PRISTINA -- President Atifete Jahjaga has said in a televised address that Kosovo's independence is “irreversible” and that “the republic of Kosovo is an irrefutable reality.”
Speaking on February 17 as Kosovo began marking five years since it broke away from Serbia, she also claimed that Kosovo had become “an important contributor in developing regional relations” and that joining the EU and NATO was now the country’s “clear goal.”
“We, the people of Kosovo, have begun a new chapter in our history, the chapter of peace, understanding, cooperation, and mutual respect,” she said.
Jahjaga was speaking at a military parade by the NATO-trained Kosovo Security Force (KSF).
At the same parade, Kosovar Prime Minister Hashim Thaci maintained that despite what has been achieved in five years in Kosovo, the country still faces a long road.
"I am aware that the results achieved by our new country in the last five years are visible,” he said. “We achieved this together despite many challenges we've faced, but at the same time I am aware that we need to do much more."
Celebrations to mark the anniversary were held throughout the day, including a special session of parliament and concerts along the main boulevard in Pristina, ending with a fireworks display later in the evening.
WATCH: Independence celebrations in Pristina
Skender Ahmeti, a Pristina resident and former member of the Kosovo Liberation Army, told RFE/RL why he felt it was important to mark the anniversary.
“I feel extremely good, we waited for this day for so long and every year I have emotions on this particular day,” he said. “All of our expectations have not been fulfilled, but it’s still alright. If we compare things to how we were 13 years ago, for me it is a dream come true.”
Almost 100 countries have recognized Kosovo since ethnic Albanians proclaimed independence on February 17, 2008.
Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga
The declaration came a decade after the 1998-1999 Kosovo conflict, which ended with a NATO bombing campaign against late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic's forces.
Belgrade still considers the region its southern province, but EU-led talks which began in March 2011 led to a recent thaw in relations, and the two presidents held their first talks in Brussels on February 6.
With Serbia's EU membership dependent on improving ties with Pristina, Prime Minister Ivica Dacic hinted last month that Belgrade may give up its opposition to Kosovo's long-held goal of joining the United Nations.
But Dacic has said the "most difficult part of this dialogue is ahead of us" in order to reach agreement with Pristina on the integration of the Serbian minority.
Belgrade hopes for some autonomy for the 120,000 Serbs who refuse to recognize the ethnic Albanian authorities.
According to Tanja Jaksic, a Serbian woman living in the northern part of Mitrovica, people in the north have lived in uncertainty since the declaration of independence.
“It’s a daily fear of what will happen with us,” she said. “It’s a daily problem because we don’t like to live in an independent Kosovo. On a personal level, we don’t have problems with our neighbors, but on a political level, yes – there is a problem.”
Elsewhere, economic hardships were in many residents’ minds as they celebrate independence.
“One may have many wishes and expect maybe more, but we also have to recognize that maybe the possibilities are limited,” said Mire Deva, a Kosovo Albanian from Pristina. “I hope for a better situation in the future, working all together.”
More than one-third of Kosovo's 1.8 million people live on less than one dollar a day and gross domestic product per capita is one of the lowest in Europe at 2,600 euros ($3,400) a year, according to the World Bank.
With reporting by AFP