Forum Future: Mutual Perceptions of Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo

According to a research conducted by the NGO "Aktiv" from North Mitrovica on stereotypes between Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo, nearly 80% of the Serbian and Albanian population could accept even closer forms of cooperation with members of other nationality. Presenting the results, the Project Manager Miloš Timotijević said that the survey showed that members of the Serbian community consider Albanians to be hypocritical, aggressive, cunning and nationalistic, whereas Albanians consider Serbs nationalists.

"In the context of readiness for reconciliation, members of the Albanian community show a higher degree of tendency towards reconciliation than members of the Serbian community. The Albanians see a solution for the rapprochement between Serbs and Albanians in joining the EU, while the Serbs see it in the economic cooperation of people" - said Timotijevic.
Additionally, the survey showed that a higher percentage of members of the Serbian community had the opportunity to cooperate either professionally or privately with the members of the Albanian community.

"As for the unfavorable socio-economic situation, there is a partial agreement in the selected factors in both communities. As the main causes of it, members of the Serbian community recognized ethnic conflicts (32.6%), incompetence of politicians (24.9%) and the inability of Albanians to lead Kosovo (21.9%). On the other side, members of the Albanian community marked the incompetence of politicians of any ethnicity (32.7%) and the inability of Albanians to lead Kosovo (27.9%)"- said Timotojevic.

According to the research, the degree of national identity and religiosity together envision 6 percent of variance of readiness for reconciliation (out of a total of 100%), with the results indicating that, the less a person is religious and less pronounced his national identity is, the greater is  his readiness for reconciliation.

"It should be noted that the members of both communities manifest an equally high degree of national identity and religiosity, and that almost half of the Albanian community (49.7%) and more than half of the Serbian community (69.5%) believe that the intolerance of members of different religions undermines peace in their territory of residence."- said Timotijevic.

Another important fact is that both the Serbs (84.5%) and Albanians (88.5%) find the reconciliation important for the sake of the normal functioning of their future generations.

This research, presented at the "Forum Future" conference within the project Civil Peace Center implemented by NGO "Aktiv" and supported by the Kosovo Foundation for an Open Society (KFOS), was carried out on a sample of 527 respondents.

Speaking at the conference, Bekim Bljakaj, the director of the Center for Humanitarian Law, said that the ethnic distance between Albanians and Serbs had increased over time and that, less than five years before, there had been fewer stereotypes.

He added that the media played a bad role in the post-war period because they were biased and reported only on the incidents in which the victims were Albanians (media in Albanian) and Serbs (media in Serbian language).

As another cause for the existence of stereotypes, Bljakaj mentioned education. He found it incredible that the Albanian history textbooks have only two pages on the 1990s war with "very biased information", saying that Serbian forces had killed over 16,000 Albanians and that 3,000 had disappeared, without mentioning the missing and killed from other ethnic communities.

"It is difficult to assess the nature of the relationship between communities, and whether the stereotypes about each other will be more or less frequent in the future," - said Nebojša Vladisavljević, professor at the Faculty of Political Sciences in Belgrade.

"It particularly depends on the international factors and actions of the authorities at different levels. It is in human nature to hope for the better, and that was proven at the end of this research" - he said.

With regard to reconciliation within the research, Vladisavljevic said that the results were optimistic.

"There are rooted stereotypes, but at this moment we cannot see in which direction this is going" - he said. A journalist and writer Živojin Rakočević estimated that the development of democracy will affect the presence of "walls and stereotypes" between Serbs and Albanians in the future.

"In the period of the most horrific conflicts in 1999, 2000 and 2004, and during the worst hermetic isolation of Serbs in Kosovo, we had more hope in democracy than today. On all sides, and even in Pristina, we could see more democratic potential than nowadays" - he said.

He added that there had been a radicalization of the political scene in which people with democratic capacity had lost most of their influence and most of their corrective role to lead society to democracy.

"It is the essence of our relationship and many of the people I have respected have disappeared because they had democratic potential. Their greatest doom was that they could tell their neighbors, the party...: "Come on man, change". That call was, at the same time, their call to disappear" - Rakocevic concluded.