Ten years have passed since Kosovo declared independence. The creation of the Republic of Kosovo has its origins in Belgrade’s violence against the Kosovo Albanian population in the 1990s, which prompted NATO to bomb Yugoslavia. A decade of UN administration of Kosovo followed, as did UN-led efforts to broker an agreement between Belgrade and Pristina. These mediation efforts were ultimately unsuccessful, and, finally, on 17 February 2008, the parliament of Kosovo declared Kosovo to be an independent state.
Today, Kosovo is recognised by over 110 states. But, crucially, Serbia still considers it to be formally a province, and five EU members have not recognised it. Russia also remains opposed to Kosovo’s independence. This partial recognition continues to hamper Kosovo’s development and European trajectory.
But it is also an impediment to Serbia’s accession to the EU, as the normalisation of relations with Kosovo is a prerequisite for membership. The EU hopes to facilitate a political agreement between the two before the end of the year, paving the way for Serbia’s membership by 2025. The question is whether the sides can reach agreement this time, now that membership of the EU is at stake.
Kosovo’s independence has become an irreversible fact, even if Serbia, Russia, and some other countries persist in their denial of reality.
The lesson of Kosovo's transition to independence is the value of the ‘ICO model’; a timebound mandate and a commitment to local ownership, transparency and respect.
The 10th anniversary of independence is a good moment for Kosovo to look forward and ask what sort of state it wants to be.