Connecting the Youth of the Western Balkans

Regional cooperation in the Western Balkans has been recognised as one of the priorities of the engagement of the European Union in the Western Balkans. In order to promote and enhance opportunities for regional youth cooperation and reconciliation, the EU Info Centre, in cooperation with the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO) and BiH Ministry of Civil Affairs, organised a panel discussion “Connecting the Youth of the Western Balkans”.

“Connectivity is not only about bridges, railways and trains, but bringing people together, and that is what the Regional Youth Cooperation does. The European Union will continue to support regional cooperation, mobility and connectivity of the youth. At the end of the day, it is up to the youth, as the youth of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region will bring their countries into the European Union, and, while we expect a lot from them, they do have to be given the means, and RYCO is one of the ways we support them,” said Khaldoun Sinno, Deputy Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

For the European Union, mobility, connectivity and regional cooperation have been recognised as driving forces of further growth and development, in particular in the youth sector. Regional cooperation is a catalyst for the enlargement process and a key enabling factor for comprehensive reforms and the return to sustainable economic growth in the Western Balkans.

Đuro Blanuša, Secretary General of the Regional Youth Cooperation Office, underlined that RYCO is a result of cooperation of governments and initiatives of civil society organisations, and that RYCO is one the mechanisms for reconciliation in the region  “We are doing everything we can to connect the youth, but also the communities and people of the region, in the best possible manner, and we want to give opportunities to the youth to learn from one another, and overcome stereotypes by cooperating, networking and developing new projects.”

Six projects supported by RYCO presented their activities and project ideas. While some projects are still being implemented, they have managed to achieve noticeable results in enabling the youth of the region, primarily high school students, to visit their peers in neighbouring countries, jointly collaborate on creative initiatives, and create new conditions for the improvement and further development of reconciliation and the strengthening of mutual understanding between the youth of the region.

Established during the Western Balkans Summit in Paris, the Regional Youth Cooperation Office is an independently functioning institutional mechanism, founded by the Western Balkans’ six participants, aiming to promote the spirit of reconciliation and cooperation between the youth of the region through youth exchange programs. Continuing to create opportunities for young people in the Western Balkans, RYCO assists in building the capacities of participants and grantees and will soon announce the Second Open Call for proposals.