BRUSSELS -- Newly independent Kosovo won 1.2 billion euros ($1.9 billion) in aid pledges at a donors' conference on July 11 billed as the first step to rebuilding its shattered economy.
Prime Minister Hashim Thaci announced that Kosovo, which broke away from Serbia in February, had applied to join the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). He reaffirmed its long-term goal of entering NATO and the European Union.
"This is testimony that the world believes in Kosovo," Thaci told delegates after the one-day conference attended by the EU's 27 countries, the United States and other international donors.
The European Commission pledged 500 million euros of EU funds ahead of the event and the United States offered $400 million. Individual EU states added their own contributions, with Germany providing 100 million euros.
"Kosovo is a profoundly European matter...and this is the most concrete, tangible proof of our commitment to Kosovo and stability in the Western Balkans as a whole," EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said of the EU cash.
The amount raised includes some EU money that was already earmarked for Kosovo, and falls short of the 1.4 billion euros of funding needs that had been identified for Kosovo between 2009 and 2011.
But Thaci, vowing "zero-tolerance" on the corruption that has dogged Kosovo for years, said the result was better than expected because much of the funds covered only the next two years.
A breakdown of individual contributions was not provided but conference sources said the German pledge far outweighed all others aside from the U.S. offer. Non-EU states Saudi Arabia and Norway gave smaller but substantial donations, they added.
Spain, one of the minority of EU states that have not yet recognised Kosovo, confirmed it had not made a separate donation but a Foreign Ministry spokesman in Madrid stressed it was ready to provide humanitarian aid to the population if needed.
40 Percent Jobless
Five months after seceding from Serbia in defiance of Belgrade and its ally Russia, Kosovo remains weighed down by the destruction of the 1998-99 war -- when NATO waged a bombing campaign to drive out Serb forces engaged in ethnic cleansing -- and a legacy of waste and corruption under international stewardship.
It has been recognised by 43 mostly Western states, but could face bids by Belgrade and Moscow to keep it out of the international bodies needed to attract loans and investment.
However, officials in Kosovo are convinced they can amass enough support to win membership of the World Bank and IMF. Thaci said he hoped for a positive answer soon to its application bids, filed on July 10.
A large part of the new aid will go to servicing Kosovo's share of the Yugoslav debt inherited from Serbia.
Analysts say that regardless of the amount raised, the government will have a tough job fulfilling the expectations of its 2 million people, the youngest population in Europe but one struggling with over 40 percent unemployment.
The EU has made clear it wants gradually to take over responsibilities from the United Nations in Kosovo and guide it towards the far-off goal of possible EU membership.