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Capital: Pristina, 165,000 inhabitants (estimate 2002)
Population: 1,956,196 (census 1991)
Ethnic composition: 90 percent Albanians, 10 percent Serbs and other minorities such
as Turks and Romanies (estimate 1994)
Area: 10,887 square kilometers
Gross Domestic Product: 1.3 billion euros (2002)
GDP per Capita: 684 euros (2002)

Serbia-Montenegro is a union of states, consisting of the Republic of Serbia and the Republic of Montenegro. There are also two further regions with the status of autonomous provinces, Vojvodina (a province with the right to self-administration) and Kosovo. Since 1999 Kosovo has been administrated by the United Nations. On October 24, 2005, the UN Security Council gave the go-ahead for talks on Kosovo's future status. Although Kosovo formally belongs to Serbia-Montenegro, it is no longer included in Serbian statistics. The UN institutions have yet to organize a census. As a result, important basic data is lacking.


Albanian Dreams of Independence

Assertions of the incompatibility of the Serbian and the Albanian nations usually take the nineteenth century as their point of departure. At the time the two competing protagonists laid territorial claim to Kosovo1  with the help of divergent national historiographies. For the present conflict, however, the state construction of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia2  plays the central role.

Following liberation from German occupation in 1945, Tito’s3  concern was not only to build a socialist society but also to overcome nationalist differences. In the architecture of the new federal structure of 1946, therefore, Serbia’s formerly hegemonic position was weakened in order to balance power. Thus "southern Serbia" was declared to be part of the constituent republic of Macedonia, and both Kosovo and Vojvodina were granted territorial autonomy within the constituent republic of Serbia. Krajina, which was settled by Serbs, was denied this right, in consideration of Croatian sensitivity. As compensation for these territorial curtailments, however, the Serbs were given disproportional influence in the federal agencies.

After a series of nationalist disturbances, however, including one in Kosovo in 1968, there was a change of course in the ethnic policy. In the new Yugoslavian constitution of 1974 Vojvodina and Kosovo became "autonomous provinces," which de facto granted them the same status as the constituent republics. Thanks to their new position, both entities were able to use their right of veto to influence decisions on the federal level and within the Republic of Serbia, though the Serbian government had no say in the decisions of the provinces. The majority of the Serbian population responded to federalism with distrust, as it represented yet another weakening of its national position. For many Kosovo Albanians, by contrast, these concessions did not go far enough. In March 1981, shortly before the death of Tito, there were mass demonstrations in Pristina, calling for the full status of a republic and even for secession from Yugoslavia.

The Kosovo problem reignited the Serbian nationalism that had been completely broken by Titoism. A repressive climate dominated in the Autonomous Province of Kosovo after the uprising had been put down, and it grew worse from 1987 on with the rise of Slobodan Milošević.4  He seized up the real and imagined fears of the Kosovar Serbs with respect to the Albanian majority, pushed for a repeal of the constitution of the federation and republic, and ultimately brought down the governments in Vojvodina, Kosovo, and Montenegro with the help of mass demonstrations. His so-called antibureaucratic revolution was so successful because it thematized the political and territorial underrepresentation of the Serbs within the federation while simultaneously offering the prospect of reforming the degenerate Yugoslavian system, whose political and economic disintegration grew worse as a result of the economic crisis.

The Serbian policy of recentralizing met with bitter resistance from the Kosovar Albanians, who did not wish to accept the replacement of their leadership. On February 20, 1989, thousands of miners went on strike, and the entire country soon joined in. On February 27, 1989, the Yugoslavian state presidium declared a state of emergency in Kosovo and temporarily restricted the province’s autonomous status, and in autumn 1990 it was repealed for good by the Serbian parliament.

The Albanian population reacted with a boycott of state institutions and began to establish parallel structures of civil law. In late 1989, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) was founded, under the leadership of Ibrahim Rugova, and it quickly developed into a decisive factor in the balance of power. In summer 1990 the Albanian majority in the provincial parliament declared itself a republic within Yugoslavia, and that was followed in September 1991 by a referendum for an independent constituent "Republic of Kosova", though this was never internationally recognized. In the period that followed Rugova advocated a nonviolent solution to the Kosovo question, but at the same time he clung to the fiction of an independent state. Faced with harsher policies of discrimination from the Serbs and the Dayton Agreement5  on Bosnia-Herzegovina, factions within the resistance resorted to violence—a policy that met with support from the majority of the population. From 1996 onward the Liberation Army of Kosovo (UÇK) carried out attacks against Serbian security forces and so-called collaborators, which resulted in retaliatory measures from the other side. The "West" tried to impose a solution to the conflict in conferences in Rambouillet and Paris (February - March 1999). However, the Serbian side rejected the peace plan, because it feared that it would legitimize the secession of Kosovo. When Serbian security forces began to drive out the Albanian majority, NATO, without the approval of the United Nations, carried out air strikes against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia6  between March 24 and June 9, 1999. The war ended with the de facto capitulation of Belgrade and the occupation of Kosovo by international troops (KFOR), initially numbering 50,000 soldiers. The province was divided into five occupation zones, with the German Federal Army, with 8,500 soldiers, taking responsibility for the south with Prizren as its center. Shortly thereafter, more than half a million Kosovar Albanians were able to return. There was, however, a mass exodus of the Serbian population, as previously they had earlier suffered from the violent excesses of the Albanians. Other minorities, including Romanies, had also been victims.

the UNMIK Protectorate

Since July 1, 1999, Kosovo has been the responsibility of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo ( UNMIK ). The basis for its activities is UN Resolution 1244, which affirms the territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and at the same time calls for "substantial" autonomy for Kosovo. The principles in international law of the inviolability of borders and the right to self-determination have thus been coupled in a way that can scarcely be solved politically.

On May 14, 2001, UNMIK passed a constitutional framework for the temporary status of Kosovo. It calls for a parliament with 120 seats, of which a hundred mandates will be awarded on the basis of proportional representation and ten seats each are reserved for the Serbian population (roughly 120,000 inhabitants) and for other minorities. In spring 2002 the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government were established, and UNMIK transferred certain powers to these in 2003. Under the supervision of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the population elected its first parliament on November 17, 2001. The moderate Democratic League emerged from this election as the strongest political force. After several months of negotiations Rugova was named president on March 5, 2002, with the necessary two-thirds majority of the parliament. In the elections in October 2004, which this time were largely boycotted by the Serbian population, the LDK maintained its dominant position. Instead of the previous grand coalition of Albanian parties, Rugova joined with the Alliance for the Future, headed by a former militia leader, Ramush Haradinaj, and together they have a slim majority in parliament.

Thus far the UN administration has repeatedly annulled parliamentary resolutions that contradict the present status of Kosovo under international law. Initially greeted by the Albanian population, UNMIK is meanwhile considered by many to be an occupying force. Increasing dissatisfaction led in spring 2004 to the worst pogroms since the end of the war in Kosovo. Serbs were attacked in their enclaves and driven out, and houses, churches, and monasteries were burned. The victims of these violent acts once again included members of the Romany minority, who are considered "collaborators" with the hated Serbian state power and are utterly marginalized.

The hesitant attitude of the international community thus far was caused by fear that recognition of an independent Kosovo could destabilize the entire region. That is why the ultimate status of the former Autonomous Province will only be decided after a process concerned with establishing the norms of a state under the rule of law, human rights, and the return of Serbian refugees ("standards before status"). The hope is that this strategy will also buy time for stabilization in Serbia and Macedonia. In the opinion of most Kosovar Albanians, however, independence is a necessary precondition for any solution of the existing problems. Moreover, they believe that any legal claim Belgrade may have had on Kosovo ceased to exist at the latest when the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was dissolved and the Serbian-Montenegrin union was founded.

In the international community today, the following consensus dominates: both the return of the province to Belgrade’s direct rule and the division of the region according to ethnic criteria are to be rejected. Nor can there be any merging with Albanian areas beyond the existing state borders. Although attacks on Serbs and Romanies have increased recently, in his latest report (October 2005) Kai Eide, a Norwegian diplomat and the UN special envoy to Kosovo, recommended that negotiations for the final status of the province be initiated. This marks a fundamental turn away from previous guidelines. Behind it stands fear that violence will flare up if there is a standstill. Because a complete break of the Albanian population with the Serbian state would leave little room for multiethnic options, the proposals of various "western" think tanks lean toward "conditional sovereignty." It would be limited by authorities of an international representative in the areas of protection for minorities and human rights. At the same time, the Serbian minority would have more influence as a result of decentralizing authority. It remains to be seen whether this construction of international law is realistic, but the experiences of ten years of Yugoslavian civil war have shown that each nation wants to have its own state territory and that violence is considered a legitimate means to achieve that end.

The Lack of an Autonomous Economy

Even under socialist Yugoslavia, Kosovo was the "poorhouse" of the federation, despite the transfers from the federal development fund. In 1984 the Autonomous Province had an average per capita income that was only 26 percent of the Yugoslavian average. The illiteracy rate in 1981 was 17.6 percent, and the unemployment rate at the end of the 1980s was 57.8 percent (by comparison, Slovenia’s was 2.5 percent).

The state of emergency during the 1990s and the conflict of 1999 made the situation even worse. Today more than half of the population is poor, getting by on with less than 1.5 US dollars per day. By official records, 57 percent of the employable population is registered as jobless, but in fact the figure is probably more than 80 percent. The average income of a worker is 200 euros (the official currency) per month. Most jobs are closely associated with the UNMIK apparatus. Because the country’s industry is utterly in ruins, more than a million inhabitants are trying to survive in agriculture. Their incomes are at most 40 euros per month, yet the cost of living is roughly the same as Germany’s—not least as a result of the substantial purchasing power of the members of the international organizations (currently 50,000 people). The enormous differences in income have led to significant dissatisfaction among the local population, which has further harmed UNMIK’s reputation.

The country’s economy is largely dependent on international aid payments for reconstruction. In recent years, however, these payments have declined constantly. As a result, economic growth shrank from 21.2 percent (2001) to 3.9 percent (2003). The gross domestic product per capita officially stands at 684 euros (2002), but real income is probably over 1,000 euros, thanks to private money transfers from the Albanian diaspora.7  As Kosovo refugees are increasingly deported to their homelands, however, this important source of income is also beginning to run dry. The international payments and the foreign money transfers reduced the balance of trade in 2003 to about 33 percent of the gross domestic product, without this transfer of funds it would have been 80 percent. The trade deficit for that year was 932.3 million euros, or nearly 90 percent of the gross domestic product. The countries of former Yugoslavia accounted for 37 percent of the imports, and for 46 percent of Kosovo’s exports. The member states of the European Union for that year (EU-15) had a 38 percent share of the exports and 25 percent of the imports. Another significant contribution to the economy comes from the illegal capital flows from organized crime. The growth of informal structures is the result, on the one hand, of long-standing state discrimination against Kosovar Albanians and, on the other, of the UÇK’s profitable connections to mafia organizations and diaspora networks. In the meanwhile many of the former resistance fighters have gone into violent criminal activity and live from smuggling, theft, and extortion. Other large obstacles to economic development are the unresolved political status of the province and the associated problems of property relations. In 2003 the Kosovo Trust Agency tried to begin privatizing companies. They had to cancel the call for tenders because the Serbian government still claims ownership.

The Minimal Significance of the Print Media Market

The public broadcaster (RTK) was established in 1999 with foreign assistance. In the context of the violent outbreaks of spring 2004, its reporting was blamed in part by foreign media experts for the pogroms. The other significant broadcaster is the private station Kohavision (KTV). Like the daily newspaper with the largest circulation, it belongs to the publisher and politician Veton Surroi, who is represented in parliament by his new party ORA; many see him as the "local Berlusconi."

As in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the significance of the print media is minimal. Nationwide only 30,000 newspapers are sold per day. Kosovo is thought to have the smallest readership in the region, not least because of the high illiteracy rate, which is presently around 25 percent. At the same time the country is said to have the highest rate of satellite dishes per household and per capita in Europe.


1 Serbia reclaimed Kosovo after the Balkan Wars in 1912-13 from the bankrupt Ottoman Empire. The Belgrade regime initiated repressive policies of assimilation and colonization against the Muslim Albanian majority. During World War Two the country was controlled by fascist Italy, which united it with Albania. This "Greater Albania" was also maintained under German occupation (from September 8, 1943, onward). Some of the Albanian population collaborated with the German armed forces. In 1945 the region was joined to the Serbian Republic as the Autonomous Region Kosov-Metohija. The Yugoslavian constitution of 1974 made the Autonomous Province of Kosovo largely equal to the other constituent republics of the federation. [zurück]

2 Whereas the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes was centralist in structure and dominated by Serbs, Tito chose to have a federal structure. In lieu of an ethnic nation with three "tribes" came a nationstate model that included recognition and equal rights for the ethnic groups living in Yugoslavia. The Yugoslavian federal state, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, comprised the constituent republics of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonia, and Montenegro as well as the Autonomous Provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo, which belonged to the Republic of Serbia but also had their own rights and powers. [zurück]

3 The rise of Josip Broz Tito (1892 - 1980), Yugoslavia’s head of state for many years, began in 1941 when a powerful partisan movement developed under his leadership that fought the German and Italian occupation. Victory in the war of liberation served as an important basis of legitimacy for the new Yugoslavian state. After breaking with Stalin in 1948, Marshal Tito pursued a policy of nonalignment, which met with a strong response from Third World nations in particular. Initially the Yugoslavian model proved to be a relatively successful project, but in the late phase of Tito’s regime the structural deficits were increasingly evident. [zurück]

4 Slobodan Milošević (born 1941) joined the Yugoslavian Communist Party and began his career as a technocratic apparatchik. His political rise began when he took up nationalist themes and put them to use for his ambitions for power. From 1989 to 1997 he ruled as president of Serbia and from 1997 to October 2000 as the president of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. On May 27, 1999, the International Court of Justice in The Hague charged him for war crimes and genocide. Mass demonstrations and protests led to his removal from office in October 2000, and under pressure from the United States he was finally extradited to the UN tribunals on June 29, 2001. Milošević’s trial began on July 5, 2004. [zurück]

5 The peace treaty concluded in Dayton in November 1995 ended the fighting in Bosnia-Herzegovina and kept the republic from being divided up between Croatia and Serbia. The accords affirmed the independence and sovereignty of the state within its prewar borders. [zurück]

6 Faced with the collapse of the Yugoslavian federation, Serbia and Montenegro joined to form the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in May 1992. The legal succession to the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia claimed thereby was not, however, recognized by the international community. When Montenegro threatened to secede, there was massive pressure from the European Union, which feared that the region would be destabilized, to form a new union of two states: Serbia-Montenegro (February 4, 2003). Its constitution provides for the member states to withdraw from the union after three years by referendum. [zurück]

7 The Albanian diaspora evolved from the migration of Kosovar Albanians, who from the 1960s onward looked mainly to the Federal Republic of Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. Since the 1980s many more have fled the region to escape Serbian repression and the poor economic situation. Estimates from 1999 indicate that 250,000 Kosovar Albanians were living in Germany, 150,000 in Switzerland, and 600,000 in the United States. [zurück]