Europe

Pilot flies flag round world for Kosovo independence

James Berisha
Image caption James Berisha's next target is Africa

Do you ever get frustrated by politics that change does not happen fast enough for your liking, and wish you could give things a kick-start?

That is how James Berisha felt. So he decided to fly the flag for his homeland - literally - and take to the air promoting independence for Kosovo.

Mr Berisha, 38, aims to travel to as many countries and meet as many people as possible to spread the word.

Many countries, however, remain unconvinced by his campaign.

"I would like the world to know that we, Kosovo, declared our independence," he said on BBC World Service.

"I would like countries that have not recognised our independence to do so."

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia two years ago. It has been recognised by more than 50 nations, but most countries, including Russia and China, are opposed.

Serbia says the independence declaration is illegal - and that Kosovo remains Serbian territory. That stance is backed by various countries including some in the EU, like Spain, which fear that it could set a precedent for separatist movements.

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Mr Berisha said he has already covered all of the Americas and parts of Western Europe.

"I've been to every country in South America, I've been to most countries in Central America, then I'm going for US, Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Scotland, England, Switzerland, Croatia and finally Kosovo."

He has arrived in the Kosovan capital Pristina to prepare for the next leg of his journey.

Image caption Berisha plans to fly all the way to Australia in his single engine plane

"The method I used, my tool, off course is my aeroplane, indicating on the left side 'Please recognise Kosovo's independence', the right side saying the same thing but in Spanish."

Mr Berisha has also been talking about the experience of his own family - who had to leave the region during the Kosovo conflict - to highlight why Kosovans opted for independence.

"I have been to every country talking to radio and TV stations, newspapers," he said.

In the late 1990s, more than 10,000 people were killed in the Kosovo conflict, as an insurgency by ethnic Albanian separatists was suppressed by the government of Slobodan Milosevic.

Nato responded by bombing Serbia into submission, after which Kosovo was placed under UN administration, that eventually lead to the declaration of independence.

He said most of the people he met "said they don't have any clue why their governments are not accepting our independence".

Mr Berisha's next destination is Africa and Asia. Later he plans to fly all the way to Australia in the same plane despite some of its shortcomings.

He almost ran out of fuel after failing to land in Colombia because of bad weather.

During his flight to Iceland from Greenland, his plane's alternator broke down over the Atlantic.

"I couldn't use any of my lights. I couldn't use any of my communication, navigation system," said Berisha, who then managed to divert power from another source and land the aircraft.

"At one point I was thinking yeah I'm done, that's it."

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