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Kosovo Independence

Kosovo Declared Independence on February 17, 2008

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Kosovo independence

Citizens celebrate the independence of Kosovo with the new country's new flag.

Getty Images
Updated May 15, 2014
Following the demise of the Soviet Union and its domination over Eastern Europe in 1991, the constituent components of Yugoslavia began to dissolve. For some time, Serbia, retaining the name of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and under control of the genocidal Slobodan Milosevic, forcefully retained possession of nearby provinces.

Over time, places such as Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro gained independence. The southern Serbian region of Kosovo, however, remained part of Serbia. The Kosovo Liberation Army fought Milosevic’s Serbian forces and a war of independence took place from about 1998 through 1999.

On June 10, 1999 the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution which ended the war, established a NATO peacekeeping force in Kosovo, and provided for some autonomy which included a 120-member assembly. Over time, Kosovo’s desire for full independence grew. The United Nations, the European Union, and the United States worked with Kosovo to develop an independence plan. Russia was a major challenge for Kosovo independence because Russia, as a U.N. Security Council member with veto power, promised they would veto and plan for Kosovo independence that did not address Serbia’s concerns.

On February 17, 2008 the Kosovo Assembly unanimously (109 members present) voted to declare independence from Serbia. Serbia declared that the independence of Kosovo was illegal and Russia supported Serbia in that decision.

However, within four days of Kosovo’s declaration of independence, fifteen countries (including the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, and Australia) recognized the independence of Kosovo. By mid-2009, 63 countries around the world, including 22 of the 27 members of the European Union had recognized Kosovo as independent.

Several dozen countries have established embassies or ambassadors in Kosovo.

Challenges remain for Kosovo to obtain full international recognition and over time, the de facto status of Kosovo as independent will likely spread so that almost all of the world’s countries will recognize Kosovo as independent. However, United Nations membership will likely be held up for Kosovo until Russia and China agree to the legality of Kosovo’s existence.

Kosovo is home to approximately 1.8 million people, 95% of whom are ethnic Albanians. The largest city and capital are Pristina (about half a million people). Kosovo borders Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, and the Republic of Macedonia.

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