Forging a Nation

Diplomats from Kosovo Visit Columbia Law School's Mediation Clinic To Describe the Making of Europe's Youngest Country
New York, March 30, 2015—Columbia Law School’s Mediation Clinic was host to some extraordinary guests March 12 as several diplomats from the Republic of Kosovo, the newest and demographically youngest nation in Europe, talked about the staggering challenge of building a new nation-state after years of oppression and ethnic cleansing. 
Professor Alexandra Carter ’03,  director of the Edson Queiroz Foundation Mediation Program and the Law School’s clinical curriculum, introduced the delegation, which consisted of Ahmet Shala, Kosovo’s former ambassador to Japan and previously minister of economy and finance; Vlora Çitaku, minister for European integration and former acting minister of foreign affairs; and Lendita Haxhitasim, a counselor with the Kosovar consulate.
The officials gave Columbia Law School students a lightning tour of Kosovar history, from the arrival of Slavic peoples in the seventh century C.E. and centuries of domination under the Ottoman Empire to the region’s unwilling incorporation into Yugoslavia after World War II. They explained the complex ethnic divisions in Kosovo between largely Muslim ethnic Albanians and mostly Christian ethnic Serbs, and how Yugoslavian politician Slobodan Milošević exploited tensions to impose what they called “a virtual state of apartheid” on Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian community in 1989.
After several years of non-violent resistance, the guerilla Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) began a period of armed conflict with Yugoslavian security forces, with allegations of war crimes on both sides. As violence worsened, NATO intervened and Kosovo was placed under transitional United Nations administration in 1999. Kosovars struggled for independence for nearly another decade, balancing the challenges of developing legitimate domestic institutions, fulfilling international legal standards, and navigating global power politics. The Republic of Kosovo at last achieved independence in February 2008.
The group also discussed their various roles in negotiating the formation of the republic’s government, taking questions from students throughout the conversation.
“As we say in the Balkans, you never can talk about anything without going back to history,” Shala said.