Born in 1968 to a farming family in the central village of Buroja in the Drenica valley, Thaci was the seventh of nine children. He studied history at the University of Pristina and, by the late-1980s, was involved in the underground People’s Movement of Kosovo, LPK. This was an illegal political formation in the former Yugoslavia, a one-party state ruled by the League of Communists of Yugoslavia until 1990.
Founded in 1982, the LPK sought to unite Kosovo with neighbouring Albania, then also a communist state. Due to his LPK activities, Thaci fled Yugoslavia in 1993 and obtained political asylum in Switzerland, where he became a founding member of a related organization, the KLA.
He frequently travelled back to Kosovo, crossing the border illegally, to work on organising the KLA’s structure on behalf of the LPK. Most senior KLA members came from the now defunct LPK.
By 1997, Thaci was leading the KLA’s political arm and so played a pivotal role in articulating the political ambitions of Kosovo Albanians in what was now an armed fight against Belgrade rule.
NATO’s intervention in 1999 in the worsening conflict, and a bombing campaign targeting Serbian positions, brought the war in Kosovo to an end, as Serbia withdrew its forces.
With Kosovo now administered by a UN mission, UNMIK, Thaci agreed to disband the provisional government and played a key role in decommissioning and dissolving the KLA as well.
In late 1999, he was elected head of the new Party for Democratic Progress, soon renamed the Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK. From then on, Thaci became one of the most relevant interlocutors for international diplomats, especially when it came to ensuring that everyone adhered to international policy in Kosovo, including the former KLA factions under Thaci’s control or influence.
He was briefly in opposition from 2001 to 2004 but returned as prime minister in January 2008. Soon after, on February 17, 2008, he read out Kosovo’s declaration of independence, endorsed by the majority of the Kosovo assembly, so becoming one of the most important figures in Kosovo history.
The PDK went on to win three consecutive elections, in 2007, 2010 and 2014. Thaci served as prime minister twice, between 2008 and 2010 and between 2011 and 2014.
To meet the constitutional rule that stipulates that the head of state cannot hold other public posts, as President, Thaci resigned from the PDK leadership. He was succeeded by his close ally, the former chairman of the assembly, Kadri Veseli, now also indicted for war crimes.
From Ponte’s memoirs to organ trafficking allegations