This is a series of photos from the landscapes and the people of Kosovo from the last three years leading to its 2009 independence.Kosovo is a region in southeastern Europe. It was part of Serbia in the Middle Ages, in the 15th century, the region was conquered by the Muslim Ottoman Empire and remained under Ottoman rule for almost five centuries. Kosovo again found itself within the Serbian state when it was incorporated into the Kingdom of Serbia as a result of Ottoman defeat in the First Balkan War (1912–13). After a period of Yugoslav unitarianism in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, the post-World War II Yugoslav constitution established the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija within the Yugoslav constituent republic of Serbia.
Long-term severe ethnic tensions between Kosovo's Albanian and Serb populations have left Kosovo ethnically divided, resulting in inter-ethnic violence, including the Kosovo War of 1999. The war ended with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia accepting that it would give up the exercise of its sovereignty pending a final status settlement. Under UNSCR 1244, governance passed to the United Nations in 1999.
In 2008, the Republic of Kosovo declared itself an independent state. It has control over most of the territory and has partial international recognition. North Kosovo, the largest Serb enclave, is administered locally with parallel structures which observe the institutions of the Republic of Serbia. Serbia does not recognise the secession of Kosovo and considers it a UN-governed entity within its sovereign territory, a position supported by a number of other countries.
Despite the massive developmental aid introduced in the region during the last seven years Kosovo remains the poorest area in the region. Unemployment is increasing, direct foreign investment arrives but with hesitation, growth is measured between 0 and -2% during the last three years while 40.000 youngsters reach adulthood per annum, joining the big mass of unoccupied population who watches life going by without anything challenging them.
In case tensions rise again the region might face another era of destabilisation that will overflow into Macedonia and perhaps affect even Bosnia and Herzegovina. Officials of UNMIC structures and the various NGO’s distributed along the area characterise this as the most unlikely development, still none risks excluding it from what the future might hold.
Meanwhile on the Serbs are waiting to see what the future might hold. Milan Ivanovic, the radical leader of the Serbian National Council based in Northern Mitrovica, stated that in case a declaration of independence is announced by Pristine the Serbs in Northern Kosovo will secede and opt to join Serbia proper. Even if the General Secretary of NATO Jaap De Hoop Scheffer during his last visit to Pristine on the 30th of November has warned that KFOR’s 16.000 soldiers will not tolerate any turmoil in the region such a development is regarded very risky for the wider region.