Having enjoyed various degrees of autonomous existence, as well as cultural, geographical and political prominence, Kosovo had been a constituent part of the extensive Roman and Ottoman empires – both of which straddled continents – as well as forming part of the smaller empire of the former Yugoslavia. The latter lasted for much of the last century until 2008 when, on 17 February, Kosovo declared independence.
One hundred and thirty three years ago, in June 1878, the breathtaking city of Prizren saw the establishment of the League of Prizren, an Albanian cultural and political movement for autonomy and eventual independence from Ottoman rule. Whereas Albania declared independence in 1912, Kosovo – which had briefly liberated itself from the crumbling Ottoman rule – was invaded that same year by Serbia, whose long decades of rule were resisted by the overwhelmingly ethnic Albanian population of Kosovo. The people of Kosovo were used to active resistance – they had done the same against Roman and Ottoman rule after all.
Kosovo was the last of the seven nations to emerge out of Yugoslavia in the wake of Serbia’s four bloody wars of aggression against fellow federal entities – Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo – in the 1990s.
The Kosovars were on the verge of extinction in the spring of 1999, when one million people were displaced by the violence and Serbia’s unprecedented campaign of ethnic cleansing, spearheaded by the Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. At least 12,000 Kosovars were slaughtered and, 12 years on, the remains of hundreds of Kosovars killed in Kosovo are still interred in Serbia, whose scorched earth policy left a devastated land back in June 1999.
A resilient Kosovo has in the meantime arisen from the ashes, enjoying the generous support of nations around the world, first and foremost Europe and America. The UK has played a crucial role in Kosovo’s successful birth as a nation, as well as its ensuing consolidation internally and externally. The democratic Republic of Kosovo has been recognised by 73 UN nations to this day, including 22 out of 27 EU countries, as well as most of the Council of Europe, Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and NATO member states. Last but not least, Kosovo has been recognised by seven of the G8 countries, with the exception of Russia.
The Republic of Kosovo – a full member of both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and soon to join the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development – has seen a remarkable four to six per cent growth in GDP in the post-independence period, against the background of the global economic crisis.
With the International Court of Justice’s ruling of July 2010, which found Kosovo’s declaration of independence to be in full conformity with international law, the new country looks forward to the world embracing it as a proud and peaceful member of the community of free nations. Kosovo’s strategic goal is integration into the EU, NATO and the UN.
As Kosovo celebrates its third birthday on 17 February 2011 – the newest nation in Europe – Kosovo basks in the encompassing sense of pride and destiny of a modern nation.