The interest to get informed about the neighboring countries is almost non-existent, especially among younger generations. As a consequence of the lack of information, the citizens of Balkan countries have prejudices for the other neighboring countries and their citizens.
In order to maintain good neighborly relations, it is very important to establish cooperation in all possible areas. Thus, special attention should be paid to the cooperation in the area of information about the happenings and events in neighboring countries. A lack of cooperation in the area of information may affect the citizens of two or more countries, as they will have a deficiency of information about the events and happenings in neighboring countries. This may lead to creating incorrect ideas of everything that is happening in neighboring countries, and potentially to creating prejudices and stereotypes towards the citizens and societies of neighboring countries. This situation does not encourage the cooperation and progress of good relations among people from different countries.
As much as I have read and as much as I am informed, I believe that the regional cooperation, in the sense of the region of former Yugoslavia, precisely among Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia, is on a very envious level. The citizens of these countries have unlimited access to information about the events in these three countries. Of course, media companies have also contributed to this, especially television channels that exist in all three of the countries, as for example N1, but also other channels and news portals. The regional cooperation among these three countries, when it comes to exchange of information, is facilitated also by the common language, therefore the citizens of these countries have interests and possibilities in receiving all the relevant information, whether from politics, culture, sport, etc. The situation is similar, potentially on a higher level, when it comes to informing the citizens of Kosovo and Albania about events taking place in both of these countries. The cable TV platforms have definitely influenced this and offered the citizens of these two countries unlimited access to information.
Unfortunately, the situation is totally different when it comes to the exchange of information among Albania and Kosovo on one side, with Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Croatia on the other side. The citizens of Kosovo and Albania do not have many possibilities to get correct detailed information about political, social, cultural or sport events and happenings in Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Croatia. The situation is hindered by the linguistic barriers, as now the majority of citizens of Kosovo do not understand the Serbo-Croatian/Bosnian language. The older generations of Kosovars who understand this language do not have the skills to search for information through the internet. The national televisions in Kosovo and Albania rarely broadcast news from these three countries and when they do, it is usually about political events. I think that the situation is not too different on the other side, the citizens of Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Croatia do not have many possibilities to get informed about the events and happenings in Kosovo and Albania. This situation is identical for almost 20 years, and it has resulted in an almost non-existent interest to gain information about neighboring countries. As a consequence of the lack of information, the citizens of Balkan countries have prejudices for other neighboring countries and their citizens, as if they lived on different continents. This situation does not offer optimism for a potentially common future in a “healthy vicinity”.
Bekim Blakaj is the executive director of the Humanitarian Law Center Kosovo