Agon Maliqi is a policy analyst, activist, and media writer based in Prishtina, Kosovo. He is the creator and co-founder of Sbunker, an Albanian language current affairs and ideas blog giving voice to a younger generation of scholars, writers, and activists from the Western Balkans. With Agon, we talked about recent parliamentary elections in Kosovo, the COVID-19 pandemic, Sbunker projects and impact on local society, the state of human rights in Kosovo, and other topics.
Sbunker started six years ago as the community of think-tankers, academics, activists, gravitating around the center.
“We’ve had more than two hundred and three hundred local authors write for us over the years and all sporadically. It’s more of a niche platform where this kind of community discusses ideas. It’s a small community, but it’s influential in a way, because this is the kind of sphere where public ideas are or are kind of discussed. And it shapes opinion in more decision-making circles.”, explained Agon.
“With the start of the pandemic all the topics started to revolve around the impact of it”, said Agon, but with time, in his opinion, we started to adjust.
“We started to adjust into the new reality of covid being there in a way as a presence on having impact on everything. But the main focus continues to be on the general challenges that kind of covid impacts or amplifies in various ways”, he said.
In his opinion, the COVID-19 pandemic also affected the election process in Kosovo in two ways.
“You know, we had the record turnout despite the panic, but the pandemic played a role in two ways. First, because we had the government downfall during the pandemic and that triggered a huge reaction. And that showed also in the result in a large part of the electorate kind of shifting towards the establishment parties. It also played a huge role economically. The economy is quite devastated from that from the pandemic. And I think that also fed into the anger. But in terms of the impact on the actual election day, I don’t think it played a huge role”, Agon said.
At Sbunker, Mr. Maliqi also co-led the creation and national expansion of “TruAktiv,” an alternative critical thinking program in Kosovo targeting young aspiring human rights activists. He is a regular contributor to Kosovo’s print media, having published more than 100 op-eds and essays over the past decade. Also, he is a frequent commentator on current affairs on radio and television. Over the past decade, Mr. Maliqi has also worked as an independent policy consultant in Kosovo, initially focusing on good governance and human development projects. Due to rising concerns over regional security and democratic backsliding as a troubling new paradigm in Eastern Europe, his most recent work has focused more on the issues of political risk and resilience to authoritarianism.