AIIS forum: Albania, Serbia discuss new challenges ahead toward common EU future

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times October 27, 2017 14:08

AIIS forum: Albania, Serbia discuss new challenges ahead toward common EU future

Story Highlights

  • Held as part of the Center for Albania-Serbia Relation, an initiative of the Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS) and Belgrade-based European Movement in Serbia, the forum is another effort to normalize relations between the two EU aspirant Western Balkans countries which in the past couple of years have taken a U-turn following a rather Cold War era status quo just before late 2015 when the joint center was established

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TIRANA, Oct. 26 – Serbia civil society activists, experts and government representatives gathered in Tirana this week for a two-day forum to discuss Albania-Serbia relations towards a common future in the European Union.

Held as part of the Center for Albania-Serbia Relation, an initiative of the Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS) and Belgrade-based European Movement in Serbia, the forum is another effort to normalize relations between the two EU aspirant Western Balkans countries which in the past couple of years have taken a U-turn following a rather Cold War era status quo just before late 2015 when the joint center was established.

Serbian and Albanian participants in the two-day October 26 to 27 forum that is being held in Tirana underlined the importance of cultural cooperation to overcome stereotypes and prejudice between the two countries.

Monika Maric, a Serbian, a Serbian fellow of the Centre for Albania-Serbia Relations at the AIIS, says cultural cooperation between Serbia and Albania have been constantly growing in the past decade but remain mostly sporadic and on individual initiative.

“Although political relations often cast a shadow on cultural cooperation, cultural exchanges between Serbia and Albania have been in constant growth. Cooperation is primarily based on individual initiatives, where networks of civil society represent the main communication channel,” says Maric, a fluent speaker of Albanian who graduated from the department of Albanology of the University of Belgrade and researched into Serbia-Albania cultural relations during her three-month AIIS fellowship.

Persida Asllani, the director of Albania’s National Library and a former visiting literature professor at the Albanology department in Belgrade said she would like to see more Albanian authors translated into Serbian as currently the number of Serbian authors translated into Albanian is far bigger.

“I really hope people like Monika can help contribute to cooperation between the two countries,” Asllani said about her former student in Belgrade.

Albanian writers Diana Çuli and Ylljet Aliçka also noted the importance of cultural exchanges to get to know each-other better and have more writers translated into the respective languages.

The two day forum will also discuss EU perspectives, economy, and media relations between the two countries.

Albania and Serbia had a three-year honeymoon soon after World War II when the communists came to power in both countries but later parted ways on ideological grounds. Relations between the two countries in the past 25 years of transition have remained tense especially after the late 1990s Kosovo war leading to its independence from Serbia in 2008, but are now on track to improve as Serbia and majority ethnic Albanian-inhabited Kosovo are also holding continuous EU-mediated talks to normalize their relations.

Relations between the two countries temporarily entered a Cold War era status quo in October 2014 following a drone incident with Albanian nationalistic and patriotic symbols flying over the Partizan stadium in Belgrade in the midst of a Serbia-Albania Euro 2016.

One month later, Prime Minister Edi Rama paid a historic visit to Serbia, the first by an Albanian Prime Minister in 68 years, in a tense climate following the drone incident, but paving the way to the normalization of relations between the two countries which are considered key players for the region’s security, economic development and the Western Balkan’s European integration.

The Rama-Vucic meetings are now a common thing as are forums and exchanges between Serbian and Albanian civil society organizations.

Through several forums discussing civil society, political, economic and cultural cooperation and challenges ahead, the AIIS and the European Movement Serbia have also contributed to mutual understanding and normalization of relations during the past three years.

An AIIS survey has found a plurality of residents of Albania believe relations between this country and Serbia are normal and likely to improve in the future and such improvements are in the best interest of both countries.

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times October 27, 2017 14:08