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Kosovo celebrates ten years of its declaration of independence

Ⓒ AFP – Armend NIMANI – | A young Kosovar, disguised as a police officer,
brandishes the flag of his country on February 16 in Pristina, on
the eve of the independence celebrations.

Kosovo is continuing its ceremonies on Sunday marking the
tenth anniversary of its proclamation of independence, with an
extraordinary session of Parliament and a parade of security

Parliament must meet at 10:00 GMT. An hour later will begin
the parade of Kosovo security forces, which does not have an

The highlight of the first day of commemoration on Saturday
was the concert of a local child, the British pop star Rita
Ora, returned to her hometown for the occasion and cheered by
thousands of people, mostly young .

“Getting there was a long journey, but only the beginning I
think of an incredible journey for our country,” she told the
press before joining her hands in a sign symbolizing the
Albanian double-headed eagle.

Ⓒ AFP – Armend NIMANI – | Singer Rita Ora at a press conference in Pristina on
February 17, 2018

As a baby, her family left Kosovo in 1991, subject to the
repression imposed by Serbia on her Albanian province whose
president Slobodan Milosevic had removed the status of

In 1998, a conflict erupts between the Serb forces and the
KLA, the Kosovar Albanian independence rebellion, which was
expected to kill more than 13,000 people. It ended in 1999
after 11 weeks of NATO air strikes, triggered by the United
States to force Belgrade to withdraw its armed forces from

A UN mission and a NATO force are then deployed.

On 17 February 2008, Kosovar deputies proclaimed
independence to Belgrade’s dismay.

“Kosovo embodies the desire of citizens to live free,” Prime
Minister Ramush Haradinaj said Saturday, acknowledging that the
authorities have not met all expectations.

Ⓒ AFP – Armend NIMANI – | Kosovar and Albanian flags in a street in Pristina, 16

“What bothers us the most is unemployment, especially among
young people,” said Largesa Lenjani, a 25-year-old nurse.

One third of the working population and half of the young
people are unemployed. Many dream of imitating the 700,000 or
so members of the Kosovar diaspora, mostly settled in Germany
and Switzerland.

– ‘Ten years of occupation’ –

In Kosovo, the Albanian community and the Serbian community,
which makes up about 120,000 of the 1.8 million inhabitants, do
not mix very well.

The separation is striking in the divided city of Mitrovica,
where everyone lives on both sides of the Ibar River. On
Saturday Serbian black-and-white posters showing handcuffed
hands appeared with the inscription “Ten years of

With Moscow’s support, Serbia is successfully opposing
Kosovo’s admission to the UN. Its independence has been
recognized by 115 countries. But it still is not by nearly 80
states including Russia, China, India, Indonesia or Brazil.

Ⓒ AFP – Iris ROYER DE VERICOURT – | Chronology of the independence of the former Yugoslav

“Without an agreement with Belgrade, this issue can not be
solved,” Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic warned on

But behind the uncompromising political speeches, it is not
certain that Kosovo is still mobilizing the Serbs: there were
only a few dozen demonstrators on Saturday in the center of
Belgrade, when ten years ago the recognition of independence by
the West had led to massive demonstrations and the sacking of
the United States embassy.

The European Union, of which five countries do not recognize
the independence of Kosovo, has made the normalization of
relations between Belgrade and Pristina a condition for the
continuation of their path towards integration. But this
dialogue, started in 2011, has stalled for two years.

– Pandora’s box –

In Belgrade, officials are talking about mezzo voce the
possibility of redrawing borders.

Ⓒ AFP – Armend NIMANI – | A couple takes a selfie in front of the “Renaissance”
monument erected for the 10th anniversary of Kosovo’s
independence in Pristina on February 17, 2018

Western chancelleries are hostile to this scenario, anxious
to see a Pandora’s box open in a region where ethnic tensions
remain high, nearly twenty years after the bloody wars that led
to the explosion of Yugoslavia.

US President Donald Trump sent a message of encouragement:
“There is still work to be done, but we applaud your

In the past year, however, relations have seemed to be tense
between Pristina and Westerners.

In particular, they warned Pristina
against the willingness of Kosovan deputies to remove a
tribunal of international magistrates to try war crimes that
may have been committed by former KLA commanders. Commanders
who are still in command of Kosovo.

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