Nine years ago, Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia. So far, 111 countries have recognised its statehood. Here are nine things to know about its chances:
1. Kosovo gained its independence in 2008: Ethnic Albanians in Kosovo feared Serbian repression during the rule of late Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic.
NATO intervened in Kosovo in 1999, after evidence emerged of the Serbian Army sponsoring the mass killing of ethnic Albanians, as it had done against Bosnia's Muslims.
NATO launched a 60-day campaign aimed at forcing the Serbian army out of Kosovo, while enabling NATO forces to occupy and administer the province.
After driving Milosevic’s forces out of the former Serbian province, NATO sent in peacekeepers.
2. A new nation bids for statehood: For eight years now, Kosovo has existed as an internationally administered territory where local institutions have been put in place and Serbian authorities have had no say.
Kosovo declared its independence on February 17, 2008. The United States, and most European countries immediately recognised Kosovo’s statehood.
3. But others fear secessionism: Kosovo’s secession from Serbia constituted a danger for Europe. World powers were concerned that it could encourage other nations to follow suit and to reshape borders in the continent.
Besides, “it [Kosovo’s independence] puts the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany in the position of challenging what Russia has defined as a fundamental national interest – and this at a time when the Russians have been seeking to assert their power and authority,” geopolitical analyst George Friedman said.
4. Recognition is hard won: In July 2010, The International Court of Justice, the principal judicial organ of the UN, published an advisory saying that Kosovo’s declaration of independence did not violate international law.
But it didn’t endorse Kosovo’s claim to statehood outright.
Kosovo has been granted full membership in the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Membership in the Organisation “is open to all peace-loving States that accept the obligations contained in the United Nations Charter and, in the judgement of the Organisation, are able to carry out these obligations,” says the UN.
In 2013, Serbia and Kosovo signed an agreement in Brussels aiming to normalise relations. The process slowed somewhat, but it’s still is going. The EU is paying close attention to the issue because both country aim to become members of the bloc.
5. But the US is supportive: The US, which led the NATO mission in Kosovo in 1999, has always supported the nation’s independence.
Last week, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said "The US believes that the international community should acknowledge that Kosovo has made great strides since the declaration of independence.”
“Kosovo deserves to take its rightful place in the international community, including the full membership in the UN," she said.
6. The UN can’t create a state: A country does not need to be a UN member to be recognised as a state. “The United Nations is neither a State nor a Government, and therefore does not possess any authority to recognise either a State or a Government,” the UN says.
However, membership in the 193-member UN earns a country international legitimacy.
7. Russia has veto power: And that might affect Kosovo’s chances. Russia has strongly opposed Kosovo's independence, citing the need to uphold the territorial integrity of Serbia, the land of its fellow Eastern Orthodox Slavs.
Russian authorities were concerned about possible independence movements in its sphere of influence, such as Chechnya.
Moscow also wants to be seen as the dominant power in the former Soviet Union, according to Friedman. He says Russia tried to convince countries such as Ukraine that asking the West for help is futile because it is able to block Western power.
Russia is one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. So its rejection could cancel Kosovo’s membership.
8. But Russia’s also uses Kosovo to legitimise its annexation of the Crimea: Russian President Vladimir Putin has used Kosovo’s bid for statehood to legitimise Russia’s annexation of the Crimea from Ukraine.
Western countries say the Kosovo situation is an exceptional case that does not justify any other movements towards independence.
But Putin says Russia’s annexation of Crimea is similar to Kosovo case. He blames the West for double standards.
“Our western partners created the Kosovo precedent with their own hands. In a situation absolutely the same as the one in Crimea they recognized Kosovo’s secession from Serbia legitimate while arguing that no permission from a country’s central authority for a unilateral declaration of independence is necessary,” Putin said in 2014.
In response to Putin’s statement, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Russia’s actions in Ukraine breached basic principles of international law.
"To make it crystal clear, the situation from that time is in no way comparable to what is happening in Ukraine today," Merkel said.
So, will Kosovo win independence? The answer to that might lie in Russian hands.
9. The future is unclear for Kosovo: New states are admitted to UN membership by decision of the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council. That means, Kosovo’s membership needs to be approved by at least nine members in the 15-member council with no veto from the five permanent members.
The Security Council authorised the administration of Kosovo, but it never clearly authorised independence for Kosovo.