[Menu] [dDH]

Kosova News 1998
Project AEGEE-Europe: 'Bridges to Kosovo'


Organisation: AEGEE-Europe, AEGEE-Education Working Group, AEGEE-Beograd
Subject of the meeting: Bridges to Kosovo
Where and when will the meeting be held? Budapest, 17th of December 1999
Number of working days: 50 days
Working languages for the meeting: English

The meeting itself:


Bridges to Kosovo is a project which aims to let young people of the both sides of the Kosovar conflict meet other youngsters, involved in different conflicts in Europe. Travelling to the actual conflict area, exchanging experiences will bring about a better understanding of the own conflict and of the position of the other party. These travels to Northern Ireland, the Basque region, Israel and Cyprus will be documented by TV/ video cameras, and in personal reports of the participants. These two media will be processed into an end product, which will be presented, on a final conference. For the conference, people from all over Europe will be invited to learn about the problems in Kosovo, about conflict management, and the role of the international community in conflicts in general.


The political situation in Kosovo remains unsolved and has already evolved into a bloody war with military as well as civilian casualties. Since the dissolution of Kosovo's autonomous status in 1990, the break-up of the former Yugoslavia in 1990-91 and the declaration of the Kosovo Albanians, the situation has gone from bad to worse. Direct rule from Belgrade has led to charges of police misconduct and human rights abuses, and Serbs claim terrorist actions from the Albanian side. The decision of the Albanian community to set up a parallel state and shadow institutions, boycotting Serbian elections and in institutions, has led to a complete breakdown in co-operation. The current prolonged political schism is dangerous for the stability in the region. On the one hand it has already led to a stronger militant radicalisation of the Albanians, and also contributes to the stronger representation of extreme nationalists in Serbia.

Since 1990 there seems to be a distance that cannot be closed between the demands of the Kosovar Albanians, represented by the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) and the Belgrade government: respectively for independence and Serbian sovereignty. The end of the Bosnian war gave the Albanians hope for international attention for their situation. Mediation by the international community might bring the parties closer together. The efforts of the Community St.-Egidio resulted in the education agreement signed by both the Serbian President Milosevic and Ibrahim Rugova, the leader of the LD. Several organisations on international politics suggested that a solution could be close, in the form of a restoration of the constitution of 1974, which gave Kosovo more autonomy. This "1974 Plus" plan would mean a high degree of self-determination for the Albanian community, while remaining within the framework of the Yugoslavian Federation.

Sadly, the Serbian Government did not change its opinion that the situation in Kosovo is an internal affair of Serbia that the Serbian laws should be obeyed and that the parallel Albanian institutions were illegal. Nor was the LDK prepared to compromise on its demand for full independence. Until sofar, the education agreement has not been implemented, and the prospects appear to depend strongly on the political situation in Serbia. There, the democratic movement, which gained a strong position in local authorities, has lost its power because of internal division. This resulted in a shift to support Serbian Nationalistic parties during the 1997 national elections, mainly Seselj's Radical Party. Student protests in Belgrade after that have been strongly cracked down on by the Serbian Police.

Since the beginning of 1998, tension heightened, and also at the Albanian side, nationalism increased. The Albanian community grew less united behind the non-violent approach of the LDK, and shifted towards the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK). The UCK adheres a more active, militant policy of resistance. Its leader Demaqi promoted attacks on the Serbian police and ethnic Serbs, as well as on more moderate Albanians, considered 'collaborators'. Due to the increasing violence from the Serbian security forces, more and more Kosovar Albanians fled to Macedonia. Medio 1998 the Kosovo-crisis had evolved into a full-grown war, a mature violent conflict, with heavy artillery on Serbian side. A solution seems more out of sight than ever.

Realising the implications that the situation has on the region, the international community has shown more concern over it for some time. Pressure has been put on both sides to accept different variations of the "1974 Plus" plan. Official diplomatic attempts are made to bring both parties to the negotiation table. Economic sanctions have been taken against Serbia, and the NATO has carried out shadow attacks along the Serbian border. The official and unofficial diplomacy continue, but the political situation in Yugoslavia does not suggest much hope for an early breakthrough.

In the view of this background with a deadlock in diplomacy between political leaders, another approach seems necessary. Building a bridge between the two communities from bottom-up forms a good alternative. A bridge towards peaceful solution despite the growing extremism on both sides, towards mutual acceptation or understanding for a better long-term relationship.

Aim: Communication is the foundation of understanding. That is why the aim of the project is to develop a basis of people talking in a constructive, open way, on a structural basis. The longer term is to have the participants themselves develop projects aimed on peace building and mutual understanding. The conflict is not only about borders, constitutional structures or property rights. A big part of it is rooted in a diverging view on history and the present relationship. A rational approach towards a solution is blocked by underlying cognitive and emotional sources. By confronting people from both sides with other conflicts in or close to Europe, the important role of emotions in conflicts will be shown. Awareness of underlying processes and ideas for ways to a solution by example of solved conflict areas will support a healthy approach to the Kosovo problem. An appreciation of the role that a conflict resolution approach, rather than coercion, can play in addressing problematic long-term relationships.


The programme of the project roughly exists of six parts: four travels, one workshop and one final conference. The travels form the basis of the workshop; the total of these five will be presented at a final conference.

Project part			Date			Place	
Travel to Northern Ireland	June		Northern Ireland	
Travel to Israel		July		Israel/ Palestina	
Travel to Basque		September	Spain	
Travel to Cyprus		October		Cyprus	
Workshop		8th - 14th of November	Budapest	
Final conference 	15th - 16th of December 1999	Budapest	

Before this project was described, some investigation has been performed to learn about past and current peace building projects in the Kosovo region. This helped to define the elements of this project.

Working Methods


No two conflicts are the same. Each has its own, unique history, conflict dynamics and current situation. Nevertheless, conflicts can be compared on aspects. Has violence been used in the conflict? How did it affect the daily life of people? What attempts for conflict mediation and resolution have been undertaken? How do the people involved in the conflict see the other party, and how do they see their mutual future?

The travels serve to bring a group of young opinion makers and 'normal' youngsters from Kosovar in contact with other conflicts in Europe. This group will consist of Albanians and Serbs. They will go to other conflict areas themselves to meet young people who are directly or indirectly involved in a conflict. They will discuss personal views and experiences of the effect that a conflict has on daily life. In the above scheme the conflicts to be visited are listed. Being physically present at the spot, talking and discussing conflict will lead to a mirror for them on the Kosovar conflict. The role of emotions and irrationality in conflicts can be experienced in vivo when meeting people who are involved in conflicts that are not close to the Kosovo problem. To enhance the educative side, conflicts in different stages are chosen, varying from unstable peace (Basque) to violent conflict (Cyprus) and post-hostilities (N-Ireland). In the different conflict areas, ideas for alternative peace-building approaches or conflict management can be developed or learned from each other.


During this workshop the emphasis will be on the own conflict, in Kosovo. First the basics of conflict management and negotiations will be taught, in order to have both a practical experience and a theoretical background on conflict dynamics and resolution. Experienced mediators and international politics experts will give the workshop. After that, the results of the travels will be discussed. Together with mediators, some issues of the conflict will be covered, like the mutual history, the causes of the conflict, and the views of both sides. The experiences of the travels will be reviewed: did it change their opinions and feelings? How did they see the other conflicts? The objective is to make an actual start towards the aim of developing a basis of people talking in a constructive, open way, on a structural basis, for which of course the mutual experiences during the travels form the basis.

Final conference

The final conference has two objectives:
  1. Presentation of the results from the travels and the workshop
  2. Inform youngsters from all over Europe about the Kosovo problem and the role of the international community (UN, (W)EU, OECD, CoE) in interregional political stability.
The first day will be to provide the participants with a knowledge base of background information on the history, the current situation, the conflict dynamics, the view of both sides and evaluation of passed interventions and atteempts for resolutions. This day is meant to be the preparation for the next day.

The second day of the conference will be dedicated to the impact of the Kosovo conflict on the daily life of the young people. The education, the social life, the relations with people 'from the other side', political influence of young people, their ideas about the future of the region, possible solutions. This will be presented on the hand of the documentary which is the result of the travels and the workshop. The documentary could be offered to TV broadcasting companies to enlarge the impact.

Please briefly describe the purpose of this meeting in your organisation's short- or long-term programme:

Mutual understanding and tolerance are the basis of our association. The most recent initiative of AEGEE on this theme is the "Peace Academy". This is an umbrella project of conferences and study visits about the role of peace in social, political, economical, psychological and philosophical sense of the word. Besides this, Eastern Europe and the problems related to the post communist countries have always been in the attention of AEGEE. Examples of this are the 'Find Your Way To And Within An Open Society"-project, the case study trip to the former Yugoslavia in 1994 to find out about the attitude of young people towards their present and future, the Study Visit to Hungary, Rumania, Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia-Herzegovina to carry out a field research to the Transition of Education Systems in post-communist countries.

Preparation of the meeting

The idea for it was born during a meeting of AEGEE Belgrade and AEGEE Enschede at a statutory meeting of AEGEE in Maastricht in April 1998. The initiation of this project is in the hands of both antennae. Nevertheless, the project will be lead by one central co-ordinator who will be responsible for the overall functioning of the project. He/ she will co-operate with two group co-ordinators, for both groups (10 Serbs and 10 Albanians) one. Before the travels these group co-ordinators will lead two pre meetings of Serbs and Albanians separately to make clarity about the purpose and nature of the project, get to know each other, and in order for the group co-ordinator to learn about the intra-group dynamics. The pre meetings with the Serbs will be held in Belgrade, those with the Albanians in Prishtina or Tirana.

The travels will be executed in co-operation with organised local groups in the conflict region. These are contacts from either AEGEE, or other organisations with which AEGEE has a good relation, like ESIB or Pax Christi. In co-ordination with these local groups, programmes of one week will be developed. These programmes will consist of learning about the history of the conflict, the current situation, the conflict dynamics and conflict management attempts. This will be done in discussions, perhaps some lectures and more playful things like visiting musea and cultural events.

The final conference will be organised by the central co-ordinator in Cupertino with the local AEGEE antenna in Budapest.

Follow-up to the meeting

The evaluation of the travels and the workshops is implicitly present in the project itself. During the travels, the participants will be accompanied by the project co-ordinator and the group co-ordinators. The experiences of the group of Kosovars will be documented in three ways:
Television film,
Personal reports of the participants, with photographs,
Reports on the group processes by the co-ordinator and the group co-ordinators.

The rough material that will be the result of this will be processed into a documentary, which will be presented during the final conference. It will especially be made to accentuate the human side of the conflict and the personal side. How does the confrontation with other youngsters involved in a conflict affect the opinion towards the own conflict situation.

After the project the participants could get training on intercultural working and project management to be able to work on conflict management initiatives themselves when back in Kosovo. Back home they will encounter different problems in developing these projects. During the workshop in Budapest, these probable problems will be addressed by e.g. roll playing games. This training will be the operationalisation of the aim of having the participants themselves develop projects aimed on peace building and mutual understanding. These future projects could be developed in co-operation with AEGEE antennae in the neighbourhood to ensure continuation.


Total number 12/ 200 Age: between 18 and 26 Type of participants to be invited and how they will be recruited: The amount and type of participants can be divided in three groups. For the travels there will be one group of 20 people: 10 Albanians and 10 Serbs, the latter from both Kosovo and non-Kosovars, considering the wrong signal of recognition of Kosovo this might give. In the travels there is another group, consisting of the people who will be visited in Israel, Northern Ireland, the Basque Region and Cyprus. The third group consists of the participants of the final conference. The exact amount of people from each country is hard to forecast, but in the below table an attempt has been made is the biggest and Participants will be students from various countries in Europe. The meeting will be open to all students at a minimum participation fee. Participants from CEEC countries will be allowed the participation at a reduced fee.
As said, the final conference will try to attract students from various European universities. It will be promoted through the 200 local branches of AEGEE at their respective universities, but will be open to all university students.

Please indicate the number of participants from each country:
Andorra: -	Czech Republic: 4	Greece: 4	Liechtenstein: -	Poland: 6	Slovenia: 4	
Austria: 4	Denmark: 15	Hungary: 5	Lithuania: 2	Portugal: -	Spain: 8	
Belgium: 2	Estonia: 2	Iceland: -	Luxembourg: -	Romania: 4	Sweden: 2	
Bulgaria: 3	Finland: 5	Ireland: 5	Malta: -	Russia:  3	Switzerland: 2	
Croatia:  5	France: 10	Italy: 10	Netherlands: 15	San Marino: -	Turkey: 2	
Cyprus: 5	Germany: 10	Latvia: -	Norway: 2	Slovakia: 4	United Kingdom: 8	

Total: 151

Other European countries:			- Moldavia 	3
						- Ukraine       5
						- Yugoslavia (excl core group) 10
						- Macedonia	15
						- Turkey 	10				

Non-European countries: 			- Israel	6

  Total:   200

Leadership team (indicating nationalities)

Co-ordination team (1 Hungarian – Central co-ordinator, 1 Serbian – Group co-ordinator, 1 Albanian - Group co-ordinator)

Supportive Team

AEGEE-Education Working Group (Dutch, German, Turkish)
AEGEE-Enschede (Dutch)
AEGEE-Beograd (FR of Yugoslavia)
Comité Directeur AEGEE-Europe (Hungarian)
Stefan Seidel, President AEGEE-Europe (German)
Peace Academy Co-ordination team (Turkish, Greek)

Type of lecturers/ experts to be invited

Academics on the field of International politics, conflict resolution and general political science will be invited.


There is good contact and co-ordination with Pax Christi, a Christian Peace Organisation, which has performed several peace-projects in Kosovo, as well as in other regions, like Israel and Northern Ireland.

AEGEE-Belgrade is in contact with board members of the Independent Students' Union of Prishtina (UPSUP).

Part of the team which organised an AEGEE Case Study Trip to the former Yugoslavia in 1994 advised on the organisational as well as on the content part. The trip was had the aim to make an inventarisation among the young people of their opinions and views on the future of the young people from the former Yugoslavian Republics.

Mr. Sander Veenis
C/o Via Amicorum	
Matenweg 75 
Room 201
NL-7522 LD Enschede
tel.: +31-53-432 2554
fax: +31-53-489 26 71	
e-mail: s.s.p.veenis@bigfoot.com	

Ms. Rixt Schriemer
Tel +31-50-571 51 88
P. J. Schriemer@Med.Rug.nl

AEGEEG Beograd
Tamara Smilevski
Bozidar Radunovic

menu | dDH