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News > World

Thousands Protest Kosovo Government on Independence Anniversary

  • People shout anti-government slogans during a protest in Pristina, Kosovo Feb. 17, 2016.

    People shout anti-government slogans during a protest in Pristina, Kosovo Feb. 17, 2016. | Photo: Reuters

Published 17 February 2016

The pro-Albanian protests say the government violated the constitution in dealing with Serbia and vowed to continue protests until the prime minister resigns.

Marking the eighth anniversary of the nation’s independence, thousands of anti-government protesters took to the streets in Kosovo Wednesday to demand the resignation of the pro-European Union government.

"Kosovo will not allow itself to be led by people who have violated the constitution, its sovereignty," said Visar Ymeri, leader of the main opposition Self-Determination Movement party.

The protests were made mostly of the Albanian ethnic majority in the country as many were seen waving Albania's red-and-black national flag and only a few Kosovo flags. Al Jazeera's correspondent said more than 15,000 from all parts of the country were estimated to have taken part in the demonstrations in the capital Pristina.

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The opposition is accusing the country of violating the constitution and has given it until Feb. 27 to resign or "our protests will not stop," according to Ymeri.

The protesters and the opposition are demanding the immediate resignation of Prime Minister Isa Mustafa and the Foreign Minister Hashim Thaci because they signed an EU-sponsored deal with Serbia, giving more powers to ethnic Serbs in Kosovo.

In December, the Constitutional Court decided that part of it was not in line with the constitution.

Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in Feb. 17, 2008, and has been recognized as a country by 111 countries, including the United States and major European Union member states.

However, Russia and Serbia reject the independence and have both blocked recognizing Kosovo as a member of the United Nations.

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Ahead of the protests, the government held a ceremony to celebrate the anniversary of the independence where Mustafa stressed that his government was legitimate through popular vote.

“It has the legitimacy to serve the citizens who trusted it with the majority of votes in a democratic process accepted by the whole political spectrum in Kosovo," he said.

The tensions between Serbia and Kosovo stem from the 1998-99 war when Albanian guerrillas fought the Serbian army. Following the bloody war, Kosovo came under the administration of the U.N. and NATO forces until it declared its independence.

Kosovo and Serbia are holding EU-mediated talks to try to overcome their differences.

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