Can the Non-Territorial Ethnic Autonomy Approach reduce structural anxieties in post conflict societies?

STSM start and end date: 04/06/2023 to 09/06/2023
Grantee name: Reina S Shehi
Host institution:Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubjana
Home institution:Department of Political Sciences and International Relations, Epoka University

Statement about the STSM:

This Short Term Scientific Mission funded by COST ACTION 18114 was conducted in the framework of a research visit at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubjana in order to get to learn closely about the Anxieties in Cities of Southeast European Post-Conflict Societies: Introducing an Integrative Approach to Peacebuilding research project financed by the Slovenian Research Agency (code N5-0179). During my 5 days stay at the Host institution, I had the opportunity to have several meetings with the Head of the Project,Assoc. Prof. Dr. Rok Zupančič and get access to the literature and data produced out of the project.

STSM purpose:

Western Balkans is a region that is characterised by a rich set of ethnic diversity and linguistic and religious composition that often resulted in constant patterns of inter ethnic conflicts, which not only disturb regional peace and order but have also substantially undermined the democratic evolution and socio economic developments of countries inside. Despite continuous third party efforts and regional initiative ethnic tensions are still prevalent. Among many domestic and regional challenges, the Kosovo case is the reason for pursuing this short term scientific mission for two reasons:

1- Territorial Concentration : The Serb population of Kosovo is concentrated in the northernmost region of Kosovo and the majority of Ethnic Albaniansi in Serbia are concentrated in the southernmost part of Serbia. This territorial concentration gave space to both parties in 2019 to discuss the possibility of a territorial exchange agreement , the so- called “ land swap” as a way to end the long lasting conflict between the two countries. Yet, this idea was rejected on the basis that such a process could have serious repercussions both in Western Balkans and internationally. This lead us to argue that territorial autonomy was not a feasible solution for the Balkans and pushes the researchers to see all relevant forms of non territorial autonomy approaches as a form of conflict resolution

2- Regime Status: Kosovo’s state model as shaped under international supervision aimed to establish a state freed from mono ethnicity and a so called state of citizens. Differently, non- territorial autonomy approach relies on forms of power- sharing

Description of the work carried out during the STSM:

The STSM was conceptualised primarily as a visit to learn in detail about the Anxious Peace project, explore the available data and the employed research methodology. I had a semi- structured interview with the leader of the project and a discussion of the NTA approach in terms of its applicability in the Western Balkans. The current situation in Northern Kosovo and the perception of different actors in regards to the association of Serb Municipalities overwhelmed the discussion both in line with the works of Anxious Peace project and Non- Territorial Autonomy. The emphasis is to integrate and promote an interdisciplinary approach of peacebuilding from a bottom up perspective rather than a solely structural approach.

Description of the main results obtained:

Three key results were achieved while on the STSM

1- Return visit of the leader of the project to Albania (end of June- until first week of July) as a good opportunity to extend the networking and collaboration.
2- Discussion of anxious project and non- territorial autonomy approach at the European Wasatia Graduate School for Peace and Conflict Research in the Fall 2023 Seminar lectures
3- Apply to enlarge the project to Albania by including data from the Greek minority in southern Albania and by reflecting especially the current political conflict where for the first time, candidate for local elections, self- declared as greek, won the majority of votes but is being imprisoned on the accusations of vote buying and corruption. Thus the project aims to include Himara, predominantly populated by ethnic greek, in order to map rising patterns of anxieties and how it might influence inter-ethnic relations. 4- Potential cooperation with the PhD school ‘Balkan Studies’ at the Faculty of Law and Social Sciences, University of Ljubjana