The people of Kosovo are celebrating a decade of the country’s independence as security forces march through the streets of the capital city.
The celebration is a moment of pride for its ethnic Albanian majority although sovereignty remains fiercely contested by Serbia.
The parade is part of a weekend of festivities and comes a day after Pristina-born British pop star Rita Ora headlined a concert for thousands of Kosovars who packed the main square of the capital covered in the blue and yellow colours of the flag.
“It’s been a long journey to get to this point and I think it’s just a start of an ongoing incredible journey for our country,” the 27-year-old told reporters after flying in for the show, which ended with fireworks over the city.
The singer’s family left Kosovo in 1991 to escape the repression imposed by Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic after he stripped the Yugoslav province of its autonomy.
In 1998, a war broke out between Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian rebels and Serbian troops that left 13,000 people dead, most of them Albanians.
Belgrade withdrew its forces the following year after a NATO bombing campaign against Serbia.
Kosovo, which has no army of its own, subsequently became a United Nations protectorate and, with the support of Washington and other Western powers, declared independence from Belgrade on February 17, 2008.
“The state of Kosovo has upheld the people’s demand for freedom,” Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj said during a special government session in Pristina on Saturday.
But “we are aware that citizens’ expectations for a modern state have not yet been fulfilled”. Another special parliamentary session is set to be held on Sunday morning.
Although more than 110 countries have recognised Kosovo’s independence in the past 10 years, Serbia and dozens of other states have not.
Sovereignty is rejected by Russia, whose Security Council veto prevents Kosovo from joining the United Nations, and five EU countries including Spain and Greece.