Note: This was originally one piece, but the more I researched it, the longer it became, so I split it in two.
The United Nations formally (and finally) announced the beginning of final status talks on Kosovo. Kosovo, along with the so-called Republic of Serbia and Montenegro remain unresolved leftovers from the balkan wars in the 1990s. Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Macedonia gained their independence from the former state of Yugoslavia while Serbia and Montenegro remained loosely tied together along with a region claimed by Serbia, although ethnically Albanian, known as Kosovo.
Kofi Annan has appointed Martti Ahtisaari, former Finnish President, as his Special Envoy in the matter of determining Kosovo’s final status. On 24 October, the Security Council agreed and endorsed the idea that it is time to move into the final phase for Kosovo, which “will be carried out in the context of resolution 1244 (1999) and the relevant Presidential Statements of the Security Council.”
Short History of Kosovo: 1455 to 1999
Originally part of the Ottoman empire datingback to the 1400s, Kosovo was first recognized as part of Serbia in 1912, after the First Balkan War. With the formation of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1918, Kosovo was slowly colonized by Serbs and Albanians were forced out into Albania and Turkey. During WWII, many Serbs were then thrown back out with numbers differing wildly. After 1945, Tito’s Yugoslavia encompassed Kosovo but as an autonomous region of Serbia, later becoming an autonomous province in 1963.When the Yugoslav constitution was passed in 1971, Kosovo essentially gained its own self-government.
Throughout all this time, ethnic tensions remained on the back burner between Serbs and Albanians, flaring up occasionally. The turning point in Kosovo’s virtual independence came in 1989 when a Serbian referendum dramatically reduced its autonomy putting control of the police, the court system, the economy, the education system and language policies in the hands of the Serbian government. A 1990 referendum in Serbia led to the abolution of Kosovo’s political institutions and the takeover of its state owned industry by Serbia, which proceeded to fire around 115,000 Albanians and replace them with Serbs. The seeds for war were planted.
Despite relative quiet during the Yugoslav civil war, Kosovo was never brought up during the 1995 Dayton Accords and thus with the main part of the fighting being over, two questions remained: Montenegro and Kosovo. Continued Serbian repression radicalised many Albanians and led to the conclusion that armed resistance was the only answer. By 1996, a guerrilla war had broken out between the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and Serbian forces. NATO entered the scene in March 1999 with the bombing of Serbia. Their battle cry was “Serbs out, peacekeepers in, refugees back.”
Look for part II tomorrow.
UPDATE: On a related note, The Daily Demarche discusses why Kosovo is seen as “messy” 6 years later with very little progress yet Iraq after 2 and much more political progress, is a “quagmire.”