• Official name: Republika e Kosova, Republika Kosovo (Republic of Kosovo)
• Location: South-Eastern Europe
• International organisations: None
• Borders: Albania, Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro
• Coastline: None
• Land area: 10,887 Km2
• Population: 1,900,000 (estimate)
• Annual GDP (PPP) per capita: US$2,500 (2007 CIA estimate). World ranking: 141
• Ethnicity: Albanian 88%, Serb 7%, other 5%
• Languages: Albanian and Serbian are the official languages. Albanian is spoken by over 90% of the population. Turkish, Bosnian and Roma have the status of "official languages at the municipal level."
• Religion: Nearly all the Abianians are at least nominal Sunni Moslems. The Serbs are Orthodox Christians.
• Form of government: Parliamentary democratic republic. Kosovo is divided into seven districts.
• Capital: Pristina
• Constitution: The Kosovo Constitution of Kosovo came into effect on 15 June 2008.
• Head of state: The President, chosen by the legislature for a five-year term. The President's duties are largely ceremonial. Following the resignation of President Fatmir Sejdiu, Atifete Jahjaga became President on 7 April 2011.
• Head of government: The Prime Minister, appointed by the President. The Prime Minister is the leader of the largest party in the legislature and is accountable to it.
• Legislature: Kosovo has a unicameral legislature, the The Assembly of the Republic of Kosovo (Kuvendi i Kosoves, Skupstina Kosova). The Assembly has 120 members, elected for four-year terms by proportional representation. Ten seats are reserved for the Serbian minority and ten for other minorities.
• Electoral authority: Prior to independence elections were conducted by the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo. A new body, the Central Election Commission of Kosovo (KQZ), will administer future elections. (The KQZ is the first national election authority to base its online presence on Facebook.)
• Freedom House 2011 rating: Political Rights 5, Civil Liberties 4
• Transparency International Corruption Index: 28% (110 of 178 countries rated)
• Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom 2010 Index: 75.2% (92 of 178 countries rated)
• Heritage Foundation Economic Freedom 2010 Index: no rating

Political history

Until 1912 Kosovo was a vilayet (region) of the Ottoman Empire. Before the Ottoman conquest the area was largely inhabited by Serbs and regarded as part of Serbia. The area has great historical significance for Serbs as it was the site of the Battle of Kosovo Polje in 1389, which led to the Ottoman conquest of Serbia. During the 17th century, however, there was an influx of Albanians into the region, and although the demographic evidence is scanty and contested, it seems that there was an Albanian majority in the area from that time. After the Balkan wars of 1912 Kosovo was ceded to Serbia, which tried to "re-Serbianise" the area, without reversing the demographic facts. During World War II the area was occupied by Italy and then by Germany.

In 1945 Kosovo became an Autonomous Region of the Republic of Serbia within the Federal Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia, which meant in effect that the position of the Albanians as the majority community in Kosovo was officially recognised. When Yugoslavia disintegrated in the 1980s, the Serbian nationalists who seized control in Belgrade tried to re-assert Serbian control over Kosovo. In 1989 Kosovo's autonomous status was revoked, and Slobodan Milolevic's Serbian regime increasingly resorted to repression to enforce Serbian rule. This naturally led to Albanian resistance, and in 1996 open warfare broke out, leading to the Serbian attempt to expel the entire Albanian population (some 2 million people) by force. This led to NATO intervention, including the bombing of Belgrade, and in 1999 Serbia withdrew and allowed a NATO force to occupy Kosovo, which was then placed under UN administration.

The moderate Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova, leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), became president of an elected interim government, but following his death in 2006 more militant nationalists came to the fore. At the 2007 elections, two nationalist parties, the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) and the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) won 44% of the vote and were able to form a government with the support of minor parties. The PDK leader Hashim Thaci became Prime Minister, and Kosovo declared its independence on 17 February 2008. Currently 85 states have recognised Kosovo's independence, including the US, Britain, France and Germany. Serbia, backed by Russia, refuses to accept Kosovo independence, and as a result Kosovo is not a member of the UN or most other international organisations.

Freedom House's 2011 report on Kosovo says: "Kosovo is not an electoral democracy... Kosovo’s December 2010 parliamentary elections were the most problematic of any held in the post-1999 period. Reported irregularities included family voting (in which the male head of a household casts ballots for the entire family); vote buying; a lack of freedom of movement for ethnic minorities; and limitations imposed on women in rural, patriarchal social environments... Corruption is a serious problem, even by regional standards... A May 2010 report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) noted that "organised crime and corruption are widespread and growing"... The 2008 constitution protects freedoms of expression and the press, with exceptions for speech that provokes ethnic hostility... The constitution guarantees religious freedom, and ethnic Albanians, who are predominantly Muslim, enjoy this right in practice. There have been outbreaks of systematic attacks on Orthodox Christian churches and other sites associated with the Serb population... Freedom of assembly has occasionally been restricted for security reasons, and the constitution includes safeguards for public order and national security... Kosovo's constitution calls for an independent judiciary, but courts at all levels are subject to political influence and intimidation."

Updated November 2011