As announced, the Centre for European Perspective is organising a public debate in Brussels on April 11, 2018 titled Back on the Agenda: EU Enlargement and Western Balkans. As a preparation for the event and a pre-event workshop, young people from the Western Balkan countries will be invited to Brussels on April 10, 2018. World cafe discussion, youth policy boot-camp and civil society networking will take place on the evening before the public debate on the EU enlargement. The topic of democratization (corruption, democratic reforms, rule of law), social affairs (unemployment, education, brain drain), participation (youth representation, activism, giving the youth a voice) and reconciliation (peacebuilding, intercultural dialogue, interstate relations) will be discussed as a result of the application essays, written by our young participants.

The Western Balkan has returned to the agenda of the European Union. However, getting closer to the EU also brings greater responsibility. The European Commission’s motto ‘exporting stability, rather than importing instability’ must remain a strong pull factor, since it carries the idea of strengthening WB democracies and finally implementing economic and social reforms, which would have tangible results for citizens. The EU-WB enlargement strategy, numerous top-level visits by EU representatives, including a wide range of different regional initiatives, are charting the EU’s path ahead. Nevertheless, it is the empowered civil society of the Western Balkans that are best at voicing their ideas and perspectives.

One question inevitably arises: What do the youth of the Western Balkans have to say? An education system that is incompatible with the labour market, high youth unemployment, a massive brain-drain, distrust in public institutions, deep-rooted corruption and the slow post-conflict reconciliation process are only some of the everyday concerns plaguing young people in the region. Comprehensive structural reforms, the openness and inclusiveness of public institutions, more scholarships, better education and job opportunities, visa-free regime for the entire region and a chance not only to speak but also to be heard seem to be positive solutions to these challenges. The youngsters of the Western Balkans might see EU membership as the light at the end of the tunnel, but they are also fully aware that their respective governments need to do their part of the job first.

You can read the stories of the youth of the Western Balkans below.

Youth of the Western Balkans

Event is done in cooperation with Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade (IFAT) (Hungary), EUROPEUM Institute for European Policy (Czech Republic), Slovak Foreign Affairs Association (SFPA) and Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM) and supported by International Visegrad Fund.

The project is co-financed by the Governments of Czechia, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia through Visegrad Grants from International Visegrad Fund. The mission of the fund is to advance ideas for sustainable regional cooperation in Central Europe.