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PUBLIC PARTICIPATION OF THE KOSOVAR DIASPORA 


“Mobility and Public Participation:
 A Case Study of the Kosovar Diaspora and its Public Participation in Relation to Outward Mobility”
 


Marigona Shabiu
 Valon Xoxa
 Genta Belegu
 Besarta Ramadani
 Edita Bajrami 


Supervisor: Shpend Kursani Spring School on Sustainable Human Development, 2013 


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PUBLIC PARTICIPATION OF THE KOSOVAR DIASPORA 


Table of Contents 


1.0 Introduction. 2
 2.0 Legislative frame. 3
 2.1 Law on Kosovo Diaspora. 4
 2.2 Voting process. 5
 3. 0 Diaspora and the internet medium.. 7
 3.1 Types of online Diaspora Identities. 9
 3. 2 The case of the Kosovar Diaspora. 10
 4. 0 Diaspora’s political participation. 11
 4. 1 Political Parties and Diaspora. 14
 4. 2 Diaspora’s organization and mobilization. 14
 5. 0 Conclusion. 16
 6. 0 Bibliography. 17


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1.0 Introduction
 Emigration characterized the society of Kosovo for more than half a century. It is estimated that Kosovo has a Diaspora around 800,000 people (Diaspora for Development). The primary motivation for migration is economic, demanding a better life, a phenomenon which is being intensified from year to year. Lack of precise data, since Diaspora was not included in the Census population 2011 in Kosovo, it leaves a huge information gap in the process of properly addressing their needs and demands.
 Diaspora has been and still remains a major factor in Kosovo's politics and economy. In general Diaspora’s role is perceived as a contribution to the economic development, transfer of technology, political support, transfer of democratic values and building a good image for the homeland (Newland & Patrick, 2004, p. 13). Given that there are shortcomings in Kosovo’s emigration policies and considering that there is huge unemployment in Kosovo, it is natural that the level of immigration is high. Creating appropriate policies regarding immigration and the status of Kosovo Diaspora are the key factors for political, social and economic development. What can be called a “First Aid” for Kosovo, the Diaspora expresses its concern, disappointment for the lack of care and attention given from government institutions. 
 Diaspora's role in Kosovo is in a critical moment of being perceived primarily as a provider of remittance and investment, rather than being recognized as a catalyst for international connections and political development. However, there is growing information among policy- makers, donor agencies, development specialists and the general public about the role that the Kosovo Diaspora should play in the development of Kosovo. 
 Due to the lack of literature and very few researches that have been conducted on this topic, it remains extremely difficult to get accurate information on the Kosovo Diaspora. Therefore, the aim of this study is to provide descriptive and explanatory analysis on the Diaspora situation, with a special emphasis on the Diaspora’s political participation in


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Kosovo. In order to do so, the paper will address the legal framework on Diaspora, the role of media in shaping their identity and the political participation of Diaspora in the Kosovo institutions. The paper consists of secondary data, where legal acts, academic articles, journals, books, and so forth, have been analyzed. The results gathered are supported and explained based on relevant theories on Diaspora and migration.
 2.0 Legislative framework
 2.1 Law on Kosovo Diaspora 
 The Republic of Kosovo has to pay lot of attention to the importance of Diaspora’s political inclusion, participation in decision making, listening to their voice and demands in order to address their needs, through policies, laws and other legal acts, which will offer protection of their rights. Thus, obligations towards Diaspora are disaggregated into a series of laws and other approved documents. Among the relevant laws in this area are: the Law on Diaspora and Migrants; the Law on Citizenship; the Law on Diplomatic and Consular Services of the Republic of Kosovo; the Law on National Elections, According to Article 65 (1) of the Law on Diaspora, its purpose “is preservation of identity, linguistic, cultural and education of Diaspora and their connection with the institutions of the Republic of Kosovo” (Law on Diaspora- Ministry of Diaspora). Such a law would ensure that the Diaspora, alongside its cultural identity, is preserved a right to part-take in the process of state creation of Kosovo. If not direct, the very fact that the Diaspora is included within the legal institutions shows signs of initial institutional care towards these members of society. 
 The creation of a legislative framework and approval of many legal documents should be considered as the first step towards understanding and identifying the Diaspora as an integral part of the Kosovar policy making process.


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2.2 Voting process
 Political participation derives from the freedom of speech, assemble and associate; the ability to take part in the conduct of public affairs; and the opportunity to register as a candidate, to campaign, to be elected and to hold office at all levels of the government (United Nations - Political Participation: Types of Political Participation).
 Article 15 of the Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo obliges the institutions of Kosovo to "protect the interests of citizens living outside the country''. Article 45 of the Constitution also guarantees the right to vote and the participation of all its citizens by not limiting this right to its citizens living outside the territory of Kosovo.
 It is assumed that over 300 000 Kosovars entitled to vote live abroad. In the last election only about 3,000 of them have used their right to vote by mail. (Interview: Adnan Rrustemi, SKQZ) This is a real concern for our country but the possibility of electronic voting would be in favor of the diaspora, which would increase the number of voters from outside. The number of diaspora voters is unfortunately very low, compared to other Diasporas around the world. (Interview: Adnan Rrustemi, SKQZ). Applying such electronic voting has its advantages and disadvantages. Among the main advantages is that it will enable the rapid publication of results and hinder or hamper some traditional manipulations that have occurred in recent elections in Kosovo as voting on behalf of other persons. However, this system has its shortcomings, the application of such a form of voting as the only form of voting by ballot would deprive a number of older voters who are not familiar with the use of electronic devices. Also, despite the high level of security installed, there is always the suspicion that there may be interference from outside manipulation of election results. 3. 0 Identity of Diaspora on the Age of the Internet 
 It goes without saying that writing on identity creation does always echo the great Benedict Anderson. Andersons “Imagined Communities” does give an in depth explanation


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as to why to people within a certain geographic location would consider themselves as a part of a community; sacred language, shared belief, history and literature are all considered as essentials at maintaining a shared imagination, sense of belonging (Anderson, 1991). Such an understanding of national creation is crucial at explaining the sense of belonging found amongst diaspora members, as a group of people with a shared imagination away from the shared physical space. Due to the changing characteristic of geopolitics, the very definition of national identity has received a dosage of terms, thus incorporating ideas and issues that spring from the creation of Diaspora.
 Diaspora identity creation comes in two general patterns, the first usually known as the folkloric and mythological approach , opens the books of history and folklore in search of a true self “ hiding inside many other, more superficial or artificially imposed selves” (Hall, 223). The second, being more progressive at its approach, understands cultural identity as indeed historical however being subjected to constant play of current power relation towards history and politics. Due to changing forms of communication and the rise of internet usage over the years, without sounding to Mcluhaneske, the medium chosen to be studied, which would best describe the recent changes in the diaspora and its identity, is the internet.
 With globalization and the widespread use of internet, communities are taking different shapes and the lines of identity are getting fuzzier by the day. It goes without saying that while the internet works as a medium without a physical base, its umbrella like coverage of spread communities creates a strengthening of identity that has never been witnessed before. One of such communities is the Diaspora. A Diaspora is created through direct interethnic conflict where usually the majority succeeds in expelling the minority and thus creating a group of population that live in exile of their homeland. “People who have been dispersed from their original homeland, have strong ethnic identity and wish to return to their homeland …with a strong national consciousness without a state of their own” (Curtis, 2005). These communities receive a paradoxical boost of national identity within the second


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generation of living in exile; the children of the expelled become aware of their difference with the locals and the fact that their parents were expelled from the homeland. 
 For the Diaspora, it is essential that the scattering effects of exile are diminished, thus only a unifying identity creation could keep the hope for the imagined homeland alive. Thus the internet comes into play as a major factor and provider of the “deep resources” (Curtis, 2005) for such a national consciences. The internet and its vast information provision make it possible for these communities to exist. The deep resources of a national identity are its ethnic folklore, culture, mythology, flag, hymns and past history. Furthermore with the up to second updates, the internet has made it possible for the segregated Diaspora to once again organize and learn about its identity.
 There are three crucial aspects that make the internet a vital tool of national identity revival; firstly, it allows for people through different social networks to communicate with one and other faster and in better quality, second, the internet allows for the Diaspora to stay in touch with the people living in the physical homeland and thus keeping the goals congruent and thirdly news with new ideas are spread quickly through the community. Social networking before the internet was mainly focused on physical contact between members of a certain community; it required time consumption and financial expenditure thus it was more than a hassle for the Diaspora members to socialize and discuss their problems. Even if a certain arrangement was made, people managed to socialize with a limited amount of individuals that had the same interests. With the internet, the social organization of such communities has changed dramatically; people are able to find other interested members without the physical barrier of travel and financial cost. People with certain interests will visit certain web-pages and online communities thus find one and other with little effort. With access to internet, the Diaspora members are able to stay connected with their family members in the homeland and act accordingly to the needs presented, keeping their goals and actions coordinated is a crucial aspect on maintaining the struggle. Finally, the second up to


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date feature of the internet allows for revolutionary ideas to be spread rapidly and heard loudly thus mobilizing all the members of the community. “Nationalism no longer need to be local, the internet in particular allows anyone with a desire to participate to do so, regardless of their physical location”( Curtis, 2005).
 3.1 Types of online Diaspora Identities
 One should keep in mind that the virtual and physical are not separate entities, they influence one and other and based on the interest, the individual reshapes each to follow his ideals. The most common Diaspora representation on the internet is that of nation creation, also known as the Kurdish model, where members of the community use the internet medium to strengthen rather than weaken their national ties and create a cyberstate. Usually, the online presentation is done through webpages and social networking. The web-pages are rather presentation like sites where one could seek answers to his personal questions regarding his identity without much room for debate. “Websites serve mainly as presentation media: the nationality is on display. Interactivity is not important” (Bakker,2001). The second case is known as stable hyphenation (Eriksen, 7), within this online representation, the Diaspora is mainly focused on helping the new members and refugees adapt to the new country.The focus is no longer in creating a nation or mobilizing ideology to retake the homeland. Such is the case with the Moroccans in the Netherlands where the online websites serve mainly the purpose of informing users with the Moroccan identity and function as an interest group. The third type of presentation is the Surrogate nationhood (Eriksen, 2006) or nation on the waiting, different from the Kurdish model, the Diaspora in this case are placed within their homeland and seek acceptance from the outside by promoting their cause in the World Wide Web. The most important aspect of the online promotion of such communities is the standardized language that internet provides, while many communities use their own dialects which in turn weaken the bond with the greater group, the standardized English unifies and provides an area where information is exchanged without the danger of miscommunication.


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Furthermore, the widespread use of English language promotes the cause to a greater audience worldwide which in turn could lead to outside support.
 3. 2 Case of the Kosovar Diaspora
 Understanding the Kosovar Diaspora, one should include the aspect of the greater migration patterns of the Albanian population. On a 2005 study published by the IOM in Albania titled “National Workshop on Migration”, the sample of the studied migration patterns have been the Albanian speaking people regardless of political boundaries at the country of origin. It is important to note that migration patterns have changed as a response to change in the cause of migration. (IOM, 2005). Thus, multiple layers of migration have made it difficult for the Diaspora to maintain a stable and unified identity. The main idea being a study of identity creation and maintenance, the Kosovar Diaspora had found itself in a paradoxical situation where a later Yugoslav label had been refused in exchange of a truer identification. A great wave of migration that is important for this case study is the Yugoslav 1970’s migration towards Western Europe, which in its masses included many Albanians from Kosovo, often labeled as Yugoslavs however “internally they have always maintained their cultural identity”(IOM,2005). 
 When compared to the models given above, the Kosovar diaspora has a rather interesting adaptation to the experience of identity shift. Without going much into the Albanian or Kosovar debate, the first model, better known as the Kurdish, is widespread throughout the internet. With an exception to the interaction aspect, the Kosovar identity is well maintained through different Facebook pages such as “Kosovo” , “Geg e Toske” etc.( Kelmendi )Similarly, the second model could also explain how the Kosovar identity is maintained through different online agencies. The most popular being Albinfo.ch where new and old diaspora members are given information on accommodating themselves within the host country.(albinfo.ch). The main argument of this hypothesis examines how the medium of social online networking has managed to incorporate the “deep resources” of nationhood


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within the shared imagination of the diaspora. The internet, with its wide reaching characteristics has brought the Diaspora a new ground; it serves as the supportive homeland that they have initially left. 4. 0 Diaspora’s political participation
 The trends that are set by globalization and technological innovations that shrink barriers of communication suit the Diaspora the best. Distances and isolation are not felt anymore, while they can more easily contribute to positively affecting developments in the country of origin (Newland, 2010).Considering the fact that Diaspora is a crucial factor in overall economic, political and social development, attempts to increase its contribution through policies were not taken as an optimal alternative for Kosovo institutions. Currently political participation of Diaspora is far from having the chance to influence political development. While still not being represented in the parliament, in local and central level government, not being consulted and involved in decision making process, projects, reforms, and so forth. Concerns are raised among diasporas as well, where the main problems they perceive, based on the results of Riinvest Household Survey (2007), are related to the problems obtaining travel documents and arranging to vote (Mustafa et al, 2007, p.52). On the other hand the discourse of Kosovo institutions, calling for investments from Diaspora is perceived only from the economic aspect, even though most of the theorists proclaim that Diasporas investment in the home country can contribute also on the enforcement of state institution in the country of origin (Newland & Patrick, 2004, p. 17). The benefits of engagement and involvement of Diaspora in the home country, are not just remittances and savings, but also values of democracy, fairness, tolerance, anti-racism, environmentalism, and so on (King & Vullnetari, 2009, p.391). 
 It is assumed that governments should integrate in the development program all groups of citizens, whether they live inside or outside the country’s border. This integration must be addressed by adopting policies, strategies, actions plans and establishing proper institutions to


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undertake their implementation. As King & Vullnetari (2009) argues, countries that have significant migration, such as Kosovo, it is important to enact migration policies which would be integrated in the national development strategies, in order to promote economic and social development. In 2009, Government of Kosovo adopted the National Strategy and Action Plan on Migration 2009 – 2012. The strategy mainly addresses the issue of irregular migration and return process rather than migration in itself. Furthermore, Kosovo has no strategy that recognizes and builds on economic and political contribution of migration. The Ministry of Diaspora, is working to help Diaspora stay interested and linked to Kosovo, in order to attract investments, protect their rights and create space for their political contribution in Kosovo’s society. The Ministry is a new organ within the government, though it lacks professional capacity, experience and struggles to legitimize itself amongst Diaspora’s members as well as Kosovo’s society. Therefore, the need for capacity enforcement is deemed necessary to increase Diaspora’s role in Kosovo as well as in the host countries, by creating networks of cooperation, communication and representation.
 There is a need to provide greater support for information sharing and Diaspora mobilization, in order to let them participate in creation of public policies in the origin country (Ekwo, 2011). Incidentally, government in Kosovo did not have any vision how it would like to integrate the role of migration in development before the establishment of the Ministry. Thus, lack of perspective and focus, is causing loss of benefits from Diaspora as well as loss of their national identity. According to Riinvest Household Survey (2007) members of Diaspora are deeply unsatisfied by government in Kosovo because of lack of attention and care towards them in regard to the problems they are facing in the host countries (Mustafa et al, 2007).


 



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4. 1 Political Parties and Diaspora
 Regarding the agenda of political parties in Kosovo, for the purpose of this study, political programs of the main political parties in Kosovo, both in the coalition government and the opposition, have been analyzed. All these parties in their political programs address Diaspora as a potential for economic and political development. They all attempt, some with much more emphasis, to advance policies and activities, with the aim to offer better services to Diaspora, to protect their rights, to enable them to integrate in the societies of host countries, to preserve their culture and language, to create a better environment to attract their investments, to promote Kosovo in the international area, and so on. It is interesting to notice that none of the political parties have put Diaspora in their priorities or in the groups that need special attention. However, AAK states that it will show special care towards Diaspora, by securing them a form of representation in the Parliament of Kosovo, establishment of the directorates for Diaspora within municipalities and realize the registration of the people living in Diaspora (AAK - Political Program, 2010). There are no branches of political parties in any of Diaspora’s countries of residence, except of VV, which seems to be very active in engaging Diaspora in political participation. VV has branches in Belgium, Great Britain, Germany, Norway and Switzerland (Vetevendosje - Political Program, 2010).


4. 2 Diaspora’s organization and mobilization
 When considering organization and mobilization of the Kosovo institutions to increase Diaspora’s political participation, it is important to have a look also on how organized is the Diaspora itself, since an organized Diaspora boosts political and economic development of the home country, by establishing different organizations, associations, clubs, and so on (Newland & Patrick, 2004, p. 13).Kosovo’s diasporas has shown a historic role in the political development of Kosovo. Currently its impact has decreased since Diaspora is not organized as it used to be. After the liberation of Kosovo, there is not enough organization among Diaspora and reasons for this according to Riinvest Household Survey (2007) are found in the


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fragmentation of Diaspora based on political parties, which produces lack of communication (p.9). Thus, the depolitization of Diaspora is perceived as a push factor to a better organization, which could be achieved by establishing cooperation between clubs in Diaspora and Kosovo institutions (Riinvest Visitors’s Survey, 2006.p.58). The hope for reorganization is also relied on the new generations that can be organized over student associations and business organizations (Hazhikadrija, 2009). Never the less, there are some Diaspora’s organizations that operate in different countries and probably there might be more, but there are no data available. Such data present mainly organizations that operate in Switzerland, probably because much attention has been put on them, considering that there is the biggest Diaspora of Kosovo.
 “The Assembly of Albanians”, is an organization which was founded with the aim to unite the economic, cultural and political potential of the Albanians living in Switzerland, in order to ensure a decent representation in the institutions of Switzerland as well as in those of Kosovo. The Assembly has declared the importance of Diaspora’s political participation in Kosovo, and requires being part of the debates of amendments and laws, which directly affects Diaspora in Switzerland and elsewhere (The Assembly of Albanians, 2011). There are also some other students organization, such as “Studenti”, in Switzerland, “Albanisches Intitut”, Switzerland, “Shkolla Shqipe e Mesimit Plotesues”, Netherland, and Lidhja e Arsimtareve dhe prinderve shqiptar - Naim Frasheri”, Switzerland. Newland & Patrick (2004), argues that Diaspora’s activities are based mostly on individual and groups initiatives, and not on government activity. Indeed, this is very applicable to the Kosovo case, since there are more initiatives coming from different sources rather than government itself. In these regard, there are some attempts by some Non Governmental Organizations in Kosovo to re actualize the Diaspora issue in the institutional agenda. Direct contact with them through different activities such as conferences, seminars, workshops, and so forth is helping Diaspora to express their opinions, concerns and plans, on what they would like for themselves in


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Kosovo and in their host country. In a Conference held in Pristine, about the Diaspora representation in decision making processes (Bringing the Diaspora closer to Home, 2007), were discussed different options on how to maintain the flow of information and communication between Kosovo and Diaspora as well as trying to find best options of diasporas representation in decision making processes, in local and national level. There was recognized that Diaspora is a powerful factor in the political development, thus their participation is more than necessary. 
 5.0 Conclusion
 Political participation of Diaspora is far from having the chance to influence political development in Kosovo. This is due to the fact that they are not represented in the parliament, in local and central level government, not being consulted and involved in decision making processes as well as not participating in the voting process due to the complex procedures. However, including Diaspora members within the Kosovo political processes is indeed a long journey and it is currently far from satisfying all members involved. 
 Thus, as a logical flow of this study, a couple of suggestions would point at the prospective advances that the Kosovo government could progress to in order to yield the political input of the Diaspora. Creating appropriate policies regarding immigration and the status of Kosovo Diaspora are the key factors for political, social and economic development. As stated several times, the main problem of the low political participation of the diaspora seems to be the difficulty of voting, the basic value of democracy requires a reform. Furthermore, an important change that should result from a greater political participation is an attitudinal change towards the Diaspora. The politics of Kosovo should encourage a greater organization in terms of national participation rather than partisan. Possibly the most important aspect that requires immediate attention is the attitudinal change towards the Diaspora, far from being as a Diaspora bank, the Diaspora should not be cherished only for their financial support but also for the values and their commitment at democratizing Kosovo


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as a whole. To conclude, the Political Participation of Diaspora needs to be more empowered and supported by Kosovo’s Institutions and Society.


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Mobility and public participation: A case study of the Kosovar Diaspora