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Kosovo: one year on

20 February 2009

On 17 February 2009, Kosovo celebrated the first anniversary of its independence. Kosovo’s first year was relatively smooth, and with the exception of a number of violent incidents in the north of the country soon after independence, the much anticipated Serbian nationalist backlash never occurred on the scale many feared.

In many ways, the transition to independence has gone better than expected. The Kosovo government has demonstrated commitment to the Serb minority; it has attempted to decentralise the government and protect Serb cultural heritage. Similarly, Serbia has signed the SAA agreement and arrested Radovan Karadzic in July 2008 as a demonstration of its commitment to a European future. The new Serbian government has also installed new officials in its Kosovo ministry, who have already commenced talks and negotiations with their Albanian counterparts.

However, no new country can be expected to stand on its feet merely a year after independence, but Kosovo’s teething problems are indicative of the larger issues at stake. Most pertinent economic, social and political issues are exacerbated by the fact that there are three parties involved in its independence – Prishtina, Belgrade and the Serbian politicians in Kosovo (who insist on parallel institutions for Kosovo Serbs) and the international community, which has experienced divisions amongst its own members.  Belgrade, for its part, is still concentrating on overturning Kosovo independence, and has recently won the right to appeal Kosovo’s independence at the International Court of Justice, a process which may take up to two years.