1 February 2013
Youth Reconciliation Program
Some of the participants from the Republic of Kosovo (Astrit Zatriqi, Sanela Sadikovic, Endrit Kadriu, Hadis Karatashi)
TV host: With the youth today we will speak about the relations between the people of our region.
With this purpose, the Youth Reconciliation Ambassadors program aims at the exchange of experiences between young people of the Balkans. In this regard, we have interviewed some young Kosovars who have been part of one of the activities of this program.
Journalist: Youth Reconciliation Ambassadors program, organized by the Youth Education Committee, aims to provide the young people from the Republic of Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republic of Serbia with an opportunity to discuss and compare the experiences of their societies with the processes of reconciliation and transition in the region by using the European integration as a tool.
On this occasion, among the participants there were also young people from the Republic of Kosovo who visited Belgrade as part of this program, which included lectures by speakers from different spheres of society as well as visits to various institutions. According to them, their visit was very beneficial.
Astrit Zatriqi: The program included lectures by political scientists, historians, human rights experts, to politicians. Among the topics that were discussed were human rights, war crimes, multi-perspective approach to the teaching of history, conflict prevention, and so forth. Also, we visited the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Officer of the War Crimes Prosecutor, the Humanitarian Law Center, the Anti-Corruption Agency, and so forth. In most cases, sufficient space was provided for the inclusion of the participants in the lectures through questions, comments and debate in general.
Sanela Sadikovic: The main goal was to hear the other side on the regional developments. As we know, in the last two decades the situation in the region has been tense, which can also be noted today. In this regard, I have benefited a lot from the lectures and the topics discussed there. Different topics from different areas of society were discussed from different perspectives. Given the sensitivity of the events that have characterized our society in the recent years, there was a debate in which there have been instances when the participants from the Republic of Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia did not share the same opinions. Nevertheless, this was a good opportunity to break down barriers between us. Also, taking into account the position and the institution where I work, I gained a lot, where I had the opportunity to inform young people of the region on Kosovo’s achievements in recent years. That is, from the time when Kosovo declared independence. The mandate of the office for communities, within the office of the prime minister, is the promotion of culture, tradition, language of non-majority communities in Kosovo.
Endrit Kadriu: In this event I have benefited greatly. I had the opportunity to meet with young people from other countries in the region, from Bosnia and Serbia. Also, through this program we had the opportunity to visit various institutions in Serbia, including political institutions and non-governmental organizations. Also, we had the opportunity to see Belgrade at night, to see the city. Kosovo was introduced through food, traditional clothing, including “plis” (a traditional brimless, felt cap). We have also exposed the values of hospitality, through the “Kanuni i Leke Dukagjinit” /“The Code of Leke Dukagjini”, as ancient values among Albanians (Albanians made sure that no single Jew was caught by the Nazis during World War II. Jews were provided with shelter in Albanian lands. There is the recent documentary, “Besa”, which provides good illustration. Related exhibitions were organized in Israel in the past years. Descendants of the respective Jewish families often come to the Republic of Kosovo and Albania to visit the Albanian families who saved the lives of their predecessors, bringing gifts and singing Albanian songs together). Furthermore, we introduced other materials that provided information on Albanians and Kosovo to other peoples from the Balkans.
Hadis Karatashi: I have also been a participant in this program in Belgrade. My experience was very good. I think that I benefited from this opportunity. As other colleagues mentioned, we had the opportunity to visit some of the state institutions and independent organizations, including NGOs. We had the opportunity to share our ideas and experiences, and to discuss the various problems faced by the countries of the Western Balkans in general. It was a program organized by an organization in Belgrade. We had the opportunity to make present Kosovo through culture, in a inter-cultural evening, where participants from the Republic of Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia presented their food, their traditional clothing and music, all of those that are part of our cultural identity. We visited historic and tourist centers in Belgrade. Also, as young people, we saw Belgrade at night, along with the friends that we made there, we obtained information about various festivals and different activities throughout the year.
Journalist: According to them, the prejudice among youth is still present.
Hadis Karatashi: I think there was a huge prejudice among the youth and friends that we have made there and among the native people in Belgrade whom we have met with, but even among some of the participants from Bosnia and Herzegovina. I think they had a wrong perception of Kosovar youth, for the people of Kosovo and the situation that has dominated in Kosovo, before the war, after the war, or during the war, unfortunately. Those who should be blamed are mainly the media. They have spread completely false information on Kosovo and its people. We ourselves have experienced the war. We know our society, our country. They had formed a very different perception of the real situation.
Astrit Zatriqi: This was of particular importance especially given that the public in Serbia, as it is well known did not have the appropriate opportunities to objective information, impartial and well-intentioned information on the developments in Kosovo.
Sanela Sadikovic: Unfortunately, there are prejudices. As I have observed there, there are prejudices on a large scale.
Journalist: Are the prejudices more pronounced among the youth from Kosovo or the young people from Serbia?
Sanela Sadikovic: From both sides. But more probably by the Serbian media, which have affected more Serbs in Serbia. However, I think it is pronounced on both sides.
Astrit Zatriqi: Although the normalization of relations between the Republic of Kosovo and the Republic of Serbia, as a complex process, should be initially preceded by an apology to the people of Kosovo from the Serbian state, and finally by the mutual recognition between the two states, such programs provide young people in both countries the opportunity to exchange knowledge about their countries and to shatter prejudices.
Perhaps the only “flaw” of the program was the lecture, if one can call it as such, of the deputy of the Assembly of the Republic of Kosovo, Rada Trajkovic, who with typical Milosevic rhetoric and misinformation of the Radio and Television of Serbia (RTS) during the nineties, by even denying the statehood of the country in the assembly she is part of, said that she would never recognize Kosovo’s statehood and, paradoxically, labeled her compatriots, who lead certain ministries of the Republic of Kosovo, as traitors. Consequently, all participants from the Republic of Kosovo, but also young people from other regional countries, reacted by citing, among others, the massacres and the large number of missing persons in Kosovo, but also emphasizing, with facts, that Serbs are the most privileged minority in Kosovo.