Kosovo Government and Politics

State and politics

Kosovo Country Flag


On February 17, 2008, Kosovo unilaterally proclaimed its independence from Serbia. 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 Kosovës/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.

Political parties

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 Kosovës, 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 Kosovës, 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 (Lëvizja Vetëvendosje, LVV – usually just called Vetëvendosje, VV) has become increasingly influential and became the largest party in the 2019 election.

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 Ardhmërinë e Kosovës, AAK).

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 Serbia.

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 Vetëvendosjem member.


At the 2010 parliamentary elections, Hashim Thaçi (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 Vetëvendosje. 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 Thaçi 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.

Thaçi 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 Thaçi was also able to take over as president. However, it was only after several votes in Parliament, when Thaçi 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 Vetëvendosje.

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 UÇK 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 UÇK 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 parliament.

However, the opposition parties Vetëvendosje (in collaboration with the small party Alternativet) and LDK went ahead and got around a quarter each of all votes, Vetëvendosje 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 UÇK guerrilla. The hopes were that a coalition government between Vetëvendosje (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 its ruler.

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 Thaçi 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 abroad.

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 parties.

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 in Serbia.

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).

Kosovo Head of Government

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