Kosovo is a republic inland in the Balkans, in southern Europe, with borders to Serbia in the north and east, northern Macedonia in the south, Albania in the west and Montenegro in the northwest. The country is mountainous.
Kosovo was part of the Ottoman Empire until 1913, when it was divided between Serbia and Montenegro. Kosovo became part of Yugoslavia in 1946 as a province within Serbia. During the 1990s, the conflict between the Albanian people and the Yugoslav authorities escalated, and in March 1999 NATO launched its bombing campaign. After the end of the war, in June of that year, Kosovo was put under UN administration.
Kosovo declared itself an independent state on February 17, 2008.
The Republic’s name comes from Kosovo Polje (Kosovo Sletta), where in 1389 there was a battle between an army force led by a Serbian prince and the invading Ottoman force, and where an Ottoman force was defeated by a Hungarian army in 1448.
Kosovo’s national anthem “Europe” was adopted by the National Assembly on June 11, 2008. It has only music, and no text – an expression of Kosovo a multiethnic society.
The stars of the Kosovo flag represent the most important ethnic groups in the country: Albanians, Serbs, Turks, Gorani, Roma and Bosniaks.
People and society
The largest population groups are Albanians, with 92.9 per cent of the population. The three largest minority groups are Bosnians (1.6 per cent), Serbs (1.5 per cent) and Turks (1.1 per cent). With an average age of 29.6 years (2018), Kosovo has Europe’s youngest population.
The largest city is the capital Pristina (Albanian Prishtinë, Serbian Priština) with 204 725 inhabitants (2016). The second largest city is Prizren in the south, with 85 119 inhabitants (2011). Peć in the west has 48,962 inhabitants (2016) and Mitrovica in the north has 46,230 inhabitants (2011).
95.7 percent of the population is Muslim, 2.2 percent Roman Catholic and 1.5 percent Orthodox Christian.
91.5 percent of the population is Albanian. Minority languages include Bosnian, Serbian, Turkish, Romani and Gorani, a form of Serbian.
State and politics
Kosovo is a parliamentary republic. 113 countries, including Norway, recognize Kosovo as an independent state (2019). Among countries that have not recognized Kosovo are notably Serbia, Russia and China. This is why Kosovo is not a member of the UN, the OSCE or the Council of Europe. However, Kosovo became a member of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2009.
Kosovo has a parliament with 120 members elected for four years and with 20 seats reserved for minorities (ten seats for Serbs and ten seats for others). Kosovo is divided into 33 municipalities.
Ramush Haradinaj of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) was prime minister from September 9, 2017 to July 19, 2019, when he chose to step down as prime minister after being summoned to the International Criminal Court in the former Yugoslavia in The Hague to answer questions about the former UCK guerrilla. Haradinaj was an officer in the UCK. See the article Serbia and Montenegro’s history. The fact that Haradinaj resigned as prime minister led to parliament being dissolved and new elections held on October 6, 2019. At this election, the opposition parties Self-Government Party (LVV) and Kosovo’s Democratic League (LDK) received 26.29 and 24.46 percent of the votes respectively. Only on February 3, 2020, Parliament elected the country’s new government: a coalition between LVV and LDK. The leader of the Autonomous Party, Albin Kurti, was elected prime minister.
Since April 7, 2016, the country’s president is Hashim Thaçi.
Economy and business
Kosovo’s gross domestic product (GDP) per capita is only US $ 10 900 (2017). Of European countries, only Moldova has a lower GDP per capita. The unemployment rate is 30.5 per cent and especially high in the age group of 18 to 25 years, where it is almost 60 per cent.
The devastation following the conflict in 1998–1999 was extensive, but in the years that followed there was a significant recovery with great support from the international community. International aid accounts for approximately ten percent of GDP, while annual private transfers from Kosovo nationals living abroad amount to approximately 17 percent of GDP (2017).
Agriculture contributes 11.9 per cent of GDP and employs 4.4 per cent of the working population. The agricultural area is very fertile, but production is to a small extent mechanized.
Industry contributes 17.7 per cent of the country’s GDP and employs 17.4 per cent of the working population. There are two coal power plants in Kosovo; one from the early 1960s and one from the early 1980s. 97 per cent of electricity production is based on fossil fuels, while three per cent is from hydropower (2016). In May 2019, it was announced that a new 500 megawatt coal plant will be built. When this power plant is in operation, the country will be able to export electrical power.
Kosovo has a large trade deficit with foreign countries ; total exports account for just over 13 per cent of total imports. The main import markets are Germany, Serbia, Turkey, China and Italy. Albania is the most important export market.
From 2002, the euro is the official currency. In the past, dinar was used.
Knowledge and culture
There is free and compulsory primary and secondary school for children aged 6-15. There are several types of three- and four-year high schools. Established in 1969, Pristina University has 17 faculties and 42,000 students. There are four other public universities and several private universities in Kosovo. In 2008, the Kosovo Security Studies Center was established in Pristina as an independent research center.
In Pristina there are nine and six national radio and TV stations respectively. There are six national daily newspapers. Freedom of the press is guaranteed in the Constitution. In 2005, a special faculty of journalism was established at the University of Pristina.
The official languages of Kosovo are Albanian and Serbian. The Language Act also allows the use of other languages at the local level, if spoken by more than five percent of the population.
Kosovo’s music is traditionally based on folklore. The country’s poetry also seeks its source in the country’s rich folklore, but also has modern forms of expression. The best known lyricist is Esad Mekuli (1916–1993). He made great efforts to organize the literary life in Kosovo, and he also translated much classical literature into Albanian. Of the present authors, Eqrem Basha, born in 1948, is one of the most recognized.
The most significant filmmaker is Samir Karahoda, born in 1977. He was behind the film In Between, which in 2019 was the first short film from Kosovo to be presented at the Berlin International Film Festival. In Pristina, there is a film center working to promote film in Kosovo. Since 2008 there has been an international film festival in Pristina every July.
In 2006, four churches and monasteries in and around Peć and in Prizren, listed in the early 14th century, were listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. On the UNESCO list, they are listed under “Medieval monuments in Kosovo”. The frescoes of the Monastery of Dečani at Peć are considered the finest in Byzantine art in the Balkans. The Pristina Imperial Mosque dates from 1461. There are a number of other churches, monasteries and mosques dating back to the 13th and 14th centuries in Kosovo. The Turkish bath Mehmed-Pasjas Haman in Prizren from the 16th century is a good example of Ottoman secular architecture.