On Thursday, September 22nd, Balkan Americans from all over the United States, gathered at the Jacob Javits Covention Center in New York for the annual Balkan Leaders Summit and US-Balkan Business Forum.
The event, now in its third year, is organized by FEBA, the Federation of Balkan American Associations. Its mission is to create unified goals and ideals for neighboring Balkan countries and to preserve and promote the rich Balkan heritage in the United States.
This year’s conference was titled “A Vision for a Common Future.” The prime ministers of Albania, Bosnia, Kosova, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Turkey were present. A recurring theme in every speaker’s address was the importance of cultural and economic cooperation, while also emphasizing the contributions of each respective country to the peninsula’s stability.
As Ebru News reported, Sali Berisha, the Prime Minister of Albania, saluted what he called the best and largest gathering of Balkan states. He stressed the importance of fostering the future generation.
“The greatest asset of my nation is the youth . With it’s energy, it’s vision, it’s imagination will make the country the eagle of Europe, ” Berisha said.
He also talked about market-based democracy, about the importance of cooperation between countries, and he praised recent business relations and investment in Albania by Turkey.
“There is no functioning democracy without functioning economy,” Berisha added.
Dr. Aras Konjhodzic, the President of FEBA, spoke of moving forward, free from the fixations of the past.
“I want my children not to take revenge for past losses and to live in peace with my neighbors, a life full of joy and happiness,” he said.
That sentiment was echoed by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan who received the biggest standing ovation of the night.
“We should not look at our future by looking at our past. We won’t be moving forward by avenging our conflicts,” Erdogan noted.
He stressed a vital need to learn lessons from a past of conflict and ethnic differences and to focus on developing the future. He spoke of change, change that he says is coming forth, and that no leader will be able to avoid.
Earlier in the day, the foreign ministers of Bulgaria and Kosova addressed undergraduate and graduate students who had gathered for the International Leadership Youth Symposium at the Jacob Javits Center. Enver Hoxhaj, foreign minister of Kosova, took many questions from the students who were present and encouraged the youth to be engaged with political developments and not be afraid of asking questions.