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

Thursday, February 16, 2012

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. Eightyeight 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, land registry records, and other issues. 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. Serbia broke off the talks with Kosovo for a short time, but then soon returned to them.

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.

The United States has strongly supported the Serbia-Kosovo talks. U.S. officials have stressed that the United States is a “guest,” not as a participant or mediator at the talks. In July 2011, a State Department spokesman expressed U.S. “regret” that the Kosovo government tried to take control of customs posts in Serb-dominated northern Kosovo without consulting the international community. The United States condemned violence by Serbs in northern Kosovo and called on them to restore freedom of movement in the area and for Serbia to “remain committed” to the EU-mediated talks with Kosovo.

Since U.S. recognition of Kosovo’s independence in February 2008, congressional action on Kosovo has focused largely on foreign aid appropriations legislation. Aid to Kosovo has declined significantly in recent years. 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: February 9, 2012
Number of Pages: 13
Order Number: RS21721
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.