International governments are divided on the issue of recognition of the independence of Kosovo from Serbia, which was declared in 2008. The Government of Serbia does not diplomatically recognise Kosovo as a sovereign state, although the two countries have enjoyed normalised economic relations since 2020 and have agreed not to try to interfere with the other's accession to the European Union.
As of 4 September 2020, 102 out of 193 (52.8%) United Nations member states, 22 out of 27 (81.5%) European Union member states, 27 out of 31 (87.1%) NATO member states, 4 out of 10 (40%) ASEAN member states, and 33 out of 57 (57.9%) Organisation of Islamic Cooperation member states have recognised Kosovo. In total, Kosovo received 114 diplomatic recognitions by UN member states, however conflicts have arisen regarding the exact number of countries recognizing Kosovo.
In 2013, the two sides began to normalise relations in accordance with the Brussels Agreement. In September 2020, Serbia and Kosovo agreed to normalise economic ties. Serbia also agreed to suspend its efforts to encourage other states to either not recognise Kosovo or to revoke recognition for one year, while Kosovo agreed to not apply for new membership of international organisations for the same period. In February 2023, Serbia and Kosovo agreed to a proposed normalisation agreement in European Union mediated dialogue and through further negotiations accepted a roadmap and timescale for its implementation the following month. Under the terms of the agreement, Serbia committed to not oppose the membership of Kosovo in international organisations and recognised Kosovo's national symbols and official documents including passports, diplomas, vehicle registration plates, and customs stamps.
Among the G20 countries, eleven (including all seven G7 countries) have recognised Kosovo as an independent state: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Eight (including all five BRICS countries), however, have not: Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia, and South Africa.
A number of states expressed concern over the unilateral character of Kosovo's declaration, or explicitly announced that they would not recognise an independent Kosovo. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) remains divided on this issue: of its five members with veto power, three (France, the United Kingdom, and the United States) have recognised the declaration of independence, while the People's Republic of China has expressed concern, urging the continuation of the previous negotiation framework. The Russian Federation (which has close ties with Serbia) has rejected the declaration and considers it illegal, and does not recognize Kosovo’s independence.
In May 2008, Russia, China, and India released a joint statement calling for new negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina.
Although EU member states individually decide whether to recognise Kosovo, by consensus the EU has commissioned the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) to ensure peace and continued external oversight. Due to the dispute in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), the reconfiguration of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and partial handover to the EULEX mission met with difficulties. In spite of Russian and Serbian protests, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon proceeded with the reconfiguration plan. On 15 July 2008, he stated: "In the light of the fact that the Security Council is unable to provide guidance, I have instructed my Special Representative to move forward with the reconfiguration of UNMIK ... in order to adapt UNMIK to a changed reality." According to the Secretary-General, the "United Nations has maintained a position of strict neutrality on the question of Kosovo's status".
On 26 November 2008, the UNSC gave the green light to the deployment of the EULEX mission in Kosovo. The EU mission is to assume police, justice, and customs duties from the UN, while operating under the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 (UNSCR 1244) that first placed Kosovo under UN administration in 1999.
A United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution adopted on 8 October 2008 backed the request of Serbia to seek an International Court of Justice advisory opinion on Kosovo's declaration of independence. On 22 July 2010, the ICJ ruled that the declaration of independence of Kosovo did not violate international law "because international law contains no prohibition on declarations of independence", and that its authors were not bound by the Constitutional Framework (promulgated by UNMIK) or by UNSCR 1244, that is addressed only to United Nations Member States and organs of the United Nations.
Within the EU, key supporters of Kosovo's statehood include France and Germany. The strongest opponents to Kosovo's statehood within the EU include Spain and Greece. The Spanish non-recognition of Kosovo is linked to the Spanish government's opposition to the Basque and Catalan independence movements, while the Greek non-recognition of Kosovo is linked to the Cyprus dispute and Greece's historic relationship to Serbia.
Due to Serbian claims that Kosovo is part of its sovereign territory, its initial reactions included recalling ambassadors from countries that recognised Kosovo for several months, indicting Kosovar leaders on charges of high treason, and litigating the case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Serbia also expelled ambassadors from countries that recognised Kosovo after the UNGA vote adopting Serbia's initiative to seek an ICJ advisory opinion.
In December 2012, as a result of European Union mediated negotiations on Kosovo's status, Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dačić agreed to appoint a liaison officer to Kosovo. In March 2013, Dačić said that while his government would never recognise Kosovo's independence, "the Serbian president cannot go to Kosovo, nor the prime minister, nor ministers, nor the police or army. Serbs can only leave Kosovo. That's how much Kosovo is ours and what our constitution and laws mean there".
In April 2013, Kosovo and Serbia reached an agreement to normalise relations, and thereby allow both nations to eventually join the European Union. On 17 June 2013 Kosovo and Serbia exchanged liaison officers.
However, the process of normalisation stalled in November 2018, after which Kosovo imposed a 100 percent tax on importing Serbian goods. On 1 April 2020, Kosovo withdrew the tax.
In September 2020, under an agreement brokered by the United States, Serbia and Kosovo agreed to normalise economic ties. Serbia also agreed to suspend its efforts to encourage other states to either not recognise Kosovo or to revoke recognition for one year, while Kosovo agreed to not apply for new membership of international organisations for the same period.
In February 2023, Serbia and Kosovo agreed to a proposed normalisation agreement in European Union mediated dialogue and through further negotiations accepted a roadmap and timescale for its implementation the following month. Under the terms of the agreement, Serbia committed to not oppose the membership of Kosovo in international organisations and recognised Kosovo's national symbols and official documents including passports, diplomas, vehicle registration plates, and customs stamps.
On 27 March 2008, Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremić said Serbia would request the International Court of Justice to review the legality of Kosovo's declaration of independence. On 8 October 2008, the UN General Assembly adopted Serbia's resolution, with 77 votes in favor, 6 votes against and 74 abstentions. The court delivered its opinion on 22 July 2010; by a vote of 10 to 4, it declared that "the adoption of the declaration of independence of 17 February 2008 did not violate general international law because international law contains no 'prohibition on declarations of independence', nor did the adoption of the declaration of independence violate UN Security Council Resolution 1244, since this did not describe Kosovo's final status, nor had the Security Council reserved for itself the decision on final status.
According to a 2020 study, states which have stronger ties to the United States are more likely to recognise Kosovo, whereas states with stronger ties to Russia are less likely to recognise Kosovo.
Twelve countries have recognised Kosovo at some point but later withdrew their recognition. These are:
The Serbian Foreign Ministry claimed in March 2020 that a total of 18 countries had withdrawn their recognition: aside from the 12 listed above, Serbia also mentioned: Grenada, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Palau, São Tomé and Príncipe, and Suriname. In some of those cases, Kosovo's foreign ministry has called it "fake news" and "Serbian propaganda".
Several of these withdrawals have been disputed by Kosovo, whose foreign ministry continues to list the following as countries that recognise the independence of Kosovo:
On 4 January 2023, Serbian president Aleksandar Vučić claimed that nine new countries had withdrawn recognition: Antigua and Barbuda, Burkina Faso, Eswatini, Gabon, Guinea, Libya, Maldives, Saint Lucia, and Somalia. Kosovo's foreign ministry said they had no notification of any recognition withdrawals claimed by Vučić. Following the claims, Kosovo diplomats met with diplomats from Eswatini, Gabon, Libya, the Maldives, Somalia and Antigua and Barbuda and stated that those countries had not derecognised Kosovo, refuting Vučić's claims. A spokesperson for the president of the Maldives also refuted Serbian claims that the Maldives had de-recognised Kosovo, labeling Serbia's claims as "false".
Diplomatic recognition is an explicit, official, unilateral act in the foreign policy of states in regards to another party. Not having issued such a statement does not necessarily mean the state has objections to the existence, independence, sovereignty or government of the other party. Some states, by custom or policy, do not extend formal recognitions, on the grounds that a vote for membership in the UN or another organisation whose membership is limited to states is itself an act of recognition.
Intergovernmental organisations do not themselves diplomatically recognise any state; their member states do so individually. However, depending on the intergovernmental organisation's rules of internal governance and the positions of their member states, they may express positive or negative opinions as to declarations of independence, or choose to offer or withhold membership to a partially recognised state.
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