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.