EU and the Western Balkans: Towards Renewed Trust - The Final Project Conference
The roads ahead of us are going to be difficult, but fundamentally speaking, we are optimistic for the future of Europe and the youth, and in the last conference under the Regional Youth Compact for Europe (RYCE) project, this was very clearly expressed with everyone participating.
The Final Project Conference for RYCE was held on July 1, 2021, in the city of Belgrade, Serbia, at the Metropol Hotel. The nature of the conference was a hybrid, with 36 participants viewing from the Zoom platform. There was a sizable variety of participants, including 13 partners from various countries and organizations/networks, such as ALDA.
The Regional Youth Compact for Europe project, which has reached its conclusion with the passing of conference, has been going on for 3 years, with the aim of empowering youth organizations and other civil society groups in the Western Balkans and Europe. This is particularly when it comes to matters such as policy design, mobilization of participation and better decision-making among the younger generations, and EU integration monitoring.
The first panel’s topic was about the relationship between the WB and the EU, the second was about youth expectations for outlooks of European integration alongside research presented on the matter, and the third and last panel had representatives from Local Democracy Agencies to discuss local democracy and civic initiatives.
To reiterate, the conference overall expressed optimism for the future of Europe and the youth, but also stressed the importance of investing in the younger generations and monitoring the function of democracy and building trust. The approaches intended to be taken are largely bottom-up and pan-European. For goals like this to be accomplished, the youth effectively need to be mobilized for greater participation, they need to be provided info about policy matters that concern them, and it needs to be kept in mind that the digital world we live in today enables the tearing down of barriers to information in a way that was not as available in the past, and that this is very good for the younger generations.
It was also highlighted that as of July 1, needing only 3 years to get it done, roaming agreements were put into place in the Balkans with the help of the European Union, in which there will be zero roaming tax fees among the Western Balkans, part of the “Roam Like at Home” initiative. Further digitalization is encouraged, and the EU helps with this, as investment in these categories can help with things such as economic growth and job offers. Policy benchmarks are targeted, and EU integration continues to be a topic of importance, especially in a period in which we are no longer in the worst stage of the pandemic. This helps to rejuvenate the discussions and processes. Individual approaches are largely taken for each country to tackle the disenchantment of the youth with their local governments, bad rule of law, among other factors. The results of surveys for the youth done around this time last year were also presented, and questions were taken.
It can be said that this overall proved to be a productive dialogue for this involved, and a solid presentation of the accomplishments of the last 3 years of the Regional Youth Compact for Europe project. However, it can also be said that processes of youth mobilization, EU integration benchmarks, etc. is still very much something that needs to be further sustained as we are not quite done yet, but the optimism among those involved is still very present. Further discussion when it comes to these types of matters is always something that needs to take place.
This activity is in the framework of the project “Regional youth compact for Europe” implemented by the Centar for Democracy Foundation (lead partner), Balkan Network for Local Democracy, CRTA, Youth Act and Sodem. This project is funded by the European Union.
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