September 5th, 2023
His Excellency Dr. Sabri KIÇMARI
Karen: Thank you for the interview opportunity today. I have read
that at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Majlinda Kelmendi made history
by winning the first Olympic medal in the women's judo category.
Moreover, at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, several more Kosovo athletes
shined brightly with more winning medals. We are very proud and
thankful to have a Kosovo athlete excel in a Japanese sport and
I believe that this accomplishment has further strengthened
the bridge of friendship between our two countries.
Hina: I also would like to thank you for granting us your precious time for us to interview today. I saw online that you have visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Summit held on August 6th, and as a Japanese citizen would like to thank you for your kind action. With both Kosovo and Japan experiencing horrors from war first handedly, I am excited to hear about your values on peace today.
On September 5th, 2023, the International School Network visited the embassy of Kosovo to interview the ambassador His Excellency Dr. Sabri KIÇMARI.
The ambassador His Excellency Dr. Sabri KIÇMARI served as a professor before starting his diplomatic career. H.E. became the first ambassador of Kosovo to Austria 15 years ago for 5 years. H.E. has also served as the ambassador of Kosovo to Australia for 5 years. Afterward, H.E. spent 3 and a half years back in Kosovo, where H.E. served as the director of the General Diplomat Academy and as a professor at the University of Pristina.
At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Majlinda Kelmendi made history by winning the first Olympic medal in the women's judo category. Moreover, at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, several more Kosovo athletes shined brightly with more winning medals.
Although 25 years ago, Judo was not a particularly popular sport, Judo has become the most popular sport in the country, with everyone recognizing the medalists. H.E. emphasized how the skilled Judo coaches who are working with young athletes accelerated the strength of the team. In fact, in July 2023, H.E. had the opportunity to meet with training athletes.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Summit
24 years ago marked the end of war which ultimately is estimated to be the cause of 12,000 innocent lives. H.E. believes that 12,000 is a substantial number in ratio to the country’s rather small population, especially since the majority were civilians. Similarly, upon visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Summit held on August 6th, H.E. sympathized with the people of Hiroshima where the majority of those lost lives were civilians. H.E. pointed out that the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Summit serves as a sign of respect of the precious lives. Despite the aspiration for a world without nuclear weapons, H.E. explained the undeniable reality of some countries possessing these weapons, and acknowledges that war is inevitable in certain regions. In situations of war, H.E. states the importance of the international community to prevent nuclear possessing states from firing them. In regard to this goal, H.E. conveyed messages to other ambassadors present at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Summit, to speak to countries who possess nuclear weapons from utilizing them.
What is a unique aspect of education in your country? What values are emphasized in education?
His Excellency Dr. Sabri KIÇMARI explains that the history of education in Kosovo is complicated due to frequent changes in the political system even over the past few years. Kosovo was once part of the former Yugoslavia which had a dictatorial one party system. In 1991 Kosovo was occupied by Serbia. Therefore, during this period, citizens had to learn and study in another language. Moreover, during the years from 1991 to 1999, schools and universities were closed off, inevitably forcing students to substitute private houses as school campuses. Unfortunately, through 1998 to 1999 70% of the schools and universities ultimately were destroyed from the war.
After the war in 1999, Kosovo gained freedom but still remained not fully independent. They received support from various countries including Europe, the USA, and Japan, with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) being one of the key organizations providing support to Kosovo. With these fundings, Kosovo started to rebuild schools and universities from the ground. Simultaneously, the education system was then changed to be liberal democratic which better fit the values of Kosovo compared to when they were under occupation . Although the rebuilding process was not easy for the young generation, H.E. believes the hardship came with valuable experiences. Through the process of rebuilding the system, Kosovo connected with different languages and other European countries. Consequently, the education system has been influenced by German, British, and American educational models. Moreover, H.E. noted that private schools and private universities were not able to emerge until 2005.
What are your goals as an ambassador?
His Excellency Dr. Sabri KIÇMARI explained that he has two goals as an ambassador. His first goal is to collaborate closely with the foreign ministry of Japan as the high level representative of Kosovo. H.E. emphasized that working as the ambassador of Kosovo in Japan is relatively straightforward due to the shared values between the two nations, such as in human rights and democracy. Furthermore, H.E. pointed out that both countries are politically in the same boat and position.
H.E. Dr. Sabri KIÇMARI’s second goal as an ambassador is to bring more Japanese companies to Kosovo, and vice versa. Specifically, H.E. aims to introduce Kosovo’s wine and beer to the Japanese market. Additionally, H.E. hopes to bring more tourists to Kosovo from Japan. In his efforts to strengthen the relations between the two countries, H.E. has initiated visits to different universities, in hopes of cultivating an exchange system for professors and students. He has already visited Sophia University, Ryukyu University (located in Okinawa), University of Hiroshima, and university in Kosovo. H.E. also mentioned that he delivered a lecture on eternal peace at the University of Hiroshima.
Do you have a message for Japanese students/people?
His Excellency Dr. Sabri KIÇMARI would like to convey a message to Japanese students, encouraging them to engage and learn at their university and internalize theoretical knowledge. H.E. believes this process contributes to making individuals more humane. Furthermore, in his message, H.E. encourages Japanese students to visit and explore other countries, learn diverse cultures, and observe both the similarities and differences. Through this experience, one can realize that there are alternative ways of thinking and understanding. H.E. also emphasizes that upon returning from various countries, individuals are able to respect and cherish their own cultures even more.
In the second message, H.E. offers a warm invitation to visit Kosovo. H.E. explains that the young people in Kosovo hold a great respect for Japanese culture and are welcome to Japanese students.
What are some qualities of your country that you would like to bring awareness to people in Japan?
Coming to Japan, Dr. Sabri KIÇMARI realized that there are many similarities between Japan and Kosovo especially in aspects such as the sense of community, and the relationship citizens have with their own culture. Additionally, Dr. Sabri KIÇMARI pointed out that both countries' younger generations are thriving in the IT sector. In Japan, his excellency would like to bring the spontaneous, “taking it easy” culture many people in Kosovo have. On the other hand, H.E. stated that he would like to bring the cleanliness of Japan to Kosovo.
What are your views on globalization (positive/negative effects culture)?
Dr. Sabri KIÇMARI sees globalization as something that is both positive and negative. A positive aspect mentioned was the easy access to transportation, making cultural exchanges more accessible. His excellency Dr. Sabri KIÇMARI believes in promoting international peace, and understanding differences. As for the negative aspect, Dr. Sabri KIÇMARI expresses concern about the potential exploitation of tools which are also the positive aspects of globalization by those who do not advocate for world peace.
What surprised you when you came to Japan?
1. Couldn't find any garbage but the streets are clean
2. Restaurants are cozy rather than vast spaces
3. Tokyo is well organized, not much people are in the streets, and less cars then Europe
4. No tipping system
5. Respect towards religion, for example, shrines are easy to access
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
His Excellency Dr. Sabri KIÇMARI wanted to be a medical doctor when he was a child. This was also a wish of his mother. A doctor in Kosovo was the best symbol of man in the world, and his father supported the idea. His mother passed away before H.E. Dr. Sabri KIÇMARI entered medicine high school but he kept her idea in his mind. However, when he was in Germany, his interest moved on to political science, philosophy, and sociology. He was divided into two; the path of becoming a doctor, which his family wished for, and the political path which he realized was his true passion. After contemplation, he decided to pursue what he was interested in at that time, stepping foot into the political field.
Recently, H.E. Dr. Sabri KIÇMARI published a book “History Continues”. In his book, he analyzes philosophical and political ideas of Francis Fukuyama's “End of History”.
What do you believe is the first step towards world peace?
H.E. Dr. Sabri KIÇMARI believes that the first step towards world peace is organizing and speaking against the war. Voices starting from family, the school, to the community and up can ultimately reach the government or international committee. What is important is to speak openly about the war, and to not be afraid when doing so, he said.
H.E. Dr. Sabri KIÇMARI attended the World Congress of Philosophy in Beijing and he spoke there about the responsibility of protection. This is the second step for world peace. The idea of responsibility to protect contains three principles; responsibility to prevent the war before it breaks, responsibility to protect civillities when the war started, and responsibility to rebuild after the war.
H.E. Dr. Sabri KIÇMARI told us that Kosovo provides full support for Ukraine people who were attacked and lost their houses. This situation is an example of speaking openly against the war. To finish the war, the international committee must exert pressure.
He additionally stated that it is impossible for any state to ‘win’ in a war. In his opinion, the weight of losses from war is far too significant for any country to actually be the ‘winner’. As an example, even Kosovo, the country which obtained freedom and won, still ‘lost’ to the war because the country lost far too many civilians.
What do you believe unites the nation, and what cultures do the people of your country value?
His Excellency Dr. Sabri KIÇMARI emphasized the importance of respecting other languages, cultures and beliefs regardless of their religion. Although religious beliefs are not connected to one another, the core values can overlap with one another.
However, at times, these differences can bring about conflicts. Therefore, it is the responsibility of politicians to effectively manage them and serve as a bridge. H.E. emphasized that speaking against war is crucial. In fact H.E. is able to tell from his experience because he knows people lost their lives in the war, including five people that were close to him. H.E. emphasizes that the core idea for peace is to speak up against war, put pressure on the politicians, and prevent conflicts in the world.
How is Peace taught in the Kosovo education system?
H.E. Dr. Sabri KIÇMARI emphasized with Kosovo people with the fresh memories of being a refugee just 24 years ago, of the emotional wounds they have yet to heal. H.E. explained that emotional healing is in the responsibility of educators to remind the future generations to never forget the devastating outcomes of war. Simultaneously, there is a need to also work for peace, and avoid staying hateful. In essence, despite Kosovo’s losses during the war, people do not hate, because staying in hatred also means living on with war. Furthermore, H.E. explained that while it is not easy to deal with the emotions of people, the country was able to manage them effectively.
On August 13, 2018, the International School Network visited the Embassy of Kosovo to interview the Ambassador. His Excellency Mr. Leon Malazogu.
Firstly, H.E. Mr. Malazogu expressed that through the centuries of struggling for independence, first from the Ottoman Empire and then from Serbia, Kosovar people have kept their identities very close to heart. Kosovo recently celebrated its 10th year of independence and is working hard to solidify their national identity. The people of the nation are also very young, as the average age is 27 years old. The population of Kosovo is therefore very promising, with a bright future. The capital is especially very young, with lively aspects including drinking and good cuisine.
Since independence, H.E. Mr. Malazogu mentioned that language is a large factor of the unity of its people. Similar to Japan, Kosovo has a national identity, which is valued more important than religion. H.E. Mr. Malazogu explained that Kosovar people have a shared vision of destiny for cooperating with Europe, with democracy and human rights. Furthermore, education is a value in Kosovo that is constantly being reformed, especially through learning from other countries like Finland. Children in Kosovo have been studying English from an early age.
Culture and Tourism
H.E. Mr. Malazogu explained that Kosovar culture is very diverse. The national dresses and ceremonies such as weddings greatly differ across regions. Kosovo is home to beautiful nature, including lakes, which the Ambassador noted is great for taking a swim in, forests, and mountains. The nation is also famous for its vineyards, caves, and architecture. The national library has a very unique design handmade by silversmiths. There are traditional towns, orthodox churches, mosques, bridges, mausoleums of sultans, and artifacts from the late stone ages that display the beauty of history and tradition. In the rural areas of Kosovo, there are forests and animals alongside natural scenery.
H.E. Mr. Malazogu explained that old cities, mountains, and rural tourism is popular in Kosovo. Not only are there historical and religious sites in the country, there are also sites of recent war. There are various artifacts and national heritage sites that were destroyed in war, and so Kosovo is trying to preserve historical sites. H.E. Mr. Malazogu mentioned that this is an important challenge, as maintaining buildings are difficult and costly. He emphasized that the remains of war are especially important to see, to learn that battles should be avoided in the future.
Kosovar people enjoy various sports including football, basketball, and even Japanese sports. The first gold medal had been in judo, and H.E. Mr. Malazogu believes this is the result of committed work.
H.E. Mr. Malazogu mentioned that food is the greatest attraction of Kosovo. People in Kosovo eat vegetables, pepper beans, potatoes, bread, and a variety of pastries. Fruits are also very distinct in Kosovo, as a nation with 4 distinct seasons. H.E. Mr. Malazogu mentioned his appreciation for stuffed peppers with rice and meat, and also with grape leaves.
H.E. Mr. Malazogu described Kosovo to be a very hospitable country, especially very accepting of tourism. Kosovo hopes to return the favor of the international community who helped them gain independence and aided the nation afterwards as well, through kindness. H.E. Mr. Malazogu explained that Kosovo cannot compete financially with other rich countries, but as a young nation, Kosovo has great potential and a friendly attitude. Kosovo is changing rapidly, and he believes that visitors can discover things about the nation that differ from what is commonly depicted on media.
H.E. Mr. Malazogu views Japan as having modest, hardworking people as a developed nation. He noted the importance of the mentality of not being wasteful, being brave with its own past, and being resilient; which are qualities he finds in Kosovar people as well. Kosovo has survived many years of occupation.
H.E. Mr. Malazogu expressed his gratitude towards Japan, as Ms. Sadako Ogata 20 years ago spoke out on media about the violation of human rights Kosovo had experienced under Serbian occupation.
Kosovo has very friendly relations with Japan as H.E. Mr. Malazogu notes that the nations have shared values, and lots of agreements at discussions. Japan has recognized Kosovo after independence very quickly, as next year will mark the 10th year of diplomatic relations. The two countries share high level visits and investments. For instance, the Japanese shitake mushrooms biggest factory in Europe is located in Kosovo. Kosovo and Japan also have cultural links, such as in the field of music by Conductor Yanagisawa. H.E. Mr. Malazogu hopes to boost trade between Kosovo and Japan for the near future.
As an ambassador, H.E. Mr. Malazogu’s goal is to make more friends, networks, and links between Kosovar and Japanese people and artists. With enough contact and friendships of any profile,
As a student, H.E. Mr. Malazogu had the dream of becoming a cartographer, but did not find a school where he could pursue the subject. H.E. Mr. Malazogu enjoyed math and geography the most, as he was also fascinated by foreign and international affairs. H.E. Mr. Malazogu had been curious about other countries since a young age. At the age of six, he was greatly fascinated by the atlas, where he learnt the Cyrillic alphabet. Before he entered the first grade, he had memorized all the capital cities of the world!
H.E. Mr. Malazogu expressed his passion for the environment, and the impact globalization has on our planet. It is especially apparent in Kosovo that the environment has no borders, as a nation very close to its neighboring countries. Environmental issues such as pollution are global problems, as H.E. Mr. Malazogu mentions, “We are not alone”. He notes that we must realize that “the world is much smaller than it actually is”. Soon, and if not already, environmental degradation and global warming will become a major global problem that may surpass the urgency of any other issue.
H.E. Mr. Malazogu believes we should live more in sync with nature. Mankind is taking too much from nature than it can afford to give. H.E. Mr. Malazogu noted the importance of not using resources more than we need, because it not only harms the environment but also leads to conflict. Using resources carefully, and to recycle and reuse them are key to save the nature. H.E. Mr. Malazogu expressed that Japan has been doing well in this respect, as people recycle and are careful about pollution. He also noted that Kosovar people have historically been very fond of nature, as they have had various beliefs, from Christian to Muslim.
H.E. Mr. Malazogu has studied peace. He noticed that there are many reasons for wars, with the main reasons being disparity, and availability of weapons and technology. For this reason, he sympathizes with the Japanese for the dismantlement of weapons. H.E. Mr. Malazogu also mentioned that globalization will help spread universal human values, especially among children.
As of gender issues, there have been various efforts and progress for women’s rights but there is much more that can be done. H.E. Mr. Malazogu mentioned that there is a 30% quota in the parliament. He mentioned that they are good role models for young girls. Moreover, the previous president of Kosovo was a woman. Therefore H.E. Mr. Malazogu notes that there is at least a strong recognition for females in leadership.
Something that surprised H.E. Mr. Malazogu when he came to Japan was the harmony of the society and customs. For instance, he noted that the discipline of the people are unprecedented, as unspoken rules are followed to ensure uniformity and respect. He noted that respect is a value that is shared with Kosovar people as well.
As a message towards Japanese people, he expressed his appreciation towards Japanese education. Although some foreigners may perceive it to be too disciplined in nature, Japanese education has proven not to reduce any creativity, as innovation continues to drive the country. H.E. Mr. Malazogu then noted his belief in the importance of cooperation and working together. This is a value of the Japanese society, which focuses more on perfecting the strength of teamwork and harmony than the strength of individuals.