European Union Office in Kosovo
European Union Special Representative in Kosovo

Putting people first, should be the New Year's resolution for Kosovo leaders

29/12/2017 - 11:31
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OP-ED for Kosova Sot daily by Nataliya Apostolova, Head of EU Office in Kosovo/EU Special Representative

When I was asked last year to write an OP-ED for the New Year's edition for daily Kosova Sot, I could not say much. I had been in Kosovo only for a few months then and could not really reflect on everything that has happened during the year. Now, one year after I am in a better position to give my observations and my thoughts on the situation here. During this year, I have met so many people and had amazing experience, but I have to admit there were also difficulties. Things did not always move as I, representative of the EU in Kosovo, would like to see. Still, with the new year knocking on our door, I would like to start with a positive reflection.

General and local elections, which were held in a calm and democratic atmosphere, is the first thing that comes to my mind. This is how the process was seen also by the EOM chief Alojz Peterle, by Ambassadors and others involved in observing elections. Elections in line with international standards are the most fundamental concept of democracy and we are happy to see that Kosovo has achieved it.

The year we are leaving behind brought more medals for Kosovo sport. I know how proud you are with Kosovo Olympic champion Majlinda Kelmendi and I am happy to see that this year judokas Distria Krasniqi and Nora Gjakova are following her steps bringing more gold medals to Kosovo from different tournaments and competitions. And there are more awards for Kosovo cinematography. After the breakthrough of the movie "Shok," this year we have "Home" that got BAFTA Award for the best short movie. Another Kosovo movie "Martesa" (Marriage) had its world Premiere in Estonia just recently. All these examples give bright colours and optimism to the often grim reality here. 

And now, we come to difficulties. Here, I cannot avoid mentioning the unavoidable: the visa liberalisation. This is something that is raised in every meeting and encounter we have with people of all ages here and I completely understand their frustration and impatience. Therefore I will say what I said so many times before. The elected officials and Kosovo leaders should do everything possible to meet the last requirements for visa liberalisation. They should not keep their own people hostage. They should not cut young people's dreams of a better education opportunities and new experiences. They should give them a chance to explore the world and bring these experiences home. 

When we talk about education, this is also something the leaders should focus on. I know that people are not happy with the current education system. I can understand why Kosovo colleagues in my office are so much concerned about the quality of text books for their children and the way of teaching. They often tell me of examples they come across in different text books, which often instead of promoting gender equality tend to be gender biased and even discriminating towards the women. Or, how other social phenomena and issues are explained to the students that contribute to stigmatizing and prejudicing some underpriviledged groups or members of the society. Parents want a good education, a system which encourages knowledge and critical thinking, exploring and not only studying. Instead of carrying heavy schoolbags, the parents want their children to carry skills they will use in their future.

A good education system means a stronger society. It means more qualified workers and talented people in key positions. Ultimately it means an improved social status which Kosovo so much needs. We as the EU have made education a priority through different projects, grants and programmes in hope to help transforming this system and change Kosovo for the better. And this is something that Kosovo politicians should do as well.

Not everything should evolve around politics, around demarcation, association, elections or visa liberalisation. What I would like to see in the next year is the focus on education and economic development, new jobs, better health services and new opportunities for Kosovo people. Kosovo people should demand a better performance from their political leaders and the latter should deliver on the people's needs.

It is time that Kosovo politicians put people first. They should put aside their narrow political interests and work for people’s welfare. This, I think should be their New Year's resolution.

Happy holidays and a peaceful and prosperous new year to the Kosovo people! 

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