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Kosovo celebrates 15 years of independence amid normalization efforts

National Kosovo flags waved in the streets of Pristina on Friday to celebrate 15 years of independence. The country now wants to reach a normalization deal with Serbia, crucial to the stability in the region still recovering from ethnic wars.

Crowds waving Kosovo and Albanian flags lined a main street in the capital as police and troops marched past.

“Our independence was achieved through struggle and sacrifice, but our independence will only grow through work,” Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti said ahead of the parade.

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— BBC World Service (@bbcworldservice) February 17, 2023

No celebrations were held in the Serb-majority town of North Mitrovica in the north of Kosovo.

Normalization proposal

Serbia continues to support the refusal of 50,000 minority Serbs in north Kosovo to recognize the country’s independence, declared almost a decade after an uprising against repressive Serbian rule.

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U.S. and European Union envoys are pressing the countries to approve a peace plan presented in mid-2022 under which Belgrade would stop lobbying against Kosovo having a seat in international organizations including the United Nations.

Kosovo would commit to forming a semi-autonomous association of Serb-majority municipalities in the north, where local Serbs have resisted Kosovo state authority for years and clashed repeatedly with police.

Belgrade and Pristina have both accepted the EU plan in principle, saying it is a good base for further negotiations. Normalization of relations is one of the key conditions for Serbia and Kosovo to progress toward EU membership.

“We welcome your endorsement of the EU proposal on normalization, with the eventual goal of mutual recognition which would help secure a more peaceful and prosperous future for the people of both Kosovo and Serbia,” U.S. President Joe Biden said in a letter to Kosovo counterpart Vjosa Osmani on Thursday evening.

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