The Active Citizen of Europe Award Holder, Marsida Bandilli to young people: “Discover the strength inside yourself”  

Article published on April 17, 2015
Article published on April 17, 2015

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

From: Rudina Hoxha, Freelance Journalist

1. You are the winner of an important prize: “The Active Citizens of Europe”. What does receiving this award signifies for you? And how this particular award could contribute to all the Albanian society?

First of all I would like to thank you for this interview, and more in particular because of your continuous interest on issues where young people are directly involved. I received the Active Citizens of Europe Award, from Volonteurope Organization, in November 2014. Her Excellency, the President of Malta, Mrs. Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, appreciated the very indispensable and invaluable contribution I have made to European issues, throughout the years. (Check here https://www.volonteurope.eu/ace2014/). More in particular, it was noticed the crucial role I have played in international activities and the in-depth level of engagement and discussions about recent occurrences in the European continent.

However, I have always stressed the fact that this award is dedicated to all young people in the country who are continuously giving their contribution and support in the course of making positive changes in the country. Besides that, I would like that my career and professional achievements could serve as a mode of inspiration to many other young people that are eager to follow their dreams, passions and aspirations of truly becoming who they want to be in their lives.

2. What is “active citizenship” for you? And how can young people contribute to its revitalization in Albania?

There prevails and essential ongoing debate about what does active citizenship represent in our societies nowadays. Going back to the origins of this significant discourse, the Aristotelian ideas of citizenship in Ancient Athens where primarily referred to citizens who participate in ‘the Agora’, who contribute through discussing and voting. At this point in time, it is however difficult to give definite conceptualizations of  active citizenship.

Even though, to my level of perception an active citizen is someone who is precisely involved and committed at the public sphere. Here I refer mostly to the primary contribution that a citizen gives through: volunteering, participating in elections, even ‘planting a tree’ etc. Young people are a crucial and vital force in every society, who could consequently make an indispensable contribution towards active participation, civic engagement, volunteerism, participation in election and polls. All these examples, relatively display how young people could make ‘their voice’ heard in local, national and international levels, simultaneously. Next to the above-mentioned, it only takes a little courage, in order to become aware of not only why being active, but moreover on how to contribute in the society and community young people live.

4. What would you like to share from your experience as an Active Citizen? Could you provide any concrete examples?

As a matter of fact, I am currently living and studying in Belgium. I am in the process of completing my PhD studies in Political Science at the University of Antwerp. Moreover I am also very engaged with active debates and discussions about developments within the European continent, such as: the EU Enlargement Policy, the European Parliament Elections, Active Citizenship and Democracy etc. In reality, every country follows its ‘own track’ of development, challenges and issues of concerns. And perhaps as Paulo Coehlo mentions in one of his books, people are also more or less the same, regardless the country where you reside. To the latest I am conveying more and more, every day. But, I do respect both countries: Albania and Belgium in relation to the beautiful things they offer, more in particular because of the compelling Western European Culture and good Albanian customs and traditions.  

There was one particular moment where I was supporting my Ukrainian colleague, through mobilizing in protests that took place in Brussels, next to the EU institutions, last year. That made me clearly realize how important it is to give a good support to a fair cause, and be more conscious about how all the events that happen around you, could have a direct or indirect impact in your life.

4. How can young people contribute to the promotion of active citizenship? Which actors/ institutions should else get involved with the process?

This is a very beautiful question, towards which I wished the answer was so easy. Becoming an active citizen of your society is an ongoing and never-ending process, comparable maybe to democratization and European Integration. Yet, anyone can make a good contribution in his/ her surrounding community. In this regard, I could only share my personal experience – which I also did point out during my acceptance speech in Malta. I became an active person, because I did absorb ‘the best’ of the values, culture and education of the Albanian society. A great contribution in terms of building my leadership style have played my family, different youth organizations I was actively engaged with, young people and various inspirational role-models. In this sense, my suggestion would be: “always be open to get the best from your environment”. Learning active citizenship is a process, that involves many actors: starting from educational institutions and ending up to youth organizations. However, it’s an inner process, which evolves naturally within your heart and your mind… Just, be open to that.

5. How did you begin getting involved with various academic, youth and social activities?

Well, by nature I am a curious person, embedded with a strong desire to get to know almost everything happening around me. As a matter of fact knowledge is infinite, meaning that there will always be things or questions you cannot answer. However, I started to get really enthusiastic and passionate about different academic, social and political debates since the beginning of my Bachelor studies in the Political Science Class at the University of Tirana. Moreover, I got very much intrigued to follow and deconstruct different leadership styles, which great people with influence have displayed. By following different leadership classes, speeches of my favorite academics and inspiring world leaders, I began to realize that indeed I was ‘in a good path’ of becoming a leader, myself. Right now, at the end of the day, I realize that I am doing what I have always wanted to do in life: following my passions: academia, research, contributing in youth organizations, travelling and getting to know different countries and cultures. During the past 5 years I have had the chance to meet with a few world leaders and high representatives of the European Union, and also sometimes taking over the opportunity to challenge them with ‘confrontational questions’. Personality-wise, I do believe that I just have a positive vibe and energy which most of the times is transmitted in my environment and good people who surround me, as well. My accomplishments as an academic and young person, are completely dedicated to my family, which is my biggest source of inspiration that fuels me to keep moving with the same passion and level of dedication.

6. Could you reveal some of your future plans? And moreover, how do you perceive you could contribute in terms of Albania’s accession towards the European Union?

Part of my ongoing engagements is the successful completion of my doctoral studies. Moreover, I will continue participating in various international events: mostly academic and scientifically related. However, Albania is always part of my Agenda, since I will start very soon to implement a project about youth leadership. In my future career prospects, there might be a possible engagement within the European Union Institutions, where I would definitely make a great contribution towards ‘lobbying’ and bringing the Albanian case closer to the attention of the ‘Brussels arena of decision-making’. In an interview for Radio 1 in Belgium, I did mention that I would like to continue being a supporter of Albania’s integration within the European Union. Notwithstanding “the EU Enlargement” is not the top priority of the new President of the EC’s work, I am confident it will very soon regain a lot of attention among important decision-makers in Brussels. At the end of this interview I could definitely confirm that I would continue with my good work, same dedication and commitment towards attaining positive developments in Albania, and likewise in other international contexts.