RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And Kosovo has declared a new national holiday. It's to mark the declaration of independence from Serbia a decade after bloody separatist war with Serbia. Tens of thousands celebrated in the streets, in spite of the fact that Serbia immediately declared the new state illegal, as did Russia. It demanded an emergency meeting of the United Nations to proclaim the declaration null an void. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports from the Kosovo capital, Pristina.
(Soundbite of gun fire)
SYLVIA POGGIOLI: Late into the night, the cold skies of Pristina crackled with the sound of fireworks alternating with celebratory gun fire. The new Kosovo flag was reveled: a map of Kosovo on a blue background with six stars, a reference to the minorities living along side the two million ethnic Albanians. Respect for minority rights was the underlying theme of the declaration of independence.
Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, a former guerilla leader, read out at an extraordinary session of the Kosovo parliament.
Prime Minister HASHIM THACI (Kosovo): (Through translator) Devoted to promoting and respecting the diversity of our people, we, the leaders of our country, elected democratically - a declaration of declaring a state, because Kosovo is an independent state, a democratic state.
(Soundbite of cheering)
POGGIOLI: Throughout the day, emotions were intense.
(Soundbite of music, horns honking)
POGGIOLI: Music and car horns echoed through the streets.
(Soundbite of music, horns honking)
POGGIOLI: Thousands of people strolled along Mother Teresa Boulevard, waving Albanian national flags and cheering to the sound of a constant drum beat. Thirty-year-old Basa Barani(ph) was overjoyed.
Ms. BASA BARANI: Now I feel good for my future because my children will, I know my children will be born in a state, for example. They will have much better life than I do, I hope and I dream. So it's a great, great emotion. That's all I can say.
POGGIOLI: The new state faces huge challenges. It's overpopulated and mired in poverty. The jobless rate is close to 70 percent, and 20 percent of Kosovo's GNP comes from the presence of international civilians and the 16,000-strong NATO Peace Keeping Force. Nevertheless, this young ethnic Albanian woman, Shrepa Sela(ph) believes independence will solve all economic problems.
Ms. SHEREP SELA: When they woke up in the morning, they were nowhere to go, you know, to support their family. Not it's like, wake up in the morning and hold their head, like, what's going to happen? How am I supposed to feed our kids, our families and all that?
POGGIOLI: But in the enclaves where the remaining 100,000 Serbs live, the mood was glum. In the divided city of Betravita(ph), hand grenades were thrown at buildings of the UN and European Union, apparently without causing serious damage. Earlier, Belgrade officials came to reassure Kosovo Serbs they'll not be abandoned, and Serbian government offices will be set up in Betravita.
In Belgrade, demonstrators stoned the US Embassy in protest against Kosovo's succession, breaking some windows while demonstrators chanted patriotic songs. And there's division within the EU, which will send a civilian mission to supervise Kosovo's transition to statehood. Several members have separatist movements of their own and fear Kosovo's succession could trigger a domino effect. Sylvia Poggioli, NPR news, Pristina.
MONTAGNE: You can read more about the struggle over Kosovo and it's implications for Russia and the US at npr.org.
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