Gow, James

Kosovo – The Final Frontier? From Transitional Administration to Transitional Statehood

Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding


The declaration of independence by the Kosovo authorities on 17 February 2008 was an exception founded on an exception. A territory that had been subject to international humanitarian action that was, for many, regarded as being an unlawful action, exceptionally justified by a particular situation, had been placed under UN mandated transitional administration following that excep- tional action. Transitional administration was also an exceptional situation: unlike other cases of international intervention and statebuilding, international actors took complete responsibility for the exercise of sovereign rights. The exception of transitional administration gave way not to a fully formed outcome but to a transitional state ”ہ/ one that was far from having the qualities of complete statehood, despite a claim to be independent and being backed by important and powerful Western actors. Kosovo has become a work in progress caught in a murky limbo ”ہ/ recognized by some states as sovereign and having independent international personality but not by the vast majority of others and blocked from membership of the UN and other international bodies because of the objections of many states and certain powerful ones. Thus, the attempt to create a 'final frontier' in the context of Yugoslavia's dissolution and war not only failed to be complete and satisfactory in that context initially, but it was almost immediately a precedent for dangerous developments elsewhere. This is a principal argument in the present analysis that traces the incubatory framework of the international transitional administration in Kosovo against a background of international diplomacy and questions concerning status and statehood.