Kosovo is the youngest country in Europe, contrasting with others that have been independent for thousands of years. Kosovo became independent on February 17th, 2008 and it was certainly a day to remember
We have come a long way and finally the hard work and the wars have paid off. Kosovo had been a part of the Ottoman Empire for five centuries until 1912, when Serbia annexed Kosovo during the first Balkan war. Kosovo was part of Serbia and Federal Yugoslavia until the Kosovo war in 1999. This resulted in Kosovo’s separation and in 2008, it was declared an independent country.
Former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic declared Kosovo as an autonomous part of Yugoslavia illegally, which resulted in a referendum declaring Kosovo’s independence in 1991. The violation of the basic human rights of Albanian Kosovars led to an apartheid-like regime, which lasted for ten years. In September 1991, the Parliament of Kosovo approved the ‘Independent Sovereign Kosovo’. There was a referendum declaring Kosovo’s independence and Ibrahim Rugova, the leader of the League for a Democratic Kosovo (LDK), was announced president of the Republic of Kosovo. Whilst this went on, an organized peaceful resistance was needed against Serbian invasion. At this time, there were a lot of challenges due to the fact that the majority of people working in public sectors were fired; universities, schools, news stations and television were all shut down. To deal with these problems, Albanians opened their homes to students for studying and they helped to open hospitals for medical care. Albanians all over the world were paying voluntary taxes to support the parallel system run by Kosovar-Albanians.
During this period, thousands of Albanians were jailed, violated and killed, while tens of thousands were forced to quit their jobs. As peaceful means did not come to fruition and the Dayton peace accords (1995) that dealt with the problems in Bosnia excluded the Kosovo issue, the Kosovar youth started losing patience and a new stage of resistance began to brew. At this point, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) attacked Yugoslavian authorities in Kosovo, resulting in a campaign against any KLA supporters. This left 15,000 Kosovar Albanian civilians dead and forced NATO to intervene, resulting in a large expulsion of Kosovars by Yugoslav forces. The war ended with the withdrawal of Yugoslav forces, enabled by the Kumanov Treaty. After this, Kosovo was put under the administration of the UN Security Council Resolution 1244. In 2008, when Kosovo declared its independence, the Serbian government refused to recognize the country, claiming it a “false country”. Serbia and Russia protested against the recognition of Kosovo’s independence, however this failed; since the declaration of independence, 110 countries have recognize Kosovo as an independent country.
The day of the independence brought every Albanian to the streets to dance and celebrate in Kosovo’s capital, Pristina. Albanians from all around the world gathered in the freezing cold with Albanian flags, whilst a 100-foot long cake was set in the Mother Teresa Boulevard. The Albanians displayed a sign with the phrase, “newborn”, in honor of the new country and at midnight there were fireworks; the festivities continued…
After the independence, the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) oversaw the situation in Kosovo, with challenges to face including the transition from a controlled economy to a market-based economy. Kosovo’s main focus was to be accepted into the UN – this needed the approval of at least 160 countries. In the meantime, roads were being built, infrastructure was developing and apartments blocks were erected. Kosovo’s new economy is market-based, privatizing many of the state-owned assets; the country has opened its gates to global trade and investment. Kosovo is still developing and in the early stages of its independence, and whilst there are many challenges to come, this country will continue to progress, regardless.