Which countries recognize Kosovo

Background current

On February 17, 2008, Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia. At first glance, a liberation for the Kosovar Albanians - but ten years later there is still no unity in the country.

People celebrate the independence of Kosovo in Pristina (archive photo from 02/17/2008). (& copy dpa - report)

There was great jubilation among the Kosovar Albanians when Kosovo declared itself an "independent, sovereign and democratic state" on February 17th, 2008. Nine years had passed since the end of the Kosovo war and the province was granted "substantial autonomy" by UN Resolution 1244. The future relationship with Serbia remained controversial, however, negotiations on the status remained unsuccessful - despite international mediation.

The international community reacted differently: while the USA, Germany and France and some international organizations such as the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund quickly recognized independence, Spain, Russia and China, for example, took a position against it. Serbia described the declaration of autonomy as high treason. However, an opinion that the UN General Assembly commissioned at the initiative of Serbia at the International Court of Justice in The Hague on the legality of Kosovo's independence supported the autonomy: on July 22, 2010, the opinion made independence lawful and compatible with international law explained. To date, according to information from the Kosovar government, 114 states have recognized the independent country. Currently, however, Kosovo is neither a member of the United Nations nor a candidate for accession to the EU, a member state of the Council of Europe or Interpol.

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Kosovo conflict

The membership of Kosovo has been controversial for over a hundred years. Albania and Yugoslavia lay claim to the area, and there is also a long tradition of political independence.

In Yugoslavia under Josip Tito, the "Antifascist Council for the National Liberation of Yugoslavia" (AVNOJ) granted Kosovo the status of an autonomous province within the Republic of Serbia after 1945. In 1989 Serbia ended the autonomy of the province under President Slobodan Milošević. As a result, after a referendum in 1991, the Kosovar Albanians for their part proclaimed the sovereign "State of Kosovo". At the beginning of 1996 the underground organization "Kosovo Liberation Army" (KLA) started armed resistance against Serbia and tried to force the secession with bomb attacks on Serbian institutions.

During 1998 offensives by the Yugoslav Army and the Serbian Special Police killed around 1,500 Kosovar Albanians and displaced over 300,000. After a renewed escalation of violence and the failure of the peace negotiations between Kosovar Albanians and Serbs in March 1999, NATO launched air strikes on targets in Yugoslavia on March 24, 1999 - without a UN mandate. During the 78 days of military intervention, the clashes in Kosovo continued. Around 10,000 Kosovar Albanians were killed. Well over a million fled or were displaced.

The war ended in June 1999 with an international peace plan. Kosovo remained part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia under international law, but was de facto placed under the administrative sovereignty of a UN mission (UNMIK). Serbia still sees Kosovo as an autonomous province of the country, not an independent state.

Relations with Serbia remain tense

Many institutions and states support the peace and normalization process in the region: Serbia and Kosovo should find a more relaxed way of dealing with one another. But the relationship between the countries and also between the Albanian majority, which makes up around 91 percent of the approximately 1.8 million inhabitants, and the Serb minority has not yet normalized. Thanks in part to the "Brussels Agreement" of 2013, which defines the rights and political self-determination of the Serb minority in northern Kosovo, the tensions have eased after initial resistance in both parliaments. Conflicts entail, for example, that negotiated compromises are not implemented or implemented only slowly, or that part of the population does not accept them. The police and judicial structures in northern Kosovo (mostly inhabited by Kosovar Serbs), which had been under Serbian leadership for a long time, only came under Kosovar leadership at the end of 2017. On the other hand, many Albanians reject the community association, which in return allows the Kosovar Serbs there to self-govern and to represent them in the capital Pristina.

In the past few years, too, there have been repeated conflicts between the ethnic groups, but also between political groups, as the concessions made by the government to the Serbian population go too far for the Kosovar-Albanian opposition.

Political instability and dire economic situation

However, the ethnic conflict is only one of many factors that weigh on the situation in Kosovo. The country is still developing on various levels. A modern constitution, for example, provides the legal framework for a stable democracy - but it has not been implemented in many areas. There are deficits, for example, in the establishment of the rule of law or the fight against corruption, for example Kosovo ranks 95th out of 176 in the 2016 Corruption Perception Index from Transparency International. Organized crime in particular is considered a major problem.

The economic situation is also a problem: in 2016, the gross domestic product per capita was around 3,431.9 euros (Germany: 38,183 euros). Kosovo is thus the poorest country in the Balkans. In 2015, according to the World Bank, 17.6 percent of the population lived below the national poverty line. In addition, there is high unemployment, especially among young people (2017: 52.4 percent). Even in the years after the war, this urged thousands to leave the country, including for Germany. However, Kosovar citizens still require a visa to travel to the EU.

On the way to the EU?

To this day, Kosovo's step towards independence is controversial worldwide and also within the European Union. Thus Kosovo cannot actually become an EU member at the moment. Despite the negative position of individual member states, the EU has clearly committed itself to Kosovo as a potential candidate for membership. The young state is one of the Western Balkans countries that are supposed to ensure stability in the region. That is why the EU (along with the USA) and especially Germany are providing financial support and are trying, for example, with the civil rule of law mission EULEX to help establish a functioning legal system.

But the normalization process, which found a framework in the "Brussels Agreement" in 2013, the integration of the Serb minority and the establishment of the rule of law are only making slow progress. Kosovo has to cope with these tasks in order to become an EU member state.

Since Serbia also wants to join the EU, recognition of Kosovo's autonomy - and thus a big step in the settlement of the conflict - is essential. In January 2018, Serbia's President Aleksandar Vučić announced that he would present a new proposed solution to the border conflict to make this possible.

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