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What happened in Kosovo

March 1999. Ethnic Albanians fleeing Kosovo. Kosovo-Albanian

Kosovo (Kosova or Kosovë in Albanian, Serbian Косово и Метохија transcribed Kosovo and Metohija) is a de facto state in the Balkans. This former Serbian province proclaimed  its independence on February 17, 2008.  What happend in Kosovo was, that after the unilateral declaration of independence, one hundred world states have officially recognized, among which are Albania the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Australia and the United States. Others, however, oppose and do not recognize it, same as Serbia, Russia, Romania and Spain.

From 1999 to 2008, after the recent war in Kosovo was administered by the United Nations.

On behalf of the majority Albanian population (by 92%, according to data from 2011), declared the independence of the Republic of Kosovo in 1990, but was not recognized except for Albania. On 17 February 2008, the Kosovo parliament declared again.

Kosovo historically associated as the home of Serbian nationalism. During the existence of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the region comprise the Socialist Autonomous Province of Kosovo, Serbia subordinate. With the dissolution of Yugoslavia, Kosovo became part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which then settle the state of Serbia and Montenegro, but later reduced to Serbia Montenegro had achieved independence from Serbia.

Despite the political domain Serbian population of Kosovo was mostly Albanians. The government of Slobodan Milosevic in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia reduced the autonomy of Kosovo and initiated a process to increase the proportion of Serbs in the territory. After years of tension and fighting separatists in 1999 war broke out in Kosovo that faced Yugoslavia against NATO troops, which gave support to Kosovo Albanians.

At the end of the war, the UN established a peacekeeping mission. Although Kosovo remained de jure as an autonomous province under the government of the Republic of Serbia, UNMIK would remain in charge of the administration of the territory, along with leaders of the ethnic Albanian.

After years of disputes and negotiations, Kosovo declared its independence on February 17, 2008.  Many countries such as the USA and organizations like the European Union have already recognized its independence, although countries such as Serbia, Spain and Russia  refrain from recognizing it and even oppose menacingly.

On 22 July 2010 the International Court of Justice ruled that Kosovo’s declaration of independence did not violate any international law, as stated by its president, “the declarations of independence are not forbidden way.”


What happened in Kosovo war

War or Kosovo ‘Kosovo conflict’ is often used to describe two conflicts that took place a number of others with a certain overlap (civil war followed by an international war), the southern Serbian province called Kosovo (officially Kosovo and Metohija), part of the former Yugoslavia. Both conflicts were:

  • 1996-99: guerrilla conflict between Albanian separatists and Serbian and Yugoslav security forces, where the Albanian separatist movement called themselves while Serbian forces said the terrorists.
  • 1999: War between Yugoslavia and NATO forces between 24 March and 10 June 1999, during which NATO forces conducted continuous bombing against Yugoslav targets. Albanian fighters continued to attack Serb forces and Serb civilians in Kosovo, while the Serbian and Yugoslav forces continued to attack rebels and causing massive population movements in view to improve their situation when an end the fire.

Origins of the conflict

Kosovo in Tito’s Yugoslavia (1945-1986)

Both Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo are considered historically as space itself. For Serbs, was the cultural center and the site of the Battle of Kosovo, lost against the invading Ottomans in 1389 (remember how the tax Serb defense of Christianity).

Tensions between the two communities have been present throughout the twentieth century have been frequent outbreaks of violence, particularly during the First Balkan War, the First and Second World War. The communist government of Tito responded with repression in nationalist demonstrations all around Yugoslavia, that in order to maintain a balance between the different republics and more particularly, to avoid the predominance of Serbia on the other. In 1945 the population was mostly Kosovo Albanians, but since the end of the century, Serbian settlements had become the majority in the region. By the late 1960s, the emerging Albanian nationalism had begun to take shape, despite the repressive nature of the regime.

In 1974, we established a new status for Kosovo, giving greater autonomy, a place in the council presidency and the Assembly itself, police force and banking, always under the control of the Communist Party of the region.

After Tito’s death in 1980 grew the demands of Albanians to establish itself in the seventh republics unacceptable for Serbs and Macedonians. Some saw this as a prelude to the creation of a dominant republic in the federation. The answer to these demands was repression and purging supporters of nationalism in the communist party in Kosovo.

The conflicts between the population increased and with them the feeling in the community that the goal of each was to remove the presence of the other community in Kosovo. While numerically Serbs remained in Kosovo during the government of Tito, the Albanian population grew at a rapid pace, becoming more than 80% in 1991. Another pressure factor in the region was the worsening economic situation and the lack of work.

Slobodan Milosevic came to power (1986-1990)

The political setback happened in Yugoslavia after Tito’s death had different origins. In addition to the ethnic conflict was political divisions, constitutional order and even personal between the leaders of the country. In Kosovo, however, these problems resulted in rising levels of tension between Serbs and Albanians, creating a climate in which any incident was exacerbated.

The Memorandum of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SANU known as Report), spoke in 1986 of the existence of a genocide physical, political, legal and cultural suffered by the Serbs in Kosovo comparing the status of Kosovo in the defeat against the Ottoman empire or the Nazi occupation. At the conclusion of the report requesting the application of remedies to recover the Serb presence in Kosovo. The report was produced in rejecting the Albanian population of Kosovo (in fact, most of the non-Serb population of Yugoslavia, including Croatian, Bosnian and Slovenian) and in some intellectual circles of Serbia.

In April 1987, Slobodan Milosevic, who at the time chaired the Central Committee of the Communist League of Serbia, traveled to Kosovo and declared their support for the demands of the Serbian population, instantly gaining the support of the Serbian population around Yugoslavia, paving the way to the presidency of Serbia. But access to the president of Yugoslavia, Milosevic needed the support of the representation of Kosovo so. In 1988, leaders of the Communist Party of Kosovo Albanians were arrested and released the so-called anti-bureaucratic revolution eliminating the little autonomy of Kosovo and imposed a state of emergency.

The changes to the Constitution were justified as the only solution that allowed the abuse to protect the Serbian minority of the Albanian majority in Kosovo.

Kosovo under the Serbian government (1990-1996)

In abolishing the autonomous status of Kosovo (as well as the province of Vojvodina) did not eliminate their positions in the Council presidency federated giving Serbia three of eight votes (plus the support of almost permanent Montenegro, Serbia nearest). The only way to establish a counterbalance was a fragile alliance between Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia.

The changes were ratified in a vote attended by only the people of Serbia (mostly) and Kosovo meant changing jobs 115,000 Albanians Serbs in Kosovo, removing newspapers, radio and television speaks Albanian and the expulsion of 800 teachers and 22,500 of the 23,000 students of the University of Pristina, according to sources Albania.

Under the leadership of Ibrahim Rugova, the Democratic League for Kosovo organized resistance pacifist, was called for civil disobedience and tax, the boycott of the presence of Serbian and Yugoslav province and non-participation in elections, the creation Schools, clinics and hospitals parallel. The government in the shadow thus formed, organized a referendum on the independence of Kosovo, which according to the organizers brought together nearly one million votes approving the creation of the independent Republic of Kosovo and later choosing Rugova as president. The government declared illegal both referendums and zero results.

The road to war (1996-1998)

The policy of peaceful resistance Rugova had the effect of keeping the peace in Kosovo during the bloody wars in Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in the early 1990. But this policy to grow the feeling of frustration in the population Kosovo. In 1996, Dayton did not specifically address the case of Kosovo, Rugova and requests of sending a UN force for maintaining peace in Kosovo were not heard. Milosevic, at that time, it was president of what was left of Yugoslavia: Serbia and Montenegro.

The policy changes introduced in Kosovo occurred radicalization of many Albanians adopted as a solution to the armed struggle. On 22 April 1996, four simultaneous attacks against civilian targets in different parts of Kosovo marked the beginning of hostilities. The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) organization until then unknown, claimed responsibility. The strategy of this group remained constant from the beginning: to provoke Serb forces so the answer increasingly disproportionate produce waste and, thus, greater support for the Albanian cause.

The KLA was seen as a legitimate resistance force against the oppressor by Kosovo Albanian and Serbian as a terrorist organization. Internationally, the position of this organization was ambiguous. He called it a terrorist organization, but did not impose or block funds or weapons.

In 1997, the crisis of power in Albania caused chaos which allowed large amounts of war material ended Albanian army in the hands of the KLA in Kosovo province, taking the characteristics of conflict a guerrilla war between the forces of the central government plus some secret units against the KLA.

Towards the end of 1998, had hundreds of dead and 300,000 displaced, according to Albanian sources, and 25,000 according to sources consulted by the BBC. Kosovo Albanian refugees moved mostly to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, threatening the fragile unity established in this country. A civil war in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia would rug territorial claims on its neighbors Serbia, Albania, Greece and Bulgaria, with great potential to destabilize the entire region. In this context, when NATO and the EU decide to act.

The peace plan for Kosovo included a ceasefire, renouncing independence aspirations of the KLA and the deployment of peacekeepers in Kosovo. However, the truce lasted a very short time, between October and December 1998.

March 1999. Ethnic Albanians fleeing Kosovo. Kosovo-Albanian

March 1999. Ethnic Albanians fleeing Kosovo. Kosovo-Albanian. Credit to Noorimages

Racak and Rambouillet Conference (January-March 1999)

The attacks of the KLA and Serb responses continued and had its climax with the joint attack of the Serbian police and the Yugoslav army in the village of Racak where 45 Albanians were killed. The incident was considered a massacre in the West and by the Security Council of the United Nations, becoming the basis of charges of war crimes against Milosevic and his top officials. Serb sources said the Albanians were killed in combat, however, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia documented several cases of killings in Racak (in Milošević trial has not been completed due to the death of the 11 March 2006).

On 30 January 1999, NATO decided to introduce a peacekeeping force in Kosovo. In its announcement additionally Added:

NATO reports to be prepared to launch air strikes on Yugoslav targets in order to force a political settlement of the conflict. Clearly advertised bombings if the government of Milosevic did not reach a peace agreement with the KLA, but was also a veiled threat to the KLA to leave them alone if they do not reach an agreement.

The Contact Group was formed to propose a series of non-negotiable principles, including the return to the autonomous status of Kosovo prior to 1990 and the introduction of democratic institutions and transparent international supervision. It was also convened a peace conference that was held at Castle Rambouillet, outside Paris.

The peace conference in Rambouillet took place between February and March 1999. A final report, both sides committed as follows:

To establish a statute of autonomy for Kosovo that included free and transparent elections, protection of human rights and an independent judicial system.

The rules for the international presence in the region would be established at a conference immediately after the first.

The establishment of a cease-fire, avoiding parts provoke and respond to provocations that could jeopardize the agreement reached.

In the end, the agreement was not signed by Serbian delegation which proposed later a corrected version that eliminated mainly access to NATO forces in the territory of Yugoslavia.

After the failure of the Rambouillet Peace Conference withdrew international observers. On March 22, the Serbian Assembly, facing the imminence of the NATO bombing, accepted the principle of independence of Kosovo, but condemned the results of the conference disowned his delegation had negotiated with terrorists. This was not enough to halt the NATO military intervention that began on March 24.

NATO’s bombing campaign

The NATO bombing lasted from 24 March to 10 June 1999 were used 1,000 aircraft operating from bases located in Italy and carriers in the Adriatic Sea. The missiles were used Tomahawk (cruise missile), which were launched from aircraft, ships and submarines. Although all NATO members came to engage in greater or lesser degree, the United States was the dominant member of the coalition against Serbia. He also stressed Greece, which play a crucial role despite their public opposition to the war. During the ten weeks of the conflict NATO aircraft conducted 38,000 combat missions.

[blockquote author=”NATO´s spokeman” pull=”pullright”]”Expulsion of Serbs stay of peacekeepers, return of refugees.”[/blockquote]

The NATO spokesman briefly expressed the aim of this operation as “Expulsion of Serbs stay of peacekeepers, return of refugees.” This means that Serbian troops would leave Kosovo to be replaced by international peacekeepers and thus ensure that Albanian refugees could return to their homes. However, this slogan had an ominous double meaning, causing considerable conflict in NATO after the war when some 200,000 Serbs and other non-Albanian minorities fled or were expelled from the province. An unofficial reason for the war was implicitly given by Madeleine Albright (Secretary of State of the United States): “What we used to have the best army if we can not use it?”; an observation that allegedly caused the Chief of Staff of the US Army questioned his sanity. It has also been suggested that a victory in a small war would help to give NATO a new function.

bombed residential area at pristina

Bombed residential area at Pristina.

The beginning of the campaign was devised to destroy Serbian air defenses and high-value military targets. Initial results were not good, the bad weather prevented some interventions premature. NATO had seriously underestimated the will to resist Milošević: few in Brussels thought that the campaign would last more than a few days. Although the initial bombing were remarkable they were, nor indication, as you saw in Baghdad in 1991 and later in 2003. On the ground fighting got worse after a week since it began war, around 300,000 Kosovo Albanians fled to neighboring Albania and Macedonia, and thousands more were displaced inside Kosovo. In April, the UN reported that they had fled from their houses 850,000 people, the vast majority Albanians.

The exodus of refugees, the cause of which is the subject of much controversy, forms the basis of the charges Crímenes war to the United Nations accused Slobodan Milosevic and other officials responsible for directing the Kosovo conflict. The Serbian and its western media claim that the migrations were caused by mass panic in the Albanian population of Kosovo, and that the exodus was generated primarily by fear of NATO bombing. It was also alleged that the exodus was encouraged by the KLA guerrillas, even in some cases gave direct orders to flee the Albanians. Some witness reports, both Serbs and Albanians, were identified as the culprits in the security forces and Serbian paramilitary groups responsible for systematically emptied of inhabitants Albanians small towns and villages. In fact there were some well-documented cases of mass expulsions, as happened in Pristina in late March, when thousands of people were gathered at gunpoint and loaded trains to be abandoned to the Macedonian border. Other cities, such as Pec were burned completely.

The German Minister of Foreign Affairs Joschka Fischer said that the refugee crisis was caused by a Serbian plan called “Operation Horseshoe”. Although the existence of a plan with this name is still subject to ongoing discussion, the United Nations and international organizations for the defense of human rights were convinced that the refugee crisis was the result of a deliberate policy of cleaning Ethnic. A statistical analysis after the war about the patterns of displacement, directed by Patrick Ball of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (American Association for the advancement of science) found a direct correlation between operations forces Serbian security and outward flows of refugees, having very little effect on the recent NATO operations. There was other evidence that the refugee crisis was artificially made: some refugees reported that their identity cards had been confiscated by security forces, making it difficult for them to prove indisputably that they were Yugoslav citizens. Once the conflict ended, Serbian sources reported that some of them joined in the return of refugees were in fact Albanians from outside Kosovo. A part of this group could be undocumented.

It is clear that Milosevic sought to expel the inhabitants of Kosovo Albanians. One possibility is that the Albanians wanted to replace with Serb refugees from Bosnia and Croatia, thus achieving a “serbianització” of the province. What is clear is that NATO wants it or not, got a considerable advantage propaganda flee Kosovo. If that was claimed, was a great success, because it ended up convincing the population of the member countries of NATO had to overcome in this conflict. Europe was already having problems to cope, had previous waves of refugees and asylum seekers from the Balkans, so that another wave of refugees would seriously destabilized Southeast Europe. There may be arguments that support the war in Kosovo was initially of interest to NATO states, but the refugee crisis caused yes it was.

There was a change in the military operations of NATO in increased attacks on Serb targets located on the ground (making white targets as small as individual tanks and artillery units). Simultaneously with strategic bombing continued, however this activity was strongly limited by the politicians, so that each object had to be approved by each of the 19 member states. Montenegro was bombed several times but eventually withdrew NATO to support the unstable position of his anti-Milosevic leader Milo Djukanovic. He attacked the so-called dual-use targets used for both civilian and military. These include bridges over the Danube; factories, power stations, telecommunications facilities; and those who were particularly discussed the headquarters of the Yugoslav leftists (political party led by Milosevic’s wife) and the tower of Serbian state television broadcasting. Some saw these actions as violations of international law and in particular the Geneva Convention. NATO however argued that these facilities were potentially useful to the Serbian military and therefore its bombing was justified. The alliance also maintained that he tried to avoid civilian casualties during the bombing campaign.

F-15 NATO aircraft during Kosovo bombing

F-15 aircraft of NATO, participating in the Kosovo War

In early May, NATO aircraft attacked a convoy of Albanian refugees, saying that he believed it was a Serbian military convoy, killed around 50 people. A NATO took him five days to admit its responsibility, admitting it as a mistake, however Serbs accused NATO of deliberately attacking the refugees. On 7 May, NATO bombs hit the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, killing several Chinese diplomats and outraging public opinion in China. The United States and NATO later apologized for the bombing, clarifying that what happened was due to an outdated map of the region provided by the CIA. This argument was contradicted jointly by daily ‘The Observer’ (the United Kingdom) and ‘Politiken’ (Denmark) ¨  who reported that NATO deliberately bombed the embassy to work as a repeater for the radio signals Yugoslav army. The bombing strained relations between China and NATO countries and led to the outside of the Western embassies in Beijing will give examples of anger.

In early June, the resolution of the conflict seemed closest and NATO countries began to think seriously about a ground operation, an invasion of Kosovo. This had to be organized quickly, because it was so soon after came the winter and had to work hard to improve the roads from the ports to Greek and Albanian routes planned to carry out the invasion through Macedonia and northern est Albania. However, at the same time, Finnish and Russian negotiators continued trying to persuade Milosevic to cede. Finally, he acknowledged that NATO was determined to end the conflict in one way or another and that Russia would not intervene in support of Serbia. With so few alternatives in sight, Milosevic accepted the conditions offered  the mediating team in Finland and Russia allowed the military presence in Kosovo, NATO troops, but led by the UN.

Consequences of war

After the war, on June 10, both Kosovo as Yugoslavia faced an uncertain future.

The first problem, that of Albanian refugees, was largely resolved very quickly: In three weeks, nearly 500,000 Albanian refugees returned to their homes. Towards the end of November 1999, according to figures from the UNHCR, more than 800,000 of the 850,000 displaced persons had returned to their homes. However, much of the population was displaced Kosovo Serb province because of revenge attacks, along with people from other backgrounds. The Yugoslav Red Cross gave figures of about 250,000 refugees, most of them Serbian origin. Before long, the people of Serbian origin in Kosovo was reduced to less than a quarter of what existed before the war.

Civilian casualties caused during the NATO attacks were estimated to be between 1,200 and 5,700 civilians, according to the Serbian authorities and 500 according to Human Rights Watch. Regarding the Yugoslav military, NATO estimates that up to 5,000 casualties occurred during the conflict, while Serbs gave a figure of 1,000 troops dead. After the war ended, they unearthed the bodies of nearly 4,500 mostly Albanians. It is estimated that the total losses approaching 10,000 Albanians died. This figure is still debated today. But far from the figure of 500,000 men allegedly disappeared announced before the end of the conflict.

Since there were no combats in which participated the NATO forces, their losses were very small. Most of them related to air operations and accidents during the fighting. The destruction caused in the Yugoslav forces was not great. They destroyed 50 aircraft of the Yugoslav Air Force, but most of the tanks were attacked soil lures. The antiaircraft batteries were not used and therefore were discovered, forcing NATO aviation flying at high altitude to avoid them all the time that lasted the bombing.

A study by Spiegel and Salama  estimates the total 12,000 casualties occurred during the war in Kosovo. Sadly, what happened in Kosovo doesn´t seem to be a lesson for us, repeating the errors that brought us to this awful situation in different countries.