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Dealing with the past

Among the Serbian population, rather than evoking radiant perspectives on a blossoming future, the EU topic reopens old sores. The EU, the guys that bombed us. The EU, the ones that took Kosovo away. Young politicians especially struggle hard to overcome the burdens of the past. "We also work together with Croats, we had a war with them, but it doesn't matter, it's the past, the circumstances led to that, but now we have to look into the future. I never want to have hatred, war etc. again in my country, I very much dislike that." Nevertheless: "Serbs do care for Kosovo, for their pride as a small people, but they don't care for the future. Also for me, if I see something from Kosovo and know that it is no more there, it touches my heart", he says.

"We don't want to have Kosovo back, because we never gave it away."

Most politicians in Serbia aren't as pragmatic in dealing with the past. Although a lot of them are very optimistic towards the possibility of an EU membership, the Kosovo issue seems to be beyond negotiation for most of them. At the foreign ministry, at the conservative parties, again and again you can hear sentences like: "We don't want to have Kosovo back, because we never gave it away." Or: "Our aim is not reunification, because Kosovo is Serbia and always has been." The orthodox church also seems to be more interested in the protection of the Serbian monasteries in Kosovo rather than providing a hand to be reached out to by the former war adversaries.

The young Serbs

But there are other young people who think differently. They try to change their country not from top to bottom, by political efforts, but in small steps, through the activities of a variety of NGOs.

Aleksandar M. Ribać is one of those young people. A ponderous guy in a rosé Kent shirt, active at the Young European Federalists Serbia. "We know that Germany before the World Wars was much bigger than today. How do the Germans cope with that?" Or can't that be compared at all? In any case, even in Germany dealing with the past took time. And in some countries it never took place. "Belgian history books mention the genocide in Congo with one sentence only as well!"

But the European perspective could indeed be an argument to convince Serbians and Kosovarians that a working co-operation between the different ethnic regions on the Balkan will prove more fruitful than the symbolic splitting hairs for national property. "The Young European Federalists Serbia meet up twice a year with the Young European Federalists Kosovo. We talk a lot with them, we have a good understanding with them, we agree that we disagree. It is never too early for bringing people together."

Anita going to Kosovo

Bringing people together – that's also what Anita Mitic does. The twenty year old blonde leads the Serbian branch of the Helsinki Commitee, a self-appointed network to monitor the implementation of human rights agreed on in Helsinki in 1975. She is one of the most unconditional critics of the Serbian situation. And the most pro-active ones: while most Serbs claiming Kosovo to be Serbian have never been there in their live, Anita regularly travels to Prishtina just so. Talks and drinks with young Kosovo-Albanians. Makes them wonder: "are you really Serbian?!" or saying: "you are the nicest Serb I have ever seen!"

"Even if Kosovo was ours, we wouldn't know what to do with it."

But she also got hundreds of upset comments on her Facebook-page from her Serbian friends for that, some saying she should never come back home. She risked her academic career daring statements like: "Kosovo is independent; if people say it's not, it's part of Serbia, it's simply not, de facto. Even if Kosovo was ours, we wouldn't know what to do with it." She had to explain to her own father, even though he is pro-European, that Srebrenica did happen. And she did.

Images from the past and future: 'In Serbia, the past and future live very close together...'

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