Kosovo kicks off media campaign to improve image

PRISTINA, Oct 26 (Reuters) - Following years of turmoil in the heart of the Balkans, Kosovo launched an international advertising campaign on Monday to lure new investment and clean up a reputation for corruption and instability.

The 5.7-million-euro ($8.5-million) campaign by advertising group Saatchi & Saatchi will air 60-second television advertisements on six stations in Europe and the United States and emphasize the vitality of the country's youth.

"Serbia has distorted the real face of Kosovo with its propaganda which has damaged Kosovo's image throughout the years," said Memli Krasniqi, head of the campaign for the Kosovo government. "Our campaign is not only an economic campaign to bring new investments but also is a political one."

Serbia lost control of Kosovo in 1999 when NATO launched its first air war to halt atrocities by Serb forces fighting Albanian guerrillas. Kosovo declared independence last year.

Much of the Balkans suffered an image problem abroad after the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. Some countries such as Croatia have improved their reputations through costly international advertising campaigns by highlighting tourism.

Yet as the smallest country in the region geographically and the poorest, Kosovo faces an uphill battle in forging a positive international reputation.

Diplomatically, Kosovo's government has also been struggling to get support for its 2008 declaration of independence that so far is recognized by 62 countries, including the United States and most of the EU.

Serbia has been lobbying to halt recognition for a region it considers as the heartland of its history and Christian Orthodox religion. (Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; editing by Adam Tanner)