Open discussion on security issues and direct contacts among young opinion-makers of the three entities is crucial for regional progress, according to experts and youth.
By Ivana Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 04/07/14
About 30 NGO activists met in Ulcinj, Montenegro, as part of a programme to increase co-operation among Kosovo, Serbia and Albania. [BCSP]
Independent think-tanks in Belgrade, Pristina and Tirana are completing a collaborative three-year project focused on security issues and improving co-operation between Serbia, Kosovo and Albania.
The project concludes in September and involves the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP), the Kosovar Centre for Security Studies (KCSS) and the Institute for Democracy and Mediation (IDM) in Tirana.
"Due to the recent conflicts, security issues and security co-operation continue to be the main obstacles for faster progress towards EU membership," Arjan Dyrmishi, head of the European and Security Research department at IDM, told SETimes.
"On the other hand, security threats such as organised crime, illegal migration and terrorism, which are among the top security concerns of both the EU and our countries, cannot be addressed without effective co-operation among security institutions. So by promoting the co-operation among the Serbian, Kosovar and Albanian security institutions, in particular of the law enforcement, this project is contributing at the same time to the EU integration process."
Sonja Stojanovic-Gajic, director of BCSP, said security co-operation is important.
"People have to feel secure in order to co-operate. Security is a field that is important to all, but very few know it," Stojanovic-Gajic told SETimes. "Security is a precondition for numerous other forms of co-operation, such as economy and culture."
Since part of the project involves surveys that the three organisations have been conducting on security issues, Stojanovic-Gajic emphasised that through the work on the project, they have discovered numerous similarities.
"For example, a significant number of citizens in Kosovo and Serbia strongly support joint police control, and it is important for them to acknowledge the importance of security and other forms of co-operation. Joint work on the ground has contributed to better relations," she said.
The three organisations have been organising numerous gatherings and discussions in the region as well.
A recent session was held in May, in Ulcinj, Montenegro, where 30 young NGO activists, journalists and representatives of state institutions and universities participated in the Summer School of Security.
For Stojanovic-Gajic, this is one of the most important segments of the project.
"Participants of the school, through joint work on analysis of national security strategies and on comparisons of security perception, had a chance to notice similarities in all three security systems as well as the things that connect us, and there is a need for political change and co-operation," she told SETimes.
Eni Mazniku, a student candidate in public international law from Tirana, took part in the summer school.
"Due to the fact that the participants were journalists, lawyers, academics, researchers and related professional stakeholders, the content of the discussions and debates was mostly substantial, bringing proper understanding and proper solutions. It was really helpful and effective to discuss in small and big groups the legislation, the historical [and] economical background of one another, which lead to a wider view," Mazniku told SETimes.
How can governments use the experiences of co-operative NGO programmes to increase regional collaboration? Add your thoughts in the space below.