Between Serbia and Albania: the difficult history of Kosovo

On 14 October 2014, the Partizan Stadium of Belgrade became a ring. Serbs and Albanians caused a violent fight. Soccer players and supporters confronted each other strongly. The need was to defend the Nation. The source of discord was, another time in the tormented Balkan history, Kosovo. A flag inflamed the souls, lowered on the pitch by a drone. It was the banner of a Greater Albania, the nationalist dream of Tirana, that would like to combine in a single country part of Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece and, obviously, Kosovo.

Since 2008 Kosovo is independent from Serbia, after a referendum not recognized by Belgrade, and it represents a unique on the international scene. Not admitted to the United Nations because of the possible Russian veto, Kosovo is vice versa member of other international organizations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund thanks to their different voting systems.

Since the Second World War to 1999, Kosovo was included in Yugoslavia under the name of the Socialist Autonomous Province of Kosovo. Under Tito’s dictatorshipthe clutches did not lack but in March 1989 irreversible tensions started. The Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic revoked most of the constitutional autonomy of Kosovo as well as the equal status accorded to the Albanian language, until then co-official language together with the Serbian-Croatian language. All this compared with the Kosovan population, in which 90% was represented by the Albanian ethnic group.

Between 1991 and 1992 Belgrade lost some of its parts. After the Yugoslav Wars, Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina became independent. In April 1992 Serbia and Montenegro, the only survivors, proclaimed the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia which would become the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro in 2003 (called simply Serbia since 2006, after the independence in Podgorica). In 1996 the bloody war in Kosovo broke out, followed by a controversial UN protectorate which culminated with the secession in 2008 (never recognized by the Serbs).

The confrontation between the two football national teams has rekindled the hotbeds of tension between the Serbs and the Albanians (in reality never extinguished). On 10 November 2014, a new diplomatic incident happened. The Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama made an official visit in Belgrade, the first of a Tirana’s Head of State to Belgrade after sixty years. He openly declared that Kosovo was Albanian, provoking the outraged reaction of the Serbian homologous Aleksandar Vucic, ready to claim the need of Belgrade’s control on Pristina.      

It’s difficult to make predictions about the future of Kosovo. The existing institutions, led by Prime Minister Hashim Taci, are extremely fragile. Security is precarious. Especially in the northern part of the country, that is North of Mitrovica and the Ibar River, where there is the most populous Serb Community of Kosovo. In these territories, clashes and tensions are a daily occurrence.

The big political issue in Kosovo remains however the possibility of joining the EU. On a monetary level, the introduction of the euro took place in 2002. Since 1999, Kosovo has left the Serbian dinar, in order to avoid any negative impact on the economy due to the frictions with Belgrade. In that year, the German mark was adopted, which was then replaced by the single currency in conjunction with the introduction of the Euro in Germany. This decision was strongly criticized by the European Central Bank, regarding it as a dangerous forcing in the Kosovan economy.

The actual process of approaching to the European institutions is then started in October 2012. On that occasion, the European Commission declared Pristina appropriate to the opening of the negotiations for the signature of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement  (SAA), the first step that European countries outside EU must do to enter in the Union. After the agreement on the normalization of the relations between Serbia and Albania, signed on 19 April 2013, with the mediation of the High Representative Catherine Ashton, the European Council also expressed its support to the beginning of SAA negotiations, effectively started on 28 October 2013.

Today Kosovo is still far from the entrance in the EU. There are a lot of internal problems. The international ones are not less: only 23 of the 28 EU countries recognize the existence of an independent Kosovo.

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