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European Kingdoms

Eastern Europe


Modern Kosovo
AD 2008 - Present Day
Incorporating Heads of State (2008-2022)

Kosovo (known to Albania as Kosova (the definite form) or Kosovë (the indefinite form)) is officially the 'Republic of Kosovo'. Located in South-Eastern Europe's Balkans region, this largely mountainous country with its still largely-untapped archaeological and natural heritage has its capital at Pristina. It is neighboured to the north and east by Serbia, by North Macedonia to the south, and by Albania and Montenegro to the west.

The territory of the ancient Kosovans - the Elyrs - can be said to have first appeared in history in the form of the third century BC kingdom of Dardania, which bordered the kingdom of Illyria. Some modern Albanians have been championing this identity for the new state, but the name 'Kosovo' remains dominant. In the medieval period it was frequently the subject of fights between the Bulgarian empire, the Eastern Roman empire, and the Serb empire. In 1389, following two major battles which wiped out Serbian forces, the region was subsumed within the Ottoman empire.

Independence returned with the restoration of the kingdom of Serbia in 1882. Federal Yugoslavia governed much of the post-Second World War western Balkans until the break-up of the Soviet Union ended many such enforced unions. During this time Kosovo operated as an autonomous province (independent as far as internal governance went, but demanding more in the riots of 1981).

The Balkans wars of the first half of the 1990s were brutal and merciless. From Belgrade, the fragmenting Yugoslavia attempted to hold onto its territories, failing at every turn. Even the Kosovo War of 1998-1999 saw the hastily-assembled but fervently enthusiastic Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) holding its own against Serbian forces. Nato intervention there brought about the Kumanovo Treaty which saw Yugoslav Serb forces withdraw and a Nato peace-keeping force policing and protecting the Kosovan autonomous region. In 2006 even the last piece of this Yugoslavian puzzle - Montenegro - voted for full independence.

Multilateral talks to determine Kosovo's twenty-first century status failed to yield a solution which was acceptable both to Serbs and Kosovans. Despite Serbia's opposition, Kosovo formally seceded from the country on 17 February 2008, although Serbia and its Russian support still oppose the act. Newly-independent Kosovo committed to fulfilling its obligations under the Ahtisaari Plan, to embrace multi-ethnicity as a fundamental principle of good governance, and to welcome a period of international supervision.

The United States formally recognised Kosovo as a sovereign and independent state on 18 February 2008. Since then it has been recognised by a large majority of European states, plus a greater percentage of others worldwide. The vast majority of the country's population is ethnic Albanian, fully ninety-two percent of it. Small minorities include Serbs, Bosniaks, Turks, and Gorani. Most Albanians, Bosniaks and Turks are Muslim, but the republic is a secular state and all religious groups freely observe their own key feasts and celebration dates.

The Balkans Mountains in Albania, by wiredforadventure.com

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from the John De Cleene Archive, from The Establishment of the Balkan National States, 1804-1920, Charles Jelavich & Barbara Jelavich (A History of East Central Europe, University of Washington Press, 1986), from The Collapse of Yugoslavia, 1991-1999, Alastair Finlan (Osprey Publishing, 2004), from The Death of Yugoslavia, Laura Silber & Allan Little (Penguin Books, 1996), from Washington Post (2 March 2008), and from External Links: Yugoslavia: death of a federation (The Guardian), and Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Kosovo (Office of the Historian), and Kosovo (Wiki Voyage), and BBC Country Profiles, and Serbia defies EU deadline (The Guardian), and Kosovo fails in Unesco membership bid (The Guardian), and Kosovo's president resigns (The Guardian), Kosovo Serbs block road (The Guardian), and Serbia puts troops on high alert (The Guardian), and Serbia 'sliding towards autocracy' (The Guardian).)

2008 - 2010

Fatmir Sejdiu

First president of an independent Kosovo. Resigned.


Kosovo has declared its independence from Serbia, on 17 February 2008. Hashim Thaçi of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) has already become prime minister in January, having previously headed an unrecognised government in 1999 to oppose Serb controls, and having more recently returned from a 2000 exile.

The discovery of war crimes graves in northern Kosovo
This aerial photo of the site of a mass grave in Serbia was believed to contain the bodies of 250 ethnic Albanians, all murdered a short way to the north of the border with Kosovo

On 15 June 2008 Kosovo's new constitution comes into force, and the government takes over control of the country. Minority Serbs form their own parliament in Mitrovica with the intention of becoming part of Serbia.


A political crisis emerges in Kosovo when the country's constitutional court states that the President Sejdiu is violating the constitution because he is both president and leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK). This results in Sejdiu stepping down as president on 27 September 2010. Fresh elections are announced for 12 December 2010 with Jakup Krasniqi as acting president until then.

2010 - 2011

Jakup Krasniqi

Acting president. PDK.


Behgjet Pacolli

President. AKR. Stepped down without formal resignation.


After having undertaken a tour of northern Kosovo to reaffirm the country's unity despite the existence of the Serb-formed parliament in Mitrovica, Behgjet Pacolli steps down from office. The election procedure which had brought him to office has been ruled irregular. The issue earns Kosovo points with the international community for the country's openness and honesty, while strengthening procedures to ensure it does not happen again.

Kosovo's ethnic Albanians protest against Serb elections
Kosovo Albanians demonstrate in May 2010 against local elections which have been held in the Serb-dominated part of Mitrovica


Jakup Krasniqi

Acting president for a second time. PDK.

2011 - 2016

Atifete Jahjaga

First female president. No party.


Those groups of countries which have been overseeing Kosovo's secure independence since 2008 now end their supervisory role. Nato-led peacekeepers and EU rule-of-law monitors remain.


After months of negotiation and several stumbling blocks, Kosovo and Serbia reach a landmark agreement on normalising relations which grants a high degree of autonomy to Serb-majority areas in northern areas, while both sides agree not to block each other's efforts to seek EU membership.


Kosovo fails in its bid to join Unesco, falling three votes short of the required two-thirds majority amongst member states. Unesco's executive board had recommended acceptance, despite Kosovo not being a UN member state. Serbia, which considers Kosovo to be the cradle of its identity and religion, strongly opposes the move throughout.

Kosovo's Decani Monastery
Unesco membership would have made Pristina custodian of Serbian Orthodox sites such as Decani Monastery, against which idea Belgrade strongly objects

2016 - 2020

Hashim Thaçi

Former KLA leader. President. PDK. Resigned.


President Hashim Thaçi learns that the Kosovo war crimes tribunal in The Hague has confirmed his indictment for war crimes due to his role as a leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in the 1990s. He immediately resigns from office. Three other former KLA commanders who had fought for independence from Serbia have already been charged with war crimes.

2020 - 2021

Vjosa Osmani

Former (female) speaker. Acting president. Guxo.


Glauk Konjufca

Acting president. Vetëvendosje.

2021 - On

Vjosa Osmani

Former acting president, now elected president.


Tensions are heightened amid Pristina's aim of making those in majority ethnic Serb areas swap their Serbian-issued car registration plates for Kosovan-issued ones (a plan which is eventually abandoned). However, this is just one of a series of excuses for recently-increased tension between Kosovo and Serbia.

Serbia's 2022 elections
Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić attempted to balance between west and east, prompting many in Brussels and the EU to warn that he would have to get off the fence soon

On 10 December 2022, hundreds of ethnic Serbs erect barricades on a road in northern Kosovo which links to the two main border crossings into Serbia. This is part of a protest after an ethnic Serb ex-policeman has been arrested for alleged attacks on ethnic Albanian police officers. On 27 December, Serbia places its armed forces on high alert.

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