Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Newly independent Kosovo adopts constitution - WELCOME TO THE FUTURE!!!

PRISTINA, April 9, 2008 (AFP) - Kosovo's parliament voted unanimously on Wednesday to adopt the Balkan state's first constitution after it unilaterally declared independence from Serbia. "By passing this constitution, we are setting the foundations to build Kosovo as a democratic and sovereign state," parliament speaker Jakup Krasniqi said. The constitution, which is to come into effect on June 15, was approved by all 107 deputies present at a special session of the parliament, which is dominated by ethnic Albanians. Its adoption enables Kosovo's institutions to take over from a mission of the United Nations (UNMIK) which has administered the disputed territory since the end of its 1998-1999 conflict. The move also paves the way for the complete deployment of the European Union's 2,000-strong peace and justice mission to Kosovo, dubbed EULEX, which is to oversee Kosovo's "supervised" independence. Kosovo's parliament unilaterally declared independence from Serbia on February 17. It has since been recognised by 38 countries, including the United States and most of the European Union. "The constitution is our will and legitimacy. It is a seal of the state of Kosovo," Prime Minister Hashim Thaci told parliament. "This is another historic step forward in building of our stable state and democratic governance in an independent, sovereign and proud Kosovo," said the ethnic Albanian leader. Backed by traditional ally Russia, Serbia, which views Kosovo as its historic heartland, has rejected the independence declaration, saying it violates international law. Kosovo -- a mountainous territory with some 1.8 million people, 90 percent of them ethnic Albanians -- would be a parliamentary republic and "citizens' state," according to the text of the constitution. "The Republic of Kosovo is a secular state and is neutral in matters of religious beliefs," it said, adding that the "official languages in the Republic of Kosovo are Albanian and Serbian." The constitution guarantees the rights and protection of minorities, notably Serbs who have rejected Kosovo's independence. "Serbs are the citizens of Kosovo. This constitution is also theirs," president Fatmir Sejidu told reporters after the charter was adopted. "We want them to be an important foundation and a bridge for the future better relations with the state of Serbia." The plan for Kosovo's "internationally supervised independence" was devised by special UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari last year after failed talks between Belgrade and Pristina on Kosovo's status.

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