According to the BBC celebrations have begun in Kosovo's capital, Pristina, in anticipation of a expected declaration of independence sometime today. Thousands of Kosovars have been dancing in the streets, setting off fireworks and waving Albanian flags. A few minutes ago Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci has requested an emergency session of parliament to discuss a declaration of independence from Serbia. Mr Thaci said parliament was to meet at 1100 GMT to discuss the motion - as well as a new set of state symbols. Independence is supported by the US the UK and several EU countries but (unsurprisingly, given that is it a province of the nation) it is bitterly opposed by Serbia and also by Russia
In the flashpoint town of Mitrovica, in northern Kosovo, Nato peacekeeping troops have laid concrete and razor-wire barriers to separate Serbs from Albanians. Lieutenant-General Xavier de Marnhac, the French commander of the Nato peacekeepers, said his troops would react swiftly to any provocation from the Albanian or Serbian side of the divided town. Local and UN police, as well as the Nato troops, are maintaining a high profile to reassure all the citizens of Kosovo that they have nothing to fear. On Saturday, the EU approved sending a police and justice mission to Kosovo. The 2,000-strong mission, known as Eulex, will begin deploying from next week and is expected to take over from the United Nations by early June. It is tasked with helping to prevent human rights abuses and ensure that Kosovo's fragile institutions are free from political interference.
Serbia has threatened to use diplomatic and economic measures against Kosovo, though it has ruled out using force. Russia's foreign ministry has indicated that Western recognition of an independent Kosovo could have implications for the Georgian breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. (presumably it will also have consequences for the Moldovan breakaway state of Transnitria.)
A UN plan for Kosovo drawn up by special envoy Martti Ahtisaari, an experienced Finnish diplomat and politician, would give Kosovo independence - but with limits, and under international supervision. It would open the way for Kosovo to join the UN and have its own flag and national anthem - but it would prevent Kosovo from amalgamating with Albania, or having its Serb areas split off and be part of Serbia. Faced with a veto threat from Russia, the UN Security Council has failed to endorse the blueprint.
There seems to be an inevitability to Kosovan independence but despite the best intentions of Nato and the UN, I can’t help but imagine it will be the trigger for more violent conflict in the region: Although Kosovo is overwhelmingly Albanian (see the above map) the northern parts are majority Serb. Will they want to stay in Kosovo? I somehow doubt it. Will the Balkans see a new outbreak of ethnic cleansing and civil war? Will Serbia go to war over the loss of a province. I think both are pretty likely despite the nation's assurance that it will not undertake military action.
I know I am rather pessimistic about world affairs but the recent precedents all point to more bloodshed in the near future. Sometiems I wonder if the not-wife is right when she hopes for an even that will wipe the human race off the face of this planet...