Balkanica 6

Overcoming prejudice and negative perceptions in the Western Balkans

In September 2018, The Balkan Forum facilitated a discussion in Montenegro with young people, participants at the REACT Summer School, from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia who expressed their opinion in regards to the perceptions and prejudices that have shadowed the Western Balkans, and shared their personal experiences, perspectives and views on this matter.

They spoke their truth and were passionate when talking about their respective countries, cities and culture. One of the biggest challenges that the region is facing in terms of the dominant perception for the region (internally and externally), what shapes such perceptions, and what are the prejudices, young people put emphasis in who the main contributors are. They believe it is bad politics and politicians, nationalist rhetoric, propaganda, including media bias, and the idea of not moving forward from the past. Consequently, the need for change has to start with the young generations. There is a need for all young people and their families, parents, to start breaking down the barriers, prejudice and hate, and teach their children peace and acceptance. Further, there is a need of a new generation of leaders in the political arena, and a good and positive media portrayal of positive initiatives happening in the region. 

Participants included:

- Afrim Berisha from Kosovo, University of Prishtina

-  Bojana Rmandić from Montenegro, ALFA Centar

- Fjoralba Nita from Albania, International University of Struga

- Ivana Vasić from Bosnia and Hrzegovina, Center for International Relations 

- Jovica Jankovikj from Macedonia, SUGS Georgi Dimitrov 

- Milica Janković from Serbia, University of Belgrade 

 Questions discussed:

1. How do you think is the perception internally about the region. Is it predominantly positive or negative, and why do you think is this way?

2. What shapes or influences the opinion/perceptions about the region?

3. What can we do in order to overcome the prejudices and change the image of the region, both internally and externally?

4. What could be one good thing that you are proud of when it comes to your country/region? 

Conclusions: 

 - There is a lot of prejudice towards the Western Balkans region, this starts with the lack of cooperation among the countries themselves. Thus, main contributors to these prejudices include: bad politics and politicians, media propaganda, families, nationalism, and this idea of not moving forward from the past.

 - Media is one of the biggest problem in creating/contributing to the perception that we as youth of this region have in regards to our neighborhood countries. 

 - Although there is a lot of prejudices about the Western Balkan countries, yet there are good things as well. In general, the region has a lot to offer as they are very rich in cultural and natural heritage including historic/cultural sites, great hospitality, beautiful landscapes, and traditional food. 

 - We need a change in politics and politicians, the region needs a new generation of political leaders who are accepting of the past and ready to move forward.  Who do not run their campaigns on populist ideas, spread hate and do not make us depend of them for jobs. 

 - Young people should not accept to be influenced negatively by politics, media, older generation, family or friends, rather create their own judgments grounded on their knowledge and experience.

 - We need to create more opportunities and invest in exchange/travels and visits to the countries of the region, be open minded and thus, all of us can have our own experience and create our own judgments. 

Donors

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