Foreign policy and defense
Kosovo is a nation in Eastern Europe. Its capital city is Pristina. Central to Kosovo is to be recognized as a state of its own, but only half of the world’s nations have attended the Kosovans. Resistance of members of the UN Security Council means that the World Organization has not been able to recognize the new state centrally. Relations with Serbia remain lousy, but Kosovo has formal relations with other neighboring countries.
Kosovo is a member of both UN unions, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), even though the country has not been centralized. International sports organizations, such as the International Olympic Committee and Fifa and Uefa football, have also accepted Kosovo as a member. By contrast, membership in the UN cultural body UNESCO has been halted.
- Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Kosovo for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
Just over a decade after independence, over half of the world’s countries have recognized the new state. First out in 2008 was the United States, which had constantly supported its quest for independence. Most of the EU members, including Sweden, were also quick to acknowledge. But five EU members have not recognized Kosovo, including heavyweight Spain. Among the countries of former Yugoslavia, neither Serbia nor Bosnia-Herzegovina recognizes independence. Kosovo has formal relations with the others.
Serbia has declared that the country will never recognize the Republic of Kosovo, since the Serbs believe that the declaration of independence is contrary to international law. However, the International Court of Justice in The Hague (ICJ) declared in July 2010 that Kosovo did not violate international law when the country disengaged from Serbia. While Kosovo is supported by the US and the EU, Serbia has received support from Russia and China, among others. Following Donald Trump’s take-over as President of the United States in 2017, there have been hints that Russia might consider recognizing Kosovo against the US recognizing the Russian annexation of Crimea. At the same time, the Russians seem to be keen on continued good relations with Serbia.
As the dispute between Kosovo and Serbia could be a serious threat to the stability of the region, the 2010 UN General Assembly commissioned the EU to establish a dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo with the aim of normalizing relations between the countries and improving the quality of life for citizens. With some interruptions, EU-led talks have been held between the parties ever since.
In the summer of 2011, the first agreements were reached. Among other things, Serbia agreed to accept Kosovan ID documents for border crossing. Other agreements included cooperation on public accounting, property registers and joint border guarding. In February 2012, an agreement was reached on the forms of Kosovo’s participation in regional organizations.
A symbolically important meeting was held in February 2013 when the Presidents of Serbia and Kosovo met in Brussels. In April of that year, the parties agreed on a framework agreement that would, among other things, give the government in Prishtina control over the Serbian-dominated areas of northern Kosovo, which would, however, gain far-reaching autonomy. The agreement also stipulated that neither party would prevent the other from seeking EU membership.
However, from 2018, the contradictions between Kosovo and Serbia have deteriorated again (see Current policy).
Relations with the EU
In October 2015, a so-called Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) was signed between the EU and Kosovo and on 1 April 2016 it came into force. It is a more formal agreement with the EU and a first step in a (long) process towards EU membership.
Although not all EU countries have recognized Kosovo’s independence, the EU has always had a strong presence in the country. Since 2000, Kosovo has received widespread contributions from the EU, including to implement reforms and adapt its legislation to the Union acquis. The EU has regularly measured Kosovo’s progress towards membership. The conclusion is recurring that the country must work harder to improve relations with Serbia, in particular to establish autonomy for the Serbs in northern Kosovo, and to seriously tackle corruption and organized crime. Kosovo, however, has been praised by both the European Commission and the European Parliament for its fight against violent extremism.
Since 2008, the EU has a so-called High Representative (EUSR) in Kosovo. The legal action of Eulex is to support the development of Kosovo’s law enforcement institutions (see Political system). Until June 2018, Eulex itself pursued a target in Kosovo, but now the EU body has only an advisory and monitoring role.
Remaining in Kosovo, there is the UN agency Unmik (see Modern history) with around 350 people, who are mainly to look after human rights.
The NATO-led international force Kfor remains in Kosovo for the time being and is responsible for security in the country. Thanks to an improved safety situation, the force has been able to lose weight from the original 14,000 men to just over 4,000 men in 2018.
In January 2009, the Kosovo Defense Force (KPC), created after the 1999 war, was replaced by the Kosovo Security Force (KSF), which is responsible for various forms of crisis management. KSF has approximately 2,500 people recruited from all ethnic groups and NATO provides KSF with weapons and education. There are plans for KSF to in turn be replaced by a regular Kosovar army (KAF) responsible for the country’s defense, but it opposes the country’s Serbian minority. The army is expected to amount to 5,000 men and 3,000 reservists. Parliament voted in autumn 2018 to initiate a process of converting KSF to KAF.
FACTS – DEFENSE
Army: 2,500 men (2017)
Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 0.8 percent (2015)
Military spending’s share of the state budget: 0.0 percent (2017)