Facing with problems is always related with feeling of discomfort, and because of that people are not ready to solve them. Instead of fixing and finding a possible solution, they are putting them under the carpet, hoping that someone else will do that or it’s going to solve itself. On long term and on individual level, it could cause different problems – to be fired from job, brake up with partner or start conflict with neighbor. But if it happens on national and interstate level, that certainly will produce big difficulties for one society and it could last for decades.
This is the story about post war period in Balkans and reconciliation. At heart of the problem lies a permanent and intensive resistance by many in region to the reality that their own ethnic kin committed crimes and unanswered political questions which make it difficult to look far into the future and coexistence.
The conflicts and wars in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s have led to a widespread feeling of pessimism and apathy. Young people have been innocent victims of war and the spread of distrust, prejudice and hatred. Nowadays, those young people still suffer from casualties caused by war during nineties. To start repairing broken relations and process of reconciliation, which is very complex, all parts of society have to be involved. But there still isn’t enough willingness to do it, especially political.
On that point, youth from Balkan must get involved. The question is how? How students can do that? Why we are more capable than politicians? What is our advantage? Who is going to support such thing? Why are so important for us to be the ones who will build bridges of friendship and reconciliation? Those are just few questions that I would try to answer in this essay.
Those political leaders, but and ordinary people, who initiate conflicts and were spreading religious and ethnic intolerance are unfortunately still in power. But it won’t last forever. Some of them are dead, some arrested and waiting for trial or are already serving sentence. The fact is that we and our children should cooperate and coexist in future. Because of that we have to engage ourselves on making Balkan region better place for living. Many steps already have been taken in order to achieve that.1
At first, there are many non government organizations which main goals are to establish truth, creating accurate, objective and official records of war crimes and other serious violations of human rights, the recognition of victims and their suffering, and to prevent the recurrence of crime (like REKOM project2). As a lawyer, I would like to participate in realization such projects by making available my knowledge in those specific issues of international and humanitarian law. That this are not just empty words, my small contribution in achieving to this goal is participation in Legal clinic for refugee law organized by Faculty of Law in Belgrade. My opinion is that we cannot reach reconciliation without establishing the facts about number of victims and refugees.
Next thing is organizing various interregional student conferences, seminars, competitions and meetings. I feel free to say that Serbia is great example of implementation of such ideas. This argument proves the following activities – International Student Week in Belgrade where students are coming from whole Europe, but the most numerous are those from Croatia, Bosnia and Slovenia, and all of them are countries where war was raging; the same is with Belgrade Model of United Nations and Model of European Union. Also, as member of Open Communication & Academic Debate Network, I have participated in organization in BG OPEN debate tournament where team from Croatia went to finals in House of Parliament and delivered a speech. Camps for volunteers, internships, student exchanges are just continuation of what we are doing to connect people and send good picture of Serbia. Nor sport events are less important. As no one is perfect, so none of up mentioned happenings are not perfectly organized, but vast majority of all participants are delighted by hospitality and people.
From my perspective all these events, that I participated or organized, have common things:
no recorded incident based on ethnic, national or religious affiliation,
good and productive communication and debates, but not conflicts,
breaking not all, but some prejudices, what I consider as progress,
creating new network of friends and colleagues and the most important
creating a base for further cooperation.
My observations confirm following results: 93% of those who took part in some of mentioned activities, say that the network is important or very important to them. Two-thirds say that they have to a large extent become more tolerant towards other people. This is particularly the case among the Bosnians (87 %). Furthermore, one-third consider that they have largely developed a better understanding of politics and 60 % also believe that it has been so important that it will probably influence their future career plans. They also report that people close to them such as family, friends and young people in other NGOs, have been affected by their experiences.3
It’s obvious that between us are many obstacles, political, economic and many unsolved issues in our countries, with some we would never be able to face, some are still beyond our abilities to deal with, because we do not have knowledge or resources. However, one thing that no one could take from us is willingness to change something, to repair broken relations in our societies. Everyone should bear that in mind and to contribute. I always strive to give personal contribution in improving connections and reaching reconciliation whether through conversation and debate with colleagues from post war Balkan countries or with my Serbian friends. We have model which already gave results that is possible to change opinion through described activities. It’s not easy and it wouldn’t be to continue, but we have our path to follow. If we stay on it, at some point of time maybe we would reach true reconciliation. If not, future will be worse than present.