The Center for Democracy Foundation organised a final conference entitled European Union and the Western Balkans – Towards Renewed Trust, where regional CSOs, partners of the Regional Youth Compact for Europe project adopted recommendations for expediting reforms and encouraging the EU integration process, subsequently submitted to the European Union and the governments of the West Balkan countries.
At the conference opening, Deputy Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia, Mateja Norčić Štamcar, stated that youth contribution in creating politics and strengthening the relations built on trust between West Balkan countries and the EU are important issues which the European Commission tackles with the utmost care by means of multiple instruments. The Western Balkans’ EU accession process represents an investment to peace and stability in the entire region, noted Ms Norčič Štamcar, emphasising that the Agreement on Abolishing Roaming Charges in the Western Balkans is a huge accomplishment through which regional leaders displayed their determination to overcome mutual differences.
The Executive Director, Center for Democracy Foundation, Nataša Vučković, underlined the necessity to deepen citizen’s support – both of those within the European Union in favour of the expansion policy and the citizens of Western Balkans for reforms and the EU accession process. We must incorporate new enthusiasm in the EU integration process, whereby topics of key significance are rule of law, the fight against corruption, values which led us on the path toward the EU, as, in addition to economic development and improvement of life standards, we aim to build on the qualitative aspect of our society and develop European capacities in our country.
At the conference, relations between the European Union and Western Balkans were discussed in three panel discussions, seen through the prism of EU integrations and youth participation.
In the first panel “European Union and the Western Balkans – Renewed Trust and New-Found Enthusiasm for Expansion/Integration”, the central topic was current relations between WB countries and the European Union. Antonella Valmorbida (Secretary General, European Association for Local Democracy ALDA, France), Sonja Licht (President, Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence, Serbia), Prof. dr Gordana Đurović (Faculty of Economics, University of Podgorica, Montenegro), Daša Šašić Šilović (Chair, CEE Network for Gender Issues, Croatia; President, European Partners for the Environment), Saša Magazinović (Member of Parliament, Bosnia and Herzegovina), Remzi Lani (Executive Director of the Albanian Media Institute, Albania), Nataša Vučković (Executive Director, Center for Democracy Foundation, Serbia), Ana Krstinovska (Founder and Director, ESTIMA, North Macedonia), spoke at the panel, moderated by Antonela Riha, Journalist.
The second panel “West Balkans Youth – Between Expectations and Reality” was dedicated to the youth and their expectations of EU integration. Dragan Srećković (Researcher, Serbia), Djordjo Cvijović (RYCO, Serbia office), Anja Jokić (National Youth Council of Serbia, KOMS, Serbia), Ivana Jacheva (Northern Macedonia), Marjana Koceku (Albania), spoke about this topic. Moderator: Stefan Simić (Program Coordinator, Center for Democracy Foundation). During the panel, research on Western Balkan youth participation in EU integration was presented, which was implemented as part of this project.
The third panel “Local democracy: Active Citizens – Sustainable Communities” dealt with democracy at the local level and citizens’ initiatives, where the panellists were representatives of organisations engaged within local communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia and Macedonia. Panelists: Stanka Parać (LDA Subotica, Serbia), Maja Vejzović (LDA Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina), Kerim Međedović (LDA Nikšić, Montenegro). Moderator: Katica Janeva (ALDA Skopje).
The Conference is the final event organized within the three-year regional project “Regional Youth Compact for Europe“ (RYCE) which started in 2018 and it is now in its final year with closing in July 2021. The project is coordinated by the Center for Democracy Foundation (CDF), with 13 partners from Western Balkan and European network ALDA.
The project was financially supported by the European Union and co-financed by USAID and the Balkan Trust for Democracy.
European Union and the Western Balkans: Towards Renewed Trust (Opening of the conference)
Panel 1: EU and the Western Balkans: Towards Renewed Trust and Reinvented Enthusiasm for Enlargement/Integration
Panel 2: Youth in the Western Balkans – Between Expectations and Realities
Panel 3: Local Democracy – Active Citizens, Sustainable Communities
Center for Democracy Foundation