Arts Interventions Development

The BESA project


A new category of visa, between hyper-theatre and political advocacy

The proposal presented by Morten Traavik envisions a new category of visas – called “besas” – for visitors and/or asylum seekers to European Union countries, based on the Albanian concept of besa (generally translated as: word of honour, promise, pledge), as defined in the ancient northern Albanian rules and social codes of honour collected in the Kanun of Lekë Dukagjini. One of the central aspects of besa is the sacred duty of the host to offer his house guest not only hospitality, but also protection from harm under any and all circumstances. The host assumes responsibility not only for the guest’s well being, but also for any misdemeanours or crimes the guest might commit while under the host’s besa. In the clan-dominated old Albanian highland society, this meant that anybody in conflict with the guest was entitled to demand compensation from the host’s family. The host was thus, not only morally and materially, but also legally, responsible for the guest. According to the artist, the BESA POLICY addresses not only the seemingly deep-frozen and deadlocked state of EU visa restrictions for Kosovar citizens, but also in a wider sense current European immigration and integration issues.

The artist’s proposal is twofold:

Firstly, there will be a more performative and theatrical dimension, a physical manifestation of the concept through the setting up of besas offices that would pop up in public spaces of the IN SITU network cities. These besas offices would allow people to apply for a besas visa either as an applicant (for citizens from Kosovo or any countries outside the Schengen area) or as a ‘host’ (for citizens from the hosting countries).  

Secondly, there will be a formal advocacy process: the artist, in close collaboration with relevant Kosovar and European governmental and legal institutions, aims to submit this new category of visa, BESA, to the European Parliament for ratification.

In times of increasing migration – and within the current general crisis of responsibility and lack of solutions – the artist attempts to evoke and reflect upon a different notion, that of mutual responsibility, which might provide new answers to this very uneasy challenge.

Creating a different understanding of responsibilities and duties – and consequently a renewed sense of coexistence – stand definitively at the heart of the practice of sharing public space.