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Students from Kehl explored the connections between Peacebuilding and European Integration in Kosovo

Study trip cooperation between forumZFD Kosovo and the University of Applied Sciences Kehl

From 1 until 8 June, 15 students from the study programme European Public Management at the University of Applied Sciences Kehl in Germany discovered Kosovo with a rich variety in visits to institutions including peacebuilding organisations, international and governmental actors as well as research initiatives and academic institutions.
Students from Kehl explored the connections between Peacebuilding and European Integration in Kosovo 2
© forumZFD Kosovo

The study trip was preceded by an extensive online preparatory programme on the history of Kosovo, different perspectives on the war, peacebuilding practices in Kosovo, relations with other countries in the region, the European Integration process, the international status of Kosovo as well as minority rights.  

The students got the chance to learn about the connection between European Integration processes and peacebuilding. Peacebuilding in Kosovo has been an ongoing endeavor since the end of the war in 1999. It encompasses a wide range of activities, including security sector reform, institution-building, human rights promotion, and transitional justice mechanisms. The goal has been to address the root causes of the conflict and lay the foundation for a peaceful and inclusive society. Simultaneously, the EU has been actively engaged in promoting stability and fostering the European integration process in Kosovo. Through its political, economic, and social mechanisms, the EU has provided a framework for Kosovo's transformation.

The EU's involvement has been instrumental in shaping Kosovo's legal and institutional reforms, governance structures, and adherence to European norms and standards as well as strengthening minority rights.

Konstantin Kümmerle, one of the students of the study trip, summarised his learnings and experiences for us: 

On our first day of our study trip to Kosovo, we visited GIZ, German Agency for International Cooperation in Prishtina, where we were briefed on the GIZ’s current projects in Kosovo, with a special focus on Support to EU Integration Reform Processes, for instance in improving the services for newly parents, and had a vivid discussion on administrative burden reduction and got insights into feminist development cooperation.

Afterwards, we visited the biggest private university in Kosovo, the AAB College, where we were shown the campus in Prishtina and discussed possible ways of cooperating with its faculty of Public Administration in the near future.

The following day, we spent the morning in a workshop with the NGO Rom in Action from Gjakova and forumZFD, on non-majority issues in Kosovo and we learned about their important work on strengthening the role of the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities in Kosovo. Unfortunately, we had to keep this meeting relatively short, as we still had a long bus ride to Prizren ahead of us in the evening. Although the bus ride to Prizren was not an official part of the overall program of this study trip, it surely has shown to us what Prishtina couldn’t so far: Kosovo’s beautiful landscapes and the way of life in the more rural areas of the country.

Sunday was then all about discovering the historical and culturally diverse city of Prizren. We started the day by hiking to the Prizren fortress with its beautiful view over the whole city – it was impossible to count all the minarets reaching towards the cloudless sky. Luckily for us, the weather was perfect for extending our little hiking trip a bit further, as we discovered the valley beside the fortress. We completed the day by strolling through the crowded streets which eventually led us, as every evening, in a fine restaurant to taste regional foods and drinks.

On the next day in Prizren, we have had the opportunity to exchange with the local organisation THY, which is dealing with the important topic of youth in a country with one of the youngest populations in Europe, and primarily discussed with young people how they see the future of Kosovo and its path towards the EU.

Unfortunately, we again, didn’t have as much time as we would have wanted to, as we had to make our way back to Prishtina on the same day.

Back in Prishtina the following day, we visited the German Embassy during which we were informed of their activities in Kosovo and, most importantly, had the opportunity to discuss with a senior employee the recent developments in the visa liberalization process as well as the tensions and erupting violence in the North of Kosovo. In the afternoon, we met the organisation Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR) which presented us their projects predominantly related to transitional justice and upholding human rights.

On our last day of our study trip, forumZFD offered a Memory Walk through Prishtina in the morning, which focused on the different memorialisation practices and their accompanying narratives by showing us different memorial sights and murals and telling us about their background and meaning. The next part of our study trip program following that day was a real highlight for all of us. We had the opportunity to meet and discuss with the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Diaspora all the important issues and current developments in Kosovo. We were all positively surprised of the frank and animated manner in which the discussion took place, which ensured that we all received a deep insight into the positions of the current government and into Kosovo’s relationships with its international partners. From politics back to academia, we ended our study trip program with a lively debate with students of the Prishtina Institute for Political Studies over its oversight role regarding the activities of Kosovo’s government, but also over issues such as cybersecurity, corruption and the state of higher public education in Kosovo.

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