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Mark Brann, the vice president of UPF Europe and the Middle East, moderates the first session.
H.E. Alfred Moisiu, a former president of Albania, offers welcoming remarks.
Dr. Katsumi Otsuka, the chair of UPF Europe and the Middle East, is one of the keynote speakers.
H.E. Filip Vujanović, a former president of Montenegro, gives a keynote address.
H.E. Stepan Mesić, a former president of Croatia
H.E. Agim Çeku, a former prime minister of Kosovo
The panelists of the first session
H.E. Agim Çeku and the panelists of the first session
The panelists of the first session
The panelists of the first session with UPF leaders
H.E. Vison Ahmeti, Former Prime Minister of Albania, was also present at the conference
H.E. Filip Vujanović, the president of the Podgorica Club, signs the Memorandum of Cooperation with UPF.
Representing UPF, Dr. Katsumi Otsuka signs the Memorandum of Cooperation with the Podgorica Club.
Dr. Katsumi Otsuka (left) and H.E. Filip Vujanović sign the Memorandum of Cooperation.
Dr. Katsumi Otsuka and H.E. Filip Vujanović with the signed copies of the Memorandum of Cooperation. At right is Ruzdija Tuzovic, secretary general of the Podgorica Club.
Dr. Saemira Pino, former Albanian deputy minister of education, moderates the second session.
H.E. Mladen Ivanić, a former president of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Jacques Marion, the co-chair of UPF Europe and the Middle East
Hon. Muamer Bacevac, a member of the Serbian Parliament
Dr. Shekerinka Ivanovska, a professor at the International Slavic University in North Macedonia
Hon. Hydajet Hyseni, a member of Kosovo’s Parliament
Hon. Lavdrim Krashi, a member of Albania’s Parliament
The panelists of the second session
Hon. Lavdrim Krashi and the panelists of the second session
Dr. Shekerinka Ivanovska and the panelists of the second session
Manjola Vasmatics, the president of FFWPU-Albania, moderated the ceremony
Sheh Hysen Hormova, head of the Halveti Order of Islam, Albania, who expressed words of hope for interreligious harmony
Congratulatory remarks were offered by the former president of Albania, H.E. Alfred Moisiu
Erion Veliaj, the mayor of Tirana, also offered his congratulations
Prof. Assoc. Armand Vokshi, the architect of the Peace Embassy
Dr. Eva Çipi, the chair of UPF-Albania
Dr. Michael Balcomb, the president of FFWPU Europe and the Middle East, read a message from UPF co-founder Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon
Carolyn Handschin, president of WFWP Europe, expressed her hope for peace through the Peace Embassy

Tirana, Albania—Six former heads of state and government, 120 Ambassadors for Peace, and UPF representatives from 25 nations attended a Balkans Leadership Conference.

UPF of Europe and the Middle East organized the conference jointly with the Podgorica Club, an organization founded in 2019 by former presidents of Southeast Europe.

The purpose of the conference was the signing of a Memorandum of Cooperation between the two organizations.

Beginning at the Tirana International Hotel with a welcoming banquet on November 20 and continuing with two sessions on the morning of November 21, 2021, the conference concluded in the afternoon with the inauguration of the Balkans Peace Embassy, a building dedicated to promoting peace in the Balkans which also will serve as a regional UPF headquarters.

The building, whose construction started with a groundbreaking ceremony in October 2019 at the time of UPF’s Southeast Europe Peace Summit in Tirana, was inaugurated in the presence of the mayor of Tirana and the six former heads of state and government of the Balkans.

The Balkans Leadership Conference

The first session’s panel consisted of UPF leaders and members of the Podgorica Club, who discussed the topic “Cooperating for Peace and Development in the Western Balkans” before the signing ceremony of the Memorandum of Cooperation.

Mark Brann, vice president of UPF Europe and the Middle East H.E. Alfred Moisiu, the president of Albania (2002-2007) and the chair of International Summit Council for Peace (ISCP) Balkans Dr. Katsumi Otsuka, the chair of UPF Europe and the Middle East H.E. Filip Vujanović, the president of Montenegro (2003-2018) and president of the Podgorica Club H.E. Stepan Mesić, the president of Croatia (2000-2010) and a member of the Podgorica Club H.E. Agim Çeku, the prime minister of Kosovo (2006-2008) H.E. Nataša Mićić, the president of Serbia (2002-2004)

Mark Brann, vice president of UPF Europe and the Middle East, moderated the session.

H.E. Alfred Moisiu, the president of Albania (2002-2007) and the chair of International Summit Council for Peace (ISCP) Balkans, offered welcoming remarks. President Moisiu emphasized the importance of cooperation between the Balkan States, which recently have faced growing tensions. This cooperation is necessary to create a new path of peace and security in the region, a legacy he wishes to leave to the younger and future generations. He concluded by affirming, “The cooperation between the Podgorica Club and UPF, as well as the opening of the embassy, will contribute to the process of reconciliation in the Balkans for lasting peace in the region.”

Click here for the full intervention of H.E. Alfred Moisiu at the Balkans Leadership Conference

The first keynote address was given by Dr. Katsumi Otsuka, the chair of UPF Europe and the Middle East, who described the will of the UPF founders to support peacebuilding around the world and especially in the Balkans. This can be ensured, he said, through understanding the interreligious, intercultural, and multiethnic context of the region, as Mother Moon affirmed at the Southeast Europe Peace Summit that was held in Tirana in 2019.

Click here for the full intervention of Dr. Katsumi Otsuka at the Balkans Leadership Conference

In his keynote address, H.E. Filip Vujanović, the president of Montenegro (2003-2018) and president of the Podgorica Club, emphasized the importance of looking at the future instead of focusing on the tragic past of the region, in order for cooperation to take place through a common language of understanding. He expressed his gratitude for the signing of the Memorandum, a result of preparations and cooperation between the Podgorica Club and UPF over several years.

Click here for the full intervention of H.E. Filip Vujanović at the Balkans Leadership Conference

The panel discussion ended with congratulatory remarks from two former Balkan leaders.

The panelists of the first session with UPF leadersThe panelists of the first session with UPF leaders

H.E. Stepan Mesić, the president of Croatia (2000-2010) and a member of the Podgorica Club, encouraged all states to speak the same language and work together to create a peaceful Balkan region without division. President Mesić said that the new Peace Embassy is sending a message of hope and peace.

Click here for the full intervention of H.E. Stepan Mesić at the Balkans Leadership Conference

H.E. Agim Çeku, the prime minister of Kosovo (2006-2008), emphasized the responsibility and duties of officials and statesmen, even after their mandate, and the importance of taking responsibility for the region, rather than waiting for the European Union and other nations to solve the problems of the Balkans.

Click here for the full intervention of H.E. Agim Çeku at the Balkans Leadership Conference

H.E. Nataša Mićić, the president of Serbia (2002-2004), who could not be present, sent a congratulatory message that was read aloud. In her message she highlighted the importance of UPF and the Podgorica Club coming together in this way to work for peace and unity among all the nations of the Western Balkans, especially given the current worrying situation in the region. She said she looks forward to playing a role in the peace activities of both organizations in the future.

Click here for the content of the letter of H.E. Nataša Mićić on the occasion of the Balkans Leadership Conference

The first session ended with the signature of the Memorandum of Cooperation between the Podgorica Club and UPF. H.E. Filip Vujanović and Dr. Katsumi Otsuka represented their respective organizations in signing the document.

H.E. Vilson Ahmeti, the president of Albania (1991 to 1992), was also present at the conference.

Dr. Katsumi Otsuka (left) and H.E. Filip Vujanović sign the Memorandum of Cooperation.

The second session focused on the topic of “Balkans Peace Initiative and Think Tank 2022” and was moderated by Dr. Saemira Pino, former deputy minister of education in Albania.

Dr. Saemira Pino, former deputy minister of education in Albania H.E. Mladen Ivanić, the president of Bosnia and Herzegovina (2015-2017) and a member of the Podgorica Club Jacques Marion, the co-chair of UPF Europe and the Middle East Hon. Muamer Bacevac, a member of Parliament in Serbia Dr. Shekerinka Ivanovska, a professor at the International Slavic University in North Macedonia Hon. Hydajet Hyseni, a member of Parliament in Kosovo Hon. Lavdrim Krashi, a member of Parliament in Albania

H.E. Mladen Ivanić, the president of Bosnia and Herzegovina (2015-2017) and a member of the Podgorica Club, explained his nation’s three-member presidency, who must cooperate and find a consensus to make political decisions. On that note, he expressed the importance of the world’s major powers cooperating and working together in this same manner to overcome tensions.

Click here for the intervention of H.E. Mladen Ivanić at the Balkans Leadership Conference

Jacques Marion, the co-chair of UPF Europe and the Middle East, reviewed the background and philosophy of UPF activities in Albania and the Balkans, which led to the inauguration of the International Summit Council for Peace (ISCP) in 2019 during the Southeast Europe Peace Summit, and to establishing the Memorandum of Cooperation this year between UPF and the Podgorica Club. He also explained about UPF’s Think Tank 2022 project for the reunification of Korea and emphasized the significance of the Peace Embassy in opening a new level of activities for UPF in the Balkans.

Click here for the full intervention of Mr. Jacques Marion at the Balkans Leadership Conference

Hon. Muamer Bacevac, a member of Parliament in Serbia, emphasized the importance of overcoming prejudice, which gives birth to anger and conflict. Prejudice can be replaced with tolerance, which is the respect and appreciation of all people despite differences in speech, values, culture, and other domains, he said. Practicing tolerance can allow understanding and solidarity. He ended his speech with a message of hope that after the pandemic, a new golden era for care and cooperation will begin.

Click here for the full intervention of Hon. Muamer Bacevac at the Balkans Leadership Conference

Dr. Shekerinka Ivanovska, a professor at the International Slavic University in North Macedonia, cited statistics of the Global Peace Index showing that $1 invested in peacekeeping can result in a reduction of $16 used in military conflict. She expressed her support for the signing of the Memorandum and opening of the Peace Embassy, as well as the need for developing peace education, and said that think tanks can be a sustainable way to bring about understanding and therefore peace.

Click here for the full intervention of Dr. Shekerinka Ivanovska at the Balkans Leadership Conference

Hon. Hydajet Hyseni, a member of Parliament in Kosovo, cited Dr. Moon who said that people cannot be divided, and so it is for their soul. On that note he spoke of the importance of the integration of the nation, and of the hope for the future through the young population. He expressed his gratitude for the investment of UPF for peace and spoke of the need for purity and justice in establishing peace in the region.

Hon. Lavdrim Krashi, a member of Parliament in Albania, said that Mother Teresa, who was born Albanian, taught that one should first be at peace with oneself, then create peace within the family, and then in the neighborhood, the nation, the region, and the world. He concluded with a quote of Winston Churchill: “If the human race wishes to have a prolonged and indefinite period of material prosperity, they have only got to behave in a peaceful and helpful way toward one another.”

Click here for the intervention of Hon. Lavdrim Krashi at the Balkans Leadership Conference

The panelists of the second sessionThe panelists of the second session

Inauguration of the Balkans Peace Embassy

Manjola Vasmatics, the president of FFWPU-Albania Sheh Hysen Hormova, the head of the Halveti Order of Islam, Albania H.E. Alfred Moisiu, the president of Albania (2002-2007) Erion Veliaj, the mayor of Tirana Dr. Eva Çipi, the chair of UPF-Albania Prof. Assoc. Armand Vokshi, the architect of the Peace Embassy

The third part of the program was the inauguration of the Peace Embassy for the Balkan region. The groundbreaking ceremony took place in October 2019, and the building was completed in November 2021.

The participating organizations were Universal Peace Federation (UPF) and its affiliated organizations Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU), Women’s Federation for World Peace (WFWP), and International Association of Youth and Students for Peace (IAYSP), together with the city of Tirana as well as the Avatelier architecture studio and the GBK construction company.

Approximately 300 people attended the inauguration, which was widely covered by the region’s newspapers, television, and social media.

The Ribbon Cutting CeremonyThe Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

Manjola Vasmatics, the president of FFWPU-Albania, moderated the ceremony. She invited Sheh Hysen Hormova, the head of the Halveti Order of Islam, Albania, who expressed words of hope for interreligious harmony that can result from the Peace Embassy.

Congratulatory remarks were offered by the former president of Albania, H.E. Alfred Moisiu, as well as Erion Veliaj, the mayor of Tirana; Dr. Eva Çipi, the chair of UPF-Albania; and Prof. Assoc. Armand Vokshi, the architect of the Peace Embassy. Each of the speakers offered messages of hope and peace and emphasized the major role of the Peace Embassy.

Click here for the intervention of Dr. Eva Çipi on the occasion of the inauguration of the Balkans Peace Embassy

The mayor of Tirana, Mr. Veliaj, said that the Peace Embassy is probably the most important embassy in the city. As Tirana has been selected as the European Youth Capital for 2022, he said he hopes that the embassy will become a place of networking for young people to create projects that will never allow war and conflicts to occur, but only peace.

Click here for the full intervention of Mr. Erion Veliaj on the occasion of the inauguration of the Balkans Peace Embassy

The architect Mr. Vokshi described the building as a “House of Peace” built in a strategic location in the embassy district, with the white color symbolizing the purity of peace and the red color its fragility. The building will be a space for peaceful exchanges for experts as well as young people, and the ground floors will be used for offices and conference rooms, he said.

After the ribbon cutting ceremony which officially opened the Peace Embassy, the program continued inside the building in the main auditorium.

Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, UPF co-founder Dr. Michael Balcomb, the president of FFWPU Europe and the Middle East Carolyn Handschin, president of WFWP Europe, vice president of WFWP International, and president of the Committee on the Status of Women at the UN in Geneva

A message sent by UPF co-founder Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, who supported the establishment of the embassy, was read by Dr. Michael Balcomb, the president of FFWPU Europe and the Middle East.

Click here for the contents of the letter of Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon on the occasion of the inauguration of the Balkans Peace Embasssy

In her message Dr. Moon expressed her conviction that the Balkan nations are destined to become a model of peace and cooperation for the whole world. “Peace is never an easy task, however, because it always means that we must live for the sake of others more than we live for our own selves,” she wrote. Her message concluded with her lifelong goal to see “all the nations of the world join together in loving cooperation, so that we may at last become true brothers and sisters, one family under God.”

Carolyn Handschin, president of WFWP Europe, vice president of WFWP International, and president of the Committee on the Status of Women at the UN in Geneva, expressed her hope for peace through the Peace Embassy, and for great actions and projects that can be put into place in this building, especially by women and youth.

Click here for the full intervention of Mrs. Carolyn Handschin on the occasion of the inauguration of the Balkans Peace Embassy

The inauguration ended with cheers of hope for the future of the Balkans and of the Peace Embassy led by Dr. Katsumi Otsuka.