Kosovo on Friday, December 14 passed laws to build an army, asserting its statehood in a move that has inflamed tensions with Serbia, which does not recognise the former province's independence, AFP reports.
Kosovo has been guarded by NATO-led peacekeeping troops since it broke away from Belgrade in a bloody separatist war in 1998-99.
The new laws will double the size of a small crisis-response outfit, the Kosovo Security Force (KSF), and set out a national defence mandate for a professional army of 5,000 troops.
"This vote today begins a new era for our country. From this moment we officially have the army of Kosovo," parliamentary speaker Kadri Veseli said as MPs hugged each other after the session, which was boycotted by minority Serb politicians.
The vote will delight many Kosovo Albanians, who are ready to celebrate the army as a new pillar of their independence, which was declared in 2008.