BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – FOR the past year Kosovo-born pilot James Berisha has flown around the Americas and the Caribbean on a campaign to raise awareness of his nation’s struggle to be recognized internationally as an independent state.
The challenging journey has been a labour of love for Berisha and this week he arrived in St. Kitts-Nevis as he continues north through the Eastern Caribbean toward the United States. During his brief time in the Federation, Berisha met with Minister of Foreign Affairs Hon. Sam Condor and Senior Foreign Service Officer Kaye Bass.
“They both support our independence; that is the impression I got,” the 38-year-old told SKNVibes. “And she actually recommended me a couple of things. She said that since Belize has recognized our independence, Belize should put something on the agenda for the upcoming meeting of the Caricom Foreign Ministers.”
Kosovo first declared its independence from Serbia in February 2008 and just over a year later Berisha began his ‘Flying for Kosovo’ campaign from El Paso, Texas. From there he traveled to Mexico and Latin America before making his way through every country in South American and heading north to the Caribbean.
“I took a leave of absence for a year,” he stated. “The mission is funded majorly through my savings and secondly from people helping to pay for the cost.”
Though he receives no government funding, Berisha said he does not mind funding the project himself because he believes deeply in the cause of his countrymen and women. When asked what Kosovo being fully recognized by the United Nations as an independent state would mean to him, Berisha said, “it’s as simple as being recognized as a human being”.
“It is a hard thing to swallow when you are not even recognized as a human being because for some of the nations we don’t exist. We just want to be accepted.”
When Flying for Kosovo first took off, only 55 countries of the United Nations recognized the independence of the nation. To date, 66 countries have taken up the cause for statehood and Kosovo is rapidly approaching the number of countries needed for Berisha’s people to officially break away from a long history of control by Serbia.
“I think according to UN rules we need to reach one half of the world’s countries, which is around 100 nations. We just need another 34 or so; then the United Nations will tell the rest of the world, ‘hey, you guys must face the truth. Kosovo is going and let’s make friends with each other.’”
This is why the Flying for Kosovo mission is important to the Eastern European country’s cause, according to Berisha. The Caribbean has on a whole shown strong support for Kosovo, with only Cuba and Jamaica definitively stating that they are against the nation breaking away, and the region represents a large voting bloc at the UN.
If the Caribbean were to support Kosovo, the nation would likely have the momentum it needs to achieve fully recognized independence in the very near future. Berisha noted, however, that there are continual impediments including slow movements by Caribbean governments despite promises and geo-political pressure from countries that back the cause of Seriba, such as Russia, Venezuela and China.
Russia has been particularly problematic for Kosovo, as they are a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and have stated that they would use their right to veto if a resolution for Kosovo’s independence were to be brought forward by the United States or any other nation.
But financial and political challenges have yet to deter Berisha in his “cause for humanity” and he set a broad appeal to the governments of the world to recognize Kosovo’s right to autonomy.
“By doing this I know that the people of my country will live better because there will be cultural and educational exchanges, as well as imports and exports. That is what I would like to see,” the pilot said.