World

Serbian Prime Minister skips match against Albania amid charged atmosphere

  • An Albanian soccer fan stamps the national emblem of his country before the group I Euro 2016 qualifying match between Albania and Serbia in Elbasan, central Albania, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015. Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic says he will not attend a European Championship qualifier in Albania, saying he did not want heated fan rivalry to undermine progress made in improving relations between the two Balkan countries.(AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

    An Albanian soccer fan stamps the national emblem of his country before the group I Euro 2016 qualifying match between Albania and Serbia in Elbasan, central Albania, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015. Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic says he will not attend a European Championship qualifier in Albania, saying he did not want heated fan rivalry to undermine progress made in improving relations between the two Balkan countries.(AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)  (The Associated Press)

  • Albanian soccer fans chat slogans before the group I Euro 2016 qualifying match between Albania and Serbia in Elbasan, central Albania, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

    Albanian soccer fans chat slogans before the group I Euro 2016 qualifying match between Albania and Serbia in Elbasan, central Albania, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)  (The Associated Press)

  • Albanian soccer fans gather outside Elbasan Arena before the group I Euro 2016 qualifying match between Albania and Serbia in Elbasan, central Albania, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015. Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic says he will not attend a European Championship qualifier in Albania, saying he did not want heated fan rivalry to undermine progress made in improving relations between the two Balkan countries.(AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

    Albanian soccer fans gather outside Elbasan Arena before the group I Euro 2016 qualifying match between Albania and Serbia in Elbasan, central Albania, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015. Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic says he will not attend a European Championship qualifier in Albania, saying he did not want heated fan rivalry to undermine progress made in improving relations between the two Balkan countries.(AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)  (The Associated Press)

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic says he will not attend a qualifier for the European soccer championships in Albania, saying he does not want heated fan rivalry to undermine progress made in relations between the two Balkan countries.

Thursday's match in Elbasan, central Albania, is being policed by more than 2,000 officers, with extensive road closures and security checks.

Vucic had been invited to the game by Albanian Prime minister Edi Rama, who is due to attend.

A match between the countries — who remain at odds over the status of now-independent Kosovo — was interrupted by violence in Belgrade last year after a drone carrying a nationalist Albanian banner hovered over the pitch.

In Elbasan, thousands of fans gathered in a party atmosphere ahead of the Group I game.