European Leadership Conference in Tirana, Albania - 21, November, 2015  - Session I. Perspectives on Peace, Security and Human Development in the Balkans

The conference was opened with welcoming remarks from UPF-Albania Chair Mr. Bajram Ibraj, a former general police director of Albania. Asking the audience to rise for a minute of silence in honor of the victims of recent terror attacks in France, Russia, Turkey, Lebanon and other nations, he then spoke of the historic mission of a united body of Ambassadors for Peace, in the face of spiritual and physical violence, to open a path for peace.

Professor Yeon Ah Moon, the president of WFWP International, gave the opening address on behalf of the founders. Reviewing activities that WFWP is conducting around the world, she reaffirmed the importance of the family as a base for national stability. She also testified to the current work of UPF and WFWP Co-Founder Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, mentioning in particular the inauguration in 2015 of the Sunhak Peace Prize, which was given to two individuals: Kiribati Islands President Anote Tong for his dedication to the cause of climatic change, and Dr. Modadugu Vijay Gupta from India for his achievements in developing aquaculture in Southeast Asia. She concluded by affirming the role of women, in cooperation with men, for sustainable peace and development.

H.E. Alfred Moisiu, the president of Albania from 2002 to 2007, said that although the Balkans often have been considered a “powder keg,” he challenged that assertion in regard to modern Balkan nations. However, traces are still there, he said, and no effort should be spared to safeguard peace in the region. He deplored the fact that some politicians still tend to foster division and hatred among people and between nations for the sake of their own political agenda. The factors of division are not only economic, he said, but also cultural. Thus local governments should not only focus on improving living conditions or decreasing unemployment but also give their attention to developing quality education and reviving cultural life in order to foster a broader mindset among people. He acknowledged that comprehensive religious education for children is necessary, but said that priority should be given to putting under control a few radical preachers who are actively working in some churches and mosques and leading some young people to join the ranks of jihadists.

H.E. Fatmir Sejdiu, the president of Kosovo from 2006 to 2010, expressed worries that conflicts in the Middle East may be exported to neighboring regions. The conscience of Europe has been tested by migrants at its borders, he said, but not every nation passed the test well. He condemned Serbian Patriarch Irenej’s declaration in early November, before the vote on Kosovo’s membership in UNESCO, that “if force was deployed” to deprive Serbia of its cultural and historical heritage in Kosovo, Serbians will “do all they can to defend them by peaceful means or by force.” Serbia’s diplomatic moves to block Kosovo’s membership in UNESCO revived tensions and undermined the process of normalization between the two countries, President Sejdiu said.He deplored other nationalistic trends in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Macedonia. He also condemned what he saw as attempts by criminal groups in his own country to influence politicians and high officials, but reaffirmed his faith in Kosovo’s future based on religious tolerance and ethnic cooperation.

Dr. Walter Schwimmer, from Austria, a former secretary general of the Council of Europe, refuted the idea that the Western Balkans were just a “gray area on the map of Europe,” reminding his listeners that the Balkans were a cradle of European civilization and the birthplace of several Roman emperors including Constantine. Applying European Union standards in the Balkans is of mutual interest, he said, notably in terms of securing business investment and fighting corruption and organized crime. Reconciliation in the Balkans is possible, just as it was between France and Germany after World War II, he emphasized. Regretting that the Dayton Agreement had been good to end the war in Bosnia but not enough to foster peace, he challenged Bosnian people to take ownership for peace in their country. Naming three Balkan personalities who are the pride of all Balkan people—Nikola Tesla, Ivo Andrić and Mother Teresa—he concluded: “You have much more in common than what divides you.” In the later discussion, he said it was very shortsighted on the part of Serbia to have blocked Kosovo’s entry into UNESCO, since Kosovo’s membership would be the best guarantee to protect Serbian historical monuments in that country.

Mr. Jack Corley, the regional chair of UPF Europe, then gave an overview of the Universal Peace Federation’s goals, values and activities. Reminding the audience that the founders’ heart and core values were the real power behind the organization’s worldwide activities, he expressed the desire to support the UPF peace initiative in the Balkans. He spoke of other UPF peace initiatives around the world—the Middle East Peace Initiative, the Korean Reunification, the South Caucasus Peace Initiative—then reviewed programs of character education once developed in the former Soviet Union which could be used to educate young people in the Balkans. Deploring the declining family values in Western Europe, Mr. Corley said that one important aspect of the UPF work in the Balkans would be to strengthen marriage and the family.

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