Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Republic of Kosovo, Kyrgyz Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, FYR Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Russian Federation, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan

Search Penny Hill Blogs

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Kosovo: Current Issues and U.S. Policy

Steven Woehrel
Specialist in European Affairs

On February 17, 2008, Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia. On February 18, the United States recognized Kosovo as an independent state. Of the 27 EU countries, 22 have recognized Kosovo, including key countries such as France, Germany, Britain, and Italy. Eightyfive countries in all have recognized Kosovo. When it declared independence, Kosovo pledged to implement the Comprehensive Proposal for the Kosovo Status Settlement, drafted by U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari. The document contains provisions aimed at safeguarding the rights of ethnic Serbs and other minorities. An International Civilian Representative and EULEX, an European Union-led law-and-order mission, are tasked with guaranteeing Kosovo’s implementation of the plan. KFOR, a NATO-led peacekeeping force, has the mission of providing a secure environment.

Serbia strongly objects to Kosovo’s declaration of independence. It has used diplomatic means to try to persuade countries to not recognize Kosovo. It has set up parallel governing institutions in Serb-majority areas in Kosovo. However, after a July 2010 International Court of Justice ruling that Kosovo’s declaration of independence was not illegal, the EU pressured Serbia into agreeing to hold direct talks with Kosovo over technical issues. The talks, which got underway in March 2011, have produced agreements on freedom of movement, trade, and land registry records. However, the deployment of Kosovo police units to northern Kosovo in July 2011 sparked violence and blockades of local roads by Serbs. KFOR then took over control of two border posts in the north. The deployment of Kosovo customs officials to the posts in September caused Serbs to reimpose their road blockades, leading to clashes with KFOR. In addition, Serbia broke off the talks with Kosovo.

Kosovo faces other daunting challenges, aside from those posed by its struggle for international recognition and the status of its ethnic minorities. According to an October 2011 European Commission report on Kosovo, the country suffers from weak institutions, including the judiciary and law enforcement. Kosovo has high levels of government corruption and powerful organized crime networks. Many Kosovars are poor and reported unemployment is very high.

In October 2010, Secretary of State Clinton visited Kosovo. She said the United States would continue to aid Kosovo’s efforts to build a democratic country, where the rule of law is respected and ethnic minorities are well-integrated. Clinton said the United States would assist Kosovo in its efforts to join the European Union and NATO. She expressed the United States’ strong support for talks between Serbia and Kosovo. She stressed that the issues of Kosovo’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are not up for discussion during the negotiations. Instead, she said, the talks should focus on “immediate and practical needs” such as “increasing travel and trade.” She said that they should be “focused,” produce results, and be quickly concluded, noting that Serbia’s next elections are scheduled for 2012. In March 2011, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Countryman told journalists from the region that the U.S. role at the talks would be as a “guest,” not as a participant or mediator.

Since U.S. recognition of Kosovo’s independence in February 2008, congressional action on Kosovo has focused largely on foreign aid appropriations legislation. In FY2011, Kosovo received $79 million in AEECA funding for political and economic reforms, $3.59 million in FMF military aid, $0.7 million in IMET military training assistance, and $0.75 million from the NADR account to combat proliferation and terrorism and for demining. For FY2012, the Administration requested $63 million for Kosovo from the AEECA account, $0.7 million in IMET, $3 million in FMF, and $0.75 million in NADR aid.

Date of Report:
November 3, 2011
Number of Pages:
Order Number: R
Price: $29.95

Follow us on TWITTER at or #CRSreports

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail Penny Hill Press or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.