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Europe

Donors Expected to Give One Billion Euro Aid Boost to Kosovo

International donors have indicated that they will pledge almost one billion euros ($1.58 billion) to help the newly independent state of Kosovo. It is regarded as a major step towards bolstering its ailing economy

Prime Minister Hashim Thaci next to EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn

Pristina has promised that ethnic Serbs as well as Kosovo Albanians will profit

The European Commission signalled it would give 500 million euros of aid a day ahead of the conference in Brussels, while the United States offered some 255 million euros.

At least half of the EU states are also reportedly expected to make individual contributions, with Germany vowing to pledge an extra 100 million.

Spain, which has not yet recognized Kosovo, which unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in February, said it would not provide separate funding. But a foreign ministry spokesman in Madrid stressed it was ready to provide humanitarian aid to the population if needed.

More accountability needed

Bus stop with graffitti saying Kosovo is still part of Serbia

Poverty in Kosovo is widespread

The money -- which is around 0.4 billion euros less than the amount identified by Kosovo for the 2009-11 period -- comes with certain strings attached. Donors at Friday's meeting demanded that the government in Pristina must make commitments to combating corruption.

There had also been concerns about the money also reaching Kosovo's ethnic Serb minority. But Prime Minister Hashim Thaci assured delegates that he would ensure fair access to the funding and expressed his confidence that the donations would transform what was for decades the poorest part of the former Yugoslavia and the target of a NATO bombing campaign to stop ethnic cleansing by Serb forces.

"We will make it an economic success story now... This donors' conference will be positive for all citizens of the country," he said.

Thaci also announced that Kosovo had applied to join the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). He reaffirmed its long-term objective of entering NATO and the European Union.

Students dance with the Albanian flag in Mitrovica

Some EU countries have not yet recognized Kosovan independence

Kosovo has been recognized by some 43 states, but could face opposition from Belgrade and Moscow to keep it out of international bodies key to attracting loans and investment.

According to a report published by the European Commission and the World Bank, the land will need some 600 million euros by 2011 just to improve its transport infrastructure. Other top priorities are the building of schools, and reforms of public administration, the judiciary and the police.

The 2 million-strong population of the state is the youngest in Europe, but has an unemployment rate of over 40 percent.

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