European Western Balkans

Removal of Serbia’s RYCO Board member: Bad message for regional cooperation?

Milica Škiljević

BELGRADE – Milica Škiljević, Serbian Youth Representative to the board of the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO) was dismissed by the Serbian government on Tuesday, March 13th, ahead of the Board meeting which was to be held in Pristina. While the Serbian ministry argues that the dismissal is a result of Škiljević’s intention to participate on a unacceptable RYCO Board meeting in Pristina, the former youth representatives argues that she was acting in accordance with the objectives of RYCO and regional cooperation.

Serbian Ministry for Sport and Youth pointed out in their statement for the Radio Free Europe that Škiljević “explicitly refused” to act in accordance with instructions that conditions for the participation of representatives of Serbia were not provided.

“Mrs Škiljević was absolutely informed about the fact that conditions for the participation of Serbian representatives were not provided, at the preparation meeting which was held on the 8th of March in Ministry for Sport and Youth.”

Furthermore, Ministry has explained in its response that conditions for the participation of Serbian representatives were not in line with the Agreement on regional representation and cooperation as status of a neutraln meeting was not provided.

“To the contrary, the host decided to organize the session in the building of Kosovo’s Parliament” where landmarks are clearly exposed which is against the order related to the neutral meeting’s status”, the statement of Ministry for Youth and Sport says, adding that the host had no intention of making any changes regarding the organization of the meeting.

The information about being dismessed, Milica Škiljević got indirectly, when Ministry for Youth and Sport informed the general secretary of RYCO that Serbia will not take part at the ninth RYCO Board meeting and that Škiljević is no longer its representative.

“This decision came after the preparation meeting with the Ministry’s representatives, which was held on 8th of March. I was was told not to take part at the following meeting because the conditions for State’s and other official representatives coming from Republic of Serbia were not provided. At that same meeting I informed Ministry’s representatives that I had confirmed my presence at the following RYCO Board meeting”, writes in Milica Škiljević‘s official statement after she was dismissed from her position.

“Besides the information addressed to the general secretary on 12th of March, I have not recieved any official explanation. Since I have not got any explanation on Wednesday, the 13th of March I sent an official requirement for an explanation to the Ministry. At the time of writing this statement (15th of March), I have not got any answers so far and justifications for being dismissed I’ve got from a reply Ministry sent to Radio Free Europe”, says in Škiljević’s statement.

Commenting one part of Ministry’s answer to Free Europe that she “explicitly refused” to act in accordance with instructions and that she will act by her own will, Škiljević says in her statement: “I encourage all State and official representatives of the Republic of Serbia that once again read the Agreement on establishing the RYCO, whose signatories they are, which states that “we have clear interest in cooperating and making stable societies build on trust among the people, making better quality of life in the region”

Kosovo holds presidency over RYCO Board in 2019, the hosts decide the location of the meeting

Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO) was founded in 2016 by Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia within the Berlin Process, a regional political initiative launched by Germany to help Western Balkan countries prepare for membership in the European Union.

Two participants from each country, a representative coming from the Ministry responsible for Culture, Youth and Sport and a representative of the civil society sector are participating in the work of the Board of RYCO.

According to Nikola Ristić, Communication Officer at RYCO, the host is the one who decides where the meeting is going to take place.

According to the Organization’s Statute, Board meets minimum once a year unless it is decided otherwise. The Board meetings take place in the party which takes over the presidency of Board. Presidency rotates alphabetically every year. Albania was the first one to take over the Presidency in 2017, followed by Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2018 and Kosovo which took over the Presidency on 1st of January this year.

As a result of the dismissal of Milica Škiljević, there was no quorum at the Board meeting in Pristina. There needs to be at least one participant from each country for this body to function.

“Endorsing the RYCO Annual Report for 2018, budget for 2019, and decisions on the internal organization functioning were planned for discussion”, Ristić explained.

Did Serbia act against the spirit of regional cooperation and the objective of RYCO?

As Škiljević pointed out for our portal, the Western Balkans region is confronting with many challenges, adding that the best example for that is the current situation.

“I strong believe that we could come to an appropriate solution with the open dialogue. I truly hope this situation will end up with a strong message and responsibility that we need to make equal participation of young people in the decision-making processes so RYCO could function”, said Škiljević.

As she explains, “Youth representative position is made independent so there is an equal participation of young people in decision-making processes. National youth strategy recognises the need “for the sistematic investment in the development of young people and the establishment of partnership relations among young people and the State in order to increase active participation in society, social integration and the involment of young people into the youth policy”.

“Taking all the mentioned into account, we need to continue to advocate legal and political frame which will provide appropriate conditions for an equal participation of young people in decision-making processes.”, she explained.

“I will continue to advocate for an equal participation of young people in decision-making processes as I did in the previous years, so that they would not be dismissed only because they represent the interests of young people”, Škiljević said.

“Due to the fact I believe the better region realies on young ones which are the drivers of change and the example for cooperation, I hope that new youth representative at the RYCO Board will be aware of the responsibility and the importance of this position”, concluded Škiljević in her official statement.

Enver Hoxhaj, Deputy Prime Minister of Republic of Kosovo reacted on his Twitter towards this situation blaming Serbia for the failure of RYCO meeting.

“Serbia is directly responsible for the failing of RYCO Board meeting in Pristina today. This behaviour is against regional cooperation and the Berlin process. We call on EU to react as this is clearly Serbia’s policy – to destroy all regional initiatives,” Hoxhaj wrote.

Ministry for Youth and Sport has not answerd to our questions related to the dismissal of Milica Škiljević at the time of publishing the article.

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