How did Kosovo become a country? | The Economist

In 2008, Kosovo became
Europe’s newest country. This small state of 1.8 million people, emerged as a result of one of Europe’s most brutal sectarian conflicts
since the Second World War. It was a conflict that
pitted an authoritarian nationalist leader, Slobodan Milosevic. When bombing stop, then it will be very easy to
continue political process. Against Western military power. We must not allow, ethnic
cleansing or genocide, particularly at the edge of Europe. Today, Kosovo is peaceful but poor. Kosovo didn’t only
transition from war to peace. It was transition now
from communist country to a capitalist one, from a ravaged countryside
to the one being rebuilt. Kosovo was part of Serbia from 1912. Then, in 1918, Serbia became part of what would become Yugoslavia. Serbs considered and say that
Kosovo is their Jerusalem. It was a sort of heart of Serbia. To this day, Kosovo is still divided
along ethnic lines. Over 90% of its population
are ethnic Albanians, who are mostly Muslim. Serbs, who are Orthodox
Christians, account for about 5%. This is the southern city of Pristina, capital of Kosovo Province. Throughout the 1980s, Kosovo enjoyed autonomy within Serbia. But the majority ethnic
Albanian population wanted more political freedom. Kosovo Albanian nationalism was growing. There were demands that
Kosovo become a republic. Kosovo Serbs began to complain, saying that they were threatened. But there was one man standing in the way of Kosovo Albanians, Slobodan Milosevic, the leader of the Serbian communist party. Milosevic wanted to keep
Kosovo as part of Serbia. He rallied the minority Serb population and further divided Kosovo. Slobodan Milosevic used
the Kosovo Serb issue to take power and to play
the nationalist card, which was to propel him to
full power within Serbia. In 1989, Milosevic became
President of Serbia, and within weeks, placed
Kosovo back under the direct control of his Serbian government. Petrit Selimi was growing
up in Kosovo at the time. He and his family belong to
the ethnic Albanian majority. When Milosevic came to
power, we lost our status. Our political rights were lost, our economic freedoms were lost, and our education rights were lost. As communism collapsed across Central and Eastern Europe, Yugoslavia
began to disintegrate. From 1991, its republics
declared independence. Wars broke out in Slovenia,
Croatia, and Bosnia, as ethnic Serbs living
in these new countries, opposed independence. Milosevic wanted to carve a
greater Serbia out of the ruins. So he so he sent his troops to support Serbs in these conflicts. During this turbulent time, Kosovo’s political leadership
declared independence, too, but this was ignored by Serbia and the international community. In the late 1990s, a guerrilla group, the Kosovo Liberation Army, or KLA, began to attack Serbian police units. Its aim was to win
independence through force. It was mixture of excitement, but fear that something
big is about to unfold. Milosevic sent more
Serbian security forces into Kosovo to defeat the KLA. The Serbian security forces and the Yugoslav army were quite brutal. I mean, the KLA were quite brutal as well, but the overwhelming
preponderance of force, of course, was on the side of the
Serbian security forces. On January the 15th, 1999, Serb forces attacked the village of Racak, killing 45 Kosovo Albanian civilians. Racak massacre was a turning point because as soon as the massacre
unfolded, people were there, western journalists, observers,
seeing the dead bodies, and calling it what it was,
a crime against humanity. As Serbian forces retook territory from the KLA, thousands of Kosovo
Albanians fled their homes. The images shocked the West. At a peace conference in France, Western powers gave Serbia
and Kosovo Albanians an ultimatum, accept a peace
deal or face military action. We’re not interested
in a partial agreement. We’re interested in a
settlement that works. The Serbs rejected the deal. We are not talking to Albanians. We are talking to Americans, who would like to take our
territory for themselves and for NATO. And Albanians were just excuse for them. NATO resolved to punish
Milosevic and his army, and began air strikes on Serb
military targets in Kosovo and throughout Serbia itself. It is about creating the kind of world where an innocent people are
not singled out for repression, for expulsion, for destruction, just because of their
religious and ethnic heritage. During the war, my parents, my brother, fled the neighborhood, were
kicked out by paramilitaries. They were hiding in the forest I didn’t know for several
days, are they alive or not. After 78 days of bombing and hundreds of civilian
deaths, Serbia capitulated. Milosevic withdrew his forces from Kosovo. NATO tanks rolled in, and Petrit was reunited with his family. As Kosovar Albanians returned, tens of thousands of ethnic
Serbs fled north to Serbia. It would be another nine years before Kosovo finally
declared independence. Today Kosovo has a rough
and ready democracy and a growing economy, but
unemployment is high at 33%. In recent years, clashes
caused by ethnic tension, have erupted on occasions. Today most Kosovo Serbs
consider themselves citizens of Serbia. They don’t recognize the Kosovo state and they don’t feel a part of it. External pressure could improve those strained relations. Both Kosovo and Serbia are working to join the European Union. I don’t think either of
us would be able to join the European Union family until we sort out the
issues with each other. Dialogue is the only
way we can move forward. If Kosovo and Serbia are to become EU member states, their
governments and peoples will have to work together
and bury their bloody past.

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