• Kosovo celebrates 10 years since Serbia split


    PRISTINA: Kosovo on Saturday celebrates 10 years since it declared independence, a moment of pride for its ethnic Albanian majority, although sovereignty remains fiercely contested by Serbia.

    The capital Pristina is covered in the blue-and-yellow Kosovan flag for a weekend of festivities, with Kosovo-born British pop star Rita Ora due to headline a concert in the main square on Saturday night.

    A decade after a war between Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian rebels and Serbian troops left 13,000 people dead—most of them Albanians—the Kosovan parliament declared independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008.

    “It was the happiest moment for all of us as a people,” said President Hashim Thaci in a statement on Friday, as children in Kosovo’s Albanian schools began the day with lessons dedicated to the anniversary.

    This was not the case in the completely separate schooling system of Kosovo’s Serb minority, which remains loyal to Belgrade. Children from the two ethnic communities rarely mix.

    Although more than 110 countries have recognized Kosovo as a state in the past 10 years, Belgrade refuses to do so.

    Sovereignty is also rejected by Russia, whose Security Council veto prevents Kosovo from joining the United Nations, and five EU countries including Spain and Greece.

    Partition concerns
    The “normalization” of ties between Belgrade and Pristina is crucial to both sides’ bids to join the European Union, but Serbian officials say recognition of independence is a red line.

    “Serbia will not recognize Kosovo and it will especially not recognize it in order to become an EU member,” Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin said on Thursday.

    The former foes have reached deals on issues such as freedom of movement since talks began in 2011, but the EU-brokered dialogue has stalled over the past two years.

    Federica Mogherini, EU representative for foreign affairs, nevertheless said on the eve of the anniversary that she was “realistically optimistic” that a “legally binding agreement” could be reached by the end of 2019.

    Some officials in Belgrade have raised the prospect of redrawing Kosovo’s borders along ethnic lines. In the far north, heavily dominated by Serbs, the Kosovo flag is shunned in favor of the red, blue and white stripes of Serbia.

    But Thaci insists that Kosovo is “indivisible” and many fear a partition deal would destabilize the fragile Balkans.



    Please follow our commenting guidelines.

    Comments are closed.