Forensic Dentist and Deputy Mayor of Oulu Sinikka Salo has been leading the European Union project on forensic medicine in Kosovo for a year now. The aim of the project is to further develop the Department of Forensic Medicine (DFM) structures, administration and operations. Now the project has come to the point in which Sinikka is supervising the progress from distance, from her hometown Oulu in Finland. The EU project will still go on and Sinikka is going to visit Kosovo at times to see the results of her work but for now the time has come to remember the year she spent in Kosovo.
The journey towards Kosovo for Sinikka started when the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare contacted her. They were looking for a team leader to an EU project with qualities such as international experience of leading and skills in forensic medicine. In the beginning of the year 2015 it came possible for Sinikka to leave Oulu and to move to Kosovo.
Sinikka had heard earlier about Kosovo due to the war and the subsequent peacekeeping operation. The first question that came up to her mind was similar to one that any Finn could have: is it safe there? Her perception of Kosovo was built on a shaky and partly coloured ground. Although in Finland there lives a quite big Kosovar community, still the Finns' knowledge about their homeland is vague. Sinikka sees that the year in a new country has been wonderful time for learning about the whole area of the Western Balkans. Sinikka and her husband have been traveling a lot during the year, and it is especially the nature sights that attract Sinikka. There is still work to be done in the tourism sector in Kosovo but during the year there has already been progress. Prizren, the Gračanica monastery and the mountains in the area of Peja are the ones that have stayed in the minds of Sinikka and her husband.
During her time in Kosovo Sinikka has noticed that the people here are friendly and communal. Both Sinikka and her husband have felt very welcome here. Also, you always get help when needed. It is particularly the people and their close relations that Sinikka is going to miss from Kosovo. Human interaction is one thing that Sinikka gives a lot of importance, in the end it’s the thing that makes results in the projects. When leading an international group, Sinikka considers one of the most important things is that you are able to tell what the best way of going forward is and to make locals understand how they can utilize this information. Being part of international politics and diplomacy has improved Sinikka in many ways. She has noticed that by dialogue you will get the best results and you're also learning yourself at the same time.
The appreciation of one's own work is a thing that Sinikka enjoys in her own working community. Everyone is proud of their work regardless of what they do and this is what Sinikka sees as an achievement – one thing the Finnish people could learn from here. Kosovo still has much work to be done but that doesn’t mean that the Finns couldn't learn from the Kosovars. Sinikka also thinks the Finns should have more time for interaction, communication and making decisions together. Are we Finns too busy in the work nowadays and do we have enough time to think together?
Sinikka's image of Kosovo has changed dramatically during the year here. She now sees Kosovo as a working society and most of all as a society that wants to move forward – the future of Kosovo is full of opportunities! However, in order to achieve a decent democratic development there are still things that need to be changed. Corruption and nepotism are blocking the way for equal treatment for every citizen of Kosovo and this is a subject that makes Sinikka worried. Personally she hasn’t encountered corruption but for Kosovar people this is a huge issue when speaking about equal possibilities for everyone. For Sinikka the personal attitude of people is a strength for people of Kosovo. The citizens have the will to work and get forward, especially the youth. In the youth she sees potential but for them there have also to be possibilities. Visa liberalization for the Kosovars could bring the path for better studying and working opportunities abroad and at the same it would help to improve the society of Kosovo.
Going back to Finland will be interesting for Sinikka because of the big reforms that are now taking place in Finland. Surely there will be enough of work for Sinikka in Finland but still she isn’t closing the door for new job offers abroad. It's important to be part of the environment you are trying to develop, Sinikka thinks. To understand fully you need to be part of the society in which you are working.
For the last thing Sinikka wants to raise the role of the Finnish Embassy in Kosovo. There are countries where the embassies aren’t so influential but here in Kosovo the assistance of the Embassy of Finland is really significant and people appreciate it. The Embassy of Finland should be proud of its work and support for Kosovo because it really can have effect to people's lives in Kosovo.