On 17th February 2008, Kosovo adopted its unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia, two days after Serbia’s own national independence day. To this day, Kosovo’s declaration has been recognised by 112 countries, and today, it celebrates its 10th independence anniversary. Here are ten interesting facts you might not know about one of the youngest European countries!
1- Tony Blair and Bill Clinton are both considered heroes in Kosovo. Pristina, the capital, has both a major road named after and a 3 meter tall statue of President Bill Clinton. Moreover, a number of children are given the names Toni, Bler or Tonibler in honour of Tony Blair, the UK’s Prime Minister at the time, for his support of the 1999 NATO air campaign against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia during the Kosovo War.
2 – The Olympic Games in Rio 2016 were the first to host athletes competing under the flag of Kosovo. The Olympic Committee sent a total of eight athletes, and returned with one gold medal, the first ever of the country, in Judo.
3 – Although it is not an official Eurozone member, Kosovo has unilaterally adopted the euro ever since 2002, well before its declaration of independence. However, Serb -majority communities in the country are still illegally using the Serbian dinar as an unofficial currency.
4 – The national anthem, Europe, has no lyrics. The Albanian-speaking government decided not to risk offending Serbs who live in the country by having lyrics in Albanian.
5 – Ode to Joy, the anthem of the European Union, was played at the official declaration ceremonies of the Republic of Kosovo. The interim government decided to do this as a mark of respect to the European Union for its efforts in helping it gain independence.
6 – More than 70% of the country’s population is under the age of 35, which makes it the youngest country in all of Europe. The median age of the people of Kosovo is only 29.1 years.
7 – The flag is unusual among national flags, as it uses a map of the country’s territory as a design element. Together with the Republic of Cyprus, Kosovo is one of only two countries whose flag doubles up as a geographic representation.
8 – The six stars on the flag represent the six major ethnic groups that live in the country: Albanians, Serbs, Turks, Gorani, Romani, and Bosniaks. Unofficially, the stars are sometimes said to represent the six regions, which according to Albanian ultra nationalist ideology, make up Greater Albania: Albania, Kosovo, western parts of Macedonia, parts of northern Greece, parts of Montenegro and the Preševo Valley in southern Serbia.
9- After Moldova, the people of Kosovo are the second poorest in Europe, with a GDP per capita of only 8,325 euro. 30% of the population falls below the poverty line, and the majority of citizens live with a monthly income of fewer than 500 euro.
10 – The name Kosovo is derived from a Serbian place-name meaning ‘field of blackbirds’. Albanians also refer to the country as Dardania, the name of a Roman province formed in 284 AD which covered the territory of modern Kosovo. The name is derived from the Albanian word dardha/dardā which means pear, for the country meaning ‘the land of pears’.