27/1/2015 - 12:00 am

Kosovo: Europe’s Cultural Ghetto

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Mankind today is facing the consequences of astonishing progress in technology and information. In recent years even traditionally violent regions in Europe – have achieved a degree of relative political stability in the face of daunting challenges. Kosovo, however – a Balkan state is still not able to enjoy full freedom of movement on a par with other European countries.

While all other countries in southeastern Europe now enjoy visa-free travel in the Schengen area, Kosovars remain isolated from the rest of Europe. Let us give this situation a close look to get a better understanding of what Kosovo’s situation is and how it came about.

Although at first sight it all looks like a purely political issue, it actually is not and its impact is really big and affects our well-being and education. Young adults are Kosovo’s biggest capital asset, and our young people hope to move forward and become an equal part of Europe. How can we contribute to improving our situation better than with culture and art? How can we break down borders better than with cultural exchanges and by appreciating each other’s differences? A willingness to respect diversity and share cultural differences is a fundamental pillar sustaining the European Union.

Political isolation can easily lead us to isolation in culture and art. Young artists, sportsmen, athletes, singers, poets, and actors cannot show their talent and work outside of our country, unlike their counterparts in other European nations. The current, onerous visa regime stands in the way of the further development of Kosovar art. It goes without mentioning that Kosovo’s citizens have a very limited list of countries they can enter without a visa or a special permit: Albania, Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey, Montenegro and Haiti. Thus our artists are paying unfairly for the consequences of current politics, and therefore our young people are suffering historic negative consequences.

Art and culture have an important role in the development of any nation because they represent values and manage to unite people through good works. But how can culture help communication, and how can it help our youth to overcome the challenges that we must face? Firstly, if we could visit other countries and present our art to them, if the world could hear our songs on their stages, and see our painting in their exhibitions, or watch us play sports, a different image of Kosovo would come into focus in the rest of Europe.

Art can bring us together and help us to forget the obstacles that we faced in the past, or if not to forget then to help us cope with our past and to understand what really matters from this point on. The future of youth, the future of art. We have listened to your songs on our stages, we have seen your paintings in our exhibitions, and we have watched you play sports in our home country. Sincerely, we love all of it. Kosovo’s youth love to see your art and appreciate your art. You are always welcome, no matter who are you, where are you are from, or what your political interests may be. At the end of the day art is always going to be art. Thus, let us use the magic of art to bring peace across cultures.

Secondly, our society has a lot of challenges to deal with, and it is truthfully not healthy to be isolated from others because the lack of cultural exchanges and opportunities to cooperate makes things even harder for all of us. Kosovo is a small and a poor country, but its spirit is rich and valuable. We show our spirit in the best way possible, through art. We just want to make an appeal to you, to let our spirit live in the way that it should. Remember that one’s success is due to the people one is surrounded with, and we are surrounded by each other.

The current situation requires us to stay united; united in civilization. A higher level of civilization can be achieved through progress in culture. Culture is in every cell of our lives since the beginning of history. According to 19th century anthropologists, culture comes first and civilization later. Culture is a pre- condition for civilization. Everything created by man is culture; civilization is simply an advanced stage of cultural development. Therefore we cannot forget the importance and the role of culture in facilitating almost everything.

Let me share a short story with you to illustrate why we really can benefit from becoming closer through culture.

Some time ago a friend of mine came to visit Kosovo and after everything she experienced here she left impressed and moved by our culture and the behavior of our people. Even today I clearly remember one of her questions: how is possible that people here can be so generous to strangers?! And I replied: this is part of our culture and that is why we want to share it with you and everyone else. Then she added: until Kosovo’s culture can come to us, I will urge everyone to come to Kosovo. I gave her a soft smile, demonstrating once again our warm welcome for everyone. Stories like this one show that we are always willing to share our culture with you. Every citizen of Kosovo is aware how our daily life looks to visitors from abroad; and we are witness that if things continue in this direction it will affect negatively our art and culture. This because our talented youth and artists will no longer be competitive in the international arena. Behind every rejected visa is a young boy or young girl whose hope has gone away.

Art breaks down boundaries, but for artists from Kosovo there are social and political borders that we have not yet overcome. Strict visa requirements are isolating us from the international art scene. This issue seems more important when considering that our country is indeed very young, giving further meaning to our official image slogan ‘’The young Europeans’’.

No words can sum up the struggles and the fears we deal with, the former because of the present situation and the latter because of the situation that is ongoing. There is a story we should be worried about, there is a real problem to be concerned about. Kosovo’s youth feels isolated, Kosovo’s art and culture are isolated. Any further delay during this process will engender more cultural consequences than political ones.

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