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As the International Steering Group ends its supervision of Kosovo's independence, the country embraces a new era with optimism.
Kosovo is set to become fully independent on Monday after its Western allies are expected to announce that the country has fulfilled all the relevant conditions and their mission is over.
The International Steering Group, a body of 25 states, all supporters of Kosovo’s statehood since it declared independence in February 2008, are to meet for the last time on Monday and formally terminate the process of supervision.
Serbs Reject Any Kind of Kosovo Independence
Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic said that Serbia accepts neither supervised nor unsupervised independence of Kosovo.
"As far as we're concerned, the issue of Kosovo will not be solved before Serbia gives its approval," he noted.
Aleksandar Vulin, the head of the Serbian government Office for Kosovo, said that Serbs could not expect any good from the end of supervised independence, because greater independence of the institutions in Pristina did not instill confidence and hope.
Kosovo’s Prime Minister, Hashim Thaci, on Saturday said that much remained to be done, but he argued that the state of Kosovo was being consolidated and strengthened every day.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008. Since then 89 states, including 22 EU member states and the US, have recognized it.
In its last meeting the ISG, which regulates the International Civilian Office, which in turn ensured implementation of UN diplomat Martti Ahtisaari’s package, underlined the need for the principles and spirit that have governed Kosovo so far to continue into the period that follows the ending of supervised independence.
Serbia has said it opposes the move, expressing concern about the new powers that the Kosovo authorities will have to take unilateral decisions.
Some 35 foreign delegations have confirmed their attendance during the two days of festivities, which the authorities have organized to end the period of oversight.
Deputy Foreign Minister Petrit Selimi said it would be the biggest meeting that the country has organized since it declared independence, and would enbable Kosovo’s progress to be seen before the world.
“We are happy that, together with the International Civilian Office and the International Steering Group, we are ending this chapter,” he said.
Among the guests will be the former UN Envoy on Kosovo’s Status, Ahtisaari, who will address the Kosovo parliament on Monday during the solemn ceremony.
Last Friday, parliament adopted a set of 22 constitutional amendments that terminated the era of internationally supervised independence.
In the same session, MPs extended the mandate of the EU’s rule of law mission to Kosovo, known as EULEX, until June 2014.
Ahead of Tuesday’s meeting between Kosovo and Serbia, German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle urged both sides to take real steps to implement their EU-brokered agreement.
Officials have launched a week-long series of events aimed at raising awareness about tolerance, reconciliation and peaceful coexistence between different religious faiths in Kosovo.
As Pristina and Belgrade seek agreement on implementing their EU-brokered deal, Albanian leaders in Serbia’s Presevo Valley are urging the Kosovo authorities to help them win more rights.
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.
Despite two failed meetings about the implementation of the EU-brokered deal between Kosovo and Serbia, officials hope that prime ministerial talks next week will see progress.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has invited the Serbian and Kosovo prime ministers to a meeting next week to discuss how to implement their Brussels-brokered deal.
NATO’s Kosovo force warned that only authorised policing groups are allowed to carry weapons in northern Kosovo, not Serb-organised ‘civil defence’ units.
Former high-ranking Serbian interior ministry official Vlastimir Djordjevic admitted war crimes were committed against Kosovo Albanians during the 1999 conflict and apologised to civilian victims.
Lawmakers were advised to find different ways of remembering wartime fighters and victims after a series of parliamentary sessions commemorating individual ‘martyrs’.
Serbia's Deputy Prime Minister and leaders in the Serb-run north of Kosovo have reached an agreement on the implementation of the EU-brokered deal.
Kosovo's authority will be introduced to Serb-run northern Kosovo in three stages, BIRN can reveal, as Kosovo Serb leaders warn the EU-backed plan may prompt them to emigrate.