Diaspora is a great resource, always ready to help. Use us! But, not for political games!

Avni Dervishi, Adviser for International Affairs and EU integration who lives in Sweden, speaks about the role that the diaspora has on socio-economic and political development of the Balkans/SEE region, and in building bridges of cooperation and partnership between the diaspora community, the societies of the region, and between the countries of their residence and countries of origin.

He says diaspora comes to their countries of origin on free will to offer their expertise but that governments should be more proactive and welcome them, not to use diaspora to promote or achieve their political agenda, but to utilize the diaspora as an important resource and contributors to economic, social and political development. 

Avni says that because of the conflicts of the recent past, many people from the region were forced to leave their countries; that the region is interconnected therefore developments in one country have an impact in other countries; and that diaspora is affected by the happenings taking place in their countries of origin.

He stresses that diaspora does and should play a role as bridge-builders between the societies, and between their countries of residence and countries of origin. Opening doors in Sweden for the governments of the region, and different political parties, is what Avni continues to do, and believes that this enhances mutual understanding, exchange and cooperation.

Avni highlights that the website of Swedish Parliament in Albanian, Serbian, Croat, Bosnian, Turkish, and other languages, http://www.riksdagen.se/sv/sprak/other-languages/ is a good example of how democracy in Sweden functions.

He thinks that countries of the Western Balkans that are not yet members of the EU could learn from Croatia and the important role that Croatian diaspora played in integration/accession process; and that much more should be done to work with diaspora in promoting investments, even though Serbia, Kosovo, Croatia, (and Rumania) have done quite a lot on this issue, but that Moldova can be a good example as well on how they are working with diaspora experts to promote a sustainable democratic and economical approach based on the needs of Moldova. 

He stresses that young people, women and people with disabilities tend to think more about compromises, and are more open and committed to regional cooperation; that different diaspora have different aims and approach to regional development and cooperation; that 1st generation of diaspora may be more affected (and their ideas/perceptions more grounded on) by what has happened in the region as a result of recent conflicts; that 2nd and 3rd generation of diaspora, some of whom that don’t even speak their mother tongue, may be more open to learn about countries of the region, for exchange and cooperation. 

Avni proposes that more should be done in terms of organizing joint gatherings, and working on joint projects, for which there is funding by the EU, since such initiatives contribute to stability, development and regional cooperation.

He ends the interview with messages: “Think 200% forward; unite your efforts to achieve more success; work with youth, women, and people with disabilities; reach us in diaspora as we are ready to help, we are ready to cooperate. Use us!” 

Watch the short version of the interview with Avni Dervishi

 Watch the FULL version of the interview with Avni Dervishi

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