President of the France Emmanuel Macron and President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić met in Belgrade today with six young people from the Western Balkans when they discussed common challenges of young people in the region.
In a session participated by the presidents and the young people who took part in RYCO supported projects within its first Open Call for Project Proposals, RYCO Secretary-General Mr Đuro Blanuša briefly presented the organization and its work and underlined that reconciliation is not just the absence of war.
“Our region still insists on differences and look at them as something that divides us, but the differences should bring us together,” Blanuša said and added that we still live in a fragile region. He also thanked the governments of the region for being committed to RYCO.
Expressing his willingness to discuss the common challenges with young people from the region, Macron underlined that he is a strong believer in RYCO and its work.
The President of the French Republic also said that he is happy to hear about launching a joint project supported by the French Development Agency since it will bring the societies of the region closer together.
The young people participating in the event shared their views on reconciliation, cooperation, democratic values, education and security in the region by highlighting the need for enhanced cooperation not only between the young people but also between the governments in the Western Balkans. They also shared their engagements on the issues.
Discussing the issues, Macron agreed with the young people and pointed out that this point of view should be shared by the majority of the citizens in the Western Balkans, too. He also said that the EU integration process is too long and bureaucratic and that young people should be offered a strong perspective.
Macron said that he does not want this generation to be disappointed even after the region becomes a part of the European Union and highlighted that this is the reason why the EU should be reformed. He also said that a new European narrative should be created.
Vučić said that he shares most of the young people’s views and underlined that the overall atmosphere in the region is not serving cooperation between the societies. The President of Serbia also pointed out the readiness of Serbia to contribute more to the youth cooperation in the region financially.
The President of Serbia said that if one of the problems for young people is the lack of financial resources, Serbia is ready to contribute more and double or triple its contribution to the RYCO budget. He told the participants that he strongly believes in youth cooperation and likes to listen to the stories of young people from the region.
What did young people say?
Emina Frljak from Bosnia and Herzegovina highlighted that the region is still embedded in the past. “We did not overcome the divisions from World War II, not to mention those created during the most recent conflicts,” she underlined.
Rina Kadiri from Kosovo pointed out the need that the people of the region have to overcome their prejudices about each other. “I work with young people because I want to see the prejudices in the region disappear,” she was clear.
Ivan Depostović from Serbia underlined the importance of values of cooperation for the region. “Together with my colleagues, I will always be ready to defend our stands and values whenever there is a treat of regressive nationalistic approaches in the region,” Ivan said.
Stefani Spirovska from North Macedonia said that young people from the region need better education systems. “My organization is working on bridging this gap between formal and non-formal education by providing young people with opportunities to learn things which the formal education is not offering,” she underlined.
Bojana Lalatović from Montenegro underlined the need to include topics related to security challenges in the region when discussing a common future of young people in the Western Balkans.
Mikel Zito from Albania said that the process of building trust and cooperation in the region requires time. “This process is a long-term one but it is important to say that it is not impossible one. We are proof that region can and have to cooperate,” Mikel stressed out.