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Kosovo - Foreign Relations

After 17 February 2008, when the Assembly of Kosovo declared the independence of the country, Kosovo began the campaign for the recognition of the Republic of Kosovo by all countries and creation of bilateral relations with countries that have recognized Kosovo. Within the scope of these developments is the recognition of Kosovo passports, and visa liberalization or even its removal.

Kosovo, which celebrates the fifth anniversary of its independence on 17 February 2013, was at that time recognised by 98 countries including the United States and most [but not all] of the European Union. Kosovo has been recognized by a total of 24 out of 28 (86%) NATO member states, except for Greece, Romania, Slovakia, and Spain, and a total of 22 out of 27 (81%) European Union (EU) member states, except for the four NATO members, and Cyprus. It is recognised by all of the successor states to Former Yugoslavia with the exception of Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The UK was among the first countries to recognise the independence of the Republic of Kosovo, on 18 February 2008. Kosovo and the UK have strong bilateral relations. France recognized Kosovo on 18 February 2008, just after its proclamation of independence. It has played an active role in settling the Kosovo issue, first as a member of the Contact Group, a group of States tasked with monitoring the UN trusteeship over Kosovo, then, after 2004, during negotiations on the status led by the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Secondly, France maintained an active presence in the field and is one of the leading contributors to the KFOR (780 soldiers out of a total of 10,000 as of 2011) and EULEX (188 judges, police and customs officers, out of nearly 1,800). The French were also present within the International Civilian Office and the OSCE Mission in Kosovo (OMIK).

On June 26, 2013 Egypt became the 100th country to recognize Kosovo as independent, a milestone for the Balkan country's pursuit of full international acceptance. A ministry official said this was the 100th recognition since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in February 2008 with the backing of the West. The country of 1.7 million people is also recognized by the United States and 22 of the European Union's 27 member-states.

By 2016 Kosovo's independence had been recognized by 111 countries, including the US and major European Union nations. Kosovo's independence is rejected by Serbia, with support from Russia, which has blocked Kosovo from becoming a UN member. Kosovo and Serbia are holding EU-mediated talks to try to overcome their differences.

Many countries fear Kosovo independence because of the potential impact on their own break-away regions. These sentiments are seldom expressed openly but have a powerful effect on the way representatives of these countries approach the issue of Kosovo's final status. "Kosovo can never be independent," is the refrain with the unstated subtext being, "and neither can Corsica, the Basque region, Chechnya, nor Quebec."

Cyprus takes the view that Kosovo was not a sui generis case, but rather represented dangerous precedent for countries such as Cyprus that were confronting separatism. Cyprus continues to oppose Kosovo's 2008 unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) on the strongest possible terms. Cyprus supported Serbia's effort within the UN General Assembly to seek an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on the UDI's alleged illegality, and filed a written statement by the April 17 deadline in line with Belgrade's claims.

Greece has maintained a long-term position of supporting Serbia, and Greece has not recognized Kosovo's independence. However, Greece views the situation in Kosovo to be irreversible. Greece does not want new problems related to Kosovo. Notwithstanding the lack of recognition of an independent Kosovo, Greece provided personnel to EULEX, the ICO, the OSCE Mission, NATO, and had ongoing dialogue with Kosovar authorities through the Greek liaison office in Pristina. Greece -- as the only Orthodox country among the original EU 15 -- has claimed a special relationship with Russia vis-a-vis Western Europe.

Romania holds a rather legalistic view of Kosovo's independence, which they will only ever recognize if Serbia does. For Romania, there can be no internationally recognized imposition of special collective rights for a group; only individual human rights, as enshrined in the Declaration, carry legal weight. Romania denies international recognition of secession on the basis of collective rights and without the consent of the losing sovereign state. This legal view has everything to do with the ethnic Hungarian minority located in two counties in the center of Romania. This view applies as much to Serbia-Kosovo as it does to Republika Srpska-Bosnia and Hercegovina.

Slovakia's refusal to recognize Kosovo's independence was initially based on concerns that if the Ahtisaari plan became a model for the treatment of ethnic minorities, this would be interpreted as support for broad autonomy or even independence for ethnic Hungarians in Slovakia. It would inflame existing tensions within Slovak domestic politics and in Slovak-Hungarian relations. Most Slovaks viewed the Slovak troops serving in Kosovo as being there to protect the Serbian population.

Spain has gone so far out on the limb of opposition to Kosovo's independence that it will find it difficult to climb down. The Spanish position is "principled," based on respect for international law and concern over the precedent a unilateral declaration of independence set. Spain's position was also one of "constructive dissent" and lays great emphasis on the fact that Spain plays a positive role by trying to keep Serbia on the right path: focused on integration with Europe. Spain had to support Serbia's position or risk undermining its own position on Gibraltar. Spain is committed to EU consensus and to finding constructive ways to resolve the status of Kosovo and preserve regional stability.

The issue of Kosovo's independence must be resolved only within the framework of the UN principles, Russian President Vladimir Putin said after meeting with his Serbian counterpart Tomislav Nikolic on 11 September 2012. It is necessary to look for the solution to the problem in the course of negotiations, based primarily on the UN Security Council Resolution 1244, Putin said at a joint news conference with Nikolic.

Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serbs continued to have opposite views on final status. In one poll in 2005, some 93% of Albanian respondents and 87% of non-Serb minority respondents were in favor of the independence of Kosovo, while 92.8% of Serb respondents supported Kosovo remaining an autonomous province within Serbia

The Serbian government under Prime Minister Kostunica engineered a policy of full ethnic separation in Kosovo, physically intimidating local Serbs into abandoning jobs in Kosovo's once multi-ethnic police force and municipal administrations. Serbia held its own illegal municipal elections in Kosovo despite warnings from the UN that such a move violated UNSCR 1244 and moved rapidly to emplace parallel institutions in Serb-majority areas throughout Kosovo. Serbia also backed open violence by the thuggish and criminalized Serb leadership in Kosovo's north, which ordered the destruction of two northern border gates and the subsequent March 17, 2008 attack on UN and KFOR peacekeepers.

Kosovo leaders have taken the high road and largely ignored the seemingly endless provocations lobbed their way by successive regimes in Serbia: violence in Kosovo's north sanctioned by Belgrade, the destruction of customs operations on the border with Serbia, Serbian support for parallel governing institutions and parallel elections, the continuing refusal of Belgrade to permit Kosovo Serb participation in multi-ethnic municipal administrations or in Kosovo's police and security forces, a Serbian trade embargo on Kosovo's exports, the insistence on raising a case against Kosovo's declaration of independence in the International Court of Justice, and efforts by Belgrade to target prominent Kosovo figures for prosecution in Serbia and extradition from any Western country where they may travel. Though the pro-Western government of Serbian President Boris Tadic was an improvement on its predecessor in many ways, the general parameters of Serbia's Kosovo policy remained unchanged under the single-minded focus of Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic and his Foreign Ministry cohort.

In October 2008, Serbia requested an International Court of Justice (ICJ) advisory opinion on the legality of Kosovos declaration of independence. Written briefs were presented by 36 countries in April 2009 and by 14 countries in July 2009, with oral statements offered in December 2009. The ICJ released the advisory opinion on July 22, 2010, affirming that Kosovos declaration of independence did not violate general principles of international law, UN Security Council Resolution 1244, or the Constitutive Framework. The opinion was closely tailored to Kosovos unique history and circumstances.

The need to deal with the flow of problems stemming from Belgrade's policy opened the Kosovo leadership to venomous opposition accusations that the government is not doing enough to establish its own authority in response to these Serbian moves, particularly in Kosovo's north, and it distracts from the real requirements of responsible governance in Kosovo -- expanding economic growth, eliminating corruption, and enhancing the transparency and effectiveness of major social institutions. Indeed, the north has become a proxy battleground for two differing visions of the region's future: for Serbs and for Belgrade, it represents that part of Kosovo most likely to be retained by Serbia in a partition scenario as a precursor to Serbia's accession into the EU, while for ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, retention of the north remains the symbolic key to proving Kosovo's legitimate sovereignty.

Serbia will never recognize the independence of Kosovo and calls on the international community to accept the reality- that without an equal treatment of all those who live in the province and without condemnation of all crimes and perpetrators, there can be no reconciliation and progress, the Serbian government's Office for Kosovo announced on February 17, 2013, Serbia has not and will not recognize the so-called independence of Kosovo. Anything that was built on injustice cannot rule in line with the law, reads the release issued on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the declaration of Kosovo's independence.

Since 2011, the European Union (EU) has facilitated a dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo on practical issues to improve the lives of citizens and advance them in their European perspectives, a process which the United States supports. On April 19, 2013, the Governments of Kosovo and Serbia concluded a landmark first agreement on normalization of relations, which affirms the primacy of Kosovos legal and institutional framework throughout Kosovos territory, and provides the basis for substantial local self-governance in Kosovos majority Serb north. The EU continues to facilitate talks on implementing the agreement, and on related normalization issues. On June 28, 2013, EU Member States decided to open negotiations with Kosovo on a Stabilization and Association Agreement, a key step on the path to membership in the European Union.

Kosovo is a member of various regional bodies, such as the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) and Southeast European Co-operation Initiative (SECI). In its declaration of independence, Kosovo pledged 'to establish good relations with all [Kosovo's] neighbours'.

There are currently more than thirty international Embassies, resident liaison offices, diplomatic offices, or Representatives in Kosovo, as well as several non-resident Embassies and liaison offices. The Republic of Kosovo has twenty resident embassies abroad. Kosovo is a member of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), International Development Association (IDA) and International Finance Corporation (IFC)).

A number of international organisations advise and assist the Kosovo Government. The EU has two main representations. The Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) central aim is to assist and support the Kosovo authorities in the rule of law area, specifically in the police, judiciary and customs areas. It is a technical mission which monitors, mentors and advises the Kosovo authorities, whilst retaining a number of limited executive powers. The EU Special Representative to Kosovo advises on the political process towards European integration. The United Nations Mission (UNMIK) now has a smaller presence and is headed by the Special Representative (SRSG). The OSCE promotes human rights and good governance in Kosovo. The NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) is deployed to maintain a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for all citizens.

Shortly after Kosovos independence in 2008 the International Civilian Office (ICO), headed by Dutch diplomat Pieter Feith, was established to supervise the implementation of the Comprehensive Settlement Proposal (CSP), which is enshrined in Kosovos Constitution. On 10 September 2012 the ICO officially announced the end of supervised independence as Kosovo had substantially implemented the CSP.

The Republic of Kosovo aims an active foreign policy, which should be in concordance with the aims of the people of Kosovo for Euro-Atlantic integrations, preservation and strengthening of the relations with allied countries, establishment of good relations with countries of the region, and accomplishment of the status of a trustworthy partner in the fight against the threats to the international security.

The foreign policy of Kosovo is formulated and implemented by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kosovo. The mission of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kosovo is to protect the interests of Kosovo in relation with other countries and international organizations, to represent Kosovo in foreign countries, to preserve and protect the immunities and privileges of diplomatic missions and of persons entitled to them in accordance with international covenants and customs, to develop and coordinate the policies in relation to other countries, and to develop good relations with all neighbors. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kosovo promotes and protects national, cultural, and economic policies of Kosovo throughout the world.

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