Under the Yugoslav Constitution of 1974, Kosovo was an autonomous province of the Republic of Serbia. This status gave it a constitutional position nearly equivalent to that of the Yugoslav Republics (Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Bosnia, and Macedonia). It had its own assembly, a legal system distinct from that of Serbia, and was entitled to be represented directly in federal Yugoslav institutions. Beginning in 1989, Slobodan Milosevic, after he gained control of the Serbian Communist Party and state institutions, disbanded the Kosovo Assembly, abrogated other legal arrangements that protected Kosovos autonomy, and caused ethnic Albanians of the professional classes, including most Albanian government officials, to be expelled from their jobs. He caused control of socially owned and publicly owned enterprises in Kosovo (the Yugoslav mechanism for organizing economic production) to be removed from Albanian interests and transferred to Serbs or foreigners friendly to him.
Kosovar Albanians responded by declaring independence in 1990 and organizing a parallel system with their own schools, businesses, and political institutions. The goal of this parallel system was to achieve practical independence and statehood through passive resistance.
In 1996, after the Dayton Accords settled the wars over Bosnias and Croatias secession from Yugoslavia, but did not make any mention of Kosovo, Kosovar Albanian frustrations with the status quo boiled over. A guerilla resistance which came to be known in English as the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) began attacking Serb police and military facilities in Kosovo in response to continued Serb repression of the Albanian population.
Serb forces began an escalating campaign of ethnic cleansing, which at its high point expelled on the order of 800,000 Kosovar Albanians from their homes into neighboring countries. The ethnic cleansing campaign was accompanied by acts of mass violence against Kosovar Albanians and their families by Serb paramilitary, police, and military forces, intending to induce terror in the population.
After a number of diplomatic efforts were unsuccessful in stabilizing the situation in Kosovo, NATO began a 78 day bombing campaign aimed at ending ethnic cleansing and protecting human rights in Kosovo. The campaign ended on June 10, 1999, with the withdrawal of Serb forces and negotiations involving the Contact Group (the United States, Great Britain, Russia, Germany, and France) in which Serbia, by then linked with Montenegro and known as The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia participated. This negotiated agreement was embodied in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1244, which mandated the establishment of a civil administration in Kosovo under the control of a Special Representative of the Secretary General of the U.N. The resolution also authorized a security presence comprising NATO forces, augmented by a contingent from Russia.
The Security Council Resolution acknowledged in its preamble the sovereignty of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, while giving the civil administration (now known as United Nations Interim Mission in Kosovo or UNMIK) plenary powers to govern the territory of Kosovo. The Resolution also mandated the transfer of these powers to local Kosovar institutions as they were developed under international tutelage and were capable of exercising them. The Resolution mandated, without setting a deadline, a determination of final status for Kosovo through a process influenced by the Rambouillet Accords. The Rambouillet Accords were elements of an agreement negotiated in Rambouillet, France before the NATO bombing campaign among representatives of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Kosovar Albanians in talks brokered by the Contact Group.. The Kosovar Albanians signed the accords but FRY refused. The Accords explicitly provided a mechanism for determining the will of the Kosovar people with respect to final status three years after the effective date of the Accords.
UNMIK has taken a position in its Standards before Status doctrine that certain standards relating to human rights protection, maturation of local political institutions, and return of Kosovar Serbs who fled after the bombing campaign, must be met before final status can be determined. UNMIK has allowed, however, commencement of discussions over certain technical issues. These technical discussion were delayed by the assassination of the Serb Prime Minister in early 2003 and then by political conflict within the Kosovar Assembly over the structure of the discussions. Initial technical-discussion meetings were held in mid October, 2003 in Vienna.
Up to this point, Serbias official position has been then Kosovo remains a part of the state of Serbia, and must be subject to Serbias continued sovereignty in the future. The Kosovar Albanians have consistently taken the position that no status other than formal independence is acceptable. Neighboring countries of Albania and Macedonia have expressed flexibility with respect to the outcome of final status negotiations. Experts and policymakers from the international and NGO communities have discussed a variety of intermediate positions, including some sort of regional confederation of which Kosovo would be a part, and some sort of land swap or partition arrangement which would let certain parts of todays Kosovo be an independent state and other parts be integrated into Serbia.