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Kosovo-Serbia Relations
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.

Kosovo History

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Future 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
Photo: Flickr

Kosovo War
The Kosovo War was a quick and highly destructive conflict that displaced 90 percent of the population. The severity of the unrest in Kosovo and the involvement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) brought the Kosovo conflict to international attention in the late 1990’s. The conflict led to the displacement of thousands and lasting tension between Serbs and Albanians. The brutality of the war is largely credited with launching The Borgen Project, a humanitarian organization that has helped hundreds of thousands of people.

 

10 Facts about the Kosovo War

 

    1. The Kosovo War was waged in the Serbian province of Kosovo from 1998 to 1999. Ethnic Albanians living in Kosovo faced the pressure of Serbs fighting for control of the region. Albanians also opposed the government of Yugoslavia, which was made up of modern day Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia and Macedonia.
    2. Muslim Albanians were the ethnic majority in Kosovo. The president of Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic, refused to recognize the rights of the majority because Kosovo was an area sacred to the Serbs. He planned to replace Albanian language and culture with Serbian institutions.
    3. The international community failed to address the escalation of tension between the Albanians and the Serbs. In doing so, they inadvertently supported radicals in the region. Ethnic Albanians in Kosovo formed the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in the early 1990s. The militant group began attacks on Serbian police and politicians and were engaged in an all-out uprising by 1998.
    4. Serbian and Yugoslav forces tried to fight growing KLA support through oppressive tactics and violence. The government destroyed villages and forced people to leave their homes. They massacred entire villages. Many people fled their homes.
    5. As the conflict grew worse, international intervention rose. The Contact Group (consisting of the U.S., Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Russia) demanded a cease-fire, the withdrawal of Yugoslav and Serbian forces from Kosovo and the return of refugees. Yugoslavia at first agreed but ultimately failed to implement the terms of the agreement.
    6. Yugoslav and Serbian forces engaged in an ethnic cleansing campaign throughout the duration of the war. By the end of May 1999, 1.5 million people had fled their homes. At the time, that constituted approximately 90 percent of Kosovo’s population.
    7. Diplomatic negotiations between Kosovar and Serbian delegations began in France in 1999, but Serbian officials refused to cooperate. In response, NATO began a campaign of airstrikes against Serbian targets, focusing mainly on destroying Serbian government buildings and infrastructure. The bombings caused further flows of refugees into neighboring countries and the deaths of several civilians.
    8. In June 1999, NATO and Yugoslavia signed a peace accord to end the Kosovo War. The Yugoslav government agreed to troop withdrawal and the return of almost one million ethnic Albanians and half a million general displaced persons. Unfortunately, tensions between Albanians and Serbs continued into the 21st century. Anti-Serb riots broke out in March 2004 throughout the Kosovo region. Twenty people were killed and over 4,000 Serbs and other minorities were displaced.
    9. In February 2008, Kosovo declared independence from Serbia. Subsequently, Yugoslavia ceased to exist in 2003 and became the individual countries of Serbia and Montenegro. Serbia, along with numerous other countries, refused to recognize Kosovo’s independence.
    10. At the end of 2016, a tribunal was established in the International Criminal Court to try Kosovars for committing war crimes against ethnic minorities and political opponents. Additionally, an EU taskforce set up in 2011 found evidence that members of the KLA committed these crimes after the war ended. Previously, the U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia tried several the KLA members.


Overall, the Kosovo War was one of Europe’s most chaotic conflicts, leaving lasting impressions on all those living in the region. Not only has the conflict been coined with the terms genocide and crimes against humanity, but the involvement and bombings from NATO also caused widespread controversy.

Lindsay Harris

Photo: Flickr