Kosovo’s Disputed Statehood

Kosovo’s Disputed Statehood

For all the ways that Kosovo's declaration of independence on Feb. 17, 2008, was a seminal moment, it changed little. To be sure, it marked the beginning of a fundamentally new phase in Kosovo's political life and led to material as well as symbolic changes in its international status. Many powerful states recognized Kosovo as independent, and its altered international standing quickly allowed it to reach new heights of political autonomy. Yet many of the underlying political challenges and divisions that made Kosovo such a political flashpoint in Europe in the first place remained in place.

Its early post-independence years have been marked by a familiar mix of contentious politics involving international disagreement and intercommunal stalemate. The Serb and Albanian communities within Kosovo retain the irreconcilable views and mutual distrust that have characterized community relations in Kosovo for years, and deep divisions within the international community over the issue of recognition have hampered outside efforts to resolve the dispute. With international actors at times pulling in opposite directions, the international community has been unable and unwilling to offer the kind of sustained and consistent pressure that might otherwise have altered the politics on the ground. The declaration of independence was a landmark moment, but neither the pronouncement itself nor the international endorsements that followed have resolved the fundamental political challenges remaining in this nascent state.

Although the political divide within Kosovo has long historical roots, its current trajectory was critically shaped by events in the 1990s. Once an autonomous province of Serbia, Kosovo became notorious after Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic sought to burnish his nationalist credentials by talking up and taking on the cause of the Serbian minority in the Albanian-majority territory. His increasingly repressive and violent policies against the Kosovo Albanian community were met with armed resistance in the late-1990s from the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), and international efforts to resolve the conflict culminated in the NATO bombing campaign of 1999. The subsequent settlement involved Serbia's withdrawal from the territory and the deployment of two major international operations: a powerful United Nations civilian administration (UNMIK) and a strong NATO peacekeeping deployment (KFOR).

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.