Kosovo’s new constitution comes into effect today.
It is another landmark move for the disputed territory, four months after it declared independence from Serbia.
From now on, the ethnic Albanian authorities there will take on many of the powers held by the UN which has administered Kosovo since 1999.
Kosovo’s President Fatmir Sejdiu is the first to recognize the scale of the task that lies ahead.
He says he expects Kosovo’s institutions to “take up their responsibilities,” helped by the international community “in the challenges they face, specifically in integrating a section of Kosovo’s citizens – the Serb citizens who refuse to understand and acknowledge this new reality.”
Like Belgrade, Kosovo’s minority Serbs firmly reject the territory’s breakaway and its constitution. They are expected to react by setting up their own governing institutions.
Serbia’s Coordinator for Kosovo Goran Arsic describes the constitution as “illegitimate and illegal.”
“For Serbia’s community, it does not exist. We will not accept it and will continue to work as we did before and as we are now,” he said.
Amid fears of ethnic tensions boiling over, the presence of international peacekeepers has been boosted in the predominantly Serb north. Meanwhile, an EU law-and-order mission for Kosovo continues to face major delays, because of objections by Serbia’s ally Russia at the United Nations.