At the end of the war in Kosovo the Serb and Yugoslav forces were removed. The UN deployed a multinational peacekeeping force into Kosovo and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) was demilitarised and disbanded. Some KLA leaders went on to form political parties and remain active in Kosovo’s administration.
Kosovo declared its independence as a new country on 17th February 2008. The Assembly of Kosovo unanimously voted for independence from Serbia. The representatives of the Serb minority boycotted proceedings. The legality of the declaration has been widely disputed. Serbia sought international validation stating that the decision was illegal and requested advice from the International Court of Justice. The court declared that Kosovo’s declaration of Independence did not violate international law.
A joint Serbia-EU resolution was passed in the United Nations General Assembly calling for an open dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia. The dialogue resulted in the 2013 Brussels Agreement, which saw the removal of all the Republic of Serbia’s institutions in Kosovo.
Attention quickly turned to the international community to see which foreign parliaments would recognise Europe’s newest state. Many countries did not and still do not recognise Kosovo as an independent country and still consider it to be part of Serbia. Mostly notably; Spain, Romania, Greece and Slovakia.
KPC and KSF
Following demilitarisation, members of the KLA joined the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC). The KPC were an emergency response organisation set up under the authority of the UN, working with NATO to patrol the province. This was eventually dissolved and replaced by the Kosovo Security Forces (KSF). The KSF controlled light security duties as well as emergency response situations.
The Serbian government argued that the KLA was a terrorist organisation and therefore their leaders should be tried for the crimes committed during the war against Serbia. Individual members of the KLA were in fact tried and convicted of war crimes by both the courts in Kosovo and by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
The ICTY began indicting KLA members in 2003. However they consistently found, whilst the KLA members did commit atrocities, prosecutors were unable to prove that the KLA as an entity had a policy of targeting civilians or engaging in war crimes. This resulted in a large percentage of acquittals by the ICTY. Many faces from the KLA went on to political leadership and yet were not indicted by the ICTY but are considered war criminals by Serbia.
Ongoing unrest in Kosovo, particularly in the north where populations of non-Albanian communities mainly resided, was widely reported. Around 30,000 – 55,000 refugees, the majority Serb, fled Kosovo for fears of attacks from armed people and returning refugees. Meanwhile, monuments for KLA fighters started to appear in Kosovar Albanian society.
20 years after the war and almost 10 years after the declaration of independence, the situation in Kosovo is far from rosy. 30% unemployment rate and with a GDP at $3,895 per person, it is the lowest in the region. Whilst 112 nations worldwide have recognized Kosovo as an independent state, it still is not a member of the United Nations. The state of partial recognition has left Kosovo in a state of limbo with complicated admission into international organisations.