Kosovo was once a province of Serbia, where Serbians discriminated against and excluded Kosovars of ethnic Albanian origin all throughout the late 20th century. Excluded from education and administrative systems, Kosovars fought long and hard for their independence.
After more than 800,000 Kosovars were forced to find refuge in neighboring countries from 1989 to 1999, NATO militarily intervened against the Yugoslavia and Serbia joint forces. After three months of NATO airstrikes, Yugoslav and Serbian forces withdrew from Kosovo and the U.N. was authorized to facilitate a political process to determine the future of Kosovo’s status.
After suffering years of systematic discrimination, the people’s right to self-determination prevailed; in 2008, Kosovo declared independence and became Europe’s newest state.
However, ten years on the relationship between Kosovo and Serbia is still relatively unstable. Recent talks between the two nations have been facilitated in the hopes of coming to a peaceful resolution. Below are five facts on Kosovo-Serbia relations today.
Facts About Kosovo-Serbia Relations
- Serbia, a state backed by Russia, does not recognize Kosovo as an independent state. Kosovo, as well as Serbia, is not recognized by 5 of the 28 European member states. Recently, a deal was proposed to Serbia to recognize Kosovo’s independence in exchange for EU membership. This is a long sought-after goal of Serbia.
- Kosovo’s population is made up of a majority ethnic Albanian population and a minority Serbian population. Serbians are mostly found in the north of the country. These populations have created some key issues within the country, as the Serbian majority population in the north is run by a parallel administration backed by the Serbian capital, Belgrade.
- The Serbian population refuses to integrate into Kosovo and wishes to keep close ties with Serbia and their administration. An example of the lack of integration between the two is Serbian and Kosovo schools in Kosovo. Both teach different versions of what occurred between 1989 and 1999 to coincide with their own versions. Schools teach different languages — Kosovars learn Albanian and Serbians learn Serbian — and neither interact with each other. This has created a cycle of hostility between the two ethnicities and countries.
- An association of Serbian municipalities was created as part of a deal brokered between the two countries in 2015. This was done to give more autonomy to the Serbian communities in Kosovo. The deal allowed the five percent of ethnic Serbs to have their own courts of appeal, budgets and police officers. However, this autonomy has caused some tension between the two groups. This year, amendments were requested as the agreement was deemed incompatible with Kosovo’s constitution and sovereignty.
- In the past few years, talks have been facilitated between the Serbian and Kosovo governments to put an end to their turbulent relationship. These discussions also strove for peace and agreement to come to fruition. In 2017, the Justice Agreement was reached, integrating all judicial personnel and allowing justice to be delivered across Kosovo, including the Serbian municipalities. This was a milestone for Kosovo-Serbia relations.
Since the end of the war, Kosovo-Serbia relations have been fraught with disagreements and tensions. However, things are looking up and future relations between Kosovo and Serbia seem to be more cooperative and peaceful.
Hopefully, there will be a full recognition of Kosovo’s independence followed by both its and Serbia’s admission to the European Union in the near future. The relationship between these two countries should be a fruitful and peaceful one, but acceptance and cooperation must come from both sides to ensure their peaceful coexistence.
– Trelawny Robinson