Kosovo struggles to completing state structure year after secession

A year after declaring independence, Kosovo has its own flag, its own national anthem -- even its own intelligence services.

Kosovo struggles to completing state structure year after secession
A year after declaring independence, Kosovo has its own flag, its own national anthem -- even its own intelligence services.

Recognised as independent by more than 50 countries including the United States and most EU states, but shunned by others including Russia, China and Serbia, Kosovo's political stability is precarious.

Kosovo has established many of the trappings of a state, including a new constitution, an army, national anthem, flag, passports, identity cards and intelligence agency.

It has opened 18 embassies, mostly in Western countries.

"It would be better if we had a higher number of recognitions," said Pieter Feith, the head of the International Civilian Office in Pristina which oversees the implementation of independence plan.

All the same, Pristina expects to join the World Bank and International Monetary Fund this year, though Serbia and Russia are trying to block its membership of all international institutions.

But earlier in the week Serbia President Boris Tadic said that the country would not try to block Kosovo's entry to international organisationi regarding its own EU membership process.

Kosovo was put under U.N. administration in 1999, after NATO'a intervantion followed Serb atrocities during a 1998-99 war against pro-independent Kosovos. About 10,000 Albanians died and almost a million fled the country.

The U.N. General Assembly has approved Serbia's request to ask the International Court of Justice whether Kosovo's secession is legal. The court in The Hague is expected to take one to two years to issue its opinion.

Kosovo's leaders remain bitterly critical of Belgrade. But in an interview last week, Prime Minister Hashim Thaci expressed hope for better future ties.

"On this anniversary I invite Serbia to recognise Kosovo," Thaci told Reuters. "It is in our interest to have an embassy in Belgrade but also for Serbia to have an embassy in Kosovo."

Its 2 million ethnic Albanians and its 120,000 Serbs -- backed by Belgrade -- live alongside each other under the protection of thousands of foreign soldiers and with the help of millions of euros in aid.

Younger Serbs and Albanians do not even speak each other's languages.

"There are tensions and the risk of more serious violent outbreak still exists," said Peter Palmer, Balkans director of the Brussels-based think tank International Crisis Group (ICG).

But there had not been the "high level of violence and exodus of the Serbs that some people predicted or feared".

Kosovo's Serbs and Albanians have lived separate lives since 1999, when NATO bombed Serbia to stop its genocide in Kosovo.

Serbs still living in Kosovo vow never to submit to the authorities in Pristina.

"I don't feel safe living in the middle of Serbs," said Riza Dushi, an Albanian pensioner living in the Serb-dominated part of town, where the Pristina government has no control.

International concern about Kosovo's stability is reflected by the continued presence of a U.N. mission, 15,000 NATO troops, and an EU peace and justice mission.

Reuters
Last Mod: 15 Şubat 2009, 18:04
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