February 17 marks 15 years since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia.
Serbia does not recognise Kosovo’s statehood. Neither does Russia, China and five European Union countries – Spain, Slovakia, Cyprus, Romania and Greece, which have halted its path to EU membership.
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Russia, an ally of Serbia, has vetoed Kosovo’s membership at the United Nations.
Where is Kosovo?
Kosovo is a southeastern European country bordered by Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. It has a population of 1.9 million people, and ethnic Albanians form 93 percent of the population while Serbs make up about 6 percent of the population.
The rest are Turks, Bosniaks, Roma and Gorani, who are a Slavic Muslim ethnic group.
History of independence
Kosovo was once part of Yugoslavia, which was formed after World War I in 1918. It was made up of six Slavic groups, and its official language was Serbo-Croatian.
After World War II, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was founded, a federation made up of six republics divided along ethnic lines: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia.
In 1991, Slovenia and Croatia declared their independence. This marked the start of Yugoslavia’s disintegration. In 1992, Macedonia followed suit.
On March 1, 1992, Bosnia and Herzegovina held an independence referendum. Bosnian Serbs wanted to remain part of Yugoslavia and boycotted the vote.
Kosovo sought its own autonomy after Yugoslavia’s breakup. However, Serbia cracked down on ethnic Albanians seeking independence, which led to a NATO campaign against Serbia in 1999. Serbian forces then withdrew from Kosovo.
In 2022, violence erupted over a row about vehicle license plates.
Kosovo wanted people entering with Serbian identification to replace it with a temporary document during their stay in the country and planned for Serbian drivers to display Kosovo number plates on their vehicles.
A Kosovo-Serbia peace deal is being pushed by Western nations to resolve tensions, but according to analysts, the agreement is weak because it fails to address mutual recognition between the two states.