Kosovo celebrates independence

17th February 2008, Comments 0 comments

The former Serbian province now looks upon the big Western powers for bilateral recognition and support.

Pristina, Kosovo -- Tens of thousands of people joined a huge party in downtown Pristina celebrating Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia on Sunday.

As music boomed from a concert stage, the dancing crowd waved US, British, French, German, Italian and other European flags in tribute to countries that supported the break Kosovo made from Serbia.

Following the unilateral declaration and amid the Russian blockade in the United Nations, Kosovo now looks upon the big Western powers for bilateral recognition and support.

Most of the flags were Albanian - red, with the black two-headed eagle. Kosovo on Sunday also got its own flag, blue, with a golden outline of the country and six white stars for its main ethnic groups.

Also remembered was the late president Ibrahim Rugova, regarded by most as the father of the nation who has paved the way to Kosovo independence by launching non-violent resistance two decades ago.

"Thank you, President Rugova, for making it true," some of the slogans said.

Though violence eventually prevailed in Kosovo, the moderate Rugova remained the undisputed Kosovo Albanian leader until succumbing to cancer two years ago.

"Happy Independence," "Kosovo welcomes its future," and "US, EU, NATO, thank you for keeping your word," other banners said.

"Celebrate with dignity, for a new good start for Kosovo" was a message warning against possible taunting or intimidation of the minority Serbs, who feared the independence date and remained quiet in their enclaves.

Motorized traffic was banned from the central streets and the Mother Teresa square, but cars decorated with flags and banners roamed beyond the police barricades, incessantly honking horns.

The mood was easy and even the police guarding the downtown area was dancing. All bars, cafes and restaurants were packed and music was pouring from inside, cakes, beer, beverages and all locally-made products were handed out free of charge in many places.

Overall, people radiated optimism and content, though some acknowledged that real-life issues - among which the moribund economy, rampant unemployment, crime and corruption ranked high - were yet to be truly faced.

"This is the happiest day ever in my life. I'm proud of our nation, which should be thankful eternally to the US, and to the EU too," said Gazmend Halimi, 22.

"It's a new beginning," Ajeta Bejta, 30, said. "We know that starting from this day not everything will change, but it has changed something - we're independent and now a nation which will not need to obey others, but be accountable to others and itself."

Gezim Collaku, who was aged 10 when the UN took over in Kosovo after NATO ousted Serbian security forces, said he was "feeling free."

"I don't know what to say besides that we are finally free ... This is when it all paid off, if I can put it that way. It's a day that everyone has dreamed about," he said.

DPA with Expatica

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