By Talha Ozturk and Cihad Aliu
BELGRADE, Serbia (AA) – Europe's youngest country Kosovo on Saturday marked 11 years of its independence.
Kosovo got an early taste of its future in 1945 as “the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija ” within socialist Yugoslavia. Later, in 1968, it became the Socialist Autonomous Province of Kosovo.
Yugoslavia’s new Constitution in 1974 enabled the province to function at every administrative level independently of its host republic within Yugoslavia.
In the late 1980s Slobodan Milosevic — then Serbia’s president within Yugoslavia, before dying decades later in 2006 while on trial for war crimes — effectively terminated the 1974 privileges, saying they were contrary to the interests of Serbs.
Milosevic's move drew criticism from the other Yugoslav republics.
In response, in 1990 the Kosovo Assembly voted to declare Kosovo an independent state.
The assembly's vote was recognized by Albania.
Later, conflicts between Serbian forces and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which was founded in 1991, played an important role in the country’s move towards independence.
The conflict escalated into the Kosovo war, which lasted from February 1998 until June 1999. The war ended after NATO intervention in the form of an extensive bombing campaign, including targets in Kosovo.
- Tense years toward independence
Since the war in Kosovo, Serbia and Kosovo saw periodic tensions.
The first major crisis after the war was in 2004. These events, called the March Uprisings, resulted in the death of 19 people — 11 Albanians and eight Serbs — while hundreds were injured.
After the uprisings, a 2005 report by Kai Eide, appointed Kosovo envoy by then-UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, recommended negotiations on the final status of Kosovo.
Kosovo’s assembly declared its independence from Serbia on Feb. 17, 2008 despite opposition from the body’s Serbian members.
Belgrade insists the country remains part of Serbia.
Kosovo is now recognized by over 100 countries, including the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, and Turkey.
Serbia, Russia, and China are among the countries which have yet to recognize Kosovo’s independence.
– Dialogue with Serbia
In 2011, the European Union initiated a dialogue process to normalize relations between Kosovo and Serbia. However, the process was interrupted by tensions over the last few years.
The killing of Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic in Mitrovica, a northern city of Kosovo, in mid-January last year, was the first incident to escalate tensions.
Serbia withdrew from a meeting as part of the dialogue process scheduled to take place in Brussels.
Another event is the detention of Director of the Serbian Government's Kosovo Office Marko Djuric on March 26, 2018 in North Mitrovica.
- Serbian obstacle to Kosovo's accession to INTERPOL
The fact that Kosovo was not accepted as a member of the 87th International Police Organization (INTERPOL) at the General Assembly Meeting held in the United Arab Emirates on Nov. 20, 2018 also brought a different dimension to the crisis between the two countries.
- Customs duty crisis
Kosovo imposed 100 percent customs duty on products imported from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, until Serbia recognizes its independence.
Even though the EU and the United States urge Kosovo to withdraw its tax decision as soon as possible, Kosovo continues to ignore these calls.
- Establishment of the Kosovo army
The adoption of a draft law on the conversion of the Kosovo Security Force (FSK) into an army on Dec. 14, 2018 resulted in a new crisis.
The EU and the United States said they want the Kosovo army's transformation to be gradual.
Kosovo has a population of nearly 1.8 million people. Albanians constitute the vast majority, but it also includes various minority groups such as Turks, Bosniaks, Serbs, Goranis, Roma, Ashkalis, and Egyptians.