Kosovo celebrates 11 years of independence as its people grow increasingly frustrated at the lack of progress

Prishtina, Kosovo |  18 Feb 2019 (Tirana Echo) – Kosovo has celebrated its 11th anniversary of declaring independence from Serbia, as it prepares to strike a controversial deal with Belgrade, which would involve mutual recognition between the two Balkan nations, despite growing frustration at home over lack of tangible progress.

However, lukewarm celebrations in Prishtina were being organized as EU mediated talks between Prishtina and Belgrade have come to a deadlock, while the US is increasingly calling for an historic deal to be agreed by both countries in order to move on from past hurdles.

Earlier this week, US President Donald Trump renewed his calls to Belgrade and Prishtina to normalize relations and agree a final bilateral deal which will include the formal recognition of Kosovo’s independence by Serbia, hoping this would unlock the knot and make it easier for other international recognitions desperately needed for Kosovo to become a full member of the United Nations. 

We believe that the mutual recognition should be the central element of that normalization” – Trump told both Serbia’s and Kosovo’s Presidents in separate letters.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and it is currently recognized by 116 countries. However, the new country is not recognized by Russia, China, Serbia and 5 other EU member states which fear dissidence with their own regions wishing to break away.

The young small Balkan country is not a member of the United Nations and its citizens are the only ones in the region not to benefit from a visa-free regime with the Schengen European area. It hopes to join NATO and the European Union in the future but any prospects of that happening would be held hostage by Serbia and its larger ally Russia.

Growing frustration with the impasse is pushing people towards emigrating elsewhere in Europe while Washington is concerned about the lack of tangible progress in the Balkans as the region slides into further economic uncertainty and is increasingly vulnerable to ‘external’ influences from Russia, China and Turkey.

Furthermore, although Serbia is hinting at a possible final agreement, it is actively pursuing an aggressive foreign policy to halt or even reverse some recognitions obtained by Kosovo, assisted by its faithful historic ally Russia.

During a press conference in Belgrade last year, Liberian Foreign Minister Gbehzohngar Milton Findley said his country was reversing its decade-old decision to recognize Kosovo.

More recently, Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vučić told Moldova’s Deputy Prime Minister Lurie Leanca that Serbia was grateful for the principled position of Moldova not to recognize the unilaterally declared independence of Kosovo, and for the country’s support on this issue in regional and international organizations.

Although there’s no transparency over a possible secret deal being negotiated between Belgrade and Kosovo, rumors that it may include a highly controversial ‘land swap’ have fired up controversy in Prishtina, with Kosovo’s Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj declaring that Kosovo’s territorial integrity was not to be threatened.

Back in August, White House national-security adviser John Bolton said “The United States will not oppose a possible exchange of territories between Kosovo and Serbia as long as both Prishtina and Belgrade agree to a ‘mutually satisfactory settlement’.

Many political analysts fear that the glory of independence has faded away given the lack of progress in recent years and growing frustration over economic opportunities in the small Balkan country.

Commenting on the 11th anniversary of independence, Kosovo’s President and former KLA commander Hashim Thaçi wrote on Twitter:

My hair is little bit grayer, the world has certainly changed too. But that very special day, “feeling the heartbeats of our grandparents”, will forever be marked in my memory & memory of an entire nation. God bless people of #Kosova, God bless our friends.”.

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