The Pristina Summit Declaration

Normal people necessary for normal relations

“We wish to build sustainable peace in the Western Balkans, founded on cooperation and understanding of the common past. We wish to stop the new wave of nationalism developed among generations born after the conflicts on the territory of the former Yugoslavia. We wish to send an image different from the one that media send and which shows youth united in the hate against ‘the others’. We have to use the opportunity now, more than ever, and reach to as many people as possible, who want to create a strong regional and global network, which promotes peace, human rights, and democracy”, was the message sent by the youth activists from Kosovo, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Montenegro on December 14th at the opening of the Prishtina Youth Summit. The Summit lasted three days.

The Summit gathered more than 190 socially and politically active young individuals from the countries of the Western Balkans, EU, and (post)conflict areas throughout the World, and representatives of state institutions in the region, who will spend the next three days discussing problems in the Western Balkans and the exchange of experience with activists from the entire World. Youth Initiative for Human Rights organized the Summit.

In the Declaration of the participants in the Summit, the youth requested from the governments in the Western Balkans to work on the provision of justice for war crimes victims and to support civil society initiatives, which contribute to the sustainable peace and justice for victims.

“Governments should legally prevent the operation of extremist groups, who mobilize more and more young people in the Western Balkans, fight all sorts of discrimination, and actively promote the culture of diversity. They should provide for the active participation of youth in the decision making process at all levels and wholeheartedly support the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, and particularly to contribute to the freedom of movement and the exchange of youth from both societies and from the entire region”, youth activists underlined.

“Young people in authoritarian systems usually do not have any role because political elites, who often use youth as support for what they are doing, create policies for them. Political changes are possible in different ways and a change of generations represents an important step in this direction. It happens gradually and slowly, but it is important that we work on this every day because future starts now”, Nadia Diuk, the Vice President of the National Endowment for Democracy, underlined.

“An important dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo is pending, which was unthinkable several years ago. One must admit that politicians have left their former frameworks, despite the criticism coming from nationalists. The reason for the dialogue is normalization of relations between Prishtina and Belgrade, which is not possible unless normal people are involved in it. This is why it is important to involve in this process not only politicians, but civil society as well, in particular young individuals, who we like to perceive as future leaders”, Ian Cliff, the Ambassador of the Great Britain in Kosovo, stated.

The Deputy Head of the Council of Europe office in Kosovo, Andrew Forde, emphasized the significance of youth in the policy making:

“If we fail to involve youth in the political process, the gap between the governments and citizens will only grow, as well as the gap between people. European societies have never enjoyed these standards of human rights and Europe is so full of contrasts and contradictions today, especially when it comes to youth. They have never been more educated and they have never had a more difficult access to employment.”

“Youth are in a complex political situation, they live in divided societies with inefficient educational systems. The examples of youth cooperation, like this Summit, are very important for better future of the Western Balkans. It is important to have good relations with neighbours. This is what we call regional integration, which also produced the EU. This is all very much related to you, who are gathered here, because you can build bridges between one another”, Melvin Asin, the Deputy Head of Operations at the EU Kosovo Office, concluded.

“20 years ago a train from Zagreb travelled to Belgrade for four hours. Now it takes seven and a half hours and the same distance takes only two hours in Europe. Therefore, we have lost two generations of progress. This train for me represents a metaphor for what has happened to our societies in the last twenty years. The conflicts have made them much more conservative. We have confusion about our identity and values, people find it difficult to leave the conflict, it is much easier for them to remain in conflict. This has to stop”, Romana Vlahutin, the advisor to the President of Croatia for foreign affairs, stated in the discussion titled “Consequences of the conflicts in the Western Balkans – key challenges in the region”.

Member of the Serbian Parliament Riza Halimi (from the Party of Democratic Action, Preshevo) exlaimed that people in former Yugoslavia live with the difficult repercussions of conflicts in all parts of the former country: “The prerequisite for the normalization is to have a consensus, a diagnose for what happened. We must not /be too optimistic and think that this will be achieved soon, but we do have to deal with this. This must not remain within the framework of civil sector and the opposition, the dialogue between government representatives must improve”.

“After all that has happened to us, I think that we are entering a more progressive period in Kosovo, in which an individual shall be in the focus of our work and not the people, which was unfortunately the case in decades behind us. We have become a more open society, and there are still a lot of things to be done”, Petrit Selimi, a Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kosovo, stated.

“In order to incite changes, we should work at three fronts, civilian, political, and legal. We have all proved that we are an essential part of the civil arena, but it is necessary that you become part of the other two arenas as well. We are minority, but we do not have other choice, but to change political situation. We would like to see an open dialogue in the region at the institutional level in order to influence the resolution of the problem”, the Deputy Mayor of Sarajevo, Miroslav Živanović, stated.

The less we deal with common past, the harder it is to establish cooperation in the region. And we need it now more than ever, The main brakeman in Serbia is its intellectual elite, then political elite and the media, as well as the war crimes court. Immediate perpetrators of war crimes are being punished and not the ones who bare the greatest responsibility. In this situation, it is easy to relativize things; it is easy to say crimes happened everywhere, we are all equally guilty and responsible”, Nemanja Stjepanović, a journalist from the “Sense” Agency, stated.

“The Western Balkans is today at the place where Europe was in 1967, far from dialogue and civilizational progress. Europeanization is a useful process, in negotiations there are some technical issues in answers to which you speak about yourself and your society. How we live, where we wish to go, what we have done to others and to ourselves. You are a generation, which has to pick up the pieces and make something out of them. I do not know your generation. I would like to know how the fact that you were born in the worst of times affected you. Where are you and how do you move from the margins towards the centre, from rooms like this one to decision making tables. This is very important for the region. I believe that we will not have a common narrative about the past in the Western Balkans. Historians will deal with this. We need a common narrative about the future”, Romana Vlahutin concluded.