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Panelists Push for Political Will to Reconcile Former Yugoslavia

Panel discussion at VOA examines ethnic reconciliation in the Balkans.

Washington, D.C., April 20, 2005 - During a panel discussion at the Voice of America (VOA) examining ethnic reconciliation in the Balkans, Kosovo Assembly Member Ylber Hysa said the conflict in the former Yugoslavia offers "Fifteen years of lessons learned - not just for (the Balkans), but for the world." Hysa went on to say that "clearly, the business is not finished in the Balkans."

The discussion was taped and broadcast via satellite to television audiences in Europe. Portions of the program were also broadcast by Voice of America Eurasian Division language services on radio, television and the Internet.

Charles Ingrao, a Purdue University professor, said the region seems ready for compromise but the political will is lacking. "Almost without exception what I hear from the local leaders is that they are in favor of reconciliation," he noted. "But what the people are in favor of and what they have the courage to do are two totally different things."

Ingrao later observed, "One of the obligations that majorities must have in a democracy is they must accept the obligation to accommodate minorities. People who are civilians, who have not committed crimes, must be treated as individuals, not as members of a group."

Donald Hays, a scholar at the U.S. Institute of Peace and former Principal Deputy High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina said, "Leaders need to recognize that this is a priority. He added, "If you want a healthy economy, if you want to promote security, if you want to promote membership in an international body like the European Union, you have to create a non-discriminatory, equitable power sharing arrangement that gives everybody confidence."

University of Belgrade researcher Dusan Svetolik Janjic expressed hope that political leaders would opt for dealing with the agenda of the ordinary people. "We have to do a lot of things for ourselves," he said, "...and for our future." He proposed a "club of joint responsibility", including responsibility for the past -- including crimes -- and responsibility for the future.

The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts more than 1,000 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of more than 100 million people. Programs are produced in 44 languages, including English.

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