Kosovo's achievements after Independence

Marigona Dragusha-
Miss Universe 2009 (2nd runner-up)

Birth name Marigona Dragusha
Birth date 23 September 1990 (1990-09-23) (age 20)
Birth place Pristina, Kosovo[1]
Height 1.73 m (5 ft 8 in)
Eye color Brown
Hair color Dark Brown/Black
Title(s) Miss Universe Kosovo 2009
Major competition(s) Miss Universe 2009
(2nd runner-up)

 Marigona "Gona" Dragusha (born 23 September 1990) is an Albanian pageant titleholder from Kosovo who placed as the 2nd runner-up at the Miss Universe 2009 pageant, only behind the eventual winner, Venezuela's Stefanía Fernández, and the 1st runner-up Ada de la Cruz from the Dominican Republic.

Dragusha won her national title, Miss Universe Kosovo, on April 4, 2009. Besides her native Albanian language, Marigona speaks Spanish, in which she announced on air before the Miss Universe pageant: she learned the language entirely from watching Spanish-speaking "novelas" (soap operas).Before Marigona, Zana Krasniqi, Miss Universe Kosovo 2007, who was included to the top ten finalist last year. She got 6th place in last year Miss Universe pageant. A lot of people said that she will make to the top 10 like what Zana did last year.

Majlinda Kelmendi  represent  Kosovo -winner of gold medal

Region: Peja, Kosovo
Born: 1991
Discipline: Judo
Career highlights: Gold medal, 2009 World Junior Championships, Paris

Majlinda Kelmendi's dream of winning gold at London 2012 depends on the IOC formally recognising Kosovo as an independent nation.

The first thing that strikes you is her modesty.                                   Unimposing and mild-mannered, Majlinda Kelmendi shows none of the bravado that might be expected from a junior world champion athlete. But at 19, this young Kosovan judoka - or judo player - carries the sporting dream of her nation. After winning gold at the junior world judo championship in Paris last year, she has her sights set on representing Kosovo at the London Olympics in 2012. But international politics is standing in the way. Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in February 2008, an act rejected by Belgrade and not sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council because of opposition from Russia and China. Its autonomy has been recognised by 69 countries to date, not enough to gain membership of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). If Kosovo fails to be affiliated to the body by 2012, Kelmendi will have to explore other options, like competing as an independent athlete for the IOC, which has happened in past games. As she takes a break from her intensive training session, Kelmendi tells me how she would feel if she succeeds in becoming the first Olympic athlete to represent the Republic of Kosovo.            "I would be the happiest person in the world", she says. "We are a new state so it would be a perfect chance to show the world that in Kosovo are a lot of young people who really can do good things. "We talk in the modern, brightly lit judo hall in her hometown of Peja - or Pec as it is called in Serbian - nestled beneath the mountains of western Kosovo. The facility was built by Driton Kuka, Kelmendi's coach, who says he spotted her potential early on.

"From the beginning I saw in Majlinda something that the others didn't have," he explains. "She's ambitious, very brave and a real fighter."The walls of the sports hall are adorned with framed photographs of Kelmendi's sporting success, which, Driton believes, inspires other athletes."For all judo players, Majlinda is some kind of hero", he reflects. "In her they can see somebody that is really special for them. "Sport has given new opportunities to this small Kosovan community, as it tries to move on from the devastating war of the 1990s. The conflict was the culmination of years of tension in the province, in the southern part of Serbia and populated by an ethnic Albanian majority and Serb minority. As separatist insurgency grew in Kosovo, Belgrade sent in its troops.

Click to play

Besim Hasani, Chairman of the Kosovan Olympic Committee.

With hundreds of thousands fleeing the province and reports of mass ethnic cleansing, Nato called it a humanitarian catastrophe and, in March 1999, began a 78-day bombing campaign of Serbia and Montenegro, then called Yugoslavia.After the ceasefire, Kosovo was placed under UN administration. Nine years later, the province declared independence.Today, calm has largely returned to this rural territory but the diplomatic wranglings continue. In his cramped office in the capital, Pristina, the chairman of the Kosovo Olympic Committee, Besim Hasani, tries to forge contacts with the IOC to lobby for Kosovo's cause.Behind him, the Kosovo Olympic Committee sign rests against the wall, as if waiting in hope to be proudly nailed up one day."My dream is to see Kosovo at the Olympic Games", he tells me. "And after that, if I die, it's okay for me."I ask whether any Kosovan athletes might still compete for Serbia if Kosovo's attempts at membership of the IOC are unsuccessful. He pauses, staring straight ahead: "Never. Never."It may be over a decade since the war ended but the wounds remain raw here and the two communities - Albanian and Serb - are still deeply segregated.Down the road, various other young sporting hopefuls are training in the local municipal centre, its ageing concrete rooms brought alive by the echo of table-tennis balls and rows of punch-bags.A group of young boxers crowd around one towering figure, Aziz Sallihu, the only Kosovo-born Olympian, who brought home a boxing bronze for the then Yugoslavia in 1984.

"The world must do something for these athletes," he tells me as his young proteges practise their moves."They might train for years and then not get to compete at the Olympics and it's not their fault. If they can't take part in international competitions, we might lose this generation of sportsmen."After training and afternoon school, Kelmendi helps her mother to prepare the energy-filled evening meal at home, a short walk from the judo hall. The house is filled with her medals and trophies as well as family albums stuffed with local press clippings about her sporting success."I'm sure that if I did not train judo I would be nobody, especially in Kosovo," says Kelmendi, her modesty never fading. "I just want to make my coach and my family proud of me."She is certainly the pride of Kosovo. But this determined athlete will not stop at that.She will keep fighting until she walks into the stadium in London clutching what she hopes is a Kosovo flag. World Class-Majlinda Kelmendi is one of the athletes being tracked for World Class 2012 in partnership with the British Council.

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                  About  KOSOVO


   Flag of Kosovo

Official Name: Republic of Kosovo

Area: 10,887 square kilometers (4,203 square miles), slightly smaller than Connecticut.
Capital: Pristina.
Terrain: Varied.
Climate: Temperate.

Nationality: Adjective--Kosovo national.
Population (July 2010 est.): 1.8 million.
Ethnic groups: 88% ethnic Albanians, 7% ethnic Serbs, 5% other (Bosniak, Gorani, Roma, Ashkali, Egyptian, Turk).
Religion: The majority ethnic Albanian population, as well as the Bosniak, Gorani, and Turkish communities, and some of the Roma/Ashkalia/Egyptian communities are adherents of Islam. The ethnic Serb population is largely Serb Orthodox. Approximately 3% of ethnic Albanians are Roman Catholic.
Languages: Albanian (official), Serbian (official), Bosnian and Turkish (official only in municipalities of Prizren, Pec, Dragas, Pristina, and Gnjilane where significant numbers of these minorities reside).
Education: Adult literacy rates (2007 est.): 91.9% (men 96.6%, women 87.5%). Enrollment (2003 est.)--96% of children ages 7-15 enrolled in primary school.
Health: Infant mortality rate--23.7/1,000. Total fertility rate, births per woman (2003 est.)--2.9. Life expectancy (2003 est.)--75 years.

Type: Republic.
Constitution: The Kosovo Assembly approved the constitution on April 9, 2008. It came into force on June 15, 2008.
Branches: Executive--president (head of state); prime minister (head of government). Legislative--unicameral Assembly (120 seats, 4-year terms; 100 seats generally elected, 10 seats reserved for ethnic Serbs, 10 seats reserved for other ethnic minorities). Judicial--Supreme Court.
Subdivisions: 38 municipalities.
Political parties: Albanian Christian Democratic Party of Kosovo (PShDK) [Marjan DEMAJ]; Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) [Ramush HARADINAJ]; Alliance of Independent Social Democrats of Kosovo and Metohija (SDSKIM) [Ljubisa ZIVIC]; Bosniak Vakat Coalition (DSV) [Sadik IDRIZI]; Citizens' Initiative of Gora (GIG) [Murselj HALJILJI]; Democratic League of Dardania (LDD) [Nexhat DACI]; Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) [Fatmir SEJDIU]; Democratic Party of Ashkali of Kosovo (PDAK) [Sabit RAHMANI]; Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) [Hashim THACI]; Kosovo Democratic Turkish Party (KDTP) [Mahir YAGCILAR]; New Democratic Initiative of Kosovo (IRDK) [Xhevdet NEZIRAJ]; New Democratic Party (ND) [Branislav GRBIC]; New Kosovo Alliance (AKR) [Behgjet PACOLLI]; Socialist Party of Kosovo (PSK) [Ilaz KADOLLI] ; Serb National Party (SNS) [Mihailo SCEPANOVIC]; Serbian Kosovo and Metohija Party (SKMS) [Dragisa MIRIC]; United Roma Party of Kosovo (PREBK) [Haxhi Zylfi MERXHA]; Democratic Action Party (SDA) [Numan BALIC]; Independent Liberal Party (SLS) [Slobodan PETROVIC]; Serbian National Council of Northern Kosovo and Metohija (SNV) [Milan IVANOVIC]; Democratic Party of Bosniaks [Dzezair MURATI]; Serbian Democratic Party of Kosovo and Metohija (SDS KiM) [Slavisa PETKOVIC]; Social Democratic Party of Kosovo (PSDK) [Agim CEKU].
Suffrage: Universal at age 18.
Elections: Last parliamentary elections were held in November 2007; municipal-level elections were held in November 2009 and June 2010. Next parliamentary election expected to be held in 2011.

GDP (International Monetary Fund (IMF), 2010 estimate): $5.4 billion.
GDP (Kosovo Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF), 2010 estimate): $7.5 billion.
Per capita GDP (IMF, 2010 estimate): $2,750.
Per capita GDP (Kosovo MEF, 2010 estimate): $3,750.
GDP growth rate (IMF, 2010 projection): 3.5%.
GDP growth rate (Kosovo MEF, 2010 projection): 4.8%.
CPI inflation rate (Kosovo MEF, 2010): 1%.
Investment (2010): 35% of GDP.
GDP composition by sector (2009 est.): Agriculture 13%, industry 22%, services 65%.
Agriculture: Products--fruits and vegetables (potatoes, berries), wheat, corn, wine, beef.
Industry: Mineral mining, energy, telecommunications, forestry, agriculture, metal processing, construction materials, base metals, leather, machinery, appliances.
Income and employment (2010): 45% of the Kosovo labor force is unemployed; 30% of Kosovo's citizens live below the poverty line, and 13% live in extreme poverty.

Kosovo has been inhabited since the Neolithic Era. During the medieval period, Kosovo was the center of the Serbian empire and saw the construction of many important Serb religious sites, including many architecturally significant Serbian Orthodox monasteries. It was the site of a 14th-century battle in which invading Ottoman Turks defeated an army led by Serbian Prince Lazar.

The Ottomans ruled Kosovo for more than four centuries, until Serbia reacquired the territory during the First Balkan War in 1912-13. First partitioned in 1913 between Serbia and Montenegro, Kosovo was then incorporated into the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (later named Yugoslavia) after World War I. During World War II, parts of Kosovo were absorbed into Italian-occupied Albania. After the Italian capitulation, Nazi Germany assumed control over Kosovo until Tito's Yugoslav Partisans entered at the end of the war.

After World War II, Kosovo became an autonomous province of Serbia in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (S.F.R.Y.). The 1974 Yugoslav Constitution gave Kosovo (along with Vojvodina) the status of a Socialist Autonomous Province within Serbia. As such, it possessed nearly equal rights as the six constituent Socialist Republics of the S.F.R.Y. In 1981, riots broke out and were violently suppressed after Kosovo Albanians demonstrated to demand that Kosovo be granted full Republic status.

The Kosovo Conflict and NATO Intervention
In the late 1980s, Slobodan Milosevic propelled himself to power in Belgrade by exploiting Serbian nationalism and the question of Kosovo. In 1989, he eliminated Kosovo's autonomy and imposed direct rule from Belgrade. Belgrade ordered the firing of most ethnic Albanian state employees, whose jobs were then assumed by Serbs.

In response, Kosovo Albanian leaders began a peaceful resistance movement in the early 1990s, led by Ibrahim Rugova. They established a parallel government funded mainly by the Albanian diaspora. When this movement failed to yield results, an armed resistance emerged in 1997 in the form of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). The KLA's main goal was to secure the independence of Kosovo.

In late 1998, Milosevic unleashed a brutal police and military campaign against the KLA, which included widespread atrocities against civilians. As Milosevic's ethnic cleansing campaign progressed, over 800,000 ethnic Albanians were forced from their homes in Kosovo. Intense international mediation efforts led to the Rambouillet Accords, which called for Kosovo autonomy and the insertion of NATO troops to preserve the peace. Milosevic's failure to agree to the Rambouillet Accords triggered a NATO military campaign to halt the violence in Kosovo. This campaign consisted primarily of aerial bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (F.R.Y.), including Belgrade, and continued from March through June 1999. After 78 days, Milosevic capitulated. Shortly thereafter, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1244 (1999), which suspended Belgrade's governance over Kosovo, established the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), and authorized a NATO peacekeeping force. Resolution 1244 also envisioned a political process designed to determine Kosovo's future status.

As ethnic Albanians returned to their homes, elements of the KLA conducted reprisal killings and abductions of ethnic Serbs, Roma, and, to a limited extent, other minorities in Kosovo. Thousands of ethnic Serbs, Roma, and other minorities fled from their homes during the latter half of 1999, and many remain displaced.

Kosovo Under UN Administration
The UN established the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), under the control of a Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG). In 2001, UNMIK promulgated a constitutional framework that provided for the establishment of Provisional Institutions of Self-Government (PISG).

Under UNMIK's guidance, Kosovo established new institutions (both at the municipal and central levels), held free elections, and established a multi-ethnic Kosovo Police Service (KPS). The KLA was demobilized, with many of its members incorporated into the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC), a civilian emergency services organization. UNMIK gradually turned over more governing competencies to local authorities.

In March 2004, Kosovo experienced its worst inter-ethnic violence since the Kosovo war. The unrest in 2004 was sparked by a series of minor events that soon cascaded into large-scale riots. Kosovo Serb communities and Serbian Orthodox churches were targeted in the violence.

In October 2004, Kosovo held elections for the second 3-year term of the Kosovo Assembly. For the first time, Kosovo's own Central Election Commission administered these elections, under Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) guidance. The main ethnic Albanian political parties were the same as in the 2001 elections, but with the addition of the new party ORA, led by Veton Surroi, and two new Kosovo Serb parties: the Serbian List for Kosovo and Metohija (SLKM) led by Oliver Ivanovic, and the Citizens Initiative of Serbia led by Slavisa Petkovic. In contrast to the previous Kosovo Government, this election produced a "narrow" coalition of two parties, the LDK and AAK. The December 3, 2004 inaugural session of the Kosovo Assembly re-elected Ibrahim Rugova as President and Ramush Haradinaj as Prime Minister.

In March 2005, Haradinaj resigned as Prime Minister after he was indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY); Haradinaj voluntarily surrendered to authorities and traveled to The Hague to face charges. (Haradinaj was acquitted of all charges on April 3, 2008. In October 2009, ICTY's Office of the Prosecutor sought to appeal the acquittal; on July 21, 2010, the ICTY ordered a partial re-trial.) The Kosovo Assembly subsequently elected Bajram Kosumi (AAK) as Prime Minister; Kosumi's resignation in March 2006 led to his replacement by Agim Ceku. After President Rugova's death in January 2006, he was succeeded by Fatmir Sejdiu.

Kosovo's Status Process
After six years of international administration, Kosovo Albanian authorities continued to press the international community to begin a process to define Kosovo's future status.

In 2005, a UN envoy, Norwegian diplomat Kai Eide, was appointed to review progress in Kosovo. Eide reported that there was no advantage to be gained by further delaying a future status process.

In November 2005, the Contact Group (France, Germany, Italy, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) produced a set of "Guiding Principles" for the resolution of Kosovo's future status. Some key principles included: no return to the situation prior to 1999, no changes in Kosovo's borders, and no partition or union of Kosovo with a neighboring state. The Contact Group later said that Kosovo's future status had to be acceptable to the people of Kosovo.

The Ahtisaari Process
In November 2005, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan appointed Martti Ahtisaari, former president of Finland, to lead a future status process. Special Envoy Ahtisaari's diplomatic efforts addressed a broad range of issues important to Kosovo's future, including decentralizing local government, protecting cultural and religious heritage in Kosovo, economic issues, and safeguarding the rights of minorities. Over the course of 2006 and early 2007, Ahtisaari brought together officials from Belgrade and Pristina to discuss these practical issues and the question of status itself.

Ahtisaari subsequently developed a comprehensive proposal for Kosovo's future status, which set forth a series of recommendations on Kosovo's democratic governance and substantial protections for minorities. Ahtisaari also recommended that Kosovo become independent, subject to a period of international supervision. He proposed that a new International Civilian Office (ICO) be established to supervise Kosovo's implementation of its obligations under the Ahtisaari Plan. A European Union (EU)-led rule of law mission (subsequently named EULEX) would also be deployed to focus on the police and justice sector, while a NATO-led stabilization force would continue to provide for a safe and secure environment. Pristina accepted the Ahtisaari recommendations, but Belgrade rejected them.

On April 3, 2007, Ahtisaari presented his plan to the UN Security Council. Due to Russian opposition, the Security Council could not reach agreement on a new Security Council resolution that would pave the way for the implementation of the Ahtisaari recommendations.

After several months of inconclusive discussions in the Security Council, the Contact Group agreed to support a new period of intensive engagement to try to find an agreement between Belgrade and Pristina on Kosovo's status. A "Troika" of representatives from the European Union, the Russian Federation, and the United States began this effort in August 2007. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon asked them to report on their efforts no later than December 10, 2007. The German ambassador to the United Kingdom, Wolfgang Ischinger, represented the EU; Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko represented the Russian Federation; and Ambassador Frank Wisner represented the United States.

After an intense series of Troika-led negotiations, including a high-level conference in Baden, Austria, the Troika's mandate ended in December 2007 without an agreement between the parties. In its final report, the Troika explained that it had explored with the parties every realistic option for an agreement, but that it was not possible to find a mutually acceptable outcome.

Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008. In its declaration of independence, Kosovo committed to fulfilling its obligations under the Ahtisaari Plan, to embrace multi-ethnicity as a fundamental principle of good governance, and to welcome a period of international supervision.

The United States formally recognized Kosovo as a sovereign and independent state on February 18, 2008. As of July 2010, 69 countries had recognized Kosovo’s independence, including 22 of 27 EU member states, all of its neighbors (except Serbia), and other states from the Americas, Africa, and Asia.

Shortly after independence, a number of states established an International Steering Group (ISG) for Kosovo that appointed Dutch diplomat Pieter Feith as Kosovo's first International Civilian Representative (ICR). Feith is also the European Union Special Representative (EUSR) in Kosovo.

As part of its commitment to the Ahtisaari Plan, the Kosovo Government rapidly enacted after independence laws on minority protection, decentralization, special protection zones for Serb cultural and religious sites, local self-government, and municipal boundaries.

The Kosovo Assembly approved a constitution in April 2008, which entered into force on June 15, 2008. ICR Feith certified that the constitution was in accordance with the Ahtisaari Plan. At the time of certification, ICR Feith also congratulated Kosovo on a modern constitution that "provides comprehensive rights for members of communities as well as effective guarantees for the protection of the national, linguistic and religious identity of all communities." More information on the role of the ICO in Kosovo can be found at: http://www.ico-kos.org/.

Post Independence

In 2008, the North Atlantic Council authorized NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR) to initiate Ahtisaari-recommended tasks to supervise the dissolution of the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC) and to supervise and support the stand-up of a multi-ethnic, civilian-controlled Kosovo Security Force (KSF). KFOR coordinates with EULEX and the Kosovo Police as third responder to security events as well as with other international institutions to support the development of a stable, unitary, democratic, multi-ethnic, and secure Kosovo. U.S. KFOR’s area of responsibility encompasses a number of significant Kosovo Serb enclaves in eastern Kosovo. It has made a concerted effort to build confidence in local communities, supporting local infrastructure improvements such as building a new community center and reaching out to local leaders in person and on Serb radio and TV.

The KPC was deactivated on January 20, 2009, and officially dissolved on June 14, 2009. The KSF was activated on January 21, 2009, with Lt. General Sylejman Selimi as the commander and the selection of 1,400 KPC members to join the KSF. KFOR has now begun the process of organizing, training, and equipping the new force, as well as recruiting multi-ethnic personnel to join the KSF. The KSF and its ministry reached initial operating capability in September 2009.

On December 9, 2008, the EU rule of law mission, EULEX, reached initial operating capability by deploying more than 1,000 police, judges, prosecutors, and customs officers throughout Kosovo. As EULEX ramped up, UNMIK ended its police role in Kosovo and scaled back its presence drastically, as directed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. EULEX reached full operational capability in April 2009.

In 2009, NATO decided to begin downsizing KFOR, following a conditions-based assessment of an improved security and political situation in Kosovo. KFOR completed the first phase of downsizing in early 2010, which brings troop levels to approximately 10,000. Additional downsizing will be based on NATO’s assessment of political and security conditions on the ground.

In October 2008, Serbia requested an International Court of Justice (ICJ) advisory opinion on the legality of Kosovo’s declaration of independence. Written briefs were presented by 36 countries in April 2009 and by 14 countries in July 2009, with oral statements offered in December 2009. The ICJ will release the advisory opinion on July 22, 2010.

On June 15, 2008, Kosovo's constitution came into force. Under the constitution, the President of Kosovo is the head of state and serves a term of 5 years with the right to one re-election. The Prime Minister is the head of government and is elected by the Kosovo Assembly.

The unicameral Kosovo Assembly consists of 120 seats, 10 of which are reserved for ethnic Serbs, and 10 for other minorities (4 seats for the Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptian communities [RAE], 3 seats for the Bosniak community, 2 seats for the Turkish community, and 1 seat for the Gorani community). Three of the remaining 100 seats are also held by minority members (for a total of 13). All members serve 4-year terms. Jakup Krasniqi (PDK) is President of the Assembly.

The main political parties in Kosovo include the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), formerly led by Ibrahim Rugova and now led by Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu; Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), led by Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci; the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK), led by former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj; the New Kosovo Alliance, led by businessman Behgjet Pacolli; and the Democratic League of Dardania (LDD), led by former Speaker of the Assembly Nexhat Daci. Kosovo under UNMIK administration held its first parliamentary elections in November 2001. After significant political wrangling, politicians agreed to establish a coalition government in March 2002, with Bajram Rexhepi (PDK) as Prime Minister and Ibrahim Rugova (LDK) as President. In the same year, the Kosovo Assembly began to function and pass its first laws. Beginning in 2003, UNMIK began transferring governing competencies to these ministries.

On November 17, 2007, Kosovo held parliamentary and municipal elections. These elections were deemed free and fair by international observers. The PDK won 34.3% of the vote, the LDK won 22.6%, the New Kosovo Alliance (AKR) won 12.3%, the Democratic League of Dardania (LDD) won 10%, and the AAK won 9.6%. Smaller minority parties also made some small gains. These elections led to a coalition between the LDK and the PDK and to the nomination of Hashim Thaci as Prime Minister of Kosovo. Under pressure from Belgrade, most Kosovo Serbs boycotted the vote.

In June 2008, UN Secretary General Ban decided to "reconfigure" UNMIK and reduce the size of the UN presence in Kosovo, effectively ending the UN's role as administrator of Kosovo and welcoming EU deployment of its rule of law mission (EULEX). As Ban stated in his report to the Security Council, "UNMIK will no longer be able to perform effectively the vast majority of its tasks as an international administration." The EU has gradually assumed increasing responsibility in the areas of policing, justice, and customs throughout Kosovo.

The Kosovo judicial system started adapting to the new legal charter on June 15, 2008. Supreme Court judges and prosecutors, district court judges, and municipal courts judges already appointed by the SRSG will continue to serve in their posts until the expiry of their appointment. Following the December 2008 transfer of rule of law functions to the Government of Kosovo, the Kosovo Judicial Council (KJC) has proposed to the President of Kosovo candidates for appointment or reappointment as judges and prosecutors.

Kosovo administered its first elections since independence on November 15, 2009. These local elections were held in 36 municipalities, including one expanded and three new Serb-majority municipalities established under the decentralization process of the Ahtisaari plan. International observers from the EU, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the ICO agreed the elections were conducted largely in accordance with international standards and that the irregularities that took place were insufficient to affect the outcome of the poll. Voter turnout was the highest since 2002, including in majority ethnic-Serb communities south of the River Ibar. However, voter participation in northern Kosovo was extremely low, with Kosovo Serb communities boycotting the elections. For the first time, Kosovo authorities in the Central Election Commission certified the election results, rather than the pre-independence practice whereby UNMIK certified results. In June 2010, the municipality of Partesh held its first mayoral election, which drew more than 65% of eligible Kosovo Serb voters. There is one remaining Serb-majority municipality to be established through the decentralization process--North Mitrovica. The North Mitrovica Municipal Preparation Team is currently working under the supervision of the ICO to prepare the municipality for elections and formal establishment.

Principal Government Officials
President--Fatmir Sejdiu (since February 2006)
Prime Minister--Hashim Thaci (since January 2008)
Foreign Minister--Skender Hyseni
Ambassador to United States--Avni Spahiu
Consul General--Arta Rama

Kosovo's economy has shown significant progress since the conflict of the 1990s; it is, however, still dependent on the international community and the diaspora for financial and technical assistance. Remittances from the diaspora, located mainly in Germany, Switzerland, and the Nordic countries, account for about 13%-15% of GDP and donor-financed activities and aid for another 7.5% of GDP.

Kosovo's citizens are the poorest in Europe, with an average annual per capita income of approximately $2,750. With roughly 45% of the population unemployed, migration and black market activity are key concerns. Most of Kosovo's population lives in rural towns outside of the capital, Pristina. Inefficient, near-subsistence farming is common, the result of small plots, limited mechanization, and lack of technical expertise.

With international assistance, the privatization of Kosovo’s socially-owned enterprises (SOEs) has generated around U.S. $515 million since 2004. According to the Privatization Agency of Kosovo, more than 9,000 local and foreign investors have expressed interest in the privatization process. Kosovo's two largest exporters are privatized companies: Ferronikeli (nickel) and M & Sillosi LLC (flour). Technical assistance to the Kosovo Energy Corporation (KEK) has helped improve procedures for billings and collections, increased revenues, strengthened internal accounting procedures and controls, and rationalized budgeting and investment planning. The installation of bulk meters at the sub-station level is facilitating greater accountability for collection performance at the district level. The U.S. Government is cooperating with the Ministry for Energy and Mines and the World Bank to prepare a commercial tender for a new generation and mining project, to include construction of a new power plant ("New Kosovo", formerly titled "Kosovo C") and the development of a coal mine for the New Kosovo plant and the two existing power plants. Privatization of the distribution and supply divisions of KEK is also planned.

Economic growth is largely driven by the private sector, mostly small-scale retail businesses. The official currency of Kosovo is the Euro, but the Serbian dinar is also used in northern Kosovo and other areas where ethnic Serbs predominate. Kosovo's use of the Euro has helped keep inflation low. Kosovo has so far maintained a budget surplus as a result of efficient value added tax (VAT) collection at the borders and inefficient budget execution. In order to help integrate Kosovo into regional economic structures, UNMIK signed (on behalf of Kosovo) its accession to the Central Europe Free Trade Area (CEFTA) in 2006. However, Serbia and Bosnia have refused to recognize Kosovo’s customs stamp or extend reduced tariff privileges for Kosovo products under CEFTA.

In December 2008, Kosovo was designated as a beneficiary country under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program. Under this program, a wide range of products Kosovo might seek to export are eligible for duty-free entry to the United States. Current Kosovo exports that are eligible for GSP benefits include wood products, charcoal, and dried fruits. Other main exports include mineral products, base metals, leather products, machinery, and appliances. Kosovo’s main export partners are Italy, Albania, Macedonia, and Greece. Imports include live animals and animal products, fruits and vegetables and related products, minerals, base materials, machinery, appliances and electrical equipment, textiles and related products, wood and wood products, stone, ceramic and glass products, and chemical products. The country’s main import partners are the EU, Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey, and Albania. On July 11, 2008, representatives from 37 countries and 16 international organizations met in Brussels for a donors conference, pledging approximately $1.9 billion (including $400 million from the United States), in support of the socio-economic reform priorities Kosovo has expressed through its Medium-Term Expenditure Framework for 2008-11.

On June 29, 2009, Kosovo formally joined the global financial system when President Sejdiu and Prime Minister Thaci signed the articles of agreement for entry into the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). A total of 109 states supported Kosovo’s membership. Since that time Kosovo has begun servicing its share of the former Yugoslavia’s World Bank and IMF debt.

Trade and Industry
Kosovo has been laying the foundations of a market-oriented economy for the past 10 years but is still struggling to develop viable and productive domestic industries. Kosovo has one of the lowest export/import rates in the region. In 2009, Kosovo imported $2.3 billion in goods and services and exported only $238 million, resulting in a trade deficit of approximately 42% of Kosovo's GDP. This deficit is largely financed through foreign assistance and remittances from Kosovo's diaspora. Kosovo's leading industries are mining, energy, and telecommunications.

Agricultural land comprises 53% of Kosovo's total land area and forests 41%. According to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization, 741,316 acres of land are under cultivation and 444,789 acres are upland pasture. The majority of agricultural land is privately owned (80%), providing subsistence farming for individual households. Although Kosovo's agricultural sector is generally characterized by small farms, low productivity, and the absence of advisory services, agriculture contributes around 19% of Kosovo's overall GDP. Agriculture is the largest employment sector in Kosovo, providing jobs for approximately 16.5% of the population, primarily on an informal basis. The agricultural sector also accounts for 16% of total export value and remains an important creator of national wealth, although Kosovo is still an importer of many agricultural products, which accounted for 24.4% of overall imports ($537.5 million) in 2007. Forestry in Kosovo is minimal; wood-processing and wood products (flooring and furniture) are industry contributors, although not yet in significant numbers.

The Government of Kosovo appointed Skender Hyseni as its first foreign minister. In October 2008, Kosovo opened an embassy in Washington, DC. Kosovo has 21 diplomatic missions and 13 consular posts worldwide. In June 2009, Kosovo joined the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

The United States and Kosovo established diplomatic relations on February 18, 2008. Christopher W. Dell arrived in Pristina in August 2009 as the second U.S. Ambassador to Kosovo. President Barack Obama received the letter of credence for Kosovo's first ambassador to the United States, Avni Spahiu, in November 2009.

The United States continues to contribute troops to the Kosovo Force (KFOR) and staff to the ICO and EULEX missions. The United States remains committed to working with the Government of Kosovo and our international partners to strengthen Kosovo’s institutions, rule of law, and economy and build a democratic, law-abiding, multi-ethnic, tolerant, and prosperous country. Kosovo was designated as a beneficiary developing country under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program. Kosovo also receives similar duty-free benefits for exports to EU and CEFTA countries.

From FY 1999 up to and including FY 2009, the United States has allocated approximately $1.4 billion for reconstruction, capacity-building, and humanitarian assistance. This includes assistance funds to meet U.S. commitments to support the UNMIK and OSCE in Kosovo. U.S. assistance in Kosovo continues to help private enterprise grow and to support good governance by strengthening civil society, economic institutions, and political processes, especially targeting minority communities.

Principal Embassy Officials
Ambassador--Christopher W. Dell
Deputy Chief of Mission--Michael Murphy
Chief of Political/Economic Section--John Ginkel
Economic/Commercial Officer--Lane Darnell Bahl
Management Officer--Gertrude Bagley
Public Affairs Officer--Emilia Puma
Defense Attache--Col. John McDevitt
USAID Mission Director--Patricia Rader

Embassy website: http://pristina.usembassy.gov/index.html

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