Kosovo marks 'independence day'

12:38, 17 February 2009
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Albanian leaders...

Events are being held across Kosovo on Tuesday to mark the first anniversary of its unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia, according to BBC.

Kosovo has been striving to secure its borders and develop its economy in the face of opposition from Serbia, which refuses to recognise its independence.

Prime Minister Hashim Thaci says it is building a homeland for all its people.

But correspondents say parts of northern Kosovo remain tensely divided between ethnic Albanians and Serbs.

Serbia, backed by Russia, has refused to recognise the declaration and has challenged its legality at the UN`s International Court of Justice.

Speaking before the anniversary celebrations, Prime Minister Thaci said Kosovo`s first full year as an independent state had been "a complete success".

"We will be recognised by the entire world," he told the Associated Press.

Mr Thaci said Kosovo and its government had achieved 6% economic growth, created thousands of new jobs, constructed dozens of new schools and thousands of miles of roads, and integrated the Serb minority into society.

"We`re building a homeland for all of Kosovo`s people," he added.

A series of events have been organised by the ethnic Albanian authorities as part of the celebrations to mark independence day.

MPs from the Serbian parliament in Belgrade are due to hold a committee meeting in Kosovo in protest against the anniversary.

Ethnic Albanians constitute 90% of Kosovo`s two million people.

`Complete success`

Kosovo`s unilateral declaration of independence last year has so far been recognised by only 54 of the United Nation`s 192 countries, including the US, Japan and all but five of the 27 members of the European Union.

Thousands of school children will parade around the capital, Pristina, and there will be open air concerts and firework displays.

But compared to the euphoria a year ago, the first anniversary of the split from Serbia is likely to be more muted, the BBC`s Helen Fawkes in Pristina says.

Our correspondent says Kosovo now has its own flag, constitution and national anthem, but many people are disappointed that their lives have not improved much.

Kosovo still remains deeply divided along ethnic lines, and the Serb population does not recognise the state`s independence, she adds.


Albanian leaders say the Serbs are being constantly encouraged by the authorities in Belgrade to boycott and reject any offers coming from Pristina.

On Tuesday, in defiance of the anniversary celebrations, Serbian deputies plan to travel from Belgrade to the northern Kosovo municipality of Zvecan, which is controlled by Serbs, to attend a session of their own parliament.

The government in Pristina has said any provocation will be dealt with by Kosovo`s police force.

The EU special representative to Kosovo, Pieter Feith, told the BBC that it had serious concerns about security in the Serb dominated north.

"It`s fragile and we have seen over the past few weeks incidents of violence," he said.

"It may erupt again very soon so it`s extremely unstable and we need to find a solution for this once and for all."

The Serb minority and their religious sites are currently protected by a Nato-led force. Also helping to keep order is the EU`s largest ever police and justice mission, Eulex, which deployed in December.


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