On 28-29 May 2019, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs organized, in Bucharest, the conference “How to better respond to European aspirations of the young generation in the Western Balkans?”.
Having in view the priority set by the Romanian Presidency of the EU Council on the Western Balkan Region and the Enlargement Policy, the event promoted a positive agenda for youth in the Balkans region as an investment in the future and a concrete contribution to the European integration of the region.
The Conference benefited from the support of the European Commission and Norway, through the EEA and Norwegian grants, and was organized in cooperation with regional partners such as the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) and the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO).
In his keynote speech, Dan Neculăescu, state secretary within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, underlined the priority Romania has set upon EU enlargement in the Western Balkans, demonstrated through the enhanced dialogue with the region, presence on the ground and numerous bilateral visits before and during the mandate of the Romanian Presidency of the EU Council, promoting regional cooperation, including by organizing, in Sarajevo, a regional seminar on streamlining regional cooperation initiatives. He put an emphasis on the transformative role of EU for the entire region, and stated that, by organizing this event, Romania aims to draw EU`s attention regarding the paramount necessity to increase EU’s focus on the youth in the Western Balkans, so that they can build a future in their own countries, with a clear perspective for EU integration.
The conference was attended by more than 200 participants from more than 120 organizations – young people from the Western Balkans and the European Union, Romanian and foreign officials, representatives of European institutions, international and regional organizations, representatives of the IT industry and start-ups, as well as of the academic environment.
The topics touched upon during the conference contributed to identify the best solutions to increase the socio-economic inclusion of young people in the region and facilitate the setting up of a sustainable dialogue among youth in the EU and in the Western Balkans, fostering mutual understanding and a broader attachment to European values. A special interest was generated by the panels dedicated to youth’ democratic participation, to opportunities and challenges generated by online platforms in the context of disinformation and fake news, as well as the debate on reconciliation and trust-building in the region.
The innovative and interactive character of the debates were highly appreciated by the participants, generating a series of suggestions such as creating a network of youth entrepreneurs in the region, civic consultations in the Western Balkans states on the future of the EU – proposals which can represent useful guidelines for the future.
The conference also offered an opportunity for Romania to share with its partners in the region its own experience in promoting and stimulating youth employment policies and to present examples of good practices and “success stories” in various fields of expertise, such as digitisation, entrepreneurship and innovation.