23. Kosovo’s Declaration of Independence

Kosovo’s unilateral Declaration of Independence was adopted by its National Assembly on 17 February 2008. The declaration was supported by leading uropean powers and the USA. Kosovo was quickly recognised as an independent state by most western European democracies, EU member states, the USA and others. Serbia refused to recognise Kosovo. The next day, the Serbian parliament adopted its own resolution annulling the declaration as illegal as under the Serbian constitution Kosovo was an integral part of that country. Russia supported Serbia, refusing to recognise the independent Kosovo. There was concern amongst some states that Kosovo’s independence might provide precedence for other separatist movements.

After the failure of international efforts to resolve the final status of Kosovo, the Government of the Republic of Kosovo prepared the declaration of the country’s independence. After comprehensive preparations, at the request of President Sejdiu and Prime Minister Thaçi, on 17 February 2008, an extraordinary session of the Kosovo Assembly was called, which declared Kosovo an independent, sovereign and democratic state. The Assembly adopted the Declaration of Independence. The declaration was then signed by all the deputies, apart from the Serb ones, who did not attend the parliamentary session.

One day after the declaration of Independence of Kosovo, our country was recognized by the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Albania. Later recognition from other states continued and so far Kosovo has been recognized by a considerable number of UN member states as an independent state. The recognition of the neighbouring countries, Montenegro and Macedonia, is of particular importance to the Republic of Kosovo.

While Kosovo was recognized by the largest states of Western Europe and the United States, the leadership of Serbia declared it an illegal and illegal act. In this regard, the Belgrade leadership had the support of Russia, which also declared Kosovo’s Declaration of Independence illegitimate and a threat to stability in the region. Despite these Serbo-Russian attitudes, there were further international recognitions of the state of Kosovo. In a sign of revolt, Serbian extremists in Serbia attacked the embassies of those countries that had recognized Kosovo’s independence, such as the United States, Germany, France, Turkey, etc. The most brutal attack was at the US Embassy. This act of vandalism and brutality expressed by the Serbian extremists in the embassies of these countries was judged by the entire democratic world.

On 17 February 2008, the Kosovo Assembly unanimously voted for independent Kosovo from the Republic of Serbia. On 18 February 2008, the Government and the Serbian Parliament annuled this decision as a non-constitutional act. Kosovo’s independence caused fragmentation in the international community. Some countries have recognized Kosovo and some have not recognized it.

Noel Malcolm


Kosovo remained Ottoman territory until it was conquered by Serbian forces in 1912. Serbs would say “liberated”; but even their own estimates put the Orthodox Serb population at less than 25%. The majority population was Albanian, and did not welcome Serb rule, so “conquered” seems the right word.

But legally, Kosovo was not incorporated into the Serbian kingdom in 1912; it remained occupied territory until some time after 1918. Then, finally, it was incorporated, not into a Serbian state, but into a Yugoslav one. And with one big interruption (the second world war) it remained part of some sort of Yugoslav state until June 2006.

Until the destruction of the old federal Yugoslavia by Milosevic, Kosovo had a dual status. It was called a part of Serbia; but it was also called a unit of the federation. In all practical ways, the latter sense prevailed: Kosovo had its own parliament and government, and was directly represented at the federal level, alongside Serbia. It was, in fact, one of the eight units of the federal system.

Almost all the other units have now become independent states. Historically, the independence of Kosovo just completes that process. Therefore, Kosovo has become an ex-Yugoslav state, as any historian could tell you.

Oliver Schmitt


At the beginning of 2008, some of the Western states raised their support for Kosovo unilaterally to make a Declaration of Independence, which happened on 17 February 2008. Even those countries that recognised Kosovo in the coming weeks, took this step in the awareness that this was not the best option, but probably the only one. Opponents of independence stressed that the Declaration of Independence of Kosovo might provide precedence for other separatist movements. In the first weeks after Kosovo’s independence declaration, this solution was signalled as an example for conflicts ranging  from the Basque province of Spain to Tibet.

(Fehmi Rexhepi ‘Historia 9’. Prishtinë: Libri Shkollor, 2010;
Jusuf Bajraktari, Fehmi Rexhepi, Frashër Demaj ‘Historia 10’.
Prishtinë: Libri Shkollor, 2011. Đorđe Đurić and Momčilo Pavlović ‘Istorija 8’.
Belgrade: Zavod za udžbenike, 2010; Đorđe Đurić and Momčilo Pavlović ‘Istorija 3’.
Belgrade: Zavod za udžbenike, 2010.
Oliver Schmitt ‘Kosova – histori e shkurtër e një treve qendrore ballkanike’, Prishtinë, Koha, 2012;
‘Is Kosovo Serbia? We ask a historian’, The Guardian, 26 February 2008 – https://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/feb/26/kosovo.serbia )