In the heart of the Balkans lies Kosovo – the country with the youngest population in Europe.


  • Governance: Republic
  • Capital: Pristina
  • Population: 1.8 million
  • Religion: Islam, orthodox Christianity
  • Language: Albanian, Serbian
  • Location: Balkans, Europe
  • Democracy index: Partly free, 52/100

In Kosovo, 53 per cent of the population is under the age of 25. The country is nevertheless filled with ancient archaeological treasures such as parks, towers and other religious landmarks that serve as witnesses to ancient Roman culture. Despite the fact that the official capital is Pristina, the cultural capital is in many ways, Prizren. Here, the population consists of Albanians, Turks, Romas, Ashkali, Bosnians, Croats and Serbs.  

Kosovo was long the centrepiece of the Serbian empire that existed in the Middle Ages. However, from the 16th century, Kosovo became part of the Ottoman, until the beginning of the 20th century. When the Ottoman Empire dissolved, much of the Ottoman culture, language and people stayed behind in Kosovo. This has made it challenging for Kosovo to preserve and develop its own culture.  

Kosovo today

Despite the fact that many countries recognize Kosovo’s independence from Serbia, there are a number of countries that do not. This has led to the prevention of Kosovo in becoming a member of the UN. The country also has several challenges related to human rights. Lack of freedom of expression, violence and persecution against ethnic minorities and LGBTI-persons – as well as the lack of legal independence and corruption – are some of Kosovo’s biggest challenges. 

Another common problem is that ethnic minorities are struggling to receive identification papers. As a result, many of Kosovo’s citizens do not have access to health care, social assistance or schooling. They are being excluded from society. The hatred of ethnic and religious minorities escalated during 2017, especially north in the country. Kosovan police recorded ever more cases of inter-ethnic violence and eradication. Integration of minority groups has, in other words, proved difficult. In 2016, however, the government adopted a strategy aimed at improving the registration and integration of minorities. Hopefully this will help minorities to get jobs, and provide access to housing, schooling and healthcare.  


The Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC) has been working closely with Kosovo since the 90’s. The engagement has involved, support for local organisations, media and individuals who have fought for citizens’ rights. The NHC has also monitored elections and organised regular visits to the country. In addition, the committee has delivered report, posts and chronicles to both international and Norwegian media about the situation in the country.  


After the Ottoman Empire fell, Kosovo became part of Serbia – and later Yugoslavia. Until 1989, Kosovo served as an independent province associated with Serbia. Serbia abolished the independence of Kosovo in violation of the Yugoslav Constitution. Thereafter, a repressive regime was established in Kosovo.  

Kosovo was now directly ruled from Belgrade in Serbia, and Kosovo-Albanians were excluded from public service. This was not well received. The peaceful opposition of the Kosovo-Albanians – combined with increasing Serbian oppression – culminated in armed conflict in 1998. The fighting was terminated the following year, through NATO intervention. In 1999, an international administration was established in Kosovo, with help from the UN. Kosovo declared itself an independent state on February 17th, 2008.  


  • 1912: The Balkan Wars: Serbia wins control over Kosovo 
  • 1918: Kosovo becomes part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later Yugoslavia) 
  • 1945: Kosovo becomes part of the Yugoslav federation 
  • 1974: Yugoslavian constitution recognizes Kosovo’s autonomous status, giving the province de facto autonomy 
  • 1981: The Yugoslav army suppresses separatist insurgency in the province 
  • 1989: Yugoslav president, Slobodan Milosevic, continues to limit the rights of autonomy laid down in the 1974 constitution 
  • 1990: Albanian leaders declare independence from Serbia 
  • 1992: Ibrahim Rugova is elected as president of the self-appointed republic 
  • 1993-97: Ethnic excitement and armed urge escalate 
  • 1998: Open conflict between the Serbian police and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) 
  • 1999: Air attacks from NATO. President Milosevic agrees on withdrawing troops from Kosovo.  
  • 2008: Declaration of Independence