Serbia – Kosovo: What Role for Civil Society in Normalizing Relations?
On March 30, the Balkan Trust for Democracy hosted the conference, “Serbia-Kosovo: What Role for Civil Society in Normalizing Relations?”
This event brought 120 participants from over 50 civil society organizations, media, and academic institutions in Kosovo and Serbia together in Belgrade. Participants discussed high-level and practitioner overviews on the role of civil society in Serbia-Kosovo relations and a series of targeted, tangible outcomes as to how cooperation on has been conducted and may be furthered.
Gordana Delic (Balkan Trust for Democracy) delivered welcome remarks to open the conference. The opening panel, moderated by Dr. Joanna Hanson (London School of Economics), provided international perspectives on Kosovo-Serbia civil society cooperation. Ivan Vejvoda (German Marshall Fund of the United States) observed that civil society never stopped communicating despite the conflicts of the 1990’s, and praised the strong turnout as demonstrating that a cooperative energy still exists on the ground. H.E. Ambassador Denis Keefe (British Embassy Belgrade) positively assessed regional developments, reflecting on the European and transatlantic integration of the region and recognizing the importance of the role that civil society plays in furthering these processes. Finally, Goran Buldioski (Open Society Initiative for Europe) questioned the concept of the current “normal” discourse on Kosovo and Serbia and called for constructing a “new normal” which would promote cooperation and give a vision for the future.
Subsequent sessions examined prospects for enhancing policy through civil society cooperation, and shared best practices of regional policy coooperation. Speakers on the second panel, moderated by Sonja Licht (Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence), emphasized the need for including civil society and perspectives from North Kosovo in the ongoing Belgrade-Pristina dialogues. During the third panel, Sonja Stojanovic Gajic (Belgrade Centre for Security Policy), Florian Qehaja (Kosovar Centre for Security Studies), and Vladimir Petronijevic (Group 484) explored the challenges and future opportunities for widening cooperation to more policy areas, informing the citizens on topics relevant to their everyday lives, and providing relative analysis and recomendations to decision makers. In the final session, panelists reiterated the need for closer cooperation of the Kosovo and Serbia civil society as the way forward, especially on the monitoring of the implementation of the Brussels Agreement signed two years ago.
Speakers included Naim Rashiti (Balkans Policy Research Group); Pavle Dimitrijevic (Bureau for Social Research); Aleksandar Stojanovic (European Centre for Minority Issues – Kosovo); Branislav Nesovic (Aktiv); Valerie Hopkins (Balkan Investigative Reporting Network); Bridget Millman (Balkan Trust for Democracy); Leon Malazogu (Democracy 4 Development); Nenad Djurdjevic (Forum for Ethnic Relations); Vukosava Crnjanski (Centre for Research, Transparency and Accountability) and Engjellushe Morina (Prishtina Council on Foreign Relations).
During a set of thematic roundtables, participants presented their existing work and cooperation, and discussed future paths for collaboration together with others working in the field. Themes addressed included: Security & Migration; Democracy & Accountability; Academia & Research; Independent Media; Human Rights & Reconciliation; and Local & Regional Development. A set of recomendations was given by each of the discussion group, which will be included in the resulting conference paper.
This conference was held under the auspices of the Professional Work Exchange for Enhanced Policy Dialogue (PWEEPD) Program, implemented by the Balkan Trust for Democracy with the support of the British Foreign Commonwealth Office. The PWEEPD Program is a series of cross-border policy work exchanges of mid-career professionals from a targeted group of think tanks and civil society organizations in Kosovo and Serbia. The aim of these work exchanges is to enhance the human resources and knowledge products of host organizations and facilitate the production of multi-perspective policy work.