On March 30, the Balkan Trust for Democracy (BTD) hosted the Enhanced Policy Dialogue of Professionals in Kosovo and Serbia closing conference in Pristina, Kosovo. Comprised of three panels, the conference brought together over 40 past program alumni, partners, grantees, and other civil society, government, private sector, and media representatives to share the results of this third year of exchanges.
Panel 1, entitled “Changing Environments: Journalists’ Views from the Field,” featured results from the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) Kosovo and BIRN Serbia exchange. Slobodan Georgijev and Aleksandar Djurdjevic from BIRN Serbia and Paulina Nushi and Valerie Hopkins from BIRN Kosovo participated in reciprocal exchanges to explore and monitor the extent of implementation of the Brussels agreement. They discussed their personal experiences, some traveling to the other capitals for the first time. Participants shared the stories they had researched and written during their exchanges, including topics from Albanian bakers and importers in Belgrade to interviews with Parliamentarians and energy providers to profiles on political opposition figures. Panelists highlighted that though this program marked their first exchange, it would not be the last, as both organizations have forged a partnership to continue cooperative work. Questions and commentary from the audience focused on Gazivoda lake, the overall media situation in both counties, youth perceptions, and the need for further exchange among members of the media. The session was moderated by Kelsey Guyette, BTD Program Coordinator.
The next panel, entitled “Legal Aid and Human Rights: Perspectives on Systematic Approaches,” featured results from the exchange between the Lawyers’ Committee on Human Rights (YUCOM) and the Centre for Legal Aid and Regional Development (CLARD). Participants Milan Antonijevic and Nenad Trajkovic, alongside CLARD legal adviser Anton Nrecaj, described the legal aid environment and the anti-discrimination frameworks in place in both Kosovo and Serbia. Much of the research done during the exchange compared these two legal systems to understand what lessons can be learned and shared with legal practitioners in both communities, namely with regard to the European Court for Human Rights and the anti-discrimination laws. Questions and commentary from the audience included topics from translation to legal implementation and law enforcement to coordination between legal entities. This session was moderated by Saskia Salzmann, First Secretary and Human Security Adviser at the Swiss Embassy in Pristina.
The final panel, entitled “The Way Forward: Opportunities and Challenges for Greater Policy Cooperation,” focused on how to foster great cooperation among political actors. Ramadan Ilazi, Deputy Minister for European Integration within the Kosovo Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Nenad Djurdjevic, Director of the Forum for Ethnic Relations and former Serbian civil servant, discussed how further implementation of the Brussels agreement must involve government, civil society, and the European Union jointly. Chambers of commerce were hailed as great examples of such cooperation. Questions and commentary from the audience delved into SAA implementation; communication and coordination between government, civil society, and citizens; and the role of the EU in encouraging normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia. This session was moderated by Natasa Petrovic, BTD Senior Program Officer.
The Enhanced Policy Dialogue of Professionals in Kosovo and Serbia Program (EPDP) aims to further normalize Kosovo-Serbia relations by strengthening communication platforms, advancing multi-perspective policy dialogue, and facilitating cooperation between representatives of governments, media, and legal organizations in both Kosovo and Serbia. Through a series of reciprocal exchanges and a civil servant workshop, the EPDP Program fosters much-needed dialogue and exchange that are essential to maintaining the stability, security, and further Euroatlantic integration of the Western Balkans. Program participants engage in joint policy work, including research, monitoring, and advocacy for inclusive policy development and implementation.
These programs are implemented by the Balkan Trust for Democracy, through the support of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and in partnership with the British Embassies in both Belgrade and Pristina.