I paid a visit to Korça in the 1980s to bring machinery for a knitwear factory. I learned that the factory that once was an important centre of economic life of the city, employing thousands of women and girls, does not exist today.
I often have tried to imagine myself living in this city. Of course, I have heard a lot about Korça of Renaissance, Korça of serenades, Korça of urban and civic tradition; about a city of religious harmony, about Korça where the mayors Niko Peleshi and Sotiraq Filo have done a lot of work with representatives of the political parties of both wings. I heard about Korça that has helped Kosovo a lot, especially during the crisis, as the Agriculture Minister Niko Peleshi told me about Korça's hospitality. I am very grateful to you, Korça people, for your support at the time.
I was honoured with the title Honorary Citizen by Korça, by Mayors of both wings, and I am very glad that a part of the South of the Homeland honoured me so much. As I have said in Lezha, where I was also honoured with this title, “Nema profeta in patria sua” (No man is a prophet in his own land).
My visit to Korça is similar to the one of Patër Anton Harapi from Shkodra
My advisors brought to my attention, on the occasion of this visit, the memories of Patër Anton Harapi, a well-known figure of the Albanian Catholic Church, who paid a visit to Korça around the 1930s, and left with great impressions. He was from Shkodra, another home of national culture, of our national civilization.
He wrote an article titled "Korçë e Shkodër" (Korça and Shkodra) which can be found in the book "Shqyptari dhe bota e tij” (The Albanian and his world).
« We will find great differences and distances not only between these two provinces but also between the areas of other cities of Albania. Out of sight, out of mind, not because we are far away, but because we disregard each other. »
Mr Harapi gets very enthusiastic about his visit, like I do - especially for the old side of Korça, for the civilization he found here, for the citizens of Korça, for the men and women of Korça.
I cannot describe better than him the urban Korça, the urban life, the public fountain in the middle of the city where it was written in the dialect of Korça: këjo ujë nuku pihet (this water is not drinkable)!
I strongly believe in his wonderful words:
for the open-mindedness of the Korçari (Korça inhabitant) that has travelled around the world, who has his life view more open than that of Shkodrani (Shkodra inhabitant);
who is well-dressed, regardless of his lifestyle at home,
who has a homogeneous city, "with beautiful villages, lying down on both sides of the field, with those houses clustered as small towns, the most beautiful jewellery of the Korça district; »
At that time, Korça had many schools, even more than Shkodra had.
And something that impressed me about the intellectual life of Korca was Harapi's words: » Oh, how much I like the intellectual society of Korça, I was so happy when I was told that almost every Sunday, free public conferences were organized».
Here is what he says as a conclusion of his comparison between Korça and Shkodra:
Korça and Shkodra, two typical cities of Albania, maybe away from each other, at the two edges of the border, but the two most beautiful cities, the most advanced ones, both considered as having the same importance in this Switzerland of the Balkans. » But today, we should talk about the future.
The idea of organizing the Meeting in Korça
In my work, just like all politicians, I want to link yesterday with today, the present with the future, the North with the South, the East with the West, Kosovo people with Korça people, all Albanians together, all Europeans together.
I am very happy that the guiding idea of the late Arbër Xhaferi, which I first articulated as Kosovo's President in the Albania's Parliament in 2011, with the insistence of Prime Minister Rama, with his style, and now with the energies of my Prime Minister Haradinaj, is being realized in Korça.
My second city, Korça, Korça of Mr Edi, where he spends a lot of time, inspires us all. Therefore, when I proposed that the Meeting be held in this home of national civilization, which has helped so many Kosovars in 1999, Edi approved my idea immediately.
There is nothing threatening to anyone in our joint meeting: in the National and Cosmopolitan Korça: we will soon have a Meeting with Macedonia and Montenegro. In the regional, continental and global policy, we will collaborate with our neighbours, with those who love us, with the likes, with those we are more interested for.
Korça encourages regional cooperation
Korça of Renaissance writers, of inter-religious and inter-ethnic harmony, of quality agriculture, of Balkans malls etc., promotes national cooperation, but also regional cooperation.
From my childhood, from my numerous trips all over the world and from the construction, I have good geographical images, or geopolitical ones, if you want to call it like that:
I see Korça as the epicentre of development in agriculture, trade, tourism, academic life in the triangle Skopje (including Prishtina), Tirana and Thessaloniki.
I have heard a lot about the excellent tradition of saving in Korça, the tradition of great work, everywhere in the village and in the city. I heard about agriculture, the wonderful agricultural organic products, and the revival of the tradition of cooperatives. I also heard about Korça's great cultural influence, be it in the South, in Greece or in the East, in Macedonia. I know well the impact of Korça people on the cultural and economic life of Thessaloniki in the early 20th century, or even earlier. I know because I read that a great man of Kosovo such as Hasan Prishtina died in Thessaloniki, as he has been for several days the Prime Minister of Albania.
Questions for Korça
Does Korça have the necessary human and cultural capital to play a connecting role between these three major urban centres, Skopje, Thessaloniki and Tirana, in this urban triangle? What about EU Member States and candidate countries?
Can Korça provide unrestricted education opportunities for the Albanians of Macedonia who are the Albanians having the least opportunities to be educated at university level?
Does Korça have the opportunity to grow culturally and flourish not only throughout Albania but also abroad, in this natural triangle? The roads exist, so we simply have to remove the borders!
Can the University of Korça and other regional universities absorb the projects, and prepare projects that see this triangle as integrated, as a whole from the economic, cultural and other points of view?
Is it possible for Korça, after my arrival, to care more about Kosovo and twin with another city - besides Mitrovica?
Is it possible that this visit will serve us to love each other more, feel empathy for each other, as Mr Harapi and other intellectuals would say, yesterday and today?
With the desire to inspire Korça people to care more about Kosovo, as we care about Albania, I will cite some thoughts of another neo-Albanian ideologist, Vangjel Koça. It is really impressive to read how an intellectual born in Gjirokastra expressed these thoughts on Kosovo in the 1930s, in its work "njëmendësia kombëtare" (The Unified Mentality).
Only a few thinkers have seriously put on the discussion table the Kosovo issue, our most vital problem...
I consider being absolutely right those among us who think that a nation which renounces the right to the unified mentality of national unity to sacrifice nothing is a nation having no ethical value. Thanks to God, this duty awareness is always available in Albania.
Only if we have Kosovo, we can establish a free and self-sufficient state in the common sense of this word, because in the unified mentality, there is no autarky in the narrowest sense of the word. With Kosovo, we can gradually provide some economic independence, based on economic interdependence, which is a law that interconnects continental and intercontinental nations. »
If in the 1930s the Albanian intellectual class had such awareness, why that awareness should not be stronger today? Today, together with Albania, we will join in the European Union.
Albania and Kosovo should create common realities and should be open to other countries.
It is quite clear that the creation of common and feasible economic realities between Kosovo and Albania, open to cooperation with other regional stakeholders, with the private-public holding in railways, highways, health and energy simply increase competition in the region, and consequently increase the quality and the well-being of citizens. Creating these realities is part of the concept of Common Regional Space, backed by the European Union, where Albanians will benefit more than since they are a single nation having one language, one tradition and a wonderful youth.
Maybe our regional competitors will be concerned about these common economic realities, especially in agriculture, where Korça has excellent traditions, in energy, and health, however, their concern is not our job. We are not changing administrative borders. We are simply making them useless through the economy.
That is why we came to Korça to be inspired. The unified mentality, but also the economy, encourages us to cooperate in diplomacy, to have a diplomatic and consular residence and representation which is complementary and alternative.
Together, as part of the European Union where the two countries aspire to integrate, we will be stronger. Others will respect us more if we are together.