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Western Balkans Youth Forum 2022: Making the voice of youth heard in the Berlin Process

Photo: Western Balkans Youth Forum / Majda Balić

BERLIN — The Western Balkans Youth Forum, the event organised with the aim of including young people from the region in the Berlin Process, started on Monday 31 October and will last until Thursday 3 November, when the youth representatives will meet the political leaders at the Western Balkans Summit and present the declaration they jointly wrote.

The WB Youth Forum 2022 is organised under the framework of the Western Balkans Summit, by the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO) and the Franco-German Youth Office (OFAJ). During four days in Berlin, over 70 participants  from the Western Balkans will have the chance to participate in sessions focusing on the role of youth in building sustainable peace in the region, but also in the EU accession process of the Western Balkans.

The participants will have the opportunity to discuss these important topics with other youth leaders, representatives of the NGO sector, academics and politicians. The list of speakers includes Manuel Sarrazin, Federal Foreign Office Special Representative for the Countries of the Western Balkans, Viola Von Cramon-Taubadel and Delara Burkhardt, Members of the European Parliament, as well as Filip Ejdus, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Political Science, University of Belgrade and Jovana Marović, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of European Affairs in the Government of Montenegro.

As the Youth Forum is supported by the Foreign Office of Germany, the sessions will take place in historically, but also symbolically important Berlin venues such as the Bundestag, Representation of the European Commission in Germany and Alte Münze, the old mint where one of the first Euro coins were made. One of the first panels focused on the role of civic education in learning lessons from the history, during which the participants were addressed by Thomas Krüger, President of Federal Agency for Civic Education.

The official opening ceremony took place on Monday evening and the participants were welcomed by Albert Hani, Secretary General of RYCO, who reminded that RYCO was established with the idea of integrating the perspective of the youth, “their needs and concerns in the agenda of the leaders of the Western Balkans Summit.”

“This is a duty of all of us who care about the future of Western Balkans, to produce as many good examples ofcooperation among each other as possible,” Hani added.

Susanne Schütz, Director for South-Eastern Europe, Turkey, OSCE and Council of Europe at the German Federal Foreign Office, greeted the participants as a representative of the German government and stressed the importance of youth cooperation for the joint EU future of the Western Balkans.

“It gives me hope to see you’re actively engaging in to make your voices heard in these issues, I can only encourage you to keep speaking out and to raise your voice also when it comes to overcoming political differences that are still holding the region back from faster integration and progress,” Schütz said to the youth representatives.

Another partner of the Youth Forum is the Western Balkans Youth Lab (WBYL) of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), who was represented by Ognjen Marković during the opening panel. He emphasized the importance of the three agreements which are going to be signed by the heads of states of the Western Balkans on 3 November for regional cooperation and added that the participants of the Youth Forum should use this opportunity to the fullest and convey their messages to the policymakers through the declaration.

The dinner for the participants was hosted by Krenare Gashi-Krasniqi from RYCO and Frank Morawietz from OFAJ, who reflected on the impact RYCO has made in the past seven years and the immense potential it still has. They invited the youth representatives to “really think about our responsibility towards contributing in the process of reconciliation” and reminded that “reconciliation doesn’t fall from the sky, but it requires a lot of work and patience.”

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