“This is a momentous week both for the European Union and for Bosnia and Herzegovina, taking into consideration both the elections in the European Parliament and, of course, the Opinion of the European Commission on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s membership application. The timing of this debate is ideal and sends a clear message that this country needs to debate as well and make progress on the recommendations issued by the Commission,” remarked Ambassador Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to BiH and EU Special Representative in BiH during the finals of the student debate “Let’s Talk About Europe. Let’s Talk About You!”
Four debate teams from Faculties of Political Science in Sarajevo and Banja Luka, the Faculty of Philosophy in Mostar, and the Balkans Studies Centre of the International University of Sarajevo have been preparing for over a month for the debate finals. During the semi-finals, organised throughout May as part of the marking of Europe Day in BiH, students demonstrated a unique skill set, understanding and knowledge of the European integration process.
Even though it sometimes may seem that the European Union and the Western Balkan countries are moving at different speeds, they both share similar problems, one of the biggest of which is youth unemployment, noted Dubravka Negre, Regional Director of the European Investment Bank for the Western Balkans. “This is also a European problem, not only of the countries in the region, asking for a concrete answer that the European institutions have been trying to provide. The European Investment Bank, with the support of the European Commission, has been supporting youth employment, competitiveness and strengthening of the labour market, and with these programmes around 15,000 new jobs have been opened up for the youth of Bosnia and Herzegovina” said Negre.
The European Commission’s Opinion, a landmark in the country’s integration process, has provided an in-depth assessment of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s readiness to join the European family. Although the European Union does not have solutions to all the issues at hand, as Ambassador Wigemark underlined, it is crucial that the youth of the country are working together and supporting each other. A true example of such cooperation was provided by the debate teams who, although faced with difficult tasks to confirm or negate some of the themes, showed that constructive dialogue is one of the key ways to move forward.
The final debate on the topic of “EU as the goal or means to an end?” tested the argumentative skills of students from Banja Luka and Mostar. The winning team from Banjaluka expressed their gratitude for taking part in the competition and said they are looking forward to the study trip to Brussels, their award for winning the debate competition.