RYCO Secretary General Mr Đuro Blanuša participated in a panel discussion of the regional conference Tirana Connectivity Forum which is taking place in Tirana on 29 – 31 October 2019. The conference also gathers experts, researchers, academicians, CSOs and policymakers involved in the EU enlargement, regional cooperation, and connectivity dynamics in the Western Balkans.
Addressing the participants, Mr Blanuša pointed out that while talking about connectivity we need to highlight the achievement of the Western Balkan government and the Berlin Process which succeeded to establish RYCO that is today an institutional mechanism that connects youth in the region.
“RYCO has been established to send a positive political message to the people in the region and all our partners in Europe. As an intergovernmental organization, RYCO serves the needs of young people through its mission for youth mobility and youth connectivity in the region,” he pointed out.
RYCO Secretary General also highlighted alarming statistics about the youth in the region, pointing out that two out of three young people have negative stereotypes and prejudices towards their peers in the region.
“Through its mandate and programs for youth exchanges, RYCO has lunched three open calls for secondary schools and CSOs which generated more than 800 project applications and resulted in more than 2.5 thousand partnerships across the region. This is also a signal that there is a need and goodwill that the people, institutions and organizations in the region would like to be connected and to cooperate with each other,” Mr Blanuša added.
Talking about challenges, he pointed out that sensitive political environment, administrative and mobility obstacles influence youth connectivity in the region.
“Political situation in the region and the messages sent by political elites and decision-makers are not encouraging young people. Besides administrative, there are also mobility obstacles in the region, such as existing visa regimes that additionally complicate youth connectivity and cooperation in the region. As RYCO, we tend to address these issues and to articulate the voice of the young people to send messages and expectations for a more enabling environment,” Mr Blanuša concluded.
The panel also underlined demographic challenges in the region highlighting results by the study on youth in Southeast Europe conducted by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation.
Presenting the study, Ms Ema Smolo of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation regional office in Sarajevo said that the study on youth proved unique aspects and comparability between the societies in South-East Europe. “Primarily it showed that the youth in the region are connected by their collective socio-economic problems, which further influence brain-drain from the region.” Ms Smolo pointed out.
Following this year’s Forum agenda, the panel “People-To-People, Connectivity and Human Capital” brought together German Ambassador to Albania H.E. Peter Zingraf, Head of the Europe Department at Deutsche Welle Ms Adelheid Feilcke, Researcher, Academic and Activist from Albania Mr Endrit Shabani, Communications and Project Assistant from the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Dialogue Southeast Europe Ms Ema Smolo, and RYCO Secretary General Mr Đuro Blanuša.
The fifth edition of the Tirana Connectivity Forum is organized by the Cooperation and Development Institute in association with RYCO. The event focuses on the progress made in the Connectivity Agenda with a focus on energy, transport, and people-to-people connectivity.