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Kosovo is marking the fifth anniversary of its independence with celebrations - but its statehood remains challenged and its economy is stuck in the doldrums.
Kosovars began celebrating their country’s fifth year of statehood on Friday with all schools dedicating their first lessons of the day to the independence and the issues linked to it.
On Saturday, people gathered to paint flags on the “Newborn” monument, which was erected near the capital’s Boro and Ramiz Youth Centre when Kosovo proclaimed its independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008.
The initiative was organized by the creator of the monument, Ogilvy Karrota advertising, a marketing and public relations agency.
The idea was to paint all the flags of more than 90 countries that have recognized Kosovo’s independence on the yellow symbol of statehood.
Concerts and exhibitions have also been held during the weekend.
Politicians meanwhile paid tribute to the martyrs of the war of the 1990s in the Decan and Prekaz martyr memorials.
The government has set aside some 100,000 euro to cover the expenses of all the activities held over the three days.
Thousands of people gathered at the Mother Theresa Square in Pristina to see a special parade of the Kosovo Security Forces on Sunday, while parliament held a solemn session, to which local and international politicians and those who signed the Declaration of Independence were invited.
“Kosovo is a joint success story with the international community”, President Atifete Jahjaga said in parliament.
“On this fifth anniversary we have many reasons for celebrations, but also a lot of work ahead of us in order to lay strong foundations for development and prosperity”, she said.
However, while Kosovo enters its sixth year as an independent state, not all of its neighbours recognise its statehood, starting with Serbia, which still claims Kosovo as its province.
Five EU members, Spain, Greece, Romania, Slovakia, and Cyprus - as well as Russia and China - are amongst more than one hundred UN member states that have refused to recognize Kosovo’s statehood, as a result of which Kosovo remains outside the UN family.
“We have been recognized by almost one hundred states and we expect further recognitions”, Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said on Sunday.
“Kosovo is a country which contributes to a good neighborhood in the region… Kosovo has started a process of dialogue [towards the EU integration] expecting to be recognized also by Serbia one day”, he added.
An EU-mediated dialogue aiming to normalize relations between Kosovo and Serbia is due to continue next week.
However, Kosovo’s pride in its achievements took a knock last week following the release of a decidedly mixed progress report from the European Commission.
The report listed a number of shortcomings in the fields of organized crime and corruption, which are likely to delay any decision on the part of Brussels to lift visa requirements for Kosovo nationals.
Kosovo is now the only country in the region that has been left out of the Schengen zone visa liberalisation process.
The Serbian paramilitary who became a key prosecution witness at his former comrades’ trial for war crimes in Kosovo says he had to speak out about the brutal massacres his unit committed.