Pristina • Prizren • Ferizaj (Uroševac) • Peć • Gjakova • Gjilan • Podujevo • Mitrovica • Vučitrn • Suva Reka • Glogovac (Drenas) • Lipljan • Orahovac • Mališevo • Skenderaj (Srbica) • Vitina • Deçan • Istok • Klina • Fushë Kosova •
|THE KOSOVO COAT OF ARMS|
Location of Kosovo within the continent of Europe
Map of Kosovo
Flag Description of Kosovo:The Kosovo flag was adopted on February 17, 2008.
The flag is partly the result of an international design competition, organized by the United Nations-backed provisional government, which attracted almost a thousand entries. The competition rules insisted that the final design must not use ethnic or national symbols or color schemes in order to ensure that it represented all citizens of Kosovo. The flag displays six white stars in an arc above a golden map of Kosovo on a blue field. They are officially meant to symbolize Kosovo's six major ethnic groups: Albanians, Serbs, Turks, Gorani, Roma and Bosniaks.
Official name Republika e Kosovës (Albanian); Republika Kosovo (Serbian) (Republic of Kosovo)1
Form of government/Political status multiparty transitional republic2 with one legislative body (Assembly of Kosovo )
International authority UN Interim Administrator4
Head of state President: Atifete Jahjaga
Head of government Prime Minister: Hashim Thaçi
Official languages Albanian; Serbian
Official religion none
Monetary unit euro (€)
Population (2013 est.) 1,848,000
Total area (sq mi) 4,212 Total area (sq km) 10,908 Urban-rural population Urban: (2011) 38% Rural: (2011) 62% Life expectancy at birth Male: (2012) 68.4 years Female: (2012) 71.4 years Literacy: percentage of population age 15 and over literate Male: (2004) 97.3% Female: (2004) 91.3% GNI per capita (U.S.$) (2013) 3,890
1Alternate short-form names in Albanian include Kosova and Kosovë.
2Independence was declared February 17, 2008, and the new constitution became effective on June 15, 2008. Serbia continued to claim Kosovo as an integral part despite a ruling by the International Court of Justice in July 2010 supporting Kosovo’s independence.
320 seats are reserved for minority communities.
4Assisted by the EU special envoy from February 2008. A 2,000-member EU mission to Kosovo (headed by the special envoy) is expected to eventually replace the UN as international administrative authority.
Background of Kosovo
The central Balkans were part of the Roman and Byzantine Empires before ethnic Serbs migrated to the territories of modern Kosovo in the 7th century. During the medieval period, Kosovo became the center of a Serbian Empire and saw the construction of many important Serb religious sites, including many architecturally significant Serbian Orthodox monasteries. The defeat of Serbian forces at the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 led to five centuries of Ottoman rule during which large numbers of Turks and Albanians moved to Kosovo. By the end of the 19th century, Albanians replaced the Serbs as the dominant ethnic group in Kosovo. Serbia reacquired control over Kosovo from the Ottoman Empire during the First Balkan War of 1912. After World War II, Kosovo became an autonomous province of Serbia in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (S.F.R.Y.) with status almost equivalent to that of a republic under the 1974 S.F.R.Y. constitution. Despite legislative concessions, Albanian nationalism increased in the 1980s, which led to riots and calls for Kosovo's independence. At the same time, Serb nationalist leaders, such as Slobodan MILOSEVIC, exploited Kosovo Serb claims of maltreatment to secure votes from supporters, many of whom viewed Kosovo as their cultural heartland. Under MILOSEVIC's leadership, Serbia instituted a new constitution in 1989 that revoked Kosovo's status as an autonomous province of Serbia. Kosovo's Albanian leaders responded in 1991 by organizing a referendum that declared Kosovo independent. Under MILOSEVIC, Serbia carried out repressive measures against the Kosovar Albanians in the early 1990s as the unofficial Kosovo government, led by Ibrahim RUGOVA, used passive resistance in an attempt to try to gain international assistance and recognition of an independent Kosovo. Albanians dissatisfied with RUGOVA's passive strategy in the 1990s created the Kosovo Liberation Army and launched an insurgency. Starting in 1998, Serbian military, police, and paramilitary forces under MILOSEVIC conducted a brutal counterinsurgency campaign that resulted in massacres and massive expulsions of ethnic Albanians. Approximately 800,000 ethnic Albanians were forced from their homes in Kosovo during this time. International attempts to mediate the conflict failed, and MILOSEVIC's rejection of a proposed settlement led to a three-month NATO military operation against Serbia beginning in March 1999 that forced Serbia to agree to withdraw its military and police forces from Kosovo. UN Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999) placed Kosovo under a transitional administration, the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), pending a determination of Kosovo's future status. A UN-led process began in late 2005 to determine Kosovo's final status. The negotiations ran in stages between 2006 and 2007, but ended without agreement between Belgrade and Pristina. On 17 February 2008, the Kosovo Assembly declared Kosovo independent. Since then, over 100 countries have recognized Kosovo, and it has joined the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Council of Europe Development Bank, and signed a framework agreement with the European Investment Bank (EIB). In October 2008, Serbia sought an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the legality under international law of Kosovo's declaration of independence. The ICJ released the advisory opinion in July 2010 affirming that Kosovo's declaration of independence did not violate general principles of international law, UN Security Council Resolution 1244, or the Constitutive Framework. The opinion was closely tailored to Kosovo's unique history and circumstances. Serbia continues to reject Kosovo's independence, but the two countries reached an agreement to normalize their relations in April 2013 through EU-facilitated talks and are currently engaged in the implementation process.
Geography of Kosovo
A landlocked country, Kosovo is bordered by Serbia to the north and east, Macedonia to the south, Albania to the west, and Montenegro to the northwest. Kosovo, about the same size as Jamaica or Lebanon, is the smallest country in the Balkans.
Relief, drainage, and soils
The borders of Kosovo are largely mountainous, characterized by sharp peaks and narrow valleys. The Sharr (Serbian: Šar) Mountains lie along the southern border with Macedonia, while the Kopaonik Mountains are situated along the northeastern border with Serbia. The highest point is Mount Gjeravica (Ðeravica), at 8,714 feet (2,656 metres), on the western border with Albania. The interior terrain comprises high plains and rolling hills; about three-fourths of the country lies between about 1,600 and 5,000 feet (500 and 1,500 metres) above sea level. Limestone caves are found in several parts of the country.
A range of hills running north-south through central Kosovo separates the Kosovo Plain in the east from the Dukagjin (Metohija) Plain in the west. These plains constitute the country’s two main basins. The Kosovo Plain is drained by the northward-flowing Sitnicë (Sitnica) River, a tributary of the Ibër (Ibar) River. The Dukagjin Plain is drained by the southward-flowing Drini i Bardhë, or White Drin (Beli Drim). The soils of the plains are among the most fertile in the Balkans and support the cultivation of grains, fruits, and vegetables.
In general, Kosovo has a moderate continental climate, although the proximity of the Mediterranean Sea has a tempering effect, especially in the southwest. Summers are warm, with average high temperatures reaching the low 80s F (upper 20s C); average highs during the winter months are in the low 40s F (about 5 °C). The country receives more than 25 inches (650 mm) of precipitation annually, with significant snowfall occurring in the winter. Mountainous areas experience both colder temperatures and greater precipitation.
Plant and animal life
Despite its small area, Kosovo boasts a rich assortment of plant species, including about a dozen that are found only in Kosovo. Forests cover about two-fifths of the land, with oak trees predominating in lower elevations and pines growing in the mountains. Animal life is relatively diverse as well. Brown bears, Eurasian lynx, wildcats, gray wolves, foxes, chamois (a goatlike animal), roe deer, and red deer are among the mammals that inhabit the mountainous border regions. More than 200 species of birds live in Kosovo or migrate there seasonally. Among them are the Old World blackbirds for which Kosovo Polje (“Field of the Blackbirds”), site of the 1389 Battle of Kosovo, was named.
Demography of Kosovo
- Ethnic groups
In the second half of the 20th century, as a result of Serbian out-migration and higher Albanian birth rates, there was a dramatic shift in the ethnic composition of Kosovo. The Albanian share of the population rose from about half in 1946 to about four-fifths by the 1990s. Meanwhile, the proportion of Serbs fell to less than one-fifth. After the Kosovo conflict of 1998–99, additional Serbs emigrated. Thus, in the early 21st century, the population makeup was approximately nine-tenths Albanian and less than one-tenth Serb, with the remainder comprising Bosniacs (Bosnian Muslims), traditionally itinerant peoples (i.e., Roma and two other groups, Ashkali and Egyptians [also called Balkan Egyptians], that are commonly classified as Roma but regard themselves as distinct), Turks, Gorani (a Muslim South Slavic people), Croats, and Montenegrins. The Serbs are concentrated in northern Kosovo, particularly in Mitrovicë (Mitrovica), as well as around Shtërpcë (Štrpce), on the Macedonian border.
Albanian and Serbian are the official languages of Kosovo. According to the 2008 constitution, Turkish, Bosnian, and Romany also have official status in relevant municipalities. The Albanian spoken in Kosovo is a subvariety of the Gheg dialect; it is commonly known as kosovarce. Standard literary Albanian is used in written communication and in the broadcast media. Serbo-Croatian, also known as Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian (BCS), is the language spoken by Serbs, Bosniacs, Croats, and Montenegrins. However, speakers of BCS tend to refer to their own language as Serbian, Bosnian, Croatian, or Montenegrin, depending on their ethnicity, and consider it to be distinct from the other groups’ languages, despite mutual intelligibility. The Roma speak Serbian or Romany, while the Ashkali and the Egyptians speak Albanian. Turkish is spoken by the Turks as well as by some Albanians. The Gorani people speak their own South Slavic dialect, akin to BCS and Macedonian.
Kosovo does not have an official religion. About nine-tenths of the people, including most Albanians, are Muslim. A significant proportion of Muslims are only nominally so; many do not regularly attend mosque services, although fasting for Ramadan is widely practiced. Most of the Serbs and some Roma are Eastern Orthodox. A small minority of the population, consisting mainly of Albanians and Croats, are Roman Catholic.
Despite early competition with Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy became the predominant faith in Kosovo in the Middle Ages, when the region was the centre of a Serbian empire. In the 13th century Peć (Albanian: Pejë) was established as a Serbian Orthodox archbishopric, and in the 14th century it was raised to the status of autonomous patriarchate. This historical importance helps to explain the special role that Kosovo plays in Serbian tradition. Islam arrived with the conquering Ottoman Turks, who, from the mid-15th century, controlled the region for more than four centuries. Although much of the population eventually became Muslim, the region retained its Orthodox heritage, and the patriarchate was restored from 1557 to 1766. The lack of religious tension during much of the Ottoman period may be explained in part by the concessions offered to Muslim converts and in part by the attitude of many peasants, who welcomed diverse forms of religious ritual as means to ward off evil. Thus, converted Muslims often maintained certain Christian practices, leading to religious syncretism.
- Settlement patterns
Kosovo is more densely populated than its neighbours. More than half the population lives in rural areas, mainly in small villages in the central plains and on the lower slopes of the mountains. Some rural Kosovars practice transhumance—the seasonal movement of livestock between low and high altitudes—and spend the summers in huts in mountain pastures. The principal cities are the capital, Pristina (Albanian: Prishtinë; Serbian: Priština), and Prizren, Ferizaj (Uroševac), Mitrovicë (Mitrovica), Gjakovë (Ðakovica), Pejë (Peć), and Gjilan (Gnjilane). There was a considerable shift in settlement throughout Kosovo after the 1998–99 conflict, when a substantial percentage of homes were damaged or destroyed.
- Demographic trends
The population is fairly young: more than one-quarter of Kosovars are under age 15, and less than one-tenth are over 65. In the early 21st century it was estimated that about a half million Kosovars lived abroad, notably in Germany, Switzerland, Scandinavia, and North America. A significant portion of emigrants were Serbs, many of whom left Kosovo for Serbia.
Economy of Kosovo
Kosovo has long been one of the poorest, least-developed regions of the Balkans. During the second half of the 20th century, when Kosovo was a part of the republic of Serbia, a number of the Yugoslav republics objected to the federal economic support given to Kosovo. This controversy ultimately contributed to the dissolution of Yugoslavia in 1991. Following the 1998–99 conflict, Kosovo’s economy was boosted by the large installation of international administrators. In addition, the use of the euro—which Kosovo unofficially adopted in 2002 and continued to use after declaring independence in 2008—helped to bridle inflation. Although the postindependence government worked to strengthen the market economy, particularly by privatizing state-controlled businesses, Kosovo continued to rely heavily on remittances from Kosovars working abroad as well as on international aid. Moreover, the economy has been highly susceptible to fluctuations in prices for imported commodities—especially food and fuel—on which Kosovo remains dependent. Unemployment and poverty are still intractable problems. In the years immediately following independence, about two-fifths of the labour force was unemployed, with rural areas especially affected, and about one-third of Kosovo’s citizens lived below the poverty line. This rampant poverty and unemployment fostered a significant black market.
- Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
About half of Kosovo’s area is agricultural land, worked mostly in family plots for subsistence. Kosovo is not self-sufficient in food production, however. Before 1999 agriculture accounted for one-third of the gross domestic product (GDP). A decade later it accounted for just over one-tenth. About half the farmland is used for growing grains, mainly wheat and corn (maize), as well as potatoes, berries, and peppers. Pastures and meadows constitute most of the remainder. The high cost of agricultural machinery, seeds, and fertilizers has inhibited the increase of agricultural production. Industrial pollution of soil and water also poses a serious problem in many areas. Most of the timber harvested is used for fuel. Fisheries are most developed in western Kosovo, notably in Istog (Istok).
- Resources and power
Kosovo has been a mining centre since pre-Roman times, but today mining constitutes only a tiny portion of the GDP. Mineral resources include ferronickel, nonferrous metals, and asphalt. There are also significant, nearly unexploited reserves of lignite.
Kosovo imports much of its electricity. Although the country has several power plants, domestic production has been hampered by outdated technology and insufficient investment. Some municipalities employ fuel oil–based district heating, whereby a central plant distributes heat to numerous buildings.
Manufacturing and other secondary industries account for roughly one-fifth of the GDP. Kosovo produces construction materials, food and beverages, leather, machinery, and appliances. Metal processing is important as well. Kosovo has a long tradition of handicraft production, especially in and around Prizren, Pejë (Peć), and Gjakovë (Ðakovica). Notable handicrafts include silver filigree, woodwork (especially carved doors and ceilings), wool textiles and carpets, and copper and clay household goods.
Prior to independence the Yugoslav or Serbian dinar was the official currency. Until 2002 the deutsche mark also was used—unofficially, as many Kosovars working in western Europe sent money back home to support their families. In 2002, while still a part of Serbia, Kosovo unofficially began using the euro. The euro became the official currency in 2008, although the Serbian dinar remains in use among Serbs. In 2009 Kosovo joined the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The independent Central Bank of the Republic of Kosovo oversees the financial system.
In the opening decade of the 21st century, Kosovo’s trade deficit grew substantially. The deficit remained large after independence, as Kosovo had to import much of its food, fuel, and machinery—mostly from Macedonia, Serbia, Germany, Turkey, and China. Kosovo’s exports, predominantly scrap metal, went mainly to Belgium, Italy, India, Albania, and Macedonia. Kosovo became a party to the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) in 2006; however, Serbia, also a CEFTA member, refused to recognize Kosovo as an independent trading partner.
The service sector accounts for the majority of the GDP. Public administration, financial services, and domestic trade are major components of this sector. Prior to the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, tourism in Kosovo centred on the medieval Serbian Orthodox monasteries at Deçan (Dečani), Pejë (Peć), and Pristina. The building of a tourist industry has been a priority of the postindependence government.
- Labour and taxation
The labour force is concentrated in the service sector, particularly in public services. Small and family-owned businesses are also prevalent. The remainder of the employed population works mainly in agriculture, construction, manufacturing, and mining.
The postindependence government implemented tax laws aimed at strengthening the market economy and encouraging foreign investment. Individual and corporate income taxes were lowered, and a value-added tax and other excises were raised.
- Transportation and telecommunications
The needs of the UN mission in Kosovo led to improvement of Kosovo’s road system following the 1998–99 conflict. Good roads now connect all the major cities. In addition, a highway linking Kosovo with the Adriatic Sea, via Albania, opened in 2010. Many minor village roads remain unpaved, however. Bus and public minivan services are widespread. Although the first railway line through Kosovo was opened in 1874, the rail network is relatively limited. Rail lines connect Pejë (Peć) and Pristina within Kosovo and provide a link between Pristina and Skopje, Maced. An international airport outside Pristina offers frequent connections to Tirana, Alb., and other European airports, notably Vienna, Austria, and Ljubljana, Slvn. The airport in Skopje, which serves a greater number of destinations, is not far from Kosovo’s southern border.
Telecommunications is one of the most important and profitable industries in Kosovo. Internet use, aided by the presence of Internet cafés in urban areas, is widespread. Multiple providers offer mobile phone services to a growing number of subscribers, while a declining number of households use landline telephones. Upon independence, Kosovo was confronted with several problems in the area of communications. For instance, landline calls to Kosovo continued to require Serbia’s country calling code, while various other country codes had to be used for mobile phone calls. In addition, the Kosovar authorities dismantled some cellular towers in Serb enclaves that had been operated by companies in Serbia, leaving many people without service.
Government and Society of Kosovo
- Constitutional framework
In 1971 amendments to the Yugoslav constitution granted Serbia’s two autonomous provinces, Kosovo and Vojvodina, nearly equal status with the six republics of Yugoslavia. In 1974 a new Yugoslav constitution enshrined the provinces’ equal status and gave them the right to issue their own constitutions. However, following the rise to power of Slobodan Milošević (president of Serbia from 1989), the government in Belgrade revoked the provinces’ autonomy and retook political control. Kosovo thus was administered by Serbia until the conflict of 1998–99, after which Serbian and Yugoslav forces withdrew and the UN oversaw the installment of an interim administration. Under the guidance of the UN mission, Kosovar Albanians established central and municipal government institutions, while the UN worked to resolve Kosovo’s future status. Multilateral talks on the subject led to a plan—developed by UN special envoy Martti Ahtisaari and supported by Kosovar Albanians—whereby Kosovo would eventually gain independence. But because Serbia strongly opposed the idea of Kosovar independence, Russia blocked UN approval of the Ahtisaari Plan in 2007. Further talks failed to produce any agreement, and on Feb. 17, 2008, Kosovo unilaterally declared its independence. That April a Kosovar assembly approved a constitution, which took effect on June 15, 2008.
Although the constitution granted local self-government to Kosovo’s Serb communities and offered special protection for Serb cultural and religious sites, many Serbs rejected both the declaration of independence and the new government. Numerous Serbs boycotted subsequent elections, preferring to support the parallel administrative structures organized by Serb groups and backed by Belgrade—structures that the Kosovar government deemed illegal.
According to the 2008 constitution, the executive branch of government is led by a president (head of state) and a prime minister (head of government). The president is elected by the Assembly of Kosovo for a five-year term, with the right to be reelected to one additional term. The president appoints the prime minister upon a recommendation by the majority party or coalition in the Assembly. The Assembly is a unicameral legislature composed of 120 deputies directly elected by voters for four-year terms. Of the 120 seats in the Assembly, 100 are distributed on the basis of proportional representation, at least 10 are guaranteed for Kosovar Serbs, and 10 are reserved for members of the Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim), Turkish, Roma, Ashkali, Egyptian, and Gorani communities.
- Local government
Municipalities are the basic units of local government. Each municipality is administered by a mayor and a municipal assembly, elected every four years by proportional representation. Municipalities have the right to associate with each other and to participate in the selection of local police commanders. Some municipalities with predominantly Serb populations have special rights, such as the operation of a secondary health system, oversight of postsecondary education, and management of cultural and religious sites.
The Supreme Court of Kosovo is the highest judicial authority for all matters except constitutional questions, which are decided by the Constitutional Court. For the Supreme Court and lower courts of appeal, at least 15 percent of the judges must hail from minority communities. An independent judicial council ensures the impartiality of the judicial system. The judicial council also recommends candidates for the judiciary to the president of Kosovo, who makes the appointments.
- Political process
Suffrage is universal from age 18. Kosovo’s Central Election Commission oversees elections. Postindependence political parties are split largely along ethnic lines. The two main Kosovar Albanian parties, the Democratic League of Kosovo (Lidhja Demokratike e Kosovës; LDK) and the Democratic Party of Kosovo (Partia Demokratike e Kosovës; PDK), formed independent Kosovo’s first coalition government, with Hashim Thaçi of the PDK as prime minister and Fatmir Sejdiu of the LDK as president. The LDK was organized as a response to Kosovo’s loss of autonomy in 1989. Headed by the Kosovar Albanian nationalist writer Ibrahim Rugova, the LDK in 1992 declared the creation of the Republic of Kosovo, which remained internationally unrecognized. After the 1998–99 conflict, the LDK was challenged by the newly formed PDK, led by Thaçi—a former leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), a Kosovar Albanian guerrilla organization. There are a number of smaller Albanian parties, as well as several parties that represent the Serb, Bosniak, Roma, Turkish, and other communities.
At the end of the conflict of 1998–99, the KLA agreed to demilitarize. Under the subsequent UN administration, many KLA members joined the Kosovo Protection Corps, a civilian emergency force. In 2009 the corps was replaced by the Kosovo Security Force, a multiethnic, civilian-controlled, lightly armed military organization. Law enforcement is the responsibility of the multiethnic Kosovo Police Service. A contingent of officials from the European Union monitored and temporarily assisted with policing in postindependence Kosovo.
- Health and welfare
A public system provides subsidized health care to citizens. However, many public clinics suffer from limited or poorly maintained equipment and insufficient staff. More costly private clinics have increased in number. Life expectancy for men is about 70 years, which is just under the European average. For women in Kosovo, life expectancy is slightly higher but remains well below the European average of nearly 80.
In the postindependence era many public services in addition to health care—e.g., electricity, water supply, waste collection, and sewage disposal—required significant improvement. Water quality is poor in many urban areas, and most rural areas are not connected to any public water system.
Traditional homes in Kosovo were built to house large extended families. Albanians built houses of stone, known as kullas, that often featured an inner courtyard protected from outside view. Following the massive destruction that occurred during the 1998–99 conflict, more than 50,000 houses had to be rebuilt. Many of these newer buildings are taller than the traditional structures of the countryside, and they are still intended to house extended families.
A small number of multiethnic schools were established after the 1998–99 conflict, but ethnic tensions jeopardized their success. At the primary and secondary levels, most children attend separate Albanian or Serb schools. The language divide between these groups is reinforced by vastly different lessons on geography and history. Due to a dearth of classrooms and qualified teachers, students in some schools attend one of several shifts each day. The University of Pristina, founded in 1970, is the major public university in Kosovo. It is now primarily an Albanian-language institution that also serves Albanian populations in Serbia, Macedonia, and Montenegro. The Serb component of the university relocated to Mitrovicë (Mitrovica) in the early 21st century; there it became known as the University of Mitrovica, although many Serbs continue to refer to it as the University of Pristina. The English-language American University in Kosovo is a private postsecondary institution that was founded in 2003. Although the literacy rate for both men and women is above 90 percent, it lags behind the nearly universal literacy predominant in the rest of Europe.
Culture Life of Kosovo
People l Tradition l Values For centuries, the ethnic Albanian villagers have lived in Kosovo within extensive families among members consisting of 70 to 100 which were ruled by a chosen patriarch. Up to this date, the Kosovar society is still built on family units in the majority of the rural areas, even though the family structure has progressively eroded since the end of World War II. Progress toward modernization started advancing in the 1970’s when the modern educated elite initiated the emerge, however, outside the major cities, in the rural areas, it has been unable to alter the loyalty towards tradition in which a large amount of the Kosovars hold among their extensive families. The Kosovars constitute of the Gheg sub-group in which the basis of its social system if based on the clan or “fis”. Among this sub-group is also the sub-clan which is recognized as “vellazeri” consisting of a group of blood-related families. The clans are extremely devoted to their members and the great blood feuds that were frequent in the past century are no longer present. Although there are various religious beliefs among family units at times, they have been prevailed over by the great power of the clan and the members’ devotion towards it. Unwritten or customary rules are very frequently practiced as law and order among Kosovars with its principles being as followed: Personal honor
- The equality of persons
The freedom of each to act in accordance with own honor, with law limits, and without being subject to another’s commands The word of honor known as “besa” creating a situation of inviolable trust (upon Besa, Kosovars take the person’s honor and the person’s life the remote areas of the country.
Among the current modern times, the former customs and traditions are gradually vanishing due to the influence of the western world which has even reached remote areas of the country. The elderly generations are the ones who assist in keeping such customs and traditions alive, however. In the major cities of the country, families consist of the parents and children until the latter wish to live separately. Nowadays, females are very frequently well-educated and considered equal members in the families with the freedom to organize and live modern westernized lifestyles. Among the current modern times, the former customs and traditions are gradually vanishing due to the influence of the western world which has even reached remote areas of the country. In the major cities of the country, families consist of the parents and children until the latter wish to live separately. As well, nowadays, females are very frequently well-educated and considered equal members in the families with the freedom to organize and live modern westernized lifestyles. It is mainly the elderly generations of Kosovo, like in most other cultures and countries, insisting and assisting in keeping such customs and traditions still alive.
History of Kosovo
Anciently inhabited by Illyrians and Thracians, the region was part of the Roman and Byzantine empires. Settled by the Slavs in the 7th cent., Kosovo passed to Bulgaria in the 9th cent. and to Serbia in the 12th cent. From 1389, following the Turkish victory at Kosovo Field, to 1913, it was under Ottoman rule, and the Albanian and Turkish population greatly increased; by 1900 Albanians were the dominant ethnic group in the region. Partitioned in 1913 between Serbia and Montenegro, it was incorporated into Yugoslavia after World War I. Most of the region was incorporated into Italian-held Albania from 1941 to 1944. Following World War II, Kosovo became an autonomous region within Serbia. In 1990, demands for greater autonomy were rebuffed by Serbia, which rescinded Kosovo's autonomous status. Albanians were repressed and Serb migration into the region encouraged; in response Albanians pressed for Kosovo's complete independence.
Harsh Serbian repression and a breakdown in negotiations to settle the issue provoked NATO into attacking Serbia by air in Mar., 1999. Serbia responded by forcing hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians to flee Kosovo, creating an enormous refugee problem; perhaps 1.5 million Albanian Kosovars were expelled from their homes or fled. An estimated 7,000 to 10,000 Kosovars were killed by Serbian forces. An agreement resulted in the end of the bombing campaign and withdrawal of Serbian forces from Kosovo in June, and NATO peacekeepers entered the province. Many Serbs fled; those that remain are largely in areas bordering Serbia.
In municipal elections in 2000, Ibrahim Rugova's moderate independence party, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), won 60% of the vote; Serbs boycotted the polls. The 2001 elections for the provincial assembly, in which Rugova's party won 46% of the vote, saw greater Serb participation. Differences between Albanian parties delayed the formation of a government until Mar., 2002, when a power-sharing agreement led to the election of Rugova as president. Real power, however, resided with the UN adminstration that was imposed after NATO forces entered Kosovo.
The process of rebuilding was slow and marred by retaliatory Albanian attacks on Serbs and other non-Albanians. In Mar., 2004, there was a major outbreak of anti-Serb rioting that many observers believe was orchestrated to drive Serbs from areas of mixed population. Assembly elections in Oct., 2004, resulted in a plurality for Rugova's party, which formed a coalition government with Rugova as president. Kosovo's Serbs largely boycotted the vote.
Rugova survived an assassination attempt in Mar., 2005, but died of natural causes in Jan., 2006; the following month, Fatmir Sejdiu, a law professor and assembly deputy, was elected to succeed Rugova as president. In 2006 Serbia and Kosovo began discussing the province's final status. The vast majority of the Albanians favored independence, a solution rejected by Serbia, which adopted a new constitution in Nov., 2006, that called Kosovo an inalienable part of Serbia.
In Mar., 2007, after months of talks failed to yield a compromise, UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari presented a proposal for Kosovo's eventual independence to the UN Security Council. Serbia strongly opposed the plan, and Russia, a historical Serbian ally, called for an agreemeent acceptable to both sides, ensuring a veto on any proposal unacceptable to Serbia. Remarks by U.S. President Bush, during a 2007 visit to Albania, that Kosovo would eventually be independent provoked outrage from Serbia's government.
In the Nov., 2007, elections, the Democratic party (PDK) won a plurality; a coalition government, headed by Hashim Thaçi, was formed with the LDK. Sejdiu remained president. In Feb., 2008, Kosovo declared its independence; the action was not recognized by Serbia, and there were demonstrations—some violent—against the move by Serbs in Serbia and Kosovo. Serbia subsequently sought a de facto partition of Kosovo that would give it control over Serb-majority areas there, and later moved to challenge the legality of Kosovo's declaration at the International Court of Justice, which ruled in July, 2010, international law did not prohibit a unilateral declaration of independence.
In June, 2008, Kosovo's constitution took effect; at the same, Serbs in N Kosovo established parallel government institutions. Sejdiu resigned as president in Sept., 2010, when the constitutional court ruled he could not serve as president and leader of the LDK at the same time. Assembly Speaker Jakup Krasniqi became acting president. The PDK-LDK coalition failed to agree on a new president; subsequently the LDK left the coalition, and a no-confidence vote led to elections in Dec., 2010.
The PDK won a plurality in the election, which was tainted by suspicion of vote fraud in areas strongly supporting the PDK; a partial revote in Jan., 2011, was also criticized by European Parliament observers. Also in Dec., 2010, Thaçi was accused by a Council of Europe parliamentary investigator of being involved with organized crime, including the selling of organs from prisoners held and killed by KLA in the late 1990s. In Feb., 2011, following the formation of a PDK-led coalition that included two smaller parties, Thaçi remained prime minister and the wealthy businessman Behgjet Pacolli was elected president.
Pacolli resigned in March after his election was ruled unconstitutional because there had not been enough legislators present. In April, Atifete Jahjaga, the former deputy director of the police, was elected president. Beginnning in July there were tensions and occasional violence in the north as Kosovo's government attempted to assert control over customs stations on the Serbian border; Serb residents there sought to thwart those attempts, in part by building barricades. Some barricades were removed in Dec., 2011, after confrontations with peacekeepers seeking to restore road access to a base in the north. Freedom of movement for EULEX forces was restored by agreement in Feb., 2012, but barricades remained on many roads. Kosovo also banned goods from Serbia and Bosnia because those governments refused to recognize Kosovan customs stamps. In Dec., 2012, EU, Serbian, and Kosovan negotiators reached an agreement opening several border crossings; subsequent talks aimed at normalizing Serbia-Kosovo relations were inconclusive until Apr., 2013, when an agreement designed to integrate the Serb areas in the north into Kosovo was signed.
In Sept., 2012, the transitional period of internationally supervised independence officially ended. Ramush Haradinaj, a former KLA leader and prime minister in 2005, was acquitted for a second time of war crimes charges in Dec., 2012; a retrial had been ordered after his 2008 acquittal. The verdict was denounced in Serbia. More than 100 nations recognize Kosovo as an independent nation; some 5,000 NATO-led peacekeepers remain in Kosovo.
Prime minister of Kosovo
Hashim Thaçi, (born April 24, 1968, Broćna, Yugoslavia [now Burojë, Kosovo]), Kosovar rebel leader and politician who served as the prime minister of Kosovo (2008–14). Just weeks after assuming the premiership, he oversaw Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia.
Thaçi was born in the Drenica valley, west of Pristina in Kosovo, then a part of the Serbian republic in Yugoslavia. Like the majority of Kosovo’s residents, he was ethnically Albanian. Thaçi studied philosophy and history at the University of Pristina and enrolled as a graduate student at the University of Zürich in Switzerland, where he studied Balkan history and international relations. In Pristina and Zürich he was active among Kosovar political groups, and he cofounded the People’s Movement of Kosovo organization. As Yugoslavia disintegrated into civil war in the early 1990s, Kosovo, historically restive under Serbian rule, became the birthplace of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), an ethnically Albanian guerrilla movement fighting to end Serbian control of the province and to gain independence for Kosovo. Some analysts believed that the KLA was created by the People’s Movement of Kosovo to serve as the group’s paramilitary wing.
Thaçi was known as “the Snake” and allegedly was involved in organized crime, including prostitution operations within the province and arms, oil, and cigarette smuggling. He purportedly secured financing for the KLA’s training and arms and reputedly engaged in a number of violent attacks in Kosovo. Thaçi allegedly ordered the assassination of other potential Kosovar political leaders and military commanders. In July 1997 the District Court of Pristina sentenced Thaçi in absentia to 10 years in prison for “criminal acts of terrorism.”
Although several Western governments had named the KLA a terrorist organization in 1997, the West’s perception of the group changed as Serbian and Yugoslav authorities cracked down on dissent in Kosovo in 1998–99. During this fighting, known as the Kosovo conflict, the KLA became viewed as a resistance-liberation movement, with Thaçi as its leader. At diplomatic talks in Rambouillet, France, in February 1999, Thaçi gained recognition as the leader of the Kosovar negotiating team. He thus marginalized Ibrahim Rugova, the architect of Kosovo’s independence drive and the president of the Kosovar government in exile since 1992. As negotiations continued, Western diplomats came to see Thaçi as a “voice of reason,” and he emerged from the final diplomatic settlement not only as the leader of the strongest faction within a sharply divided KLA but also as the Kosovar political leader with the greatest influence. Yugoslavia refused to sign the peace accords, however, and the conflict continued until air strikes carried out by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization forced the withdrawal of Yugoslav troops from Kosovo in June 1999.
Thereafter, Kosovo came under the administration of the United Nations, and Rugova, who was reelected president of Kosovo in 2002 and 2004, regained his prominence. Yet Thaçi, as the head of his Democratic Party of Kosovo (Partia Demokratike e Kosovës; PDK), continued to develop as a politician, and after Rugova’s death in January 2006, Thaçi’s popularity was virtually unrivaled. On January 9, 2008, he was elected prime minister of Kosovo by a majority vote in the national assembly. The following month, on February 17, Kosovo declared its independence.
As prime minister, Thaçi immediately faced the task of gaining international recognition of Kosovo’s independence. The United States and several European countries quickly granted recognition, but Serbia, Russia, and a number of other countries did not. On the domestic front, organized crime remained a chief concern, and the unemployment rate exceeded 40 percent. In addition, Thaçi was unable to convince the country’s Serbs—and other minority groups, such as Roma and Turks—that Kosovo was not only home to the Albanian majority but their home as well.
In November 2009 Kosovo held local elections—its first since independence—and, although many Serbs boycotted, a victorious Thaçi cited the peaceful outcome of the polling as proof of Kosovo’s commitment to democracy. The Council of Europe issued a report in 2010 accusing Thaçi of heading an organ-trafficking ring during the Kosovo conflict, but he denied the charges, and no indictment was brought against him. Thaçi lost a parliamentary vote of confidence in November of that year, but he was able to form a new government after a strong performance by the PDK in snap elections.
Although Kosovo continued to face high unemployment and widespread poverty, Thaçi oversaw a steady increase in the country’s gross domestic product. He also helmed discussions, begun in March 2011, aimed at normalizing relations with Serbia. Those talks were ultimately successful in April 2013: while Serbia stopped short of recognizing Kosovo’s independence, it conceded Pristina’s de facto authority over the region. After parliamentary elections in June 2014 resulted in a six-month deadlock, Thaçi and Isa Mustafa, leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo (Lidhja Demokratike e Kosovës; LDK), reached a power-sharing agreement. Mustafa became prime minister in December 2014, with Thaçi serving in his cabinet as deputy prime minister and foreign minister.
Kosovo Area: 10,908 sq km (4,212 sq mi) Population (2008 est.): 2,143,000 Capital: Pristina Chief of state: President Fatmir Sejdiu Head of government: Prime Minister Hashim Thaci On Feb. 17, 2008 ...>>>Read On<<<
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