PODGORICA – The Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO) organized a final event within its EU-supported project “Enhancing Youth Cooperation and Youth Exchange in the WB6” in Podgorica on 8 February 2022. The event presented the results of four projects supported within the 4th RYCO Open Call for Project Proposals. It was attended by representatives of RYCO, the Delegation of the European Union to Montenegro, Ministry for Education, Science, Culture and Sports, Directorate for Sports and Youth, Representatives of RYCO Governing and Advisory Boards, RYCO beneficiaries, Young European Ambassadors, young people who took part in the RYCO supported activities.
The supported projects successfully addressed the gaps of youth active engagement in regional reconciliation processes by focusing on aspects of democracy and identity, enhanced youth cooperation in the fields of dealing with the past, youth empowerment and development, social inclusion of youth at risk, intercultural dialogue, etc. They were implemented by Montenegrin Pan-European Union, Grammar school “Slobodan Škerović”, NGO Juventas, Foundation Biznis Start-up Centar Bar.
Head of the RYCO Local Branch Office in Montenegro Mr Edin Koljenović underlined that “this project resulted in regional cooperation of youth and fostering of intercultural dialogue. We are very proud of 27 established regional partnerships, and especially the work of grant beneficiaries from Montenegro. Moreover, I would like to use the opportunity to emphasize that for four years RYCO has been working on the successful implementation of regional youth programs in various formats, including the Superschools, ROUTE WB6 and RISE projects, with the aim of building stable and sustainable bridges of youth cooperation.”
Representative of the EU Delegation to Montenegro Ms Ana Margarida Mariguesa stated that she is very glad to see so many young faces in the audience. “Thank you for the invitation for the event that represents a step further in fostering dialogue, reconciliation and cooperation in the region. We are very happy that the project has attracted a lot of interest from civil society, and that 12 diverse projects have been supported. Our message is clear – the EU is always happy to support good energy and good ideas of young people that lead to building bridges and making an impact in communities,” she underlined.
The projects supported by RYCO and the EU within the 4th RYCO Open Call across the Western Balkans fostered reconciliation and regional youth cooperation, as well as strengthened the capacities of the civil society to adapt to the COVID-19 environment. They were implemented from February to October 2021.
During the application phase, 129 applications were received which brought about 400 partnerships from the region. The overall financial envelope for the Call was 333,000 Euro.
During the panel discussion that followed the introductory part, President of the Montenegrin Pan-European Union prof. Gordana Đurović presented the key results of the project including research and a brochure that included the views of 500 young people about the EU integration processes, mobility, employment, as well as about the coexistence of different religions in the region. “After the research, we organized a summer school that transcended the message that it is not necessary to leave the region, but that ideals of the EU and European values can be achieved in Montenegro,” she underlined.
Young European Ambassador Mr Stefan Vukmanović pointed out that his participation in RISE (Regional Incubator for Social Entrepreneurship) encouraged him to launch his own start-up. “I had the opportunity to network with 120 people which made me assured once again that young people are the stream of change. The project supported by RYCO and the European Union are the backbone that will bring a silent revolution/change for the better, to the end,” he pointed out.
President of the Governing Board of the Youth Network of Montenegro Mr Miloš Marković said that the opportunities which RYCO offers to young people are extremely important. On the other hand, Representative of the Grammar School Slobodan Škerović Ms Mina Grebović said that she realized that we can change the community and current relations by working together, and receiving enough knowledge and information, not only through formal education but also through personal contact with young people from the region.
“Through a series of activities implemented within the project in which my organization took part, young people managed to overcome numerous prejudices, share experiences and learn about the ways in which their peers and organizations from the region approach problem-solving matters,” Ms Ivana Kulašević, representative of NGO Juventas, concluded.
On youth support
Over the years, the EU has invested considerable efforts to support youth exchanges in the region. In this context, youth organizations and schools from the Western Balkans have been cooperating closely enabling mobility and intercultural learning in the region. Furthermore the region has profited from various EU-flagships initiatives and programs such as Erasmus+ or Cross-Border Cooperation, as well as from other EU financial instruments aiming at encouraging youth exchanges directly or indirectly.
Moreover, Western Balkans public authorities and civil society organizations have cooperated on numerous initiatives related to human rights, peace building, conflict resolution, sustainable development, youth exchanges, etc.; however, until recently, the principal opportunity for mobility and youth exchanges focused on young people visiting countries beyond the Western Balkans. Cross-border youth mobility was also welcome; however, these various mobility opportunities were not structured. The two-year RYCO project supported by the EU enhanced youth mobility, youth cooperation and youth activism in the Western Balkans thereby supporting the process of reconciliation in the region thus addressed above-mentioned issues and bridged the gap.