Vienna, 6 November 2007 - "Especially in these difficult times the region is going through, it is important to look ahead and to jointly shape our European future. We must not become fixated exclusively on the status issue. The challenge consists in looking beyond the immediate status problem and into a common European future", said Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik after the Kosovo Women’s Symposium in Vienna. Under the slogan "Shaping our European Future - Networking of Serbian and Kosovar Women" the symposium brought around the table leading Serbian and Kosovar women from the world of politics, media, science, business, and the civil society.
"Each participant has already made an enormous contribution to her community and to Europe, either as a human rights activist, a teacher, a parliamentarian, or a businesswoman. For this, they deserve appreciation and recognition. Especially in this sensitive phase of European development, their engagement is urgently needed", continued Plassnik. "Too often have one's dreams become the other one’s traumas on the Balkans. We have finally overcome this phase. There is a place for each and every one of us in this new, peaceful and democratic Europe."
"The challenges and problems on the Balkans are a common task and a common responsibility. They are neither "male" nor "female", emphasized the Minister, adding that "women are not a priori better peacemakers. They cannot solve the problems on the Balkans alone, nor can they solve them quicker. Nevertheless, they must be given a place at the negotiation table. Their concerns and their practical contributions to a better coexistence must be made visible." The Minister therefore also organised at the sidelines of the conference a meeting of the participants of the Kosovo troika, Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger and Ambassador Frank Wisner.
The Foreign Minister said that the decisive step is overcoming the "barriers in people's minds". "Serbian and Kosovar women represent 50 percent of their societies’ potential, creativity, and talent. We must actively use this potential. At the same time, in many societies, women are to a 100% responsible for bringing up the children. They thus create role models and significantly contribute to the respective image of others in their society. Therefore, they must be given greater recognition as promoters of change and as a driving force, and also be employed as such."
"The conference showed a clear willingness to listen to each other and to exploit new ways of understanding and cooperation. The intensive talks clearly demonstrated how important resilient networks of neighbourly relations are between the people in Serbia and Kosovo. Many of the participants met each other for the first time here in Vienna. Therefore, today's conference is a message of encouragement to the women in the region to continue their commitment and their contribution to overcoming borders on the Balkans." What we need now is a new quality of neighbourly relations. This involves greater communication, greater mobility, and more trust in each other."
The Minister stressed in particular the work done by the three workgroups on media, education, and economic and social issues. They have developed a series of concrete and practical proposals such as twinning projects for Serbian and Kosovar schools or the strengthening of regional networks of businesswomen. "Integration begins at one’s own front door. The European idea cannot be prescribed; it must grow and be experienced in every society."
All participants agreed that the European perspective is the central driving force for reforms in the entire region. "As one of the participants rightly remarked, the objective is to take all parallel tales and `truths´ in the Region and create a common, comprehensive - European - narrative. Not one single tale should be forgotten or falsified, but all of them should aim at actively shaping the new Europe", stressed Plassnik.
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