Monday, July 3, 2017

Celebrate the differences, and the things in common!

By Ilen Madhavji

So this course started with a lot of reading and learning. Primarily this was about the history and conflict that plagued Kosovo and the surrounding Balkan region. As Albin Kurti (the prime minister candidate for the Vetevendosje party in Kosovo) would put it, this forced us to look through "ethnic lenses". As a result, we saw Serbs vs. Kosovars, Albanians vs. Serbs, and all the other ethnic divides in the region. In addition to this, we learnt about all the differences between these groups of people, and the differences that caused splits even within these groups of people. This created an impression of Kosovo that I took with me when we first arrived.

In my mind, Kosovo was an angry nation comprised of ethnic groups that were angry with each other all the time. Although there is considerable tension between people there, I could not have been more wrong about what Kosovo is like. The moment I truly realized this was after Tom, Giacomo, and I had completed our documentary (Kosovo and the EU: A Matter of Perspective) and we could fully take in the message that we were trying to send. Our film is about the past, present, and future of EU involvement in Kosovo and in order to create it we had to interview many diverse people on this multifaceted topic. What quickly came to our attention was that everyone has got something different to say about the EU and what their influence has been on the region. These opinions can vary from very negative to very positive. Also, what was interesting is that these differences of opinion were also to be found within one nationality of people. So, even after doing all these interview of people who held different positions within society, I was still seeing Kosovo and a collection of people who have differences and in a way that became a big part of my definition of Kosovo.

Upon returning, we finished our documentary and once I had seen it for the first time in full it hit me: everyone was talking about their differences, but the things in common were present in other forms. A great example to illustrate this is actually visible in our documentary. As mentioned previously, there are so many varying opinions on the EU but what I did not initially notice is that once the conversation veered towards the future, everyone imagines it including EU membership and the benefits it would bring. The reason for this is that they ALL want to live a good life in a country with a prosperous economy, good schools, visa liberalization, and opportunities for their children. These wishes supersede boundaries and nationalities, and they see EU membership as the main vehicle that can kickstart this.

Looking back at this now, they are not at all that different from each other, and I hope this is something that all the people in Kosovo can achieve together with the EU and other organizations.

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