Kosovo - Introduction
Kosovo declared independence in February 2008. While Kosovo’s government and institutions have sole responsibility for administration of the state, the international presence remains active, including police and NATO military forces. The UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) transferred rule of law functions to the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) on December 9, 2008. Civilian institutions, including the criminal justice system, are not yet fully functioning at a level consistent with Western standards. Kosovo is a cash economy. The currency used throughout Kosovo is the Euro.
With a population of about two million, Kosovo lies in south east Europe, bordering Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Albania. About the size of Wales and roughly diamond-shaped, much of the terrain is rugged and surrounded by mountains. The Sharr/Šar Mountains, one of the region's most popular tourist and skiing resorts, are located in the south and south-east, bordering Macedonia. The highest peak, Gjeravica/Djeravica-Luboten, reaches almost 3000m above sea level. The Bjeshkët e Nemuna/Prokletie or Albanian Alps divide Kosovo from Albania in the south-west while Kopaonik Mountain in the north, borders Serbia. The central region of Drenica and the eastern part of Kosovo are mainly hilly. Between these hills and the surrounding mountains are 2 plains - the Rafshi i Dukagjinit/Metohija basin in the western part of the province, and the Fushë Kosovë/Kosovo Polje plain in the eastern part. The White Drin runs from western Kosovo toward the Adriatic and the Ibri/Ibar snakes across the north of the province. The climate is continental with warm summers and cold and snowy winters.
Kosovo is a secular country; its people are generally western-looking and desire to be part of Euro-Atlantic institutions, such as NATO and the European Union. Current legislation and regulations are purposely written with EU standards in mind. Perceptions of official and informal corruption, the growing state bureaucracy, and the lack of universal recognition of Kosovo’s 2008 independence have at times proved to be obstacles to attracting higher levels of foreign investment. These obstacles exist notwithstanding the Kosovo Government’s pro-business posture, the country’s location, natural resources, and low wages, and the entrepreneurial nature of its citizens.
Kosovo’s tangible heritage was created by ancient civilizations and those of the new era, which have left a rich cultural treasure which is also part of world cultural heritage. This rich heritage is all over Kosovo, in archaeological parks and centers, in natural parks, in art galleries, in photographic and film archives, in castles and tower houses (kullas), in religious monuments and popular homes, in cobblestoned alleyways, in fountains and in all its museums.
Kosovo’s tangible heritage has both qualitative and quantitative value, known within and outside the country, and is very attractive for visitors who want to see cultural and artistic masterpieces, to learn about the evidence left by pre-history, the classical period, the Illyrian period etc. As well as its well-known museums, Kosovo has many collections of unusual artifacts that surprise people and cross all fields, from nature to art, from craft to ethnology, from the archaic to the religious, from the tangible to the spiritual.
Kosovo’s intangible spiritual cultural heritage, comprises manners, appearances, expressions, language, knowledge and popular creativity, as well as the instruments, objects, crafts and cultural space representing them, and the communities, groups and sometimes individuals, who are accepted as constitutive parts of their cultural heritage. This intangible cultural heritage is passed from generation to generation, created continuously throughout centuries by communities and groups as a function of their environments, interacting with their nature and history, and gives them a sense of identity and continuity, helping to promote respect for cultural diversity and traditional human creativity.
In Kosovo, road conditions can be extremely hazardous because roads are narrow, crowded, and used by a variety of vehicles, from KFOR armored personnel carriers to horse-drawn carts. Many vehicles are old and lack standard front or rear lights. Mountain roads can be narrow and poorly marked, and lack guardrails, quickly becoming dangerous in inclement weather. During winter months, fog can obscure visibility while driving.
Driving safely in Kosovo requires excellent defensive driving skills. Many drivers routinely ignore speed limits and other traffic regulations, such as stopping for red lights and stop signs. Drivers also routinely make illegal left turns from the far right lane, or drive into oncoming lanes of traffic. The combination of speeding, unsafe driving practices, poor vehicle maintenance, the mixture of new and old vehicles on the roads, and poor lighting contributes to unsafe driving conditions. Pedestrians should exercise extreme caution when crossing the street, even when using crosswalks, as local drivers sometimes do not slow down or stop for pedestrians.
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