State and politics
On February 17, 2008, Kosovo unilaterally proclaimed its
independence from Serbia. Also see AbbreviationFinder for abbreviation of KS and its meanings of Kosovo. For background on relations with
Serbia and the process of independence, see History.
Kosovo's independence, however, has reservations. By the end
of the 2010, 114 countries, including the United States and
23 EU member states had admittedly recognized the new state,
but Serbia, supported by the Russian Federation, among
others, has not. Nor can the UN accept Kosovo as a full
member as long as the Russian Federation vetoes the Security
Council against it. When Serbia in the autumn of 2008 asked
the International Court of Justice in The Hague to
investigate whether Kosovo's declaration of independence
violated international law, the Court found in its ruling in
July 2010 that this was not the case, but the Court did not
rule on independence as such.
One step towards a solution is the agreement to normalize
relations between Serbia and Kosovo with the EU's assistance
in April 2013, but it has proved difficult to implement all
the points of the agreement. Both Kosovo and Serbia are
opposed to the agreement among nationalist groups.
Following the Declaration of Independence, Kosovo adopted
a new constitution. It was based on mediator Martti
Ahtisaari's proposal and came into force in June 2008.
According to this, Kosovo is a parliamentary, indivisible
democracy with a president as head of state.
The President is appointed by Parliament for five years.
Parliament, Kuvendi in Kosovės/Skupština Kosova,
is elected for four years. It has 120 seats, of which 20 are
reserved for minorities (including ten for Serbs). According
to the electoral law, 30 percent of the 120 parliamentarians
must be women.
There are a large number of political parties in Kosovo.
Most are formed around a certain personality or related to a
particular area rather than a particular ideology.
It has been difficult for any party to get its own
majority in Parliament and no government after independence,
all coalition governments, has managed to sit its entire
term of office.
The largest party was for a long time the Kosovo
Democratic Party (Partia Demokratike e Kosovės,
PDK), which has been a member of all governments since
independence but who, after the autumn 2019 elections, was
allowed to be placed third (see Politics). For a long time
before independence, politics was dominated by the Kosovo
Democratic Alliance (Lidhja Demokratike e Kosovės,
LDK), which again got a boost after the 2019 elections,
where the party came in second place. While the PDK has its
roots in the armed liberation struggle, the LDK fought for
freedom for Kosovo with peaceful means.
The radical Albanian nationalist Movement for
Self-Determination (Lėvizja Vetėvendosje, LVV -
usually just called Vetėvendosje, VV) has become
increasingly influential and became the largest party in the
The smaller parties that are often part of governments
include the liberal New Kosovo Alliance (Aleanca Kosova
e Re, AKR), as well as the Middle Party Alliance for
the Future of Kosovo (Aleanca p Ardhmėrinė e Kosovės,
The largest Serbian party is the Serbian List (Srpska
Lista, SL), which has sometimes been the tongue on the
scale of coalition governments. It has a firm grip on the
Serbian population in the north and has close contacts with
New parties have also been added, such as the Initiative
for Kosovo (Nisma) which was formed in the spring
of 2014 by two defectors from PDK, as well as the
Alternative (Alternative) founded in early 2017 by
an AKR and a Vetėvendosjem member.
At the 2010 parliamentary elections, Hashim Thaēi (born
1968) as leader of the largest party PDK gained continued
confidence as prime minister. He formed government with AKR
as well as some small parties as support. The main
opposition parties were LDK and AAK but also Vetėvendosje.
Disagreement within the government and parliament led to new
elections being held in June 2014. Again, PDK became the
largest party and it looked like Thaēi could again become
head of government.
When three opposition parties with LDK at the forefront
merged and demanded to form government, a six-year
government crisis began. Only since LDK jumped off and
instead settled with PDK could a new coalition government
take office, now under LDK leader Isa Mustafi (born 1951),
former mayor of the capital.
Thaēi got the post of Foreign Minister. He was also
promised the presidential post when the parliament in 2016
would elect a new head of state after Atifete Jahjaga (born
1975). In April 2016, Hashim Thaēi was also able to take
over as president. However, it was only after several votes
in Parliament, when Thaēi lost confidence, and his entry was
preceded by turbulence and widespread protests outside the
parliament building during the voting process.
Opposition to the government coalition also in 2016
resulted in tear gas attacks in the parliament by the
opposition, mainly from Vetėvendosje.
The opposition turned to continued EU-led negotiations
with Serbia and plans for far-reaching self-government for
the Serbian-dominated municipalities in northern Kosovo. For
a long time, the talks in Brussels came to a close. The
opposition also opposed the decision to set up a special
court in the Hague Netherlands to investigate possible
crimes committed during the Kosovo War by the now disbanded
UĒK guerrilla (of which several leading Kosovo politicians
were members). However, despite widespread criticism, the
decision on the Court was adopted by Parliament and it could
be drawn up in 2017 to seriously begin its work in 2019.
The opposition also objected to a planned but
controversial border agreement with Montenegro, an agreement
that the EU demanded would be approved to give Kosovo
visa-free access to the Union. Several times the vote on the
agreement in Parliament was postponed. When it was finally
to be implemented in May 2017, the opposition raised a
declaration of confidence against the government that fell,
with the announcement of a new election until June 11, 2017.
Once again, the government formation after the election
pulled out in time. Only in September could a coalition
government, supported by a majority in parliament, take
office. The head of government became the controversial
Ramush Haradinaj, leader of AAK. The government also
included PDK, AKR and Nisma as well as representatives of
the minorities. Haradinaj has twice been tried before the
War Criminal Tribunal in The Haguesuspected of war crimes
committed during the war in the 1990s in Kosovo but both
times acquitted. After the War Criminal Tribunal concluded
its work in 2017, in July 2019, he was called to the Special
Court in The Hague established (see above) to investigate
war crimes by the Kosovo Albanian UĒK guerrilla, where
Haradinaj was a high commander. Shortly thereafter,
Haradinaj filed his resignation application to bring his
case before the court as a private person and not as the
head of government. Parliament dissolved in August and new
elections were announced until 6 October 2019.
The final election results had to wait, but when it came
to voters it punished the ruling parties, considered by many
as corrupt, and instead cast their votes to the opposition.
The former leading party PDK received only about 21 percent
of the vote, the outgoing Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj's
AAK about 11 percent while the small coalition parties AKR
and Nisma barely took over the five percent blockade to
However, the opposition parties Vetėvendosje (in
collaboration with the small party Alternativet) and LDK
went ahead and got around a quarter each of all votes,
Vetėvendosje a few more than LDK. Together with the votes of
the minorities, the two parties would receive a scarce
majority in Parliament.
The outcome of the election seemed to show that an
increasingly younger electorate no longer saw it as obvious
to give support to old guerrilla fighters - the former
government parties had all their roots in the UĒK guerrilla.
The hopes were that a coalition government between
Vetėvendosje (whose leader Albin Kurti was born in 1975),
was previously a student activist and intended prime
minister) and LDK who started negotiating after the election
would mean a renewal and rejuvenation of the policy.
However, the government negotiations dragged on over time,
mainly because it was difficult to agree on the distribution
of various political items. It was not until February 2020
that Albin Kurti could be sworn in as new prime minister,
after Parliament voted for his government by 66 votes out of
120. In his installation speech, Kurti emphasized that his
government would be the servant of the people rather than
In the new government, with fewer ministers and deputy
ministers than before to save money, in addition to the
Prime Minister's post, six ministerial posts went to the VV
and six to the LDK and three more to the minority groups.
Five ministers were women. LDK leader Isa Mustafi (born
1951) was promised the presidential post when Hashim Thaēi
resigned in 2021, while the party's prime ministerial
candidate in the 2019 election, the young female law
professor Vjosa Osmani (born 1982), was given the post.
In addition to the fundamental issues relating to
Kosovo's status and attempts to integrate the Serbs in the
north, there are a number of major and difficult problems to
address for Kosovo's politicians, including widespread
poverty and lack of economic development, high unemployment,
extensive crime, corruption and low education. among the
population. Unstable governments have also often made it
difficult to get the necessary reforms through Parliament.
A large number of working-age Kosovans have left Kosovo
to seek work abroad. Some in the 2010s also applied to
Islamist terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State,
although a law was passed in 2015 that provides severe
penalties for those who "join or encourage participation in
foreign armies or police forces". Like many other countries,
Kosovo now has problems dealing with returnees from the
Islamic State and their children. In the fall of 2019, four
Kosovans were sentenced with links to IS to long prison
sentences for planning terrorist acts, both in Kosovo and
Serbia and Kosovo
At independence in 2008, the EU established a legal
mission, EULEX, to help Kosovo create a functioning
judiciary, police and customs system. The intention was that
EULEX, whose mandate after several extensions runs until the
summer of 2020, since 2018, however, with a more limited
assignment, would replace the provisional UNMIK (United
Nations Mission in Kosovo) board established by the UN
Security Council in 1999 (resolution number 1244). Since
Serbia and the Kosovo Serbs did not accept EULEX, which
lacks support in a UN resolution, a derelict UNMIK has
remained as a parallel organization and mediator between the
For both Serbia and Kosovo attracts a future membership
of the EU. Therefore, with the help of the EU, talks could
be started between the countries to reach a compromise on
the locked issue of Kosovo's status. The main purpose was to
reach normal relations between them and thus facilitate the
everyday life of its citizens. In April 2013, an agreement
was signed, which mainly regulated the situation in the
Serbian-dominated northern Kosovo.
The Serbs in Kosovo now make up less than 7 percent of
the population. One third of them are concentrated in the
north, around the city of Mitrovica (which is divided
between Serbs and Albanians). Here, there have often been
unrest and the Pristina government has lacked control over
the area, as the Kosovo Serbs refused to submit to it.
Instead, there were local Serbian rulers, linked to and even
supported by Serbia.
By the agreement, Serbia does not recognize Kosovo as an
independent state but still accepts Pristina's supremacy
over the Serbian-dominated areas in the north and agrees to
abolish all parallel Serbian institutions there. Instead,
four municipalities in the north would gain far-reaching
self-government in a number of areas. The agreement led to
sharp protests from nationalists on both sides, with
Albanian nationalists protesting that the Serbian minority
be given a special status while Kosovar Serb leaders in the
north said they would oppose it. The latter, for example,
have tried to get the Kosovo Serbs to boycott all elections
organized by the Kosovan regime in Pristina, including local
elections in their areas, but despite some voting they have
usually been able to be implemented. The Kosovo Serbs are
also allowed to vote in all elections in Serbia, which count
them as Serbian citizens.
With the support of (and pressure from) the EU,
representatives of Kosovo and Serbia have met regularly to
discuss how all points of the 2013 agreement can be
implemented. However, since Ramush Haradinaj took office as
Prime Minister in the fall of 2017, negotiations have
largely been down.
Haradinaj, who in Serbia is considered a war criminal,
reacted to what he considered to be Serbia's sometimes
successful attempt to block membership of Kosovo in several
international organizations by imposing a 100% duty on all
goods from Serbia in November 2018 (as well as from Bosnia
and Hercegovina, which, like Serbia, did not recognize
Kosovo's independence). Despite appeals from the outside
world, he refused to abolish customs duties and demanded
that Serbia first recognize Kosovo as an independent state,
which Serbia refused. At the same time, discussions between
the Presidents of Serbia and Kosovo began to replace
Serb-dominated areas in Kosovo with Albanian-dominated areas
However, following Haradinaj's departure in early 2020,
with the help of US, an agreement to re-establish aviation
and train connections between Serbia and Kosovo could be
concluded. Hopes for resumed negotiations in other areas
between the two countries also increased since the new
government under Albin Kurti took office in early February
2020 (see Politics).