Albanians in Kosovo are preparing to celebrate the first anniversary of their declaration of independence, despite it not being recognised by the Serb minority and many countries.
The occasion will be marked be lavish celebrations in Pristina, but it has stoked already-high tensions between the two communities. A year on, Kosovo has its own flag, anthem and military, but is no nearer to being accepted by Serbia, Russia and China.
However, Kosovan Prime Minister Hashim Thaci told euronews he expects this to change.
“I believe that in 2009 we will be recognised by new countries, even by our neighbour Serbia. Kosovo is ready to open an embassy in Belgrade, the way I would like to see Belgrade thinking of opening an embassy in Prishtina, so finally we will close this chapter of conflict,” he said.
Independence from Belgrade was the culmination of a long campaign that gathered momentum after 1999 when NATO-led troops ousted the then Yugoslav forces engaged in a crackdown on separatists. Some 120,000 Serbs remain in Kosovo, determined to stay, and re-establish links with Belgrade.