Team Members
and biography... AtoZ ordered

ALMA QERIMI
Assistant Project Manager

alma@thebalkanforum.org

+383 38 728 927


Alma is the Balkan Forum's Assistant Project Manager. She is a recent MBA graduate from the University of Texas at Arlington living in Prishtina Kosovo. She finished her B.A. at R.I.T. Kosovo for public policy and management. She has a dynamic background and a cross cultural upbringing, having lived half of her life in Kosovo and the other in Texas, USA


ANJA ŽIVKOVIĆ
Language Associate

anjaz993@gmail.com

+381638797567


Anja Živković is a graduated philologist. She studied the Albanian language, literature and culture at Faculty of Philology in Belgrade, and Greek was her second language. In 2016 she joined the “Red Info Portal” Red Cross Belgrade as a student-volunteer, translator for Albanian language.

She is an activist and has participated in Peacebuilding training “Mir – Paqe – Mir 2016”, as well as in several Youth Exchanges with participants from different countries from the Balkans. She focuses her work to contribute towards breaking down the prejudices among the people of the Balkans and promotes collaboration among all.


ASTRIT ISTREFI
Executive Director

astrit@thebalkanforum.org

+383 49 427 222

+383 38 728 927


18 + years’ experience in civil society sector focusing on conflict prevention, peacebuilding and development related issues in fragile and conflict-affected contexts, leading strategic development and management/oversight of complex programs, budgets, and teams in the Western Balkans, Central Asia, Caucasus, Afghanistan, UK and USA. This includes working with Care International, Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and Forum for Civic Initiatives (FIQ) in Pristina; International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in Kabul and Washington DC; and Saferworld in London.

His senior management experience in local and international organisations involves strategic and operations management (and leading strategic planning and review processes); developing and strengthening human resource, finance, fundraising and governance policies and systems; leading and coordinating research and advocacy; and partnerships, networking and coalition building.  

Issue areas include democratization, civil society development, elections, conflict resolution, community security, inclusive political processes, security and small arms, linking community-level peace and security with national and international policies and frameworks.

As a Board member to several NGOs since 2000, he has contributed to their organisational development and to enhancing their governance and accountability. 


DIELLZA GECI
Communications Officer

diellza@thebalkanforum.org

+383 38 728 927


Diellza Geci joined The Balkan Forum since March, 2021 as a Communication Officer. Diellza has studied Peace and Conflict Studies and Public Policy and Governance at RIT Kosovo. During her first year of studies she did a 5-month work and travel program in the US. Afterwards, she did an internship for Prishtina High School, HAP NGO, and Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Belgrade, Serbia. Furthermore, she has worked as a Project Coordinator for 1 year at the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network.

Diellza is always up for traveling and exchanging conversations in the Balkan region.


EDERINA BRESHANI
Associate

ederinabreshani@gmail.com


Ederina is the Balkan Forum's Associate. She is currently a student of Urban Planning and Management, an integrated masters degree near Polis University, in Tirana, Albania. She has a lot of experience mostly as a project officer, also regarding documentation drafting, as well as translating, including as office and project assistant with Build Green Group in Albania.  

Her fields of interest include urban issues, but also environmental development regarding renewable energy and efficient building systems. She has done a lot of volunteer work related to various social and environmental problems, and is passionate about social and environmental justice. 

Ederina has full proficiency on the Albanian and English languages, and can communicate in an intermediate level of Italian. 


FITORE RRUDHANI
Finance / Admin Officer

fitore@thebalkanforum.org

+383 38 728 927


Fitore Rrudhani is the Balkan Forum's Finance and Admin Officer.

She is a doctoral student in economics at the University “Ss. Cyril and Methodius” in Skopje, Macedonia and also a member of SCAAK (The Accounting and Audit Association in Kosovo, in which she is certified as a Technician Accountant). Her career started at Raiffeisen Bank, to continue with different experiences in lot of companies and organizations over 8 years in the field of finance.


GAZMEND BERLAJOLLI
Project Manager

gazmend@thebalkanforum.org

+383 44 141 999

+383 38 728 927


Over 18 years of experience in project management, human resources, institutional and organizational development. 

Gazmend worked in different environments establishing great relations with diverse teams in various national and international organizations that he worked at in Europe, Asia and Oceania. This includes engaging on humanitarian and relief programs, institutional/human resources  development, and democratization with Medicins Sains Frontiers (MSF), International Rescue Committee (IRC), Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) in Pristina, Kosovo; International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Islamabad, Pakistan and in Sidney & Melburne, Australia.    

Issue areas include Human and Institutional development, democratization, civil society development, elections, conflict resolution, and coaching and mentoring.


IRMA HANDABAKA
Associate

Irma.han95@gmail.com 

+387 62 273 764


Irma completed Bachelor degree in International Relations and Diplomacy and is continuing her masters program in University of Sarajevo, department of Political Sciences.

She is a passionate writer and the winner of the essay/policy writing competition on the topic

“The Western Balkans in 20 Years: Challenges and Opportunities”, which earned her an internship at the European Movement Serbia in Belgrade.

Irma also worked as volunteer, noting here the human rights “Fight for Equality” initiative aimed at achieving better gender equality in Bosnia and Hercegovina (BiH), organized by Radio Chameleon - Open Network as part of the “Dialogue for the Future”. She was an active participant on a project “Intercultural Understanding and Cooperation of Youth in BiH”, which aimed to educate young people about the importance of culture and art for the development of society.

Irma speaks fluently Bosnian, English, and Spanish (A1) level. 


IVANA SPIROVSKA
Associate


Ivana Spirovska 

Ivana speaks 5 languages and is a passionate writer who loves to travel. She completed two Bachelor Degrees in Law and Pedagogy: English Language and Literature at the University “St. Kliment Ohridski” in Bitola, Macedonia and currently pursues European Master in Migration and Intercultural Relations in different countries and universities. 

She did her Erasmus + student exchange at the University TU Chemnitz in Germany, Department of English & American Studies, and was “Best of South East” scholar in the Karl-Franzens University in Graz, Austria, Department for Legal Studies. 

She firmly believes that education is a human right and should be available to every person in the entire world. Ivana has over 5 years of experience in the non-governmental sector and participated in multiple Erasmus + trainings and youth exchanges, national conferences, and courses.


JULES STRIFFLER
Research Officer

jules@thebalkanforum.org


Jules is the Balkan Forum's Research Officer. Jules comes from Alsace, a border area in France neighboring Germany and Switzerland, part of the wider Grand Est region, also bordering Luxembourg and Belgium. He first studied a Bachelor in Languages and Interculturality at the Université de Strasbourg and the University of Technology Sydney. Then, for his Master's, he decided to go for an Erasmus Mundus degree in European Studies in Strasbourg and at the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen: Euroculture.

All along his path, striving for meaningful purposes has been inspiring him very much. This explains why he previously was a Political Officer trainee at the EU Delegation to the Council of Europe. At a later stage, he has also been a team member (Interreg Volunteer Youth) of the Cross-Border project INTER•RELIGIO at Strasbourg University. 

Jules is fascinated by the Western Balkans. This explains why he worked at the French Institute of Sarajevo - Francuski Institut u Bosni i Hercegovini a few years ago and why he focused academically on this region several times. He just completed a one-year mission in the team of the Youth NGO Volunteers Centre Skopje - Волонтерски ЦентарСкопје in the European Solidarity Corps framework. Hence, he is genuinely delighted to harness once again my skillset in favor of the Balkan region.

He believes sustaining and nurturing a continuous European dialogue encompassing the whole diversity of its societies is a smart move to bring evermore depth in the sense of belonging to a community with a shared destiny throughout our continent. As long as there is a channel of communication between people on all sides of borders, there will be hope. His experiences in interregional cooperation such as the Youth Manifesto initiated by the European Commission (DG REGIO) make him think so: interactions between the peoples of Europe are a very powerful asset to decrease the risk of expansion of populist rhetoric, which often ends up turning civil societies of neighboring countries on one another.


MARINA QUEINS
Research Associate



Marina Queins is a student of Politics and Society as well as English Studies at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn, Germany, pursuing a double major B.A. She is also working as a student assistant at a consultancy specializing in the fields of environmental and energy technology.

Marina first started to study German Studies and English Studies at the University of Cologne parallel to her secondary education and has since complemented her academic knowledge with practical work at different companies and state institutions as Unicepta Company for Media Analysis, WDR West German Broadcasting Cologne and the Financial Intelligence Unit of the German Customs Investigation Bureau. She has also completed internships at, amongst others, the German Federal Academy for Security Policy and the Geopolitics Branch of the German Bundeswehr.

She is a member of the Youth Atlantic Treaty Association and the Academic Association for Security Studies. Marina is a native German speaker, fluent in English and can converse in French and Turkish at a beginners level.


SAMIR BEHARIĆ
Research Officer

samir@thebalkanforum.org


Samir Beharić is the Balkan Forum's Research Officer. Over the last 10 years, he has been involved in fostering regional cooperation, desegregating schools, and providing global opportunities to young adults.

Samir served as Lantos Congressional Fellow in the U.S. Congress in Washington, D.C. and as Schuman Trainee at the European Parliament in Brussels. He authored articles and policy papers highlighting the role of youth in peacebuilding, arguing in favour of abolishing Bosnia-Kosovo visa regime, and promoting brain circulation within the Western Balkans.

His public advocacy and human rights activism was recognised by the OSCE honouring him with the 2018 Max van der Stoel Award for his efforts to prevent further ethnic segregation of schools in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Samir earned his Bachelor’s at the University of Sarajevo and won three academic scholarships to study abroad at the Free University of Berlin, Ondokuz Mayis University in Samsun, and Sapienza University of Rome. He pursued his Master’s in frame of Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree in Global Studies at University of Vienna and Leipzig University.

Besides his native Bosnian, he is fluent in English and German.


SARA LUKEY-SMITH
Funding


Since undertaking an undergraduate degree in History and Politics at the University of Edinburgh and a Master’s degree in Development Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London), Sara spent the last 12 years working for NGOs in the peacebuilding, humanitarian and development sectors, both in the UK and abroad. Her roles have spanned programme management and institutional funding, and policy and advocacy. Sara worked for both international and national NGOs, including Saferworld, BRAC UK, Oxfam GB, World Vision and AMREF. She worked in South Sudan for three years and Uganda for one and a half years. Sara is currently working as an independent consultant.


SONJA TAGA
Assistant Research Officer

sonjataga@gmail.com


Sonja Taga is the Balkan Forum's Assistant Research Officer. She graduated in Political Science at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Tirana.

Sonja participated in several trainings and conferences in Albania and abroad organized by non-governmental organizations active on issues of public interest.

Areas of interest include leadership, politics, and literature.