The big, yellow, graffitied letters saying “NEWBORN” in one of the main areas of Pristina say it all. Newborn. That is what Kosovo is.
Talking about a change in perspective, the trip to Kosovo was exactly that for me. When I said that I was leaving for Kosovo, not a few of my friends were terrified; in their minds Kosovo was still a war-zone, a place where the rule of law is but a figure of speech, and anybody going there will be at risk. What I found there was a different story.
Between the numerous meetings we attended and the ordinary people we met on the streets and in bars, an overall picture started to frame in my mind. Nothing is ever one-sided; every story has (at least) two sides and for the foreigner, who visits for a week, it is hard to grasp and come to terms with both; it is hard to form an actual opinion. The trip stretched between the official and the common, between suit-dressed officials and beggars sitting in the mud, between words and action, in the hope of finding a common ground for understanding.
The meeting we had with the “Kosovo Women’s Network” founder, Igballe (Igo) Rugova, was one for me to remember. Ms Rugova told us not only historical and political facts, but also recounted numerous stories portraying her experience as an activist for both women’s and LGBT rights in Kosovo for the past twenty years. These stories were truly inspiring; they show that even though political and international institutions do adopt laws and resolutions, the situation on the ground can never be changed by mere declarations of rights. It is people who have to work for it every day, in their own communities, in order to make a difference.
Our meeting at the Ministry of Internal Affairs gave us a very different perspective. We had the chance to discuss with the legal advisor of the minister. We touched upon subjects like the Visa negotiations for Kosovo, integration policies, institutional mechanisms etc. What really made an impression on me is that the Ministry, as well as all the other State institutions, consisted mainly of young people. The Legal advisor often asked for our opinion, asked questions in return and left me with the impression that he did not only want to persuade and to present, but also to listen and to discuss,
These were only some of the meetings that we had. But I can safely say that they helped me to gain a better understanding of this complicated situation to a very great extent. I am grateful for the opportunity I had, to become an insider for a week in the context of Kosovo, to have the chance to meet all these people – some involved in the highest offices of the international community, others struggling to work for the good of civil society, but all of them aiming towards the same goal of stability and prosperity for Kosovo. And having had the chance to know some fine people my age, students who have high ideals and a solid educational background, I do believe all these combined efforts will lead to a brighter future for the Republic of Kosovo.
By Ioanna Mincheva, E.MA student 2011/2012