On 4 March, not only Italians will vote – as you may have read in earlier blog posts – also citizens of Serbia will go to the polls to elect new local councils. One ALDE individual member, Naim Leo Beširi, is a candidate for the ALDE member party in Serbia, LDP. In this interview by Steering Committee co-chair Thalia Ntoka we present him by asking four questions.
In your biography we read that you have devoted all your career to helping the society in which you live. Can you please name actions where you achieved your goals?
I am most proud of our alumni network. In the framework of the EU integration process, I worked on expanding understanding, knowledge and experience of young people in topics I find important: human and minority rights, public accountability, regional reconciliation and countering violent extremism. In the past ten years, I have had the opportunity to work with more than 10.000 young people through various programmes with an idea to build an open society. Have I succeeded?
When you decide to contribute to the society, you need to accept the fact it is not a super-fast process. It is a mission that asks for daily engagement and devotion to the cause.
I am not sure, but when you decide to contribute to the society, you need to accept the fact it is not a super-fast process. It is a mission that asks for daily engagement and devotion to the cause. You also look for a team of people within which you share your ideas and visions. I recognized this in people from Liberal-Democratic Party and I decided to run for the elections.
What is in your opinion the biggest problem Belgrade faces and what kind of solutions you suggest.
At the time of the most dynamic progress of Eastern European countries, in the 1990s, Serbia was at war with its neighbours and under international sanctions – which resulted in a complete economic collapse of the country. This causes two major problems in Belgrade at the moment: out-dated infrastructure and discrimination of minority groups. We need more openness in Belgrade, to respect and cherish differences. On the other hand, we need private investments in the public sector sphere. We also want to make the budget of our city more citizen friendly and available, so they know where the spending of their tax money goes. As LDP is the only party that unanimously and regardless the consequences supports human rights and freedoms, we also supported causes regarding ongoing issues – LGBT safe house, war crimes memorials and marijuana decriminalisation.
On a scale of 1-10, how liberal would you characterise Belgrade city and why?
I would say 6. Citizens and visitors of Belgrade strive for freedom and progress, but the city administration and legislation are pulling them backwards. It is definitely easier to be LGBT or some other minority in Belgrade than in other cities in Serbia. Society is not ready to accept liberal values that we advocate for more than a decade. We still have debates on whether we should have a Pride parade or not, should we provide assistance to Roma and how the city should develop. Violence against those who are different is not just a mere incident, but everyday life for some of our citizens. This is what we need to deal with. The institutions instead of the market regulate taxi fares, business is over regulated and human rights are not guaranteed to everyone. We subsidise companies from private and public sector for ages, and refuse to accept that it just doesn’t work. We are also refusing to accept the simple and so many times confirmed fact that the state doesn’t have anything to do with the economy and enterprises. We must privatise companies that the city owns and let them do business in the market.
Are young people engaged in politics? If yes, how? If not, how would you encourage them to become more active?
Unfortunately, young people are not involved in politics. Only 8% of the 18-29 population are engaged in politics. Our biggest success of this election campaign is that we managed to involve dozens of young people to participate, more than ever – even to run for city parliament. The motto of our campaign is “New Faces – New Hope for Belgrade”, and we have launched 10-15 young people into the political arena. We already see that this is motivating other young people, and we plan to build on that.
My decision to run for local parliament was affected by my wish to participate and provide an example for other young people.
My decision to run for local parliament was affected by my wish to participate and provide an example for other young people. But, I still understand participation as something more than voting, or even running for office. There are numerous ways to be engaged in politics and I strongly believe that anyone can find his or hers. In Serbia, as in other countries, politics is seen as something dirty, dishonest and even dangerous, especially when we talk about youth. My personal example is there to show that it is possible to get involved with politics but keep your dignity and integrity. The more young people understand that, the more politics will change.