Serbs boycott as Kosovo celebrates 10 years of independence
One of the poorest regions in Europe, the disputed territory has taken a first step to joining the EU in a bid to bolster the economic well-being of its citizens
Cody Punter is a Canadian photojournalist who started documenting life in Kosovo in the lead up to the country's 10th anniversary late last year. He is particularly interested in how Europe's newest country is carving out its national identity and fighting for international recognition against the backdrop of a brutal conflict and an increasingly polarized European Union.
The Kosovo assembly, or parliament, convened in a special session on Sunday to celebrate the territory's 10 years of independence – a ceremony boycotted by ethnic Serb lawmakers.
Speaker Kadri Veseli pledged that "the second decade of independence would be focused on the economic well-being of Kosovo's citizens."
The second day of celebrations continued with a parade of military and police forces and a state reception.
In Feb. 17, 2008, Kosovo's parliament unilaterally declared independence from Serbia nine years after the North Atlantic Treaty Organization conducted a 78-day air strike campaign against Serbia to stop a bloody crackdown against ethnic Albanians.
Kosovo, one of poorest regions in Europe, has taken a first step to European Union membership by signing a Stabilization and Association Agreement. But the territory faces serious challenges besides its relations with Serbia, including establishing the rule of law and fighting high unemployment, corruption and organized crime.
Kosovo is recognized by 117 countries, including the United States and most Western powers, but Serbia still sees Kosovo as part of its own territory and has the support of Russia and China.
A day earlier in Serbia's capital, Belgrade, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said Kosovo's independence remains fragile and won't be concluded without an agreement with Serbia.