United States vice president Joe Biden was greeted by thousands of Kosovo citizens lining the streets to the centre of Pristina, along with "welcome and thank you" posters as he arrived on May 21 2009, local and international media report said.
Biden arrived in Pristina from Belgrade, where he had sought to open the way for improved relations between the US and Serbia which were soured by Washington’s support for Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia in February 2008.
It was certain that his welcome in Pristina would be warm one. Reports ahead of his visit said that he would be given Kosovo’s highest state honour, the Gold Medal of Freedom.
Kosovo daily Express said on its front page on the day of Biden’s arrival: "His work has changed our fate".
Reports ahead of Biden’s visit said that he would reiterate Washington’s support for the development of Kosovo as an independent and multi-ethnic state, while some reports suggested that he would encourage Kosovo’s leaders to take a firmer hand in its governance. The fledgling state continues to be heavily reliant on foreign support, for example the EULEX law and order mission.
Kosovo media reports said that prime minister Hashim Thaci would brief Biden on what he saw as Kosovo’s challenges and achievements.
"The government of Kosovo, the institutions of Kosovo, will inform Mr. Biden on the achievements in Kosovo, on the successes we have achieved, on the challenges we have faced, but also on our pledges and unwavering vision to build Kosovo as a modern and democratic state for all of its citizens," Thaci was quoted as saying.
In Belgrade on May 20, Biden said he came on behalf of the Barack Obama administration with a clear message that the US wanted to deepen co-operation with Serbia, help resolve problems in the region and assist Serbia become a strong, successful and democratic member of the Euro-Atlantic community.
"The United States does not, I emphasise, does not expect Serbia to recognise the independence of Kosovo. It is not a precondition for our relationship or our support for Serbia becoming part of the European Union," Biden said.
Serbia’s B92 reported that opposition Serb Radical Party (SRS) MPs showed up in parliament wearing t-shirts with printed image of their leader Vojislav Seselj, and leaflets, put up in several places inside the building, which read, "Biden, you Nazi scum, go home", and, "Biden, you fascist scum, go home".
SRS whip Dragan Todorovic told journalists that Biden should be taken for a walk in Belgrade and shown all the places destroyed during Nato's attacks.
Nada Kolundzija, whip for the majority For a European Serbia coalition, said that Biden's messages that the US was ready to support Serbia's EU path, and that Washington was aware that Belgrade would never recognise Kosovo as independent, were "very important", B92 said.