Party (SLS) is led by Slobodan Petrovic. A coalition of smaller Serb parties is led by Sasa Djokic’s Serb Democratic Party of Kosovo and Metohija (SDSKiM). For the first time since 2000, Kosovo Serbs have 14 MP’s in the Assembly of Kosovo, including 13 in the SLS caucus group.

In the 2009 municipal elections approximately 13,000 Kosovo Serbs participated. However, during the national elections of 12 December 2010 turnout amongst Kosovo Serbs (with the exclusion of those in northern Kosovo) increased significantly to approximately 30,000. In northern Kosovo, the situation remains unchanged, with very few Kosovo Serbs in that area participating.

THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY

A number of international organisations advise and assist the Kosovo Government. Shortly after Kosovo’s independence the International Civilian Office (ICO) was established to supervise the implementation of the Comprehensive Settlement Proposal (CSP), which is enshrined in Kosovo’s Constitution. The ICO is headed by a Dutch diplomat, Pieter Feith. The EU has two main representations. The Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) is headed by Xavier Bout de Marnhac. EULEX’s central aim is to assist and support the Kosovo authorities in the rule of law area, specifically in the police, judiciary and customs areas. It is a technical mission which monitors, mentors and advises the Kosovo authorities, whilst retaining a number of limited executive powers. Samuel Zbogar is the EU Special Representative to Kosovo and advises on the political process towards European integration. The United Nations Mission (UNMIK) now has a smaller presence and is headed by the Special Representative (SRSG) Farid Zarif. The OSCE promotes human rights and good governance in Kosovo and Werner Almhofer has been the head of mission since 2008.The NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) is deployed to maintain a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for all citizens and is commanded by Major General Erhard Drews.

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Last Updated: January 2012

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