Beyond Sunday's jubilation among Kosovo's ethnic Albanians, and Serb consternation, lies a problematic road ahead for the new state. Despite nine years of tutelage and billions of donated dollars, Kosovo is a long way from operating as a real country.
"We know Kosovo faces real challenges in creating a functioning state," said Kosovo's president, Fatmir Sejdiu.
Kosovo has a very young and mostly unemployed population. Its treatment of women is deplorable, according to human rights activists -- Kosovo is a major transit point and sometimes origin for the trafficking of women forced into prostitution. Poverty and official corruption are rampant, and basic infrastructure is so poor that there are daily power outages. Minorities, including an estimated 100,000 Serbs, have been subjected to abuse and discrimination, and fewer than 10% of those forced from their homes in a wave of postwar revenge attacks by ethnic Albanians have returned.
Kosovo relies on a 16,000-member North Atlantic Treaty Organization force for basic security, has virtually no productive economy and instead lives by donations, and will continue, even in independence, to be supervised by a large EU contingent of police and judicial officers.
Moreover, the expectations of average Kosovo citizens that statehood will solve all their problems are widely seen as unrealistically high.
"It's going to be the shortest honeymoon you've ever seen," said analyst Shpend Ahmeti of Pristina's Institute for Advanced Studies. "They've linked every problem with status. And now, status will not be an excuse anymore."
Kosovo officials argue that because the status of their aspirant nation was in limbo, it was impossible to make long-term government plans.
"I don't believe we are ready," said Berisha, the real estate broker. "We will continue to need support. But they have to teach us to walk. They can't walk for us anymore."
Also among the revelers Sunday were cousins Hasam and Gazmend Mehani, who were waving huge Albanian flags, plus one Italian flag for good measure.
"We're just hoping for things to be better," said Gazmend, 25 and unemployed for the last nine years. Hasam, 42, said he was confident that independence would bring peace and happiness to Kosovo. But he has no plans to return to live in Kosovo, preferring to stay abroad in Switzerland.
"I'll wait for things to settle out," he said.
International diplomacy will also have to settle out in the coming days. European Union foreign ministers will meet today to decide what position to take on Kosovo.
Although Washington is expected to recognize the new country of Kosovo, President Bush did not offer such acknowledgment Sunday. Traveling in Africa, he said resolving Kosovo's status was key to stability in the Balkans and urged all parties to avoid violence.
Russia calls meeting
Russia, a key ally of Serbia, called an emergency Security Council meeting Sunday, hours after the declaration of independence, and asked U.N. officials in Kosovo to declare the proclamation of independence "null and void." Russia and Serbia maintain that Kosovo's action violates international law. The U.N., however, is not expected to intervene.
"We will also strongly warn against any attempts at repressive measures should Serbs in Kosovo decide not to comply with this unilateral proclamation of independence," Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said before entering the closed council meeting.
He was alluding to Serbs in the divided Kosovo city of Kosovska Mitrovica who are threatening to secede from Kosovo. In the city on Sunday, assailants tossed hand grenades at EU and U.N. buildings, causing damage but no injuries.
Russia and several European countries that oppose independence argue that it sets a dangerous precedent for separation-minded ethnic minorities in other nations. The presidents of the breakaway Georgian republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are scheduled to address a joint news conference in Moscow today, and analysts believe they may declare independence for their regions and seek Moscow's recognition.
Times staff writers Maggie Farley at the United Nations, James Gerstenzang in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Sergei L. Loiko in Moscow and special correspondent Zoran Cirjakovic in Belgrade contributed to this report.