Institute for European Affairs is focusing on negotiations between Serbia and the EU as well as on strengthening the capacity of all sides involved in the process. Given the complexity and long duration of the process, the Institute brings together a large number of professionals and external experts with whom organises trainings, debates and other forms of capacity development. We want to contribute to enhanced understanding of Serbia-EU relations. The Institute provides multi-perspective trainings in order to enable active participation of professionals and citizens in the decision-making processes. The Institute actively advocates for fundamental reforms within the EU integration process and in cooperation with partners working on strengthening Serbia's capacity to face the challenges of the global world through collective action. The overall objective is active membership of Serbia in Euro-Atlantic framework for the benefit of all citizens.

How to overcome a conflict?

For the past 3 months a group of youth leaders from Serbia, Kosovo* and The Netherlands was trying to give constructive suggestions on this matter within Our Future Europe program. Having different perspectives and experiences from our countries we were analyzing possible solutions for problems in the Balkans. Aside from that, we were trying to raise the importance of the role and responsibility of media in conflicts, but in peace also. For that purpose, we advocated for freedom of expression, encouraging media users to develop a critical way of thinking and hoped to increase the quality of information released in public.

We behaved as journalists by writing blogs, articles and attending TV and radio shows. We also conducted interviews and peer to peer activities. On those occasions all of us promoted our own idea of ‘Our future Europe’.  I must admit that I found that challenging and responsible, since the topic was sensitive. It is really easy to say something in social media, but it is difficult to be heard. Considering the amount of news that is released every day, promotion of one idea was highly competitive and ambitious.

For that purpose, I conducted online media campaign by using Thunderclap platform that helps people be heard by saying something together. Ten days in total I have been promoting Our Future Europe program, freedom of media and expression ad idea of non-conflict society. My main goal was collecting 100 tips on conflict resolution. Along with this, everyone should have left the online suggestion for resolving conflicts.

The biggest challenge I have faced with during this campaign is that people were restrained in sharing their honest opinion, once they saw the topic was Kosovo related. Therefore, I had to explain the purpose of this multicultural program multiple times to my Serbian friends – in order to get their opinion on this. Simply, they did not want to share their opinion publicly, since this is very sensitive topic in my country or because of the lack of the true knowledge about it. I must say that people are more careful once expressing their point of view on this matter then they used to be. But, also I had a strong impression that talking about Kosovo is still a taboo subject. On the other hand, my foreign friends were more than happy to share their opinion on this matter and to contribute to resolving problems. I must say that advices were differing depending on the nationality of individuals and their background, since everyone experienced the war in their own way.

There were many useful advices worth analyzing and sharing. The most frequent response on conflict resolution was mutual understanding. Like the old saying says ‘do not expect to understand someone’s issues if you have not walked a mile in their shoes’ – we have to have the ability to understand and share feelings of another.  That is called empathy. Since most of the conflicts escalate due to the problem in communication it is really necessary that we truly listen to the other party. Our experiences made us think differently, but if we want to understand how the other person feels – we have to put ourselves into the other party’s place. Also, for both of the parties it is important to understand the reason of the conflict. Therefore, we have to analyze it first. With quality and constructive arguments you have the higher chances is to resolve any issue. In these moments assertiveness is appreciated and will keep the situation under control. Successful resolution will also depend on one’s ability to regulate stress and emotions on the subject. Either way, the willingness of both parties to resolve a conflict is a crucial element for the positive outcome.

In case no agreement has been reached, parties should be patient since there is always another solution. For instance, mediator or so called ‘3rd neutral person’ is more than welcome in critical moments. There is also a ‘3rd solution’ theory. That means that sometimes finding a new alternative way is the best way. Also, one of the respondents pointed out that we should think like we are not one against another in a conflict, but we are there together against the conflict.

If none of above mentioned advices or combination of same would not work, then you should probably consider asking yourself if the method/style of your communication is right, if you have different priorities, etc. Making a small pause, drinking a glass of water or deep breathing can be fruitful for calming down and focusing. All in all, I have learnt from this survey that honest, direct and opened approach will show your best interest. It will transform a conflict into a useful discussion leading to a better solution.

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