Paris, November 2007
Kosovo Region Profile
Kosovo, a landlocked province within Serbia, has been the backdrop to a centuries-old and often-strained relationship between its Serb and ethnic Albanian inhabitants.
Keywords: Inter-religious dialogue for peace | Politics and peace. Exercising our rights and our responsibilities. | | | | | Reconstructing peace. Post-conflict : the challenge of peace-puilding. | Kosovo
Status: UN-administered province within Serbia and Montenegro
Population: 1.8 million
Major languages: Albanian, Serbian
Major religions: Islam, Christianity
Natural resources: Coal, lead, zinc, chromium, silver
The province is administered by the UN, having endured a conflict in the late 1990s which was fuelled by ethnic division and repression. Sovereignty rests with Belgrade. Reconciliation between the majority ethnic Albanians, most of whom seek independence, and the Serb minority remains elusive.
The region is one of Europe’s poorest, with more than half of its people living in poverty. Although it possesses rich mineral resources, agriculture is the main economic activity.
Ethnic Albanians number about 1.5 million; some 100,000 Serbs remain following a post-war exodus of non-Albanians. The Serbian minority live in separate areas watched over by Nato peacekeepers. International diplomats have voiced concern over slow progress on their rights.
Following delivery of a UN report on progress in establishing the foundations of democratic government, the process of UN-sponsored talks on the future status of Kosovo got under way in November 2005.
In February 2007 United Nations envoy Martti Ahtisaari unveiled a plan to set Kosovo on a path to independence, an outcome immediately welcomed by Kosovo Albanians and rejected by Serbia.
US President George Bush has come out in favour of Kosovan independence, but Russia threatened to veto any UN resolution that endorses the Ahtisaari plan.
The US and European Union then revised a draft UN resolution in early July to drop a promise of independence if four months of proposed talks with Serbia failed. The new draft advocates a further review of the situation if the talks with Serbia are inconclusive.
At the same time, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned the parties against any further delay in determining the future of Kosovo. He had wanted a UN Security Council vote back in June.
Slavic and Albanian peoples have co-existed in Kosovo since the eighth century. The region was the centre of the Serbian empire until the mid-14th century, and Serbians regard Kosovo as the birthplace of their state.
Over the centuries, as the ethnic balance shifted in favour of Albanians, Kosovo came to represent a Serbian golden age, embodied in epic poetry.
Serbia’s defeat at the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 ushered in centuries of rule under the Muslim Ottoman Empire. Serbia regained control of Kosovo in 1913, and the province was incorporated into the Yugoslav federation.
Path to autonomy
Serbs and ethnic Albanians vied for control in the region throughout the 20th century. In the 1960s the suppression of Albanian national identity in Kosovo gave way to a more tolerant line from Belgrade. Ethnic Albanians gained a foothold in the Kosovan, and Yugoslav, administrations.
The 1974 Yugoslav constitution laid down Kosovo’s status as an autonomous province, and pressure for independence mounted in the 1980s after the death of Yugoslav President Tito.
But resentment over Kosovan influence within the Yugoslav federation was harnessed by the future leader, Slobodan Milosevic. On becoming president in 1989 he proceeded to strip Kosovo of its autonomy.
A passive resistance movement in the 1990s failed to secure independence or to restore autonomy, although ethnic Albanian leaders declared unilateral independence in 1991.
In the mid-1990s an ethnic Albanian guerrilla movement, the Kosovo Liberation Army, stepped up its attacks on Serb targets. The attacks precipitated a major, and brutal, Yugoslav military crackdown.
Slobodan Milosevic’s rejection of an internationally-brokered deal to end the crisis, and the persecution of Kosovo Albanians, led to the start of Nato air strikes against targets in Kosovo and Serbia in March 1999.
Meanwhile, a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Kosovo Albanians was initiated by Serbian forces. Hundreds of thousands of refugees fled to Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro. Thousands of people died in the conflict.
Serbian forces were driven out in the summer of 1999 and the UN took over the administration of the province.
President: Fatmir Sejdiu
Fatmir Sejdiu was elected by parliament in February 2006. The leader of Kosovo’s biggest party, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), he was the sole candidate.
He was a close ally of the former president, writer-turned-politician Ibrahim Rugova, who died of cancer just days before UN-mediated talks on Kosovo’s future status began in February 2006.
Ibrahim Rugova was nicknamed the « Gandhi of the Balkans ». He led an ethnic Albanian campaign of passive resistance against Serb rule in the 1990s. He was twice elected president in unofficial elections, and won official presidential elections in 2002.
Like his predecessor, President Sejdiu supports independence for Kosovo.
He was born near the town of Podujevo in northern Kosovo. He studied law in France and the US and speaks both English and French.
Prime minister: Agim Ceku
Agim Ceku, a former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) commander, succeeded Bajram Kosumi, who resigned on 1 March 2006. MPs endorsed his candidacy by 65 votes to 33.
His appointment was sharply criticised by Serbia.
Agim Ceku oversaw the demobilisation of the KLA and the formation of the Kosovo Protection Corps. He became the commander of the new force.
He favours independence and says he wants status talks to lead to a democratic and tolerant Kosovo.
His predecessor left office following criticism of his performance from within his Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AKK) party.
After 45 years of communism and 10 years of repressive rule from Belgrade, ethnic Albanian journalists in Kosovo returned to work in June 1999.
A Temporary Media Commission, set up by the UN, has set out a code of conduct for journalists. The TMC aims to prevent incitement to hatred in the media.
The public broadcaster, RTK, was set up as an editorially-independent service.
International organisations run support programmes for independent media in the province. UN-supervised Blue Sky Radio aims to provide a multi-ethnic audience with impartial news.
Koha Ditore - daily
Kosova Sot - daily
Zeri - daily
Pristina Express - daily
Epoka e Re - daily
Kosovo Radio-Television (RTK) - public
TV 21 - private
KohaVision (KTV) - private
Kosovo Radio-Television (RTK) - public
Radio 21 - private
Radio Dukagjini - private
KosovaLive - private, English-language pages
Kosovapress - private