An interview with Matteo Caponetti, the representative of European Solidarity Front for Kosovo
Euoropean Solidarity Front for Kosovo is an organization founded in 2012 whose members are now young enthusiasts from all over Europe ( Germany, Finland, Spain, Poland, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, Czech Republic, Italy, Greece, etc.) Matteo Caponetti and Patrik Vondràk’s idea of concept of national identity in the World was the base and start for this organization. The main goal is to help the Serbs in enclaves in Kosovo and Metochia. Every year there are 2-3 humanitarian missions organized and this year’s took place from 7th to 10th of September, 2015, when European Solidarity Front for Kosovo (ESFK) visited Kosovska Mitrovica, Prizren, Strpce, Velika Hoca and Orahovac. Matteo Caponetti is telling us more about the mission and the ESFK.
Matteo, tell me something more about the beginning of the ESFK, how it was established and about its main goals.
I’m responsible for an organization that is called Zenit. It is a political movement in Italy and Belgium, we work in Rome and Bruxelles. But, in the same time, we are also responsible for a humanity association called ESFK that was founded 3 years ago together with other European friends. That means that we have people who still fight, in the 2015, for the concept of identity in the world. So when we started with this project we thought about this, so we chose to help people that have this feeling. We have a lot of volunteers from all European countries: Finland, Germany, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Italy, Poland and Greece… After one year of work we came here to Belgrade and decided to go to Kosovo for our first official mission. ESFK is not linked with any political party. We have volunteers from all over Europe that have been helping us during this three years to collect money to buy materials that Serbian people in Kosovo need.
Does the ESFK have some official members from Serbia?
Actually no, because it is our choice not to have Serbians involved. But we choose to have friends here that can help us with translate, renting cars, sleeping places, that have connections directly here in Belgrade and especially in Kosovo. This is important because we come from other country and when we came here for the first time we didn’t know the situation here and what was going on.
What was your personal motif to take part in this organization?
I was there for the first time in 2010 with another association. I had other goals so we built a new humanity association that can involve more young volunteers from all over Europe, from the age from 20 to 40 years old. The reason why I had chosen this and felt something for this mission is because from the first time that I was here I saw that in Europe exist a people that need help, not only because they are poor, but because they are concerned with identity even this was very difficult. I fell in love immediately because it’s not easy anymore to meet people like this in our western countries. We live in the world where people don’t care about their identities and don’t have feelings for their countries and their nationalities. And this is a dream, to unite humanity help with political fight.
What other actions is ESFK using except collecting aids for the Serbs in Kosovo and Metochia?
We try to have a goal every year and realize that goal. So, it’s very difficult for us because we have no official help like big humanity association recognized from the state in Italy or anywhere in Europe. So, we have to do it in a private way. We have to organize some meetings where, through our solidarity missions, we explain what happened in Kosovo and what is situation with the people who live there. And of course when you explain this, it is much easier for people to understand lots of political reasons why we act there.
I think that now, in 2015, people don’t want to know so much about politics. They are very busy in their private life and have no feelings. So they don’t have passion to listen about what happened in the past, during the war, nor political views. But, when you explain through humanity projects it’s easier to go deep in the hearts of the people and to ask them for a help and they listen more what you say.
How do you promote your actions except on the internet and what are the members’ roles?
Yes, this is difficult because we don’t have media with us, not only for Kosovo but also for our other political movements, it is difficult to explain what we do and what we think. We report what we do through our social networks and web sites. Anyway sometimes we have some private contacts inside newspapers and some radios that give us some space for fight and to speak about what we saw, and what we do. We have some official meetings in our cities, in Rome, Italy and along Europe and where we do the same thing we do in the newspapers and explain what we do
in very easy way with videos, photos and reports about what we are going to do in our missions.
We try to have friends inside the media but it’s not easy. That is past, people are not interested in what was happening here. That is something that is very far away, but I think it isn’t only our problem, but also the problem of Serbian people. Sometimes we forget too much what was happening in Kosovo and Metochia.
Tell us about motives of your activists to join the organization and help? Was it the same ideology or maybe something else?
Yes, of course, it’s a political movement, organization, but members have the same thoughts, because, as I’ve told you, it is a solidarity association that cares about peoples’ identities. Poor people are everywhere, you can go everywhere to organize humanitarian missions and find poor people to help, but we choose to do this because we are nationalists and we have the view of the great Europe and European people is our people and we want to help the civilians.
Do the activists of ESFK have some special part to do in their countries for the organization?
Yes, we have branches in all over European countries and all of them are independent to move as they want, to collect money, speak what happens here and they have independence also to organize missions by themselves. All of them have their own contact directly in Kosovo and, we have members everywhere. I think that is a very special way to organize a humanity association like we’re doing because it is real European solidarity. If you have young people that can drive from Germany to come here it’s amazing. It’s wonderful. People that drive from Poland and from Chez Republic with their money is something special. They do this with their heart and with no benefits behind them. This is the most important point of our missions. It’s something that I wouldn’t have expected when we founded this organization.
How can people contact you and donate money? What else should be donated?
Yes, we have our facebook page, of course, in different languages. The name of one is in English, it is European Solidarity Front for Kosovo. We have the same in German, Czech and in French language and we will open one in Spanish. Every year we do 2-3 missions a year, from different branch. Mine was forth this year with ESFK.
What did you manage to cover with your newest mission?
This year, for example, we were to Prizren to help Milica, the last child that still lives in Prizren and the last student there who goes to school inside the Church of Saint George, so we brought them some materials, books, pens… In Prizren there were 12.000 Serbs and now it is about 30 only. It is very difficult in Prizren, Pristina and maybe Decani because Albanians are still aggressive to the Serbs. It’s not like in Strpce or Kosovska Mitrovica where you can feel the big Serbian community. We were in Orahovac this year and in Velika Hoca. We helped the elementary school in Orahovac, the Kindergarten of Orahovac and Velika Hoca and some families too. Then we visited Strpce again and Brezovica enclave, where we went last year to bring sports equipment. In the past I visited Gorazdevac enclave and, of course, Velika Hoca. Then we were to Decani monastery and met monks there. We visited of course Gazimestan, Kosovska Mitrovica and Pec Patriarchy, Zociste monastery and the monastery of Holy Archangels in Prizren. We came here to visit some holy places of Serbian land, because otherwise you won’t understand why we are there, why we go there and help people there. It is important also to show the history, the culture of this people. It’s the holy land of Serbia so it’s important to understand this.
How has the situation changed in Kosovo comparing to the previous times you were there?
I can see that the situation changes every year . The Albanian side have money, they are building a so-called nation. In the enclaves it is the opposite, people live day by day to survive and they don’t have jobs. They can work just inside the enclaves.
So, how do people survive there?
They have little help and money from private associations and from someone who can help, from the State of Kosovo, unfortunately. Someone has a job, for example, like teachers, and they get money from the state of Serbia. I have been in Strpce and saw that situation is completely different from the other places where I was, in the way that there is a big Serbian community, like in Kosovska Mitrovica. So, they have shops, supermarkets, jobs, you see that the people feel better. They have a hope for the future, they live more normal life because they have a social life. They have bars and restaurants and it is more like a town than an enclave. It is completely different from, for example, what I saw in Orahovac, Gorazdevac and Velika Hoca, too. There is more difficult situation for them.
You have probably spoken to the people there, what do they complain about?
I repeat what people say every time and mix it a little bit with my point of view. In short sentences, last family we visited in Velika Hoca had a very big problem last years. It was very poor family, they fought the State of Kosovo and asked them for help and after many years of fight they received a little financial help to build a normal house where they could live with their little children and this means a lot. I see that this is changing a little bit. From political view it is very dangerous because for Serbia it means that Serbia is losing its sovereignty in this land. I don’t know if something is going on behind, between the Governments’ agreements, but I have to say that the Serbian people in some enclaves is very far away from the Northern side and they tend to have more aids from the state of Kosovo than from Serbia.
In the enclaves that you visited, are there some threats to Serbs, physical attacks and violence nowadays? Are the Serbs safe?
It is a risk every day and this is very difficult to answer because you should stay there with them to answer this question. People don’t want to speak about their problems. They are not afraid to talk but they have the feeling of dignity. It is not easy to speak about difficult situation when you live there. So, when you go there you should be very smart and understand there are some questions that cannot be answered and some others that is better not to ask. But you feel it when you look in the eyes of the people and understand immediately what it’s like to have life with behind such experiences that we in big cities and western countries don’t have.
Who is protecting the Serbs in Kosovo and Metochia?
EULEX, KFOR and the police of Kosovo. Sometimes you see that KFOR enters villages to check how everything is going. In Kosovska Mitrovica the bridge is open now and people sometimes cross it, but not too many. Less military is present in the country and there is going to be less and less.
If something happens, do the police react properly?
Yes and No. Because it depends on what trouble it is, where and when it happens. For example, in Kosovska Mitrovica it’s well-controlled and situation is quiet now, but it can happen everytime that some troubles explode. So, it is very difficult to answer this question because, for example, they told us there was some violence lately in Orahovac, in Kosovska Mitrovica, in Prizren the same. They told us that some Albanians were freed from jail and made some troubles so I really can’t give perfect information about this. Everyday something can happen. Now the situation is quiet, nothing is happening, but if tomorrow something happens in Kosovska Mitrovica, or in Orahovac, for example, they can have problem immediately again. It depends on political situation that will be built in the future.
What should people who want to help the Serbs from Kosovo through your missions do?
They have to contact us, follow us, support us, just to go to our facebook page and search the email address, contact us and we will tell them what to do. For the Serbians, if, for example, guys from Belgrade want to go there, they have to go. It’s their people. They don’t have to support us, they have just to go to bring their solidarity to them!
So, you haven’t had any problems in Kosovo during the missions yet?
No, no problems. Maybe just in the first year, we had some problems at the border because we had a lot of materials with us and of course they had to check it. But you can just show your passport and you cross the border. When we travel no one say nothing to us. Of course, to the Serbian people it is sure more difficult and dangerous to go to some places.
What are further plans and actions of the European Solidarity Front for Kosovo?
Now we will go home and as the first thing, we will explain in our countries to our people what we did and we are waiting now for our contacts in the enclaves to give us some advice what they need and we will work for all the year to realize that goal and come back during next year.
You follow politics in Italy and world politics as well, so do you have some predictions for Kosovo and the Serbs in Kosovo in the future?
About future of Kosovo is a very difficult question to answer because we all live in the global world and Serbia is using politics to have two doors open, one with Europe and one with Russia. So, it depends on what happens in the future with Europe and this is connected with the future of Kosovo. If Serbia choose European Union it will lose sovereignty in Kosovo, for that reason I don’t know what will happen. People are still linked and connected with Kosovo and Metochia because it is very holy land and there are still Serbian people. So, Serbia is in very difficult situation, because if it lose its sovereignty, it has to guarantee rights for its people in Kosovo and Metochia.
Author: Alexandra Katanich