With celebratory speeches, a new statue and a visit from former US president Bill Clinton, Kosovo yesterday marked 20 years since the Nato intervention that ended its war with Serbia and cleared a path for independence.
June 12, 1999, the day when Nato entered Kosovo after a three-month assault on Serb forces, marks the moment Belgrade effectively lost control of its former province.
Clinton is beloved in Kosovo for championing that intervention, which forced Serbian troops to withdraw from their battle with ethnic Albanian separatists, a conflict which claimed 13,000 lives, mostly Kosovo Albanians.
On the 20-year anniversary, Kosovo leaders have been toasting to the liberation, with tributes on social media this week signed with the hashtag #Kosovo20YearsFree.
Yet Kosovo’s path to statehood has been anything but smooth.
Belgrade still refuses to officially accept the independence its former province declared in 2008, undercutting Kosovo’s efforts to gain global recognition.
While Kosovo has the backing of the US and most of the West, Russia and China also reject its statehood, effectively shutting it out of the UN.
Clinton, who is almost considered a founding father in Kosovo, will address crowds in the centre of Pristina, where there is a statue and a boulevard in his name.
After the American touched down in Pristina on Tuesday, Kosovo President Hashim Thaci honoured him with a medal, saying it was a “token of appreciation” for the “liberty he brought to us”.
A smiling Clinton said he would “always be proud” of his contribution.
Yesterday’s ceremonies also saw the unveiling of a new bust of Madeleine Albright, who was US Secretary of State at the time is set to attend the event.