By Frankie Fraser
Our first day of Peace Lab 2018 busied itself with the business of getting to Kosovo, of which 11 hours were spent in Vienna. In those 11 hours, a lot was achieved: schnitzels were eaten, St. Stephen’s Cathedral was seen and a talk with Austrian diplomat Wolfgang Petritsch was enjoyed. Of all things discussed, what resonated with me most was the quote which I decided to open this blog with. As he discussed his involvement in the ultimately failed Rambouillet accords, he indicated towards the criteria which the international community require before they take notice, let alone intervention, in conflicts. A further lesson for a me, as an aspiring diplomat, is the amazing ability to not only not answer a question, but to discuss the things which you want to, through the questions asked by us. On top of this, although we all realised and acknowledged that he hadn’t answered the questions which we posed, I still left the room feeling satisfied.
What happened next? Plane, turbulence (not a fan), tin to calm nerves, bus, walk, bed.
Our first morning in Kosovo, the 13th of June, began with a breakfast enjoyed on Enver’s front porch, we met the rest of the group at the NEWBORN (NEW10RN- the 10indicating towards the 10th year anniversary of Kosovo’s declared independence) sign in central Pristina. The sign signifies far more than how it appears artistically. It is a very literal embodiment of their independence, an independence which is as fragile as it has been brief. Or so I thought, but it doesn’t feel like anything other than a normal state. The cigarette packets have Kosovar licensing; the cars have all got Kosovar plates and the police are all in Kosovar uniforms. Without the historical context, you wouldn’t think you were in a state which has yet to join the UN.
Our first meetings in Kosovo were held at Prishtina university. The first talk was given by Professor Ilyana Islami, vice-dean of the university and a big figure in the post-conflict justice system. She detailed the major problems facing the fledging state, specifically corruption and Russia’s continued support of Serbia. The corruption I found especially interesting, as she described the political establishment advocating the corruption, was how politics had mixed with business, to the extent that they support each other.
The answer to both these problems, she indicated, was the EU. She described how she wanted Europe to drag Serbia into the EU, with Kosovo following suit. However, I still feel Kosovo is in something of a catch-22, with them needing the EU to stop corruption, whereas the EU has emphasised that stopping corruption is a pre-requisite for membership.
Our final talk of the day was with the Kosovo Women's network. It was very interesting, with the merits of quota systems, the subtleties of the patriarchy and its insidious nature all discussed.
Following that we were free to explore Prishtina. A group of us spent the day walking the streets and finding it easy to strike up conversations with the locals. The first question they seem to ask is what we think of Kosovo and so far, the only answer is that it's great.