Radicalisation leading to violence among young people has become a growing issue of concern in Europe and its neighbouring regions, including the Western Balkans. There is a notable increase in hate speech in the social media, incidence of hate crimes and attacks on migrants, refugees and others that are, or seem in some way different, propaganda and violent xenophobia, as well as a rise in religious and political extremism and in terrorist attacks.
Aleksandar Reljić is a journalist and the editor of the documentary program of Radio televizija Vojvodina. His short length documentary “Kosovo Nazdravlje! Gëzuar!” gathers the representatives of the “sides at war” on Kosovo, asking the question whether shared life among Serbs and Albanians is possible. “I would probably never have gotten into journalism if it hadn’t been for the wars on Ex-Yugoslavian territory, and if that hadn’t been a frustration that had to be channeled in some way – otherwise I would have burst. And I was bursting. The only remedy and true therapy was when I took on this job that allowed me to channel frustration”, Aleksandar explains. “I never thought I could change the world, I never had that sort of illusion”, but at least I shattered my own prejudice and helped base the opinion that, in reality, regular people don’t hate. Regular people live their lives, and they’re only (and exclusively) victims of propaganda”.
My name is Ana Mullanji, a youth worker from Tirana, Albania, founder and director of Beyond Barriers Association working with youngsters since 2014. I remember my first visit to a Balkan country, in Serbia, when I was selected to attend a training course for trainers organized by European Youth Foundation. It was the first steps of my career so I felt lucky and privileged to be selected to attend such activity. Different to nowadays, during that period the possibilities for participating in such activities were limited and the visa regime travel in the Balkan countries was making the process even more complicated for Albanian citizens. The idea to participate in that activity flattered me and without thinking twice I started the procedures for my visa. I was so happy for this opportunity that I wanted to share the news with all my friends.
In the lack of expertise offered by political analysts and sociologists, you might think – what qualifies me to write about reconciliation and coexistence in this region? I can point out two references – a citizen of Serbia and a civil sector activist. Furthermore, I won’t mention any legal regulations, strategies or signed documents, nor will I offer an expert analysis of the current social ambience with reference to the events of the last decade of 20th century and from the start of new millennia in the Western Balkans. This is a personal point of view and therefore some readers may conclude that this is an „abstract scribbling“.
In the framework of the transnational project Balkan Refugee Trail – A Pathway for European Solidarity, project partners from Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary and Austria conducted interviews with representatives of initiatives, supporting refugees, in order to gather experiences which have been gained and to give an insight into the past years’ civil society commitment. This article captures the Austrian perspective.
Conflict is the business of Balkans leaders – and business is good!
Anonymous internet comment.
One brief look at the situation in most countries of south-eastern Europe is enough to notice the painful similarities. Corruption, poor regard for rule of law, media serving interest of politics and shady economies. As if this weren’t enough, people continue to live with a feeling of imminent conflict despite over 15 years passed since last bullets were fired. Take any of the countries; Albania, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro or Serbia, and you won’t find any real democracy there. Even if they come to power through an (often debatable) election, the ruling elites then engage in any sort of activity, legal or illegal, just to maintain power. And if the everyday speculations, manipulations and various trickeries don’t do the job, they can and they will resort to the good old fashioned warmongering and blaming ‘bad neighbors’ any time they face a bit more serious threat.
The path to reconciliation is a multifaceted, multi-layered, inter-active process with no specific time limit. It is not an absolute nor restorative but forward looking one, building new, stronger relationships reaching into the future. This wide-ranging project masterminded by the Bosnian Youth and Communication Center and other civil society organisations reflects this admirably.
The statement that the ‘ Balkans produces more history than it can consume’ is often (wrongly) attributed to Winston Churchill, but nevertheless it resonates very well with the visible difficulty for the established public and political cultures to refrain from using historical interpretations and concepts as divisive tools, or worse – using history as a weapon. But, what does it actually mean when a society ‘consumes’ history? And if we acknowledge that “dealing with the past”, “facing history”, etc entail the proper ‘consumption’ of the past, which history should be dealt with, by whom and how?
In October 2013. a group of young enthusiastic, several different religions and nations, together participated in training about reconciliation and fight against discrimination „Demilitarization and fight against discrimination“.
All participants had two things in common- they lived in Tuzla and they were gathered by then and now the strongest organization for youth- Youth resource center Tuzla.
Peacebuilding, you will agree, is not a simple process. The process largely depends on many structural and cultural factors. One of the elements of cultural factors refers to the traditionalism as value orientation; more specifically the national exclusivism with its prominence in the societies that used to be part of Yugoslavia. Even today, two decades after the ethnical conflicts, the value proposition that presupposes an attitude of inability of having mutual respect while living together – hinders every step in the process of making and building peace. It is commonly noticed that the national hatred, antipathy, and intolerance are ingredients to the culture of the west Balkan – even more so, some theories propone precisely the thesis that the Balkans has always been an arena of intolerance and strong nationalism, which represent the roots of the conflict and fragile peace of these societies.