Kosovo's Independence Welcomed

SNP Member of the European Parliament Alyn Smith has today (Monday) welcomed the official closure of the International Civilian Office (ICO) in Pristina, formally marking the end of supervised independence and the beginning of true independence for the country.

Dignitaries from 25 Kosovo-recognising countries, including 22 EU states and Switzerland, Turkey and the US, have today met in Kosovo's capital to formally close the ICO.

The ICO's function was to help Kosovan politicians maintain the template for a democratic, secular country which respects the rights of ethnic minorities.

Welcoming the move to true independence, Alyn said:

"The road has been far from easy for the Kosovans, and they've still got some way to go yet, but this is a big milestone reached. From the disintegration of Yugoslavia, through a war with Serbia and international supervision of a growing peace, Kosovans have nursed their country and nourished its growth; now they are taking on the responsibility of walking their own path and taking their own decisions like any other nation.

"Kosovo now has a realistic prospect of beginning the journey to EU membership - that will be a long journey, to say the least, and help will be needed. It's good to welcome another nation to the international family, though, and the EU will be prepared to lend what assistance it can.

"I expect to see a Stabilisation and Association Agreement recommended by the European Commission in October - the standard beginning of the road to EU membership for Western Balkan countries.

"I applaud the new nation and its people for the progress they have made and think it is time that all the nations of the world, and especially all EU countries, should recognise Kosovo as a new independent nation. The UK, to its credit, recognised this nation of two million people the day after it declared independence in 2008 in common with most of the EU's member countries.

"Kosovo has a lot to do to improve its international image; stamping out lawlessness and corruption, and working to reduce poverty in the country to begin with, but it's well on its way and we should all welcome that.

"This is another new nation celebrating a new independence day."