The Dream of Comic on Serb-Albanian Relations
By Genc Mlloja
Albanian Daily News
Published November 6, 2017
"I have a dream about the cooperation of Albanians and Serbs in the region because I can really see that we can have the best of them," the National Assembly Deputy Speaker of Serbia, Gordana Comic has told Albanian Daily News in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of a two-day forum entitled "Albania and Serbia towards a common future in the European Union" which has recently been held in Tirana. The number two of the Serb Parliament listed a lot of fields of cooperation between Serbia and Albania, paying special attention to tourism as it, according to her, could promote the people-to-people exchanges.
Speaking of the Berlin process involving the Western Balkan countries, including Albania and Serbia, Mrs. Comic said that the project is on what will happen in the future, rather then what has happened before. "This is the European way, and, in my point of view, this is the very good thing of the Berlin process as we can now rely even more on Europe for all the good things that they have done for us in the previous decades," she said. In a reference to the EU sponsored dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina Serb Deputy Speaker said that "establishing dialogue with Kosovo has not been easy, but we did it."
In addition Mrs. Comic was optimistic on the future of the Western Balkans. "There are some commonalities where we can put some money and efforts and have as a response the expectation of the Western Balkan people to live in a better daily basis. So I expect nothing less than awareness in the Western Balkans and we should go after such an expectation," said the Serb Deputy Speaker in the interview which follows:
- You have been so enthusiastic about the relations between Serbia and Albania. What makes you have so many great expectations and be positive on such a trend?
- The narrative and nature about politicians and people that I meet on daily basis in Tirana and Belgrade lead me to the conclusion that there is not any single reason for Albanians and Serbs not to have progress in their bilateral ties and not to surprise positively people throughout Europe and the world on the trends of the excellent relations in economy, culture, diplomacy, and European integration between our two countries and people.
It is not that anyone presses us to do so, but because, I hold, that we have realized which is our common future, and we should do that to achieve this target. Our history and culture show that we have many things in common. My experience, as far as this aspect is concerned, has evidenced that it is enough to be self- conscious that 'we can do it' for our common future.
- Following this line Mrs. Deputy Speaker, how would you assess the current level of the bilateral relations between Albania and Serbia?
- I can tell you that some fifteen years are a short span of time in one's human life. You cannot even have a grandchild grown up during that time. Yes, I can confess that I could not tell you in 2008 that the Albanian and Serbian Prime Ministers, Edi Rama and Alexandar Vucic, would meet and find a common language on agreements and cooperation, that there would be a huge amount of cooperation which, for example, led to the establishment of the common Chamber of Commerce, that we will be coming from Belgrade to Tirana, and vice versa, and that there would be so many other cooperative things between our two people, Albanians and Serbs. Back in 2008 you would have said: "Come on!" And I would have answered: The great Martin Luther King did not start his famous speech having a nightmare, but rather having a dream. And I have a dream about the cooperation of Albanians and Serbs in the region because I can really see that we can have the best of them.
- Your Excellency, which are some of the fields that you think more efforts should be done to broaden the political and economic cooperation between the two countries?
- Economy and tourism for the beginning, and then raw materials and cooperation in agriculture. I would have liked to see more and more a deep and great commitment of both sides on the basis of agreements signed between Belgrade and Tirana in these fields. And also in the field of security. We, Serbia, have offered an agreement, which we have done the same even with non- NATO member countries, to assure people in the respective regions and worldwide that we are committed to develop peace and security cooperation and that we definitely do not want to be involved in any kind of conflicts and clashes exempt if we are commonly called and invited to help other people for the establishment of peace. Such fields of cooperation are natural to be improved.
But I would insist that tourism is a significant field of cooperation because I have found that a lot of Serbs, who have already been in Albania, say: "It is great there. There is great hospitality and a comfort situation. And the seaside is fine and you can see a lot of cultural heritages." You cannot imagine how they felt about Albania.
On the other hand, there are no reasons why more Albanians can come to Serbia, to its mountains and lakes, fishing there, and we do fish a lot. In short just to see Serbia, to see Belgrade and why not learn in person what Serbs think of Albania. We should have a tourism agreement and let us do it. As a conclusion we should consider opportunities in different fields, as I mentioned above, like economy, trade exchanges, culture, and in this way we can see how things develop.
- I have had the privilege of having an exclusive interview for Albanian Daily News with your Prime Minister Ana Brnabic on the sidelines of an informal forum on the Western Balkans initiative held in the western port city of Durres, Albania, on August 26, 2017. She was particularly enthusiastic and keen on the Berlin process. What do you think on the progress made so far in that initiative launched by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in August 2014?
- The Berlin Process is a mechanism that Europe invented to pass the crisis within Europe itself as it entered the phase of crisis, but without losing the beauty of the 'European idea'. The crisis they entered including economy, enlargement, and other problems, has been evidence of a crisis of identity. Europe is not about a common market. Europe is about people just out of conflicts, sitting at the tables of negotiations, and that is a good future for us. This is the beauty of the European idea. Just having that in mind Europe has offered us the Berlin process with the idea that 'you, local guys, have this offer and you can work on that basis and we will help seeing what good can come out of that process'.
Certainly, we have warmly welcomed the Berlin process and we are working together. I strongly think that these six countries, working together on whatever the outcome may be, is a good sign for the region because we saw those six countries disputing and arguing for such a long period of time. And it all has been about what has happened and what has been in the ancient times or the recent ones of our history. But the Berlin process is on what will happen in the future, not what has happened before.
This is the European way, and, in my point of view, this is the very good thing in the Berlin process because we can now rely even more on Europe for all the good things that they have done for us in the previous decades. At every times of crisis we can say: "Here we are, the six of us, and we have learned our lesson, we know our mistakes and now we will help you to get over your crisis." And Serbs and Albanians are involved in the process within the European Union because it is our future.
- And in this frame, how do you see the EU- sponsored dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina?
- It is a very, very warmly welcomed process. Establishing dialogue with Kosovo has not been easy. But we did it. Of course, it was a hard time for politicians back then. But somebody had to do it and launch the EU sponsored dialogue with Kosovo. This means the determination of politicians in Serbia not to transfer political problems to the next generation. It is something that should not have been done. If it comes to the next generation, let them have their own experience. But it will not be my work in politics if I transfer problems of my fathers and grandfathers to the next generation. So, at the beginning, dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina looked totally impossible. But with the good will of the people and the EU's help, and I might say thanks to good points of Albania, we all realize that the reality cannot be denied and erased. It might be erased with chances of having common good reality.
It is hard, it will be hard. But the question is that the reality should take place and as a matter of fact it is going on. And if anyone, for example in 2008, could have said Serb and Kosovo leaders could meet and shake hands, most of the people would have said that 'you are lunatic'. And I would say yes I am and that would happen. We should have descent life in Kosovo and Serbia, it is not what it has been, it is a decision about the continuity. We should invent our future, and this is what we are doing. Of course, it needs courage, but we both should have the right courage to do that.
- In your view, how can media cooperate more efficiently to serve the improvement of the bilateral relations and especially to promote people-to-people exchanges between Albania and Serbia?
- Media have a real problem with prejudices, stereotypes, and with some people being biased on each other. There are Serbs that are biased on Albanians, like the vice versa. So if you are a man of media, you have the real challenge to break these prejudices and fight people who are biased. It is true that it is hard. It is easier to break an atom in physics, but it is the contrary with regard to prejudices. But there is a way to fight them. Let me give an example. It is true that there are few reports on the good Serbian-Albanian cooperation. If you show a picture of a Serb marrying an Albanian or the vice versa, if you show about Serb students coming here, if you show an Albanian company coming to Belgrade, if you show Serbian tourists coming to Durres or wherever to Albania, some would say that it is just one case. But if you keep showing cases one after another, all of the sudden it comes out that it is not one bad case in one million, but one good case in one million. It takes time, and media need us, politicians, to support you, and that can be done by not providing bad news to you. So it is a common work of politicians and media to introduce the good news.
- Your Excellency, in a nutshell, how do you evaluate the situation in the Western Balkans?
- Things have changed in the Western Balkans after the dismantling of former Yugoslavia as most of the regional countries belonged to the former. Once upon a time, we used to have a common market, common culture, multi-cultural education system. We used to have connections, we used to marry each-other, we used to have commonalities during the time of Socialism. And as a matter of fact, we did not like it. So we have to invent our way for the people in our region to have standards to live in a descent way, not to repeat the idea of what former Yugoslavia used to be. So, I think that is where people should invest in and that is what they are doing.
My personal assessment is that we are quite close to a level of awareness that all the countries will say that it is okay: let us make a common agenda. There are things that we can do together and all our countries can benefit from them, and, in the meantime, all the countries can be independent and sovereign, whatever they want to call them. But there are some commonalities where we can put some money and efforts and have as a response the great expectation of the Western Balkan people to live in a better daily basis. So I expect nothing less than awareness in the Western Balkans and we should go after such an expectation!