Kosovo pushes through as world's newest state

Other News Materials 17 February 2008 17:27 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa )- Kosovo declaration of independence from Serbia will be recognized by leading Western powers, but not by the United Nations as a result of Russia's opposition.

Kosovo, with an area about four times smaller than that of Denmark, has been in the focus of the world's attention over much of the last 10 years, when violence first broke out in the majority Albanians' struggle for a split from Belgrade's rule.

The armed conflict, capped with NATO intervention against Yugoslavia, was followed by a transitional period under UN governance leading to the declaration of independence on Sunday.

Kosovo's sovereignty will remain limited during another transition period under an EU mission with wide powers of intervention.

With Kosovo having the largest birth-rate in Europe but among territories with the smallest per-capita gross domestic product, its leaders will now have to channel their energy from just fighting for independence.

Apart from the diplomatic struggle for full recognition, Kosovo also finally has to turn to creating a sustainable economy from the existing tatters, instead of remaining reliant on international aid.

Kosovo also faces soaring unemployment which - in combination with the surviving clan structures and the omerta code of silence rules - provides fertile recruiting fields for the all-corrupting, powerful organized crime.

One of closely watched tasks of the new, dominantly Islamic state would be its treatment of Serbian monasteries and shrines dating as far back as 14th century.

The Pec Patriarchate and monasteries in Gracanica and Decane have been placed under the UNESCO protection in 2004 as a part of world's cultural heritage.

Kosovo facts:

Size - 10,908 square kilometres (quarter the size of Denmark)

Neighbours - Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania

Population - 2.1 million (estimate)

Major cities - Pristina (capital), Prizren, Pec, Kosovska Mitrovica, Gnjilan, Urosevac, Djakovica

Ethnic groups - Albanians (92 per cent), Serbs (5.3 per cent), Bosniaks, Turks, Roma (2.7 per cent)

Age - 0-14 years 33 per cent, 15-64 61 per cent, 65+ 6 per cent

Birth rate - higher than 2.5 per cent, highest in Europe

Economy - estimated GDP growth 3-4 per cent, per capita GDP estimated at 1,500 dollars; currency euro. Roughly one-fifth of the two 2-billion-euro (3 billion dollars) GDP is generated by foreign aid, 45 per cent of revenues in Kosovo is made up of remittance from diaspora and UN programmes.

Unemployment - 30-50 per cent, by various estimates

Main economic sectors - wood and metal industry

The Kosovo peacekeeping force, led by NATO: 15,000 troops, down from more than 50,000 in 1999.