Prague, 16/09/2022 – The European Democratic Youth Network (EDYN) together with the Strategic Analysis Think Tank crafted a communiqué, which was presented at the conference “Youth Policy in the Western Balkans – An essential element for the future of the region and Europe” in Prague, organised by European Economic and Social Committee of the European Commission as part of the Czech EU presidency.
“Young people must become part of the solution. Otherwise, they will become part of the problem. We need to listen to those who are ready to move on, who refrain from hate and wish to seek common ground.” adds Michal Kovacs, EDYN’s Executive Director.
The communiqué presents three key problematic areas faced by the Western Balkan. First, the EU has been losing momentum in the region as it is failing to deliver on its promises around enlargement; second, the continuous brain-drain of qualified people; and third, the lack of economic opportunities for the region’s young people.
“This communiqué is to remind the EU that – especially during the Year of Youth – we must not forget about young generations’ power and needs. We are building bridges with the Western Balkans and know that it indeed is now or never. We must take action and not let this region fall under the influence of autocratic regimes.” says Jana Soukupová, EDYN representative from the Czech Republic and founder of Youth, Speak Up!
The communiqué offers concrete recommendations for the EU to implement. First, EDYN and the Strategic Analysis Think Tank recommend the EU delivers on its promises and unblocks the negotiations process with the Western Balkans as regards EU enlargement. Second, young leaders from the Western Balkans have emphasised the need to double the amount of Foreign Direct Investments from EU countries in order to increase the number of compelling job opportunities in the region. Additionally, young people have identified the need to strengthen the EU’s business culture of responsibility, equal opportunities, rule of law, and anti-corruption as a core strategic measure. Furthermore, they suggest establishing an Erasmus Plus-like scheme for young people from the Western Balkans that would offer at least 10.000 new scholarships and/or loans for young people from the region to complete their full studies in EU countries. This would extend beyond university-level education and include vocational training, too. The loans would have to be paid after students graduate. However, if a young person returns to their home country and starts working there, the loan would be annulled. Finally, young generations are advocating for the EU to send hybrid threats specialists in the region to establish more adequate cyber defense measures, especially now after Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.
“We are all following developments in Ukraine closely, but above all, what has happened in Ukraine highlights what can happen to a state that is not firmly anchored in European and transatlantic structures. If Ukraine were already a member of NATO, what has happened would not have happened. That is why we must strive for Moldova and the Western Balkan countries to be integrated into the European and transatlantic structures. So that they are safe and there is no temptation for bigger powers to carve out new territory there. I admit that my generation has failed to achieve this goal and the Western Balkans are still out of these structures. It is up to you, young friends, to achieve this. We old grandfathers can no longer do it. But you with your energy and commitment can achieve this goal. That is why I very much welcome this conference and the activity, which has addressed these issues.” adds Former Czech Foreign Minister, Karel Schwarzenberg.