Europe and the Balkans… What is your perspective?

Posted on 19. June 2014

by Doru Toma

Doru TomaSarajevo is without any doubt the heart of the Balkans: cradle of religions, people and cultures, city under siege and the place where one hundred years ago the First World War started. In early June, Sarajevo hosted the European Youth Summit “100 for the Next 100 in the Danube Region” gathering 100 students and young professionals from all countries of the Balkans, Central and Eastern Europe.

The event* tried to stimulate debate and exchange of ideas about the future of Europe, the European Union, the Balkans in connection with the European Union and in the context of the Danube region.

Here are some of the main points worth pointing out as a food for thoughtafter five days of discussions, workshops and interactions:

On the European Union

  • The European Union missed a big opportunity to promote by all means this year’s European elections so that it reaches all target groups. For example, there were no advertisements during the UEFA Champions League Final that took place in the pre-day (May 24) of the elections for the European Parliament.
  • Mobility of the young generation is crucial to overcome prejudices; the participants of the summit proposed an extended format of the Erasmus program for every student in the EU and within the region.
  • The role of nation-states has slightly changed: the state is too big for the small problems while the region is too small for the big problems!
  • Having in mind the current geopolitical situation, an Internal Energy Market is mandatory for the European Union.
  • People who own capital will always earn much more than those who work hard. People are bad at investing especially if the environment is corrupt. They invest in education and in basic consumption but they do not invest in businesses; they do not bring money into the market.
  • Europe needs more engagement from the young people; they should openly say what they want, need and should ask for their rights.
  • The European Union needs politically educated citizens in support of a healthy democracy. This implies education, awareness and active participation.

On the Balkans:

  • 500 years ago, Sarajevo was the Jerusalem of Eastern Europe. Nowadays, all those involved – be it politicians, decision-makers, civil society or the young generation – have to bring more Balkans into Europe. It’s high time to stop feeling sorry, stop blaming others and start doing something!
  • In history, the whole truth can never be one sided! In order to stop the ghost of the past to have an impact hereafter, it is important to understand history for the purpose of creating the future. Unfortunately, politicians throughout the region are still using history, ethnicity and religion to divide and manipulate people. Common history books are not taken as an option and every part is trying to consolidate its ‘own truth’.
  • Neighborhood is more than a word in the region; it’s about friendship, regional cooperation and accepting each other’s truth and perceptions. There is a big need to much more engagement to help each other!
  • For the Western Balkans, the European Union goes through the stomach (“durch den Magen” – Austrian saying).
  • There is a big need of coherent policies and making use of resources, together, within the Adriatic Union and the Danube region. Also, much more transparency would be a huge incentive for competition and it would increase efficiency.
  • Focus on BiH: Local ownership is crucial for a country like Bosnia and Herzegovina and authorities were less successful in this sense in the last 8 years. BiH might play the role of a so called “poor Switzerland of the region” with all its neighbors integrated by 2020-2022. Young people in BiH need to make more noise, in a peaceful way. The elections in October can be a huge opportunity for the country and for the young generation to make itself heard.

Do share your ideas and comments on the bullet points above, also having in mind the latest strategic move of the European Union through the voice of chancellor Angela Merkel (on  June 7 – see here) to reinforce the “forgotten” enlargement process.

*organized by four member organizations of the Forum Alpbach Network