Information about Kosovo - An overview



Kosovo is a province in the southern Balkans which has been under United Nations administration since 1999. While Serbia's nominal sovereignty is recognised by the international community, in practice Serbian governance in the province is virtually non-existent. The province is governed by the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and the local Provisional Institutions of Self-Government, with security provided by the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR).

Kosovo borders Montenegro, Albania and the Republic of Macedonia. The mountainous province's capital and largest city is Priština. Kosovo has a population of around two million people, predominately ethnic Albanians, with smaller populations of Serbs, Turks, Bosniaks and other ethnic groups.

The province is the subject of a long-running political and territorial dispute between the Serbian (and previously, the Yugoslav) government and Kosovo's Albanian population. International negotiations to determine the final status of Kosovo began in 2006. According to many news sources and expert assessments it is widely expected that the talks will lead to some form of independence.

Administrative Divisions

Kosovo is divided into 7 districts:

* Prishtina/Pristina District

* Prizreni/Prizren District

* Peja/Peć District

* Ferizaji/Uroševac District

* Gjakova/Đakovica District

* Mitrovica/Kosovska Mitrovica District

* Gjilani/Gnjilane District

North Kosovo maintains its own government, infrastructure and institutions by its dominant ethnic Serb population.


Kosovo has one of the poorest economies in Europe, with a per capita income estimated at €1,565 (2004). Despite substantial development subsidies from all Yugoslav republics, Kosovo was the poorest province of Yugoslavia. Additionally, over the course of the 1990s, poor economic policies, international sanctions, weak access to external trade and finance, and ethnic conflict severely damaged the economy. Kosovo's economy remains weak.

Demographics – ethnic composition

According to the Kosovo in Figures 2005 Survey of the Statistical Office of Kosovo, Kosovo's total population is estimated between 1.9 and 2.2 million. The ethnic composition is as follows:

* 88% Albanians (between 1,972,000 and 2,100,000)

* 7% Serbs (between 126,000 and 140,000)

* 1.9% Bosniaks (between 34,200 and 38,000)

* 1.7% Roma (between 30,600 and 34,000) (see also Roma in Mitrovica Camps)

* 1% Turks (between 18,000 and 20,000)

* 0,5% Gorani (approx. 10,000)

However, the figures are highly disputable. Some estimates are that there is an Albanian majority well above 90 percent. The population census is set to take place in the near future.


The conflict in Kosovo has a long historical tradition. Serb roots in the Balkan region can be traced back to the sixth and seventh century. However, Serbs did not exert control over the entire region or even continuously occupy a certain territory. Two rival theories – as is true for many historical interpretations in the Balkan region – exist that identify Albanian roots as either with the Illyrians, who lived in the western half of the Balkans from pre-Roman times, or the Thracians, who lived in the eastern portion of the Balkans in Roman times. Generally speaking, Albanian historians, who, for obvious reasons, prefer the idea that their ancestors have always lived in Albania, prefer the Illyrian theory, while many other scholars put them on the Thracian side.[1]

In historical and emotional terms, Kosovo is for the Serbs the very heart of Serbia, as it was the centre of the Serbian Kingdom, which flourished in the 14th century and which is perceived as the cradle of the Serbian nation. Many ancient Orthodox churches and monasteries can still be found in Kosovo. Furthermore, it was in Kosovo that the Serbs lost the battle against the Ottoman Turks in 1389 that ushered in 500 years of Turkish rule.[2] Serb lore has it that St. Ilija appeared to the Serb Prince Lazar before the battle and offered him a choice between an earthly kingdom and a heavenly one. Lazar chose the heavenly one. Because of this decision, described as a “covenant with God” the Serbs are often said to consider themselves a “heavenly people”.[3] On the other hand, Albanians are aware that they are descendants of the Illyrians, the aborigines who lived in this region prior to the settlement of Slavic people and therefore are the righteous claimants of the territory. The debate of these differing interpretations of ancient events with the aim of deciding whose title over the territory is more qualified cannot help to resolve the conflict since the competing postulations are based on fabrications or, in Benedict Anderson's terms, an “imagining” of history to promote very modern forms of national self-identity.[4]

In the following historical outline of the conflict I will focus on the post-Second World War period, which had major ramifications for the increasingly violent conflict as it emerged in the 1990s and can lead to a better understanding of the deep running animosity of the two major ethnic groups in Kosovo. Special attention will be devoted to the role of international organisations.

Kosovo from 1945 until 1989

After World War II, Kosovo, which had been taken from Serbia by the Nazis and joined to Albania,[5] was pulled back into the Yugoslav state, which then comprised the republics of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovenia, and Serbia. The 1946 Yugoslav constitution granted Kosovo the status of an autonomous region and Vojvodina, with a slightly more elevated position, the status of an autonomous province within Serbia.[6] In 1963, their constitutional status was harmonised and both were declared autonomous provinces within the Serbian Republic, but they remained rather powerless.[7] Only in 1974, a new constitution expanded more powers to the provinces. Both Vojvodina and Kosovo were given broad autonomy and were effectively made equal to republics. Each province had a seat on the federal presidency and they enjoyed competences comparable to the other republics. They even had veto power over Serbian legislation which would affect them.[8]

Kosovo used to be one of the poorest and economically less developed areas within the Yugoslav Federation. The situation deteriorated significantly with the economic downturn that occurred in the 80s: partly because of the oil price shocks of 1973 and 1979 but mainly because of the manifest weaknesses of a command economy. As the Yugoslav Republic was an ethnic federation of quite recent origin, it did not have the depth of shared history, culture, and experiences that make it possible for the better-off parts of a country to share their profits with the poorer parts.[9]

In the post-war period, there had been a substantial decline in the number of Serbs living in Kosovo. This decline was partly due to the aforementioned economic constraints: Kosovo-Serbs migrated to Serbia proper, where the likelihood of finding a job was greater. But economic neglect was only one side of the coin. The other side was a systematic, if low-grade, ethnic cleansing of the Kosovo countryside of Serbs by Albanians.[10] In March and April 1981, revolts arose in Kosovo: the causes were economic discontent and a demand to raise Kosovo to the status of a republic. After the suppression of the revolts in 1981, the Albanian discontent struck inwards. Increasing violence, especially towards Serbs and Montenegrins, materialised.[11]

Given the fact that this occurred at the height of the Cold War and during a time when the doctrine of state sovereignty was a major paradigm in international relations, the international community was hardly aware of the low-level conflict and/or no attention was paid to it.

Milošević assumes power

After Tito's[12] death in 1980, nationalist movements grew increasingly strong all over the territory. In 1989, Milošević became the president of Serbia. In the very same year he gave his now-famous speech at a commemoration of the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo, revoking the province's autonomy and reintroducing direct rule from Belgrade. Consequently, ethnic Albanians were expelled or, to a lesser extent, resigned from the parliament, the state bureaucracy, and state-owned industries. Their access to education and health care was restricted.[13]

In the same period, a non-violent movement developed in Kosovo under the leadership of Ibrahim Rugova. His strategy entailed forming a parallel public sector in which Albanians would run their own tax system, schools, legal and police organs alongside the “Serbianised” one. While in the early 1990s, Rugova and many other Kosovo-Albanians expressed the belief that Kosovo should be autonomous within a confederal Yugoslavia; by the end of the year that attitude had changed to the idea of either an independent state or one linked to Albania. In the wake of the secession of Slovenia and Croatia from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Kosovo's Albanian majority supported the idea of an independent state in the 1991 referendum. However, Yugoslavia did not accept the claim for independence.[14] After 1991 and the establishment of the Kosovar shadow state, almost all contact and lines of cooperation between the Serb and the Albanian communities and their political élite ceased. The situation was one of political deadlock and growing frustration.

Although the conflict was already virulent in the early 1990s, Kosovo was not dealt with by the Dayton Peace Accord, which in 1995 put an end to the armed conflict in the other republics of the former Yugoslavia. This negligence of the problems in Kosovo on the international stage caused serious disappointment within the Albanian population of Kosovo and they started questioning the effectiveness of their rather peaceful protests and their strategy of civil disobedience. Over time the conflict in Kosovo grew increasingly violent. In 1997, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), a paramilitary group, began to target Serbians and Serbian institutions, and open hostilities broke out. The Serbian government then escalated the conflict by sending armed forces into the region.[15] On 5 March 1998, Yugoslav police attacked the family compound of a well-known KLA leader, Adem Jashari, killing 58 members of his extended family. This event, more than any other, galvanised the Kosovo-Albanians' resistance and thousands flocked to join the KLA.

Involvement of international actors and NATO bombing

The first definition by the Security Council of the Kosovo conflict as a threat to international peace and security dates back to the beginning of 1998, when it adopted Resolution 1160, which condemned “the use of excessive force by Serbian police forces against civilians and peaceful demonstrators in Kosovo, as well as acts of terrorism by the KLA.”[16] Acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the Security Council imposed an arms embargo on the FRY. However, violent clashes between the two hostile groups continued. Thus on 23 September the Security Council through Resolution 1199[17] called for a ceasefire, which was agreed upon three weeks later. The readiness signaled by NATO to intervene in the conflict by military means even without being mandated by the Security Council appeared to have made a certain impression on the FRY. Under the terms of the agreement struck, Milošević consented to troop withdrawal; he allowed 2000 unarmed OSCE verifiers into Kosovo, in order to oversee compliance with the ceasefire; and an air verification mission over Kosovo by NATO forces was established.[18] The standstill in armed activities was, however, brief. By the end of December violations of the ceasefire occurred, and violence started to intensify once again.[19]

Although the conflict was virulent for decades the international community had failed to intervene at an early stage. Early attempts by international organisations, national governments, and special envoys to mediate between the parties were carried out in a half-hearted and sometimes contradictory way. Concerted action by international actors was missing. Only when the conflict was increasingly escalating and flows of refugees threatened to destabilise the whole region did international actors force the two parties to the conflict to the negotiating table at Rambouillet/France. The conditions brokered during the negotiations foresaw that Belgrade had to pull back all its military units and allow NATO military observers to take their place. There would be elections in Kosovo, and the new government would have its own police. After three years, the Kosovars would decide their future through a referendum. In addition, NATO was to be given free and unrestricted right of movement and action in the whole (sic) territory of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The Serb Parliament considered these terms unacceptable and rejected the plan, while representatives of the KLA agreed.[20] As the killings and ravages continued, NATO started an air campaign against the FRY on 24 March 1999.[21] The bombing campaign contributed to an escalation of the refugee crisis, already triggered by ethnic cleansing and deportation. Critics in the West dubbed the result of this humanitarian intervention a “humanitarian disaster”[22] as several hundred thousand Kosovars left the region or were internally displaced. The failure to predict or prepare for the subsequent refugee crisis was reprehensible.

With the Yugoslav acceptance of the peace agreement and the consequent suspension of NATO air strikes on 10 June, the Yugoslav forces withdrew from Kosovo. Ensuing, a UN-led security and civil presence were deployed to Kosovo. As the Yugoslav army retreated, acts of revenge took place. Kosovo-Albanians including members of the KLA looted and drove Kosovo-Serbs and Roma from their homes. This situation has prompted charges of “ethnic cleansing in reverse.”[23] Only a few of the Kosovo-Serbs, who fled the region in 1999, have come back so far.[24]

As shown in this brief historical outline, the distribution of power between the two major ethnic groups in Kosovo has constantly changed over time. Serbian/Yugoslav authorities had the upper hand in the post-war period until 1974 and again from 1989 to 1999. The Albanians had the upper hand during World War II (under Italian occupation), from 1974-89, and arguably have it once more since 1999. As each side has gained the upper hand it has exacted revenge for past wrongs, forgetting that in choosing innocent members of the enemy group for punishment it creates new wrongs to be avenged and thereby perpetuates the cycle of violence, especially in a society where clan/family ties are still very strong and where a long-established tradition of blood feuds exists.[25] Accordingly, the task of reconciling is a difficult one and concededly, might not be fulfilled in the short term. This history of violent revenge makes reconciliation difficult although not impossible. The improving Franco-German relations after World War II are a telling example that resolution of protracted conflict can occur.

The role of international actors in the conflict can be summed up as follows. For a long time, the conflict was ignored and was not on the international agenda. The neglect of the Kosovo crisis culminated in the Dayton Peace Accord, which resulted in worsening conditions in Kosovo. When the conflict grew increasingly violent preventive diplomacy failed, as no concerted actions took place. Military threat overtrumped diplomatic efforts. Finally, NATO commenced air raids on humanitarian grounds without being mandated by the UN Security Council, thereby creating a precedent in international politics. In this manner NATO clearly sided with the Kosovo-Albanians, stigmatising the Serbs as the wrongdoers in the conflict. Consequently NATO forces lost the nimbus of impartiality, which is one of the assets international actors have in intervening in an internal conflict and in reconciling divided fractions of society. The distinction between perpetrators and victims is however not that obvious and oversimplifies the complexity of actors in a conflict.

During the armed conflict, again, Serbian military forces were the primary perpetrators of gross violations of human rights. Mainly because they - having a whole state apparatus behind them - had more means to do so, engaging in government-sponsored ethnic cleansing on a large scale. However, and this is all too often neglected, the KLA committed serious violations of human rights as well, most notably in 1998 and in the immediate aftermath of the NATO-led military intervention. As the Yugoslav army retreated acts of revenge took place. Kosovo-Albanians including members of the KLA looted and drove Kosovo-Serbs and Roma from their homes. Only a few of the Kosovo-Serbs, who fled the region in 1999, have come back so far.[26] Many Kosovo-Serbs are still afraid to return to their homes, perceiving the situation as unsafe. A decisive moment cementing this perception was the March 2004 turmoil, when mobs of Kosovo-Albanians engaged in anti-Serb rioting. The rampage left 19 dead and nearly 900 injured. In total, over 700 predominantly Serbian homes, 30 Serbian churches, and two monasteries were burned and other property destroyed causing a wave of roughly 4,500 displaced people.[27] This was another instance of the formerly oppressed Kosovo-Albanians turning into oppressors.

Kosovo under UN protectorate

When the armed hostilities came to an end in June 1999, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1244,[28] which defines Kosovo as an autonomous region within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia under UN administration. While the preamble of the Resolution insists on maintaining the “sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia”, the document also demands “substantial autonomy and meaningful self-administration for Kosovo”. This ambiguous phrasing of Resolution 1244, leaving the territorial question unsolved, proved to be obstructive for the implementation of many (reconciliatory) policies. Furthermore, the Resolution calls for a complete withdrawal of Yugoslav military, police and paramilitary forces and establishes an international civil and security presence to fill the resulting security and power vacuum.

The Resolution is a strong one, because the Security Council authorises rather than endorses the international civil and security presence and it makes it very clear that the United Nations is in the lead, which among others served the purpose of reaffirming the Security Council's authority after it had been undermined by NATO's mono-lateral unauthorised military action. Kosovo became, in fact, a protectorate of the UN[29]: a territory with “suspended sovereignty”.[30]

In the following I will sketch the structure of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), describe the progressive transfer of powers to the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government (PISG), and outline some of the major criticisms the UN administration has encountered over the last few years. The critique however, is not intended to be comprehensive, but rather focuses on the points which seem especially relevant to issues of transitional justice and reconciliation.

According to UN Security Council Resolution 1244 ultimate authority is vested with UNMIK for a transitional, but indefinite, period.[31] This was confirmed by the very first Regulation of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG), who assumed all executive and legislative powers within Kosovo, the right to appoint judges and civil servants and to remove them from their position. The Regulation further asserts the SRSG's authority to administer all funds and properties of the FRY within Kosovo.[32]

The international presence has a security and a civil component. The mandate of the security presence, which is performed by the Kosovo Force (KFOR),[33] a NATO-led international peace-keeping mission, includes among others: deterring renewed hostilities; maintaining and where necessary enforcing ceasefire; ensuring the withdrawal and preventing the return of Federal military; demilitarising the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA); establishing a secure environment in which refugees and displaced persons can return home in safety; ensuring public safety and supervising demining.

The main responsibilities of the civilian portion of the mandate, performed by UNMIK, as laid down in Resolution 1244 include: promoting the establishment of substantial autonomy and self-government in Kosovo; transferring, as these institutions are established, its administrative responsibilities; in a final stage overseeing the transfer of authority from Kosovo's provisional institutions to institutions established under a political settlement, performing basic civilian administrative functions; organising and overseeing the development of provisional institutions for democratic and autonomous self-government; supporting the reconstruction of key infrastructure and other economic reconstruction; supporting humanitarian and disaster relief; maintaining civil law and order, protecting and promoting human rights and assuring the safe and unimpeded return of all refugees and displaced persons to their homes in Kosovo.

UNMIK, in order to fulfil its mandate, organised itself into four "pillars". At the end of the emergency stage, Pillar I (humanitarian assistance), led by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), was phased out in June 2000. In May 2001, a new Pillar I was established. Currently, the four pillars are:

* Pillar I: Police and Justice, under the direct leadership of the UN

* Pillar II: Civil Administration, under the direct leadership of the UN

* Pillar III: Democratisation and Institution Building, led by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)

* Pillar IV: Reconstruction and Economic Development, led by the European Union (EU)

The head of UNMIK is the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Kosovo.

Power to the people: transfer of responsibilities

To include Kosovars in the interim administration, UNMIK set up a Joint Interim Administrative Structure (JIAS) in December 1999 as a means of sharing the responsibility for central and municipal administrative services. While the SRSG remained the head of the mission, he was advised by the Kosovo Transitional Council.

The first elections at the municipal level in Kosovo took place in October 2000. Thirty municipal assemblies were elected to a two-year term. In May 2001, SRSG Haekkerup promulgated the Constitutional Framework for Provisional Self-Government[34] in Kosovo. This document lays out the legal basis for a system of self-government on the central level. The Provisional Institutions of Self-Government (PISG) were created in order to share provisional interim management of Kosovo with UNMIK, while respecting UN Security Council Resolution 1244 and the ultimate legislative and executive authority retained by the SRSG.

The Provisional Institutions of Self-Government are made up of:

* The Assembly of Kosovo, which elects the President of Kosovo;

* The Government of Kosovo, with the Prime Minister nominated by the President and endorsed by the Assembly;

* The Judicial System of Kosovo, which is appointed by the SRSG from a list endorsed by the Assembly after being proposed by the Judicial and Prosecutorial Council.

The Assembly of Kosovo[35] has 120 seats, of which 10 seats are reserved for representatives of the Serbs, 4 seats for the representatives of the Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptians, 3 seats for the Bosniaks, 2 seats for the Turks, and 1 seat for the Gorani. The Assembly elects a president who in turn, nominates a prime minister who will form a government. Under the framework, Kosovo has wide-ranging autonomy for domestic matters. However, the SRSG maintains a virtually unlimited prerogative to override them. External matters remain under international control. The framework does not state when or how final status will be resolved, and it denied Albanian requests for a referendum on independence.

The first elections at the central level were held on 17 November 2001. As expected, Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) won the largest share of the votes in the November election, taking about 46 percent of the total cast. Former KLA Commander Hashim Thaci's Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) received about 26 percent, and another ethnic-Albanian party, the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) led by Ramush Haradinaj, ditto a former KLA commander, tallied just fewer than 10 percent. Although many had feared the Serbs would not participate in the elections, after officials in Belgrade publicly called on them to take part just two weeks before the vote, 46 percent turned out for the elections, garnering 11 percent of the total vote. If they had voted en masse, they could have won more than 25 seats in the Assembly. However, Serbs in the Serb-controlled northern part of Kosovo, stayed away in large numbers, partly because of intimidations.[36] Due to the requirement in the constitutional framework that at least 61 percent of the Assembly vote in favour of a candidate for president, a three-month deadlock ensued after the election until the three leading Albanian parties were able to reach a compromise in late February 2002. Rugova became the first President of Kosovo and Bajram Rexhepi (PDK) the first Prime Minister. Rugova, who passed away in January 2006, was succeeded by Fatmir Sejdiu (LDK). The serving Prime Minister in Kosovo at the time being is Agim Çeku (AAK). It is interesting to note, that political parties reflect the fault lines that divide Kosovo society: firstly, between those political parties that were in favour of passive resistance (LDK) and those that supported armed struggle (PDK and AAK); and secondly, between the various ethnic groups, most prominently between Kosovo-Albanians and Kosovo-Serbs. The Serbian List of Kosovo and Metohija is the strongest political party of Kosovo-Serbs. So far, there is no political party representing both Kosovo-Albanians and Kosovo-Serbs. Politics in Kosovo continues to be fought strictly along ethnic lines.

To date, four elections have been held in Kosovo: at the municipal level in 2000 and 2002 and at the central level in 2001 and 2004. All have been qualified as free and fair, by both domestic and international observers. The OSCE (UNMIK Pillar III) played a crucial role in organising and supervising the elections. In the last few years the OSCE mission led the process of transferring its election-related responsibilities to the local election authorities, mainly the Central Election Commission (CEC) and its Secretariat, both of which it helped to establish.[37]

The relationship between UNMIK and the PISG, especially in the initial years, proved to be problematic. In the majority of ministries created under the constitutional framework it turned out to be difficult to tell who was responsible for performance, as the demarcation of powers was not defined precisely enough. While UNMIK in general wants the government to take more responsibility, at the end of the day the UN is legally responsible for what happens in Kosovo. Hence, UN officials have been rather conservative about moving from an executive to an advisory role.[38] Several resolutions passed by the Assembly of Kosovo on issues outside its powers and responsibilities were another source of frictions. For example, on 23 May 2002, the Assembly adopted a resolution on “The Territorial Integrity of Kosovo”, which was declared null and void by the then SRSG Steiner only 30 minutes later, increasing both frustration and the sense of paternalism among local political leaders. Over the years progress was made to prepare Kosovo for substantial self-administration. However, the future status of the province remained unresolved. In April 2002, SRSG Steiner launched the “standards before status policy”, presenting a series of benchmarks for institutions to reach before the political process to determine Kosovo's future status could begin. The standards are: functioning democratic institutions, the rule of law, freedom of movement, returns and reintegration, the economy, property rights, dialogue with Belgrade, and guaranteeing the civilian mandate of the Kosovo Protection Corps.

In May 2005, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan appointed Kai Eide as his Special Envoy to undertake a comprehensive review of the situation in Kosovo and to assess whether the conditions are in place to enter into a political process designed to determine the future status of the province. The report holds that the implementation of standards in Kosovo has been uneven. Much progress has been achieved in the development of institutional frameworks; however the Eide report stresses severe shortcomings in the justice system, “the weakest of Kosovo's institutions”.[39] With regard to the foundation for a multi-ethnic society, according to the report, the situation is grim. Most Kosovo-Serbs have chosen not to collaborate with central political institutions and maintain parallel structures. The overall security situation is stable but fragile. There are frequently (un-)reported cases of low-level, inter-ethnic violence and incidents which negatively impact the freedom of movement and return of displaced people, especially Kosovo-Serbs and Roma. Alongside persisting ethnic cleavages, Eide identifies unemployment, poverty, unresolved property issues, corruption, organised crime, and trafficking in women,[40] drugs and weapons as Kosovo's most pressing problems. However he recommends commencing the process of determining Kosovo's future status. Accordingly, talks about the future status of Kosovo started in Vienna in February 2006.

Concluding Notes

Kosovo, as well as the newly emerged states on the territory of the former Yugoslavia, faces a threefold transition: from war to peace, from a socialist society to a democratic one, from command economy to capitalism. These are highly demanding tasks, which certainly cannot be fulfilled within a couple of years. It will take time for Kosovo to adapt to the new circumstances and to overcome the legacies of the past. The international organisations active in Kosovo for the last seven years (UNMIK, EU, OSCE, KFOR) despite their far-reaching powers, did not put much emphasis on tools of transitional justice as means to prepare the ground for multi-ethnic peace. Despite this considerable level of international engagement, Kosovo remains a very fragile and potentially explosive environment. Violence between the ethnic groups living in Kosovo persists, as the riots in March 2004 and other alarming incidents of coercion have shown. No re-humanising of the former enemy has occurred. In political matters no collaboration between the ethnic groups could be established yet, although the institutional design provides for such inter-party cooperation. So far, there is no political party cross cutting ethnic lines. Most Kosovo-Serbs do not collaborate with central political institutions and maintain parallel structures, backed by the Serbian government in Belgrade. On the community level, some initiatives, primarily taken by the OSCE, have led to the rapprochement of the various ethnic groups. However, these projects are very few in number and do not amount to having a serious impact on reconciliation. While it must be stressed that reconciliation comes from within society, international actors can have supporting functions, especially if they are vested with wide-ranging powers, as is the case in Kosovo. However, all the actors involved in a possible foundation of a multi-ethnic society in Kosovo seem to have prioritised other concerns over issues of transitional justice. The result being that the few efforts made by international actors in Kosovo to engage in policies of transitional justice and thus reconcile the divided society have failed – partly due to a lack of recognition of these organizations among the indigenous population.

The fundamental issue of the Kosovo conflict is territorial. This is embodied in the divergent and potentially irreconcilable views of Serbs and Kosovo-Albanians on the legal status of Kosovo. A status process that produces a clear and final outcome rather than a new transitional arrangement should be favoured. Furthermore, a clear emphasis should be placed on economic and social development. The interest in and need for the implementation of policies of transitional justice may increase once the status is settled. Although many Kosovo-Albanians have suffered enormous hardship and humiliating assault under Serbian rule, normatively speaking, the moral onus is on those who are in the position of privilege. Thus in a future (conditionally) independent state of Kosovo, which currently seems the most likely outcome of the negotiations, the majority population of Kosovo-Albanians will bear the primary responsibility to deal with the past and to protect the minorities living on its territory.


Calic, Marie-Janine (2000) “Kosovo in the twentieth century: A historical account,” in Schnabel, Albrecht and Ramesh Thakur (eds.) Kosovo and the Challenge of Humanitarian Intervention, Selective Indignation, Collective Action and International Citizenship. Tokyo, United Nations University Press.

Cviic, Christopher. “Review Article Kosovo 1945 – 2005.” International Affairs, 81, 4: 851 – 860.

Franck, Thomas M (1999) “Lessons of Kosovo.” The American Journal of International Law. Vol. 93, No. 4: 857 – 860

Groom, A.J.R. and Paul Taylor (2000) “The United Nations system and the Kosovo crisis,” in Schnabel, Albrecht and Ramesh Thakur (eds.) Kosovo and the Challenge of Humanitarian Intervention, Selective Indignation, Collective Action and International Citizenship. Tokyo: United Nations University Press.

Independent International Commission on Kosovo. The Kosovo Report. Online. 09 October 2006. Available:

Malcolm, Noel (1998) Kosovo: A Short History. London: Macmillan.

Ramet, Sabrina P. (2002) “The Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Ends: Kosovo in Serbian Perception,” in Buckley, Mary and Sally N. Cummings (eds.) Kosovo, Perception of War and Its Aftermath. London: Continuum.

Tomuschat, Christian (ed.) (2002) Kosovo and the International Community: A Legal Assessment. The Hague: Kluwer Law International.

Demjaha, Agon (2000) “The Kosovo conflict: A perspective from inside,” in Schnabel, Albrecht and Ramesh Thakur (eds.) Kosovo and the Challenge of Humanitarian Intervention, Selective Indignation, Collective Action and International Citizenship. Tokyo: United Nations University Press.

Yoji Koyama (2003) South Eastern Europe in Transition, A Quest for Stabilization of the Region after the Breakup of the Former Yugoslavia. Niigata: Niigata University.

Mag. Bert Preiss page 2 (11) 17/06/2008

[1] Noel Malcolm, Kosovo: A Short History, London, Macmillan, 1998, pp. 22-40.

[2] Sabrina P. Ramet, The Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Ends: Kosovo in Serbian Perception, in Mary Buckley and Sally N. Cummings (eds.), Kosovo, Perception of War and Its Aftermath, London, Continuum, 2001, pp. 30-45, here pp. 30-31.

[3] Noel, Malcolm, Kosovo: A Short History, cit., p. 80.

[4] Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism, London, Verso, 1983.

[5] During World War II, the Kosovars were encouraged to fight against communist partisans, which were especially numerous among the Serb population. Throughout this period many atrocities against Serbs were committed. The memory of these events is a further cornerstone of the deep-rooted animosities between the two groups. Compare: Noel Malcolm, Kosovo: A Short History, cit., pp. 289-313.

[6] Marie-Janine Calic, Kosovo in the twentieth century…, cit., p. 21.

[7] Peter Radan, Constitutional Law and the Multinational State: The Failure of Yugoslav Federalism, in “University of New South Wales Law Journal”, vol. 21, no. 3, 1998, pp. 185-203, here p. 188.

[8] Timothy William Water, Indeterminate Claims: New Challenges to Self-Determination Doctrine in Yugoslavia, in “SAIS Review”, vol. 20, no. 2, Summer-Fall 2000, pp. 111-144, here p. 123.

[9] Yoji Koyama, South Eastern Europe in Transition, A Quest for Stabilization of the Region after the Breakup of the Former Yugoslavia, Niigata, Niigata University, 2003, p. 37.

[10] Prem Shankar Jha, In Defense of the Westphalian State: From Kosovo to Kashmir, in “Mediterranean Quarterly”, vol. 11, no. 3, Summer 2000, pp. 62-86, here p. 70.

[11] Yoji Koyama, South Eastern Europe in Transition…, cit., p. 37.

[12] Josip Broz Tito ruled Yugoslavia between the end of World War II and 1980. He was a guarantor for peace between the various ethnic groups in the federation, being able to suppress nationalist insurrections and to maintain unity throughout the country.

[13] Kathleen Hill Hawk, Constructing the Stable State, Goals for Intervention and Peacebuilding, Westport, Praeger Publishers, 2002, p. 86.

[14] Marie-Janine Calic, Kosovo in the twentieth century…, cit., p. 22.

[15] Agon Demjaha, The Kosovo conflict: A perspective from inside, in Albrecht Schnabel and Ramesh Thakur (eds.), Kosovo and the Challenge of Humanitarian Intervention, Selective Indignation, Collective Action and International Citizenship, Tokyo, United Nations University Press, 2000, pp. 32-43, here pp. 34-35.

[16] UN Security Council Resolution 1160 (1998), at

[17] UN Security Council Resolution 1199 (1998), at

[18] Bruno Simma, NATO, the UN and the Use of Force: Legal Aspects, in “European Journal for International Law”, vol. 10, no. 1, 1999, pp. 1-22, here pp. 7-8.

[19] Whereas some authors blame the KLA for violating the ceasefire first, some others claim that violations occurred on both sides. Cf. e.g. : Prem Shankar Jha, p. 74, and Agon Demjaha, p. 35.

[20] Emmanuel Decaux, La Conférence de Rambouillet: Négociation de la dernière chance ou contrainte illicite? in Christian Tomuschat (ed.), Kosovo and the International Community: A Legal Assessment, The Hague, Kluwer Law International, 2002, pp. 45-64.

[21] NATO did so without being mandated by the UN Security Council which was blocked by Russian and Chinese vetoes. The doctrine of state sovereignty and the principle of non-interference in domestic affairs, enshrined in Article 2.7 of the UN Charter, experienced a major defeat. The (non)-legality of the NATO air strikes on humanitarian grounds and their impact on international law and politics are still disputed. See: Alessandro Buzzi, L´intervention armée de l´OTAN en République fédérale de Yougoslavie, Paris, Pedone, 2001, and Reinhard Merkel (ed.), Der Kosovo-Krieg und das Völkerrecht, Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp 2000.

[22] Christopher Layne, Collateral Damage in Yugoslavia, in Ted Galen Carpenter (ed.), NATO's Empty Victory, Washington, DC, Cato Institute, 2000, pp. 51-58, here p. 52.

[23] Kathleen Hill Hawk, Constructing the Stable State…, cit., p. 94.

[24] Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Country Reports on Serbia and Montenegro, at

[25] For a historical account of clan relations and blood feuds see: Edith M. Durham, High Albania, London, 1909.

[26] Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Country Reports on Serbia and Montenegro, cit.

[27] International Crisis Group, Collapse in Kosovo, 22 April 2004,

[28] UN Security Council Resolution 1244,

[29] A.J.R. Groom, Paul Taylor, The United Nations system and the Kosovo crisis, in Albrecht Schnabel and Ramesh Thakur (eds.), Kosovo and the Challenge of Humanitarian Intervention, Selective Indignation, Collective Action and International Citizenship, Tokyo, United Nations University Press, 2000, pp. 291-318, here p. 303.

[30] Alexandros Yannis, The Concept of Suspended Sovereignty in International Law and Its Implications in International Politics, in “European Journal of International Law”, vol. 13, no. 5, 2002, pp. 1037-1052.

[31] UN Security Council Resolution 1244.

[32] UNMIK Regulation 1999/1, 25 July 1999, Section 3,

[33] Official Website of the Kosovo Force (KFOR):

[34] UNMIK Regulation 2001/9, 15 May 2001, at (12.04.2006).

[35] Official Website of the Assembly of Kosovo:

[36] International Crisis Group, Kosovo: Landmark Elections, 21 November 2001, Available:

[37] OSCE Mission in Kosovo, Fact Sheet: Elections, Available:

[38] International Crisis Group, Two to Tango: An Agenda for the New Kosovo SRSG, 3 September 2003, pp. 4-6, Available:

[39] Report of the Special Envoy of the Secretary General, Kai Eide, A comprehensive review of the situation in Kosovo, September 2005, p. 3, Available:{65BFCF9B-6D27-4E9C-8CD3-CF6E4FF96FF9}/Kos%20S2005%20635.pdf.

For the current situation of ethnic minorities in Kosovo see also: Humanitarian Law Center, Report: Ethnic Minorities in Kosovo 2005, 29 March 2006, at

Report of the Special Envoy of the Secretary General, Kai Eide, A comprehensive review…, cit., p. 3.

[40] The presence of KFOR and UNMIK has been identified as an important factor leading to an increase in trafficking of women for prostitution. Cf. Amnesty International, Kosovo (Serbia and Montenegro): So does it mean that we have the rights?” Protecting the human rights of women and girls trafficked for forced prostitution in Kosovo, 6 May 2004, pp. 6-7. Available:

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