A 25 nation group that has been monitoring Kosovo’s first few years of independence has officially ended its role.
The International Civilian Office – made up of 23 EU countries, the US and Turkey – has guided the tiny country since it broke away from Serbia in 2008.
Kosovan Prime Minister Hashim Thaci described the move as an ‘act of trust’ and acknowledged that challenges remain, including the integration of Serb-majority areas in northern Kosovo.
Serbia lost control over Kosovo during the late 90s war. It became a ward of the United Nations for nine years. Serbia vowed never to acknowledge Kosovo’s independence.
On Monday, residents of the Serbian capital Belgrade applauded their government’s stance.
One woman said: “I think the international community want to take Kosovo away from us but I think we can still keep fighting for it and keep it as it is now.”
More than 6,000 NATO peacekeepers and a team of around 1,000 EU police officers and judicial staff will stay behind following the closing on the International Civilian Office.
At least 90 countries including 22 of the EU’s 27 members have recognised Kosovo as a sovereign state.