On the eve of a meeting of Western powers gathered in the International Steering Group which will officially grant Kosovo full sovereignty, Pristina on Sunday prepared to celebrate.
A huge stage was set up in the main Mother Teresa Square for an open air concert of bands from Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia and Bosnia planned for Monday evening to celebrate the end of international supervision over the territory.
The ISG, which consists of 23 EU countries, the United States and Turkey who have all recognised Pristina’s 2008 declaration of independence, decided that time has come for Kosovo to “acquire full independence” despite Serbia’s refusal to accept it.
The group cited the territory’s “clear support of a democratic and multi-ethnic state”.
The formal announcement to lift the supervision is expected after an afternoon meeting to be attended by Dutch diplomat Pieter Feith, who chairs the International Civilian Office (ICO), prime minister Hashim Thaci and a host of other international and Kosovo officials.
Kosovo and its two million majority ethnic-Albanian population has been under some form of international administration since a NATO bombing campaign forced then Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic’s forces out of the Serbian province in 1999.
On February 17, 2008, it unilaterally declared independence from Serbia and has been recognised by some 90 countries, including most EU nations.
However, it continues to face opposition from Belgrade, Moscow and Kosovo’s ethnic Serbs, who make up about six percent of the population, living mainly in the north on the border with Serbia.
The end of international supervision will not affect the presence of the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force in charge of the security situation or the European rule of law mission EULEX, which was created to boost the justice system.