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Nov 14, 2007 17:15 EEST
November 14 (SeeNews) - The volatile U.N.-run southern Serbian province of Kosovo on Saturday holds its third general and local elections under U.N. rule to elect leaders for what promises to be the most traumatic period in Kosovo's turbulent history since NATO bombers drove out Serb forces in 1999.
On December 10, a so-called Troika of international mediators is due to present its proposals on Kosovo's future status to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The three, the U.S., Russia and the EU, are faced with Serbia's vehement opposition to Kosovo's independence and the province's ethnic Albanian majority's insistence upon it.
Kosovo is to elect 120 members for its parliament: 100 seats are for the ethnic Albanians, 10 seats are reserved for Kosovo's Serb minority and 10 for other minorities. The councillors of 30 municipalities will also be elected.
It is widely expected that Kosovo’s newly appointed government leaders will unilaterally declare independence if the Troika does not recommend it and then seek its recognition by the U.S. and the EU.
In 1999, NATO bombing forced ex-Yugoslav strongman Slobodan Milosevic to halt a crackdown on separatist ethnic Albanians which Western powers said was leading to the repression of civilians. Since then Kosovo has been run by a U.N. administration and NATO-led peacekeepers, formally it remains part of Serbia.
The ethnic Albanian majority insists on independence, while Serbia says it will not give more than broad autonomy.
The two camps have been rigid in their future status positions since early 2006, when the U.N. started the official talks between Serbian and Kosovo officials on the status settlement.
The elections are seen also as a test of efforts by Kosovo and the international community to bridge the rift between the ethnic Albanians and Kosovo’s Serbs.
However Kosovo’s tiny Serb minority, which makes up some 9% of the population, has reputedly agreed with calls from Belgrade to boycott the general elections.
Following are some key facts about Kosovo:
* 1912 - Serbia regains control of Kosovo from the Ottoman Empire and until World War II Kosovo is part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.
* 1945 - The province of Kosovo becomes part of the Socialist Yugoslav federation.
* 1974 - The Yugoslav constitution recognises the autonomous status of Kosovo, giving the province de facto self-government.
* 1989 - Former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic strips Kosovo of its autonomy. Under the leadership of Ibrahim Rugova, who became president of the province later, Kosovo's ethnic Albanians opt for peaceful resistance to Serbian rule under Milosevic and start running a parallel state.
* 1990 - Belgrade dissolves the Kosovo government. The sacking of more than 100,000 ethnic Albanian workers, including government and media employees, prompts a general strike.
* 1998 - After years of ethnic tension, Serb police clash with separatist ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) guerrillas. Tens of thousands of civilians flee their homes.
* March, 1999 - Belgrade rejects an internationally brokered peace deal signed by the Kosovo Albanians. NATO launches air strikes to drive Serb forces out of the province.
* June, 1999 - After 78 days of NATO air raids Milosevic agrees to withdraw Serb forces from Kosovo. The United Nations take over the administration of the province and sets up a Kosovo Peace Implementation Force (KFOR) and NATO troops arrive. The UCK agrees to disarm.
* June 10, 1999 - The U.N. Security Council adopts Resolution 1244, authorising the Secretary General to establish an interim civilian administration in Kosovo led by the U.N. The U.N. Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) is born.
* February, 2002 - Ibrahim Rugova is elected Kosovo president by the region's parliament after ethnic Albanian parties clinch a power-sharing deal.
* March, 2004 - Nineteen people are killed in Kosovo in the worst clashes between Serbs and ethnic Albanians since 1999. The violence starts in the ethnically divided town of Kosovska Mitrovica.
* October 23, 2004 - Kosovo holds its second general election since the U.N. took over the region's administration. The pro-independence Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) of President Rugova wins the elections with 45.42% of the vote. Later, LDK forms a government coalition with the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) led by former rebel leader Ramush Haradinaj, who becomes Prime Minister.
* March 8, 2005 - Kosovo's Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj resigns after being indicted by the war crimes tribunal in The Hague. Bajram Kosumi, a deputy head of Haradinaj's party, replaces him as head of Kosovo's government.
* October 25, 2005- The U.N. gives the go-ahead for Kosovo status talks.
* November 1, 2005 - U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan appoints former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari to lead the status talks.
* January 21, 2006- Kosovo President Rugova dies of lung cancer.
* February 10, 2006 - Moderate academic Fatmir Sejdiu becomes President of Kosovo, succeeding Rugova who was the icon of ethnic Albanian independence ambitions.
* February 20, 2006 - The first round of face-to-face negotiations between Serbian and Kosovo Albanian officials after the 1999 war takes place in Vienna.
* March 1, 2006 - Kosovo's Prime Minister Bajram Kosumi resigns.
* March 10, 2006- Kosovo's Parliament elects former ethnic Albanian rebel commander Agim Ceku as prime minister.
* November 10, 2006 - U.N. envoy Ahtisaari says he will unveil proposals for the province's future status after Serbia holds a snap general election on January 21 on a newly adopted constitution.
* March 26, 2007 – Ahtisaari presents his final Kosovo status package to the U.N. Security Council and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Ahtisaari recommends internationally supervised independence for Kosovo. Under the package Kosovo will have its own flag and anthem reflecting its multiethnic character; will also adopt a constitution and have the right to sign international agreements, including seeking membership in international organisations.
* April – July, 2007 – The U.N. Security Council discusses the Kosovo question several times without success. The West and the U.S. back Ahtisaari’s status pakage, while Russia, which has a veto power in the Security Council, opposes it.
* July 20, 2007 – The West and the U.S. decide not to call a U.N. Security Council vote on Kosovo’s status, in an effort to avoid Russia’s veto. The leadership in the status settlement is handed to the Contact Group - the six nations represented in UNMIK, where Russia is also a member but does not have a veto right. A proposal of new talks between Serbia and Kosovo for 120 days was made.
* August 9, 2007 – The new talks between Serbia and Kosovo start under the mediation of the Troika, which includes Russia’s envoy on Kosovo Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko, EU envoy Wolfgang Ischinger and U.S. Frank Wisner.
* September 28, 2007 – The first round of talks. Neither side budge from its position. The second round was held on October 12.
* October 22, 2007 – The third round of talks is held. The Troika presents 14 points of potential common ground for discussion. Under the points Serbia “will not govern Kosovo” and "will not re-establish a physical presence".
* November 5, 2007 – Serbia rejects the 14 points on the fourth round.
* November 20, 2007 – New round of talks.
* December 10, 2007 – Deadline of the new 120 day-talks expires. The Troika is to place its report to the U.N. Secretary General.
BONE OF CONTENTION: Kosovo is the site of an epic battle between Serb and invading Ottoman troops in 1389. It is considered hallowed ground by the Serbs and the birthplace of their identity. Kosovo has also become a symbol to Serbia as the beacon of Orthodox Christianity. The seat of the Serbian Orthodox Church as well as some of the most beautiful monasteries, are at Pec (Peja in Albanian) deep in Kosovo. Ethnic Albanians say they are descendants of the ancient Ilyrians, Kosovo's first inhabitants.
ECONOMY: One of the poorest areas of Europe, Kosovo is endeavouring to revive its economy as much of its industry has been ailing for years, plagued by mismanagement and starved of investment before the Yugoslav Army campaigns and the NATO bombing raids.
Albanian entrepreneurship is already well developed, and there has been a boom in construction and trade since 1999 but limited progress in manufacturing and utilities has been achieved.
Kosovo possesses the world's fifth-largest proven coal reserves, estimated at 12 billion metric tonnes and the development of the sector is considered as the key to the revival of the economy. One of the main achievements in the Kosovo economy is the opening of a tender for the construction of a 2.47 billion euro ($3.14 billion) coal-fired power plant, the third in the province. So far Kosovo has earned some 500 million euro from the ongoing privatisation process. These included ferro-nickel plant Ferronikeli, which was sold for 30.5 million euro to Zurich-based consortium of International Mining Resources (IMR) and Alferon management company. Kosovo has sold some 370 companies so far, out of the planned 500.
AREA AND LOCATION: Kosovo has an area of 10,877 square kilometres. It borders Albania to to the southwest, Macedonia to the southeast and Montenegro to the northwest.
POPULATION: Roughly estimated at some two million people according to the latest World Bank's Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS) conducted in 2000. Eighty-eight percent was defined as ethnic Kosovo Albanians. The ethnic Serbian population accounted for 7.0%, while the remaining 5.0% represented other ethnic groups.
ADMINISTRATIVE CENTRE: Pristina, population over 500,000.
LANGUAGE: There are three official languages in Kosovo: Albanian (shqip), Serbian (srpski) and English.
RELIGION: Islam is the predominant religion. The other main religion is Eastern Orthodoxy, followed by by the Serbian minority.
CURRENCY: Kosovo uses the euro as its official currency.
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