Kosovo declares independence from Serbia

February 18, 2008

PRISTINA, Kosovo (CNN) -- Kosovo has formally declared its independence from Serbia and become the world's newest state in a move opposed by Serbia and Russia but backed by many western governments.

Thousands have taken to the streets of the capital Pristina, waving flags in celebration.

Kosovo's dream to become independent dates back decades, but only after NATO intervened militarily almost a decade ago did ethnic Albanians begin to feel their dream could become true.

Kosovo's independence will be a "supervised" independence. The European Union is preparing to send in 1,800 officials, mainly police, justice and customs officers to ensure a smooth transition.

But today Kosovo is far from your ideal place. Crime and corruption are rampant (thus the bulk of the EU mission will be justice and police related) and there is virtually no existing economy. Unemployment is above 50%.

Kosovo becomes the sixth Balkan state to emerge out of the break-up of the former Yugoslavia. It is a dream come true for most people of this tiny province the size of Lebanon, who less than a decade ago where fleeing their homes in terror. But that was 10 years ago. Today Milosevic is dead and Belgrade is ruled by pro-Western leaders who will not send in the army to prevent Kosovo from seceding.

If Kosovo and indeed Serbia hope one day to join the European Union as full members, this is an opportunity for both of them to look forward no matter how sad and difficult history may be.