Category Archives: Diplomacy

Ylfete Fanaj – The new President of the Council of the Canton of Luzern

The long list of the Albanian role models in Diaspora has added a new name…that of Ylfete Fanaj.

Even though she was born in the beautiful city of Prizren in 1982, when the social crisis started to grow in Kosovo, Ylfete and the rest of her family moved abroad to Switzerland, where her father was first working as a seasonal worker. She studied Social Sciences at the University of Luzern, and immediately engaged as a social worker, relating mainly to issues regarding the youth, such as integration and addiction.

Her political career started in 2007 when she was first elected to the Lucerne city council on the Social Democratic Party (SP) list, and from 2011 she has been part of the Council of the Canton of Luzern. In 2019, she served as vice-president of the forementioned council until this June.

On 23rd of June 2020, she got elected as the President of the Council of the Canton of Luzern thus becoming the first-ever Albanian to be elected in such a prestigious position in the political scene. The inaugural ceremony was a really special one, which drew many plaudits from the outsiders. Former President of the council, Mr. Josef Wyss during his speech complimented Mrs. Fanaj before the ceremonial handover of the Presidency, and he also congratulated her on the new position.

The ceremony turned into a really sentimental one for Mrs. Fanaj, when two Swiss artists acoustically performed the song “Moj e bukura More” which is an old Arbëresh song that has been sung by Albanians since the medieval times.

Ylfete is added to the long list of powerful and inspiring Albanian women around the world who continue to set the standards for future generations and serve as excellent ambassadors of the Albanian community where they live.

Suzanna Shkreli gives a voice to the voiceless with her motivation and success

The daughter of Albanian immigrants from Montenegro, Suzanna Shkreli is the embodiment of the American Dream thanks to her hard work and dedication.  After finishing law school at the age of 24, she became a lawyer in Macomb County, Michigan prosecuting homicide, drug crimes, assaults, and domestic violence. Her determination propelled her in the national limelight when she ran for the U.S. Congress in 2016.

The congressional race for Michigan’s 8th district was important, not only for Suzanna but also the community that she sought to represent in Washington.  When asked about the main points of her campaign, she said:

“I fought for Michigan’s middle class families by focusing on the issues that affected them. I wanted to help grow the economy, by supporting small businesses that would create good-paying jobs, and strengthen our middle class. I spent my childhood helping my family’s diner grow and I know that small businesses are the lifeblood of our communities.

I fought for the full development of our renewable energy sources, and sought to move us closer to full energy independence. By utilizing new technology and reconfiguring our energy sources, we can create new good jobs and serve as an example on combating climate change without sacrificing economic growth.

Another major issue that was foundational to my platform was fighting to build a strong public education system that will provide students with the skills they need to compete in the 21st century global economy. Improving schools and ensuring the best education possible for Michigan families starts with investing in our schools from pre-kindergarten to high school graduation and beyond. Access to quality educational opportunities is key, but affordability issues must also be addressed to ensure every child in Michigan can succeed. As a product of Michigan’s public schools and universities, I believes we must make college and higher education more affordable for everyone who wants to earn a college degree.

I fought for women. In Congress, I wanted to vote to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which protects domestic abuse survivors. I wanted to pass legislation like the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, which further prevents discrimination in the workplace. Most importantly, I believe women are able to make their own health care decisions and am dedicated to fighting back against politicians who want to outlaw a woman’s right to choose.

Suzanna has since returned to her job to give a voice to the defenseless by prosecuting crimes against children in the Child Protection Unit. When asked about her job, she says this with full confidence: It is a difficult job and heavy on my heart, but I find a great sense of fulfilment in being able to advocate for children in the courtroom. I am in a position to defend the defenseless, to give a voice to those who might not otherwise have it, and to give those children a piece of mind that their perpetrator won’t be able to hurt them again. That work has been the honor of my life.”

Suzanna is thankful for her parents who worked hard to ensure that their children could pursue in a high-quality education that would open doors to a bright future. As an Albanian-American, she is conscious and proud of her heritage.  Her background shaped her political identity from an early age. As a child, she watched President Clinton’s statement and commitment to end the ethnic cleansing and humanitarian crisis in Kosovo. This solidified in her the values and principles of what it means to be American – that a democratic, free and independent nation would stand to protect those in need.  

During her congressional campaign, Suzanna was endorsed by President Obama, who understood and appreciated the history of friendship between Albanians and Americans. She also introduced President Clinton at a rally in Michigan during Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.  

Many young Albanians, especially girls, reached out to Suzanna to tell her the positive impact she had made on their lives by emboldening them to fight for what they believe in.  “Losing is hard, but moments like that fill me with pride and remind me of how vital it is to keep going,” she said. “The fight for justice and a better tomorrow is an honorable fight, and an achievable reality no matter where you live, and that we owe it to one another to pursue it together.”

Albanian Diaspora in America

Suzanna believes that the role of the diaspora in America and abroad should be to create organizational support for Albanians across the world to advance in all areas of life such as growing businesses or running for public office.

“The diaspora should be unified as first and foremost, we are all Albanians, regardless whether we are originally Malesia Madhe, Macedonia, Albania, or Kosovo,” she said.

She remembers how the diaspora came together to help during the war in Kosovo and calls for similar mobilizations for other causes. “The diaspora has not coalesced around a cause of that magnitude since, and it is time to do so again. There are many causes for Albanians to fight for, whether it be integration into the EU or access to medical treatment in Albanian lands. These issues need the attention and dedication of the diaspora, and we cannot wait until there is a tragedy to spring into action. There is a new and vibrant generation that is eager for change and opportunity, and with the commitment of the diaspora, a better tomorrow exists for Albanians worldwide.”

She suggests that Albanians should strengthen their own networks by providing opportunities to the younger generation, their communities and abroad. For example, business owners can provide the chance for young Albanians to work at their facilities and have them learn their trade and hone their skills.

It is evident that Suzanna is committed to contributing to making the world a better place. She has the will to fight for what is right and the fire to carry on.

The historic Stage 48 NYC opened its doors to a sold out crowd on Sunday, March 27, 2016 for Albanian Fashion Week 2016. New Yorkers welcomed international Pop Rock Prince Matteo Brento to NYC’s largest and hottest club in Times Square.

The X-Factor Albania Star, Matteo Brento opened the New York show in front of a packed house of 400 adoring fans with his newest single #21 (Goodbye My Love). The new hit #21 (Goodbye my love) is composed and written by award-winning artist Michele Bisceglia, writer and showrunner of ‘IF, winner of “Best Original Song”. The song is arranged by Alessandro Di Lascia in collaboration with vocal coach Cristina Bisceglia.

Matteo treated the crowd to an evening of greatest classics performing Italian hits like “Caruso” by Lucio Dalla, “L’ultima occasione” by Mina, “La donna cannone” by Francesco De Gregori and “E penso a te” by Lucio Battisti.

“It was truly an honor to perform at the Albanian Fashion Week in New York some of the greatest classics and most beloved Italian songs. Caruso by Lucio Dalla is a classic of Italian music known all over the world. What I respect about a legend like Lucio Dalla is that he is a great artist who is not just writing songs, but he is telling real poems,” said Pop Rock star Matteo Brento.

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“Congratulations to Mrika Krasniqi, the organizer of the Albanian Fashion Week in New York for such an incredible and successful event. Albanian Fashion Show is the biggest show in USA for Albanian top designers. A very sophisticated show, a pleasant night and highly entertaining. Thank you for having Matteo Brento as special guest at such a fantastic evening,” said Armando Roberto, Matteo Brento’s manager.

Other highlights of Matteo Brento’s performance included the popular Albanian anthem “Xhamandani vija vija” by Ilirët (composed by award-winning Zef Çoba) and “Summertime sadness” by Lana Del Rey, winner of MTV Music Award and Grammy nominee. The later song “Je Ti” by Albanian superstar Alban Skënderaj was dedicated to X-Factor Albania and Matteo’s worldwide Albanian fans. Matteo Brento first performed “Je Ti” to millions of fans during the live broadcast of the biggest talent competition in Europe, The X-Factor Show.

“It was a dream week! The performance at the Albanian Fashion Week NY was a huge success. The shoot of the music video in New York was amazing,” said superstar Matteo Brento. “It was even more incredible to have known special people. Thank you for treating me like a great artist, a great team! Thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone! See you soon,” said successful European artist Matteo Brento regarding his debut in United States.

Albanian Fashion Week 2016 is organized by Mrika Krasniqi, founder and CEO of Albanian Fashion Agency and Nil Production in New York. The Albanian Fashion Show presented the best looks from the biggest night in fashion in Manhattan. According to the press release published on the official website of Matteo Brento (www.matteobrento.com), the artist was accompanied by his Italian manager Armando Roberto and his NY Management for the Red Carpet VIP Fashion Show.

“The evening was even more grandiose with Matteo’s performance. It was such a special honor for us to have Matteo Brento at the Albanian Fashion Show. He brought such a classy and warm atmosphere for the public with all the songs that he performed, especially with the ‘Xhamadani Vija Vija’ song. He sang it so well that I got very emotional hearing it,” said Mrika Krasniqi, organizer of Albanian Fashion Week 2016 in New York.

Ambassador H.E. Ylber Kryeziu welcomed Matteo Brento and Armando Roberto to a meet-and-greet at the General Consulate of Kosovo in New York on Monday, March 28, 2016. Matteo Brento said that it was a great privilege and pleasure and thanked Ambassador Kryeziu for the warm welcome and he looks forward to his next projects in Albania and Kosovo.

“I am very excited about my new collaboration with Michele Bisceglia. We are preparing something special for Kenga Magjike in Albania later this year. I would like to present a traditional Albanian song in this great festival to represent the beautiful Albanian culture,” said the internationally known Matteo Brento.

Wiki Loves Monuments is an international photo contest for monuments running this September, organized by Wikimedia globally, as well as FLOSSK in Kosovo and Open Labs Albania.

Cultural heritage is an important part of the knowledge that Wikipedia collects and disseminates. Everybody can contribute images as well as write articles. An image is worth a thousand words, in all languages at once, and enthusiastic people can (re)discover the cultural, historic, and scientific significance of their neighborhoods by uploading photos to Wikimedia.

http://www.wikilovesmonuments.org/two-days-until-2015-competition/

http://www.wikilovesmonuments.org/two-days-until-2015-competition/

In 2012, Wikipedia volunteer communities in 35 countries joined this initiative. In 2014 nearly 40 countries all over the world are participating through national contests organized with their national monuments, partners, rules, events and winners.

The organizers – FLOSSK from Kosovo and Open Labs from Albania – through digital access to cultural monuments, want to promote the cultural heritage of the respective countries to the world. 

Every national contest, including the ones in Albania and Kosovo, will be able to nominate 10 of their winning photos to the international contest. These nominated photos will be judged by an international jury, which will then award extra prizes to the best images from all participating countries.

The list of monuments of both countries is already published in the official website of the project, including the rules, requirements and the detailed description of this competition at wikilovesmonuments.al. After the end of the competition on 7 October, 10 best photos will be selected from each country – Kosovo and Albania. These photos, in November,  will be sent to the international competition and will be judged by the global community.

FLOSSK is organizing several information sessions in Prishtina, Mitrovica, Prizren, Gjakova and Gjilan during the period September 28 to October 1 to explain the rules, demonstrate the upload process and answer questions from potential participants. To provide access to selected heritage sites and ease the journey, three guided photography excursions will be held in the weekend of October 3-4. To attend these activities please see the details here.

FLOSSK (flossk.org) in Kosovo and Open Labs (openlabs.cc) in Albania are non-profit organizations, established in order to support, promote and develop, among other things, free access to knowledge and culture.

The competition is supported by the Kosovo Institute for the Protection of Monuments of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports.

Illustration photos

Vjollca Hajdari: A Professional Lobbyist of the Albanian Issue

Kosovo’s Vjollca Hajdari (originally from Mitrovica) is a political expert, publicist, and ethnologist living in Berlin since 1991.

She started her studies in Berlin and graduated as MSc. in Publicity and Communication, Political Science, and Ethnology at Free University of Berlin (FU = Freie Universität). Ms. Hajdari is an active political activist and lobbyist of the Albanian issue. In 2005, she was awarded the prize for political commitment and humanity by the Senate of Berlin and the SOS Kinderdorf.

Currently, Vjollca is a board member of two committees that cooperate with the UN. She is an official representative for South Eastern Europe and the Balkans in the Global Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Inter Press Service (IPS), as well as political analysts at EurActiv.de (informative/media portal of EU), located  near to the German government.

In the past, she worked in the Bundestag (German Parliament), in the Senate of Berlin, as well as in many important international institutes and organizations. Currently, she is part of two committees (GCC and IPS), which operate in the framework of the United Nations. She simultaneously writes as political analyst to the European Portal News – EurActiv and for other media and international press. Her analyses are published in the European Academy as well.

Vjollca Hajdari Bundestag

As an expert of communication science and political scientist, Mrs. Hajdari has expanded her cooperation with various embassies, foundations, and German institutes. She holds a membership in the League of German Journalists, and the World Network of Journalists.

As a political scientist, Vjollca aims to directly affect the political processes about Albanians and Kosovo. As a publicist, she exercises public diplomacy, by creating networks and always focusing on improving the image of Kosovo and Albanians in general. In the field of ethnology, she aims to serve as a intercultural bridge and to present the anthropologic side of Albanians internationally.

In an exclusive interview for KosovoDiaspora.org, she explains that there is an ongoing negative media presentation of Albanians abroad. “Through my political activity and publicity, I work for improving the image of Kosovo. By using positive examples of people in politics, history, and culture, I try to inform the international public for a different reality from the one that is actually presented to them.”

Vjollca is active in institutional lobbying as well. She holds meetings with many politicians, foundations, and media. She also organizes conferences and debates that have a focus on Kosovo and Albanians.

Ms. Hajdari believes that “networking and information are the most powerful tools of governments today. Through mass communication, other states engage numerous public relations agents, the so-called Spin Doctors, Think Tanks and foundations, with the aim of lobbying and promoting a positive image in the world. Albanians are still at the beginning of this scope, so I try to professionally fill this gap.”

Depending on financial support, Vjollca plans to conduct research about the Albanian migrations and invasions around the world. She is currently having a tour throughout Germany to present her documentary film about Mother Teresa. In the future, she plans to develop another documentary on the Albanian issue.

Being asked about the importance of civic engagement in Kosovo’s society, Ms. Hajdari told KosovoDiaspora.org that “political awareness, civic courage and involvement are the key elements that should motivate people to participate in political decisions of their own country. People have the power to correct the mistakes of their government and those of the international community, which has been stationed in Kosovo for many years in a row. The fight against organized crime, corruption, and nepotism, as well the defense of human rights, rights to education, and social welfare are the key factors towards building a healthy society.”

She believes that Kosovo society needs an increased focus on education, self-respect, perseverance of identity values, and common will. During our interview, she stated that “the most intellectually productive people of Albanian origin should be united to creating a more serious movement to articulate the requirements and needs that we should fulfill internationally! More and more talents from our Diaspora are arising in the field of science, arts, culture, and sports. These personalities should be promoted, especially by their home countries! We need to organize more events that promote our values, culture, and history. We should also focus on the challenges of our Diaspora and reflect on the aspects that need improvement.”

At the end of the interview, Ms. Hajdari added that “the creation of independent electronic media – free of ideological and political interests – is another strong tool which we can use to promote Kosovo.”